Volkswagen Magazine


Straight from the heart.

Confidence is about feeling good. And few things are as satisfying as a favourite song on your car radio … particularly when that car is Volkswagen’s new Polo.

Words Paul Rodger
Photos Paul Henderson-Kelly

“I just LOVE listening to music while I’m driving,” says Sydney-based singer/songwriter Angelene Harris. “Whenever I have to learn a new song, I’ll listen to it in the car. It’s where I practise and rehearse all my new songs.”


We’re sitting in the latest Volkswagen Polo, which is parked in a lane that looks like it’s been the scene of a massive paintball battle – one fought by 200 soldiers, each with different coloured ammunition. The place is a riot of hues, shades and textures scattered with exquisite artworks. Characters, real and imagined, peer down at passers-by, some of them incredibly lifelike. The one nearest to the new Polo we dub ‘Smokin’ Joe’ on account of his smoking pistol.


Barely a patch of laneway wall, it seems, has escaped the spray of the graffiti artist’s paint can. Even the bitumen under our Volkswagen Polo’s tyres is a canvas for the artists who come here to leave their mark.

“When I’m not listening to music that I’m trying to learn, I like to keep it wide open,” continues Angelene. “I like to listen to rock, bluegrass, motown, jazz – so I’m always looking for different voices or new arrangements or complexities in the music I listen to.” 


Her influences, she admits, are many and varied. And there is never an end to the improvement she feels is possible. Ever since giving up her full-time job 18 months ago to pursue a career in music, she has taken every opportunity to hone her craft. That has meant accepting any gig that has been offered to her – whether paid or not – and always keeping an open ear to the nuances of different styles of music.


We’ve chosen this mural-strewn lane in Sydney’s inner south as the place to meet and talk music. It’s also a suitably gritty location for a photo shoot of our Polo 81TSI Comfortline.
Perhaps the most ‘city friendly’ of the cars in Volkswagen’s model line-up, the Polo isn’t just economical around town, it’s precise and agile thanks to electro-mechanical power steering (a new feature in the Polo).

And it’s safe, too. Standard in the Polo, but brand new in this segment, is Multi-collision brake, which provides controlled braking of the Polo after a collision so as to reduce the risk of a subsequent accident. It’s a reassuring addition to the Polo’s suite of safety features.

The Polo certainly feels right at home in this part of town, where cars jostle for road space and parking is a squeeze at best. In striking Cornflower Blue, it looks we might have found our Polo’s spiritual home.

As if acting as a counterpoint to the riot of colour around us, Angelene has turned up for our photo shoot clad in de rigueur rock-chick black. She’s carrying a battered and obviously well-travelled guitar case containing the instrument she’ll be using at a gig later today. 

drive time.

As we merge with fast-flowing traffic, Angelene turns on the Polo’s infotainment system and flicks through the radio channels in search of a good song.

The Polo’s infotainment system is hard to beat in any car, let alone one in the ‘small car’ class. The 5-inch colour touchscreen audio system gives the driver easy access to all the music on their portable device courtesy of integrated Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming. And six speakers front and rear deliver a rich, enveloping sound that is hard to fault.

“This car is so comfortable – and it’s really easy to drive,” she says. Earlier she had confessed some anxiety about driving a manual for the first time in several years. It seems her fears were completely unfounded.

»When I perform, I feel like I’m filled with this really bright golden light that shines out. I don’t feel like it’s me – I feel like I’m just a portal for the music.«

Time to ask the musician some questions about music and driving, I decide.

So, if you had the choice, which musicians – dead or alive – would you most like to have join you on a road trip?
“Kanye West,” she says, “purely so we could go through a drive-thru – he would be so hilarious! “And Neil Finn, because I need access to his songwriter brain.”

Knowing how much Angelene likes to sing while driving, I ask her what song she’s most likely to sing her heart out to if it comes on the radio.
“That’s easy,” she says. “Bohemian Rhapsody – which I guess I’ve got Wayne’s World to thank for.”

Does that mean she’s been busted losing it to a song while sitting at the traffic lights?
“All the time!” she exclaims. “I remember once having the music up full volume, singing my heart out and not realising my Bluetooth had automatically answered a call from my friend.

“Can you hear someone blush over the phone? Yes. Yes, you can,” she says.
There’s no rock opera (and no headbanging) during our journey, but the trip to the venue is a delight. By the time we pull into the carpark, Angelene is ready to bring the house down.

Later that evening, with sound checks done and nerves put firmly in their place, it wasn’t just Angelene’s friend listening to her sing. It was a room full of people. And they were in raptures.

»I still get really shy about performing, because you have to be incredibly vulnerable if you want to connect with people. When someone’s letting you in on something you wouldn’t normally share, that’s when it becomes magical.«

Q & A

How would you describe your style of music?
Sultry, bluesy and soulful.


What's the best setting for listening to your music?
Definitely live in an intimate setting.


Do you have any pre-gig rituals?
Triple-checking I have everything. Actually, that's a lie - I check about 20 times, much to the frustration and amusement of whoever is waiting on me. Plus, the obligatory vocal warm-up.


What's going through your mind when you step onstage?
(a) Don't trip over - I'm notoriously clumsy.
(b) The moment I wait for and crave is that millisecond of silence when I'm on stage and before anything is said over the mic. It feels like I've travelled a lifetime for this moment.

Thinking about the music you listen to, what artist/song is the ultimate mood-setter, and why?
*Brain explosion* - that's like asking a parent to choose their favourite child!


Vinyl or MP3?

What's on heavy rotation in your car at the moment?
Cold War Kids, Some old Triple J Hottest 100 and whatever new songs I'm learning.


You're on tour and you've got a 10-hour road trip ahead of you. Who's on your playlist and why?
Paolo Nutini - there are a lot of his songs I wish I had written. Nineties R'n'B/hip-hop/Brit pop/garage - car dancing at its best. Aretha Franklin - I grew up on a diet of motown/soul and Aretha has always had a special place in my heart.