Love Amid The Ruins

Auckland singer songwriter Tiny Ruins (aka Hollie Fulbrook) makes her debut

by Alice Galletly (portrait photos by Georgie Craw – concert photo by Lennart Maschmeyer)

The last time I cried was three weeks ago, at a jam-packed cafe on Karangahape Road.

I wasn’t openly blubbering, just doing a lot of blinking and wiping and staring intently into my wine glass. Others around me were doing the same thing.

It was Tiny Ruins, aka Hollie Fullbrook, who had us all misty-eyed. She is one of those rare singer-songwriters who can hold her audience in complete captivity, easily turning the liveliest room into a sea of broken hearts.

Of course, I don’t tell Fullbrook that she had me weeping into my Shiraz when I meet her for an interview. Instead we talk about her debut album, Some Were Meant For Sea, which she is releasing on May 30th on Australian label Spunk.

“I wanted to make a really raw sounding record,” says the 25-year-old Aucklander with the soft British accent – something she retained from her early childhood spent in Bristol.

“We recorded it in an old school hall in South Gippsland, Australia, where the producer Greg J. Walker lives.

“The school was closed in the 70’s because there were only five students. It was really small and gorgeous – with net curtains and a photo of the queen on the wall. It added a lot of atmosphere.”

Although Fullbrook learned Cello from a young age, her instrument of choice is an acoustic guitar.

She plays this while singing knowingly about characters she’s read about in the news – a Brazilian priest who launched himself off a cliff with a bunch of Helium balloons, Romanian traffic wardens who were made to take ballet lessons – and of intimate moments from her own past.

“A few years ago my style changed, and I started writing songs about small details of life. “The Cat In The Hallway”, for example, is about a conversation in the hallway. I didn’t want to write about big ideas anymore.”

Two years ago, Hollie was in her final year of a Law, English and Theatre degree in Wellington when her friend dragged her along to an open-mic night.

“It was the first time I’d played in years and years. The sound guy recorded it, and then later got in touch and offered to record any demos.”

She did, and after some initial reservations put them on Myspace under the name Hollie Fu.

“I felt physically sick about putting them online. Seeing that four people had seen the page and I didn’t know who they were… It was blowing my mind.”

She soon changed her moniker to Tiny Ruins, and started to receive feedback from far-flung parts of the world.

“I got little packages and things in the mail, people would send me artwork in exchange for a demo. People were obviously affected by it, and that really took me by surprise.”

Then Aaron Curnow, owner of influential Australian record label Spunk, was directed to her page.

“Record labels seemed a completely far-off prospect that I had barely given thought to. Then Aaron contacted me and asked if I could send him a CD.”

A week later they flew her over to play a live show in Sydney.

“Before dropping me at the hotel after the show Aaron gave me a bunch of Spunk sample CDs in a paper envelope and said he would like to have me on board. It was surreal.”

After signing with Spunk, it wasn’t long before Fullbrook was back in Australia supporting the likes of Joanna Newsom, Beach House, and Holly Throsby.

Now, after a series of breathtaking live shows and one beguiling EP, Fullbrook is formally introducing herself to the world with her debut album.

“It’s a quiet album,” she says. “The sort of thing people would want to listen to in the evening while they cook dinner. I hope people like it”

I have no doubt they will.


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Some Were Meant for Sea is available in stores May 30, and the release will be followed by a New Zealand tour.
Tiny Ruins New Zealand Album Release Tour- June 2011
Auckland – Friday, June 17th at The Wine Cellar
Wellington – Wednesday, June 22nd at The Mighty Mighty
Dunedin/Port Chalmers – Saturday, June 25th at Chicks Hotel
Christchurch/Lyttelton – Sunday, June 26th at Wunderbar

Tiny Ruins – ‘Little Notes’ by SpunkRecords