Katoomba man Matt Downey builds WWII trench in music video to honour grandfather

During last year's pandemic lockdown, musician Damien Stofka teamed up with his brother-in-law Matt Downey to record some material at Downey's home studio in Katoomba.

The two men then decided to send the resulting songs to Golden Robot Records under the name of their long-time shared project, Cousin Betty, first conceptualised by Stofka in 2010.

Much to their surprise, these tracks secured a recording contract with the label, leading to airplay in Europe and America. The pair then developed a new live line-up for the hard rocking Cousin Betty, comprised of hand picked, state wide players. Along with Stofka on rhythm guitar and Downey on lead vocals, whose combined band experience includes Death Mattel and Litter, Cousin Betty's current line-up now features drummer Andi Dyson (Nitocris), bassist Tara Doyle (Spurs For Jesus), and lead guitarist Astrid Carr (Madam Fatale, Quiet Carriage) from Woodford.

Cousin Betty plan to release their debut in late January or early February, as an EP called LEFT. Two later EP singles were recorded independently.

Filmed at Brighter Coffee in Stanmore, the music video for LEFT's lead single 'Drone' was released in October and amassed 1400 YouTube views in its first week. LEFT's second single 'Tape Hiss' was recorded at Sound Studios in Marrickville and is set for release in February. The accompanying 80s-themed music video was filmed at Leura's Fairmont Resort in November last year, based around a mock band back line in a marquee.

For the video for LEFT's third single 'AWOL', recorded at Tardis Studio behind Sydney's Factory Theatre, Downey hand-built his most ambitious set yet - a replica WWI trench in his own backyard. Filling the trench with authentic troops may have been a challenge. Luckily, his brother James Downey happens to be the president of the 18th Battalion Living History Group.

"They're the go-to guys in NSW", he explains. "They're historians." So that Downey's action-packed shoot could be completed in one day, the battalion had to congregate from miles around. One younger member came to Katoomba from Canberra. The youngest soldier was 13, even this writer was recruited.

Deepening the family affair, Downey reveals the song is based on the incredible true story of his late grandfather, Kevin Downey, who served in Egypt, Greece, and Papua New Guinea in WWII and went AWOL to marry Matt's grandmother. As he explains, his grandfather was promptly court-martialed and returned to his duty before coming home a different man.