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A few years ago now, comedian Stef Torok was playing a fine blend of musical comedy with a mate of his called Peter, in a duo called ‘StefnPete’ and, he reported back to me, there was this young woman playing her own blend of musical comedy armed only with an acoustic guitar. The woman was Laura Imbruglia, and I made a mental note that I really should pursue an interview with her. Stef warned me not to go in playing the ‘aren’t you the sister of Natalie?’ card, suggesting that I should see a gig or two first; she had (and continues to have) a great sense of humour and wrote interesting, often quirky songs.

Somehow, I managed to forget about Laura Imbruglia until I saw posters advertising her new EP, It Makes A Crunchy Noise. I immediately thought, I must interview her. Now, I’ll be up front about this, as I had to be with Laura (and, it turns out, her ‘scary Calabrian’ manager): I have to ask a ‘what’s it like being Natalie’s sister?’ question. I wouldn’t be a good journalist (or at least, I’d be a lesser one) if I didn’t address the issue because Laura is, at least to some extent, following in her big sister’s footsteps, and, Dannii Minogue aside, most siblings avoid elder siblings’ vocations for fear of continually being compared to them.

Laura tolerated that question, but when I followed through with the logical supplementary question, ‘does having the same surname open doors or raise the bar?’ she looked a little ‘over’ it, and it wasn’t because of the mixed metaphor. “Are all the questions going to be about this?” she demanded. In hindsight, I wish it had been into the mic. The fact was, I only had the two questions, I thought they were important, but I wanted to get them over-and-done-with early on because they aren’t as important as the music. And that is the ultimate answer: if what is being done is being done well, than there’s no chance of living in anyone’s shadow. Although, as Laura pointed out, what she was doing was different enough for it not to be an issue.

Most of the people who knew I’d spoken to Laura Imbruglia – well, the guys, anyway – wanted to ask one question. Or two, if the first question was ‘Sister of…?’ Once her family tree had been established, the burning question for most guys seemed to be whether or not she was a ‘honey’ or a ‘looker’ like her sister. I thought this was hilarious; I’d actually asked Stef that same question, way back when. I’m not saying I’m any more mature now than I was then, only that the answer then, as now, is, see – and hear – for yourself just how pleasing Laura Imbruglia is to the all of the senses, including your sense of humour! She publishes a gig list online.

This interview was broadcast 29 May 2004.

Soundbite:Ornithophobia (fear of birds) a.k.a. The Cicada Song’ - from the EP It Makes A Crunchy Noise

One fine and rare yellow monday I went out walking,
Came across a black prince and we started talking,
He was so full of sap, he was an incredible boaster,
Promised me he could find me a green grocer.
Yet I received a boring brown, and it’s getting me down.

© Laura Imbruglia

Demetrius Romeo: Laura, a lot of sisters don’t get into the same business that their older sisters are in because they just don’t like to be in their sisters’ shadow. What made you pursue a career as a musician?

LAURA IMBRUGLIA: I don’t think I’m in a shadow anyway. I’m going down a different route musically, and I don’t see why I should pursue a different career if this is the one I want to do just because I’ve got the same surname.

Demetrius Romeo: Does having the same surname open doors or does it raise the bar higher?

LAURA IMBRUGLIA: I think it does a bit of both. It think it’s pretty equal. It makes it a lot harder to be taken seriously just because people think I’m just trying to ‘ride the wave’, but on the other hand, it makes me try and work to prove myself and if I can prove myself, it works well for me, and in other cases it might make people who are just curious, not bother. So it’s a bit of both.

Soundbite:Lettuce And Anarchists’ - from the EP It Makes A Crunchy Noise

I love my vegan punk friends, they’re anarchists who like to eat lettuce,
They don’t follow any mainstream trends, and please dear God
Don’t offer them McDonalds... unless you want a kick in the head.
They’ll tell you Ronald’s the reason Che Guevara’s dead.
And even though they’re aethiests, major corporations can rot in hell.

© Laura Imbruglia

Demetrius Romeo: Before you started recording, you were playing a lot of shows with comedians on the bill, and you do have a sense of humour in your music. Do you see yourself as a musical humourist or as a singer who has a bit of a sense of humour?

LAURA IMBRUGLIA: Probably a singer who has a bit of a sense of humour. When I started off, I wanted to be a comedian and changed my mind about it somewhere down the track. I don’t know why. It’s all right to bring a bit of a sense of humour into the lyrics, but I don’t want to be considered just a straight out comedian. I respect people who can get up and make people laugh all the time, but on the other hand, I think comedy CDs, you listen to them about twice, and then you don’t listen to them again. So I think it’s up to me to write songs that are worth listening to more than a couple of times as well.

