Bouba from AUSECUMA BEATS: “Music is everything. It educates me, it gave me the opportunity to leave Africa and to experience different cultures and different worlds.”

Original band photo by: Nick MkK. Textile Work by Anne Harkin. Handmade collage by B.

Ausecuma Beats are a Naarm/Melbourne-based ensemble that have come together from all parts of the globe – Gambia, Guinea, Mali, India, Senegal and Cuba – to explore the idea of transplanting cultural heritage into a contemporary city through the universal language of music and community. Ausecuma Beats is a melting pot of their rich experiences, languages, craft, heritage and cultures. Their mission is to learn from one another and uplift people with their art. Gimmie caught up with bandleader and master djembe player, Boubacar Gaye to find out more about debut self-titled album, out now on Music in Exile (home of another Gimmie fav Gordon Koang).

Hi Bouba! I understand that you are from Senegal in West Africa; what was it like growing up there?

BOUBACAR GAYE: Senegal is a rich country in the west of Africa and there is a strong French and Arabic influence. I was born in Senegal and grew up there as well, so I had the chance to learn Arabic music and culture and also a chance to speak French too. It is a rich culture because there are so many different tribes there. Each region has their own instrument and I had the chance to learn different instruments of each tribe. 

What is one of your favourite things about Senegalese culture? 

BG: Food! My favourite is a fish and rice dish. 

I know that both your father and uncle influenced you with the music they listened to; what would you listen to together?

BG: My uncle liked jazz music like Miles Davis and my father liked old music called tango, so I listened to those styles.  I get the jazz and afro flavour from what they used to listen to. My uncle used to go to parties and he would wear a suit, he would dress well, and I would watch how he would dress. You have to dress up good to go to the nightclub and listen to good music! His influence on me was in clothes as well as music!

What instrument do you like to play the most? What do you love about it?

BG: I like to play a bass drum called a Dum Dum. I’m a djembe player professionally though, but I like both high and low pitch so I can’t just pick one! They both have energy! 

Why is music important to you?

BG: Music is everything. It educates me, it gave me the opportunity to leave Africa and to experience different cultures and different worlds.  I think if I was not a musician, I don’t know what I would be. My family says that I was born for music and I believe so. Good music takes me out of the street and makes me not take the wrong way in life. When I was young, not everyone takes the right track. Thanks to music, I have found my path. Music is my life. 

Photo by: Nick MkK

How did you first feel when you came to Australia? Why did you decide to come to Australia?

BG: I was in Japan for 8 years living there. I came to Melbourne for 10 days visiting a friend who said that Melbourne was a beautiful city and I should come. Japan was already far from home but Australia is also very far! I came to Australia for music and because of curiosity. My friend introduced me to an African drumming company; the boss was very welcoming to me and he introduced a big community to me. There is a strong drumming community here which made me feel that this is a place I can adopt. I was scared to make the move to come here, I already moved to Japan! My visiting holiday was fun but thinking about living here was not easy. There was stress! Was I making the right choice and decision to do this? There is always something I trust – don’t worry, you have the music! The music will lead you to make your own community! Go for it and don’t look behind. Let it go and move forward. Making a move can be a big decision, but be patient and have your goals. It will not be easy but as long as you keep working on it it will be ok. 

I visited and did the tour things, I like the design of Melbourne, you can see the sky. It’s great! In Japan it is very hard to see the blue sky because there are so many buildings. In the winter it feels like there is no day time because there isn’t too much light, so much shadow from the buildings. 

Throughout your debut self-titled album there flows messages of love and respect; what inspired this?

BG: I think respect is an important thing for us as Ausecuma Beats members because we are all different – sometimes language is difficult as the tone can be interpreted in the wrong way for members of the group who are not fluent in English. We need to be careful – the respect needs to be there. We always need to respect each other even if we have different ways of speaking English. We don’t always agree on everything, but we all have to share music and music is love. 

Your latest single ‘Cherie’ speaks about the importance of equality in relationships, especially in marriage; what inspired you to write about that?

BG: Cherie is a French word – you can use ‘cherie’ to make the relationship very nice, “oh my cherie, oh my love, my darling.”  This word,  ‘cherie’ is for caring and loving someone who is your daughter, wife, or husband. 

The track is based on a traditional song which is a true story from an older storyteller. The storyteller donated his music to the world and many musicians reinterpret his songs. He was singing about his wife; “you carry my children, you make me proud as a man, I don’t know how I can thank you, if i go first i will wait for you, if you go first wait for me,  my cherie we are together for everything.” This story is quite old, not from my Mum’s generation but from my Grandma’s generation!

Each track on the album displays the different talents of each musician; what do you feel are your talents?

BG: The groove! I always make sure we are tight. My role is always to control the volume when we are recording or performing. We all have a role and we have to give the same energy, but there needs to be space to solo. There are so many members, we also need to control all of the instruments and make space. I think in Ausecuma Beats, there is no leader in our music because all instruments have space and are equal. My role is to make sure that there is an equal role in the music. 

Why is improvisation an important part of Ausecuma Beats’ creativity? Can you tell us a bit about your song-writing process?

BG: We want to do something beautiful and unique and to do that you have to let there be space for that, space for creativity and composing music. When you’re improvising, sometimes it can be good, but sometimes it can be good and then crash! When we’re improvising, we’re cooking and everyone brings their own ingredients! 

Auseucma Beats music always starts from the engine – the percussion. After this, we compose the melody, sometimes with the belafon, kora, or sometimes from the percussion. The voice always comes on after we have built the road; when the road is smooth the voice comes in. 

What is something important you’ve learnt from your journey as a creative person that you’d like to share with us?

BG: What I have learnt is that it is beautiful to build a community. You feel you’re all on the same page, it’s great! The best things I’ve achieved in my musical career is to build community. Not only with Auseucma Beats but also drumming. We’re sharing the same passion. If you listen and you want to come and dance, you’re part of our community!

Ausecuma Beats’ debut LP out now through Music In Exile.

Please check out AUSECUMA BEATS via this link.

Constant Mongrel’s Tom Ridgewell: “TB RIDGE AS THE DIRECTOR is a comfortable place for me.”

Original photo : Sophie Woodward. Handmade collage by B.

TB Ridge As The Director is a solo project from Tom Ridgewell of Constant Mongrel, Woollen Kits and Calamari Girls. His Rock n Roll Heart EP is neo-traditional rock n roll; rock n roll 101 but with drum machine, synths, vocoder and strings. It’s a fresh and intriguing listen. Gimmie interviewed Tom to learn more.

How has your day been? What have you been up to? 

My day has been great, thanks! I have been in Lara with my partner Sophie visiting Mum and Dad and my brother and sister in law and their 8 month old. It was really nice to see them all, as we haven’t been able to for a while. Especially Michael, as he has changed so much recently. 

Do you listen to music every day? What have you been listening to lately?

I do listen to music every day! I work at a little cafe on my own so I get to pick what music plays for around six to seven hours. At the moment I am listening to jazz a lot- Krystof Komeda is my jam at the moment, his soundtrack to Knife in The Water is so, so good. I’ve also been enjoying listening to some 70’s folk stuff, Maddie Prior and Sandy Denny (with Fairport Convention) for my lyrical content.  I let my partner do the music at home, so Townes Van Zandt, OV Wright, Eno and Talking Heads at the moment. 

You were born in and grew up in Melbourne, right? Has music always been a big part of your life? 

I actually was born in Ararat and lived in different parts of country Victoria before high school. The reason for that is my dad was a Presbyterian minister (a job which can make for lots of moves).  I bring that up to answer the other part of the question. Music was always around my family, neither of my parents played instruments, but we all sang every Sunday at church. Dad has a bit of a shocker of a voice and ear but would always lead the singing with gusto and my Mum has a lot of natural talent musically (she actually got a cello for her 60th birthday and is doing really well at learning) . Apart from church music, we did grow up with some classic rock like Creedence, Van and Bob. Also Sound of Music and Mary Poppins were favourites, Julie Andrews is so good! 

How did you first discover your local scene? What was the first gig you saw?

I honestly can’t really remember a first gig! I can remember gigs if someone brings them up, but off the top of my head I couldn’t say what my first proper show was. Getting into my scene was probably through my friendship with Tom Hardisty, and us playing music together from around 19/20 years old. He was friends with my ex-girlfriend and we hit it off and started playing with each other pretty quickly. That’s how old Woollen Kits is now, haha. 

Previously you’ve said that you were trained to play classical cello when you were young and your parents persistence to make you continue with it, when you really didn’t want to, probably helped form the way you think and feel about music now; how so?

Yep, thinking about that now has made me sequence some things together with that. I played cello from when I was about 11 and enjoyed it at the start but as teenagers do I began to want to distance myself from the old fashioned instrument. I wanted to play bass guitar and then my cello teacher (and parents) encouraged me to try double bass with another teacher as it has the same strings as a bass guitar but similar playing method to the cello. The bass has also the same first four strings as the guitar (which I had started to teach myself). Continuing on double bass was awesome and I learnt a little jazz and got ok with a bow with more classical stuff.

How long do you think you’ve been writing songs for now?

It took me a long time to say I was writing proper songs, but it was around high school age that I thought I was doing it. I resisted for so many years to actually learn some theory behind how to make a song. I suppose I thought it was all natural and free, which can be cool, but never very good unless you are some kind of genius. 

As a songwriter, what kind of place do you feel you’ve reached with new solo project TB Ridge as the Director?

TB RIDGE AS THE DIRECTOR is a comfortable place for me. It feels natural and easy to write this kind of music and I have embraced it. I feel like it’s going to be fun to one day make a band and play the songs live but for now the EP is a snapshot of a good little moment for me! 

I know you like a minimalist approach when it comes to lyrics; do you find it hard to write lyrics? 

