Today It Thing release EP Syrup into the world. Bold, loud, with hook ramming into hook, It Thing deliver 9 tracks that zip by at the speed of light with an inspired cleverness and simplicity. Syrup gives us rebelliousness with a smile, while lyrical tongue firmly planted in cheek. Gimmie caught up with frontwoman, Charlotte Gigi to get the scoop.
Hi Charlotte. How’s your day been?
CHARLOTTE GIGI: It’s been really relaxed today. I just cooked up a pot of mapo tofu and now I’m in bed doing a drawing, so a pretty good day!
It Thing are from nipaluna, have you always lived there? how did you first find your local music community?
CG: I was born & raised mostly in nipaluna (Hobart), lived in Naarm for like 8 years or something then moved back there when I was 17. I just recently relocated back to Naarm again, so a bit all over the place, but nipaluna will always be my home.
I’ve always loved live music so it just felt like a natural progression to start going to gigs. When I was 18 I started religiously going to the Brisbane Hotel on Fridays and Saturdays to see any bands I could and found a total wealth of great punk music coming out of Hobart’s scene. That was pretty much the most thrilling thing ever.
What’s one of your favourite albums?
CG: I think whatever comes into my head first is the best answer, so I’m going to say Life’s Too Good by the Sugarcubes. That album changed my whole perception of what makes a good vocalist. The balance between the two vocalists (Björk and Einar Örn) is delightful, one moment it’s dreamy and melodic and the next it’s super goofy and humorous. It’s genius. The guitar riffs and bass lines are so bouncy and delicious, it just makes me smile.
Who or what first inspired you to make music?
CG: Chrissy Amphlett from the Divinyls. I must have been 7-years-old when I found a copy of What a Life! in my dad’s CD collection. The album cover alone already had me, probably because Chrissy looks a bit like my mum [laughs]. I put it on my Discman and listened. I just thought, wow! This is the coolest thing ever! She was relatable to me, the songs are tough as—she’s been with me since.
Have you ever had a moment where you doubted yourself in relation to making music? What helped you move through that?
CG: Yeah, I have moments like that on and off. I’ve struggled with health problems for pretty much my whole life, so yeah, sometimes I have a crip moment and get discouraged, but then I rise from the ashes ‘cause there’s nothing else i’d rather be doing. Quitting’s for quitters.
What brought the band together in 2019 in the Brisbane Hotel beer garden?
CG: The Bris was 100% the gravitational centre of music in Hobart, so we all met there one way or another and had a jam. We wrote a bunch of songs straight away and like two weeks later we were gigging. I can’t believe they used to sell $2 pints, that just seems like a total joke now. I love that place so much.
What initially influenced It Thing’s sound? Do you feel it’s changed over the course of writing together more?
CG: Hmm… I guess I can only really speak on the vocals side of things, for me it was the Ramones. I wanted to write short, straight to the point songs, because all my lyrics are based off like, one sentence prompts. I never have a good idea that lasts for more than two minutes. The Ramones do that well, so for me that was a huge inspiration. I don’t really feel like the process has changed on my part, I’m not sick enough of doing it that way to branch out just yet [laughs].
What do you remember about It Thing’s first show?
CG: Oh man, I was really crook. I had like, walking pneumonia or bronchitis or something. My friend Molly Turner told me to eat a clove of garlic to help clear me up, which I misunderstood as “head of garlic”! Before that gig I was sitting around eating like fourteen cloves of garlic. I will never forget that [laughs].
It Thing have a new release. Where did the EP title Syrup come from?
CG: I just think that the word is super textural, it makes you think of thick, sticky, sugary liquid, which is how the music sounds like to me.
How long has Syrup been in the works for? What did you love about the process of making it?
CG: Since mid-2019 it’s been in the works. It was originally just going to be four songs but I guess we feel like we had more to bring out right now. The best part of making it was writing the songs! Nothing beats the feeling of leaving a band practice feeling like you just levelled up. We all write our own parts, so when you all end up on the same wavelength it’s real special.
Which track was the most fun to write?
CG: I feel like writing ‘Rocket Song’ was particularly fun. I remember not really being in a good mood but then Clab just whipped that riff out and it was like, what the hell was that?! [laughs]. That just brought me up onto his level instantly. That song is so chaotic to me, the recording is funny too because Jmo, our original drummer, had just had a blood test that morning so the ending is just super urgent because his arm felt all wriggly and weak and it influenced us all. It sounds like a car accident, so we went with it.
What’s the most personal song on the EP? Can you tell us a little about it please?
CG: Probably ‘Borrowed Time’ or ‘Pet Snakes’.
‘Borrowed Time’ is about visiting my friend’s home town to go to his funeral.
‘Pet Snakes’ is about how alienated I felt when I was a kid. It’s about having no autonomy, getting in trouble a lot and nothing good happening—just grim 2000s low-income suburban realness. Booo.
We really enjoy the tongue-in-cheek qualities in your lyrics; who are the lyricists that you enjoy?
CG: [Laughs] Thank you! I think Scott Walker, David Byrne, HR from Bad Brains and Beastie Boys are all pretty crackers. I love witty lyrics and I love lyrics that don’t always literally make sense, just abstract ones that somehow make a point.
Where did the lyric ‘I lost my cool / I’m so uncool’ come from? (It’s one of my favs on the EP).
CG: I dunno, just keeping it real to be honest [laughs]. Nothing wrong with being a weirdo or feeling like one.
We love the cover art which is hand-sewn patchwork by Molly Turner (you mentioned her earlier) representing each of the nine tracks on the EP; what drew you to Molly’s work? Which is your personal favourite patch?
CG: Molly is like, the realest person out there and her art is purely unpretentious, and that’s the most special thing ever. Her art is sophisticated, warm and nostalgic but still very playful and colourful. I couldn’t be more stoked with having her art on the cover. I think my favourite patch is the leopard, I think it looks like Clab [laughs].
Last question, what’s the best part about being a creative?
CG: If the world had a net-happiness percentage, being an artist would be adding happiness points into circulation instead of like, being a real estate agent.
Our Carlson doesn’t hold back on debut EP A Bit Much, his writing is both funny and frustrated as he speaks to the experience of living, and of being diagnosed with epilepsy at thirty-three. Ranting over dance club and break beats, Carlson’s record is honest and from the heart. Today Gimmie is premiering the super fun video for single ‘Cappo Dog’. We spoke with Our Carlson just last week about the release, video, his punk origins (he was in hardcore band King Brown), epilepsy, the UV Race, MDMA, Gary Ablett, Save Our Scene and much more.
Your live show looks like it’s so much fun! I’m stoked to be talking with you today. Your EP A Bit Much came out at the start of the year, right?
OUR CARLSON: Yeah, it came out on the same day that I played a show at The Forum with Cash Savage and the Last Drinks. That was a bit of a buzz. I had DJ Katie Pearson with me on that one. Cash has been deejaying with me heaps lately, which is lots fun; I’m trying to get as many of them in as I can before The Last Drinks go bananas. They’re going to go to Europe a couple of times next year. My partner DJ Ruby Princess deejays with me sometimes as well.
It’s great that you can get lots of different people to join you on stage and DJ your set.
OC: Yeah. I honestly got sick of bands breaking up; members getting jobs and moving interstate, having kids, or whatever takes them away from music. I think anyone that has been in bands for a while, knows what I’m talking about there. You have to find new members, they have to learn the songs. I just wanted to do something that was nice and easy. It was very easy when we were twenty-one, it was like, “Yeah, let’s do a band and go on tour!” Lives get in the way.
How did you get into music?
OC: There was always music around the house. As far as me getting into music on my own, my next door neighbour, Emma, she was really into Fat Wreck Chords punk, pop-punk, things like that. It would have been in the late 90s. Through her I got into music and started going to shows.
I started a hardcore band just when I left high school, and really started getting into hardcore then.
What was the name of your hardcore band?
OC: King Brown. That’s just gone up on Spotify through Oz Digital Hardcore Archive. they have an Instagram The record label that we were on doesn’t exist anymore. That whole section [time period] of music is missing from Spotify; only older stuff that’s bigger is put on there. They started contacting people about putting their music on there and all of the money goes to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. Listening to it brings back memories, there’s so many bands that you forgot about. It’s really cool.
I was around in that period. There were some great bands. Having been involved in punk and hardcore for well over half my life and making zines, I have a big archive of Australian music from that period, lots of demos, especially on CD or cassette.
OC: So many good demos back then! Lots of amazing stuff. You’re from Brisbane?
I’m originally from Brisbane, but am currently on the Gold Coast.
OC: There were bands up there like The Daylight Curse, we played a bunch with them. It was a pretty big scene up there.
There were a lot of bands, a lot fell under that North Coast Hardcore scene umbrella.
OC: Live you can tell that I was a hardcore kid, I’m stomping around the stage doing the whole hardcore thing. It’s where I learnt to play to a crowd and do my thing. I got my chops at The Arthouse. It hasn’t left me.
Lately I’ve been going back to it. My car just has a CD player, whenever I’m out of range of community radio it’s onto CDs, listening to all that old stuff. I’ve been listening to heaps of The Nation Blue lately. I got to play with them at OK Motels. It was so great, they hadn’t played in ages. I still go to Mindsnare shows every time they’re on.
I love Mindsnare! I’d go to all of their shows when they’d come to QLD. I remember the launch for their first LP Credulity in like 1997 or ’98. They’re one of Australia’s all-time best hardcore bands.
OC: Definitely one of the best! They’re my favourite. I’m just looking at my first tattoo, on my foot, a Mindsnare tattoo [laughs] that I got when I was younger.
What attracted you to the hardcore scene?
OC: I was angry. It was a good outlet for me, and there’s the whole community vibe of it, I really loved that. All Ages shows; me and my friends would pile into cars and drive so far, we’d be in the northwest of Melbourne and drive all the way down to Frankston for shows. You’d know everyone. It was good fun. Touring bands, just hanging out with everyone.
How did you go from doing hardcore to doing what you do know with Our Carlson? It’s pretty different.
OC: It is different [smiles]. I started getting into a lot of different music. My friend Izzy [Stabs] that does a lot of the music, he really got into electronic music; he started buying me records. He’d be like, “You gotta hear this! You gotta hear this!” And I just started listening to it more. It’s really similar with the scene, there’s a really good community within that scene. There’s a lot of females driving that community as well, I’ve really enjoyed that aspect. I really get a kick out of the music, the people, the clubs. I really love a sweaty club or warehouse show, it reminds me of punk and hardcore in many ways. Being able to make music from your bedroom is pretty cool.
I know quite a few people from the punk and hardcore community that ended up going on to doing something electronic or beats-based. They still have that punk and hardcore spirit, they’re just channeling into something new and evolving; like what you’re doing.
OC: Yeah, I think so. I used to exclusively listen to punk and hardcore, then life changes and you start getting exposed to different things. I listen to everything. Sarah Mary Chadwick is a huge influence for me, her vocals and lyrics are so honest. For me, doing this, it’s the most honest I’ve ever been with music. Listening to her I was like, ‘I can do this!’ You know when you see someone else and you’re like ‘I can do it! I can put it all on the line.’ People connect with that, you just got to do it.
The first song I wrote was ‘Ain’t Too Great Mate’. I sent it to a few people, and people were just calling me going, “Are you alright?” I was like, ‘I am alright now, I’ve got this out and I’m feeling better.’
It all started from epilepsy. I had this idea in my head and I started rambling into the phone. I spoke to Izzy and said, ‘We have to do something with this. Do you reckon we can make some electronic music with this?’ We got together and made the first track, and it worked.
When you were thirty-three you were diagnosed with epilepsy. I’ve had people close to me diagnosed with various conditions later in life, so I have an understanding of what that’s like. I wanted to ask you about your experience. What was life like for you before the diagnosis and then how did being diagnosed change things?
OC: Well, you have one seizure and you don’t have epilepsy, some people have one seizure and they don’t diagnose that as epilepsy. Once you have a second one, they say you have epilepsy. It was a year between them for me.
