Anna: Welcome to podcast number nine, everyone. This is Anna Wang. We’ve got a really great entertainer in this industry. Not just doing weddings, but also doing entertainment through pubs, hotels, venues and all of these things. We’re really excited to have Saul from Ebony and Ivory come to this show today.
Thank you, Saul, for coming and taking out your time.
Saul: Thanks, Anna.
Anna: I met you, Saul many, many, many, many years ago, and when we heard you were like, wow. And then from there on every client of mine that needed a band to be at their wedding, I’ve recommended you, and you’ve done many, many of my weddings. How did you get started as an entertainer?
Saul: Good question. The main singer in Ebony is Jesse, your familiar with obviously, we actually went to school together. We met in year eight, I think, and we were doing high school concerts and doing really well. Jesse, at the time, we were probably at the end of the 90s when we were in high school and Jesse was pursuing a bit of an R&B career and working with, I’m trying to think of the band, its name. Anyway, it was one of these Aussie boy bands and Jesse was being produced. We had a few opportunities on 96.1, if you remember that. I don’t think they’re still around anymore.
Saul: Yeah. So, we pursued that for a while. And we were just young kids, obviously, practicing, rehearsing. Jesse had his first child very early. I think it was maybe in his early 20s. We just decided that we wanted to do covers one day. It was early 2000s, some time. We got together, just started rehearsing songs. And we went to which side, we would go out to a local jam night to just test the set.
So, we went just probably a couple of kilometers from Jesse’s house and we truly on the first jam, there was an agent there for us who is running the jam now. And there were bands and he get thrown together with a bunch of other people and get up and play a song or two. We got a gig out of that. So, we had our first gig at Matraville hotel which was a little bit of a Trek, but paid pretty well. It was a little bit of a rough pulp, but when you’re trying to get an industry, you take anything.
But yeah, literally our first jam night, we got a gig off that. We just had enough songs to do our gig, probably 30 songs or something at the time. I mean, just putting the set together. Previously, we were writing our own songs and playing just what we wanted to play. Just playing Boyz II Men all the time, whatever, Usher and stuff. It was fashionable at the time.
Yeah. And everything for us just lead from that. Then we just kept that pub. That was a residency for us for years and years until our agent lost the venue. We were there once a month, and then he put us on the Crown hotel, which we still play at in Sydney. That was sometime in the mid-2000s. We’d been there solely every month at the Crown hotel.
And then obviously from the pub gigs, people would see us in the hotel in pub gigs and ask us if we could do weddings. And then initially it was just two-piece band. We get requests for, can you guys put a band together? So, we put a band together for the function. It has just grown naturally from there. That’s when we ran into you guys over the years, setting up events and things like that. We played just about everywhere; from Cabramatta to everywhere in town, all these places.
Anna: How did you choose the rest of your band? Like if it’s you and Jess, how did you choose who else should be part of your band?
Saul: Initially it was people we knew through friends or university. I studied sound engineering, and we had product tuition as well. I probably used to play saxophone before I played guitar. We just know people. Everyone in the music scene seem to know each other. That was great. We have social media.
We just handpicked and had a bit of a process. We never ever had any bad musicians. We just had people with different attitudes about dress code and stuff like that. showing up in the wrong or un-ironed shirts and things like that. They’ve slowly, like any other business, found their way out. We feel, now we’ve definitely got the best we can find in Sydney. But like any other business, you always have to be on them about things like any other job. That’s what I do.
Anna: What do you enjoy more, playing at the weddings or playing at the pubs?
Saul: The pubs are a lot easier. You would probably go there and you have three hours. You set up in the same location, you’ve got a pre-set. We have a digital mixing equipment, so we can save. We played Panthers yesterday, for example, for the Melbourne Cup. I’ve got a setting I’ve tweaked over. We’ve been there for like 8 years at Panthers. I put the outside here, then inside there and then I can save it in my console, put the speaker in the perfect position, reverbs and all the other effects and things to make it sound a bit more like a recording. So, that’s done easy. We do sets. People ask us to play horses or whatever it is
When you go to a wedding, it can be bad access time. If you’re at certain venues, there’s functions on prior. You got to get in there really quickly and know the room and then pull the sound up. It’s not all the time. And obviously, it’s a long day. We start reception at six o’clock, we’re there at three o’clock at least to bop the gear in. Even if we don’t have access, we try and get it near the door way as quick as we can.
And then, yeah, a function can go through typically until 11 o’clock or later. And then, packed down and flower arrangements coming down around your heads.
Yeah. Definitely more work at a wedding. But we do love weddings. We can’t complain about the food and stuff like that. Get to dress up a little bit more.