Yes and no. I just tend to write lyrics after the music for everything I’ve ever done. I find it easier to find the right words for the music than come up with music for the words. So by default the way I went about making this music, I didn’t have much room for long lines. There is a part in the Gimmie Danger doco where Iggy says something about 200 words or less theory he takes on, I really like that. Simplicity is really important to me. If I read a book that’s too wordy or descriptive, I’ll stop reading straight away. The ultimate writing for me is simple words with complex themes. 

Your new EP is called Rock n Roll Heart; where’s the title come from? Was it inspired by Lou Reed’s 7th studio album, Rock n Roll Heart?

Yeh, it was kind of inspired by Lou’s song. Funnily enough, Eric Clapton has a song called Rock and Roll Heart too. For me it was just a line I had been thinking of the whole time I was doing the music for the song. The riff kind of came out of nowhere and sounds like some kind of discarded Runaways song or a Stones B-side and I just was in this place where I’d become sick of worrying what people thought of my music in regards to artistic legitimacy. Fuck it, it’s rock music and I liked making it.

Was doing a solo release born out of necessity because of lockdown?

Not really, I actually have a whole album of more singer songwriter stuff recorded a year ago that one day might see the light of day and I probably have done over 200 demo recordings of different types of music over the last six years. Maybe one of these songs (The Garden) would have been an idea for a Constant Mongrel track, but because we haven’t been able to play together I turned it into something for me. 

Previously you’ve commented “I usually hate recording”; has that changed?

My dislike for recording back then came from a drummer’s perspective! Anyone that has had to sit through live recording in a studio as a drummer will get the pain. You are freaking out about getting it right the whole time, if you make a mistake the take is over or even worse and someone else and it’s heartbreaking. I’d say I kept that attitude in the studio even if playing guitar for a long time but it’s slowly changed to the point where doing a record is the most exciting part of making music for me now. 

When you started out making Rock n Roll Heart did you have any references of where you wanted to go? Was there anything you particularly enjoyed listening to at the time (or when recording)? Initially how did you want the EP to sound? 

I definitely wanted to make an interesting sounding rock record. One of my key reference points was an interview with Genesis P Orridge about the song God Star that Psychic TV made. They stated that it was a nod to the sixties counterculture, and in particular Brian Jones. I suppose that Gen had been known to push boundaries with their work so something like that song was in a way giving some kind of consideration to the past and those that blazed trails for contemporary music. I’m not saying my other projects are particularly out there or interesting but for a while I think with Constant Mongrel I have tried to darken or subvert punk music with technical tonal variations on traditional rock scales.  So the idea of going back to the source without the darkness was what I wanted. 

Was there anything you were mindful of when writing this collection of songs? 

Definitely making music that was ‘me’ was on top of the list.

For you, what are the elements that make up rock n roll?

Well, that’s interesting. I’m gonna sound like a dumbass, but I actually met Liam Gallagher backstage at Merideth last year (btw, he is easily the most famous person I have ever spoken too). We chatted for a while but what came up was a discussion about another artist on the bill that night, his name is Hooligan Hefs from West Sydney. He does this new school drill rap stuff that’s really taking off in NSW and QLD at the moment. We both noticed how good the show was. I said, “I think that that is the new rock and roll!” He replied, “It wasn’t rock though, was it?” I asked, “What is then?” He responded with some babble about guitars and drums, etc. I’m still not sure I agree with him because if you get to nitty gritty, Oasis use far too many minor chords in regular major keys to be what a classic rock n roll band should be, they are more pop, so they aren’t rock, are they? I suppose his brother would know that more than him because I think Liam just sings, right? I don’t know where you draw the line, it’s the same as punk. I’d say a band like Primo! is way more punk than most bands that call themselves punk, but I still can’t really explain why! It’s an attitude and an ethic above all else I think. 

You used Garageband and a drum machine to make the release; did songs often form around a loop first? I really enjoy that you’ve, in essence, built classic rock style songs but used a drum machine.

Yep, they are all loops and layers. I suppose using the drum machine as a rhythmic driver is something that just seemed natural to making the songs because I wanted drums for the tracks and that’s all I could get my hands on. I find it funny people think it interesting or cool when a band uses a drum machine, it’s not really that cool. Maybe when Young Marble Giants or Suicide did, it was, but that was 30-40 years ago, we should be getting used to it by now! It’s just a jazzed up metronome. 

I love the auto-tune, strings and synth in the mix. I understand you used an iPad too; for what parts?

So it was recorded on the iPad too!  I don’t really have a computer that I can use for recording, so I use our iPad. It has all the features on it that I needed and I used a direct line in with an iRig, which was awesome. It really is a mobile studio that makes decent quality recordings! I am glad you like the extra things I did, I took a while to get to the point where I used auto tune on every track but am glad I did. It gives it an unnerving vibe sometimes as we tend to not hear it with guitar music very often. 

What drew you to choosing Woollen Kits bandmate and friend Tom Hardisty to master the release?

He has the skills and I get to buy him a present instead of giving him cash. Having Tom involved is also just awesome cause it’s another set of ears I trust, because he has great taste and does recording himself (to a millions times better standard). 

I’ve heard that you have a love of country music? When did you start listening to it? What kind of things do you listen to?

I didn’t grow up with country music, so everything I listen to now is just from my own research as an adult. I like a varying realm of country music which maybe some hardcore fans would question why or how. Any way some of my favourites are Loretta Lyn, Porter Wagoner, Dolly Parton, Townes Van Zandt, Hank Williams, Gram Parsons, Carter Family, Steve Earl and, although she wasn’t always country, Bobbie Gentry. I also love early Cajun music. 

Is there anything happening on the Constant Mongrel front?

I wonder if we will get into a space and play together before the new year?! Maybe something might pop up soon in regards to a little release. I just can’t wait to hang out with the crew again. We have our Christmas party every year which is always a highlight of the season.

Anything else you’d like to tell us or share with us?

One time my Dad and I were watching an interview with Michael Stipe and Dad said, “Musicians have to be the most self-absorbed people in the world and if you ever become one, please be mindful of that.” So yeah, it’s funny that after all these years I have to be the sole answer for questions that might encompass self-involvement to answer. I hope and worry that I come across ok! On the other hand, Michael Stipe is boring and arrogant and I don’t like REM, even in any ironic 33 year old discovery of music I thought sucked when I was in my twenties kind of way.

Please check out TB Ride As the Director. Rock n Roll Heart EP out on Anti Fade Records 20 November.

The Stress Of Leisure: ‘I’m excited for the genre of faux wave. I think this could be a thing!’

Original photo by Jackie Ryan. Hand-coloured mixed-media by B.

Last week Brisbane band The Stress Of Leisure released their exciting new album Faux Wave. Recorded in Melbourne by John Lee (who has recorded many Gimmie favs: Bananagun, Gordon Koang and Lost Animal) it captures the band’s live wild energy that lights up the dancefloor—they might just be the world’s greatest party band. Gimmie caught up with them to chat about the LP; a hot contender for our Album of the Year!

What is one of the most exciting things for you about your new album Faux Wave?

JANE (bass): I really feel we knew the songs well before we went and recorded them, so all of the performances felt strong and confident. I can listen to it now and say ‘Yeah!’ It’s all solid and great. I am excited by the impressive efforts of my bandmates, and I’m excited for interested members of the public to check it out.

IAN (vocals/guitar): I’m excited for the genre of faux wave. I think this could be a thing!

PASCALLE (synths): I feel excited that the album even exists! I’m aware of how close to the line we were in getting it recorded — in the way we wanted to — and the pandemic’s impact on everything we do now.

JESS (drums): This album makes a great companion piece to our previous album Eruption Bounce. It’s exciting hearing us grow as a four-piece.

I understand that this album was written as your most collaboratively one yet; can you tell us a bit about writing the record and collaborating?

IAN: We record all our ideas, and we had up to 60 sketches of songs in the bank for this album. Recording the ideas we produce at rehearsals also means we can capture golden moments that can be hard to remember. What I’ve found more and more doing The Stress of Leisure is that the songs where Jane, Pascalle and Jess bring something in (an idea) is way more exciting than what I come up with. I feel when I have an idea it tends to dictate too much how things turn out. A song like Banker On TV literally came out fully formed in one jam — Jess had a beat she wanted to try out, Jane had a bassline written down she married to it and then Pas and myself did our stuff on top. Individually, none of us could’ve come up with this song.

PASCALLE: I really love how Ian challenges us to come up with lines but we also had to constantly remind him that his lines are very fun for us to play along with. One way he was convinced to drive the song was in Spiralling, which has Ian’s power pop synth line, Jane’s enormous bassline and Jess’ unconventional drums.

What’s one of the most challenging things for you in regards to your creativity?

JANE: Speaking for myself, I sometimes find it hard to carve out time to make creative things happen.  But that is pretty much on me, I think I need to try harder.

JESS: Coming up with rhythms that sound fresh, and like Jane, finding the time to get creative in modern life. I generally don’t practise so I’m composing beats in my head and then trying them out at rehearsal. Nothing is out of bounds or too weird to bring to rehearsal and I think that vulnerability is where magic happens.

PASCALLE: Yes, I think it mostly comes down to time… we’re all just waiting to win the lotto so we can make music as often as we want!

IAN: I find my bandmates sell themselves too short. They’re always bringing in great ideas, regardless of outside pressures. It comes back again to the fact that we record the jams. Creative inspiration strikes when you least expect it, so it’s important to always document. Like panning for gold, you can’t expect a high success rate. We’re only challenged by timelines, not creativity.

Photo: Jackie Ryan.

We’ve always loved the wit, social commentary and humour in your lyrics; what’s your personal favourite song and lyric in this new collection of songs?.

JANE: I particularly like Ian’s lyric in the song No Win No Fee, where he intones ‘Mission accomplished, for the rich and the foppish’.  The song has a sort of sleazy, lazy groove to it, but it goes along at a slightly quicker tempo than you would normally expect for such a groove, which makes it compelling to me.