It’s just the fear of not knowing when it’s going to come. Sometimes I have panic attacks, I get a bit of anxiety and go, ‘Oh fuck! I’m going to have a seizure.’ It’s not, but that just builds. Meds are annoying, I love them and I hate them. Some days you forget to take them, you don’t have any on ya, you’ve got to drive back to the house to get them. I live in the country, everything is half and hour or forty-five minutes away. Once I have a seizure I can’t drive for six months. There’s no public transport out here. I live in a tiny little town, it’s a half hour drive to the train to get anywhere, the you have to get to Melbourne to go to all of these appointments. The doctors don’t seem to know much about epilepsy, that’s the most frustrating part. They don’t know too much and they can just theorise and they don’t want to tell you things that may not be true. Rich Stanley from Power Supply has epilepsy, and I learn more from him and other people with epilepsy than I do from the doctors. He’ll give me advice and tips, I’ll tell him what’s happening and we can talk all about it, it helps immensely—a big thank you to Rich!
With the music, I wanted to put it out there and let people know. I’m pretty comfortable about talking about epilepsy. I wanted people to know, because one in twenty-five Australians have epilepsy. People don’t really talk about it. Since putting it out there, the amount of people that have come up to me and told me they have epilepsy, that I didn’t even know had it, is so many; it’s because people don’t talk about it because there’s a stigma around it. If everyone knows about it and knows what to do, it’s not so scary… I mean it can be.
I know what you mean. When people talk about things it can help normalise these things, and people don’t have to feel that stigma or isolated and alone. Another big thing I think is that just looking at someone isn’t always an indicator of what’s going on with them, so many health challenges are things you can’t outwardly see all the time. Having health challenges can also very much impact on your mental and emotional wellbeing, all these things people just can’t always see.
OC: That’s it, exactly. The mental health side of it is huge! We all struggle with mental health at some stage in our lives, that’s come along way though from people talking about it. My dad committed suicide when I was fourteen, that was all through him being an old school dude. Everyone was like, “No. No way. Not Wayne.” He seemed so happy and was out and about, he had a larger than life personality, but he couldn’t talk about things because that wasn’t the culture. There’s been huge steps in that but there’s a long way to go.
The hardcore scene has lost a lot of people to suicide over the last couple of years. A lot of the time it seems to be men my age. Hopefully we can keep talking about it and people can get better and realise that you can get through stuff, that there is help and your friends will help you. It is tough, but I hope conversations can help it and we don’t have to go through losing people over and over.
Absolutely. That’s why I always make an extra effort to check-in with people, even people I might not know super well, or maybe it’s someone I’ve interviewed sometime over the years. I’ve experienced a fair amount of loss in my life and know how important it is for people to know that someone is there for them. I actively reach out to people, because having suffered from severe depression and anxiety in my life, felt like I had no one and I know how hard it can be to reach out when you’re in the midst of feeling that. Sometimes you feel like you don’t want to bother people or be a burden on them, cos everyone has something they’re dealing with.
OC: Yeah, I found myself doing that a lot of lockdowns too, calling friends and being like, ‘Hey, I’m just calling to check-in. What’s going on?” That helps a lot. When they do feel down at least they know they can reach out to me, that people care. It’s easy to forget that people care, and that your friends love you, when you’re deep in a depression. It’s nice to remind people of that whenever you can. Just a simple call and check-in, that’s all you need to maybe make a difference.
What helps you when you get depressed?
OC: My partner runs Ray Holistic Health. A lot of that has helped me lately. Things like acupuncture and meridian lines. I remember the first time she did it to me, she was holding these points on my head and it felt like all of this energy was rushing and coming up out of my head. I feel like talk therapy is good, but this other stuff, Chinese medicine and stuff like that where you don’t have to talk, seems to make a big difference for me, it realigns things.
Time to myself is good. I like to go off Ito the bush. Take a trumpet out there and blow as hard as I can. That’s really good!
Hanging out with my friends! I have really good friends I chat with. Cash Savage is always really good for me, we always check-in. Having people that you can just be really honest with, people that don’t judge. I find I always feel better after a big chat. Sometimes you don’t want to have that chat, but you’ll feel better after it if you do, it’s a good release.
Totally. How did you come to the name Our Carlson? I know Carlson is your last name.
OC: Our Carlson is just a play on “our Kylie”. I love Kylie Minogue, she’s amazing, has been for a long time. Never have I known her to have a scandal. How has she never had a scandal? [laughs]. I can’t think of one. Surely she has been scandalous! I wanted to have something with my name in it too, so I could really own it.
You did mention that this project is the most honest you’ve been in music.
OC: Yeah. The stuff I’m writing now is even more honest and pretty wild, really digging into stuff. I found it a little difficult to write in lockdown because a lot of stuff comes from talking with people, sayings and things I overhear. I might say something and then someone laughs and goes, “That’s a lyric.” I kind of just blurt them out. Listening to records helps me write too. I might be listening to a hardcore record and get something in my head. I just jot things down or yell into my phone. When I started seeing people I started writing a lot more again.
Where did your EP title A Bit Much come from?
OC: [Laughs] It’s just something I say a bit. Something came up and I said, ‘That’s a bit much.’ The whole thing is a bit much, the music is a bit much, epilepsy is a bit much, life’s a bit much—the whole experience I was having was just a bit much. It’s probably more than a bit much, but it’s a nice, cute little way of putting it.
We’re premiering the clip for song ‘Cappo Dog’. It’s a song about how we’re basically all capitalists living in a capitalist society.
OC: Yeah. I’ve had big troubles with money my whole life, coming from the punk scene, I never want to spend money. Buying a house for me was huge! Until my partner told me we were going to be paying ten bucks more a month than we were for rent in Footscray. The whole capitalist system and money is always something that I’ve struggled with, and making money off of other people. I’m a carpenter and I’m always going to give people the bill and I knock money off it. I’m horrible with making money.
We are all living in a capitalist society, you may think your not, but when you buy a beer there’s tax on that; when you fill up your car with fuel, there’s tax on that; there’s tax everywhere.
The film clip, my mate Flagz made it. He’s done a bunch of clips, the latest Blake Scott one, Cash Savage’s ones, Batpiss, a few for Tropical Fuck Storm. We workshopped the idea. He moved to Woodend, which is not too far from Blackwood. We’ve been hanging out a bunch, he’s got a shed, Stanley’s, which is named after his uncle Stanley who passed away. He gave him some cash and his dad was like, “What are you going to do with it?” He’s like, “I’m just going to pay off some of my credit card.” His dad was like, “Uncle Stanley would not like that.” Uncle Stanley was a bit of a party dude, so he bought a pool table and a dartboard, it’s in his shed. We just hang out there and workshop ideas.
We put up green screen all around the shed and made the clip in there. Tommy from Batpiss was living with him at the time (I think he’s just moved back to the city). Tommy, his partner and Flagz’ partner all came out and collaborated. I hadn’t been able to collaborate in so long, I can’t believe how much I missed it. We were putting costumes together, I’m playing three different characters as well as myself, Our Carlson in it. It was so much fun! They were yelling at me to do this and that [laughs].
One of the characters is Bradley, The Wolf Of Blackwood.
OC: Yeah. Bradley owns Capri Real Estate, he drives around in a Ford Capri, he works the stock market and is a news presenter on Channel 420. He’s a real capitalist grease ball.
Another character is Blaire.
OC: Blaire is a trustfund kid. He moved down from around the Byron Bay Area to the Southside of Melbourne and then moved over to the Northside. He has a bar and a restaurant named after himself, as well as a men’s skincare range. He started Anti-tax and Anti-tax League. He’s a shocker.
Then there’s Rico’s cousin. He was born in Ballarat. He’s rumoured to be Gina Rinehart’s illegitimate son. He’s been banned from Milney’s bar, which is a bar I frequent a bit when I’m in Melbourne. He’s a bricklayer’s son, he’s going to take over the business, but he started moving bags instead of moving bricks. He’s a bit of a character. He doesn’t pay much tax but he’s a capitalist too. He’s moving those units and making that money.
The song mentions Ray Cappo, the singer of Youth Of Today and Shelter. He became a Hare Krishna and started his own yoga thing, now I think he’s worth a couple of million of bucks!
I’ve interviewed Ray. When we spoke he was going to Cher’s house and teaching her how to prepare raw food dishes. He’s also the only person that has ever charged me money to interview them, he charged me the equivalent of a private yoga lessons. I’m friends with people that played in Shelter and they’ve told me how he’d go to India and buy cheap tulsi neckbeads and then come back home and jack up the prices to sell them to hardcore kids at shows.
OC: Wow, he’s gone from the punk world to Cher’s house! I would definitely go to Cher’s house.
OC: She’s amazing. There’s a great thing on YouTube about Cher, it’s Westside Story from back in the day, she plays all of the parts. It’s a 10-minute clip. There’s five of her dressed up as all of the gang members, singing and dancing. It’s really amazing. It’s a good few minutes of your life spent.
Nice! I’ll have to check it out.
OC: I’ve made a bunch of cash, that’s my promotional tool at the moment—$420 notes. It’s with the ‘Cappo Dog’ clip launch, everyone that comes gets a $420 note on arrival.
Cool, I love when people go the extra mile and do fun things.
OC: That’s what it’s all about, doing fun things! My friend Sophie made my suit I wear, it was fun to sit down a collaborate with her. She’s making another suit at the moment; SÜK workwear, it’s overalls. It’s non-binary workwear that more fits femme shapes, it’s really good stuff. They’re doing great things. We had to take mine in bit because my body is pretty straight, snake-hips [laughs]. There’s going to be all tassels and beads.
Because hardcore is so… oh, what’s the word I’m looking for?
OC: In a box!
Yeah, totally. With this project you can do whatever you want, it’s limitless.
OC: Yeah, that’s what I like about it. I remember when King Brown started, we were pretty silly. The songs weren’t so much, they were serious. At the shows we talked a lot, talk about 80s cricketers and silly stuff for too long. You’d see hardcore kids looking around at the cool kids to see if it was ok to like it; I loved breaking down those barriers. Hardcore was very straight edge, especially at that time in Melbourne. Everyone wore black. I’ve always liked to shake it up a bit.
I remember when things were like that. In Brisbane we had real militant straight edge kids that would go to shows and knock beers out of people’s hands. I remember people wearing all black too, I used to stick out because I’d wear bright colours or white; I didn’t want to wear the uniform.
OC: [Laughs]. I remember I went to a show at The Arthouse, everyone was wearing black and I was wearing a bright red Mindsnare t-shirt and people looking at me like, “Whoa! What are you doing? Are you in the wrong place mate?” It was like I was wearing the wrong outfit, so I thought, ‘I’ll keep doing this!’
I’ve had people do that to me to. I was going to a punk show my friend’s band was playing and there were two punk girls, one with a Chelsea haircut and the other had a mohawk, out the front of the venue sitting on the sidewalk smoking. I’d just come from a formal dinner party, so was looking glam, and as I approached one of them spat near my feet. I looked at them and they’re like, “Are you lost love?” And I’m like, ‘No, I’m here to see my friend’s band.’ They rolled their eyes, kind of like, as if! As they were hassling me my friend came out of the venue and was like “Bianca!” And ran over and hugged me and the two girls looked at each other in astonishment. Punk police are so lame.
OC: [Laughs], yeah. I copped it at the last Maggot Fest. Haram were playing and I was in the pit wearing a white button up shirt with all these dolphins embroidered on it, these curst punks were targeting me and laughing at me. I went up to them and I was like, ‘I really like your uniforms boys, they’re so sexy. I love how you put the uniform on to come out!” [laughs]. It’s so silly, punk is an attitude, it’s not an outfit.
Yeah. The punk people that I love the most are the ones that continue to push things forward, to me punk isn’t a static thing.
