Meet Tequila Mockingbyrd, the Aussies looking to make a big noise

A press shot of tequila mockingbyrd

It takes some bravery to quit your jobs and move to the other side of the world to pursue an uncertain career in rock’n’roll, but Tequila Mockingbyrd, who traded the sunshine of their native Australia for the grey predictability of the UK, don’t seem too concerned about doing so.“We want to push this as hard as we can and as far as we can,” says drummer Josie O’Toole, “so we’ll go anywhere in the world where the opportunities are.”

The band – Josie is joined by singer/guitarist Estelle Artois and bassist Jess Riley – moved here last year after being booked to join Massive and the Black Aces on the Aussie Wrecking Crew tour, and being offered slots at Hard Rock Hell and Planet Rockstock. Fans, friends and family raised A$7,000 to help pay for one-way tickets, and the band now operate out of the historic English town of Marlow in Buckinghamshire.

Tequila Mockingbyrd’s first album, Fight And Flight, has just been released in the UK (it was released in Australia last year), and it’s as good as any debut of recent years. Recorded in Oz in rural Victoria, it fizzes, it snarls and it’s packed with a delicious level of belligerence. Best of all, beneath all the noise there’s the kind of grown-up songwriting that belies the band’s relative inexperience; they certainly know how to write a chorus.

“We set the bar as high as we could,” says O’Toole. “You only get one chance to do your debut album.”

She’s a miniature whirlwind on stage, with an approach to performance that suggests she doesn’t set out to play the drums as much as maim them. That began at the band’s first ever show. “It was a venue that wasn’t used to having live bands,” Artois explains. “They assumed that because we’re an all-girl outfit we’d be acoustic. But we don’t do ‘turned down’. I remember telling Josie: ‘Hit the crap out of those things!’”

Artois herself is a genuine star in the making, which a voice that moves effortlessly from alluring whisper to sassy snarl. “I take a lot of cues from Alter Bridge,” she says. “And Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black album really changed how I approach a vocal.”

Tequila Mockingbyrd could have done the same as so many young Australian bands, and stayed at home and earned decent money on the covers circuit. Instead they chose the path of greater adventure. “We’ve got stuff to say,” says O’Toole. “And no one can say what you’ve got to say better than yourself.”

“It’s nice to play covers,” says Artois [Fight And Flight includes a furious version of the Ramones’ Somebody Put Something In My Drink], “but there’s something amazing about the whole songwriting process, getting to perform what you’ve written and having people singing back the lyrics you’ve worked so hard on. It doesn’t pay as much, but it’s good for the soul.”

Fight And Flight is out now via Off Yer Rocka.

For Fans Of…

“I take a lot from Myles Kennedy,” says Estelle Artois. “It hasn’t been a conscious thing, I’ve just been belting his lyrics out in the car. But people have compared my voice to his several times, and I love that.”

O’Toole is inspired by The Wildhearts and Blink-182, and Jess Riley is an AC/DC fan. And then there’s Motörhead. And Green Day…

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.