JESS: My favourite lyric is ‘Everybody wants to tell you how you’re doing it; Everybody loves to tell you how you’re doing it wrong; Everybody seems to know just where you’re coming from’ in Connect to Connected. It’s an astute observation of the countless daily interactions between humans courtesy of the internet.

PASCALLE: I feel a sense of achievement that we incorporated the line ‘no quid pro quo’ in a song.

IAN: If you read the lyrics of Your Type of Music and Beat The Tension with a John Cooper Clarke accent in mind they really work! I’m delighted by that. I played a solo gig earlier in the year with Seja, and during the set I recited them, so I can attest to it.

Faux Wave was recorded in Melbourne with John Lee at Phaedra Studios over five days at the beginning of the year; what drew you to working with John? What was it like?

IAN: John Lee’s name came up in a lot of Australian independent music I was listening to and liking — starting with Lost Animal, Laura Jean through to Brisbane/Melbourne act No Sister. Everyone I inquired of really rated John and said he was great to work with. We wanted to record an album outside Brisbane too, to get out of our comfort zone. It’s one of the best decisions we’ve made as a group I think. The reports rang true, John is a total gentleman, but he also challenged us with this recording, in a totally positive way. Recording the ten songs over five days was a real buzz and my feeling is that as a group, we’ve all connected with this experience. It was like recording a debut album all over again.

PASCALLE: Yes, John’s the absolute best!

What’s one of your fondest memories from the sessions?

PASCALLE: This was the first time we recorded an entire album in one go — usually we’d go into the studio on sporadic weekends and record two or three songs until the album was done. Going down to Melbourne for a solid week felt like we were at camp and, from my perspective, we had a whole new level of togetherness. From the get-go, John was a kindred spirit and made the whole week memorable, too. Favourite things about recording were not using click tracks, listening to Ian record his vocals and getting to play with John’s vintage synths.

JESS: Like Pas, getting to spend a whole week together recording was a luxury! No click tracks and a live recording setup really captured the energy. For me, anymore than three or four takes starts to sound forced and contrived. Having that week also meant we could sample the gastronomic delights that Melbourne had to offer and catch up with friends.

PASCALLE: Yes, we really explored Melbourne’s food and beverages, and we even managed to see Dave Graney and the mistLY play Memo Music Hall, too. Great times.

What inspired the album art?

IAN: We thought it was important to go back to the collage style we’d previously utilised on the Sex Time and Achievement artworks. It rang more true to who we are as a band. The imagery we’ve chosen feels like Faux Wave for some reason — the crowd in a fervour and the rubbish pile. The disposable aspects of modern day hyperconsumerism comes to mind — the shiny new thing that gets people excited, quickly replaced by something even shinier and newer. It’s disconcerting.

PASCALLE: This is also the first time we’ve included the song lyrics on the back of the vinyl, too, so you can follow along if you like.

What have you been listening to lately?

JESS: Billy Nomates’ debut album, Fontaines D.C’s A Hero’s Death and Blake Scott’s Niscitam. Despite all that has happened in 2020, fantastic and exciting music is still being made.

PASCALLE: Have you seen Sampa the Great’s Planet Afropunk performance Black Atlantis? Incredible! I’m also listening to Blake Scott like Jess, as well as Chloe Alison Escott’s Stars Under Contract.

JANE: I have been listening to the Scratch and the Upsetters album Super Ape, though it is not a recent release by any means.  I really enjoy the space in it, from top to bottom, and front to back.

IAN: The Music in Exile label is releasing some great stuff. I particularly love the Gordon Koang album Unity.

2020 has been a challenging year for pretty much everyone; how has it affected you and how have you stayed positive?

IAN: Making my own coffee is a nice ritual I’ve developed during 2020. Also smelling the roses in New Farm Park has been a highlight. When we were allowed to rehearse again as a band — I felt that was a big moment of positivity. We’ve been writing more songs, languid and slow types of songs.

PASCALLE: It’s been a year where each of us has had to learn who we are in this situation. There’s been an unavoidable wave of planetary depression — whether we explicitly feel it or not — and coming up for air amongst it all has been an effort, I think, for many of us. Art and a kind community helps.

JANE: When I was able to return to fitness classes and band rehearsals that helped me heaps. I’ve joined the video streaming revolution. Drinking heaps of Malbec has also been very good.

Anything else you’d like to tell us or share with us?

IAN: Community radio in Australia has been a big support to us. Support community radio wherever it finds you by subscribing. 4ZZZ, our local station in Brisbane, has been an absolute champion over 40 years plus in pushing local and Australian music and we’d be severely diminished in Brisbane as a music community without it. There’s never been a more important time to support local independent media and arts.

PASCALLE: It’s also heartwarming to see all our fellow bands emerge from the Covid hibernation. I hadn’t realised how much I missed seeing live music!

IAN: Long may it continue. Fingers crossed.

Please check out THE STRESS OF LEISURE; on bandcamp; on Facebook; on Instagram. Faux Wave out now HERE.

Billly Gardner of Naarm/Melbourne punk band Smarts: “It’s been a wild year”

Original photo by Jamie Wdziekonski. Handmade collage by B.

Smarts’ new album Who Needs Smarts, Anyway? is one Gimmie HQ’s favourite releases of 2020. Frenetic, fun, clever, tight songs to lift your spirits and make you smile as we close out a year that’s been challenging for most of us. Gimmie spoke to bassist (and person behind Anti Fade Records) Billy Gardner.

You were the first official person we spoke to for Gimmie!

BILLY GARDNER: Woah. Really?

Yeah, and at the time you’d just put out your 61st release on Anti-Fade.

BG: I think that was Living Eyes, maybe.

Yeah. And now you’re at release 73 with the new Smarts record, I think!

BG: Yeah, I’m putting at tape out [TB Ridge as the Director – Rock n Roll Heart – next week, that’s 74.

Nice!

BG: Yeah, getting there.

What kind of stuff have you been listening to lately?

BG: Um, honestly, not heaps of stuff. Like, nothing new, really. I haven’t listened to too much new stuff this year. I’ve been listening to lots of stuff that my Mum played me when I was growing up. Classics like Toots and the Maytals and Ike & Tina Turner and stuff, and at the same time I’ve been going through a bit of a Metallica wave over the last two weeks—that kinda happens every few months.

Rad! So, has Smarts had a chance to practice since the lockdown has ended?

BG: Nah. Not as a full band since maybe like May. So we’re pretty keen. I think we’ll be able to do it in the next fortnight or so. There’s a few new songs that we’ve all sort of like made up in our own time, if you know what I mean, to work with.

Oh, nice. Is there anything in particular you’ve found yourself kind of writing about?

BG: No, I actually haven’t written any lyrics yet. I’ve just been making lots of riffs. I feel like it’s been a really dry year for lyrics. I just have no new inspiration this whole year, you know what I mean?

Do you think everything that’s happened in the world has sort of affected that?

BG: Yeah, well I feel like I usually get heaps of ideas from travelling and doing stuff and just getting out of the house, which I kind of haven’t really done at all this year. It’s been a pretty wild year.

And you keep a lot of memos in your phone for song ideas and that kind of stuff?

BG: Yeah, totally. There’s a lot of like little, loose, 30 second to 60 second riffs in there.

Do you just sing them into your phone or do you just like actually play them?

BG: Ahh, depends. Usually play ‘em, but sometimes sing them; that’s just like maybe if I have a riff in my head and I’m not near a guitar or anything. I feel like they’re usually the better ones, and I have to learn them on guitar later.  

I know creative ideas kind of come from everywhere, is there times more often than not that you get them?

BG: Yeah, I feel like it usually goes in waves. And I haven’t really been on a wave like that for the last month, or even two. But maybe like six to eight weeks ago I had a bit of a wave and a whole bunch of things came at once, and I was playing guitar every night. But I’ve been busy with like the label and other stuff lately, so I haven’t been doing as much of that.

You play bass in Smarts, and I know your Dad used to play bass in Bored!, I was wondering if he kind of inspired you to play bass? Because I know you started playing drums, I think?

BG: He definitely inspired me to play music. But the whole bass thing sort of came later. I do get to play his bass. I love playing his bass! It’s an old Fender Precision from the ‘70s, he’s got a Rickenbacker too, which is very special, but I think I prefer the Precision. I don’t know where the bass thing came from, maybe it was just like something different. I feel like with this band a lot of riffs are made on bass and then we’ll bring in the guitar later. Where in other bands I’d make riffs on guitar and bring the bass in later. So it’s kind of just a natural way of doing things a bit differently to what we’re used to. I saw this band called Vodovo in Japan about three years ago and they didn’t have any guitar, they just had two bass players, and that was definitely a big influence on Smarts.

Cool. I heard that when you came back from Japan you had the idea of the band name Smarts, because you were in Japan one of your friends you were with kept saying everything was “smart”.

BG:  Yeah, yeah. So Ausmuteants toured Japan in mid-2017, and saw Vodovo for the first time, and was getting a bit restless to do something a bit different, and our friend Shaun was just saying everything was smart, like you’d say something and he’d say, “That’s smart!” It was like his term of the tour, and I kind of thought Smarts was a cool name.

When you started you were just a 2-piece, you and Mitch?

BG: Yeah, I felt like we’ll just start it like that and just make a couple song and then try and flesh it out in to a live sense, and then it grew a lot there once we brought four people into the mix.

And you and Mitch play in Cereal Killer and Living Eyes together as well?

BG: Yeah, and Wet Blankets. I’ve been playing in bands with him for years.

How did you guys meet?

BG: In high school, actually. He’s a year younger than me and I met him on his orientation day and he was about to go in to Year 7 and I was going in to Year 8. We had heaps of mutual friends. We sort of had heard heaps about each other already and both skated and stuff, and we just kind of kicked it off from there.