OC: With the straight edge thing in the beginning for us, we’d see all ours friends sniffing glue and passing out at the shows just being wasteoids, and we just wanted to be positive. Not being in the punk box is punk, just doing your own thing. I think hardcore ruined punk a bit, in America especially, all the glitter kids and stuff like the Germs; there seemed to be a lot of queer kids and then Black Flag got massive and things got more macho, there were fights and all the freaks and weirdos stopped going to shows, which is a shame. From everything I’ve read and seen, that whole Germs-era looks rad to me.
The L.A. punk scene has inspired so many people I know. I was talking to Kira from Black Flag the other day and she mentioned how back then the scene was so small, and we talked about the impact that it had still to this day. It was such a diverse little community and things didn’t sound the same.
OC: It seemed like there was a lot of women involved in punk at the start. I love how the Germs were around for a year or so before they even played a show, they just had a logo and put flyers up around town, how cool is that?
There’s such a common misconception that there wasn’t many women in punk, but there totally was.
OC: Yeah, punks always seemed to focus on the men more.
Are there any other songs from your EP you’d like to tell me about?
OC: ‘Ideology’ seems to be one that gets a bit of a run.
We love that song, it’s one of our favourites.
OC: Intellectuals seem to like ‘Ideology’ so that says something about you [laughs]. All the smart art kids seem to be into that one. It’s all about, what is an ideology? What are you thoughts?
The whole Gary Ablett part actually happened. My sister and I was actually at this place with big pools, a diving board, it’s like a really crap Wet n Wild in Geelong. Gary Ablett Snr was sitting there, Jnr was probably running round in the pool somewhere and she went to the tuckshop and got a brown paper bag and got him to sign it. She still has it, she’s going to dig it out for me.
I like how that whole song works. The beats really cool. It hits you pretty hard. That song came out pretty easy.
It’s something that I think about and think about, I mean I’m not constantly thinking about having a seizure but it does come into your head all the time. You might stand up too fast, and be be like, ‘Oh, what’s that!’ I might be working on a roof or climbing up a ladder and you’re like, if something happened now I’d be in a bit of trouble. That one really hits me a bit.
I got a new song that’s all done pretty much.
What’s that about?
OC: It’s about conspiracy theories. It’s a fun take on it. I talk about Paul Kelly and How To Make Gravy and how that’s not how you make gravy! I don’t know what Paul’s going on about there, there’s a bit of a conspiracy around that [laughs].
It talks about The UV Race! They made their first film Autonomy and Deliberation, and then they made another film UV Race Disgrace Space; that hasn’t come out, it was made ages ago but it’s not finished editing. The line goes: The UV Race disgrace space before any billionaire but it was buried, conspiracy.
There’s parts about: no one like my ‘We want 6G’ sign at the no 5G rally. There’s stupid things that are going on in the world at the moment. People flying off to space. 5G. Anti-vax. It just drives me crazy, especially the anti-vax stuff, how could someone be so self-centred; disabled people can’t go out, if people with disabilities get Covid they’re going to be in trouble, they’re looking at death; the elderly as well. People go, “The vaccines new!” It’s not even new, they’ve been using it for different kinds of things for ages, it’s just a new twist on an old vaccine. It drives me nuts that people can be so selfish. I know it can be scary, it’s a scary time, but doing your research on the internet is not the way to go.
It’s a bit much!
OC: [Laughs] It’s a bit much! If I get Covid and get quite a high fever, there’s a good chance that I will get a seizure. If people with epilepsy get Covid there’s a good chance we’ll have a seizure. I’m living my life and if that happens it happens…
Is there anything you need to be mindful of in regards to your epilepsy? When you play live does strobe lighting effect you or loud noise?
OC: Not for me. I’m not triggered by strobes. I’ve done a lot of tests and strobbing doesn’t trigger me, which is very good. I don’t have strobes at my shows though because I want them to be accessible, especially to people with epilepsy. I love strobes and going to places like Strawberry Fields festival. I usually work there driving artists to the stage, giving them their riders and making sure they’re happy. It’s a pretty fun job.
Stress for me is a big one. I’m not meant to stay up too late either, sometimes I get a bit excited though, I come to the city and I’m having fun and I’m really bad at leaving a party, I always have been. I always want the fun to keep on continuing.
There’s actually been studies into MDMA and it stops sodium valproate for working, which is in my epilepsy medication, so no more MDMA for me. The love drug! There’s a few things you have to be weary of. For me the meds really work and I really need to continue to take them every day. I have to try not and stress out too much either, I don’t work nearly as much as I used to. Hopefully I can just do more music. When doing a trade sometimes it can be stressful and difficult working with people, organising things. I tell people now that I only work three days a week, or sometimes I might need a week off. We’re lucky that we bought in the country and live a pretty cheap life, so I don’t have to work too much. The whole having to work for five or six days a week, what are we doing? You have one or two days off, decompress and got to go back to it and do it all again. Capitalism has really sucked everyone in.
That’s a big thing to do with your mental health, working so much you don’t have time to work on your mental health. I have so many friends that were political but then you buy a house, have kids… my partner and I decided not to have kids, it makes things a lot easier. If we did have kids I wouldn’t be doing this and be able to put so much time into what I’m doing, and all my money into what I’m doing.
What you’re doing helps your mental health though, right? You can process things going on in your life through your art. You learn about yourself. Then there’s the joy of collaborating. Music, arts, culture and self-expression is so important!
OC: Yeah. I was talking to the Save Our Scene people over the internet. They were talking about how we need an economic feasibility study and health feasibility study into music and the arts, which a lot of different sectors have but we don’t have. If you have that, then the government can work off of that and know how much money the sector brings in and it’s this good for people’s health and maybe we should give it more funds! I contacted the local council, that’s a good place to start. They get a bad rap, but I think they’re trying to do the best they can with not a lot of resources.
I went and worked for the Hepburn Shire when I first got epilepsy. I had been working by myself and felt very uncomfortable, if I fell down and if it was in the morning no one would find me until night; I’m out in the backwater, working on properties with no one else around. I worked for the council in parks and gardens. They were great with my epilepsy. I had a seizure while I was there and couldn’t drive for six months, so they got someone to work with me and drive me around, and let me change my hours, they were very accommodating.
Going back to the feasibility studies, if you can get your local council and your state MPs to do that, then get the federal government to do that, maybe then we’ve got a chance of getting more money put into local arts and music.
We love the A Bit Much album art that Ben Mackie drew. How do you know Ben?
OC: I know him through music. He played in Cuntz, is now in Chemo Beach and Spiritual Mafia. Ben does a lot of different styles, but that crayon-style is something I really like. I sent him a few photos of me and asked him to do a portrait. He did a couple for the circular labels on the record, they’re pretty gnarly. He’s a legend. It’s nice collaborating with all of your friends.
Collab-ing with friends is the best. Nice Cong Josie shirt you’re wearing by the way!
OC: Love Cong! He’s coming up this way to play at the church in Blackwood. The Uniting Church sold three churches and put the money into the church in Blackwood. If you’re a local you can rent it out very cheap. I’m actually in the church committee, which is a bit of a laugh for me, I’m not too much into the church. They asked me to be on the committee, because I put on art shows and gigs in town a bit. I rocked up the first day and I’m like, ‘So, queer people?’ and they’re like, “The Uniting Church has queer ministers.” And I was like, ‘Are we going to have a welcome to country at this thing?’ They’re like, “Yep, we’ll do all that and pay for it.” There were a whole lot of things where I was like, ok, as far as church goes this seems not too bad.
You mentioned earlier that out in Blackwood you’re a town of 300 people. How do people out in your area respond to art shows and gigs you put on?
OC: There’s a lot of artists and musicians in the town. If you do something in the pub they want to hear covers. I did that a few times. Bitch Prefect played in the pub, another one of my bands Wild Blooms played, Eaten By Dogs, Joshua Seymour (who is one of the most underrated musicians in Melbourne). At the pub they really want to hear Midnight Oil; they want to hear covers.
I put on an art show, Terry and Vertigo played. I was like, ‘Oohhh, a hardcore band, I wonder how this will go?’ People loved it! They own the pub, it’s their space, but if you put an art show on somewhere else it changes their mentality and they’re more open to other things. Vertigo played and people came up to me afterwards and I’m like, ‘What did you think?’ They were like, “They’re great! The singer’s pretty cute.” [Laughs] . It’s so great, you’ve got fifty and sixty-year-old people getting into hardcore at the church.
Since Gimmie last spoke with Zak Olsen he’s been working on Traffik Island album number three (and four), and moved out of Melbourne into the country.
Album A Shrug Of The Shoulders feels effortless and is a sheer delight, giving the listener a sense of sitting in a lounge room as friends make music together—in a word it’s, joyful. There’s a naturalism and realism along with beauty, nuance and humour revealed as the collection of songs unfold. The songs are stripped down to their essentials, influenced by 60s music but with a modern sheen. Zak’s sincere expression and ability to turn lyrical gut-punches into catchy psychedelic folk-pop riffs is truly charming. Today we’re premiering second single, ’You Do, Don’t You?’
It’s great to be talking with you again today, Zak.
ZAK OLSEN: It’s nice to be back! I’ve just moved out of Melbourne, I live out at South Gippsland now in a small dairy farm area called Wattle Bank.
What made you want to get out of the city?
ZO: It was more, what was making me want to stay in the city? That was more the question I was asking myself. I couldn’t answer it. Obviously I have lots of friends in the city, and I miss seeing them frequently. For me personally, Melbourne wasn’t really the ideal place for me to be at the moment.
What’s moving out into a more rural area given you?
ZO: Lots more time outside and plenty more of the colour green, which feels good. There’s heaps more space, the house is a lot bigger than the one I was living in. There’s lots of room to set up instruments. We have chickens! I’ve been enjoying spending time with the chickens.
I saw them on the Traffik Island promo vid for the new record! In the video you were baking something; what was it?
ZO: Yes, that’s the chickens in the video. I was baking a Lemon cake. It was a basic one. I thought I’d put some eggs to use.
Last time we we spoke you mentioned that you love cooking things and that you were trying to master the art of cooking different kinds of roasts. Is there anything in particular that you’ve been working on in the kitchen lately?
ZO: [Laughs]. Maybe “master” is a bit of a strong word to use. I made my first pumpkin soup last night, which isn’t too hard to master. It’s good out here because there’s a lot of less options for takeaway food, cooking is a necessity, and there’s great farmers’ market, so everything is really cheap. Everyone is really friendly too, it’s really nice.
I know that where you were in Melbourne you had a studio around the corner from your home. Do you still have it?
ZO: At the moment I’m still renting it. It’s nice to have when I go into the city, but for the most part I do everything out here.
Are there many other people around near where you live, or are you on acreage?
ZO: We live in a little cut-de-sac with four different farms on it. The house I live in is owned by the couple next door, they’re an old school Dutch farmer couple. They give us some of the food that they grow.
That sounds nice. It seems like you have a real little community around you.
ZO: It’s great getting to know the neighbours, everyone has different skills. If shit hits the fan, they can help you out [laughs].
So, you mentioned you have a lot more space to set up your instruments; is it kind of a jam room or do you have a little studio there?
ZO: We have construction happening at the moment, there’s builders there, so our house is in a bit of disarray. Eventually one of the rooms that are being built will have my music stuff in it, but at the moment I just have mobile setups around the house whenever I can.
My dad is here. The plan was that I was going to move in once he moved out, but because everything is the way it is at the moment he can’t exactly go anywhere. He was going to Western Australia. I’m living with him now. It’s been good, we’ve been jamming together. He hasn’t played music in a long time; he was playing all the time when I was growing up.
Because of the harsh lockdowns in Victoria, you didn’t get to see your family for quite a while, right?
ZO: No, I didn’t get to really.
There seems to be a sense of new beginnings for you right now.
ZO: It does feel like that. It’s also my thirtieth year! It was my birthday at the end of August.
Happy (belated) Birthday! Did it feel like a milestone for you?
ZO: No. I’ve sort of felt thirty for ages [laughs]. It was more a feeling of, finally!
What were the things that made you feel thirty already?
ZO: [Laughs]. I’ve always just been rounding up since I was around twenty-six. I thought I started looking thirty!
