Panics frontman Jae Laffer on the new evenings he's curating that marry art and music
Throughout winter the NGV will host a series of music and conversations set amongst the classics of the 19th and 20th century Australian art galleries. See some of the most famous works by Australian artists – from Rupert Bunny to John Brack – in a different light as the NGV explores shared themes between art and music, with short lives music sets in the Ian Potter Centre gallery spaces.
Sun 6 Jul: Bob Evans
Sun 13 Jul: New Gods
Sun 20 Jul: Mt Warning
Sun 27 Jul: Melody Pool
Sun 3 Aug: Adalita
Sun 10 Aug: Georgia Fair
Sun 17 Aug: Glenn Richards
Sun 24 Aug: Jae Laffer
Sun 31 Aug: Paul Dempsey
Sun 7 Sep: Missy Higgins
Curated by Jae Laffer of the Panics, Unplugged Live: Portrait of an Artist will showcase ten of the country’s best emerging and established musicians and bands over ten weeks. On Sunday afternoons, Laffer and NGV curators will discuss themes and ideas in iconic Australian works, followed by a live and acoustic performance of a handful of songs by the musicians.
Having toured last year's solo album When the Light Goes Red, Laffer is writing new Panics material. He takes time out to talk to us about the Ian Potter Centre nights.
Jae, how did this collaboration with the Ian Potter Centre come to be?
I’d played at the NGV before, during the Monet’s Garden exhibition, and kept in touch with some of the staff, and then they had the idea to expand the music program to get some different crowds through the Ian Potter Centre. I’m not interested in being any kind of promoter, but what interested me was the idea as a musician of playing inside the art gallery, which is greatly appealing to me. I’ve always been enthralled by great Australian painters, so the idea of setting up with a piano or a guitar amongst all of that, I knew it would appeal to a bunch of musicians that I liked.
What will the set-up be like?
I didn’t want to degrade the musician by having them in a corner with a PA, so it’s more of an event. There will be conversations about perspectives like an amazing painter going to his canvas and doing what he has to do because he can’t help it – he’s expressing his emotions the same way Bob Dylan did; anyone who really needs to be creative. And so I’ll be having conversations with the curator about the creative process and discussing great works of art, and then I’ll just do the same with the musician, tying in themes between the artwork and the musician and how they approach songs. I thought that would really put the songs up on the walls like a painting.
Are you having to do some homework?
I don’t want to appear like I am in any way over-educated in anything to do with the arts… I mean I left school and went to art college and I’ve followed a lot of the great Australian artists and have always been more intrigued about their lifestyles and how they were creative, but I don’t want to fake it in any way. Of course, a bit of research doesn’t go astray, but it’s more about talking about the creative process without overanalysing. I think it’s good for musicians to be sat and performing, and then regarded in the same way as the art.
So you will be personally there every Sunday?
I’ve taken it upon myself to introduce the acts and hold a little bit of a discussion with them, which we’ll make up as we go, but the rough themes that I’ve just told you is the path that we’ll go down.
How will it differ to Friday Nights at the NGV, in which bands play in the Great Hall?
I’ll be taking a soloist or a duo out of a band, or using an existing great soloist, and putting them in a more intimate space, so it’s going to work really well just to have someone on the piano or a guitar echoing through there as you walk in past classic paintings. It just feels like something that could gain momentum and be ongoing. I think people will get a real buzz out of it.
No booking required, but limited numbers so get there early.