Penelope & Owlsley: Burning In The Sound

by Owlsley Burroughs

Penelope & Owlsley

Penelope Arvanitakis and I go way back to 2005. I would spot her at open mics in mysterious and leafy Belgrave, the creative centre of the Melbourne hills, and simply marvel at her talent. The cadence of her voice was like no other, her piano playing was so highly advanced for one so young, and her songs were quirky, honest and deep. She was a cut above the rest.

In 2007 we recorded three songs together at her parents’ house, one of mine and two of hers, and then … we promptly fell out of touch for 16 years!

Listen to the album while reading the text.

Of course, I thought about Penelope from time to time. I wondered if she’d kept going with the music. She was also an accomplished poet and actor, so she may have gone in those directions. I heard through the grapevine she was travelling a lot and having grand adventures all over the world.

In the interim I recorded hundreds of songs, occasionally with others but mostly by myself, and released a bunch of solo albums under my own name. But I began to miss my days of being in duos and bands; the camaraderie, creative alchemy and unity of purpose. I hankered more and more for some kind of meaningful collaboration, but with whom?

In January 2023, Penelope suddenly popped into my mind again. So I tracked down her number and asked her point blank: did she want to make some music with me? Immediately her answer was yes. She was local again and definitely up for the challenge. It appears I’d caught her exactly at a crossroads. She was in a rut. She hadn’t done much music. She wanted to be creative, but how? In what form would it take? She had so much to say, but no clear means of saying it.

I’d always been fascinated by Johnny Marr and Morrissey’s method of writing songs in The Smiths. I wanted to try it. So I proposed to Penelope that I provide her with the finished music and that she construct the words and melodies around it. My instinct was that if anyone could do it, she could. Like me, she’d never before attempted such a thing. And it’s true to say, some of these tunes were odd. They had unusual timings, unconventional chord changes and clashes of ideas she was unfamiliar with.

Cut to our first vocal recording session in March 2023. This would be the very first time I’d hear her words and my music together. Well, I got chills when I heard the first playback. She’d navigated the song in such a way that it felt like she’d completely internalised it, meshed with it and alchemised it into an entirely new entity. This was next level stuff. I was excited about music for the first time in ages!

As the months rolled on the surprises kept coming. It was the gift that kept on giving. I found myself looking forward to our recording sessions. But it wasn’t only Penelope’s melodies and phrasing that thrilled, but also her words. She sings about things that aren’t even in my vocabulary! Our individual personas and world views are sometimes like chalk and cheese, but the synthesis of both is something truly extraordinary.

Finally, for fun, I decided to re-imagine each song as if it were created by our ‘bizarro’ selves, somewhere, sometime in the vastness of interdimensional space. We are giving these exclusive versions away as a bonus album to thank anyone who contributes via Bandcamp toward our dream of making a vinyl record of Burning In The Sound.

It will be a long process, but we know very well that good things take time.

Bandcamp Owlsley Burroghs

Artist’s Note
Melbourne, Australia
Alternative, Experimental, Indie-Pop, Pop
recording, collaboration, poetry, friendship

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