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:: Spotlight :: The Replacement - An electrifying Melbourne creation

By: Carmine Pascuzzi

Melbourne’s Paul Brandoli and Maria Neskovski are the key people of The Replacement. Maria is the voice behind the song “Fairytale”, the catchy electro number doing well across radio stations and clubs in Australia. She is a sultry songstress, full of energy and vitality, with a big future ahead. Paul Brandoli has a good body of work over the past ten years, as a producer/songwriter involved with Culture Shock, Eclipse, and Jackson Mendoza. The Replacement is the vehicle to introduce us to Maria and, with overseas interest already, begin their drive to success. I had a chat to Paul and Maria about the past, present, and future.

Q. You’ve enjoyed periodic success as a producer in Melbourne. Tell us about it?

A.(Paul)I didn’t get into music until my early 20s. I went to university and did banking/commerce studies, but I realised I had no long-term ambition doing that. I started recording for some people. I had a few projects in the mid-90s and working with Culture Shock (which was signed to Sony Music) gave me a glimpse into what could be achieved. After that, I wrote and produced some tracks for Eclipse. Then, I set up my own studio and worked on a project called Jackson Mendoza, who had a hit with a song I wrote, “Venus & Mars”. It was probably the biggest thing I’ve been involved with and it was a great learning experience. The two girls brought the song to life and they had a great chemistry. Since then, I’ve done a few things, travelled overseas, and become more aware of things in the business of music. Now, I am at a point where I’ve started my own label. The Replacement’s “Fairytale” is the first single released. I’m also developing a rock band that will see things happen later in the year.

Q. More and more are “doing it themselves”. Do you have a certain strategy in mapping out your plans?

A. (Paul)Well, there’s no right or wrong in music. Things either work or don’t work for you. I’m pretty privileged making a living out of this and working with people I enjoy working with. Now, it’s a matter of The Replacement getting out there. Through Central Station we have secured deals in Germany and Italy and hopefully America soon. It’s a good start.

Q. There is a northern European style to the track…

A. (Paul)All the remixes were done in Germany, so you can see that influence in it. We’ve had it slanted towards a more commercial outlook in the clubs here, especially with a progressive house feel. It’s getting a good reaction.

Q. How did you discover Maria?

A. (Paul)I found her through a mutual friend. She had never recorded in English before. She’s born and bred in Melbourne, but had travelled to Macedonia quite often. She recorded some material there. I had a hunch about her and we went into the studio. She was seventeen when we recorded “Fairytale”. She’s now eighteen and she has a very mature voice.

Q. Tell us about the CD cover and that snake?

A.(Maria)I just wanted to do a photo shoot with a snake. Everyone was trying to convince me not to do it because it was too dangerous. But, I wanted a snake. The cover shot was done in a studio in Collingwood. It was so expensive to get a snake. E got one for $200. It was so beautiful: smooth and warm. It was an experience.

Q.Tell us about yourself and when you started singing?

A.(Maria)I’ve always wanted to be a singer and I started to take it seriously at sixteen. I’d done some performances in Macedonia, including one for a football match. The English Ambassador asked me to perform at the England vs Macedonia match. I sang the English national anthem to a crowd of 35,000. It was a great experience and there was good publicity. Every performance I did overseas was to a crowd of a few thousand at least. Now, I’m here with “Fairytale”. Once things kick off, I hope to be touring around Australia.

Q.What is the plan for The Replacement?

A.(Paul)We’ve got an album ready. The point of this, however, is to develop a career for Maria; to define what she likes. She likes different styles. We don’t want to label her as a dance artist. That’s why we came up with The Replacement, whereby she is fronting it. She is singing. It’s her energy and vibe. She is getting the best experience possible. He idea is to do this, then take over her own solo career. I see a lot of singers quite regularly. Being able to sing is one thing, but having the X factor: when you sing with a certain audience – it’s a rare thing.

Q.How do you see the current music scene, especially in terms of where you want to take this project?

A.(Paul)Because of the climate within the music industry, obviously bigger labels are less able to take risks than smaller labels. The very definition of developing Maria is to take a risk.

(Maria)Music is so plain and boring at the moment. It’s all the same. I think we’ve been brought together to create something new and fresh. It’s not the same bubblegum pop that’s out there now. The demos we’ve recorded at the moment are hot tracks – quite different to what you’ve been hearing on the radio.

(Paul)Further to what Maria said, there is some great music around the place. But it’s homogenised to a point whereby, if you’re going to do R&B or a certain genre, you need to put your own individual stamp on it. For us, we just have to decide which direction to go. I think we’ll go into an edgier side. We want to promote Maria and make as much of an impact as we can.

Q. What effect has the change in technology had on your work?

A. (Paul)Making a record is not the epic process it used to be. Ten years ago it took a few good attempts to get it to the finished stage. You can do it all at home now. I have my studio at home. “Fairytale” is the first single produced from my home studio. It’s a bit of a victory to get that achieved and have the song played on radio.

Q. The remixes are quite interesting…

A. (Paul)The Voltaxx remix team is a German-based outfit. They bring a good European quality to it. The song lends itself to a darker sound. Local artist Nathan G added a remix also. We’re collaborating with him on some stuff.

Q. What lies ahead for The Replacement?

A. (Paul)We’ll be looking to do showcases, perhaps with stripped back versions by Maria on some songs. We know that Maria is well equipped to get out there and do her thing.

“Fairytale” is out through Bang On/Central Station/MRA label.