Unlocking the secrets of no fixed pitch

U.nlock on stage at Wangaratta picture by Damian Diviny

Performing tonight at Sydney International Women’s Jazz Festival

This morning we spoke to Shannon Barnett (trombone) and Gian Slater (vocals) – half of the band U.nlock. They were on the road, heading for Sydney International Women.s Jazz festival, along with their colleagues in music Sam Anning (bass) and Raj Jayaweera (drums)

U.nlock on stage at Wangaratta picture by Damian Diviny
U.nlock | image by Damian Diviny

A slightly ‘last minute’ interview, but lots of fun which won’t be a surprise if you saw U.nlock performing at Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues last weekend. If you were there, you’ll know what I mean.

The band name doesn’t sound exactly like it reads. The ‘nlock’ of the name is a click consonant such as you might have heard in speakers of some African languages. Shannon admitted ruefully that she’s the only band member unable to make the sound. The concert at Wangaratta involved audience participation; the Hall at the Wangaratta Performing Arts Centre was transformed into a linguistics lesson. ‘The audience was really into it,’ says Gian, laughing. In the background I can hear a click from someone else (not Shannon) in the car. It’s a thing.

U.nlock is interesting instrumentally because of the absence of chordal instruments. ‘We also realised at some point that neither of the melodic instruments are of a fixed pitch,’ says Shannon. ‘But Sam and Raj are great. We get our pitch off them. I love the timbre we produce with this combination.’

The band has performed in New York, when Gian was visiting earlier this year. Gian and Shannon played together when they were students at the Victorian College of the Arts, and Shannon, Sam and Raj are currently all based in New York, which gives them opportunities to play together. ‘Gian and I always wanted to do a project together’, says Shannon. Wangaratta was their first Australian performance and tonight at Sydney International Women’s Jazz Festival will be their second. Expect originals written for the band by the band members as well as some other favourites. And expect to have fun. You may even get the chance to practice your click consonants.


Shannon Barnett (trombone)Gian Slater (vocals)
Sam Anning (bass)
Raj Jayaweera (drums)