Naarm garage-psych rockers Easy Browns are about to release a new record – Down On The Farm – that features ten clever animal-themed songs. We interviewed Easy Browns’ Zak Brown and Shelby Wilton to find out more about the release.
We’ve heard that you grew up in regional Victoria; how did you find music?
ZAK BROWN: Early days were spent digging through my parents CD collection, it was mostly Australian rock like Hoodoo Gurus, Cold Chisel, ACDC with some ABBA and Shania Twain thrown in there, but the folks were always buying new CD’s. In Grade 6 a friend showed me Gorillaz Demon Days album which changed me, I couldn’t stop listening to it, the sounds on that record are so unique.
I remember when my Dad started listening to Triple J mid-2000’s because “Delta Goodrem got cancer” and they were playing a lot of sad Delta G on pop radio, he started buying the Hottest 100 compilations and I loved the wacky mix they had on there, that introduced me to some contemporary alternative tunes.
I just pilfered through whatever I could get my hands on really, which was still quite limited, we didn’t really have computer access for a lot of years because my siblings and I destroyed our first computer with virus’ from downloading shit so that put my parents off getting another one for quite a while and took us back to the stone age in terms of music discovery.
How did you start making music?
ZB: My friends and I played guitar hero together every day after school together and with basic music knowledge started jamming Metallica’s “For Whom The Bell Tolls” every day in the music room at school, much to the annoyance of our music teacher (he still let us come in every day and jam). It soon transformed to playing every day after school when one of us got a drum kit and boom! Music.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how Easy Browns came to be?
ZB: I moved to Melbourne to study sound engineering and missed playing live, my late teens were spent playing in local bands, skating and subversive missions throwing rocks at KFC and I wanted to re-live the glory so I started Easy Browns Truckstop Chicken Jam Band with my housemates at the time.
I know Easy Browns are influenced by artists like Frank Zappa, Dead Kennedys and CAN; what do you appreciate about them?
ZB: I love how sardonic Frank Zappa is, and the music is so manic and silly. Dead Kennedys are so potently political and the music is quick and catchy, makes you want to throw yourself violently around in a sweaty mass. CAN takes the cake for interesting repetitive grooves, Jacky Liezbeit is my favourite drummer but all the members have a lot to offer, Holger Czukay was one of the first people to start sampling (by laboriously cutting and gluing magnetic tape) and when Damo Suzuki was in the band he bought such an interesting personality and unparalleled moodiness.
There’s often themes of environmental issues in your songs; what’s something happening in the world that more people should give a shit about?
ZB: I grew up in Morwell, a town surrounded by coal mines and lived through the Hazelwood Mine fire in 2013 which was quite an eye opener. Expansion of the fossil fuel industry is a huge issue, one example of MANY is the Adani coal mine at Abbott Point, one of the biggest coal projects in history; undertaken at such a time as this? Not only does it disrespect the land ownership of the Juru people, but carves a hole straight through the Great Barrier Reef (which is already being adversely affected by coral bleaching from rising ocean temperatures) and destroys local wetlands and habitats.
Easy Browns’ new record Down On the Farm comes out in September and features ten animal-themed songs; what inspired you to write songs about animals?
ZB: I feel remorse for injustices against the animal kingdom. Exposure to wild and agricultural creatures was frequent in my upbringing and I love the base nature of beasts, that being said humans can be base and beastly too, rational thought has not completely separated us. We should be living in harmony with creatures not abusing them.
We had also spent time on our friend Dougal’s (from The Sunken Sea) parents’ farm while touring in Lutruwita/Tasmania, and it seemed a funny idea to do a themed album. Animals are great for use in analogies, I think that’s one of the things that made the titles fun to come up with.
Were any of them particularly fun to write?
ZB: I think “Hog Wild” triumphs for me; there are so many fun parts to it. It’s meant to feel like a motorbike roaring down the highway, plus I get to scream like a demon and flute-to-boot. I always sing to myself on the motorbike because it’s one of the only times I feel like no one can hear me being silly.
How do you stay motivated and interested when making songs?
ZB: I enjoy writing songs at my own pace, I don’t see the point in trying to push shit uphill so I do it when inspiration strikes. Being able to make the gang (the rest of Easy Browns) giggle is a bit driver for me too, if I can make them laugh that’s when you know it’s a winner.
Can you share with us some of your all-time favourite lyrics?
ZB: Here’s a few tracks:
“Maggie” – Alien Nosejob: Complain about the front bar, complain about the main-stage / Complain about the people, complain about the line-up. And ends with a huge: And get an Uber hooooooooommmmeeeeeee. Utterly delightful, Shelby and I always sing it to each other and makes us miss The Tote.
“The O-Men” – Butthole Surfers: (go listen!)
“Pay No Mind” – Beck: Give the finger to the rock ‘n’ roll singer /As he’s dancing upon your pay check / The sales climb high through the garbage-pail sky / Like a giant dildo crushing the sun.
“Electricity” Captain Beefheart: High voltage man kisses night to bring the light to those who need to hide their shadow deed / Go into bright find the light and know that friends don’t mind just how you grow.
This is your third LP; what would we be surprised to know about your recording process?
ZB: We always track live as a band, I think that’s the best way to convey the energy we create as a team, but there’s always a lot of overdubbing outside of that.
The artwork Shelby did for your record is really cool, there’s a lot going on, there’s a little more than meets the eye; what can you tell us about it?
ZB: I’ll let Shelby take the reins on this one.
SHELBY WILTON: Hahaha yeah there is a lot happening. All of the nine animals mentioned in the album are around the edges in the comic strip, with the classic “down on the farm” illustration in the middle. It’s my own interpretation of Zak’s lyrics and ideas, which are already quite hefty in themselves. The concepts I come up with surrounding them become abstracted and made sense in my own sort of way and bam it’s a recipe for a lot of fucked stuff. I put a bunch of little stories, characters, and concepts hidden in there as well, they have their own narrative in my own brain but I feel part of the fun looking at it is coming up with your own ideas, though it’s all definitely thought out in a way where everything is connected.
What are you doing when not doing band-related stuff?
ZB: I like to garden and learn about plants, read novels, cook for the house family (which includes Brodie and Shelby) and ride my bicycle.
What helps you feel better when the world gets you down?
ZB: Hanging out with Shelby, listening to The Kinks, sitting in the sun, watering plants and watching The Simpsons.