ZO: Let’s hope it stays at thirty [laughs], even when it gets to forty, I’ll just stay here at this age.
I know that feeling. For me as I’ve gotten older, I kind of stopped counting the birthday number and focus on doing the things that I love and hanging out with the people I love, spending my time on the things that bring me a lot of joy.
ZO: That’s exactly it. I get to do a lot more of that out here, which I’ve been really, really enjoying. It’s nice taking things slow, but at the same time I’m still making and playing more music. The days feel like they go a lot longer. It can get a bit suffocating or claustrophobic in the city. Once you add social media on top of that, it can get a bit much.
I definitely feel that. You sound so much lighter, happier and brighter. I feel like your new record A Shrug Of The Shoulders has that feeling too.
ZO: That’s good, I’m glad to hear.
Of course there is still your humour and sardonic-ness in there.
ZO: Yeah. I feel like it’s a strange one. It’s the longest one I’ve ever done. It’s the first album that I’ve made in the last decade that doesn’t have a synthesiser on it. It’s a backlog of guitar songs that I had for ages. I wanted to record them in an instant manner with the band. I’m not unhappy or happy with the way that it turned out, the name really is how I feel about the album. It’s not to say that I am indifferent about it, I still put effort into it. I wanted it to be a bit more rough around the edges. I didn’t want it to be all glossy and Hollywood-feeling, I wanted it to be the opposite.
So, you wanted it to be a bit more understated?
ZO: Yeah, that’s the word I’m looking for, thank you. Understated, and there’s nothing sort of punk about it, but I just that more DIY-feeling. With me, the more you make the more you feel like you have to be of a certain standard or fidelity, I wanted to throw a spanner in the works for myself so I could clear the plate again. If that makes sense?
Yeah, it totally does. After doing a record like Peanut Butter Traffik Jam that was more glossy, it makes sense to want to go the other way and do something opposite.
ZO: It had started turning out that way, that I do a synth-y one and then a guitar one, then a synth-y one. The one that I’m working on now for Traffik Island is a synth-y one again.
You’re already working on the next one?
ZO: With A Shrug Of The Shoulders some of the songs are quite old. I am working on the next one, but it’s not like I’m a workaholic, I just slowly work away. That’s the good thing about having guitar songs and then synthesiser songs, there’s always stuff there to go.
What’s the difference between the two for you?
ZO: With the guitar songs, I’ll sit there with a guitar and write lyrics and work lyrics out with the chords. It’s a straight up and down old way of writing songs. The synthesiser stuff, I don’t have anything written before I start making it, I make it as I’m going in the music program.
Do you look for different sounds or start with a loop?
ZO: Yeah, I might have a drum loop that I like or I might just keep fishing around until a sound sounds cool and sparks an idea. The synthesiser stuff is good in that way because I never really feel like I’m running out of ideas with it.
It’s totally endless. When I sit down at our synths we have set up, I can be there forever. You could sit there for days, weeks, and forget to eat cos you’re down a rabbit hole of sounds. There’s the sounds and then the variations you can make to the sound.
ZO: Exactly! [laughs]. It really is. It’s probably what I enjoy doing the most out of the two styles. The guitar stuff is much more rewarding though to me because it takes more planning, effort and time.
Do you think part of it is that you’re more comfortable with doing acoustic music, having done it for so long?
ZO: I’m not sure. I go through stages of being comfortable with the guitar stuff. Sometimes I’m not very comfortable doing it.
ZO: Yeah. Especially when I play solo acoustic shows—it’s like a bad dream [laughs].
I guess being on stage with just your voice and an acoustic guitar might make you feel a little more vulnerable than if you had a band with you.
ZO: Yeah. It is really naked. There’s good things about it, if you make a mistake sometimes you can cover to up easier and it doesn’t matter if you miss a verse. Other times, if your voice breaks or something, it can feel like the most embarrassing thing in the whole world [laughs]. I know when I see bands, I do like to see the human touches.
That’s one of the things that I love about your new album Shrug… there’s little fragments and character touches, things like the background chatter and crack of a beer. What was the thought behind including these things?
ZO: 40% of the songs, I’d written lyrics first without any music. I wanted to work backwards. I was, for lack of a better word, scoring the lyrics. It was great doing it that way, some of those songs are the most enjoyable for me, the more lyrical ones. Along with that came the background effects and noises compliment the lyrics as well. I wanted to have it all in there so it would be like sitting in a room with us at a rehearsal—all the chatter, all the beer cracking or there’s cars driving by in the background of the songs. Leah [Senior] is talking at the end of the album.
I thought it was Leah! At the end of ‘New Leaf’ there’s a female voice saying, “I thought that was good.”
ZO: Leah sang the harmonies on that one.
Nice! You mentioned before that you wanted to do the songs pretty instantly when you recorded them. I understand that they were learnt on the day by the band and you played them five or so times before recording them. Did you do it like this to capture a spontaneity or have that fresh sounding spirit for the listener?
ZO: Not the whole album was learnt on the day, some songs we had been playing for a little bit. Lots of it was quite fresh when we learnt it. It was mainly because of necessity. All the stuff with Traffik Island is always out of necessity. I’m super blessed to have those guys playing with me, I love how they all play and they bring so much to it. We all came together and started playing out of necessity and living together. I was going to play a solo gig and realised that I didn’t want to beforehand, so I asked Myles [Cody] and Jack [Kong] to play. A year later, I moved in with Jesse and he had a day off work and I asked him if he wanted to sit in on piano at a practice. Every thing I do with Traffik Island isn’t mega planned ahead. Again, I’m not complacent with it, I like things to be spontaneous; it’s the nature of the project.
Can you tell me about the joy of playing with everyone again?
ZO: It’s always a real pleasure. The song ‘Papers’ on the album is improv, but it’s actually four or five different takes of the same same motif we jammed on and I stuck them all together in a collage style. That song, as ridiculous as it is, was the most fun for me on the whole album because there were no plans and everyone played what they liked; we were having fun and laughing while we were doing it. It’s always a real pleasure to play with those guys.
What song on the album was a little trickier to do?
ZO: For whatever reason, the second song ‘Do You, Don’t You’. We’ve been playing that one for a while live, but it’s just one of those things, sometimes when you go to record something on the day you can’t do it. It took us a while.
We’re premiering ‘Do You, Don’t You’.
ZO: That one is quite old. I wrote it just after Nature Strip, before even starting any of the Peanut Butter album. I did those two chords at the start, liked it. I wanted to make one with lots of chords, a garage-rock opera [laughs].
Because it had this obviously sixties inspired old dusty garage-y sound, lyrically I went down the typical path; all those sixties garage songs are about teenage relationships [laughs]. That was the natural thing that I felt like singing about. The words on that one was more of an afterthought, it was more of an impression of the music that I grew up listening to.
You mentioned before that the album wasn’t really punk, but I think a lot the songs have that spirit, like ‘F.T.U.’ Rather than fuck the world, it’s fuck the universe!
ZO: [Laughs] Yeah. That one was written on a Monday morning, I wasn’t feeling too crash hot that day and I thought about, what is the most angry thing that I could say? That was one of the ones where I wrote down all of the lyrics first and made music around it.
I feel like that’s a song a lot of people will be able to relate to, we all have those kinds of days! You took it that next level with ‘fuck the universe’! [laughter].
ZO: [Laughs]. I’ve always felt a bit iffy about that song and wasn’t sure if I’d put it on there.
I’m so glad you did. It made me happy hearing someone else gets those thoughts sometimes too.
ZO: Aww thank you. That’s good!
I love the piano on that song.
ZO: That’s Jesse, the piano master. It’s amazing, he’ll play some chords and just do all of these beautiful things and flourish and bring all of this colour out in a song.
It’s so emotive. I guess moments like that also speaks to the joy about collaborating with other people.
ZO: Yeah, especially Jesse [Williams]. He really, really is a master. I didn’t really know Jesse or Leah before moving in with them. They had a room up for grabs and I was blessed enough to be chosen [laughs]. Those guys are just super talented musicians. It was a nice house to live in, it was always inspiring and encouraging to make things. Jesse has been a big help with Traffik Island. He recorded all of Shrug… and the majority of Nature Strip in his backroom, which was nice.
Other than piano flourishes, what else does he bring to the recording?
ZO: He plays guitar all over the album too. He was that missing piece, without him we were jamming as a three-piece. It was a lot more raw then. I remember the second that he started playing with us at rehearsal, the rest of us looked at each other and it was like, “Whoa! We sound so much more like a real band now!” [laughs]. He glued it all together. It was really something. He’s a master recorder as well; he really knows what he’s doing and really takes the time. I was wondering how it would come out after the last album, being so different. I’m happy with it and I’m glad that I’m going to have it out and I’m able to move onto another one.
The song you mentioned before ‘New Leaf’ is a really great song. It feels really introspective. I love the lyric: Turning over a new leaf, what does that even mean?
Was that another day where you were like, why life? Why?
ZO: There were a couple of “why?” moments with writing these songs. It was written over a long time, some would be from 2019, even end of 2018, and some were written this year—it spans a lot. I’ve obviously gone through a lot of things in that time.
What kinds of things?
ZO: Nothing crazier than anyone else. A lot happens in three years. It feels like a strange one to me, it doesn’t feel super cohesive, but it also sort of does, I guess because I made them all [laughs]. Usually I’d do overdubs into oblivion, typically there would be synthesisers on it, for this one I didn’t want to do that, so it’s pretty raw to my ears.
I was speaking with Jamie the other day and he told me a little about making it. The whole concept of it is really cool—33 photobooth strips taken in consecutive order.
ZO: It took a fair bit of planning because we wanted to be able to take the photos and lay it out on the table and have the album cover there. We were going to do it individually and make it up on the computer, but we though we’ll go the whole nine yards and do it the way we did.
Jamie mentioned that it was a funny and hectic shoot.
ZO: It was! We went there at night time to avoid as many people as possible. It was a busy night though, so it was hard, we had these giant letters with us and all our stuff. We did one shoot of it and then took the slides upstairs, there was a couple of letters that weren’t ideal, we had to run back downstairs and take some more. We had hundreds of dollars in gold coins. It was crazy. I was very happy how it turned out. It was this old photo booth that had been there a long time. The same guy services it, so we got to show him the album cover, which was cool; he was really happy that we used it.
Besides the next Traffik Island album you mentioned you were working on is there anything else in the works?
ZO: There is that one in the works, which is back to Peanut Butter… there’s going to be singing all over it this time. I want to try and blend the more song-iness of the guitar songs and have the production of the synth-y ones.
What song have you most recently been working on?
ZO: This morning I was doing a remix for a band from Melbourne called Mug.
We love Mug!
ZO: I’d actually never heard them until I got an email asking me to do the remix. I really enjoyed them so I was more than happy to give it a go.
I know that you’ve done a few remixes now; how do you approach doing them?
ZO: It’s different every time. One thing I do try to do though, is that I won’t listen to the original song more than once or sometimes I won’t even listen to the whole song. In the past I have listened to the song too much and the remix I ended up with, wasn’t as different as I would have liked it to be. A lot of the times people like to use the stems when doing the remixes, but I don’t like doing that; I like getting the final mix of their song, listen to it once or half way through and then go from there. I never want to make it too similar.
What have you been listening to lately?
ZO: I finally set up my record player again, my records have been away for a little while. I’ve just been going through them. With my dad around, he’s keen to go through my records and listen to stuff. I’ve been showing him lots of things that have been my favourite things and trying to get him used to those sounds. He hated jazz a few weeks ago, and now he is coming around to it [laughs]. I first played him Can on my thirtieth birthday and he was not interested, but the other night it was his birthday and we listened to the again and after twenty minutes he was like, “wow! This is really good!” He’s fallen in love with Hawkwind all over again; he hadn’t listened to them in over twenty-five years. He wants to listen to them all the time now again, while he’s driving trucks, that’s his job.
That would be perfect driving music!
