Sydney Indie-pop Band Sachet’s Lani Crooks: “I was walking alone through Kyoto and found myself in a back street at a kaleidoscope museum… I felt nervous and clumsy… I imagined myself breaking them and being the museum’s worst enemy”

Handmade mixed-media collage by B.

Sachet play dreamy indie guitar-pop. Their new album Nets is charming and spry with a little quirk and melody and harmony in spades. We caught up with Sachet’s Lani Crooks to explore the LP.

Where did you grow up? How did you discover music?

LANI CROOKS: I grew up in Sydney between Petersham, Marrickville, Surry Hills and Newtown. I was honestly pretty similar to how I am now. Not sure how much I’ve really developed! I was into English and acting. I had a nice group of friends, which was easy at the school I went to, but I guess I marched to the beat of my own drum. Music-wise, I shared some interests with my mum and step-dad who like lots of alt-country and some indie-pop and classic stuff. I properly got into music on my own when I was about thirteen and bought some pirated CDs in Vietnam that were all scratched and skipped in a million places, including that Beatles Numbers 1 Hits comp. After that I’d read a lot of forums and Pitchfork and stuff and buy lots of CDs. I loved Elliott Smith and spent every afternoon on that forum.  I first picked up a guitar at probably sixteen but was very bad at it and stayed that way for many years.

How did Sachet first get together? What did you bond over?

LC: My partner Sam [Wilkinson] and I have played in several bands together over the last decade. After our old band Day Ravies folded we started other bands and one of those was Sachet, with our friend Nick Webb. We were a three-piece for the first album. A year or two earlier I’d seen Nick playing in another band at a house show and thought to myself, “He’s a sick melodic guitar player. I’m going to play in a band with him one day.” He was just an acquaintance from the music scene when we started but now we’re really close. After the first album we got a new drummer, my friend Chris, and became a four-piece. Chris plays on Nets but he left a while back and now we have Kate Wilson. Kate and Nick are two of the best people on the planet. We bond over lots of stuff. Food,  booze, Brighton-le-Sands beach, bitching about posers in the Australian music scene, that sort of thing. The important stuff.

What influences your sound?

LC: I basically like lots of kinds of non-mainstream pop. Rather than a particular band or sound, melody is absolutely my driving force when writing songs. I start by trying to cement the best vocal melodies around the best changes that possibly I can.  Once the lyrics are done I try to squish in some melodic guitar parts and once I’ve taken a song to the band, Nick fits in his really cool melodic parts as well and Sam does a crazy amount of melody on the bass.  The first album didn’t have bass at all and now I feel like Sam’s playing is a big part of our sound. We all like pretty similar music and all worship the fuzz pedal but I definitely have that real verse-chorus-bridge pop focus. A few bands I love are The Nerves, Guided by Voices, Built to Spill, Sneaky Feelings.  I’m not great with stuff from the last couple of decades but I do like Cate le Bon a fair bit and I think that’s starting to show in my newest songs. And there are a few Australian guitar bands from the last few years that have really inspired me, especially The Stevens, Possible Humans and Treehouse.

Recently Sachet released LP Nets; what’s the album about?

LC: I’d love to write a concept album one day so I can definitely say “this is about xyz”. To be honest, Nets is basically like everything I’ve done before in that it’s just a collection of songs that I hope hangs together. But I am pretty happy with this collection! It has songs based on things I’ve felt, things I’ve read, lots of anecdotes I’ve heard where I take just kind of the emotional element of the story and exaggerate that and obfuscate and add details so the listener would probably have no idea what I’m on about, and often I don’t even know. I like the lyrics to sound kind of emotionally weighty but flippant at the same time.

What were your artistic goals when making Nets?

LC: The first album was recorded not long after forming and we were just a three-piece and it was my first time playing guitar in a band. So I think it was a little more basic and maybe had a few more garage-y sound-y songs. This time I had more time to practise guitar and felt more free to write whatever kind of song I wanted, and we had bass. So I think it’s a bit more developed and fuller-sounding, with certain songs being much more complicated in terms of structure and arrangement. My goal is always just to improve upon what’s come before, write a song that’s better than the last, etc.

