“Fishes Swim and Corals Grow” is the second single from Warmer’s fourth album Wooden Box With Strings, released by Half A Cow in June. Romantic but idiosyncratic, it showcases the warm, string-laden singer-songwriter direction of the album. Though Warmer’s John Encarnacao (also of The Nature Strip) lives in Sydney, the album was recorded in Hobart at the invitation of producer Dave Carter. The song itself brings to mind simpler times, written as it was on a flight to Melbourne to attend his niece’s wedding.

The b-side is a radical instrumental (and acoustic) remix of album track “Cry For The Moon” that accentuates John’s dramatic string arrangement and the avant-piano of Lobsterman alumnus Michael “Ag” Christie.


Wooden Box With Strings is the fourth album by Warmer, and the first in nine years. After several records with Sydney power-pop legends The Nature Strip, singer-songwriter John Encarnacao returns to traditional textures – acoustic guitars, piano, double bass, a string quartet on three tracks. Recorded out of John’s comfort zone in Hobart with producer Dave Carter, the superlative songwriting is likely to strike a chord with fans of Laura Marling, Elliott Smith and Nick Drake.

Encarnacao (En-car-na-sow) can be a hard man to pin down. His day gig is as a music lecturer at Western Sydney University, where he is developing a reputation for his popular musicology. Along with the song-based stuff of The Nature Strip (where he shares songwriting with Marveline’s Pete Marley) and Warmer, he’s released a handful of records of improvised music in recent years, including ­Giraffe Solos (2014) for prepared acoustic guitar, recorded live to his phone, and Tinderbox (2018) a realisation of an improvisatory score for theatre for electric guitar, saxophone and drums. In fact, Wooden Box With Strings makes ten albums released in as many years. Go further back and there’s his beloved 1970s cover band of the turn of the century, Shaggin’ Wagon, and even further, and there’s the twisted hardcore of Smelly Tongues.

Each successive Warmer album has been not so much a progression as indicative of a point in time. After the intimate A Prayer For Soft Honey (2002), the sprawling, ambitious The Cat’s Miaow (2005), and the concise chamber pop of Spider and Lamb (2011), Wooden Box With Strings is perhaps the lushest Warmer album, with John’s own string arrangements, hand-picked guests on Hammond organ, double bass, and drums, and another set of songs that rewards repeated spins. John speaks about the making of the record:

I got the opportunity to head south to Hobart and record with an inspiring guy called Dave Carter. I was away from the musicians I’d usually work with, and Dave had connections to a bunch of great people, many students or ex-students of the Tasmania Conservatorium, which was where we were working. This led to late nights and early mornings scoring string parts and recording the string quartet for three tracks in one session. So “Wooden Box With Strings”, “Fishes Swim and Corals Grow” and “Cry For The Moon” go some way to realising my 1970s singer-songwriter fantasies.

One of the highlights was recording “Got Older Today”, where violinist Emily Wolfe, a folk fiddle legend in Tasmania, went all Scarlet Rivera for us. This was followed by Dave calling on his colleague Matt Boden to play Hammond. He plied him with whiskey and said “imagine you’re playing with Dylan and The Band and the acid kicks in around the first chorus”. This brilliant, unhinged Hammond part (a real Hammond, mind) plays chicken with my equally wayward Telecaster part.

Very serendipitous was the fact that the Tas Con is home to an extraordinary selection of acoustic guitars. I fell in love with a Gibson Southern Jumbo which felt like it loved me back. There was also a Hauro, a Japanese Martin copy, which was beautiful. But most extraordinary was a 1920s Harmony Sovereign, on which I did the live vocal and guitar take that is the basis of “Fire Engine”.

Mandy Pearson and Zoe Carides both sang back-ups on the first Warmer album A Prayer For Soft Honey, and here they are again, lending their distinctive tones and a link back. And Michael ‘Ag’ Christie, alumnus of Lobsterman, lives in Hobart and kindly played piano on “Cry For The Moon”.

The album was recorded and mixed in 14 days – 5 days initially, after which I was super-keen to finish it with Dave rather than, as planned, back in Sydney. Graciously, he agreed to work with me for another two weeks several months later. We mixed the record old-school, as a performance on a huge desk, with very little automation and up to three pairs of hands riding various instruments and effects. Once we committed to a mix, there was no going back. Are you sure that was the one? Because once we move the faders it’s GONE.

I could also talk about student engineers Nick and Callum preparing the piano for “Wooden Box” and gathering the percussive debris I played on “Cry For The Moon” . . . the high drama of the rough mix of that one couldn’t be bettered . . . Dave destroying a tambourine in his enthusiastic percussion takes for “Get So High I Can’t Get Down” and having to be talked back from the precipice of unconscionable compression in our quest for AM radio magic on the mix of that song . . .