ZO: That’s what he said! He said he wanted to get Space Ritual and put it on USB so he could listen to it in the truck and just drive all day to it [laughs].
You mentioned there was always music around growing up; did your dad get you into music?
ZO: Yeah. When I was really young we lived on a farm in New Zealand. He played in a thrash metal band. When you’re a little kid, there’s nothing cooler than pointy guitars and thrash metal riffs; everyone had skull t-shirts. He definitely inspired me to want to be in a band. We grew up with [Black] Sabbath on all the time, passively I had no choice but to like Sabbath [laughs]. Who doesn’t like them? It’s very likeable music.
How did you make the jump from Sabbath to 60s folk music?
ZO: [Laughs]. I grew up around lots of heavy metal. Megadeath do a cover of ‘Anarchy in the U.K.’, I always remember that from my youth, pre-school and primary school. One day in high school I was watching a documentary on SBS and the Sex Pistols came on and did ‘Anarchy in the U.K.’ and I was reminded of the Megadeath version. From that I got into 70s punk and you keep going back and you find The Kinks, once you get into that the 60s opened up, especially 60s garage. I got into a lot of 60s stuff though garage music. My grandma bought me Beatles CDs; people are lying if they say they don’t like Beatles songs [laughs]. Personally I think a lot of garage stuff from the 60s is more punk than what actually got called punk in the next decade. Any genre or sub-genre that exists has it’s roots in the 60s; you can trace everything back to there. As far as I can tell, it’s all there.
Anything else you like to share with us about your new album?
ZO: It’s coming out in November, around the same time as Jake [Alien Nosejob] is releasing his album. The last two Traffik Island albums came out at the same time as Alien Nosejob albums, which is nice.
Low Life are back with third LP From Squats To Lots: The Agony And XTC Of Low Life! A rich and complex album, that has vitality and backbone with an air of cool and restraint. There’s spades of texture and unfiltered emotion on this shining record. Gimmie recently caught up with Low Life’s drummer Greg Alfaro.
How are you? What’s life been like lately for you? What did you get up to today?
GREG ALFARO: All things considered, pretty damn good thanks. No band stuff for ages though, which sucks, just busy parent life. I’m far from the perfect father/role model type but I’m still learning things every day. There’s lots of lockdown home-schooling, work from home, trampoline sessions, feeding chooks, storytimes, watering gardens, kicking footballs, Lego, enforcing screen time limits, peacekeeping, nurturing and yelling, Dad shit.
Today was chill though, got first Vax jab, so come what may.
Low Life are from Warrang/Sydney; didyou grew up there? What was your neighbourhood like then and how have you seen it change?
GA: I actually grew up in a housing commish suburb down the freeway in the Dharawal/Illawarra. It was rife with the type of intergenerational criminality and mental illness you’d find in pockets of struggle all over the land. It was the typical BMX, bush and beach childhood mostly, but I do remember lots of overt and casual racism towards us wogs and Indigenous folk from the, I suppose, terminal bogan kids (Westies to us then) who didn’t know any better, and their older, scarier (to me) generations. Some wised up, worked hard and moved on from all that, some even became cherished friends, but most didn’t. Fun childhood, just fraught with bit of paranoia.
I do remember lots of family trips to places like Fairfield, Liverpool, Redfern, Bondi for South American festivals, functions and family friends sleep overs. My uncle had a band so music was central to those Sydney trips.
Sydney skateparks, record stores and eventually gigs featured a lot as I got older. Shows around all the ‘live music mecca’ venues from the Annandale over to Selinas. For me this wasn’t in some classic yobbo, beer drenched, oz rock, heyday nostalgia terms (that vibe was still around). I was just out of high school, so heading up to watch proper weirdo local and overseas bands most weekends was a real eye and ear opener. The 90s were also way darker and more violent in my recollection than the pre-pandemic decade or so. Young and winging it with a lot of funny and heavy ‘firsts’ to discover.
These days (or before lockdowns) there’s still the proper weirdo bands and characters, just seems everyones nicer to everyone’s faces. There’s no real pub circuit and its punch-ons (no great loss). More warehouses and DIY shows by dedicated fans and the odd friendly swindling scumbag. Still heaps of great young and middle aged bands too.
Recently on the LL Instagram you guys posted a photo of a “pseudo squat” on Shepherd Lane in Chippendale where LL was born; what do you remember about the place?
GA: That was just before I joined Lowlife. I did work with Mitch & Cristian & was in a different band with them around that crazy time too(2009-ish?), so I was all too familiar with that energy. I just don’t remember personally ever going to that particular house. From what I’ve gathered it sounds just like places I’ve lived and squatted in(some with Cristian) where decadent, deviant behaviour festered and thrived. But also a special place where deep, lifelong friendships and grudges form and intensify.
How did you first discover music?
GA: Remember that ‘Moscow!Moscow!’ song? Where the blokes are doing the Fonzie dance? It’s wild. That’s my first musical memory.
When did you start playing drums and who or what first inspired you to play? Was there ever any other option for you?
GA: My uncle’s wog band had this exotic looking drum with a proper black and white cow skin, looked like it had been violently hacked off its rump somewhere in the Andes and plonked straight on this big arse bass drum. This thing fascinated me as a kid and I would whack the shit out of it with gusto every chance I got. From there I was hooked and would tap out beats and make whimsical childish songs on and about anything and everything.
I kept tapping away, absent-mindedly encoding lots of 80s metal, pop and hip hop I’d hear as a kid for many years before I properly started giving two shits about bands. I’m pretty sure it happened one day when my older bro and his mates must have been smoking some of that gold-stamped red-cellophane hash that was everywhere back then. Because the dodgy fuckers put on The Doors (as they do). With those vapours swirling around I remember zoning intently into the drums on ‘Peace Frog’, a simple beat doing some heavy lifting on the galloping rhythm. After that, they probably greened out, and I started taking drums slightly more seriously.
Punk & hardcore stuff got me going faster and more intense. Fuck, I even tried and failed those blast beats, but that shit is unnatural to me, more human torture ordeal than drumming. But hats off if you can be bothered learning it.
I’ve played different instruments in different bands over the years too, but plodding along on drums is my favourite thank you very much.
How did you find your local music community? What was the first local show you ever went to?
GA: Kinda inevitable, music was so linked with our skating so much back then, but also a bit of blind luck. We just happened to grow up where some older friends were getting amongst the Sydney and Melbourne punk underground scenes, which spurred us on. We sputtered through attempts at various covers and line ups until we got it going for ourselves. Eventually we’d get our own songs and shows on the scene. Sometimes our friends would invite us onto their bills. Been at it ever since.
Pretty sure first show was ‘Proton Energy Pills’ and ‘Social Outcasts’ at Thirroul Skating Rink/Skatepark around 1990-ish. They were our older mates and had 7″ records so were totally legit to us. I remember seeing old VHS copies of ‘Decline..’ some ‘Target’ vids, ‘Repoman’ & even ‘Thrashin’ and the cluster of punk clips on Rage. We were doing our post pubescent aping of all that action down the front. Pretty funny memory. One of the records was actually sponsored by the governments ‘Drug Offensive’ harm reduction campaign, which we all found utterly hilarious. Holy shit, if only they knew the completely unhinged animals they’d sponsored.
I understand that Iggy Pop’s albums Lust For Life and The Idiot were reference points sonically for Low Life’s new album, From Squats To Lots: The Agony And XTC Of Low Life; in what ways? What do you appreciate about those records?
GA: Probably were, but I just can’t remember anyone mentioning it or writing that in the album notes. It’s been ages and too much has happened since. I can really only remember Killing Joke’s name being tossed around somewhere in the haze.
But so they should be reference points, they’re amazing albums. I think there’s definite nods to them, and I appreciate shitloads.
I knew this duo had form because my younger self heard Bowie’s polarising mix of ‘Raw Power’ first. That hellride became an instant all time favourite.
I heard ‘Lust for Life’ next and that immediately raced for the title, just via different neural pathways. The famous usual suspect songs are lauded with good reason. They are perfect anti pop masterpieces that manage to spark the intellect and warm the genitals. Thats some feat.
But songs like ‘Sixteen’ ‘Some Weird Sin’ ‘Turn Blue’ ‘Fall in Love With Me’, they carved slow & sinister routes into my subconscious, they’re still carving. This record has often been a flaming torch in a dark cave for me. The cover alone should cheer any sad fuck up.
I heard ‘The Idiot’ last. This record took longer to seep deep into my bones. Big departure from what I’d grown up on to that point, but I trusted their instincts. Before actually hearing it, I’d read in Iggys ‘I Need More’ book that they were mostly Bowie arrangements with Iggy chiming in his nihilistic poetry and ad libs. I thought I was ready for it. So when ‘Sister Midnight’ kicked in like the depraved evil twin of ‘Fame’, it was clear it was gonna be an awkward journey through Bowie’s coke-ravaged musical psyche, just with Iggy, fresh from the asylum, as the (mis)trusted co-pilot. I love how its cold monotony almost smothers it’s funk pulse (Low Life turf), but it’s there, as is Iggy’s, reanimated from his death tripping scumfuck years, just without all the mania pushing his voice to its limits. Yep, less was finally more here (more Low Life vibe too). The rest of the album stays icy, but with beautiful, fleeting hooks on ‘Baby’ and ‘China Girl’.
‘Nightclubbing’ still washes over like a heavily tranquillised cabaret number, squinting west through a glory hole in the old Iron Curtain at all the fake, sexy madness swanning around. Uncomfortable, but at peace, piling out in its own warm fluids. Great song.
‘Mass Production’ is an almighty closer. Building and writhing into almost David Lynch creep territory. An unnerving loop of self loathing & cruelty (LL anyone?) and oppressive, unrelenting head-in-a-greasy-vice synth that essentially does the job of squeezing any remnants of Dum-Dum-Motor-City guitar muscle out of Iggy (for some decades anyway) and any poor, unsuspecting, punker-wanna-be (young me included) who sat through a listen, axe at the ready, impatiently waiting in vain for some kind, any kind of ‘Extra’, ‘Rawer’ or ‘Furthermore’ fucking power. It’s brave. Glad I persisted with it.
Each listen still astounds, and it’s still casting a long shadow over the rich post punk underground from mid 70s Berlin all over the anti mainstream music world & my feeble brain. I just can’t help but imagine influential bands like… ahem… Einsteurzende Neubauten, Tuxedomoon, Wire, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Boys Next Door, Warsaw, Big-blah-Black blah fucking blah etc, all having the initial fire cracker lit under their pimply post punk arses upon hearing ‘The Idiot’ back then.
And so they should of, because despite Iggy’s penchant for self-sabotage back then, and Bowie’s possible own attempt on his careers life with ‘The Idiot’, it’s still an amazing fucking album. So yeah, shitloads.
It’s up to each listener who gives enough of a flying fuck, to decide if we’ve summoned anything sonically from those records. I certainly won’t be dwelling on it, they poisoned my blood years ago. But from what I’ve heard so far of the new album, and remember making it, it definitely feels like they’ve been stirred through the LL cauldron of ideas. Mitch is a lifer, no hand-brake, always stirring. Next!
The album’s title borrows a little from the Irving Stone 1985 novel title, The Agony and Ecstasy, about Italian Renaissance artist, Michelangelo; how did it work its way into your title?
GA: Hahaha, It does? Never read it.
The boys may or may not have a deep appreciation for that book that they drew the inspiration from, I don’t know or care really. Sounds interesting though. I just figured it was a common enough relatable phrase that rolls off the tongue nicely? Innit? Triumph/Tragedy, Comedy/Horror, Pleasure/Pain, Mushrooms/Manure, it’s all part of the calm and the chaos. It all suitably applies to the Low Life saga over our lifespan that’s for bloody sure.
What has been the most standout moment of both agony and ecstasy for you from LL’s journey so far?
GA: There are reams to draw from here, but I think the ill-fated USA tour some years back perfectly encapsulates both.
