RAAVE TAPES’ Joab Eastley: “It’s really nice to see how the community bands together and finds ways around things”

Original photo by Liv Jansons. Handmade mixed media collage by B.

Newcastle band RAAVE TAPES are back with a new single “Red Flag”. The single sees them move towards a more electronic sound, a sound they’ve always secretly aspired to—this is RAAVE TAPES for 2020. The anthemic sing-along feel-good choruses remain intact but we’ve moved further out into the middle of the dance floor and we’re dancing wildly like no one is watching. We chatted to RAAVE TAPES’ Joab Eastley about the new single and more new music on the way.

We’re excited about your new song “Red Flag” and where your music’s at!

JOAB EASTLEY: Awww thank you. It’s a bit of a weird time to be putting out music but I suppose there’s not much else to do, is there? Hopefully it can provide some sort of entertainment for everybody.

What’s your favourite thing about your new song “Red Flag”?

JE: I like that it’s a realisation that we’ve always been driving towards. We’ve always had these electronic undertones but with a very garage rock, punk sensibility but we really just flipped it on its head this time. We followed the path down to the electronic realm and it’s taken us to a nice little spot.

How did the song get started?

JE: It started as a completely different song, it had a guitar riff and a little loop on a drum machine, just playing the song over that and it had almost a spoken word verse over it. The only bit that stayed was the pre-chorus, the “ahhhh woooo” bit. We took it to our good friend and new producer Fletcher Matthews, Fletcher-boy! We’ve always recorded in a basement in Newcastle, very D.I.Y. punk-garage kind of vibes. He’d been pestering us for ages to come do some stuff with him and try it out. We went down and it was just a nice process. When we got there, because he was such a good friend, he really didn’t pull any punches when talking to us, that barrier was taken down straight away and he didn’t mind telling us what he thought [laughs].

How did it feel for you having come from a previous experience of self-recording?

JE: It was nice the way he went about it, it was a really, really nice technique. I think if he did come in and say “This is what you should do” we would have got our back up straight away. We got there and we said, “Here’s our seven songs we have to record” he said, “Cool, I don’t’ care” and we were like, “what?” He was like, “This is the first day, let’s listen to music! What do you like sonically? What are your influences? What do you like production-wise? What do you like, songwriting-wise? Let’s touch on all of the things you like in a song? What do you want to get out of this?” So we sat down and listened to music for hours. He was scribbling notes the whole time and making little ideas in his head. Once we finished he showed us the notepad and said “Instead of me telling you what I think you should do, here’s what we’re going to do given the things that you’ve showed me. You’ve told me what you want, let’s do that!” He was very supportive of trying things and if it didn’t work out we could go back and do something else. It’s was all natural and organic, a real eye-opening process.

Photo by Liv Jansons

Nice! What kinds of things did you listen to?

JE: Everything! It’s a broad scope. We went from old school Naked & Famous to old Presets; he really pushed us to our guilty pleasures as well, things he said we shouldn’t feel guilty about like The Veronicas, and I’ve always really like The Bloody Beetroots. We went down to these realms of weird places, we listened to a lot of weird techno artists and Ross from Friends. We picked a lot of little sounds we liked and production techniques and from there we painted a pictures of where we wanted to go, which was nice.

What were some of the new techniques you tried?

JE: The main one was electronic drums, electronic percussion. Out of all the twenty-two songs we listened to only two had real drums [laughs]. I’d just gotten a nice new fancy drum machine so it was kind of something we were delving into anyway, he helped tease that out.

Will you be using a drum machine live?

JE: Yeah, we still have out little drummer boy Dan, he’s got a nice big sample pad and I have a sample pad in front of me, a sampler drum machine-y kind of thing. I guess it’s the first step in this electronic process, I don’t know where it’s going to end up. We’ve been practicing for quite a while trying to get this set where we want it to be. Obviously though, that’s all on the backburner for now.

That’s exciting!

JE: Yeah, it’ll be a lot of fun! It’s definitely been a massive learning process to try and get our head around everything, once we do have that sorted it’s going to be a lot easier on stage.

It’s like when you started out and you were playing guitar and using all of the effects pedals that RAAVE TAPES is known for, for creating interesting sounds. Now you’re just using different instruments.

JE: Yeah, exactly. We still have all the dumb guitar pedals [laughs] but now we’re just putting more electronic things in there that could go wrong on stage [laughs].

I’ve read you say that song “Red Flag” is about “experiences of needing to use self-preservation tactics to avoid, yet appease, unwanted advances or encounters… These experiences can range from frustrating and irritating, to completely terrifying”; could you share an instance where you have experienced this?

JE: The whole genesis of the song is that we were talking about a kebab shop in Newcastle that we pass on the way home – shout out to Cappodocia – from a night out, I think all roads lead to Cappa’s no matter what pub or club you came from [laughs]. It’s a melting pot of different cultures and subcultures, which can be a nice thing if you like to chat to different people but, sometimes it can also be a negative thing due to some of the characters you come across. Lindsay [O’Connell] and I were talking about how there’s often this one or two or group of people that are just trying to bait everyone. They’re being over the top and you feel like you have to tread on egg shells around them, you have to say that right thing and you have to be polite, ‘cause they’re the kind of people that will do something silly. You have to use those self-preservation tactics to get in and get out; just let me be and give me a break.

