First published on 18 May 2012. Updated on 23 May 2012.
The 22nd Darling Harbour Jazz and Blues Festival brings the sax and scat to Sydney this month. And while we’re excited for all the international guests (Trevor Watts and Dr Lonnie Smith) and cherished Aussies (Sister Jane and Jonathan Zwartz) we’re most looking forward to seeing one particular local songstress and her band: Kira Puru and the Bruise.
The quartet hails from Newcastle, our unassuming northern neighbour with a knack for producing great musicians. Vocalist Puru pumps the group’s heart, which she says leaves Geordie Malone (guitar), Chas Jagger (kit) and Jamieson Shaw (bass) at the soul. “They really are what makes the songs have a breath and a life and give it movement. I would be an ordinary songwriter if it wasn’t for them,” says Puru. “And they’re all hot. That’s a big part of it for me too: sexy dudes.”
The band released latest single, ‘When All Your Love Is Not Enough’, in March, building upon a repertoire of bluesy tunes. At the centre of their sound is a voice that could fill the Hunter. “I sang in front of the mirror when I was young because I wanted to be a rock star,” says Puru. “Then there was a big, blurry, dark void in between and now I just sing because I can’t not sing. I like music and try often to improve as a musician which, combined, has created the monster that is me and my voice.”
Lyrically, Puru experiments with the standard blues themes of love and melancholy but goes deeper with a touch of hatred. Take this lyric from the song ‘Liar’: “Don’t talk to me about anger when I’ve got a loaded gun/cos I got a quiver in my trigger finger.” It’s just one line Puru will scorn you with. “If I sing a note wrong, I’m OK with it as long as the vibe is there. But with lyrics, it’s like having a bad photo; it’s one moment that will stain you.”
Listening to Puru, it’s no surprise to learn she is heavily influenced by R’n’B matriarch Etta James – “She is one of the best vocalists of the centuries that have been.” It is surprising to find the company James is in. “The Arctic Monkeys are my favourite band. All of Jack White’s bands are cool. Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, Portishead and Radiohead. The Beatles.” It will be a mixed bag of influences when Kira Puru and the Bruise play the Jazz and Blues Festival’s first night.
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