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Vulnerability within community.

Vulnerability in small communities can be intimidating, but it can prove rewarding, as Saxxon Weekes demonstrates through interviews with Ken Shing and Astral High.

Jun 9, 2023

Words: Saxxon Weekes

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Vulnerability in small communities can be intimidating and scary, but it proves rewarding and powerful when you give your all. I hope to show this through two different local musicians – Ken Shing (Jarod Tang) and the band Astral High – to give an insight into how their careers in music began and the steps that they are taking to get out there.

"I actually started to become the representation I needed to see in these spaces.”

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Ken Shing (better known locally as Jarod Tang) grew up here in Gippsland and is an up-and-coming music artist. Jarod always knew he wanted to make music – reflecting on memories of his childhood, he says he has had the passion from “day one”. But being a child of immigrant parents, Jarod felt the pressure of knowing his family left their lives behind for his future well-being and success. He was hesitant to chase dreams that had any uncertainty surrounding them.

Growing up in a small, predominantly white community, Jarod struggled to find his identity. “There weren’t many people that I felt were similar to me, and I hardly saw myself represented in the media or the music industry.”

But this did not stop him. Jarod went on to find his own communities – places where he felt like he belonged. Local youth theatre groups and extracurricular music groups ended up being the communities he needed to grow and find his place in the world.

“I actually started to become the representation I needed to see in these spaces.”

When the decision to explore the music industry presented itself, the biggest worry Jarod had was having no “definitive pathway to success”. How does someone from a small town “stand out and be heard”?

The industry has its trends, its differences, its new and its old, and is “already so saturated with both established and emerging artists”. There is always the odd success story where someone from some small town makes it big in whatever industry they’re in, but it's not something you can bet on.

Jarod found his push didn’t necessarily come from watching others in the music industry making it big, but from watching his “older brother and sister pursue their own passions in audio engineering and makeup artistry [respectively]”.

While there were some uncertainties to face, Jarod went for it.

He released his first song ‘In Any Universe’ in October 2023 and shortly after released another single, ‘Love Him More’ – and the quality of these singles has us eagerly waiting for more.

You can find Jarod on Spotify as ken shing and on Instagram as @jarod_tang.

Astral High are another local Gippsland band keen to make a name for themselves.

With Will Griffiths on the guitar and vocals, Julian Colantuono (Jules) on rhythm guitar and vocals, Izaak Estandarte on bass guitar and Joseph Nobile (Joey) on drums, the recently formed band have been “jamming for a few months”.

At the outset, there was no end goal in mind, just jamming. But after a while, they started playing their own music to each other and the dreams started flowing. The group was struck with a feeling that they “could take this somewhere”.

Being from Traralgon, they found it hard to find a range of venues they could play gigs and gain the attention they were looking for. While there were some doubts within the group, it did not stop them from finding other ways to put themselves out there.

They were able to start growing their band’s career on social media – getting 2.1 million views on one of their TikToks. Astral High’s regular posts on TikTok and Instagram give us an insight into their progress, practice, creative process and how they record. They’re also creating a name for themselves within our community.

Astral High started right after the Covid lockdowns, right when the live music scene was dead. Although this was a struggle, the size of our community provided a benefit to them as well. The smaller pool of musicians made them stand out – “There were barely any other bands the same age as us with the same aspirations.” The shine of the spotlight could easily find them.

Through word of mouth and social media, Astral High started being heard throughout Gippsland. “We’re often meeting people in random places that know of us that we didn’t think would.”

As some of the boys have started university in Melbourne, they have used it to their advantage to access the “professional level studios and equipment” and meet other small bands who are helping them make their way into the Melbourne music scene – frequently asking them to be their opening act.

Jules came into the band a bit later, after they first started jamming with each other. His interest was partly due to his Beatles obsession – watching their videos for days on end and having The Beatles albums playing on repeat during lockdown. This is what made him pick up the guitar in the first place and ultimately want to be a part of a band.

While their main sources of inspiration are the Arctic Monkeys, The Grogans and Nirvana, they find they work like The Beatles. You could say this is one of the main reasons Astral High operates the way they do, “where [they] have more than one lead singer, often writing songs in [their] own time”.

None of the band came from musical families, but support from their families is a key reason why they keep continuing with music.

While the boys spend lots of time playing covers, they’ve found that the riffs and bits and pieces that they have made up “have meaning… they feel special and that’s because they’re our own”.

Watching the band communicate, rehearse and perform, you get to see a level of vulnerability. The boys are putting themselves out there, making connections and growing as a band – and their audience is growing with them!

You can find Astral High on Triple J Unearthed, SoundCloud, TikTok and Instagram as @astralhighband.

Gippslandia - Issue No. 30

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