Music / Features
A Cassowary Apart -
A chat with Andrew Tuttle and
Padang Food Tigers
Words by Seamus Fillmore
Thursday 25th March, 2021
Despite being made by three musicians on opposite sides of the world in a time of turmoil and uncertainty, A Cassowary Apart is a serene and intimate collection of collaborative instrumental creations by Andrew Tuttle and Padang Food Tigers, and an alluring fifth instalment in Bedroom Suck’s quietly growing Private Eyes series.
When measured from nose to tail, an adult cassowary is usually about 1.5 metres long, a distance which has become quite familiar in the last year or so. This convenient coincidence led to a far north Queensland tourism campaign encouraging visitors to stay ‘at least one adult cassowary apart’ from each other, which in turn inspired the name of the first collaborative album released by Brisbane multi-instrumentalist/composer Andrew Tuttle and London counterparts Padang Food Tigers – A Cassowary Apart.

Distance is woven into the fabric of this record, with Tuttle and PFT’s Spencer Grady and Stephen Lewis slowly piecing the songs together in their respective home studios approximately 16,500 kilometres away from each other, in a time when travel outside of one’s local area was not possible. However, listening to the eight pieces which form this album, in which sounds made by three separated people blend seamlessly together to create beautiful and tranquil soundscapes, distance seems like no obstacle to the connection afforded to us by music.

An array of instruments and sounds find their way into these recordings, differing slightly throughout each composition to create a listening experience which is equal parts engaging and tranquil. Swirling electronics and synths ebb and flow throughout the record, rising with purpose before calmly melting into layers of decay, imbuing an atmospheric quality to the album – often complimented by mysterious field recordings collected in both Australia and the UK. At some points particular instruments float above these ambient textures (such as the delicate piano of ‘An Appropriate Bluff’ or the tender electric guitar of ‘Inveterate Observations’), whilst at other moments it is impossible to find the edge of any particular instrument as each individual noise amalgamates into one swelling wave of sound.

Whilst acoustic guitar, lap steel, dobro, harmonica and even scissors (!) can be heard contributing to the quiet attraction of the record, a definite highlight of the album is the serene banjo playing of Tuttle and Grady. Tuttle jokes that the scarcity of groups creating ambient music with a banjo meant this collaboration was bound to happen eventually - and we’re very glad it did. Their intimate plucking combines powerfully with the processed electronics to place the record’s soundscape somewhere near the edge of suburbia, in a haven where rural and industrial landscapes blend together seamlessly and beautifully.

We were lucky enough to have a chat with Tuttle and Grady about the process and motivations behind A Cassowary Apart.
TJ: Hi Andrew and Spencer! Firstly, congrats on the release of this lovely record, and thanks for taking the time to chat! A Cassowary Apart is a collaboration between the two of you, can you tell us a bit about how you ended up making a record together? 

SG: Cheers, thank you for the kind words - much appreciated. Well, the seed for this was initially planted when me (Spencer) and Andrew began chatting over email about test match cricket and the use of banjo as an instrument in non-traditional settings. When the first wave of COVID confined everyone to their homes, Andrew mentioned the isolation was impeding his creative flow. I suggested Andrew and Padang Food Tigers begin exchanging music as a means to motivate Andrew, and also for the sheer pleasure of it.

AT: Hi and my massive apologies for the delayed response! Padang Food Tigers and I have admired each other’s work for a while now, both existing in the fairly small world of exploratory folk music. Our collaboration came about of trying to get out of some creative ruts, the album itself was the direct result of an invitation from Joe / Bedroom Suck to contribute towards their Private Eyes series. The initial approach was to make a solo album, but the collaboration was much more timely!

Listening to this record it seems hard imagine that such an intimate and cohesive record could be put together by people on opposite sides of the world, was this your first experience of online collaboration, how do you feel about this way of creating music? 

AT: Thanks for that! We’re all really pleased about how much of a ‘whole’ the album and project itself is, rather than being too obviously down the creative path of one writer or another. I’ve collaborated with people online before, but it’s always been either getting someone to contribute to one of my songs or vice versa. Developing an entirely new set of works from scratch was a real thrill!