. . . First release from the sessions is “Get So High I Can’t Get Down”, a song which threatens to turn digital platforms into the AM radio of old with its killer pop hooks and performances bursting with energy. While some have compared it to the classic good times of the Monkees, there’s also something of a 90s lo-fi feel, even if that effect was achieved through oldskool mixing on an analogue desk.

The chorus and most of the lyrics to “Get So High” came to John while walking between Circular Quay station and Sydney Opera House en route to a concert and quickly sung into his phone before they could be forgotten. It was only a couple of years later that he wrote the bridge and finished the structure.

And though the track “Get So High” is far from an exercise in 90s retro, its packaging might be. It’s being released as a limited-edition CD single (100 copies) with four b-sides, three of them 4-track demos from the John E. archives. One, “How Fire Works”, is a song never before released in any form, written in the late 1990s around the same time as Nature Strip fave “Shoes”. The other two, “Cold Diamond Armchair” and “Lost an Eyelid”, will be known by Warmer fans through their proper studio versions on Spider and Lamb and The Cat’s Miaow respectively. That leaves “Sore Knowledge”, a hitherto unknown (and kinda creepy) outtake from The Cat’s Miaow with John on resonator guitar.

Spider and Lamb

Sydney group Warmer’s third album, Spider and Lamb, was released in April 2011 by Half A Cow. Upon hearing it, HAC’s Nic Dalton declared: “It’s your Sgt Peppers!”, perhaps picking up on the Beatles-esque pop eclecticism and variety of moods. The album ranges from the delicate folk of ‘Broken Wing’ and ‘Then It Hit Me’, to the passionate rock of ‘Spider and Lamb’ and ‘Wah-Hoo’, and the wide-screen trips of ‘People Round Here’, ‘Home’ and ‘No Bad Messiah’.

The group is lead by singer-songwriter-guitarist John Encarnacao and shares players with other HAC artists Dog Trumpet (drummer Jess Ciampa) and Bernie Hayes (Jess and John). Jess and bassist Peter Marley have been part of the group since its inception in 2002. Pete now co-heads The Nature Strip with John, with both writing songs for that project which has released an album, Stars Turn Inside Out (2013) and EP, Plainclothes (2014 – find them on China Pig Records).

Warmer’s debut, A Prayer For Soft Honey (2002) was a reflective acoustic rock affair, while follow up The Cat’s Miaow (2005) jammed out with country, rock and lo-fi threads. Spider and Lamb draws on all of these influences for a concise selection of psychedelic pop.


“Fishes Swim And Corals Grow” video by Oliver Abbott. https://vimeo.com/oliverabbott

“Wooden Box With Strings” film clip made by Mark Jago

Buy Music

Fishes Swim and Corals Grow / Moon Cries


Wooden Box With Strings LP

Get So High I Can’t Get Down EP

Spider and Lamb

The Cat’s Miaow

Time’s Come EP

A Prayer For Soft Honey


Get So High I Can’t Get Down (hac202)
released October 2019

  1. Get So High I Can’t Get Down (3:41) From the forthcoming album Wooden Box With Strings. Produced by David Carter. Drums by Sam Dowson, backing vocals by Mandy Pearson.
  1. How Fire Works (2:53) 4-track demo recorded 2000.
  1. Sore Knowledge (4:01) Outtake from The Cat’s Miaow, recorded 2002. Produced by John Encarnacao, recorded by Michael Carpenter.
  1. Cold Diamond Armchair (demo) (3:21) 4-track demo recorded 2005. Rerecorded for Spider and Lamb.
  1. Lost An Eyelid (demo) (3:34) 4-track demo recorded 2002. Rerecorded for The Cat’s Miaow.

All songs written by John Encarnacao and published by Mushroom Music. All tracks mastered by Tim Kevin except “Get So High” mastered by David Trumpmanis. Art and layout by Ryszard Dabek.

