Sitting in a Dickson cafe with the three young men from electronica band Safia, we are, of course, discussing music. Influences? Sure, there's a few artists over the years that have left their mark on the trio - they bonded over Guns & Roses as teenagers. What about moments that have left them stunned at just how far they've come? Well, a recent tour to China was truly a 'pinch-me' kind of moment.
And genres? They'll listen to anything. Anything? The boys go off topic here, starting to list Canberra's radio stations. Classic FM? That's great after an evening in the studio. Triple J, the station that gave the band from Canberra their big break in 2012, remains close to their hearts.
But sometimes, the guys say in unison, all you need is some good pop music.
And just like that, Britney Spears becomes the focus of our conversation.
"Pop music has a time and place, there's good pop music and bad pop music, and it's incredibly good song writing a lot of the time," the band's singer Ben Woolner-Kirkham says.
"When pop music is at its best, it's incredible - if you look back at some of the Britney Spears songs, you take those apart and they are incredibly written songs, super interesting, it's complex but still super accessible and hooky."
Drummer Michael Bell chimes in: "My favourite is Oops!...I Did It Again. The chord progression is like an old sailor song, this shanty song. They've slowed it down and the melody is just awesome."
"The harmonic minors that run through that - you don't get that level of complexity with new, big pop stuff - there's a level of mastery with song writing that comes from that element that can make complexity accessible again, writing so well that you can bring all these sounds together and make it understandable for someone who might not really know music."
It's a fascinating - and quite enlightening - take on a Spears classic, and sums up this Canberra trio that has captured the hearts and minds of the Australian music industry in the space of seven years. There's no sense of entitlement or attitude, no judgment. They aren't "too cool" to try something new, or, for example, admit their absolute love of Canberra.
Safia is Canberra born and bred. The band's third member Harry Sayers met Bell while playing soccer, and together with Woolner-Kirkham, they attended Radford College. It was here that they bonded over their love of guitar and rock and roll, and "it grew from there and took on many different forms."
The trio began playing covers at bars around Canberra - the cafe we are in was Suburban in another life, and brings back fond memories of early shows at the venue.
But things really took off after uploading their song Listen to Soul, Listen to Blues to triple J's unearthed section of its website. It helped them win a performing slot at the Canberra leg of Groovin' The Moo, and introduced a nation to their unique sound.
"We didn't really think much of it and we were really just doing it for fun, and trying something new with electronic music," Woolner-Kirkham recalls.
"I didn't give it a passing thought, and then I remember, my cousin called me at like 8.30 in the morning one day, and said 'dude, they are playing your song on the radio'."
"It was the best day," Bell says. "I remember Ben called me and was like, 'I need you to listen to the radio'. I was on a bus at the time so had no idea."
Sayers agrees, a huge smile appearing on his face, as if taken back to that very moment nine years ago.
"What a feeling, and it's something we shouldn't take for granted," he says.
"I've got screenshots and a voice recording of when it was on the radio, and just getting that one play, it was just the best."
"We didn't really think much of it, but it was a bit of a motivator," Woolner-Kirkham continues.
"It was a bit like, 'well, we must be on to something here, so let's make another song'. We made a few more songs and started getting some more constructive feedback on everything, playing some little shows around town at La Di Da and Transit Bar and we had a few support gigs around Canberra."
But gone are the days of playing small venues such as Transit Bar. The band kicks off a new tour of Australia and New Zealand on August 24 at the University of Canberra.
They release their second record, Story's Start or End, on August 9. It comes after debut record Internal reached Number 2 on the Australian charts in 2016. In between, they've enjoyed popular air time on triple J with hits such as Embracing Me, Make Them Wheels Roll and Cellophane Rainbow.
Resolution, their first single off the new album, introduces fans to a more refined, mature sound.
It made sense to begin their new tour in Canberra. As Michael says awkwardly with a laugh: "Save the best for ... first?"
And there's no doubt he means it. Canberra is close to their hearts, and is still home - will always be home. There's a real pride in their voices when discussing Canberra and the role it has played in their success.
They returned for a one-off show with fellow Canberrans Peking Duk in May, and like to keep tabs on fellow musicians from the capital.
