Some of the best performances I saw at CMW were three sets that folk-rock duo Betty & Oswald did at Johnny Jackson and the Aussie BBQ at the Horseshoe and the Rivoli. Betty and Oswald are pseudonyms for Claudia Aphrodite and Pete Sot, giving the duo a mysterious feel, along with Oswald`s story-telling introductions for some of their songs. They are both extremely talented singers and instrumentalists, with Betty playing accordion, kazoo, megaphone and electric guitar, and Oswald playing guitar, stomp box, and a shaker and a tambourine strapped to his boots.
The songs that Betty & Oswald perform are a mixture of dark, realistic lyrics, telling stories of people who are usually down on their luck, and contrasted by Mediterranean guitar riffs and Parisian cafe accordion melodies. Both performers have very unique voices, with Oswald having a rough twang and Betty having a powerful, yet light voice that becomes heavy when skatting into the megaphone.
After their Horseshoe set, I sat down with Betty & Oswald on the patio to ask them a few questions.
How did you start doing music together?
B: It wasn’t that interesting, it was just we were friends and were playing at a festival. I was along for the ride in the car and had this tiny toy accordion, we brought it just for fun, and I started playing it on the drive and by the time we got there, I was like “Ok, I got this! I’m just going to play with you”. So that how it happened.
O: It was a cool festival, with Ash Grunwald, it was kind of a cool, fun gig, we jumped on and Claudia just did it.
Where does the name “Betty & Oswald” come from?
O: we just made it up. I worked at a cafe and there was this albino pigeon that would come everyday and I would feed it scapes. I would call it Oswald, and was like, “Oswald, I want to use that.” And then we were thinking up a name for the band; I was Oswald, and both at the same time said Betty. It flows and works.
What are your major musical influences?
O: We have individual influences that we bring together for the duo, so I really dig Tom Waits and Patrick Watson, like layered and pretty easy, an authentic sound. There’s some bands these days, but as long as they conjure something real.
B: Yeah, I love Patrick Watson, he’s phenominal. Mac DeMarco, I don’t know, we just like alot of bands from Canada. So that’s why we came here initionally last year, and kinda gone from there.
How are the audiences here in Canada different than in Australia?
O: They’re more enthusiastic here.
B: Yeah, for an international band to perform in Sydney, it would be hard to draw a crowd. But there have been alot of people at our gigs here, they’re really intrigued so it’s really cool.
Where does the inspiration come from for the songs, both lyrically and musically?
O: I suppose it comes from different places. We enjoy angular sounds as much as very sweet melodic sounds. We kinda bring it together. There’s a large variety of stuff we like that we bring together and give the songs a different kind of grounding.
B: And lyrically, stories are great, experiences as well as we love to go into a stream of consciousness and ride with it.
What does the next year look like for you?
O: It’s pretty fun! I’m excited! We have another five weeks in Canada, head out to Montreal, then around east, then back to Toronto. Then back to Australia, we’ve got a tour, release another EP. It’s gonna be good