Anna: What’s your most favorite venue to play at?
Saul: It’s My most favorite venue. I should be careful what I say.
Anna: It’s probably multiple.
Saul: We love a lot of places. I like places that echo chambers. A lot of trendy venues there’s glass everywhere, lots of reflective surfaces. I would like to go out, I’m a sound engineer also. So, with just a guitar and sort of study the acoustics and things like that. I built our studio. We actually have our studio where we record at for other people, all sorts of stuff, demos. Just finished the album for the ABC.
Anna: Oh wow.
Saul: We do that during the week.
What my point was, I lost myself. Ah sound wise. A lot of the venues have tricky rooms. I like anywhere where I go in there, it’s comfortable to speak. We might go in to check out the venue and it’s already echoing sloppy in the room and you’re hearing reflections. And then imagine the putting 200 people in there. It’s quite uncomfortable. Yeah. So that would be my choices. Anywhere with good access, people can park easily.
Anna: Yup. Parking.
Saul: It’s a massive thing. And just good staff that are polite to us. Yeah, there’s a lot of places. Parking, I’m just going to say, yeah.
Anna: Parking. Gosh, it’s crazy. If you can’t find parking and unload and stuff, it’s the biggest nightmare, biggest nightmare. And we find that problem all the time with unloading and loading.
Saul: Just somewhere where the older generation can come and comfortably get into and get accommodation and stuff like that. Yeah.
Anna: Gosh. So pretty much, being a manager for Ebony and Ivory, how did you come up with the name Ebony and Ivory? What’s your experience like managing it?
Saul: I got to be honest and say, I think it was a bad name, but it came about from that jam night where we had to put a name together on the spot from like, whatever it was, 15 or 16 or more years ago. What are we now? 2019. It’s been a while. Yeah, we came up with that on the night and we needed the gig then, and we just thought it was a joke. Jessie is Samoan, I’m very white and extremely [inaudible 00:09:13.19] studio all the time at the moment. Yeah, so we just came up with that. We thought we’d change it and we never did. It ended up being registered. And that’s really hard.
Anna: And now your Ebony and Ivory all the way through.
Saul: It’s really hard. It’s a Stevie wonder song with Paul McCartney, if you’re not familiar. So, if you want to look that one up so. Yeah.
Anna: Gosh. So, till today, this has been, gosh, like you said 20 years now this has happened?
Anna: And then it’s still pretty much Ebony and Ivory is you and Jesse? How is the whole management working? Because I’m always dealing with yourself and I always just hear Jesse.
Saul: Yeah. Jesse has not been really managing any contractual agreements or anything like that. He’s got five kids to manage during the week. So, that became my job naturally. He does obviously manage on the day things we have. We share management tasks at functions if he’s on the function.
But as of the last probably 8 years, we started integrating into the band female singers. We’ve had Natasha Bella, Bronte as well. And now, as it’s grown, we’ve just got an even bigger team, a bigger and better team. We’re excited to see them coming on board this year. They’ve been featuring in a few functions. We’re in the process of sending you some new demos.
Saul: Which I’ve been a bit slack with, but we’ve just been crazy busy. Yeah. Our team is a lot bigger than it used to be. Jesse now comes and basically fronts up and does the job. I deal with all the questions and requests and stuff like that.
Anna: Requests and everything.
Saul: Yeah. And please call me. Feel free to call me. I’d much rather chat half an hour. I have so many emails coming in.
Anna: Oh, I know.
Saul: It’s so much easier to..
Anna: So much easier, but sometimes it’s just like, are you available on this? You’re like, quickly look at my diary quickly, quickly, and we’re like, yep, we’re available. Let’s book it in. Let’s look at it, because we know once we lock you in, we get the best, probably band that I know to work with. Because we work so flawlessly together. It’s been such a pleasure.
But in terms of still being in the industry, what’s your current views? All the entertainment industry. What are your current challenges you’re facing?
Saul: Challenges would be just payments, increasing payment requests from band members and having the best people we have, literally the best, some of the best singers easily in Sydney if not in Australia. We’re getting just payment requests due to all the band payments out there. We’re very moderately priced band compared to other bands if you want to look around. That would be a challenge. Apart from that, everything’s pretty…
Anna: Pretty good.
Saul: Pretty good.
Anna: Have you had any strange requests from a bride for you to learn a song that you’re like, why would you ask me to learn that song for your first dance? Because it’s like so irrelevant to a wedding. Have you had any strange requests?