Spider and Lamb (hac149)
released April 2011

John Encarnacao: singing, guitars, keyboards. Bass on Hit Me, Home, People, Something. Drums on Messiah, Home, People. Glockenspiel on Hit Me.
Jess Ciampa: drums, percussion, backing vocals. Bass on Messiah.
Peter Marley: bass guitar and backing vocals
Brendan Smyly: soprano saxophone on Hit Me, Armchair
Michael O’Regan: organ on Armchair
Robbie Balatincz: banjo on Armchair
Holly Harrison: trumpet on Armchair
Michael Carpenter: drums on Something, slide guitar on Wah-Hoo
Zoe Carides: backing vocals on Messiah and Wah-Hoo
Bill Gibson: backing vocals on Wah-Hoo and Broken Wing

Armchair, Then It Hit Me and Messiah recorded and mixed by Brendan Smyly
People and Home recorded and mixed by Brendan Smyly and Adrian Barr
Quadrille recorded and mixed by Adrian Barr
Spider, Wah-Hoo and Broken Wing recorded and mixed by Michael Carpenter
Something recorded by Smyly, Barr and Carpenter, and mixed by Carpenter
Black Cat recorded and mixed by Rich Sanford
Mastered by Dan Hersch at Digiprep, and re-sequenced by Michael Macken, who also tweaked the final mixes of Messiah and Hit Me.
Special thanks to Mitchell Hart for harpsichord and pump-organ wrangling and all-round technical advice.

Produced by John Encarnacao. All songs written by John Encarnacao and published by Mushroom Music.

Cover illustration by Zoe Carides. Photographs and design by J.E. Layout and design help by Nic Dalton.

The Cat’s Miaow
released 2005

A Prayer For Soft Honey
Originally released 2005 (W. Minc Productions)

All songs written by John Encarnacao
Played and sung by John with:
Jesse Ciampa
Zoe Carides
Mandy Pearson
Mick Carpenter
Liz Ertler
Robyn St Clare

All tracks recorded by Michael Carpenter at Stagefright Studio, Sydney Australia, Winter/Spring 2001, except “Prayer” recorded at Goose, by Angus Kingston and reworked at Stagefright. Produced by Michael Carpenter and John Encarnacao. Mastered by Rick O’Neil at Turtlerock.

Artwork and images by Peter Hickson. Etch-A-Sketch and photos of John by Zoe Carides.

Thanks to: everyone above who gave their time and energy to this record, and also Stephen Creswell, Team Gilpin, Nic Dalton, Bernard Zuel, Peter Marley, Natalie Gouda, Marti and Leticia, Jen Cloher, James Dixon, Bernie Hayes, Peter Kelly, Bill Gibson, Graham Hilgendorf, Dave Aston, and the lovely gentlemen at W. Minc Productions.

The word “Cancerette” comes from Peter Carey’s novel “The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith” (1994).
“Magic Child” was inspired by a passage from Ianthe Brautigan’s memoir of her father Richard, “You Can’t Catch Death” (2000).

This record is for Zoe Carides

Time’s Come EP

Wooden Box With Strings  (hac234)
released 4th June 2020

Art and layout by Ryszard Dabek.
Produced by David Carter.
All songs written by John Encarnacao (Mushroom Music) except “New Thing” by John Encarnacao and Peter Marley.

Recorded by Nicholas van Ommen – Brown, assisted by Bianca Birt, Callum Williams, Paul-Leo Keutmann, Ian Parsons, Timothy Chivers and Rikin Sharma.
Mixed by David Carter with John Encarnacao and Nicholas van Ommen – Brown.
Recorded and mixed in 14 days at Soviet Outpost Studios, Hobart, Australia.
Mastered by David Trumpmanis.
String arrangements by John Encarnacao.

Many thanks to Dave and the Tasmania Conservatorium.

Cast in order of appearance:
John Encarnacao – singing, guitars, percussion, keyboards, bass on “Fishes Swim”, “New Thing” and “Get So High”.
Nicholas van Ommen – Brown and Callum Williams – preparation of piano for “Wooden Box” and gathering of percussive debris for “Cry For The Moon”.
Isaac Gee – double bass on “Wooden Box” and “Got Older”.
CC Thornley – banjo on “Wooden Box”.
Joseph Phillips, Emily Wolfe (violins), Madeline Nichols (viola) and James Anderson (cello) – string section on “Wooden Box”, “Fishes Swim” (minus cello) and “Cry For The Moon”.
Sam Dowson – drums on “Fishes Swim”, “Got Older” and “Get So High”.
Zoë Carides – backing vocals on “Fishes Swim” and “Broke the Wheel”.
Matt Boden – Hammond organ on “Got Older”.
Emily Wolfe – violin solos on “Got Older”.
David Carter – backing vocal on “Got Older”, e-bow guitar on “Blackboard Sky”, interpretive percussion on “Get So High”, programming on “New Thing” and “Cry For The Moon”.
Mandy Pearson – backing vocals on “Broke the Wheel” and “Get So High”.
Michael “Ag” Christie – piano on “Cry For The Moon”.

