Sydney Con grad: classically trained musician turns pop rock star

1 September 2020
We catch up with one half of the sibling duo Lime Cordiale
Lime Cordiale lead singer, Oliver Leimbach, reflects on how his education in classical music helped launch his career in pop music.
Louis Leimbach and Oliver Leimbach of the Sydney indie pop band Lime Cordiale

Louis Leimbach and Oliver Leimbach

Why did you choose to study at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music?

Playing the clarinet was always what I was best at in High School. My other passion was film making so I spent my gap year working in the film industry but at the end of the year I decided I’d accept my deferred invitation and start my Bachelor of Music.

People had been telling me that’s where I’d end up since I was a kid and the Con is always talked about as the most prestigious place to study music. I guess at the time I could imagine myself as an orchestral clarinettist but I was definitely willing to accept change.

What are your fondest memories from being a student?

Apart from the opera singers doing warm ups in the cubicles of the public toilet? 

No, I really loved the one-on-one lessons with my clarinet teacher. Music teachers have always been my guidance counsellors. I’ve been very fortunate to be surrounded by great teachers and I’ve never taken that for granted. It’s important to learn as much as you can from those older than you. They’ve experienced more and have probably made bigger mistakes than you have in your short little life. Their open-mindedness was instrumental in helping me know that there’s more than just one path for an artist.

Probably the most surprising thing is that I actually studied classical clarinet performance.
Oliver Leimbach

What’s happened since graduation?

We started our band, Lime Cordiale, when I was still at the Conservatorium.

Three out of four of us met at the Con whilst my brother was studying Fine Arts elsewhere. It put a lot of pressure on my final year at the Con because we started playing a lot of shows that year. We’d be gone for the weekend and be back for study in the week. We'd book as many shows as we could in those holiday breaks.

Our drummer from those early days is still playing with us and we now have two other band members that also studied at the Conservatorium. Lime Cordiale has grown to become a project that involves so many more people than just the guys you see on stage. We have managers, crew, producers, audio engineers, publishers, booking agents, PR, videographers, photographers and designers just to name a few. It’s amazing what can come from a few guys deciding to have a jam in a garage together.

What does a day in the life of a professional musician look like?

Every day is different. If we’re touring, then it’s travel/sound check/show with lots of eating a very little sleep in between. When we’re writing, or recording then we’ll often do 12 hours in the studio whether that’s at home or somewhere flashy.

The most intense time comes when we need to complete a bunch of recording during a tour. There’s no rest when you’re jumping into the studio on what should be a day off. What people don’t realise is that there’s always a tonne of phone calls, emailing and stress during all of this. No matter how much work your managers take on, they can’t do it completely without you and there’s always more nitty gritty work to be done.

Lime Cordiale - On Our Own (Official Music Video)

What gets you out of bed each day?

I love progression. I sleep well at night when I know I’ve moved something along that day. It might be as simple as practising or jotting down a few lyrics but I don’t like letting a day to go by without rolling the ball a little.

How did your music degree help you with your current success?

Probably the most surprising thing is that I actually studied classical clarinet performance. I only ended up changing to Music Studies at the end of my third year. The contemporary music course didn’t exist when I was there. There’s a good chance I could’ve taken that course instead. I’m also surprised that I didn’t take the Composition course.  

The fact that I had so many interests outside of playing clarinet meant that I made use of a lot of what The Con had to offer.
Oliver Leimbach

I used the recording studios, took a semester of Balinese Gamelan music, film music, joined the tango orchestra, practiced Alexander Technique, snuck into classical guitar or jazz recitals and often focused my clarinet playing on World Music instead of traditional pieces of classical music.

What would you say to a student considering music degree?

For those considering study: the Con will teach you musical skills and a bit extra but it’s up to you to get yourself where you need to be.

I’m forever learning in the music industry and it’s constantly overwhelming but those that take on more than what’s expected of them tend to excel.

The music industry is a business as well as an art-form so you need to start learning about the shit you thought you could avoid. For those recent graduates; now is the time to take risks.

What are your plans for the future?

I’d love to take my compositions further, possibly to other genres and more into film music. But a lot more touring and a few more albums is where we're focused for now.

Did you know you can apply to get an early offer from the Con before you get your ATAR? Learn about our Creative Arts Special Admission Scheme.

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