Saul: There have been. Jesse being Samoan, a lot of the singers in our band being predominantly jazz pop singers. I do sing some. Jesse has some rock stuff because we’ve done it with pubs and clubs and we do that with clubs wants. We generally, yeah, people request things like you’d expect Ed Sheeran and all the typical stuff; John Legend, Usher, whatever it may be.
What have we had weird requests? I feel like somewhere along with maybe a Meatloaf song or something along those lines. Not that particular theme, but I can’t recall. Generally, we’re pretty lucky.
Anna: How do you remember all the song lyrics?
Saul: You do have to refresh. I’m playing guitars, so I don’t have to deal with that. For our band, we do send out charts to them. As we have new songs, we have brought iPads and they have applications to our real beat. So, as you can imagine with many singers, its different keys for everyone. You might have a female song and the male has been requested to sing Whitney Houston. So, it might need to be the male key. So, we work off that. I mean, we send a set list together out to the band, and they have the set list. Often, now the client, I would say 70% of the time, I want to choose from the songs. Which is fine. So, I get that out to the guys.
Lyrics, I leave that up to the guys. I do occasionally see they have an iPad out on a formal sort of stand, which has become the replacement for the sheet music and stuff like that.
Saul: For some of the songs on occasion, those happen. But we prefer not to, if we can help it.
Anna: Because I’m always putting my hats off to like singers that just sing. And I remember like 40 songs. It’s like; how do they even remember that? I kind of remember one song for lyrics. It’s crazy.
Saul: It’s like a memory thing for people. If you’re having kids and stuff and you’re looking at doing music, that apparently is really great for them. The lyric and obviously chords and music for learning in school, math. The benefits are huge.
Anna: I should look at that for my crazy girls.
Saul: Yeah. Definitely. Even if you’re not into music, apparently, it’s good for memory. I think even, there’ll be a doctor out there that will say that I’m wrong. I think it’s proven to help like maybe in the later years in life when your memory fails. It strengthens the neuropathways.
Anna: So, musicians, we can say it’s probably more intelligent.
Saul: I wouldn’t say intelligent. It’s not intelligent. It’s definitely not. They might be more creative, but maybe often they have the textbooks worth of information to put together over there.
Anna: Now, just going back to being in the pub scene and the hotel scene, how has lockout laws impacted live music? What’s your personal experiences with that? Has it affected you guys at all?
Saul: To be honest, it hasn’t really affected me. And I’m going to go against the grain and say, oh, I have seen the bad side of the lockout period. We used to do some of those places. Typically, now our functions, and most of the pubs or hotels finish 12:30 at the latest. The latest would be from 9:00 – 12:30 or something a lot earlier. So, it doesn’t really affect us.
I see people getting kicked back, but… In the past, I’ve been on the two o’clock to 2:00 PM gig slot when you’re a little bit more taking anything that you could any gig that came along. Yeah, it gets pretty rough with the security guards and the police out there with the alcohol and all the other stuff that people are dabbling in these days.
I haven’t really felt the pain of it, but I have seen the pub scene in Sydney. It’s seems like it’s not as crazy from… It used to be crazy from 12 o’clock and the party would just be people falling over this fall back speakers. I’ve popped microphone stands in my face and stuff like that. Just drunk people falling back. Yeah.
Anna: Cleaned up a lot now.
Saul: It’s better, but I understand the business’s perspectives, yeah.
Anna: It’s crazy.
Saul: It’s crazy. As we kind of put everything together as an entertainer and all that. What advice can you give new, I’d say new singers, new creatives in the industry that’s kind of finishing and they think, you know what? I’ve got a great voice, and new acts and stuff. What advice can you give them of how to start, where to start, what to do, where to go?
Saul: I would say, get out there. Obviously, you know, maybe in a wedding you might pick up someone. You need to be seen in public places. The majority of our weddings have come through references like yourself. Thank you so much for all the references over the years. Yeah, just get out there and you’ll soon realize what you would like to do and what you need to do.
For the pubs and clubs and the clients, you might have to stretch outside of the things that you put the songs. Some requests you might want to be in this niche pocket and you need to be a lot wider than that.
Just getting sound together. It’s not just about performing too. The massive part of it is being… you might sound right, but if nobody can hear you when you set up one speak of facing yourself in the corner of the room, which I see all the time. People don’t care on the many high charging bands around Sydney that I’ve seen their sound. They don’t seem to care. They’re either blowing people’s heads off where it’s too loud and super uncomfortable, or it’s just blurry. That’s something else. That’s where we differ a lot. That’s a big advantage with us. I’m a sound engineer. So, I put the anti-buss over there three hours prior. We even have saved sittings for particular venues around Sydney. So, we know this works for this particular room. We’ve even moved to any systems. You’ve probably seen the people on TV.
