aof histories:

runaways bio (2007) :

Moving on from their delicately controlled sophomore album Second Storey, Melbourne quartet Art of Fighting return with their beautifully intuitive third, Runaways. Described by the band’s front man, Ollie Browne, as “open and relaxed”, the songs captured on Runaways are a mix of introspective [‘Sycamore & Sand’], playful, romantic, [‘Less than an Instant’] insightful [‘Distance as Virtue’] and brutally honest [‘Mysteries’].

“Second Storey was a very considered album,” Ollie recently told music website and magazine ‘Mess & Noise’. “We spent a lot of time arranging the parts and adding lots of textural overdubs and little extras.” “As a response we wanted this one to be far more impulsive, almost as if the songs were controlling us and not the other way ‘round.”

Formed in 1997 by three high school friends, including Browne and bassist Peggy Frew, Art of Fighting in its first incarnation quickly released their debut EP ‘The Very Strange Year’ [1998], followed by the ‘Empty Nights’ EP [1999], both on the Half a Cow label. During this time, the band’s line up continued to evolve, with the inclusion of Ollie’s brother Miles Browne on guitar and keys, and drummer/multi-instrumentalist Marty Brown completing the line up in 2000.

Already beloved by many, the band recorded and released their debut album ‘Wires’ on the Trifekta label in early 2001. Highly anticipated, the album went on to exceed all expectations of the band’s hopeful fans, garnering considerable critical recognition in the process. Late 2001, an absent Art of Fighting made their musical presence felt at the Australian Record Industry Awards ceremony by taking out the ARIA for Best Alternative Release. ‘Wires’ saw Art of Fighting connecting with international audiences also, the band securing releases in the US, Japan, Germany and Taiwan. At this time Art of Fighting embarked on their first tour of the UK and Europe, bringing them to the attention of former Cocteau Twin and Bella Union label boss, Simon Raymonde, who would later go on to release the band’s second LP in the UK and Europe.

A prolonged break followed, the band emerging once again in 2004 with the glorious, aptly titled ‘Second Storey’. Carefully crafted and obsessively detailed, the album reveals a more mature outlook - a slight hardening of the youthful honesty that was characteristic of the first album. The depth of the band’s experience delighted many; tracks such as ‘Busted, Broken, Forgotten’, ‘Sing Song’ and ‘Along the Run’ peeling away intricate protective layers and revealing the darker depths that lay below.

With the remainder of 2004 and 2005 given away to promoting ‘Second Storey’ internationally while maintaining their love affair with Australian fans, Art of Fighting commenced 2006 with their first trip to Taiwan and a series of performances where they previewed the very beginnings of Runaways. Unlike previous Art of Fighting recordings, which were carefully prepared before entering the studio and putting songs to tape, Runaways continually evolved throughout the recording process. With the band happily living ordinary lives in their home town, the genesis of Art of Fighting’s third album involved a long and collaborative process which saw the four band mates relax as they took the time to let their new songs unfold.

With the help of engineer Steven Schram [Ground Components] at the Guruland and Martin Street studios [both in Melbourne], Art of Fighting set about capturing their live sound on record. Long time collaborator Tim Whitten joined the band for mixing in the closing stages of 2006. “When we play live the sound is very stripped back, very spacious,” says Ollie. “We wanted to capture that as much as possible.” “We wanted this album to be very direct, warm and honest: the sound of us in a room.” Runaways was released March 2007 on Remote Control Records (in Australia) and Wonderground Records (in Japan).

second storey bio (2004) :

It’s a mystery how Art of Fighting have stayed together, adding as they have family relations and romance to the already claustrophobic world of tour vans, backstage, hotels and rehearsal rooms. This group of two brothers (Miles and Ollie Browne), one amicably concluded romantic relationship (between singer Ollie and bassist Peggy Frew) and long-time drummer Marty Brown, has an elegance that belies the tumultuous history of a band that has pretty much grown up in each other’s pockets.

The band began as a trio without Miles and with a different drummer, recording a 1998 EP named The Very Strange Year for Sydney label Half A Cow. Though credited for "legal advice" on this first effort, brother Miles strapped on a guitar and joined the fray for their second EP Empty Nights (1999). The songs on these early releases were long, lugubrious and often drenched in distortion, but sufficiently well crafted to win them a fervent, reverential fanbase around the country.

It was their debut album that saw the band take on the mantle of maturity. Released on acclaimed Melbourne label Trifekta, Wires took the nation by storm on its release in 2001, and now stands as one of Australian music's most elegant, accomplished and affecting debuts. Ollie Browne's songwriting had reached a level of stately, melancholic mastery - and his singing a kind of tragic purity - that could leave few listeners unmoved. Respect must also be paid to Peggy Frew's contribution I Don't Keep A Record, a magical, cryptic revelation of whispered vocals and fragile melody.

Wires earned Art Of Fighting their first real overseas recognition, licensed by labels in the USA, Japan, Germany and Taiwan. It also went on to win an Australian Record Industry Association award for Best Alternative Release, although the band were not around to accept it. They were in the midst of their first European tour, which took in Germany, France, Belgium, Switzerland, the UK and Ireland.

Then came a personally turbulent 2003, which involved a long-term relationship between the two songwriters ending, new ones forming and families beginning - plus a quick tour of Japan. Art Of Fighting returned in 2004 with their sophomore effort Second Storey, a subtle refinement of Wires that revealed a band settling into reflective harmony. No less haunting, Ollie's songs were in fact all the more plaintive and compelling for the trauma he and his bandmates had ridden out the preceding year. Songs such as Busted, Broken, Forgotten and Come Round And Show Me were dolorous instant classics, while Sing Song showed the band trying out a new format - the concise, uptempo (though still troubled) pop song - with impressive results.

Once again the album reached far and wide, seeing release in Japan and Taiwan, while in the UK and Europe it was picked up by prestigious label Bella Union, run by former Cocteau Twins Simon Raymonde and Robin Guthrie, whose roster includes such artists as Francois Breut, Laura Veirs and compatriots the Dirty Three. After touring Australia on the release of Second Storey, the band returned to Japan in 2005, then visited Taiwan in early 2006. They now have their sights set firmly on their second trip to Europe.

In the near decade since three Melbourne high school friends formed a band inspired by such teenage heroes as the Smashing Pumpkins and Sonic Youth, Art Of Fighting have become one of the most respected and admired independent bands in Australia, with a growing international following, a rich and complex back catalogue and an irresistible air of dignity and grace.

Press photos available here.