You made a fun clip for the album’s first single “Arncliffe Babylon”; can you tell us a bit about the shoot? What can you tell us about guest star, Tuco?

LC: We have been pretty slack in the film clip department so far. There is just one other clip I made, using archival footage, for the track “Kaleidoscope Museum”. I knew we should do one but it’s not my department, so I kind of nervously pitched the dumb non-idea: “Are you cool if we get a hold of a dog and I walk it around Arncliffe wearing this vintage marching band outfit?” No one had any better ideas so that’s what we did. We couldn’t get a camera so we used phones, which I think turned out okay. The shoot was a few hours on a hungover Sunday about a month before the quarantine stuff. We were lucky. The dog Tuco belongs to my friend Joe. Joe was there just out of shot so Tuco kept whining and trying to reach him. It was great.

We love the album art image; who’s behind that? What feeling did you want the cover to evoke?

LC: Thanks. I’m hoping it looks good on the LPs when the package finally get to Australia, ‘cos that’s what it’s really designed for. It’s a photo of shark nets at Brighton-le-Sands. It’s a double exposure I took with 120 film in a plastic camera. I suppose it has a Loveless vibe and makes it look like a shoegaze album, which it’s not. So what feeling did I want it to evoke? I don’t know, that’s a good question. But the album is called Nets and they’re shark nets and, y’know…yeah.

What’s your favourite song on the LP? What’s the story behind it?

LC: To my mind the best-written songs are “Kaleidoscope Museum” and “Arncliffe Babylon”. I really like the bridges in both. I’m all about the weird key-changey bridge. “Kaleidoscope Museum” does have a little story. It’s about when I was walking alone through Kyoto and found myself in a back street at a kaleidoscope museum. They were closing in five minutes but they let me in and I had to have a very quick dash through and check out all of these super-fragile kaleidosocpes, some of which you could touch and look through and some of which you couldn’t. I felt nervous and clumsy but also privileged and awestruck. I imagined myself breaking them and being the museum’s worst enemy.

What was the process of recording Nets?

LC: Like the first album, it was recorded on four-track, except for vocals and a few overdubs. We just like that warm analogue sound and the no-fuss method. It was engineered by our good friend and neighbour Toby Baldwin, Sydney soundie extraordinaire. He was set up in our garage, talking to us through an amp, and we were above him spread out in different rooms of the house, playing live. He brought his skills in recording and also telling us plainly which takes were shit and which ones were usable. After we’d bounced it from tape I spent a lot of time on my own recording vocals and harmonies, and mixing those in. You probably can’t tell but there are a lot of vocal tracks. 

Your record was recorded in 2017-2018; how do you feel the band grown since this album was made?

LC: It’s very common in the music world for things to take a long time but I won’t lie, it does feel like a long time! I have almost another album written now and our live set has a lot of new songs. The drums are sounding really awesome and different now, with Kate bringing a really ’60s vibe to a lot of the new songs. I think Nets was more developed than the first album and the next one will be more developed again. The newest songs have a lot of sections in them some really prog-y bits. They’re kind of a headache to play but we’ll work it out. Sadly, quarantine means we can’t jam right now. It’s a bloody shame.

Are you working on anything new?

LC: Yes. But I like to have nice breaks from songwriting because the process gives me brain strain. Just as long as there’s a good pile of songs for the band to always be working on and we don’t run out.

What do you do outside of music?

LC: I’m an ESL teacher, Nick is a music label manager, Sam repairs coffee machines and builds fuzz pedals and lots of other things, and Kate is a science writer. Sam has his own bands Shrapnel and Uncle Pit. I also play in Shrapnel. And Kate plays in two other bands currently, The Holy Soul and Majestic Horses. We keep busy!

Please check out: SACHET. Sachet on Facebook. Nets available via Tenth Court Records.

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