Across Europe these days people are experiencing soaring temperatures and devastatingly unusual heat. Nearby, in one of the geographically largest countries on the planet, wildfires in Russia are spreading at an alarming rate. In Iceland, a memorial plaque has been created for first glacier in the country that has fallen victim to climate change.
So The 1975‘s recent release of their new song that features the voice of Swedish activist Greta Thunberg is timely, to say the least. The track builds up beautifully and dramatically woven entirely through and around Greta’s speech which she, now famously, presented to the United Nations.
Protest music does not have to only be an unknown troubadour with a Guthrie sticker on his/her guitar. It comes in many forms and more importantly, like everything else today like journalism or activism, it must be a collective effort.
This collaboration between The 1975 and Greta Thunberg is a fantastic example of how larger artists can use their voice for good. Greta’s message will now reach countless people, young and old, which is highly important in these times of distorted narratives. The song will not change the problems we are facing, but it can change a mind or two.
Charlie Mgee is not flying anywhere, anytime soon. Not because of fear of heights, the man seems not afraid of much seeing how he lives in a vegetable oil fuelled truck-house, but because of the irony as he puts it. As you’ll learn below Charlie is a man that puts his money where his mouth is.
Charlie leads the musical collective Formidable Vegetable and sings his lyrics for the band as well. After having studied permaculture he wanted to share the knowledge with more people and through music. Hence the existence of this quite unique band.
On 15th of March Formidable Vegetable drop their 3rd LP and so I figured it was time so see what Charlie had been up to since our last interview.
So, how have you been since the last time we spoke?
Flat out! Just this past few weeks I’ve been demolishing a house (free wood for the future Formidable Veg HQ!), planning water harvesting & ponds for our little patch of land, converting my house-truck to run on waste vegetable oil… oh, and getting ready to release an album!
Formidable Vegetable has a new album coming out. What sets this album apart from the first to LP’s (if anything)?
This one is a bit more “grown-up” sounding… in parts – actually, its part grow-up (songs about wanting to find a sense of home) , part childish fun (songs about composting toilets that don’t flush).
The first album was inspired by the permaculture principles – this one is inspired by the three ethics of Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share – hence the title – Earth People Fair.
You mention that the album is inspired by the permaculture ethics. For those not familiar with the subject, what is permaculture and how to you translate the concept into music and performances?
Permaculture is a way of designing things more in-line with nature in order to help us build resilience in the face of things like climate change and peak fossil-fuels. It’s pretty much a set of helpful tools that can be used to design homes, gardens or entire farms – or even less visible stuff like personal decision making or community structures.
I studied it a few years ago and thought that it was way too important not to be limited to a few people, so I wrote some songs in the hope of spreading it round a bit!
Is your music your tool for activism or do you separate the two in any way?
Music is definitely my main tool for activism. Apart from being ‘active’ and trying to do permaculture related stuff in my own back yard (ponds/gardens/house demolitions etc) I think it’s a great tool for spreading the message and hopefully inspires other people to take action, too.
This week I’m playing at the School Strike for Climate and next month I’ll join a convoy to protest the massive Adani coal mine being planned near the Great Barrier Reef, which will be a great way to integrate with other forms of activism.
What are some other musicians, activists or even politicians that are fighting for nature and harmony that you’d like to give a shot out to and recommend to our listeners to follow?
Pete Seeger is probably my favourite musical activist of all time. He did so much for the environmental movement in the US.
Bob Brown is the former leader of The Greens party here in Australia and is the one leading the convoy to protest the coal mine. He’s a legend as well.
I saw in a recent FB post that you decided not to tour your music outside Australia for now. Can you tell our readers a bit about this decision?
I just thought it was getting a bit too ironic doing so much international travel when I sing about climate change and fossil fuels. I still have a long way to go before becoming fossil-fuel free (not just with transport, but food, business and a whole lot of things), but cutting international flights out of the picture is an important step I think.
If anyone knows of a sailboat heading to Europe, maybe I’ll try and make it back that way!
What’s on the horizon for Formidable Vegetable?
More school shows and smaller house-concerts & garden parties from the back of my veggie housetruck. I want to scale down, not just in my life, but also with my music.
It’s ironic, as obviously I want many people to hear the songs as possible, but doing smaller, more intimate shows – especially in the context of a permaculture farm or garden – I feel can have a greater impact on the people who come. I guess for everyone else, there’s YouTube!
Thanks for participating and for the music! Anything else you’d like to shout from the rooftops?
Find Formidable Vegetable’s music on Bandcamp and the group’s webpage. Cover photo by Patrick Latter.
Cover photo taken from Raye Zaragoza’s Bandcamp page.
Recent wildfires in California have been some of the more devastating in the states’ history. Anyone interested in helping can donate to several organizations that are on the ground like American Red Cross and California Community Foundation. New York Times recently made a list of organizations one can donate to.
There are often some artists out there that use their voice to reach more people in order to spread the dire word. After all, we all have to what we can and what our talents direct us to do. Raye Zaragoza is one of these artists. As a resident of California state she feels the fires and for her neighbors. In 2017 she published Red Moon, High Tide with Madison Malone in support of organizations offering aid to victims of the then ongoing La Tuna Canyon Forest Fire. Now she is directing all profits from the song to the current fire relief efforts.