Imagine all that organising, booking, payment, anticipation, excitement & long arse flights. Only for poor Salmon to be detained in immigration limbo with Guatemalan gang bangers and unceremoniously shafted back across the ocean. After the initial confusion, stress & shock, and after it was clear he was home safe, we just accepted our cards. We were in America and we weren’t playing any gigs. So naturally we pivoted to glass half full mode. Met old friends over there and made new ones. Had a ball.
How long did you guys spend writing for The Agony And XTC..? Is there a particular way that your songs often form/come together?
GA: Maybe a year, Mitch had half the song ideas mostly worked out not long after Downer Edn came out. But different things stretched it out, and even standard band stuff like getting a jam locked in can take us ages. I remember getting a lot of these new songs started around practising sets for upcoming shows, then we’d run out of time. I really felt underdone before finally recording this one too. Covid wiped out heaps of preparation time. We only had a few proper band sessions where we got to write stuff, flesh out ideas and refine them where necessary. But I felt like I personally just needed a few more ahead of recording my drum parts. The guys, bless them, would sweetly reassure me it was sounding fine though. Liars. Normally we would have done just enough without over cooking it.
What’s the song ‘Hammer & The Fist’ about?
GA: I’m so sorry but I haven’t even heard that song in ages. I still haven’t received the record, Cristian’s got ’em all. I only have scant memory of a slowish beat with a sombre bass run, no guitar or vox. So fuck knows what it’s exactly about yet. I do have my own suspicions about ‘Hammer’ & ‘Fists’, and they ain’t pretty. Mitch insists it’s all open to listener interpretation anyway, so choose your own misadventure I suppose, yeah sorry, maybe just ask Mitch?
How did song ‘CZA’ get started?
GA: I did hear a rough cut of this with some Samoh footage early this year. Dizzy started up that riff and it sizzled straight away. Yuta and I jumped onto it quick smart, not wanting to lag on the flavour he was frying up. Cristian rumbled in. I do remember pissing ourselves laughing at all the backing vox on this one, because Salmon had put on some suitably absurd, dark but hilarious lyrics to harden it’s crust.
Which song on the new record means the most to you? Why do you have a fondness for it?
GA: So far ‘Collect Calls’. This tempo is right in my sweet spot and the mood kinda shifts gears quickly into some unexpected guitar twists. Like that Crossroads-Battle of the Hot Licks duel, but with Johnny ‘Dizzy’ Marr vs Greg ‘Yuta’ Sage. Sounds like the lyrics could be about a troubled soul who isn’t completely detached from family and friends, but possibly wanting to detach from a desperate reality? Your mate? I dunno, ask Mitch. But they are kinda harrowing and beautifully delivered by him and his sister Beth.
I only heard a mix of some songs together while my son was in a major surgery in October 2020, which was a welcome distraction. Then nothing for ages while dealing with all that in hospital. When we finally got him settled home in December 2020, the Passport video came out with ‘Collect Calls’. Hearing that song in that video really snapped me out the hospital reality that had been all consuming and all around grim. That song reminds now reminds me of starting a very different phase of life with great hope for his recovery & future. Ripping skating clip and a beautiful song.
The album was recorded last year with Mickey Grossman (who also did your previous release Downer Edn and Oily Boys’ Cro Memory Grin); What was the process like for you? What can you recall of the recording sessions?
GA: Disjointed & gruelling, but fun. With no practice for months, I did about 10+ songs in about four hours and was exhausted, pretty out of it and just plain struggling. The vocal sessions were cool though, just back to clowning around with the gang again, yelling & hooting funny backing vox and improper dining. Mickey rules, he seemed to innately know what we were doing more than we did sometimes, and had more patience with us than we probably deserved. He is a treasure. Luv him.
One of the overarching themes of the new collection of songs is the celebration of resilience. I know that personally you and your family went through a lot last year with your beautiful boy Vincent having an awful accident while bushwalking. How is everyone doing now? What are some things that have helped you with your resilience and helped you get through this challenging time?
GA: Doing great now, just got the all clear for all physical activities again but the nature of a brain injury means possible future challenges. He is totally still the sweet, fun loving and mischievous little boy he always was. We were lucky on many different fronts with this outcome because it is clear that after a whole year that his selfless nature and bright personality are still all there. That is probably the biggest joy and relief to us all. Getting him and his brothers back to the school environment amongst friends is next in his recovery.
His strength recharged my resilience when it got dark for me. I can still be a nervous wreck around him in some situations too, but having the family, friends and band behind me, random texts, big and small gestures, sympathetic smiles and hugs, lovely meals cooked and delivered, rides to and from the hospital, babysitting, was all so important. All this support from family, friends and even strangers will be appreciated for as long as I’m breathing. Thanks again gang..X
Can you share with us a funny Low Life-related moment that still makes you laugh when it comes to mind?
GA: Yuta the scooter rebooter cracking the public scooter code in Adelaide and shredding down the boulevard towards our show was hilarious. We ended up getting fed so much food off the venue before playing that it actually ruined us.
That may sound silly, and it is, but it stands out to me because it happened in a heightened emotional time just after some close friends had passed, and just before Covid stopped everything. This bizarre inter-zone period in time and space also coincided with a super rare Low Life purple patch of gig momentum (about 3 gigs!) that was focused and fun, with plenty more on the horizon.
That and the last Maggotfest featuring Coco-the astounding human kick pedal, that was funny.
Turns out these were our last two real life, beer drenched, oz rock, sweaty gigs.
Why is music important to you?
GA: Wow, again, reams.
Being preoccupied with Vincent’s recovery in and after hospital, Covid lockdowns, home schooling and the general pandemonium of family life within this whole shitstorm, has just meant that music hasn’t been important at all for so long now.
But this interview has brought it all home for me. I’ve dribbled on heaps, so I’ll try to keep it short.
It’s been a direct portal and a soundtrack to countless worlds, perspectives, memories, emotions and the odd nightmare. Creating music with friends (and kids now), and expelling all the energy, good and bad, through it. That’s important and shitloads of fun for me. Hopefully do it again ASAP.
Aborted Tortoise return with new LP – A Album – their first full-length since 2017’s lauded An Beach. Today we’re premiering the first single ‘The Sun’ along with its super fun video. Gimmie caught up with the band to find out about it all.
What’s life been like lately? What did you get up to today?
ALEX: Been great thanks! I recently moved to the country about two hours south of Perth and it is bloody serene. I’ve set up a budget studio in the new place and it’s been super liberating being able to demo tracks whenever I want without worrying about annoying the neighbours cos they’re so far away. Today I drove back home from Perth after a wicked Halloween party on Saturday night with our sibling band Ghoulies. Had a heinous HJ’s lunch on the way back and I feel crook.
What’s the best and worst things that have happened to you in the last week?
CHARLES: Best: The Unknowns dropped a hell good ‘Monster Mash’ cover. Worst: One of my students drew me a picture of what I would look like if I had “good hair”. The pigeon out the front of my house has not returned to its nest and I’m panicking.
You’re announcing the new Aborted Tortoise album; what can you tell us about it? What’s it called? How would you describe it?
CHARLES: It is called A Album, we would describe it as A Album.
ALEX: Correct. It’s got 11 songs and clocks in at around 23 minutes, therefore it is technically A Album. Ultimately, it’s just an attempt to remind people we are still a band and want to remain in the optimum position in people’s alphabetically sorted record collections. It’s going to be out through Bargain Bin Records in Australia, Bachelor Records in Europe and Under The Gun Records in the US. All three labels are amazing so it’s been sick to work with them all at once!
I understand that you’ve had the album recorded for a while now. What did the writing process for it look like? What are some of the main things that inspired it lyrically?
ALEX: Yeah, we recorded it a very long time ago, maybe December 2018? That’s fucked to think about, I didn’t realise it had been that long. The writing process was more or less the same as the last LP. No real concept or grand ideas, just a collection of unrelated songs that we had built up that needed to be recorded. As such it’s pretty all over the place in terms of subject matter. Anything from being shot into The Sun, being born, being consumed by ooze, and sanctimonious bozos is fair game in this wretched band.
What track was the most fun to write? What made it so?
ALEX: Definitely ‘Amniotic’, the one about being born (obviously). That one stemmed from a story one of our friends told us. They knew someone in primary school who swore blind they clearly remembered being born which is cursed. To us that was the funniest thing we’d ever heard so we all wrote the lyrics in the studio during the LP session around the idea of being born as a fully self-aware human. Lyrically it’s our most collaborative effort so far, we just sat in the control room and wrote it in about 15 minutes.
CHARLES: We have never had particularly clever or meaningful lyrics, but we hit new lows when we write together haha. The entire ending segment was improvised on the day of recording and just got stupider and more ludicrous with each take. It was very self-indulgent, but we had a lot of fun.
Sonically, is it a continuation of your sound on last release Scale Model Subsistence Vendor 7” or did you try some new things this time around? Did you have any reference points from the outset of the creative process?
ALEX: We wrote Scale Model Subsistence Vendor over a year later than the new LP, so everything is a bit all over the place chronologically. I’d say both releases we’ve pushed pretty hard to make the interplay between the guitars more interesting rather than just having Tom and Charles both play the same part at the same time. I can’t say we had any super direct reference points but at that time we were all listening to the first two Uranium Club LPs so that’s probably rubbed off in an indirect way. There’s a wee bit of keyboard on a couple of the tracks too which is something that we’ve been keen to do for a while now which is new for us.
You recorded previous Aborted Tortoise releases, starting with the Do Not Resuscitate 7”; did you record the new album? What did you enjoy most about the process?
ALEX: Yeah, so I recorded the last two 7”s but the new LP was recorded by Brod Madden Scott at Tunafish studio. He recorded An Beach as well. He’s a really great engineer and guy so everything went super smoothly. Recording yourself is a blessing and a curse because on the one hand there’s less pressure as it’s just the band in the same room and there are no financial constraints. At the same time though worrying about 1000 different things on top of needing to actually play properly can be a bit stressful. It is much easier in the sense that you can get things to sound exactly how you want though without things getting lost in translation or without external influences muddying stuff up. At the end of the day though I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing so we decided to record the LP properly with Brod and I reckon that was a very wise decision.
We’re premiering the new song ‘The Sun’ along with its film clip; what’s the song about?
TOM: The song is about The Sun, but also the idea of getting launched into The Sun as a way to die. We’ve also had this idea of being the first person on The Sun, as a kind of milestone for humanity. This song expresses that sentiment.
Where did the idea for the clip come from?
ALEX: We were kinda stuck for ideas for a fair while but ultimately decided on depicting the band playing amongst various sun-scapes. Initially the plan was to go out to some sand dunes or a salt lake on a hot sunny day and film there but the weather has been uncharacteristically shitty for Perth this time of year, so The Sun hasn’t been its usual reliable self. Instead, we opted to go the safer green screen route with our friend Thomas Cahill (Bunkyvids) who did a fantastic job rounding up us idiots and teasing out a semi-coherent video.
What do you remember from filming it?
CHARLES: Skeletons and John not helping pack up.
ALEX: We only filmed it maybe two weeks ago so it’s all still fresh in my mind. Lots of skeletons and Crown lager (as a treat). We spent over $200 on KMART skeletons. Money well spent.
Like most bands, Aborted Tortoise haven’t had the chance to play live much in the last couple of years. Last we spoke Connor was overseas in Germany, and when he finally returned you started rehearsing again. You played a show in July this year; is there a part of the experience that you’d completely forgotten about?
ALEX: Yeah, the whole Covid thing obviously really fucked things up. Connor had moved to Europe so we were taking a break from live shows as is. Though we did have grand plans to meet him over there at some point for a tour but obviously the pandemic rendered that impossible. Connor ended up coming back though and once everything calmed down a bit in WA we did manage to sneak in a couple shows around our limited lockdowns. We have made a conscious decision to keep live shows a bit sparse though, at least until touring is more feasible. That July show was really rad, we were just stoked people still gave a fuck enough to come watch us because for a while there I think people assumed we were no longer a band. We had a ripper night though and would love to play a couple more shows here and there. Playing live is always the best part of being in a band.
