Last week was a busy one for Eddie Perfect. Conducting the MSO on Monday, comedy festival gala on Wednesday, up to Sydney a few times to finesse his contributions to the Strictly Ballroom musical. You'd think he'd be feeling like a boss. But to his three collaborators in Tripod, Perfect has none of the only child syndrome you might attribute to a solo artist.
''You would expect someone who's used to getting the final say to act like that when he's in a group but he's a really good team player,'' says Tripod member Yon (Simon Hall). If anything, bringing Perfect into the room has made the long-running trio even more behaved. ''Tripod still have our squabbles, but sometimes I just feel embarrassed when we have a fight. Like we're really immature compared to him. It's like a grown-up has joined the group.''
Perfect Tripod takes on Silverchair's 'Straight Lines'
Their comedy festival show is an acapella love-fest of Australian music, and the boys kindly dropped by our studios to perform a memorable version of a Silverchair hit.
Perfect Tripod has been an on-and-off collaboration between Perfect, Yon and fellow Tripodeers Scott ''Scod'' Edgar and Steven ''Gatesy'' Gates since 2007, when they performed what was supposed to be a one-off cover of Paul Kelly's Meet Me in the Middle of the Air. The seed of something bigger was sown, however, and led to a national tour and the release of an acclaimed album. Now they're reuniting for a series of shows at the Arts Centre.
The brief is still the same, but the team isn't beset by the same worries that haunted their first full-length outing: ''It was a bizarre project from the outset,'' says Perfect. ''Will people be able to dig an entire show of covers of Australian songs done a cappella? There were a few paranoid moments there.''
The first surprise to all involved was how funny Perfect Tripod is. They're all professional comedians, sure, but the songs they cover aren't at all comic - the upcoming set list includes numbers by Silverchair and Billy Field, and they've previously rearranged songs by the likes of Clare Bowditch and Kasey Chambers.
''We're used to performing songs with jokes in them,'' says Perfect. ''These are all serious songs, and we didn't want to destroy the songs by taking the piss out of them. We wanted there to be enough moments where it was just good music. At the same time we didn't want to take anything too seriously. It was trying to ride that line between respect and irreverence.''
Yon says the project has taken Tripod full circle, in a way. ''When we started out we were just doing our own versions of songs we liked. We didn't consider ourselves to be writers and didn't have aspirations to be writers. We just wanted to sing harmonies.''
The comedy came as a way of compensating for the lack of musical abilities they suffered at the time. ''Because we've improved musically we can occasionally now do something properly and not have to be funny.''
In the years since Perfect Tripod first formed, the four have got better at applying that working method to song selection, and there's something of an all-for-one-and-one-for-all ethic that guides their choices.
''If the other people don't like it, just bin it,'' says Yon. ''Just let it go. We improved at that as we went. If someone really hates something, they're always going to hate it.''
It's meant that some favourites have had to be let go. Some of the Tripod contingent wanted more representation of '90s alternative rock along the lines of Jebediah, but Perfect couldn't see it working.
''A lot of the time your attachment to music in the past is about where you were in your experience at the time,'' says Perfect. ''Whether it makes a song right for Perfect Tripod, the proof is in the pudding … if we can't make it work then we have to let it go.''
Perfect Tripod play Arts Centre Melbourne's Playhouse, April 3 - 6.