Monsieur Camembert: Turning Marrickville into Sydney's musical heart

Monsieur Camembert: Turning Marrickville into Sydney's musical heart

How a gypsy band in Sydney’s inner west is using underground venues and warehouse spaces to add a new layer to Sydney’s live music scene

Triple ARIA band Monsieur CamembertYaron Hallis, a.k.a. Mr Cheese, a.k.a. Monsieur Camembert's lead vocalist. Change is in the air for Sydney’s live music scene, and it sounds damn good.

Under the radar, musicians are playing at warehouses and garages all over the city. This hidden soundtrack is creating new venues in the city’s corners. 

At the forefront of this movement is triple ARIA Award winning "gyprock" band Monsieur Camembert –- an institution of the city’s underground music scene since the 1990s.

Lead vocalist of Monsieur Camembert, Yaron Hallis, initiated an underground concert space in his warehouse home -- the Qirkz. When the space was shut down by Marrickville Council, Sydney’s bohemian dream seemed to be over. 

But the band moved down the road to an under-used club and is on the brink of merging its former space and new venue into a cultural hub. 

Mr. Cheese

Monsieur Camembert dabbled in gypsy music in the late 1990s, paving the way for many others.

“The gypsy influence was always our strongest, but also with a foot in the yesteryear ‘everything old is new again’ mentality, which is not exactly what a lot of people would associate with Sydney,” says Hallis.

"Mr Cheese" is somewhere between a ventriloquist come-to-life and a 19th-century gypsy indulging creative fantasies. The performances include multi-media performances that are comedic, classical and theatrical -- typical of an anything-goes fringe approach. 

The search for Camelot

After the band's underground space was closed, Camelot arrived. 

“As fate would have it, there was a daggy little Macedonian club on the corner of the same street, which was up for grabs," Hallis says. "We grabbed it, gave it a massive face lift, and completely transformed it into what’s now become Camelot." 

“It's arguably one of the premier venues that musicians are gravitating towards at the moment."

“The dream is that Camelot -- the legal venue -- and Qirkz -- which is still the illegal venue, the underground space that we’re trying to legitimize -- will coexist side by side," Hallis says. 

"The street will become this amazing precinct that Sydney really hasn’t seen before, where people can go from one gig to another, within the same street, and to actually create a music hub in the heart of Marrickville," Hallis says.

“And beyond that, to close the street off once a month, and do street parties with stalls and stages. There are just so many opportunities for these things. And Qirkz is better poised than it ever was to be at the center of the whole thing."

“The wheels are in motion," he says. "It will definitely happen, it’s just a matter of how, and how long it’ll take."

Upcoming shows at Camelot

Thursday, March 31: Klezmer band "Beyond the Pale" (Canada)

Friday, April 1: The Bernie Hayes Quartet

Wednesday, April 13: Hot Jazz Allliance

Saturday, April 16: Encore performance from Katie Noonan and Elixir

Bookings: www.trybooking.com

Camelot is at 19 Marrickville Road, Marrickville, opposite Sydenham train station. Kids are welcome but must be accompanied by a responsible adult. The venue is fully licensed.