There’s a lot of people in this area like that too out at night, they’re just waiting for you to look at them and then they’re all “What the fuck are you looking at? Do you wanna go?!”

JE: Yeah, quite often in Newcastle you don’t even have to make eye contact, it’s just these big groups of dudes there and they’re really chirpy and they just wanna say things to everyone walking by. What they’re really waiting for is for someone just to say something back. It’s so stupid and so wrong—boys will be boys, as they say! Fucking idiots!

Do you work for your lyrics or do they come easy?

JE: It varies but usually I have to work for them, to try and get things to fit. We usually work music first then lyrics and vocals after. We quite often have to get the crowbar out to squeeze some lyrics in. This one came pretty painlessly though. Because this song was an amalgamation of another song, it all came together in the studio, which is very different for us. We usually get it all together in our little practice space first before we record. This one was the opposite, we pretty much fleshed it all out in the studio. We put all the vocals and melodies last.

When did you record?

JE: Around September of last year.

Fletcher also mixed and mastered your Dancing Because I’m Sad EP cassette tape, right?

JE: Yeah, it was all a bit of a remix / remaster kind of thing. It was a bunch of our old songs that didn’t really have a home. They were first recorded very D.I.Y. in the basement and mixed by our good friend Frasier, we really wanted those garage-y punky vibes and got that. Moving forward tough we wanted to give things a fresh coat of paint, moving into 2020 kinda vibes!

What else has been inspiring your songwriting lately?

JE: To be honest I haven’t really done much songwriting lately, all of these songs we recorded last year in September-October. This whole process has been the most inspiring thing. Taking the shackles off in the studio, we were so focused on: we have to be a garage punk band ‘cause that’s what we are, a punk rock band, that’s what people like, we should do that. We were focusing on making dancey-punk music on our acoustic instruments, our recalibration from Fletcher has really let us do whatever we want. It’s been so much fun playing electronic instruments and playing with new sounds and new devices. It’s a whole new world, it’s really, really fun!

So does all this mean you have a new album coming?

JE: An EP, I’m not sure that’s been announced though. I don’t’ really know, we have a whole bunch of songs that we gave to our management team and they’re dealing with all of that.

Coming from being a D.I.Y. punk band in the basement is it weird having a management team and giving your work over to them?

JE: We’ve kind of always had a management team, our manager is one of our good friends from Newcastle. He, Ben Cooper, has always been there helping us out. He started his own company called Love And Rent, he was starting out and we were one of his first bands, now he’s doing big stuff and has a big office in Sydney, we’re friends that have grown together. He’s a big mover and shaker [laughs]. I used to do a lot in the Newcastle scene myself, No-Fi Collective; we’d put on shows. It’s nice to let go of stuff and let Coops deal with it and not know when it’s coming out and to not care and just be able to focus on writing songs—its’ a relief.

Are there any new sounds that you’ve found that you’re loving heaps?

JE: Yeaaaah! I just got this sample pad drum machine and you can download sound packs from the internet for it and when I get bored I just jump on the net, grab a sound pack a see what it does. It’s fun to distort the sounds and make it as gross as I possibly can [laughs]. Then melding it with my guitar sounds is so much fun. I love making a big mass of dumb noises!

Last question, right now the world can be pretty scary with things so uncertain; what’s one of the best things you’ve seen lately?

JE: One of the best things I’ve seen lately is, I’m a preschool aftercare teacher, I’m still in work at the moment because we provide care for kids of essential service workers and just going to work and seeing how much the kids don’t care, they’re not stressed at all. I really like going to work because the kids are so chipper! [laughs]. Or they get upset over the stupid things like, “Mate, the world’s falling down and you’re upset because your milk fell over” …it really brings you back.

The other nice thing is, I’m actually looking at it right now – I’m sitting in my car outside of my house – I can see a really nice gin distillery down the road. The gin distillery has turned into a hand sanitizer distillery. The way you make hand sanitizer is basically alcohol, it’s basically ethanol I think, one of the things you do in the process to make alcohol. Everyone is coming from around town to buy hand sanitizer from here because they can’t get it from anywhere else. It’s really nice to see how the community bands together and finds ways around things.

RAAVE TAPES seems though you’ve always had a dedicated community around you?

JE: I suppose that’s what we do this for. I’m from a little bit out of Newcastle and the idea of even getting big in Newcastle was foreign and over the moon to me. When we did our first show in Newcastle I was like, oh my god, I’ve made it, this is it! We’re here. We’re doing it! Just to travel around and meet lovely people and doing what we love is what keeps me going. I love it and I love everyone!

Every time we go to one of your shows it’s so fun!! So joyous! I love when you ask for “more friends having fun in the foldback, please”!

JE: Awww [laughs]. Thank you. Our quote in the studio at any point, maybe once an hour we’d check in with us all and be like “Are you having fun?” …it was important that if we weren’t having fun we’d leave it and move on to another thing. It had to be fun. The whole rule was, everything had to be fun!

Please check out RAAVE TAPES. RAAVE TAPES on Facebook. RAAVE TAPES on Instagram.

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