I figured you guys had known each other for ages, because as far back I could see you had worked together heaps.

BG: Yeah, we had this funny band before Living Eyes called Hideaways when we were 14. Pretty cute.

Did you play drums in that one?

BG: We all switched around. So I played drums on a couple songs, sang a couple songs. I did really play guitar or anything back then.

What did that used to sound like?

BG: Kind of like a way more garage version of Living Eyes. Living Eyes sort of came out of that, as the bass player for Living Eyes was in that band too.

Wow. It’s nice to find out about all the connection and everything.

BG: It was extremely like garage days of like jamming in garage, quite little.

Then with Smarts, you added Jake and Sally and Stella. How do you think, when those guys joined, your sound started to evolve.

BG: Um, yeah, well that’s when it became much more interesting, I think. Especially bringing Sally and Stella into it. Although they were never in the band at the same time. Sally was originally in it, and she had never been in a band before, so that was cool, seeing her get all excited about playing music and stuff, and she brought heaps of cool bits to it like the keyboard line in ‘Smart Phone’ is like huge and that’s her. And then Stella came later, Stella actually came in after we’d recorded the album and played saxophone over the top of everything and really made it shine.

I was going to ask you what you love about having saxophone in the mix.

BG: It’s the best, I love everything about it! I think it’d be cool to work on new stuff with Stella, because we haven’t written songs together yet but we will now.

And with Smarts it’s a real collaborative process?

BG: Yeah, Smarts is so collaborative! Although Jake’s written a couple songs where he’s brought it in pre-written, and we’ll learn them and maybe add a tiny bit or like do a bit  twice as long as in his version but not really change it. But all the other songs, me and Mitch’s songs, they’re all just brought to the band and we’ll extend it from there.

With the new album, Who Needs Smarts, Anyway?, four of the tracks were on your first release, Smart World, I wanted to ask what do you like about the re-recorded versions?

BG: Mostly the fact that they feature everyone. Because the first release is just me and Mitch, so like a few people asked us why we did that, and that was just like because this is the full band version, and it’s got sax and keyboard and we’re all on our designated instruments now instead of it just being me and Mitch messing around, so I feel like it’s a whole different thing!

When you recorded, you kind of recorded the bones of it over a weekend and then people came by your place and did overdubs and stuff?

BG: Yeah, we just recorded it real basic. Just me, Mitch and Jake over a day and a half. We got a space in Geelong from like 3pm one day and set up and started recording that night, and then just did a whole day the next day, and then just took it back to Melbourne and over the next couple weekends people took turns at coming over and doing overdubs and really didn’t rush that, we sort of did the overdubs very slowly and it was a lot of fun days. So it was very layered. We kind of double tracked everything on the album except the drums and bass.

What made the days so fun?

BG: Just like hanging out and taking our time with it and having a few beers and stuff. It was always very fun.

And you enjoy recording?

BG: Yeah, we’ll I’m actually doing less of it these days. I used to record way more bands than I do and just felt like it was taking a little bit out of music for me. So I’ve sort of just been doing much less of that and keeping to my own stuff and you know, I’ll still record a few things here and there, but I don’t really wanna do it as a job or anything.

I often find people do get that after a while, like a lot of people I’ve talked to get that feeling.

BG: Yeah, I think I’d rather spend time on my own music a bit more than recording other people’s bands. I like doing it but I don’t wanna do it all the time.

Do you have things outside of music that you like doing?

BG: Yeah, just general stuff like me and Mitch blew up this little blow-up dinghy and took it down the river the other day. That was funny. Nothing out of the ordinary, just hanging out with people, cooking food and stuff like that.

What’s one of your favourite things to cook?

BG: Probably Mexican.

Tacos? Burritos?

BG: Um, yeah, are both good. I guess they both have their pros and cons. Maybe I’ll say burritos, just because they’re a tiny bit less messy. But when it’s a good night for it, I love a good taco sesh!

I always find though, tacos tend to go soggy quicker.

BG: Are you a hard shell or soft shell taco kind of person?

I’m soft.

BG: Yeah, me too.

That’s what a real taco is!

BG: Yeah, I grew up with the hard shell ones, and now I’m all about the soft.

Yeah, totally, I always tend to cut my mouth on the hard shell ones, believe it or not.

BG: Yeah! [laughs] Have you ever put a soft one around a hard one?

I haven’t actually! I’ve heard of this, but never done it.

BG: I’ve heard of it too, it seems insane but it makes sense because then the hard shell doesn’t all break up in your hands.

Photo: Jamie Wdziekonski.

I wanted to ask you about the cover photo for the album. I noticed there’s lots of references to the songs.

BG: Yes! You did? Well, I’m glad someone noticed that because I wasn’t sure if we really got it, because a few people have asked about things and I felt like I had to explain that but you noticed it, so thank you!

Yeah, totally, like as soon as I saw the obvious thing, which is the Cling Wrap. You just see it and your just like; wait a second, that’s that song! and then it’s kind of like ‘Where’s Wally?’ or something and you’re moving around the picture and you’re like going this is this, and like the globe is ‘Smarts World’..

BG: Yeah, yeah.. Did you spot the Maccas wrapper in the bin?

I did! I had it up on the computer first and I was looking at it, and I was like, “that looks like a MacDonald’s wrapper” but then I couldn’t see if it was or not, so then I had to go get out the 12” LP copy that we’ve got and I’m like trying to look at it.. Because I’m thinking it has to be a MacDonald’s wrapper because of ‘Golden Arches’, but then I know you guys wouldn’t want that overtly out there on it, so it’s more subtle…

BG: Nah, yep, well, thanks for picking up on that! I’m glad you noticed.

What else can you tell me about it?

BG: Well, it’s like a rip off of a Fall record cover. Did you notice that?

No.

BG: It’s not like an album, or one of their covers you’d see quite often, but it’s a 12” single for ‘Couldn’t Get Ahead’. It’s got Mark E. Smith sitting at a desk, and on the desk there’s like a pack of Marquis biscuits and a few references there. But we thought we’d do it with no one at the desk, because it’s like ‘Who Needs Smarts, Anyway?’ and the chair’s kind of looking as if someone’s just got up and walked away from it.

Yeah, totally, and I noticed the PP Rebel sticker.

BG: Yeah, well, that’s my laptop!

We’ve got the sticker. We put it on a magnet. You know how in the mail you get magnets from Real Estate places and local businesses?

BG: Yeah, and plumbers and things..

Yeah, we just got one of them that was the right size and stuck it over one, and it became a PP Rebel magnet for our fridge!

BG: Ahh, that’s genius! I might have to do that. I’ll keep my eyes out for some magnets.

So is there anything else you’re looking forward to doing creatively in the future?

BG: Just making more music really. I kind of haven’t done much of that this year, so I’ve got some catching up to do. Maybe some more artwork stuff, but that’s not really my field, but I wouldn’t mind doing some cut and paste things here and there.

When you’re writing stuff, is it just you start writing stuff and then you decide what band they go to?

BG: Yeah, I ‘spose, yeah, and even sometimes switch it up later, like I might have a song in mind for a certain band, but that band won’t be doing anything for a long time, and I’ll use it for a different band.

Are any of your other bands looking to do anything soon?

BG: Umm, probably more Smarts. We’ve got a few songs on the go, none of them are finished but have like maybe 7 or so half done, like riffs and stuff that we’re gonna start piecing stuff together. I don’t know what else, maybe there’s a couple Living Eyes demos that have been sitting around for a long time, maybe we’ll get there one day and record them.

As far Anti Fade Records goes, we’re not going to see anything til next year now because Smarts was the last release of the year? Oh, and the tape…

BG: Yeah, TB Ridge As The Director, which is Tom Ridgewell’s solo project, that’s coming out on Friday, and then yeah, that’s the end of the year. Will have to start planning 2021!

Please check out SMARTS on bandcamp; on Instagram. Who Needs Smarts, Anyway? out now on Anti Fade Records.

New York indie pop band Cults: “There’s always been a sense of humour or a playfulness in everything that we do”

Handmade collage by B.

Cults are back with their fourth album Host, brought to life with live instrumentation and a reimagined sound. Fresh, lush and bold this collection of songs are some of their strongest and most exciting yet. Gimmie explore its writing and recording with Cults duo Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion.

How has your day been?

MADELINE FOLLIN: We just got back from practicing for our virtual show tomorrow [laughs]; we recorded a radio session today too, it kind of felt like normal life today!

What was one of the most fun moments you had while making new album Host?

BRIAN OBLIVION: We spent three weeks out in the middle of nowhere in Arizona just trying to focus on really finishing the songs. We got a house with a pool! We just hung out in the crazy cactus desert and did nothing but work on music, all day and all night—it was a really special fun time.

Was there anything in particular that drew you to Arizona?

BO: Not really, it was cheap and close to where we already were [laughs]. We were at South by Southwest and flights were a fortune ‘cause everyone is going back and forth to New York from SXSW, we were like ‘where can we go around here that’s different? We can wait it out’. Our engineer lives in L.A. so he could just drive out to the desert.

I understand that you spent two months demoing before you went to Arizona and you were both on a different page as far as you wanted things to sound?

MF: Yeah. We always will start throwing ideas at the wall whenever we start recording. I feel like it was more that Brian and I don’t really have the same taste in music or art or anything [laughs], which is maybe why our band sounds the way it does. Whenever we’re starting a record we want to make sure that we’re both on the same page and we’re both completely happy with the direction we’re heading so sometimes it takes a little bit longer to figure out exactly what that is.

This is the first time that Cults have had live instruments on a record?

BO: It’s not the first, we had some string players on Static, but it’s definitely by far the furthest we’ve taken though.