Soundbite:Ornithophobia (fear of birds) a.k.a. The Cicada Song’ - from the EP It Makes A Crunchy Noise

Still when I die, I'll come back as a cicada,
Please don't rip off my wings or I'll have to cry out of my 3rd eye.
Would insect arms break if I attempt to play guitara?
Although I'm fond of praying mantisis, I'd rather be a cicada.

© Laura Imbruglia

Demetrius Romeo: Your first CD, It Makes A Crunchy Noise, references cicadas. Why are they so important to you?

LAURA IMBRUGLIA: It’s not that they’re important to me, I just have a soft spot for them ’cause they were one of the weird things I was obsessed with when I was a kid. I just get obsessed with things – different things – as I grow up, and that was one of the insects I was obsessed with. They’re pretty miserable sort of insects – miserable lives that they live: they live underground for eight years and then they come above ground and they’ve got two weeks above ground. During that time they breed and they eat, and I think it’s a pretty tough life. I wouldn’t want to be stuck in the ground for eight years and then above for two weeks; that’s not fun!

Demetrius Romeo: Another song from the CD dates back from your childhood: ‘First Boyfriend’.

Soundbite:1st Boyfriend’ - from the EP It Makes A Crunchy Noise

In Geography, you said to me:
“Can I please borrow your glue stick?”
So I handed you a stick of glue
and decided that you were my
pick of the boys in Year 7
You came 1st out of about 111.

Oh first boyfriend Ben Castelli
Oh first boyfriend, we ate jelly ice-blocks

© Laura Imbruglia

Demetrius Romeo: In a way, are you ‘clearing the decks’ of the older inspirations before you move on to new topics and new themes?

LAURA IMBRUGLIA: Yeah, maybe, I don’t know. I’m pretty nostalgic. I’ll probably whip out a few more. I’m always going back and thinking about things I did in school or things from growningup, so I always have old references, and later on I’ll probably reference things I’m doing now that I don’t sing about now. So it takes me a while to catch up, lyrically, with what I’m doing in my life.

Soundbite:Flop in the Sack’ - from the EP It Makes A Crunchy Noise

But I don't know why, and I think I’m gonna cry,
’cause I’m a flop in the sack.
I put the dag in daggy, the stink in stinky,
The backwards in backwards. I’m a flop in the sack...

And I’m sa-a-ad because I’m ba-a-ad

© Laura Imbruglia

Demetrius Romeo: You certainly have a candour in your lyrics. Do you ever feel that the things you’re being so honest about in your songs might pop up and bite you down the track a bit?

LAURA IMBRUGLIA: Yes. Definitely. Sometimes though, it’s fictional. But because some of it is non-fiction, some people think I’m always being completely serious and completely honest. Some of it’s made up.

Soundbite: Don’t Stray From My Site ’ - from the EP It Makes A Crunchy Noise

Email lover, don’t stray from my site,
Be the server to my heart,
Let’s make megabytes of love.
Yahoo! We're compatible,
I connected on the very first dial tone with you.

© Laura Imbruglia

Demetrius Romeo: I notice that some of your lyrics come across as ruminations put to music. How do you go about songwriting?

LAURA IMBRUGLIA: It changes over time. It depends on what kind of music I’m listening to at the time and sometimes I don’t even think about it. A lot of my songs don’t have choruses or set structures.

Soundbite:Don’t Stray From My Site’ - from the EP It Makes A Crunchy Noise

Email lover, don’t stray from my site,
Be the server to my heart, lets make megabytes of love.

© Laura Imbruglia

Demetrius Romeo: One of the love songs on the EP uses the internet as a metaphor. Is that a sign of the times?

LAURA IMBRUGLIA: Yeah, possibly. That one’s not one of the true stories. That one’s made up. I just thought it would be fun to work in some of the internet lingo into a song.

Soundbite: Mr Clown ’ - from the EP It Makes A Crunchy Noise

You probably think that I never frown,
I’m only this happy when you’re around,
So stay by my side ’til the end of the tides,
Mr Clown.

© Laura Imbruglia

Demetrius Romeo: ‘Mr Clown’ seems to be the most straightforward song that you’ve included in this EP.

LAURA IMBRUGLIA: ‘Mr Clown’ was the first serious – as ‘serious’ as my songs are gonna get – song that I could stand playing to myself, let alone to other people. Because I write really literally, and there are not many metaphors at the moment, usually when I write serious songs they end up being really cheesy. That’s the only one… it’s cheesy, but for some reason, I think it gets away with it.

Soundbite: Mr Clown ’ - from the EP It Makes A Crunchy Noise

I love you clown,
So stick around
’Til they put me in the ground.

© Laura Imbruglia

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