Rising soul-tinged singer Chet Faker was the big winner Tuesday (Oct. 16) night at the Australian Independent Music Awards in Melbourne, where he converted two of his five nominations.
On a night when "true independence" was challenged from the stage and in the crowd, Chet Faker (real name Nick Murphy) was a clear crowd favorite winning for best breakthrough independent artist and best independent single/EP for his 7-song EP "Thinking In Textures" (Opulent -- released in the U.S. on Downtown). He performed on piano the track "I'm Into You," providing the show its one true "pin-drop" moment.
One of the big surprises came right near the close, when Sydney garage outfit Royal Headache took the coveted best independent album award for their self-titled RIP Society set, beating out a strong list of contenders from 360, DZ Deathrays, the Jezabels and The Temper Trap.
In an acceptance speech that oozed punk, frontman Shogun said, "Leaving all prejudice and punk idealism behind we never had a manager, never chased a show. We just did our shit." He wrapped it up by saying, "My Mum will be stoked."
Another popular winner on the night was Elefant Traks, the electronica and hip-hop imprint which won the inaugural independent label of the year award. Label managing director and artist Tim Levinson told the audience, "the artists on Elefant Traks are the ones evolving the sound and they become the identity. This award is for them."
Organized by the not-for profit Australian Independent Record Labels Association, and headline-sponsored by drinks maker Jagermeister, the awards night is and now in its seventh year.
In years past, questions have been raised about the "independent" ethos behind some of the award winners. And the issue re-emerged Tuesday and nearly threatened to spill over into controversy.
It crept-in during Lanie Lane's acceptance speech for having won the blues and roots award. The rockabilly singer songwriter, whose album "To The Horses" was released by Ivy League, a division of Michael Gudinski's Mushroom Group of Companies, was the target of a heckler at the back of the crowd who yelled, "not independent".
Later, when Matt Colwell - aka 360 - took to the stage to receive the hip hop album award for "Falling & Flying", the six-time ARIA Award nominated artist said, "this marks a good run," before admitting he didn't feel it was right "to be up here" considering his album was licensed by a major, EMI via Soulmate.
AIR's GM Nick O'Byrne put a cap on things during a brief speech, and told the audience, "kudos to 360, who has made a career out of speaking his mind."
The trade body's definition of independent is relatively straight forward: "If the masters aren't owned by Sony, Warner, EMI or Universal. If they're 100% Australian owned by artist or label and then we classify it as Independent for the sake of the awards," O'Byrne tells Billboard.biz
Other key winners on the night included the Jezabels (best independent artist), DZ Deathrays (best hard rock or punk album), Hermitude (best independent dance/electronica album), Tom Piper and Daniel Farley (best dance/electronica single), Mike Nock (best jazz album) and Jess Ribeiro & The Bone Collectors (best country album).
All twelve trophies were decided by a music industry panel of more than 450 participants.