MF: We were working in New York and we couldn’t agree on which direction we wanted to head into so we went to Arizona to lock ourselves in and not have any distractions to figure out what we wanted. He would chose a sound for something and I would be ‘I hate this!’ and then I would pick something and he’d be ‘This isn’t the vibe I want’ and then [producer] Shane [Stoneback] who was there with us said, “What if we have someone come and put down live strings? Is that something you guys could see as a direction for this?” Two days later our friend Tess [Scott-Suhrstedt] came and played viola on the songs, that’s when we realised what we wanted.

There seems to be a lot of playfulness and experimentation on this record. Was there anything that you tried different from what you might normally do?

BO: This record is way different rhythmically than anything that we’ve done—that’s all Madeline. I remember there was a day where I was out of it and I didn’t feel like looking at a computer and I was like ‘we have to get something done today!’ Madeline and I have thousands of these drum loops that we’ve collected over the years, I told her to just listen to them and pick the ones she liked the most. Madeline’s like ‘That sounds like busy work, that doesn’t sound like a job’ [laughs]. I was like, ‘no, do it, it’s going to be worth it!’ It totally was because all the stuff that she liked was maybe like more bossa nova beats or more jungle beats, things that I would have never started a song with. There’s something vaguely tropical about the album to me, that’s something that definitely came from Madeline and something I’m definitely excited about!

I saw the online Lollapalooza set you did where you played some of the new tracks, they sounded so great live.

BO: Thank you! A weird thing about the pandemic is we were playing the songs yesterday to get ready for our show and our manager was there and she was like “Wow! It sounds so great. Even the old songs sound better. Why does even the old ones sound better?” I said ‘Well, Heidi, I don’t think we’ve ever practiced before!’ [laughs]. Normally we practice for two weeks and then we learn on the road. This time we were just practicing to stay sane in a way. We’re very well practiced.

MF: [Laughs].

I saw that in September when you were making the album that there was a whiteboard with song titles you were working through and I spied 18 songs, only 12 made the album.

BO: Yes, there are many left!

There was one that caught my eye called ‘Poodles Dancing’!

MF: [Laughs].

BO: That’s a real song! [laughs]. ‘Poodles Dancing’ is a hit!

MR: ‘Poodles Dancing’ didn’t make the record because it’s something much bigger than Host [laughs].

Did you have a process of elimination for what finally makes it on the record and what doesn’t?

MF: It’s really, really hard. Some of them just didn’t get finished in time and with the other ones we’re biased because we loved every song we work on. It’s obvious which ones, sort of. We send some out to people and see what they think, because for us sometimes it’s hard to step away from something you’ve worked really hard on and say, this isn’t going to work, this isn’t good enough.

BO to MF: Every song you’ve written one day will find its way to the light of day in time—I have the files! [laughs].

MF: ‘Poodles Dancing’ is going to come out.

BO: We were watching all these YouTube videos of poodles dancing…

MF: No, I thought it sounded like poodles dancing.

BO: Oh yeah, then you found out it was a thing on YouTube.

MF: Go look it up!

BO: It will brighten your day.

We really love the song ‘Spit You Out’ it has some cool exotica kind of elements and a heaviness. The video where you’re eating all the different food is pretty fun.

MF: That was born out of necessity. We were in the very beginning of the lockdown. Originally our record was supposed to come out in April and everybody we work with said we should push it back so we kept pushing it back, we decided that people still need to listen to music! Just because we can’t tour doesn’t mean we can’t put out a record, so we pulled it together. Our friend who we were quarantining with directed the video of me eating for a few days straight. It was probably the most fun we’ve had making a clip. We set up a smartphone and I ate! [laughs].

The lyrics for the song seem pretty heavy though while the clip is lighter. Was that juxtapose a conscious choice?

MF: I thought the idea was really funny. Originally we were in L.A. in the beginning of March, we had been scheduled to shoot a video March 12 and for some reason the director cancelled but the idea was to have me in a circle of people with them spitting on me. Luckily we didn’t do that! Imagine, twenty people could have ended up with Corona if someone was infected. I feel much better that it is a light, funny video; there’s a lot of people that are really mad about it that really don’t like the video! [laughs].

BO: [Laughs]. We talked about it in the car yesterday that maybe with this record more than other records, to us there’s always been a sense of humour or a playfulness in everything that we do, we want people to see that and engage with that, it’s there by design; some fans don’t see that though and think we’re dark and moody. Whatever you think is fine but, what we’re trying to do is not as serious as it seems.

MF: At the same time I probably would have been mad at the video too because I actually hate watching and listening to people eat!

BO: She loathes it!

What did you each learn from the process of making this album?

BO: We were also talking about how there’s this weird cyclical nature for this record, some people are comparing it to the first record we made which I don’t really feel in anyway other than that the first record was really angry and we reconnected with that anger. I thought about it some more and was like well we made the first record in a tiny apartment in Manhattan and we made this record in an apartment too. When we made the first one in an apartment it was because we had no idea of what we were doing and now we’ve made this one in an apartment because we do know what we are doing; we don’t really have to spend a lot of money and go do a bunch of fancy stuff to make something that sounds cool. I’ve learned a sense of confidence that Madeline can sing a song into her iPhone and it’ll sound great and we can use it on the record—there’s no rules! That freedom can be bought but it can also be done for free if you’re very creative.

The album is angry as you were saying but by the time you get to closer ‘Monolithic’ it’s almost like there’s a sense of relief and a strength and sense of freedom and feelings of self-reliance that run through the album also. I think it ultimately ends positively.

BO: You got what we’re going for!

MF: We’re not even going for it though, it’s really just what’s going on at the time. Luckily the recording and writing process lasted long enough to get to that point.

Why is music important to you?

BO: Music is important to me because without it I would be really stupid! [laughs]. It does something to my brain to broaden my experience of not just the world but how other people think and how it relates to me. As a kid I was a complete idiot until I started listening to music—I started seeing the world in a whole new way.

Please check out CULTS; on bandcamp; on Facebook; on Instagram. Host is out now on Sinderlyn.

Warrang/Sydney post-punk band Mere Women’s ‘Romantic Notions’: “It explores the idea that love can be used as a tool to control someone or can be used as a reason to make destructive life choices”

Original photo: Chris Polak. Handmade collage by B.

Mere Women are back with a divine new offering song ‘Romantic Notions’ the title-track from their eagerly awaited fourth album due 5 March 2021 via Poison City Records. Gimmie are excited to premiere the song’s clip directed and lovingly crafted by the band, shot on the land of the Kuing-gai and Eora Peoples. Vocalist Amy Wilson gives us an insight into the track, clip and the album.

This year has been a challenging one for everyone; how are you? How has things affected your creativity? What’s helped you stay positive?

AMY WILSON: I’m ok thanks. It’s been a rough year for lots of reasons and everything has changed so quickly and extremely. We managed to squeeze recording in just before lock down which was lucky but I feel that as a band we were ready for a little breather after that anyway. I’ve been playing around with ideas since then but have been really unproductive when it comes to music to be honest. 2020 has been very hard and every aspect of my life changed so much that I felt like I didn’t have space to be creative. That said, it was very fun to get together to make the ‘Romantic Notions’ clip and I’m finding more space to write music again now. It’s beyond exciting to finally be releasing music and looking to get on with things.

How have you felt about not being able to play live shows? Why is it important to you?

AW: I love playing live so it’s left a huge hole in my life. There’s something so special about playing to an audience and feeling like as a band we’re all interconnected and nailing it. It’s pure joy. I don’t get that feeling from anywhere else so I’m really missing it. I also miss meeting people at shows, seeing other bands and feeling like I’m part of a community.

What was the first concert/gig you ever went to?

AW: I travelled up from Wollongong on public transport with some mates to see The Living End play at the UNSW Roundhouse when I was 12 or 13. I was so excited to go and had my whole outfit planned out weeks in advance. Probably used up a whole eye liner pencil that day I reckon. 

You wrote record number four in March this year in a “special place”; what can you tell us about it at this point? Sound-wise where’s it headed?

AW: We wrote the majority of the record at our place on the Hawkesbury River where three of us live. It’s a stunning spot right on the water, surrounded by national park. The record has soaked up this place over the writing process and as a result is more spacious and considered I think. Living here has made me feel like more of an outsider and this really comes through lyrically. As an album it’s dark and self-reflective but hopeful.

‘Romantic Notions’ is the first song from Mere Women in almost a year; what inspired its writing? What was the process for this track?

AW: I’ve been spending lots of time with my grandmother and hearing her stories about the complicated relationship between her mother and father. I think that’s where the spark of the ‘Romantic Notions’ theme came from. It explores the idea that love can be used as a tool to control someone or can be used as a reason to make destructive life choices. As a band at that time we were inspired sonically by groups like TFS, White Hex and BAMBARA and wanting to create something that sounded sludgy and enveloping.

Can you tell us a little about recording the song?

AW: We recorded it along with the rest of the album at One Flight Up studios in St Peters. It was a really fun song to record because we were super confident with it and vocally it has this really frenetic energy which is great to play around with.

When and what was the last romantic notion you had?

AW: Oh I have them on a daily basis and they’re usually quite impossible and ridiculous. Today I was fantasising about living solely off my own vegetable garden as I picked a few measly grub-riddled peas off an otherwise-barren bean stalk.

I think living where I do now was a Romantic Notion too but surprisingly it seems to be working out.  

We’re premiering the video for your single; can you tell us about making it? Where was it filmed? Who made it? What feeling/mood were you going for?

AW: We were trying to create this sense of ‘becoming’ something new and leaving the old behind with the clip. It was filmed at our cottage and in the surrounding bushland by Flyn and Mac from the Band. Mac edited the clip and made the opening titles. Our friend Kim from White Lion Cosmetica got on board to do makeup and created this really cool monsteresque look that changes and grows throughout the clip. Considering we had no band money from shows in 2020, it’s a totally DIY clip and I think we did a pretty good job.

There’s some interesting outfits in the clip, especially the custom Mere Women blanket at the end of the clip; what’s the story behind it?