SG: Padang Food Tigers have a shadowy history of such collaborations, most conspicuously having worked previously this way with Norwegian harmonium player Sigbørn Apeland on their joint album Bumblin’ Creed. Of course, a simpatico artistic vision helps when creating music like this, but on a more basic level it’s probably equally important that all parties involved get along. After all, you’re going to have to make some important decisions together and if you keep rubbing each other up the wrong way the venture is going to collapse anyhow. Despite the remoteness, even this sort of collaboration is human at its core.

Last year was a very strange time and affected many people in many different ways, where do you place this album within the events of 2020, was it a response, an escape, or something completely different? 

AT: I’d consider it as more of a documentation of those particular months? Between COVID-19, the necessity of speaking truth to different power, different seasons and even timezones; the lived experiences and day to day lifestyles of Spencer, Steve and I were quite different. Creatively, making this album was definitely a bit of a release - I’d found myself in a rut since completing Alexandra and making a new album without the same internal pressure was a nice challenge. 

SG: It was certainly a response and an escape. I’m not sure this record would have been made without the pandemic happening.

I’m sure you hear this a lot, but the banjo isn’t one of the first instruments which comes to mind when many people think of ambient music. I’d love to know more about your relationship with the instrument, when did you first pick it up, and were you imagining you would make music of this nature, or did that come about later?

AT: It definitely isn’t and for good reason! The instrument definitely has suitable resonance, but making the decay work in this context is an interesting and eternal challenge. I bought my first banjo in 2011, after playing a few shows and hanging out with American folk artist Charlie Parr. I’d enjoyed historical folk music for several years by that point anyway, but the time with Charlie gave me real insight into additional sonic potential for the banjo. I bought the instrument thinking of my broader creative practice, rather than starting with traditional banjo and then working further afield. 

SG: I fell in love with the sound of the banjo about 25 years ago, after listening to the earliest recordings by the Stanley Brothers, and also the more country moments of Uncle Tupelo. But I also have a love for deconstructionists like Derek Bailey, Mike Cooper and, more pertinently in this case, Eugene Chadbourne. Chadbourne made me realise I could offer something on banjo too, play it my own way, adapt it to different contexts and styles, in this case ‘ambient’, though I don’t really consider Padang Food Tigers as purely ambient music.

A number of field recordings are woven into the soundscape of the record creating some great moments, any hints as to specific sounds, locations or moments we might be able to distinguish throughout the record? 

AT: Both Padang Food Tigers and I contributed field recordings for the album. Mine were recorded in Alexandra Hills, the suburb where I grew up and that I wrote about on my most recent solo album.

SG: Some scrapes, some flux, metal on skin, tinkles, burbles, unorthodox snippets… secretive park conversations in the park during lockdown and half-chewed audio holiday analogue – all connections made with A Cassowary Apart through the weave of memory, filtered and catalogued for suitable use.

Did you deliberately go out to collect these sounds, or did you accidentally find yourself in situations where you heard something you really wanted to record?  

AT: The field recordings that I contributed to A Cassowary Apart were deliberately sourced from when I was creating my 2020 solo album Alexandra, but they didn’t quite suit the final album.

Andrew, you filmed, edited and directed some videos to accompany the songs ‘Three Thousand, Four Hundred and Fifty-Six’ and ‘An Appropriate Bluff’, talk us through the inspiration and process behind these videos, do you often make visual accompaniments for your music? 

AT: I love making videos for my songs and live shows! I shoot the video for my videos myself, mostly on my phone and mostly around the broader area where I live. If I’m travelling somewhere and taking video, I’ll also potentially use that if it suits a particular project; but otherwise I like to shoot fairly local.

Finally, what’s on the cards for 2021? 

AT: I’m still not entirely sure, but Australia is pretty fortunate to have a more ‘COVID-normal’ than much of the world, so there’s a bit more flexibility. I’m currently working on a new album, which I’ll hopefully have finished later in the year, and am also looking forward to a few live and studio collaborations.

SG: First, we’ll see how this collaboration plays out, and then we’ll ready ourselves to release the next Padang Food Tigers go-it-alone effort towards the end of the year. It’s all recorded already and I think we have just found a suitable home for it. We’re also going to hop back into some online collaborating, this time with Andrew Weathers (we’re going through all the Andrews!!).

A Cassowary Apart is out now through Bedroom Suck Records, as part of their ongoing Private Eyes series - head to to purchase the album on limited vinyl.