Kisses on my list to Peter Marley, Mark Jago, Jess Ciampa, Lloyd Swanton, Susie Bishop, Tim Byron, Jadey O’Regan, Matt Roberts, Joseph Leonard, Stephen Creswell, Ryszard and Jodie, Nic Dalton, Matt Langley, Dan, Tony and Yaron at Camelot, Paris Mason, Zoe Carides and ETD.

p&c John Encarnacao under license to Half a Cow Records

Fishes Swim and Corals Grow / Moon Cries

Released 16th October 2020

“Fishes Swim and Corals Grow” is the second single from Warmer’s fourth album Wooden Box With Strings, released by Half A Cow in June. Romantic but idiosyncratic, it showcases the warm, string-laden singer-songwriter direction of the album. Though Warmer’s John Encarnacao (also of The Nature Strip) lives in Sydney, the album was recorded in Hobart at the invitation of producer Dave Carter. The song itself brings to mind simpler times, written as it was on a flight to Melbourne to attend his niece’s wedding.

The b-side is a radical instrumental (and acoustic) remix of album track “Cry For The Moon” that accentuates John’s dramatic string arrangement and the avant-piano of Lobsterman alumnus Michael “Ag” Christie.



There is something to nominative determinism, surely.

I don’t know for sure that it was the intention at birth, nearly two decades ago, when the multi-faceted John Encarnacao called this project Warmer. I do know that it is the truth now though that this is an album of naturalness and comfort, of physical closeness and emotional intimacy, of not just the real but real with something warmer.

The guitars, double bass, piano and string quartet – the wooden boxes with strings – arranged with Hammond organ, drums and voices, play centrally but not with any sustained dominance. Encarnacao’s closely tethered voice does something similar, though its tone is one of the standouts of producer Dave Carter’s work, and it becomes a leader by nature rather than imposition.

Those “natural” elements make for gentleness, sure – and that is one of the album’s defining features, the stall set out in the opening lightly-touched-with-country title track, which even as it bends towards a rich folk setting, and then closes with a more scratchy, contemporary breakdown, retains a sense of a tender exchange. And in You Broke The Wheel, Encarnacao drifts by on acoustic guitar and piano, nudged by occasional puffs of voices from Mandy Pearson and Zoe Carides.

However, gentleness doesn’t mean softness. Fire Engine, with a shimmer of air behind the voice becoming solid and cool, sees harsher forceful guitars wash over the top of raw acoustic stabs; Got Older Today watches Emily Wolfe’s violin shake free and with increasingly swingeing cuts forge a path through an organic Big Pink basement atmosphere, her adventure enough that eventually Matt Boden’s Hammond begins a pursuit; in Cry For The Moon, as Encarnacao’s voice moves from tentative to reflective to tense, what’s described as “percussive debris” is thrown against the thin wall of strings again and again until a truce is declared.

For further, perhaps conclusive proof, there is Blackboard Sky, which opens with an Eno-esque melody – firstly in the vocals and then in the acoustic guitar – that serves as a launch pad for the pressed strings of an e-bowed guitar scratching out a Fripp-ish pattern that is neither soothing nor searing, but is compelling.

Edge and centre, cut and smooth, box and strings.

But again, that’s not the whole story. There’s a pop overlay everywhere here, and by overlay, I mean heart and soul.

The Elliott Smith influence which ran through earlier Warmer recordings (while it is nine years since the previous Warmer album, Spider And Lamb, this is Encarnacao’s fourth record under this name, while he’s made solo improvised guitar works and art music for the theatre under his own name) is still here, the blend of beauty and melancholy and twinged nerve endings as appealing as ever.

But there’s also the warped McCartney of New Thing, the sunshine folk/pop of Fishes Swim And Corals Grow, and most vividly, the exuberant ‘60s spring-in-the-step Get So High I Can’t Get Down, which is the closest link to another of his projects, the poptastic The Nature Strip, and closes the album on a little laugh of joy.

That joy is appropriate because the warmer things here are natural and sonic but also attitudinal. There’s a back story of this album being recorded in 14 days in Tasmania, separated from not just the mainland but familiar ways and instruments and more wizened studio hands, that went a long way to providing the kind of rejuvenation and optimism even a veteran like Encarnacao can’t help but imbibe.

As a final note, you can get this as sound files but I’d highly recommend if you can taking Wooden Box With Strings to its natural, organic, real … and yes, warmest point, and getting this on vinyl.

Debut release. Leader John Encarnacao has been a music journalist, made experimental sounds with Upsidasium and St Crustacean, done stellar arrangements for the Whitlams, Godstar and Sneeze. Warmer is a different kettle of fish in that it’s John’s very own kettle. A Prayer For Scott Honey has drawn comparisons with Elliot Smith, Tim Rogers and the Icecream Hands but John is no slavish imitator. He wears his influences proudly but uses them to create music that’s stunningly beautiful and true to his heart. – Waterfront