Have you ever gotten nervous before you’ve played a show?
CHARLES: I think everyone has unless they’re a filthy liar. I still take nervous poos pre show.
What’s your favourite release from this year so far? What do you appreciate about it?
ALEX: Aw geez that’s a tough one. Can’t say I’ve been listening to a whole lot of new music lately which is a bit stupid. Though we have all been religiously listening to The Spits’ VI. Kinda cheating but it came out 366 days ago today so technically counts? Anyways, that album is unstoppable. The lyrics have to be the greatest shit I ever heard but that’s what you expect from The Spits. They scratch an itch that no other band can personally.
What’s five things that have made you really happy this year?
ALEX: 1. We’re all crypto gremlins now so Shiba Inu’s recent spike has been nice. 2. Connor bought a sailing boat recently. 3. Connor and I recently started whittling wood so have been trading ideas on how to carve spoons and the like. 4. The prospect of a return to near normalcy (???) 5. Adding to our plastic skeleton collections.
‘The Sun’ is the first single taken from Aborted Tortoise’s second LP, A Album. A Album is out on November 8 through Bargain Bin Records (Australia), Bachelor Records (Europe) and Under The Gun Records (United States).
New playlist for October is up now for your listening pleasure! This months features songs from screensaver, Dr. Sure’s Unusual Practice, Laughing Gear, Hearts and Rockets, Ausecuma Beats, Power Supply, Bitumen, Alien Nosejob, Springtime, and more.
Cook Craig returns with Pipe-eye release number four, Dream Themes. The record is adventurous and playful, crafting stories without needing words, in the tradition of the greatest soundtracks and Library Music, but with his own twist. Gimmie chatted with Cook in-depth for an hour about Pipe-eye’s beginnings, songwriting, his creative process, new passions that emerged in lockdown, finding a love of jazz in his “twilight years”, we get a little peak into his home life, and of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard touring. Today we’re premiering the song and clip for first single ‘Ancient 5G Aliens’ along with an extract of the chat; the full interview will appear in our next print zine, Gimmie Issue 5.
Where did the title of your new album Dream Themes come from?
COOK CRAIG: I had the idea that all of the songs on the new album would be theme songs, instrumental. I wanted to match them with the song titles, that they were weird dreams; they weren’t real TV shows. I thought it just sounded cool too.
It does have a nice ring to it—Dreeeammm Themmmes!
CC: [Laughs] Yeah! And, I googled it and there weren’t many things called dream themes.
Did this collection of songs come from dreams?
CC: Kind of. Just wacky day dreams. Day dreams about my cat and my dog [laughs]. ‘Detective Dogington’ is about my dog, Homer. He’s really snoopy and walks around investigating things. ‘Martina Catarina’ is about my cat, Martina. She’s real crazy, she’s like a kitten.
Are all of the songs on the album from something in your life?
CC: Yeah, or things like current events, like ‘Ancient 5G Aliens’ is about deadshit conspiracy theorists [laughs]. I usually write the music first and then try to think up titles and themes that I think match the vibe of the music. It’s what naturally comes out when I sit down. I wasn’t going for an overall theme or vibe for the album. In terms of the titles, they’re not particularly linked.
For you are the songs linked musically?
CC: Definitely. I pretty much wrote all of the songs at the one time, within a week. It was actually on my honeymoon.
Is that where ‘Let’s Get Married’ comes from?
CC: Yeah. We got married in our backyard the day before the very first Covid lockdown. We did that because we had an overseas wedding planned, but had to can it. We went to an Airbnb for two weeks and were locked down, and that’s when I wrote all of those songs. The Airbnb was really isolated in a costal country town, we didn’t really have that much to do, so I’d sit down for a couple of hours every day in the morning and wrote a song at a time.
I’m guessing just having got married and being on your honeymoon you would have been in a really great mood and that might have helped your creativity and productivity.
CC: I definitely had some gusto! Normally I’m not like that, I usually take ages to do anything. When I have an idea, it doesn’t take me long to write a song, but it takes me a while to get started and to get motivated.
Is there anything that helps you get motivated?
CC: I have to just sit down and force myself to do it sometimes, I’m so busy with my other bands, with Pipe-eye I find it hard to get the time to sit down and write a song, or I don’t feel like it because I’ve been at band practice all week and I’m mentally fatigued or musically fatigued. Sometimes I’ll just sit down for a week and write a bunch of songs, and that will last me for the next six months.
How did the song we’re premiering ‘Ancient 5G Aliens’ come together?
CC: I made a lot of the songs on the album to drum machines that I had programmed. Later on, I got Cav (Michael Cavanagh the drummer who plays in King Gizz) to drum on it. I was going for a fast afro-esque groove, looped that a heaps of times, and it turned into a song from there. The title was inspired by the History Channel, it’s really funny now. It’s all about Ancient Aliens [laughs], it’s all about that crummy, really trash kind of TV.
Ha! I remember watching the first couple of episodes of Ancient Aliens thinking, ok, maybe there’s a little something here, but then as the series continued on, it just really, really started to stretch things and make some wild claims.
CC: Yeah. I was sold on it! Still am I reckon! [laughs].
Was it a conscious choice to make this album instrumental (of course besides the song ‘Chakra’ that has the part where the word is said over and over)?
CC: I started it without any intention of doing that and as it went on, I thought a lot of the songs were strong without vocals. I thought it would be cool to take a different direction for a change and focus really hard on the music itself, rather than… I normally make songs then I write the lyrics, the vocals as an afterthought. I wanted to change it up.
Was there a freedom or relief that came from not having to write words for the songs this time around?
CC: A little bit. I like writing lyrics, but making the music is definitely my favourite part.
What’s the first song you wrote for this album?
CC: ‘Let’s Get Married’. I wrote it when I was engaged.
Awww. How did your partner feel when you showed her?
CC: She liked it. She likes it when I sing though, and I don’t think she quite got the whole instrumental thing [laughs]. She was still appreciative.
‘Oakhill Avenue’ was the last one I wrote. I wrote it to fill a gap in the songs in terms of vibe, another slow kind of chill vibe song. I wanted to do something in a different time signature that wasn’t in 4/4.
Most of the songs are fairly in my comfort zone. I feel like when I do Pipe-eye stuff it’s never that challenging, because I’m writing everything myself; I don’t’ necessarily write hard parts. In general, it was challenging to find sounds that I hadn’t used on albums before. I’ve done keyboards and synths a lot, I tried to push that a fair bit more on this record.
I noticed that. Do you ever bounce your ideas of someone else when you’re working on Pipe-eye material?
CC: It’s pretty much just me. Sometimes it’s good to get Michael, who drummed on it, I’ll send him a song and not really give him much instruction on what kind of drums to play, which is good because sometimes he sends it back and it’s completely different to what I would have thought of, and I’ll roll with that.
As the album progressed and evolved where there many other changes you noticed in the songs?
CC: The main one was just deciding to make it instrumental. I was halfway through when I decided to do that. I just plod along and slowly do things.
No stress! I assume with other projects you’re a part of it could get real hectic. With Pipe-eye you have control over everything yourself and no urgency to do anything, you can just take your time.
CC: Exactly! I don’t play live with Pipe-eye, it’s just a recording project. There’s less stress to do albums by deadline. It’s not like I have to do an album to do an album tour and promote it. I take my time and do it as it comes…
When I first listened to Dream Themes, I was wondering is you’d be listening to a lot of soundtracks and Library Music?
CC: Yeah, 100%, I always listen to that kind of stuff…
There’s also a film clip to go with ‘Ancient 5G Aliens’; what can you tell us about it?
CC: It’s made by a guy called Jake Armstrong, he’s from The States. I learnt about him because Ambrose hit him up for a Murlocs clip; he did the ‘Skyrocket’ clip. I hit him up out of the blue and he was keen. It’s animation. His stuff is pretty kooky and playful, but there’s an underlying vibe of darkness, I guess. With this clip, he’s never done anything like it before. He fully went animation, they kind of look like PlayStation 2 graphics! It’s real cool. It’s kind of got a storyline, there are these two aliens fighting and it’s in a cityscape. It looks like the old kind of not-quite-there graphics, that PlayStation 2 kind of graphics.
Yeah, I remember those and Sega and Atari and all the games!
CC: [Laughs] Yeah. I still game a bit. I got a PlayStation 5 recently! There’s not too many games out on it yet, so I haven’t got to play it too much. I was playing Ghost of Tsushima where you get to play a samurai, it’s a bit like playing open world. Pretty nerdy!
We chat in-depth with Tessa & Alda from D-beat band Jalang! They’ve released Australia’s best hardcore record this year. We explore the album themes: politics, religion, feminism and queer rights in South East Asia and beyond. A really important chat.
Gareth Liddiard from Tropical Fuck Storm speaks about new album ‘Deep States’, songwriting, creativity, fanboying and collecting weird shit.
R.M.F.C.’s Buz Clatworthy talks, a new album in the works, lockdown being a creativity dampener, finding inspiration in films and friends.
We yarn with Emma Donovan and The Putbacks. New record ‘Under These Streets’ draws on soul, R&B, funk and the protest music of Indigenous Australia—a dynamic portrait of Blak pain and joy in all its complexities.
Amyl and the Sniffers’ Amy Taylor and Bryce Wilson check-in to tell us about their new album’s journey, experiencing depression, keeping busy and the power of music.
French duo Heimat play off-kilter experimental-pop with folklore influence, cinematic-like soundscapes, and vocals in multiple languages. A chat on experimentation.
Old Home vocalist Dylan Sparks gives us a peek into their visceral performance poetry coupled with spontaneous musical composition.
We speak with Louisiana band Spllit just days after a hurricane hit their area. We adore their lo-fi weirdness. Next level music.
70’s acid-folk legend Howard Eynon has had a storied life: appearing in films including Mad Max, supporting Hunter S Thompson’s tour; performing in theatre. Recently, he’s been working on music with Zak Olsen. A brilliant chat.
Julian Teakle of The Native Cats and Rough Skies Records selects some of his favourite tracks for us.
We love Naarm-based feminist bratwave punk band Hearts and Rockets. We first chatted with the inspiring duo when we started Gimmie. Today we’re premiering their super fun clip ‘Square Eyes’ which is the first single off their forthcoming EP TV is Boring, their love letter to TV—one of their favourite things. We chat about making the clip, EP, 80s horror flicks, The X-Files, TV shows, and other creative projects in the works. We wanna have a TV Party tonight! with Hearts and Rockets.
Hearts and Rockets were one of the first bands that we interviewed for Gimmie. We’re excited to have you check-in with us again; what’s life been like lately for you?
KURT ECKARDT: Life is SO weird! Life is always weird, but lockdown #6 hit us in Melbourne in a strange new way. I’m so grateful to have a creative outlet that can be completely self-contained and can be done at home, and so so grateful for our doggo Bonez. She and I have had some pretty heartfelt moments lately, thankfully she’s a very good listener.
KALINDY WILLIAMS: We are really so thrilled to be chatting with you again! Thank you so much for your support. You always feature our favourite bands and artists, we really love all that you do.
Thank you! The love is mutual. You have a new EP TV Is Boring coming out on cassette in November and it’s a collection of songs about TV; what was the initial spark that gave you the idea to write to this theme?
KW: We were writing songs for our next album, and we had so many ideas! While we were writing melodies for them, we found a couple with kind of ‘working’ lyrics that referenced TV, mostly in the chorus. From this we kind of discovered a running theme. We realised that four main songs that we were close to finishing all went really well together and had a loose theme of television, so we decided to separate them out and create a fun EP!
KE: We also both love TV and movies, and we’ve had a few songs on previous releases about both so it’s kind of a continuation of that. It was tempting just to make the whole album about TV to be honest, but that’s pushing it, plus we have other things to sing about – some of which are a little more important.
How long has the EP been in the making for?
