Melbourne punks OUZO!: “Go to Google images and type “Joey Ramone in a pool”. It’s not how I’m living but it’s how I think I am.”

Original photo by Jamie Wdziekonski. Handmade mixed-media collage by B.

OUZO!’s guitarist Nathan Korver and vocalist Aidan Link-Freeman caught up with Gimmie to tell us about their debut EP Dried Tomato, their beginnings, influences and where they’re headed.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s a day in your life like at the moment?

NATHAN KORVER: My day in the life is a bit boring at the moment. I was meant to start an IT course but I lasted a week, can’t do this online learning feels like I’m watching a YouTube tutorial. So, most days I’m looking for work or writing music. Think I’m starting to go a bit insane though, glad gigs are back to get me out of house.

AIDAN LINK-FREEMAN: Go to Google images and type “Joey Ramone in a pool”. It’s not how I’m living but it’s how I think I am.

How did you first get into music?

NK: I’ve always been obsessed with music from a really young age. My earliest memory of music is listening to [Nirvana’s] Nevermind on repeat in the car with my dad when we’d go stay at my grandparents’ holiday house that was about four or five hours away. My mum got me into Green Day at a pretty young age or whenever American Idiot came out? I was five when that came out, I think and that is what probably made me pick up the guitar. But I don’t think I started taking guitar seriously until I was about thirteen or fourteen, which was when I started to listen to bands like Metallica, Silverchair and Black Sabbath.

AL-F: One day I was trekking through the wilderness amongst the native trees of the Dandenong ranges when I reached an opening. Right there floating in front of me was an entity like no other. Half human, half pig. It turned to me and without speaking reached out and handed me a record, I looked down and it was GG Allin live. From then on, I became obsessed with music and its pure beauty.

When did you decide to start OUZO!? Who or what was influencing your sound in the beginning?

NK: OUZO! started out of our drummer Josh [Peeters] and I buying a drum kit together when we lived about a two-minute drive from each other. This would have been early 2019? Then I met Aidan through his partner who is a childhood friend of mine. Josh and I started recording demos and I’d send them to Aidan and he’d put whatever lyrics over the top of them. Aidan and I were super into 60’s garage rock when we first met so a lot of that probably influence the music I was writing and the lyrics he was writing, but around this time was when I started going to local shows in Melbourne so they influenced us a lot and still do.

AL-F: Yeah, was definitely hugely influenced by 60’s garage at the beginning which very naturally turned into a somewhat heavier sound which I’m glad it did because it made for a more unique sound.

Your Dried Tomato EP came out in December last year; where did the album title come from?

NK: When I’d save a demo, I’d always give them silly names and ‘The Martian’s Mistake’ was originally called ‘Dried Tomato’ when I first sent it to Aidan. Then somehow, he managed to add that in as a lyric in the song, it’s right before the bridge section of the song, I think? It doesn’t have any real connection to the rest of the song and Aidan didn’t want to call the song that so I always had that as the title for the EP since then.

Can you tell us a little about writing the EP? Is it a collaborate process?

NK: For the EP it was pretty collaborative, it was always Josh and I writing and structuring the songs then Aidan would put whatever lyrics over it. It’s kind of strange these were really the first songs I’d ever written and I don’t really remember writing the songs or coming up with riffs specifically but more memories of structuring the songs. They were already about a year old when we recorded them so some are probably coming up to two years now.

Are lyrics something that come easy for you or do you have to work for them?

AL-F: I would say they come fairly easy but like everything they come in waves and it just depends on whether or not I’ve caught the wave at the right time. Anytime I force lyrics or feel pressured to write a song they almost always reek of plasticity, like what I’ve written is just to please someone important in the crowd. While I hope people can understand and appreciate my lyrics I have to understand and appreciate them first.

Who are your favourite lyricists and what do you appreciate about their work?

AL-F: I’ve been obsessed with Lou Reed since I was like 16, his writing breaks my heart turns me on and gets me dancing. And yes, I do understand the irony in this considering our song ‘Glorified Junkie’.

What’s the strangest thing that inspired a song?

AL-F: Turning terrestrial television on. That shits wild, Grant Denyer hosts Family Feud and they let sports stars who have no personality open their mouths. Name one memorable thing that Matthew Richardson has ever said. Oh, and there’s somebody that dresses up as a cow and gives random people money. Although… I’m lactose intolerant and if a cow gave me money rather than a sore tummy, I guess I’d be pretty happy.

How long did the recording process take? Nathan recorded it; what are the benefits and/or challenges of recording yourself?

NK: Took a while actually, given Covid restrictions and what not it certainly took longer than expected. Recording was pretty much here and there, the drums were recorded around I think late January or February last year, then I don’t think we continued recording until May? By July it was all mixed and mastered. Freedom is a benefit of recording it ourselves, don’t have any pressure to be like, we’ve got an hour booked at a studio or something and have to get it done! Challenges I’d say is that I don’t really know what I’m doing, I did a short course in sound production at the end of 2019 so I learnt a bit there but have learnt more by myself and YouTube tutorials.

Aidan did the artwork for the cover; can you tell us about the inspiration/idea behind it?

NK: I guess I came up with the concept for the artwork pretty early on, maybe before we had even recorded anything or at least finished mixing it. Aidan got a lot of inspiration from a book too, what was that? Punk 45 isn’t it?

AL-F: Yeah, lots from this Punk 45 book. Basically, just wanted to use bold simple colours like all the great corporations do. OUZO! was never intended to be just a band. It’s also a pyramid scheme.

How did the lockdown period last year test your creativity?

NK: No gigs and no work make Nathan go something something? Go crazy?  Yeah, I think for me it helped? I guess we did a lot of writing, wrote about three times the amount of songs we had prior to lockdown. Our setlist was every song we had. But maybe towards the end of lockdown it started to get a bit stale because for both of us gigs are a main source for inspiration.

AL-F: It help because I wrote heaps of bullshit over that time but once it ended, I had more clarity, but yeah during lockdown I felt there was a lot of pressure to be creative.

Have you been working on new songs? What direction are you headed with them?

NK: We have been working on a lot of new songs, we aren’t deliberately heading in any sort of directions it’s more just we write a song and that’s the song regardless if it sounds like us or not. I don’t want to limit us to any certain ‘sound’ and just be free creatively, it gets boring writing the same thing and I don’t think I could even write a song like something off Dried Tomato anymore. So yeah, the direction is mixed, there’s heavier stuff, synth stuff, quiet stuff, but I’m really excited by them.

Please check out OUZO! on bandcamp; on Instagram; on Facebook.

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