Wangaratta, June 2022

Last Sunday afternoon, we were going to our local amateur theatre group’s latest production. It was cold and wet, so I figured best to wear some weather-proof shoes instead of my go-to runners that I seem to have on most days, or the boots that get a workout around the yard.

The black leather shoes I chose hadn’t being worn for ages, more than four years I realised.

As I laced them up, I knew they were my go-to-gig shoes.

I hadn’t played a gig for years, and I will never play one again. That thought hit me as I put them on.

It was not a sad feeling: I’ve long got over those. It was a smile of, “Yes, the op shop bought shoes, along with most of my smart band clothes over the years”.

Gig shoes.

I do like an op shop, it’s just a way of life for me. It was a necessary thing growing up, to now becoming chic and fashionable over the intervening years. Like pre-faded and ripped jeans, you could buy at some fancy shop, many folks of my age were trendy without even noticing or caring.

I did like to look cool when on stage. My version of cool may differ from others, maybe it’s like music — you dig it or you don’t.

I did like suit jackets and vests, also good hats, but was very selective. Over the years I got some great hats from op shops. I even remember which op shop. One great find was the Red Cross op shop in Benalla: on that day I scored two great hats, one was a Stetson. It fitted perfectly, the other was a little small, so I gave it to a band mate. The one I kept was in such great nick it had the price tag still in the rim, remarkably from the Millers Menswear shop right across the street.

In 2012 I got together with some friends, and we formed The Recycled String Band. I had been making instruments from reclaimed objects for a few years by then and came up with the mad idea of getting a band together to play them. I had to make a few more instruments often with bits sourced from op shops and garage sales.

I wrote some songs that fitted to the band’s theme and away we went.

One of the first songs I wrote was Recycle And Reuse. It became a bit of a theme song for us and the version on the clip is us doing one of our first gigs at the Star Hotel in Yackandandah.

The sound is from the live recording in the studio, remarkably the sound linked up with the pictures on the video.

You can’t see them, but I have those black leather shoes on.

Stereo Story #672

More stories by Luke.

Luke R Davies and the Recycled String Band won the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia Folk Recording Award 2013 for their album Not A Note Wasted. A Wangaratta musician, Luke joined The Stereo Stories Band after seeing them at the Newport Folk Festival in Melbourne in 2014..