AW: Trisch [Roberts] our bassist and I do love to play dress-ups and wear ridiculous hats so we had fun planning out the costumes. It was designed and hand stitched by Arielle Gamble. Arielle has done the artwork for our previous two records.  Each little stitched icon on there represents one of the tracks from the upcoming album.

What’s something that has really been engaging you lately? What do you appreciate about it?

AW: I just read The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh and absolutely loved every minute of it. It’s about a family with 3 daughters who live alone on an island in an old hotel in a post-apocalyptic world. I enjoyed how it mushes all of this imagery of beauty and decay together and keeps you constantly guessing.

Previously when we’ve spoken you told me you were passionate foodies; what’s one of the most memorable meals you’ve ever had?

AW: Flyn and I were travelling in China and had this incredible noodle dish for breakfast every day we were in Guilin. It’s rice noodles with a spicy broth, pickles, peanuts and thinly sliced pork of some kind and it blew our minds! We’ve found a place in Sydney that does pretty much the same thing and whenever we’re in the city we always have to go.

What’s something else you’d like to share with us?

AW: Just that we’re so happy to be releasing again and getting back to playing music. Thanks for watching and listening to ‘Romantic Notions’ – it means a lot and we hope that you enjoy it. We hope that anyone reading this is also doing ok, especially those of you from Victoria who have had it so tough these last few months.

Please check out MERE WOMEN on bandcamp; on Facebook; on Instagram. Romantic Notions LP is available for pre-order at the Poison City Records store.

Melbourne punk band The Shifters are: “avid fans of the weirder side of rock n roll and a cocktail of differing lifestyles, habits and dependencies”

Original photo shot in France by @tmphotograph. Handmade collage by B.

The Shifters from Melbourne are a prolific lo-fi DIY band that put a post-modernist spin on punk. Gimmie interviewed vocalist-guitarist Miles Jansen and keyboardist-vocalist Louise Russell to chat about their 2020 releases Live In Gaul recorded from shows played in France, 7-inch Left Bereft/Australia and Open Vault a compilation of 26 unreleased studio material, early demos, live 4-track, live iPhone, covers and solo home demos. We also explore their musical discovery, touring Europe and a double LP in the works!

Tell us a bit about yourself.

MILES: I am a Musician from Melbourne, Australia. I lost my job in hospitality at the beginning of COVID and now studying programming and cybersecurity at VU.

LOU: I am a musician and a chef in Melbourne. I’m originally from Cairns. I’ve just finished my second year of primary education at La Trobe University and can’t wait to finish and get a real job!

How did you first get into music?

MILES: My Grandparents, parents and older brother all had a big musical influence on me growing up. My Grandparents always had Bach and Pachelbel blasting from a custom set of speakers in their house. Mum and Dad were kids of the ’60s, so a healthy dose of all the classics, including interesting additions like [Captain] Beefheart and Lou Reed’s ‘Transformer’.

My brother Liege introduced me to stuff like Wu-Tang, Mobb Deep and Dr Octagon. My little ears did not really relate to what was being said, though I really dug how the music sounded. The loops and samples Wu-Tang use on 36 Chambers was what I liked most. They were young geniuses. Liege also had a good guitar-based musical influence on me through stuff like Sebadoh, Nirvana, Sonic Youth and then skateboarding. Skating for me, like so many others, was a major eye-opener for music. We would religiously watch skate videos that would have some really eclectic soundtracks, then dub the music and make mixtapes with skate noises in the background. Gang of Four’s Entertainment! was probably my biggest ‘lightbulb’ moment. Sometime after hearing that I started to meet musicians at local punk shows in Brisbane. There was a great little scene happening back then.

During that time, James Kritzler (White Hex, Slug Guts /author whom I lived and played in a band with at the time) gave me a CDR with The Fall’s ‘How I Wrote Elastic Man’ on it! I’d never heard such an interesting use of language in ‘Punk’. I was mesmerized. As the late, great MES said himself, “real head music”. I was thereby sold and my love for them still trumps all of the fantastic music I’ve been made aware of since. The band with James was called ‘On/Oxx’. It was a strange concoction of sounds but it was through that I got into the Liars album ‘Drums Not Dead’, the drums on that record are really great and we were just kinda rhythmically ripping them off. It featured saxophone, which James called “skronking”, two drummers- ‘Butthole Surfers’ style and sometimes James would bang on bits of metal with contact mics attached. He is the very smart, charming and talented ringmaster of sorts. I pretty much did as I was told. It was a great first band to be in. We toured in Australia two or three times, released a 7” and an LP, then it suddenly all ended after the bass player Lachlan moved to NZ to join ‘Die!Die!Die!’.

LOU: I guess my initial introduction to music was playing the piano. My parents refurbished a 1901 upright piano they found at an antique store and I started learning on that at age 7. We lived in middle-of-nowhere Far North Queensland and I had some pretty weird piano teachers. One was obsessed with porcelain dolls and another used to take her false teeth out and put them on top of the piano before each lesson. I only learned classical pieces but always had an affinity for anything in a minor key. I loved gettin’ a bit spooky.

Mum and Dad listened to a lot of music from the ‘80s and ‘90s. Mum was a fan of Alanis Morissette and Savage Garden whilst Dad loved The Clash and Radiohead. I remember my dad having a copy of Beck’s album Odelay from 1994 and it was my favourite. That was probably my introduction to music that differed from Britney Spears and Spice Girls.

I had atrocious taste in music as an adolescent. I think the first cd I ever bought was the first Panic! At the Disco album. I listened to it on this old Walkman mum found at the tip shop. I knew every word and had a massive poster of them above my bed. Probably alongside Pete Wentz or something.

Like a lot of people from my generation, I went through that whole emo/scene/hardcore phase. In that progression, too. We didn’t get a lot of acts up in FNQ and when we did they were those all-ages hardcore shows. I think the first band I ever saw was either The Amity Affliction of Parkway Drive. If I hear them now I cringe. Things kinda just got darker as I got older and I started getting into black metal and death metal. I remember someone showing me Cradle of Filth’s album Midian in year 8 and I thought it was so sick. I’d never heard music like that before. An older kid at my school let me borrow his Children of Bodom in Stockholm 2006 DVD and I remember being hooked after that. Watching these dudes with long greasy hair and camo pants, one shredding a keyboard faced the wrong way around and another coking sausages over barrels of fire. Loved it.

My parents were always super supportive of all the music I listened to – even if they didn’t understand it – and I think that’s what’s allowed me to be so diverse in what I enjoy musically. Moving to Melbourne in 2011 opened my eyes to the punk scene. I had a lot of older friends from Queensland that were musicians down here and I would tag along to shows. I remember seeing a lot of Drunk Mums, Eddy Current Suppression Ring and Total Control. I don’t even know what kind of music I’d be into if I didn’t move to Melbourne and be immersed in this scene. Being in The Shifters has definitely influenced my taste in music a lot. These guys have introduced me to a lot of crazy and cool stuff.

What are some things that you are really good at?

MILES: The ability to sit for very long periods, playing ‘mini headbutts’ with my cat, ranting about bygone nonsense and pointing out all of the mistakes in war films.

Honestly, I don’t think I’m REALLY good at anything, maybe I’m just ‘good’ at a few things? and bad at most other things. If I had a barometer that measures how useful individual citizens were for the betterment of the current order, I would fare pretty poorly.

LOU: I wouldn’t say I’m ‘really’ good at anything. More than I’m adept at some things. I’m getting good at barbecuing. My partners calls me The Pitmaster. I like making things. I’ve been making little models out of balsa wood and I think I’m alright at that. For my teaching course I have to make a lot of arts and crafts type things so I’ve been getting pretty good at that. I’ve also become quite the gardener. It’s super cute watching plants grow and I find gardening therapeutic.

What influences culminated in creating The Shifters’ sound?

MILES: A mutual love for similar ideas and sounds. For example, Tristan has always loved the sound of live Velvet Underground recordings. I just messaged him to ask what age he got into them and he sent me this:” Dad showed me the Velvets when I was 8, and it ruined my life”. I feel we were on a similar musical path. The Shifters are avid fans of the weirder side of rock n roll and a cocktail of differing lifestyles, habits and dependencies.

LOU: I think a combination of everyone’s varying music tastes and history. I’ve always been attracted to weirder, askew types of music and I The Shifters’ music fits that mould. Tristan, Miles, Ryan and Chris all knew each other from yonks ago and share a lot of common interests. I was a newer recruit so I’m not sure if I have directly influenced our music but it’s definitely a mix of everyone’s eclectic tastes in music.

What contributes to your raw, jangly Shifters’ guitar tone that we love so much?

MILES: Listening to too much John Cale and Swell Maps, not really knowing how to play the thing is a good start, not using any pedals also helps. When I started getting into this kind of music as a teen I would look at photos or watch footage and like a sound and see where their hands were placed. All the guitarists thus far in the group have been self-taught (to my knowledge).

When I lived in London I played in a Cramps cover band and that was really handy in terms of learning classic chord progressions or shapes. They asked me to play with them as they knew I played a little guitar. They laughed so hard at me during first practice as I didn’t know an A from a C and still don’t really. I know I can play all the chords but I don’t know which ones I’m doing. Sorry Shifters.

LOU: Probably just always being a little bit out of tune. Somehow, no matter how much we tune up, someone, or all of us, is slightly out of key. Someone – usually me – forgets what notes to play and sometimes that can work in a dissonant way but a lot of the time it doesn’t. We don’t really use any pedals or effects and always try to strip it back a bit. I guess that’s what gives us that ‘jangly’ sound.

Art by Miles.

You recently released a Live In Gaul recording from shows you played in France early last year. It was recorded on Tristan’s iPhone; can you tell us a bit about your time in France? What was it like? What did you see? Did anything surprise you?