So, make sure they’re on pitch when they need to be in dinner music at whatever level we can pull ourselves down to. A whisper if required and then crank right up as well.
Yeah, just get out there and do gigs. Worry about your sound, tune your instrument. People don’t tune their instruments. Go out and see the gigs and just see what else is happening in the scene in Sydney and make sure that you’re on that level. Try and get out of the whisper. There seems to be this fad of people that are doing whispering all the time, which is great, but it will only last for a period of time. Its pitch level people want to see when listening to Whitney Houston songs and a bit of all about that range of stuff. Yeah.
There’s a lot of talented people that are great, not just singers. Definitely with the young ones a big thing is just like talking, singing, which… You need to sing out a song at some point.
Anna: Have you ever come across the busker on the street you’ve gone, wow?
Saul: I’ve literally got buskers on the street. An example of a guy, there’s a guy out here who plays still in a band occasionally, he’s a soloist a lot of the time. As with the soloist that play guitar and sing and play the piano. They’re hard to keep in a band because they can go and get such great money as a soloist, and we only operate as a minimum as a duo because we have people that are dedicated singers, dedicated guitarist.
But yeah, I found one person that way, just busking and got him into our band. Later on, they go on to sing in The Voice and X Factor and stuff like that. And it’s great. There are some buskers around.
Anna: For a client, there’s many, many choices of bands out there. There are so many different types of bands out there similar to you, not similar to you and all that. For our listeners, why should they choose Ebony and Ivory?
Saul: The first thing I would say, you probably noticed if you’ve done a search now, there are a million websites and a million, hundreds of bands on these websites that don’t really even operate from what I’ve seen. They don’t actually have hotel gigs. If you look deeper, you will find virtually no references from any functions they’ve done.
Yeah, so there’s a smorgasbord of people putting together bands that don’t really exist. You may call them and they’ll ask you to send you a set list, but there’s no way you can say that. Even the showcase bands. I am a bit skeptical of the showcase, once a month showcasing. Go on and see it. Yeah, I would like to see a band that has regular hotels and pubs that they’ve held for 12 years. If you would visit Ebony and Ivory Facebook page, we’re a little bit behind to update my Instagram.
Anna: Because you’ve been so busy.
Saul: Busy with the studio and I’m just doing that… Yeah. We just put our heads down and most of our referrals come through word of mouth, which I found to be easy old people that have seen us. They call and they lock the band. We don’t have any mocking around about it, because I have been, you know. It’s definitely is a lot of money for people to pop into something they never seen before.
Yeah. I would say, make sure the bands play at regular functions. Make sure those have references. If anyone likes to visit our Facebook page, there’s like copious amounts of feedback from clients, emails that are posted on there.
Anna: So, what is the Facebook page? Is it just Ebony and Ivory?
Saul: If you search everything in entertainment, I mean, we she would come up on Facebook and you can log in there. We’re just about to go through, I was hoping to have it done after this podcast, but we’re about to do an update of the demos and photos of some new front people we have in our band.
Yeah. I need to update our website as well. We’ve just been heads down at the moment. We have a little studio too. I’m in between mixing albums during the week and turning out bongos for people on their track. Probably in June we’ll have an assistant soon, someone to take care of it all.
Anna: Someone to take care of it all. That’s like 20 years later.
Saul: Yeah. It’s tricky because it’s very particular. If a client calls, I like to talk to them. If I have someone that doesn’t know all the intricacies…
Anna: That’s just like me. You’re exactly like me. You’ll end up on the phone, you see every client, you deal with them all because it’s just like, you know what, it’s better that I just do it.
Saul: Yeah. It’s a tricky little thing. It’s tricky little thing.
Anna: But we’ll get through it. Pretty much you’ve gone through the journey with us as well, kids’ birthdays, pretty much anything that happens with us, you guys are always there to play for us. We’re just really excited to always listen to you guys. It’s different every time we hear you. It’s not like it’s a boring gig where it’s the same set playing over and over. You always got something new. You always got something. The voices are amazing. The band is great.
Anyone that is listening or that you know of, is looking for a band for a wedding for whatsoever, please get on to Ebony and Ivory’s website, Facebook, Instagram. Just watch them and you’ll understand how amazing these guys are.
Thank you so much, Saul, for coming today and just really showing everyone what you are all about in the entertainment industry. Let’s hope that in the future it would just get bigger and better for you.
Saul: Thanks so much. Thanks for having us on. Thanks for all the referral over the years. It’s much appreciated.
Anna: No worries. Thank you.