THE growth of Gold Coast band Tijuana Cartel and the Wollombi Music Festival have seemingly flourished concurrently.
Back in 2010 the duo of Paul George and Carey O'Sullivan were "guys in a van, travelling around Australia trying to make a living out of music" who were "ridiculously poor but having a lot of fun."
At the same time a fledgling independent music festival was kicking off in the western Hunter Valley village of Wollombi. Organiser Adrian Buckley took a punt on Tijuana Cartel's eclectic infusion of world music, electronica and indie, and it proved a masterstroke.
"It's always a good vibe," George reflects on Wollombi nine years later. "It was a lot smaller when it started. From memory the stage was on the back of a truck."
Tijuana Cartel returned to the event as an acclaimed live act in 2018 and on October 26 they will headline the first Wollombi At The Station, an offshoot of the festival in the heart of Newcastle.
George says he felt a sense of duty to support Wollombi branching out into the former Newcastle Train Station.
"We have lots of friends in Newcastle also, so we thought it would be a nice excuse to head down," he says.
"We also know lots of the bands like [Wollombi acts] Highlife and Dave Orr Band and they are mates and we see them touring a lot, so it seemed like a really good day."
Wollombi At The Station will continue a hectic 2019 for George. Earlier this year he released the EP Charles with his indie-folk band Black Rabbit George, in August Tijuana Cartel toured their new best-of compilation Bhairavi's Garden in France and Germany and he's currently recording EPs for both bands.
But keeping active has always been at the heart of Tijuana Cartel. During their formative days childhood friends George and O'Sullivan would play weddings and cafe gigs. Whatever it took to hone their craft.
"I heard an interview with Fatboy Slim recently and he said the same thing, when he was starting out he would play his cousin's wedding or anything," George says. "When you're trying to get yourself into the game you wanna be playing seven nights a week."
It's an attitude that isn't shared with many emerging bands who often fear saturating the market by performing too often. But George has advice for them.
"If you're a good band people want to come back and see what you're doing, particularly when you're starting out," he says.
"I don't think you can saturate the market, though that's not what generally everyone in the industry will tell you. They'll say you should space it out.
"But when you're trying to get known you wanna be in front of people's faces as much as you can."
- Tijuana Cartel headline Wollombi At The Station in Newcastle on October 26 alongside Highlife, Minnie Marks, Dave Orr Band, The Ninth Chapter, Georgie Jones and more.
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