The mind behind the music of Please Like Me.
Australia, both as a country and concept, is something of a paradox. An enormous sunburnt landmass dumped at the bottom of the planet, a million miles from anything else, one would be forgiven for presuming the disconnected nature of its inhabitants. Yet this big red rock has housed some of the finest writers, musicians and artists in the English-speaking world, many of them well-regarded for their collaborations and joint ventures.
The big lonely landmass, then, understands the meaning of that old adage ‘no man is an island’. Composer Bryony Marks seems to share that belief, having worked on projects spearheaded by Australia’s best-loved and most highly acclaimed authors. With 2011’s Cloudstreet – adapted from the applauded novel by Tim Winton, an icon of Australian letters – and the ABC miniseries Barracuda listed among her composer credits, Bryony is a Komponistin with flawless taste in picking projects.
“I am drawn to projects which move me,” she says, “which speak to the human condition in all its crazy glory. There’s no one subject, genre, sub or dominant culture that particularly resonates for me. Rather I would say my favourite projects have shared an element of authenticity, of honesty, expressed in manifold ways.”
One major credit in Bryony’s body of work is long-running ‘dramedy’ Please Like Me, created, written by, and starring gay Australian comedian Josh Thomas. Following a fictionalised version of himself, the show delves into everything from suicide attempts, homophobia, family relationships, and the funny, messy process of finding one’s place in the world.
As well as the creative force behind the show’s script, what ultimately drew Marks to the recording studio was the prospect of working with one of her favourite, long-standing collaborators – and indeed her husband – the director Matthew Saville. The husband-and-wife duo have worked on numerous projects together, and Bryony’s eagerness to work on Please Like Me was further heightened by her admiration for the show’s creator.
“Josh is one of the most honest people I know. Please Like Me’s hilarious and devastating take on coming out, learning how to live as an openly gay man – as well as its portrayal of struggles with mental health – as juxtaposed with the banalities and oddities of its characters’ domestic lives, was quite extraordinary to score.”
As a gay viewer myself, I believe she is the sound of stories that are not always told, and need to be heard. At the end of the day, she feels simply grateful to have been given such exceptional opportunities within an especially fickle industry. “It wasn’t until I was 33, and pregnant with my first child, that I started working professionally, and I haven’t stopped since. Music allows me to contribute to the world in a way I find meaningful, and this seems the greatest privilege of all.”
It is a craft she is still learning, and she doesn’t believe she will stop learning. Between her own identity and the music she makes, “there is no separation, and that’s the way I like it: it’s all just living a life.”