After years of living in the shadow of his sibling, rugby league legend Ben, Sean Ikin’s independently released album Gallery of Murmurs shapes as one of the most significant Australian records since Peter Andre’s 1995 release, Natural.
But while Andre’s album is remembered most fondly for the track Mysterious Girl, many of the other tracks have faded into obscurity, including the opening track Flava and the eight-and-a-half minute closing epic Turn it up. In contrast, it is unlikely that Sean Ikin will go down as a one hit wonder.
As the listener is taken on a journey through Ikin’s experiences and opinions on life and love, one can’t help but be drawn in to his world. And it won’t be long before we are referring to him as Australia’s Bob Dylan – a call sure to have Paul Kelly turning in his grave, if he were dead.
Beautiful one minute and brutal the next, Gallery of Murmurs explores topics with an honesty that makes it impossible not to connect with the singer. The track Honeymoon in Vegas is an ode to one night stands; Ikin says, poignantly, that “the intensity of a relationship shouldn’t be summarised or judged by the length of it, but by its quality. Even if it is just one night.” The very next song – Mama Cried – by contrast is about, “this shitty bitch I despise”, demonstrating Ikin’s unique way with words.
ThePublicApology was lucky enough to spend some time with Sean Ikin while he was busking on King St, the creative heart of Sydney’s Newtown area. Sport and music come together as one for Ikin; indeed, the sporting world has had a large influence on his life, with the artist listing Six and Out as one of his major musical influences. The iconic band, which consisted of five New South Wales first class cricketers, blazed the trail for the sports-music crossover, but Ikin says their ability to paint a picture with their lyrics was what brought them such resounding commercial success.
“When I first heard Can’t Bowl Can’t Throw, I thought to myself here is a band that can make a comment about a highly controversial, politically charged incident, and make it accessible to everyone,” he says. In my opinion, Richard Chee Quee was one of the most under-rated Australian vocalists of all time – and Brad McNamara really shreds on guitar.”
The other question that inevitably comes up for Sean is that of his brother Ben, a Gold Coast, North Sydney and Brisbane rugby league player who also represented Queensland and Australia. “What influence did Ben have on me growing up?” Sean ponders for a moment. “Not much of one. He used to bully me quite badly and call me gay – which I’m not – because I wasn’t good at sport and didn’t like football. I hope this album will show that although I am not a sportsman, or tough, I am still talented.”
The Ikin family’s artistic brilliance does not stop at Sean. Another brother, Anthony Ikin famously pranced his way into the top 20 of the first season of So You Think You Can Dance, and runs the successful, eponymous studio, Ikin Dance.
Sean says that one little known fact is that Origin legend Ben was himself a promising stage musical star in his teenage years.
“This was in an era before Chris Klein blazed the trail for the “sensitive jock” in the 1999 hit American Pie,” explains Sean. “Naturally, footy won the battle for his talents.”
“I hope I can be an inspiration to other siblings of famous athletes. I am thinking of people like Dean Waugh [barely known brother of Australian cricketing twins Steve and Mark], Matt Lockyer [brother of Australian Rugby League captain Darren], and Kerrod Walters [brother of rugby league players Kevin and Steve]. I have heard Kerrod Walters can play the harmonica – I’d love to have him play that on one of my tracks some day.”
ThePublicApology decided take up the case for Sean Ikin, speaking exclusively with Kerrod Walters about a possible collaboration. In response, Walters displayed his typical pugilistic style from the football field.
“I didn’t know Ben had a gay brother, he kept that quiet,” he says. “I’ll tell you one thing, that horse’s hoof is no inspiration to me. Does he realise that I played rugby league for Queensland and Australia? I’ll wrap my bloody harmonica around his head if I ever run into him in Ipswich.”
One thing is for sure, if Gallery of Murmurs is anything to go by, we will be hearing a lot more of Sean Ikin in the future.
For more information, go to www.seanikin.com
By Hugh Holden