MILES: We went over not knowing what to expect. I knew that we had been selling a few records over there but had no idea the level of support we were to receive. There were people who knew the words to songs and were singing along at shows and asking for autographs every night. I was gobsmacked. I don’t remember signing anything in Australia. Moreover, it wasn’t like they were all Shifters fans, but they were just really psyched to see a somewhat ‘weird’ band from the other side of the world come to their small University town or Industrial city during the end of winter. We played to over 500 people in Paris. For a band like ours, that’s pretty wild. I think it’s the biggest crowd we have ever played to. I was shocked. We were rolling in cash from selling out of all of our merch and being paid pretty well for shows. Especially Paris. As far as tours go, we couldn’t have asked for more. I think I can speak for all of us here and say it was probably one of the best times we have ever had. There were fights and tears but that is to be expected existing as we were. We did not sleep much, we smoked a million cigarettes a day and drank ourselves silly partying with all of our new-found friends. We ate fantastic food. I love France and the French. I wish we could have done some more sightseeing but it doesn’t quite work like that. It’s the ultimate escapism. No work, no worries really, just get back into the van and do it all over again. We all got sick as dogs! Merci to our friends in France and Belgium. We shall be back whenever we are able.

LOU: Oh man, France was sick. We honestly thought we’d be playing to empty rooms but the crowds were amazing. We hadn’t experienced the calibre of hospitality in Australia compared to France. We were fed every night, given as much booze as we wanted, had parties thrown for us and made to feel comfortable in other people’s homes. We are eternally grateful for those that looked out for us. I knew the cheese and wine would be good but holy dooley, I wasn’t prepared for just how good it was. Especially in Bordeaux *chef kiss*. Have to say, the croissants in Melbourne are way better though so I guess that surprised me. Sorry France.

We made some really rad friends and got to see some cool places. I spent my 25th birthday on a boat in Lyon which is an experience I will never forget. The show in Paris was incredible. We played on another boat on the Senne River to 500 people and that was mad.

I don’t know about the other guys but I got really good at sleeping in the van. I felt really bad for Chris though, who ended up driving us around throughout the UK leg of the tour. We’re all a bunch of babies that can’t drive except for Chris. Tristan kept us entertained with a comic series he called Cucumber Man. He even came up with a theme song. He started singing “I’m a cucumber man and I do what I can” during sound checks and it almost brought me to tears every time.

I think we ate our weight’s worth of servo sandwiches and learnt that European McDonald’s don’t do all day breakfast which was a bummer on our rock dog schedule. 

The combination of being so sleep deprived, hungover, excited and wired made for some pretty funny and memorable moments. It was a really great experience and something we will look back on in awe for the rest of our lives.   

In March this year you released Open Vault a compilation of 26 unreleased songs including studio material, early demos, live 4-track and live iPhone, covers and solo home demos recorded between 2016 and 2019; what inspired you to put these out into the world? Often bands are shy to share their demos. Did you have a process for choosing what was included?

MILES: I just like them. Aside from the studio-recorded stuff, to me, it sounds like Daniel Johnston met up with John Cale, got really hammered, then tried to make their own White Album on GarageBand only using the inbuilt mic on an old MacBook. Whether they were successful or not is another question. I also just wanted to put SOMETHING out as releases were all put on hold due to COVID.

It turns out some other people rather liked it and we have recently been approached by a German label that wants to release it as a double LP late in the year or early next. Danke Kamerad!

Your Left Bereft 7-inch has just come out also; how did the A-side title track come into being? Lyrically it seems to talk to the current frustrations with our society’s systems and the information we’re bombarded with from news etc. in our daily lives.

MILES: Well I feel things are a bit different now as these were all written pre-COVID, but still valid as it seems the new federal budget is a welfare package for the bosses of the country and the Liberal party is back on track making the poor suffer. It came about when we returned from our European tour. I made a point throughout the yomp to talk to as many people as possible about what was going on in their respective countries politically and socially. At the end of it all I was left with the impression that everyone felt in a similar way to myself about their own Governments and fracturing communities. ‘Left Bereft’ is an overly simplified rabble-rouser that people who maybe use English as a second or third language can understand and maybe feel a bit of solidarity. I like to imagine drunk students in France listening to it whilst wrestling on the kitchen table, which we witnessed in Rennes, but the soundtrack was ‘Constant Mongrel’.

Can you explain to us what the 7-inch B-side Australia is about?

MILES: It’s more or less in the same vein as ‘Left Bereft’ but more localised. I think only those familiar with Australian happenings would know what the hell I’m on about. To be honest, I think I was just in a fairly grumpy mood writing both of them. I love Australia and wouldn’t swap my passport for any, BUT saying that I think this country has been an absolute embarrassment in terms of turning into free-market capitalism’s wet dream. I would happily see many Liberal and National party politicians get life sentences in prison for crimes against humanity, the environment and the general erosion of 90% of the population’s best interest. Nepotism and corruption are rampant within the Liberal party but your average Aussie does not give a toss as it’s not reported in the major outlets as the news is dictated by the Liberal party, who is dictated by Mr Murdoch, who owns all of the major outlets, aaaaaaand Bunnings is still open. Instead of watching a horror movie tonight, just watch Sky News Australia on YouTube!

Australia is not the benevolent, all welcoming, sun-bleached, forward-thinking country that the media likes to portray. We may have had some of those attributes in the past, but sadly they have been slowly pulled from under us. Shame, as we have all of the ability and necessary attributes to sustain a far better standard of living for all people today and tomorrow. 

Is it important for you to tell a story in your songs? They often have some kind of social commentary thematically.

MILES: No, I don’t think so. I don’t sit there and think “I need a story for this song” It just falls to what interests, amuses or bemuses me at the time. I have noticed something that does seem important to me, and that is to use words that have multiple meanings wherever possible so it can be adjusted by your own interpretation of the content.

LOU: Miles writes most of the lyrics and I don’t think he’s ever purposely trying to tell a story in the songs, but they usually become some sort of history or politics lesson. Which is cool, ‘cause learning is fun!

What’s the hardest thing The Shifters’ have ever had to do as a band?

MILES: Probably the Euro tour?? We are all pretty quiet and reserved people most of the time and that tour kicked the shit out of us. In many ways.

LOU:  Definitely the Europe tour. We were all so sick. Except for Ryan. Lucky dude. That man has an iron immune system. When I came back I had bronchitis and felt like absolute death. I also looked about 10 years older. That’s what no sleep, high adrenaline and endless partying will do to you. We all had our grumpy moments and I think just being around each other in those bad times was pretty hard.  

What’s coming up for The Shifters?

MILES: We have the double LP compilation to look out for. Hopefully, we can get together again soon as a band to write/record a new LP. We have not been able to get together since March as Melbourne has been under strict lockdown.

 LOU: I just wanna see everyone! We haven’t jammed in months and I miss my dudes. Can’t wait to go to the pub, have a bunch of beers and reminisce. We were really keen to go back to France at some point this year but then life got cancelled because of COVID. Hopefully we can tour again at some point. At the moment we’re all just keen to see each other and write some new stuff! We are seeing some light at the end of the tunnel and hopefully, we can meet soon.

What are you most excited about right now?

MILES: I’m unsure about using the word excited, but I’m very intrigued right now by the general collapse of the Nu Roman Empire. Electing Trump was a Rubicon moment, of sorts. Though I think they had their ‘Pax Romana’ a long time ago. The fall of the Western Roman Empire was a gradual decline in the upkeep of state administration and the inability to pay its troops holding the borders of a bloated and fracturing empire in a time of famine and crop failure. Landowners and senators slowly ‘left out the back door’ so to speak, and started hiring out-of-work soldiers to protect their own interests in volatile provinces left in a vacuum of post-Roman centralised authority. Thus, began sowing the seeds of European feudalism. Trump = Commodus. History can be screamingly interesting. 

LOU: I’m excited to make money again! I haven’t had a job since June. I never thought I’d say that I miss the stress and pressure of a kitchen environment but I honestly do. I feel like I don’t have a purpose at the moment and I’m becoming too much of a hermit. I’ve become a full-blown gamer during lockdown and I’m getting a new PC soon. I guess that’s pretty exciting too! 

Please check out THE SHIFTERS on bandcamp; on Instagram; on Facebook.

Atlanta X Melbourne Hip-Hop Collaborators Suggs: “Artistry in the world is on the brink of coming back to a place of rediscovering what it means to be punk”

Original photo: Jamie Wdziekonski. Handmade collage by B.

Suggs is a hip-hop project from Melbourne musician Zak Olsen (Traffik Island/ORB/ Hierophants/The Frowning Clouds) and Atlanta multi-instrumentalist and rapper Sheldon Suggs. Their first release We Suggs was conceived from collaborating over the internet to create a thrilling alternative, psychedelic hip-hop that’s a real triumph. With lush sounds, a refreshing adventurous musical approach and an exciting original voice gliding the beats, Suggs hasn’t left the Gimmie HQ stereo since it dropped in September.

How are you going?

SHELDON SUGGS: Pretty well. It’s 8 o’clock here so I’m just chilling out [laughs]. Today I took it easy. It’s raining here and the seasons here in Atlanta are changing… just trying to keep sane with my dog and my cat and working on some other stuff here that me and Zak are working on.

What’s it like where you live? Did you grow up in Atlanta?

SS: It’s the South… I grew up between a couple of different places. I was born in California, went to high school in the Chicago area, my mom lives in Atlanta. Though I’ve always moved around a lot, Atlanta has always been a home base. It’s nice, I love Atlanta! It’s a US metropolitan city, probably one of the bigger ones these days. One of the coolest parts about it, for better or for worse, is that you get a good pulse on how people are feeling that are out in the street, dealing with each other and doing things, you kind of get more of a personable, accurate representation of how people are feeling.

How did you first discover music?

