Nellie Pearson From Melbourne Brat-beat Punk Band Ubik: “We’re all sitting at home getting weird because of the global pandemic. Instead of being at all productive… I wear soft pants and play video games”

Handmade mixed-media collage by B.

We love Melbourne’s Ubik with their brat-beat anarcho-punk stylings. They’re inspired by sci-fi & horror films as well as politics; who can tell the difference between the two right now though, with politics in Australia feeling like a sci-fi dystopian horror movie. We interviewed bassist-vocalist Nellie Pearson.

How did you discover music?

NELLIE PEARSON: I grew up with my parents being obsessed with classical music, and being forced/being privileged to learn classical instruments. As soon as I had any independence I started obsessing about modern music, reading old Q magazines at the library as a tween, buying Oasis cassingles etc.

How did you first get into making your own music?

NP: My first band was over a decade ago in Wellington; me and some other young women decided to all give it a go for the first time since we were a bit sick of seeing a heavily cis-dude hardcore scene. Thought it couldn’t be that fucking hard. It wasn’t! mostly.

What’s a record that had a really big impact on you; what was it about it?

NP: Honestly I’m a bit of a song magpie; I listen to my personal greatest hits of every band so often don’t go deep into a full album anymore (since it became an Online Streaming World). I refuse to apologise for this. The two DiE 7”s I was obsessed with for ages. I’m also a huge fan of ’90s British sort of stuff, so the Stone Roses self-titled has certainly had a huge impact on me. Definitely honed my ears for how a rhythm section can work together.

When you first started Ubik everyone had other bands – Masses, Red Red Krovvy and Faceless Burial + more; what inspired you to start Ubik?

NP: Tessa and Ash had plans to do like… an oi band I think? Then I inserted myself and suggested my friend Chris as a drummer. It was his first time in a band and Tessa’s first time playing guitar/writing. We sort of just went from there, had fun and ran with it.

You’ve had a couple of line-up changes; what’s something you can tell me about each person in your current line-up?

NP: Only one line-up change; Max has been the drummer for over 3 years, and we’ve been a band for less than 4. Ash and Tessa own two fluffy weird cats each. Max has a giant young dog and I have a tiny old dog. 

What’s your favourite song you’ve written? What’s it about?

NP: My favourite is ‘Sleep’. It has equal doses of dumb head bang and fiddly fun bits for me to play, personally. And good dynamics within the structure. I think it’s just about anxiety induced insomnia, which is something most people can identify with. 

Vid by PBS 106.7fm.

On the Ubik/Cold Meat split release each of you have a homage to amazing women in punk, Siouxsie Sioux and Exene Cervenka of X; why did you chose to cover X’s “Nausea”?

NP: We supported Cold Meat when they visited Melbourne (the first time but not the last time that happened, I think?), and we were all fans of each other. The singers of both bands are redheaded childcare workers called Ash so we were drunk and like hurhurhur Ash and Bizarro Ash (I still don’t know which is which). The split idea happened, and they had done their Banshees cover that night so we thought we’d get matchy-matchy.

Last year Ubik released Next Phase MLP; what sparked the idea to write the songs ‘John Wayne (Is A Cowboy (And Is On Twitter)’?

NP: This is one of my favourites, Ash-lyrics-wise. I believe it’s directed at internet right-wingers, trolls, MRAs, and other general digital filth. Skewering the misunderstanding of “free speech”, and pointing out how “free thinking” doesn’t often overlap with critical thinking.

What about “Peter Dutton Is A Terrorist”?

NP: Peter Dutton IS a terrorist. Music-wise, Tessa wanted to do another very anarcho song, so I always picture myself in a ‘80s squat playing this one. The lyrics that Ash wrote do a great job of expressing the shame and sadness regarding Australia’s offshore concentration camps, and the horrifying treatment that Peter Dutton and other potato-headed fascist stool samples think is justified in regards to refugees and asylum seekers. Just an utter lack of the basics of humanity.

Mikey Young recorded and mixed Next Phase MLP and your self-titled EP and mixed and mastered the Cold Meat split; how did you come to working with him?

NP: The self-titled EP was actually recorded by Adam Ritchie in the same session as the Cold Meat split. Max and Mikey go way back both personally and musically, so it was a great choice. It was very quiet and laid-back, and we were doing it all in one day (minus box) so we all just put our heads down and worked. He was, as usual, impeccable.

Who in the band has a love for sci-fi and horror films? You had song “The Fly” and one of your shirts featured Debbie Harry when she was in Videodrome; can you recommend anything else cool we should check out?

NP: I’m pretty sure all of us are sci-fi and horror fans. Genre stuff definitely goes with the punk territory in general. Me and Ash in particular are big on Cronenberg. Most of it has naturally stemmed from the name (evidently the Phillip K Dick book), and Ash’s specific interests, since she writes all the lyrics. I’ve been watching a lot of ‘90s movies with their visions of futuristic virtual reality; very pretty, very silly, very fun. Apart from the obvious Johnny Mnemonic, recently I really liked Virtuosity, where Russell Crowe plays a virtual reality murderer who crosses over into the real world. 

Have you been working on new music?

NP: Both me and Tessa have scraps of stuff, and we had one or two songs almost ready by the end of the Next Phase recording session. However we’ve all been madly busy, then we toured Japan, and now we’re all sitting at home getting weird because of the global pandemic. Instead of being at all productive while staying at home, I wear soft pants and play video games.

Other than making music do you do anything else creative?

NP: Most of my time is taken up with bands. I used to write but I realised I hate it.  Give me two more weeks of social distancing/isolation and I’ll probably start a podcast, just to make 2020 even worse.

Please check out: UBIK. Ubik demo on Lost In Fog Records/Distro. Ubik’s self-titled EP via Aarght Records. Next Phase MLP via Iron Lung Records. Ubik/Cold Meat split via Helta Skelta Records.

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