Pop: Long-distance learner

If Richard Davies's band seemed a little on the hesistant side last time they played London back in March, maybe it was down to the fact that his band - now well bonded and happy after a long US tour - had only just come together.

The Aussie behind the venerated Moles and Cardinal may have worked with the drummer, bassist and guitarist on solo studio projects over the last three years, but he admits this spring has been a bit of an experiment. "I used to find it frustrating, having to find new musicians to play with every year, but now I like that part of the process - you discover how other people play," he enthuses.

"I went through a period of a few years where I didn't play live much, where I was trying to find the sort of music I wanted to play, but I wasted my time a bit because it didn't warrant that much thought."

Richard Davies's career has taken many a twist since 1991, when The Moles were one of Australia's finest exports. The band relocated to Britain in the hope of greater things, but after a round of dizzyingly favourable press reviews and a Peel session, the band disintegrated.

Davies's next project was painstaking pop confectionists Cardinal, also featuring Eric Matthew and Bob Fay, the Sebadoh sticksman. 1994 saw the release of their classic- pop-inspired eponymous album, drawing inspiration especially from Bowie, the Beatles and the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds.

With his solo albums, There's Never Been A Crowd Like This from 1996 and the recent Telegraph, his style has moved in other directions, and keeps changing. "There's Never Been A Crowd Like This was recorded quickly, and influenced by bands like Guided By Voices who I liked when I started to make music. While with Telegraph, I just wanted to make the record that I wanted to make, so it took a lot longer to do," recalls Davies.

He's a craftsman of understatement - low-key, observational charm ticks away in his music. The atmospherics are simple and subtle, making room for many a sensitive reflection - which has led some to believe that he has mellowed out considerably since his Moles days.

"The Moles were a garage band," Davies states matter of factly. "They were just an excuse to drink on a Friday night with your mates, have a social life. I went back to Australia for a holiday a couple of years ago, but I wouldn't be recording the kind of records I do now if I wasn't in New York. There's not enough there to get started with the things you want to do. Travelling really motivated me to write."

Richard Davies, 12 Bar Club, Denmark Street, WC2 (0171-916 6989) 22, 23 May

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