SS: Hmmm… I want to think about it and give you my absolute first trigger for music. I can’t necessarily give you the first one but I can get close. The first CD that I ever bought was NSYNC’s No Strings Attached [laughs], I was so happy about it! I knew all the songs, I used to perform for my parents, it was the funniest thing. Besides from that, I was in a band in school, I played a number of different instruments, I still do. As far as rap’s concerned, the first rap CD that I bought was probably either Common’s Be album or Kanye’s College Dropout—both were very, very important for me. They gave me a lot of inspiration! I’ll never forget when Kanye West dropped his single ‘Jesus Walks’ and when I heard it I freaked out!. I think I was in 7th Grade. I heard it on the radio with my mom in the car and I was like; stop the car! What song is this?! I demanded to know what song it was because I thought it was so crazy and so different, someone was on the radio talking about a topic like Jesus! [laughs]. All the knowledge I had of Jesus at that point was my parents taking me to church. To hear this rapper rapping about Jesus in a way that wasn’t corny, it was crazy!

It’s a powerful song. I love that era of Kanye. All the stuff he was dropping was really cool and different. When Kanye came out he was so different to everything else that was happening.

SS: That was totally a different time, for everybody.

So were they the albums that inspired you to start rapping yourself?

SS: Yeah. I heard ‘Jesus Walks’ and then I heard Common. I love that Be album so much because it elaborates on the kind of aesthetic and feeling Kanye had on ‘Jesus Walks’—nice, good, soul food! It’s nothing special or flashy but when you eat a good home-cooked meal, as long as it sits in your stomach well, it tastes familiar and gives you that feeling of satisfaction, that’s what that did for me at that time.

My older cousins were big into Jay-Z, I was pretty into Jay-Z too at the time, ‘cause that’s who was the biggest star. When Kanye started coming around and you started hearing about his solo stuff and how he’s produced this, that, and the other… it’s crazy looking back on it because that was my champion, so to speak. My older cousins are super cool and I was trying to be like them, trying to catch up and then Kanye comes along and now I have something that I can grab onto and call my own.

As an artist, what are the things that you value?

SS: It’s kind of corny but the authenticity is really big for me. It’s not so much just authenticity, it’s something that’s kind of hard to explain because it’s an art in and of itself to express yourself, clearly, it’s an understatement. In creating, if anybody is creating, if you’re working, most of the time you know what you’re supposed to do and usually the problem, if you have one, is how to do it. Most of the time I feel that you know what to do and know how to go about doing it and that’s the skill that I believe you have to develop as an artist. What I hold near and dear is staying in the proverbial moment, not being afraid and pushing the button when it needs to get pushed and maybe letting go of it when it needs to be let go of is super important. What I value most, as far as artistry, is to know when to go and know when to stop.

When you write lyrics is it from a personal place or more observational of what’s going on around you?

SS: Definitely both for sure. I feel like my artistry has changed a lot over the years. I had actually stopped rapping completely when me and Zak linked up.

How did you meet?

SS: It was a lot of space talk on the internet! Some people like to call me humble, I totally respect that, I just think I know when to be aggressive and know when to hang back… I saw Zak posting things about hip-hop, he posted something to do with J Dilla and I was like, OK, J Dilla! I messaged him because I’m a huge fan of pretty much anything to come out of Australia to be honest—ORB, Traffik Island, anything to do with Zak, I love! We started going back and forth. I wasn’t rapping at the time but when I started picking it back up, I noticed how different it was. It’s been quite a trip witnessing it because I came from a place that I was previously into it, it was more from a place of anger, if I’ve got to be honest! It is what it is …comparison to now is that it’s coming from a place of understanding, a place of purpose and duty.  

What was it that started you rapping again?

SS: We were chatting, I mentioned that I could rap and he sent a beat, we played around with it. The ‘Silence!’ on the album was the first song we ever did. It was funny, we linked up on [King] Gizzard’s [and the Lizard Wizard] tour when it came to Atlanta. There were a couple of people coming up to me and asking me how I know Zak and I said we met online and did a couple tunes here and there, they had heard one of our songs and they were digging it. Once we made that song we never stopped.

That’s one of my favourites on the album. Sending songs back and forth to each other over the internet, you made it over a three month period, right?

SS: Yeah. When we decided, OK let’s put a project together, I’d say it took course over a three month period.

Do you have any favourites on the record? I’m sure you love all of them or you wouldn’t have put them out, obviously.

SS: I’m not that egotistical… most artists are egotistical [laughs]. If I had to say a favourite it would have to be ‘Thank Christ’. I’m not super religious or nothin’. The reason it’s my favourite is because how I’m not super religious but it’s still there kinda what it means to me… its got a special place for me. I wanted to put that song there, it’s kind of clickbait in a way. I know people would see Christ and be like; yo, what’s he talking about with Christ? The song is maybe a wake up, a flash in a moment where you’d expect to talk about the idea of a saviour, the idea that a saviour came to save you… it’s not about believing in it… I think a lot of times self-improvement, sometimes people catch themselves up on it because they think they have to change… what I have gathered from Christ… I grew up getting dragged to church Sunday morning and I wanted to go out and play basketball or do whatever I wanted to do, church isn’t my cup of tea but, what I gathered from those trips is, you don’t have to change yourself to improve yourself, in fact, when you’re improving yourself you’re probably setting the parts of yourself that you don’t want to have anyway if you could choose to. It’s abstract how I put it but that’s why that song is important to me, to refresh people’s minds and put it to them that, hey, it’s not this condemning thing; at the same time it’s poking fun and pointing a finger so to speak at people that claim to be good and do bad. There’s a line in there: I thought this century’s meme was to uplift women. That right there demonstrates to me the purpose of the song is, if we claim to be on the same page about ‘xyz’; why is it not really so?

What about the song ‘Pearls’?

SS: [Laughs] It’s funny that you said that because if ‘Thank Christ’ is my serious favourite, ‘Pearls’ is my wholesome favourite ‘cause…. Zak sent that beat to me late at night, I heard it and instantly wrote the song. I love when that happens because you know it’s going to be a good one. What’s so sick about it is, that’s the song that most people generally speaking would put as their single, we had an idea of what we wanted this album to be taken as and it shows that we can also… the album is largely heavy and heady but ‘Peals’ is like, FYI, hey, we can make a Wiz Khalifa pop single too! [laughs].

I love pop! I can hear the pope elements for sure.

SS: It’s pretty cool having it on there. More often than not I attack the song when I hear the beat, that’s what will start writing lyrics for me. If I hear the track sometimes I automatically know how I want to approach it, like ‘Pearls’ it had this airy, cool, not so serious but awesome vibe. It was a sight for sore eyes because writing had been so intense. I was going so tough on a lot of stuff and being relentless that ‘Pearls’ is a refresher in a more poppy way. I like pop too. It gets spat upon, especially now days ‘cause anything poplar gets spat upon. The proof is in the pudding though.

Do you have reoccurring themes you write about?

SS: People closest to me, I’d imagine that on that list that numbers one through five would say, kind of a social philosopher type of situation. I’m very hard on myself, unfortunately; it tends to make it that I’m hard on everybody else around me, it’s something I’m constantly keeping in check. Lately when it comes to what we’re doing with Suggs and in the future, it would be this route of just taking a look at myself and the world and seeing what’s going on, that’s where I get a large portion of the topics I talk about. There’s such a huge space right now for artists to express themselves in a time where expression is being manicured. I think we’re on the front period. Artistry in the world is on the brink of coming back to a place of rediscovering what it means to be punk. Punk to me demonstrates… if there’s one genre I had to pick that is the most honest… metal and punk is white people’s rap [laughs]. The reason I say that is that it’s true, it’s visceral, it’s hard and it’s hardcore. Hip-hop and punk have very similar trajectories as far as where they were and where they are now. It’s high time for us to get back to where we were.

Both are about community and DIY.

SS: Definitely. It’s so true. It’s the raw energy and frustration being expressed in real time—that’s awesome! We need more of it.

Did you learn anything about yourself writing the We Suggs record?

SS: I rediscovered the sense of purpose and how it is intrinsically connected to creation and intuition. We all try to force stuff at times and make something happen because we think it should happen and it’s what we want to happen but, what I’ve rediscovered through this process is the things that truly effected my trajectory were things that were beyond my control; what was under my control was my choice and my action and whether or not I acted in the moment or let it pass.

You mentioned before that you’re not religious; are you spiritual?

SS: I don’t want to prescribe to being religious or spiritual. The reason is because both have connotations that are not true. Alluding to it in ‘Thank Christ’ is religion has got a bad rap as has spirituality. I’m a child of God and I’m not afraid to say it, I’m proud in fact but, that also has connotations as well… to explain that would be to explain that in my personal view, the most practical way of explaining God is logic, love logic, I’ll put it like that. That being said I operate in a way that that is void of myself; what would be the best decision? What would be the best way to react by virtue as opposed to how I feel? I’m not a religious or spiritual person—I’m myself and a child of God.

Are there any books you’ve read that have meant a lot to you?

SS: I will say this, because I’m not afraid… It’s so crazy that I even have to feel I have to be careful when it comes to these topics of God and truth, it’s crazy because I know how people are going to react… that’s why I had that whole spiel about connotations of religion and spirituality, you’ll get damned either way. What I’m trying to get forth here is the book A Course in Miracles [by Helen Schucman], once I read that, it put me on the path of a very, very, very preliminary path of understanding that it’s not my fault but, now that I know that it is on me so to speak, how I express myself and deal with internal trauma, all that stuff, A Course in Miracles was invaluable. It can lull you into an idea that thinking everything is a flower [laughs] but everything is not a flower! As a whole though it’s done wonders for me dealing with how to navigate blame and what to do after the pain.

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

SS: Zak and I have a new EP coming out. It’s going to be called Who Hurt You? We’re approaching the end of it. We’re excited about it! We’re seizing the opportunity of seeing what’s out there in the world and responding to it.

Please check out: SUGGS on bandcamp; on Instagram.