Pop driven Adelaide post-punk band Nylex released a brilliant LP Plastic For People late last year. With its repetitive rhythm patterns, deadpan vocal, melodic bass, shimmery guitars, gloomy yet upbeat and very danceable feels, it won a place in our hearts. The band features members of Hydromedusa, Rule Of Thirds and Wireheads. We recently caught up with singer, guitarist and songwriter Celeste.
How did you start playing music?
CELESTE: Growing up, I was around a lot of music. My dad is a sound engineer, so there’d be a bit of recording onto the four track, plonking on the Casio, or out of tune piano. I learnt and played flute all through primary and high school (it’s made a real come back recently which I’m pleased about) and tried guitar when I was 15, learning songs from the Cruel Intentions soundtrack. I still don’t know chords, but I don’t think that matters. When I was 19, a friend and I had a project with a handful of songs. We never played live, but had a MySpace and made a lot of friends around Aus that way. At that point, I’d never left Adelaide independently, or maybe once. After that, I started getting excited and more involved with a national music community. Locally, I played in a lot of random experimental bands, until Rule of Thirds which started in maybe late 2011. I played guitar.
How did Nylex begin?
C: We are all from Adelaide. Dieter and Tom had played in Rule of Thirds too, and we’d been friends or housemates for a while. By mid -017, Guitarist Liam and I had written a few demos, even played one or two of them live once in a duo called Fantasy Lovers. Dieter and I were living in a great and typical-Adelaide share house, huge and cheap with a great jam room. It went from there. Our first gig was on St Patrick’s Day early 2018, in a friend’s squat with a short lived Adelaide band Bomo and the Hard Punchers.
When you started did you have a clear idea of what you wanted to sound like? What was influencing you musically?
C: We didn’t have a clear idea, but we all knew we wanted to write songs with strong hooks and pop-leanings. My song writing style is quite melodic and Liam, likewise, big John McGeoch fan – shiny guitar ala Siouxsie, Magazine, PiL.
What’s the story behind your band name?
C: Nylex is an Australian plastics brand, with famed Melbourne clock. I like the story about the anarchists breaking in and turning that on. I like that plastic is both peril and pleasure. A few names were being thrown around, but you have to settle on something, and the longer you’re deliberating the longer every name starts to feel like that moment at Christmas, where some family member says two random AF words and then says “that’s a band name!”
Towards the end of last year Nylex released LP Plastic for The People; what’s the album about?
C: The album is a lot about our/my social and personal politics. That song in particular is about heteronormativity in relationships, everybody’s right to feel good and about not yucking somebody’s yum.
What kind of songwriter are you? Where do you write most of your songs? Where do you get your best ideas?
C: I write pop melodies, so work best with other writers who can dial it down or help thread those hooks into a bedded structure. Guitar and bass melodies, I write them vocally and record into voice memos, then transcribe to instrument. Probably have looked off the wall many times cruising down a busy street just “da da dada da” ing into my phone… Vocals melodies, probably much like other singers, I sing gibberish to find a melody (sometimes this goes on for way too long, and I’ve definitely played shows and had near no words for a song) and then work words into a melody. I get my best ideas driving, walking or biking. Lyrics, sometimes I have a theme and completely write to that without prompts, sometimes I use books to feed language through.
What’s your favourite Nylex song? What’s the story behind it?
C: My favorite Nylex song is ‘Fascinate’. I actually wrote that on guitar and bass maybe late 2016 near the end of Rule of Thirds. It’s changed a lot since then with everyone’s input. I especially love the drums, they’re so fab. It’s about a glow-up and allowing yourself without shame or stigma to be fully present in your body.
Can you tell us about recording Plastic For People? How long did it take?
C: We did it over two days in a studio in Glenelg. A beach side suburb in Adelaide. Liam and I were about to move to Sydney and we wanted to capture this moment together before we left. So, maybe we weren’t quite ready but went for it regardless. It was recorded live, mostly. It was maybe the last weekend Liam and I lived in Adelaide, so it was happy, sad, exhausting, emotional. We had to come back to Adelaide once or twice in the following months for mixing. I wouldn’t recommend recording in the midst of a life-transition. It’s hard to concentrate!
What can we hear of your personality in Nylex’s music?
C: I love pop music, so perhaps that?
Nylex played shows in Europe and the UK recently, you mentioned that it was an “experience we hold very close”; what made it so important to you?
C: All members now live in different states or territories (yes, all four!) so being together for one month was a real treat. These three people have shared some pivotal, raw moments with me. And then there’s the privilege to travel, and the honour to lean and be caught by our international punk communities. To meet and share space with musicians and artists around the world is something I cherish. The late passionate talks, to hear of and support political endeavours, to be in moments of sweat, body to body on the dance floor, coughing through air thick with smoke in squats, all of it. I adore it. I miss it.
What’s one of the biggest culture shocks you experienced in Europe?
C: Generally we’d spend our time in the van practicing language for the next place we’d be, which really helps to ease the culture shock. The weather probably shocked me the most. And English food.
You were on tour when the COVID-19 related restrictions and quarantining started happening; what were you feeling being so far home when all this uncertainty begun?
C: Looking back, it’s more than surreal. It didn’t quite feel real until a week in, our show in Milano was cancelled as the city went into shutdown. Even then, many friends across Italy where still confused, so it was pretty opaque. Two weeks in, by the UK we started feeling a lot more awareness of the severity. Having said that, friends from Italy were still able to fly… so it still wasn’t too hectic… Then suddenly numbers were escalating dramatically across Europe. At about three weeks it started getting quite real and borders began closing. Every show we played was the “last one for a while”… for venues and bookers alike… Once our final two gigs were cancelled in Belgium, we began thinking we can’t wait to get home. We didn’t know what to expect, each morning we just hoped our flight wouldn’t be cancelled. An Australian friend had just arrived from North America to meet us, they made their way to Crete – where they’re now trapped due to immigration restrictions and unavailability /expense of flying – unable to return to the US where they live and unable to make it to Australia. When we landed, people in biohazard suits came onto the plane (crazy the flight attendants had no PPE except gloves!) and asked everyone how they felt… Maybe because of Dieter’s luscious hair, they stopped at our row and asked “Where did you come from, are you Italians?”
I know community is important to Nylex; where do you find yours?
C: I feel most at home among my chosen and queer family. Without them I would be lost. This pandemic has made me miss my chosen fam so much.
Are you working on anything new?
C: Nylex has three new songs we’d like to record, but it will have to wait until after borders open. Liam and I have another band in Sydney called Zipper, which has a demo about to come out. Dieter plays in Hotchkiss in Adelaide and Tom too. He also makes electronic music
What takes up your time other than music?
C: Some of us work and some are fulltime artists – designers, gardeners, arts workers. I work with young people at the moment. It’s reassuring to nurture the next gen of little freaks and know the world is in such capable hands. They give me hope.