"Artists like Moaning Lisa, Genesis Owusu, Hands Like Houses, Sputnik Sweetheart - friends we've grown up with along the way," Woolner-Kirkham says.
"I think Canberra has always had some of the most interesting music in a bizarre way, because of that lack of outside influence, and I think that's coming across in all types of music - not any one band sounds the same."
They fondly recall the teachers at Radford who helped them explore and experiment with music. They are still friends with many of them, and even used their old drama teacher Nick Ackhurst in the film clip of song Counting Sheep.
"We had some great teachers who were very passionate and picked up that we were really passionate and they'd do little things like create rock band classes at lunch time and set up a jam room so people could just go in and jam," Woolner-Kirkham says.
"We needed a guy who could really play the role of this truck driver, and we were like, who would we know, and we said what about our old drama teacher, Mr Ackhurst."
Sayers jokes: "That video has had a lot of plays now so he's semi-famous."
And they've also just collaborated with BentSpoke Brewery to create a new beer, called Resonate. After being approached by owner and head brewer Richard Watkins, it was an offer the band couldn't pass up.
"I got a message from a friend who said they were interested in collaborating with us. I was like 'OK, I love beer, and it's Canberra'," Sayers says.
"Then we met them and we just clicked, we get on really well with them, especially Rich," Woolner-Kirkham continues. "The way he approaches beer is like a fine art, he's so passionate about it and that's infectious, and then it seemed quite natural."
When they're not brewing beer in Canberra, Sayers likes to go riding out at Stromlo. Bell and Woolner-Kirkham enjoy hiking.
"Being at Dickson, I can do a bit of work in the morning, and then in the afternoon if it's a nice day, I can just go for a bushwalk," Woolner-Kirkham says.
"Two minutes down the road I can walk up Mt Majura or Mt Ainslie and then suddenly you're walking past rock wallabies - there's so many on Mt Majura, it's crazy.
"We are just the biggest Canberra advocates, typical Canberrans, we like to chill out down the coast, to go to BentSpoke, Highroad, the local pub at Hall, Old Canberra Inn.
"That's a nice historical venue - the first carriage stop between Yass and Queanbeyan, 1857 I think?" Bell jokes. "We were looking up the history - you can feel it, you're immersed, you can feel the spirit of the bushrangers among you, they're there with you..."
Canberra was integral to creating their new album. They wrote, recorded and produced Story's Start or End in studios around Canberra and Queanbeyan.
"Everyone goes to the same places to make a record, and it kind of defeats the purpose," Woolner-Kirkham says.
There's a sense of individuality and lack of pretense in Canberra because it is so far removed from big industry. I think creatives are able to develop here without that expectation or outside influence coming in early.- Ben Woolner-Kirkham
"You want to find something that's going to make the experience unique, so for us, we write our best music when we're relaxed and in a headspace where it's fun with zero expectation, so it kind of just made sense when you're in this environment, where the best ideas come from.
"There's a sense of individuality and lack of pretense in Canberra because it is so far removed from big industry. I think creatives are able to develop here without that expectation or outside influence coming in early."
"We've always emphasised how important it is for us to be home, in our own spaces and away from those other influences," Bell says. "Hopefully that gives us something different, and why Canberra is so good."
And it's why the band is thrilled with their new album. Bell says they haven't stopped writing since Internal was released and they had a huge catalogue to choose from for the new record. It allowed them to be more selective when putting the record together.
"There's a maturity in the writing, I think we're showcasing our ability a lot more," Woolner-Kirkham says.
"That will be more apparent with the live show too - we're more confident, and we took our time and we had a very clear mind from start to finish.
"There's a strong focus on journey, it's an album written in very formative years - 24 to 27 - you go in to your later 20s and you're kind of taking stock and have a few more existential questions and asking what's important in life.
"That's magnified by the fact we are writing a record in that period, it's very much an album of growth and journey - which I think is why it took so long but is also why there are so many varied ideas from start to finish.
"We love such a wide variety of music between all of us. We'll listen to anything - we're not genre specific and we don't care if it's cool or not, and I think that's carried through to our writing."
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