Pnau, Jen Cloher Win Big at Australia's Independent Music Awards

Bryan Sheffield


With two trophies each, Pnau and Jen Cloher were the big winners Thursday night (July 26) at the AIR Awards in Adelaide, the annual celebration of Australia’s independent music community.   

Pnau, the electronic dance trio from Sydney, now based in Los Angeles, dominated the dance music category, winning for best independent dance, electronica or club single (“Go Bang” via etc etc) and best independent dance/electronica album (?Changa).        

Meanwhile, Cloher, the Melbourne singer and songwriter, took out a pair of the night’s top honors, for best independent artist, and best independent label with Milk Records, which scooped a A$20,000 ($14,700) winner's check courtesy of indie ticketing company Moshtix. Milk, which Cloher runs with her partner Courtney Barnett, also won the prize in 2015.    

Buzzy indigenous hip-hop act Baker Boy set the tone for the evening with a bouncing performance and, later, collected a prize for breakthrough independent artist of the year. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard took out best independent hard rock, heavy or punk album (Murder Of The Universe via lightless Records), Northern Territory artist Birdz won for best independent hip-hop album (Train Of Thought via Bad Apples Music), and All Our Exes Live In Texas snagged best independent blues and roots album (When We Fall via ABC Music).     

One of the heroes of the event was country artist Fanny Lumsden, who made the trip to South Australia just three weeks after giving birth. Lumsden performed on the night and was rewarded with the best independent country album award for her aptly-titled Real Class Act (Red Dirt Road Records). 

The night’s emotional moment belonged to Mark Grose, founder of Darwin-based Skinnyfish Music, who was honored with the outstanding achievement award. Grose paid tribute to his late friend and artist Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, who passed away 12 months and one day beforehand, at the age of 46. “When people ask what success is, it’s the people you get around you. Relationships in the music industry is the most important thing," he said. "There are a lot of good people in the music industry.” Fighting back tears, Grose added, “After 20 years of taking this ridiculous risk, I can’t believe that I’m standing here receiving this award.”

For the first time, the best independent album or EP award was a tie, as Methyl Ethel’s Everything is Forgotten (Dot Dash Recordings) and The Jungle Giants’ Quiet Ferocity (Amplifire Music) both received equal votes. 

Spotted in the crowd at the 2018 ceremony was Sarah Hanson-Young, Greens Senator for South Australia, who looked on as Alex Lahey, Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood and others won awards. 

The AIR Awards, now in its 12th year, was held at Adelaide’s Queen’s Theatre, one of the country’s oldest purpose-built venues. Trade body AIR organizes the awards and the Indie-Con Australia Conference, held July 26 and 27 at Adelaide’s The Hindley.

See the full list of winners here.