Art Of Fighting revisit their debut album Wires and its simple magic

Josh Leeson
By Josh Leeson
August 4 2022 - 2:00am
MOMENT IN TIME: Melbourne indie band Art Of Fighting are reuniting to celebrate the 21st anniversary of their seminal debut album Wires.

WHEN Ollie Browne listens back to Art Of Fighting's debut album Wires it's the simplistic beauty of the songwriting that strikes him.

"If anything I envy the younger me being able to write songs that simple," Browne says from Copenhagen where he's lived for the past two and a half years with his Danish wife and two children.

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"Since then I've found it more of an intellectual game to play songs than perhaps it was back then, when I was more heart-on-the-sleeve and less worried about the simplicity of things."

Indeed it's the heart-on-the-sleeve emotion and fragility that makes Wires such a beloved and respected album 21 years after its release.

The record - which features Art Of Fighting's best-known songs Skeletons, Give Me Tonight and Reasons Are All I Have Left - famously completed one of the ARIA Awards' greatest upsets in 2001 when it beat high-profile bands Something For Kate (Echolalia), You Am I (Dress Me Slowly) and Magic Dirt (What Are Rock Stars Doing Today) for the Best Alternative Album award.

Art Of Fighting were so dismissive of the album's chances they were on tour in Germany and only heard of the ARIA award when packing up after a gig.

"It's a continual source of amazement," Browne says. "Also it's a proud thing as well.

"I can say with complete honesty, that none of us expected that. It was great, but a complete surprise."

In September and October the Melbourne band are getting back together to celebrate Wires' 21st anniversary and perform the album in its entirety for the first time.

"I've started to practise those tunes again and they've been in our lives over the years," Browne says. "At least half of those songs we've continued to play over many years.

"Starting to play them again I've thought, wow they're so simple. The chords aren't complicated and there's no crazy riffs.

"I envy the simplicity of mind we had when we were writing those songs. I like the songs. It's a fun record to play live because it is quite simple so you can focus on the energy of the music than opposed to intricacies of what you're doing."

Browne was in his mid-20s when he wrote the bulk of Wires over the winter of 2000 in an apartment above a convenience store in Carlton North, which he shared with bassist/vocalist Peggy Frew.

The basic chord structures, melodies and lyrics were then taken to the rehearsal room and fleshed out by the band, which also includes Browne's brother Miles on guitar and Marty Burke on drums.

After four EPs since 1995, Wires saw Art Of Fighting firmly establish their sound. Previous releases carried a noisier and denser dynamic, but on Wires the quieter, spacious and, more atmospheric, instrumentation allowed for Browne's gentle voice and contemplative lyrics to shine through.

"It's always a big piece of our identity because it established us beyond where we were at before it came out," Browne says.

"We've never been a particularly careerist band, but I feel whatever circumstances occurred when Wires came out kind of put us up a notch from playing at the Punters Club to playing at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne.

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"That was great. It was something we planned, but also didn't plan because we were always quite modest.

"I guess it was a moment when we thought we're a real band."

Following the success of Wires, Art Of Fighting would release the well-received follow-up Second Storey in 2004 before dropping Runaways in 2007.

Art Of Fighting then went their separate ways.

Frew became an acclaimed fiction writer, publishing a series of novels, including the 2010 Victorian Premier's Literary Award-winner House of Sticks (2010) and Hope Farm (2016) and Islands (2019), which were both shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award.

Burke, who is married to musician Clare Bowditch, has continued to be involved in music and producing, while Miles Browne has worked in legal aid.

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Ollie Browne has arguably taken the most surprising path.

He briefly played drums for C.W Stoneking before building a career as a video game designer. He co-founded the development studio, Loveshack Entertainment, and was the lead artist behind hit indie game, Framed.

Browne has never written music for video games and said the two creative careers are poles apart.

"In the history of Art Of Fighting, some of the songs have had place-holder names which were video games," he says. "Obviously Art Of Fighting is a name of a video game itself."

In 2019 Art Of Fighting finally came back together to release their fourth album Lunar Low. Browne believes a fifth album is a possibility.

"After Luna Low came out I moved over here [Denmark] permanently, which complicates things a bit for the band, but we've never been a band that's rushing," he says.

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"It's more about a feeling when it feels good to do something together and when everything lines up. Everyone has a family.

"From a personal perspective, it takes me a long time to write songs. It always has.

"I'm always continuing to write music with varying degrees of urgency or success, but there's always something bubbling away."

Art Of Fighting bring their Wires 21st anniversary tour to the Brunswick Picture House, Brunswick Heads (October 1); Lizottes, Newcastle (October 6); Kambri, Canberra (October 9), Theatre Royal, Castlemaine (October 14) and Archies Creek Tavern, South Gippsland (October 16).