KW: We had a show planned for July this year, which was then rescheduled ‘til October, and now is in limbo, where we were going to play a set of entirely new songs that we were working on for our album. It was set to be at The Tramway Hotel which is a lovely small and super intimate venue, and we were really looking forward to kind of trying some things out live to see how they sounded. When lockdown #5 hit and it was postponed, we decided to make sure we didn’t waste that energy and momentum and got to recording a few of the tracks.
KE: Yeah, we pulled those TV tracks out and knuckled down and finished them off, then took our time recording them at home. So, I guess we started the EP officially in August, and had it recorded by the end of that month. In concept only for the past few months, but I think one or two of these song ideas were kicking around for a while leading up to that decision.
I know that you both have fond recollections of staying up late and watching Rage and bad movies; what are some of your favourite bad movies?
KW: We both watch lots of horror movies, mostly 80s horror as well as silly comedies. A few great ones that we have watched recently are Dudes (punks on a roadtrip), Times Square (punk girls making punk music against the status quo), Hell Night (frat party murder house), Once Bitten (silly slightly problematic 80s vampire romance/comedy/horror with Jim Carrey), Earth Girls Are Easy (80s does 50s does 80s alien movie), Aerobi-cide & Death Spa (both ridiculous 80s workout-themed horror movies), Sorority Babesin the Slime Ball Bowl-o-Rama (single location – a bowling alley – horror movie) and anything by John Waters. He’s the king of bad taste, and I think everything he does is iconic.
KE: This is so hard, because while they’re bad, they’re so so good! My faves are The Stuff (actually the best movie ever made), Chopping Mall (security robots go bezerk), Body Melt (this country’s greatest schlock), and Happy Birthday To Me (the first horror movie that I ever watched). Plus Stay Tuned, which is a favourite of ours and was an inspiration for the video clip for ‘Square Eyes’.
Is there anything of note you’ve been watching lately? What sucks you into watching it?
KW: Sexy Beasts. I assumed it was a role play of people being aliens and squirrels. And when I watched it and realised the absurdity of it being a reality show, I couldn’t stop watching it.
And I’m always rewatching Doctor Who. Space travel, time travel, queer undertones… what more could you want?! And in this last lockdown, Buffy has been on rotation.
KE: I’m obsessed with The Golden Girls. It was one of my favourites growing up and when I thought back to that throughout my life I thought it was so weird. Like, ALF – I get why I liked that – but a 7-year-old obsessively watching Golden Girls? I’ve rewatched the whole series recently and I still love it. While it’s not 100% PC, I think it was pretty ahead of its time. I can’t help but need to know how each episode is resolved, no matter how obvious it may seem.
You’re both also avid X-Files fans (us too!); what’s your favourite episode?
KW: Mine is Zero Sum! It’s in season four and starts off with a woman being swarmed by bees in a toilet cubicle. I watched it when I was way too young, but it’s the first one I think of when I think of The X-Files. I also really like the one with Jack Black set in an arcade where that guy gets the power to control electricity – it’s got some amazing visuals in it.
KE: My fave would have to be Squeeze. It’s the first monster of the week episode, and I remember watching it when it first aired and thinking it was so cool. I also love that the monster, Tooms, reappears later in the series. He’s the perfect X-Files character. A notable mention has to go to Flukeman though, my second favourite monster from The X-Files.
My friend Tom and I were so obsessed with The X-Files when it first came out, but I wasn’t allowed to watch it. Thankfully, he was, so I conveniently stayed at his house once a week at least.
Tell us about the title of the EP?
KW: TV Is Boring came from just watching too much TV in lockdown, and realising how many TV shows follow the same formula and get boring so quickly. I like TV, but sometimes you’ve just had enough.
What did you love most about the process of making TV Is Boring?
KW: I found writing the songs and practicing them the best part, because when we found out that we couldn’t play live we just set our own reachable goal and our own reachable deadline and came at it with the attitude of not rushing and not pushing ourselves. So, it was so fun to be able to try new things, speed up and slow down songs, and because we had no time limit it made it fun and took the stress out of it.
KE: Yes totally! The beauty of self-releasing music! There’s almost always a deadline, and that’s great to make sure you get what you need to get done done, but the two of us just playing fun songs for fun and for ourselves made this such an enjoyable experience. My highlight of this year was spending time on these songs – adding more and stripping back, spending time just playing around and having fun with them. We’d hoped to be able to do that in a live scenario, but we were so lucky to be able to do that throughout the recording process.
We love how Hearts and Rockets are very D.I.Y. in all aspects of what you do. What was the best part about producing your musicyourself?
KW: Being able to record in our tiny spare room is one of the biggest benefits. If you are trying to record a guitar part and it just isn’t working that day, you can just try again tomorrow. It’s a huge benefit for us, because we don’t have to book in a studio or have those time constraints.
If we had the money to do it that way, we would! But we’re broke, plus the DIY bedroom set up works well for the type of music we make.
KE: While being DIY is a necessity for us at this point, it’s also silly not to think of it as an aesthetic decision. We could borrow stuff or call-in favours or get a grant to do something more ‘pro’, but instead we shove a SM-57 microphone in front of our amps and turn it up really loud.
While we totally respect the craft of studio engineering, we’d also say that if you’re reading this and you can’t afford to pay someone to record your stuff – just do it yourself. The best thing an old band of mine did was record using headphones as microphones. We broke a pair of over-ear headphones, gaffer taped one side to the guitar amp and one to the bass amp and ran them as inputs through a mixer. It was awesome and all it cost us was a pair of shitty headphones, a borrowed mixer, and a free audio app on a laptop.
You do what you can with what you have. If you have a lot, go for it. If you don’t, don’t let that restrict your output. The music is all that matters.
Which track from the new EP are you most excited to perform when shows can happen again?
KW: The opener, ‘On/Off’. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always thought of this song as a cowboy song. I think it will be fun to play because it will be hard to play. I have to play this slidey rhythmic guitar part and sing at the same time. But I love failing on stage. Also, yee-haw.
KE: For me it’s ‘TV is Boring’. It’s just so long. In the past, if a song has approached three minutes long, I’ve insisted on cutting entire verses and choruses out. Some I’ve let go, but not easily. But as soon as Kalindy and I wrote the basic bones of ‘TV Is Boring’, we both knew it had to be a long song. Then she went wild with the synth at the end – it ended up being 13 minutes long! I genuinely can’t wait for people who expect two-minute bangers from us to hear this song. It might be my favourite Hearts and Rockets song ever. Kalindy is just so boss in the recording, it’s amazing.
We’re premiering the clip for the lead single ‘Square Eyes’. The video features lots of fun scenes like a TV news reader/“weather girl” combo, a 50s sitcom witch show, a vampire movie, a zombie apocalypse, a cowgirl flick, an adventure film, a workout video (which is a little nod to a previous single ‘Workout’). What’s your favourite scene? Can you tell us a little about creating it?
KW: We spent a total of I think 5 days filming different scenes for it over about 3 weeks. We moved entire rooms in our house to create the sets with just stuff we already owned. I’m a huge vintage collector – clothing, trinkets, homewares – I love all things vintage, so it was fun to plan out and put together props and clothing for the clip.
I think my favourite scene is the witchy / sitcom one. I really love camp special effects from the 50s/ 60s/70s (like Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie), and it was pretty fun to try and recreate some of them for ‘Square Eyes’. We also spent so long making food props for that scene and you only really see them for about 3 seconds. They were really delicious though.
KE: I liked making cucumber sandwiches and eating them. Why do they actually taste good? They absolutely shouldn’t, and kind of don’t, but I couldn’t stop eating them. We also used a vegan ‘duck’ in the spread, and we toyed with the idea of getting a real roast chook, but somehow the vegan duck from our freezer was completely fitting. It looks so gross.
I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun making anything in my life, every scene was so much fun to shoot.
There’s also clips of “Ramones” and “Siouxsie Sioux” in the clip; how did you first discover those artists and what do you appreciate about them?
KW: Ramones was the first punk band I discovered and Siouxsie Sioux was the first goth femme person in music I was ever aware of and she is an icon. She’s so effortlessly cool and she and the Banshees had such a unique sound that I was craving when I was a teenager. I think I’ve just always wanted to be her.
KE: I think Kalindy and my first common ground when meeting was Ramones. I will never tire of that first album. I had a step-brother, Dean, who I never got to meet. He lived in Toronto, but for much of my formative years he’d send me mix tapes. My favourite was called ‘Smells Like DEAN’S Spirit’. In the late 80s and early 90s he’d send me tapes with bands that I’d never heard of – I was like 7, 8 years old when he started – and it was bands like Ramones, Siouxsie, TSOL, Angry Samoans, Slayer, Pixies, The Stupids… like really cool punk stuff that I don’t think I would have heard otherwise, at least not at the time.
Blitzkrieg Bop started one of these tapes and I swear he put it there like a gateway to the rest of the tape… but it got me hooked, and I’ve loved Ramones ever since. Siouxsie and the Banshees were on that same compilation, it was ‘Love In A Void’, and I was so obsessed with it. One of the first records that I ever bought was their Peel Sessions EP and I treasure it to this day – their live to air version of ‘Love In A Void’ rules
You’ve been together for around four or so years now. What has been your proudest moment during this time?
KW: My teenage self would be so proud of us being on Rage! And every time we play a gig and people yell our lyrics back at us, that makes me so happy that we have made a connection with so many people through our music.
KE: OMG yes Rage, I still can’t believe we’ve had a few of our clips played on Rage. And yeah same. The first time we ever played our song Drama Club live, we had just written it and hadn’t learnt the lyrics yet, and Billiam from Disco Junk was there and held up our notebook for Kalindy so that she could sing it. There’s only one live moment that beats that, and it’s when we played it a few months later and BIlly was there again, in the front row, singing along.
Music-wise what bands, albums or songs have you been enjoying of late?
KW: Our label mates Zig Zag have just released their single ‘I Care About You’, and it’s so catchy, I am constantly singing it around the house, their joy and energy is infectious and they really do care about you! I love it!
KE: Wow, where to start?! I’m loving all of the Dr Sure’s Unusual Practice singles that have been coming out, they’re such a good band. Other newish releases that I can’t get enough of are K5’s album, Eat-Man’s record, Sweeping Promises’ Hunger For A Way Out and I haven’t been able to move past Blake Scott’s album from last year. Oh and Gordon Koang! Such pure and positive music, it’s impossible not to enjoy a Gordon Koang track.
You’re currently working on album number three, which is due out mid-2022; what can you tell us about it at this point?
KW: We still have a lot of work to do on it but at the moment we already have one really good song about a being a clown and at least one song about bugs – so I’m pretty excited about that.
KE: Album number three is so exciting to think about. I have genuinely liked each of our releases more than the last, and I can’t ask for more than that. Our goal is to constantly change what we’re doing, challenge ourselves, and keep making the music that we want to hear. This EP and our next album is all of that for me. Also, geez Kalindy just writes so many good songs… We could make a thousand OK albums, but we want to make a few really good ones.
What else have each of you been working on?
KW: I started a daily art project in lockdown in May 2020, it was going to be a 100-day project where I would make an art postcard everyday with whatever I already owned (lockdowns meant art supplies were scarce). But lockdowns kept going so I just kept making them. There are collages, illustrations, cut paper pieces, paintings, embroidery and anything else you can think of, they have been some of the best and some of the worst pieces of art I have made (hahaha) and I think some of them will be really good record covers or band posters. We actually used two of them for the covers of our last record and one for a poster last year. I’m currently at about 530-ish different postcards, which is wild!!!! And right now, I’m preparing for an online art show in mid-November to showcase the first 500 art postcards on my website http://www.orbitarcade.com.au.
I’m also planning to make a new photo zine in the next couple of months and work on some new music videos!
KE: I spend lots of my time preparing for a radio show that I co-host with Maddy Mac on PBS FM. We play music from so-called Australia and our closest neighbours, and I spend loads of my time in front of a computer screen listening to new music! I’m also tinkering away on some new solo music, but I don’t have any plans to share it just yet. Lots of my work revolves around live music events, too, so once lockdown lifts, I will have so many fun projects to announce!