Tape/Off and Total Pace’s Branko Cosic: “Watching Fugazi’s Instrument documentary was the turning point. It seemed like a subconscious roadmap on how to start a band”

Handmade collage by B.

Branko Cosic is one of the hardest working people in Brisbane’s music community. He plays in alt-rock band Tape/Off, punk band Total Pace, indie-rock band Gold Stars, organises shows including Sonic Masala Fest and does a show on 4ZZZfm radio. We recently chatted to Branko about his love of music and all he has going on.

What first got you into music?

BC: Earliest memory I have of liking music is seeing the video clip for “Out Of Mind, Out Of Sight” by Models on TV. It blew my mind. I think I kept begging my parents to hear the song again, so Mum went down to Woody’s Music down in Woodridge and grabbed the 12” single of it. I’ve still got the record.

I also had older cousins that had cool tastes in music, so I remember digging through their collections and hearing things like The Cure, Devo, Public Enemy, Ice-T, N.W.A, Stone Roses before turning the age of 10.

You play the drums; how did you first start? What drew you to them?

BC: A family friend had a drum kit setup in his garage, and I was enamoured by all the parts that went together to make it up. After that, every time I would see performance clips on Rage, I’d be mesmerised by the drummers and their setups. I got my first drum kit at 15. The first song I attempted to play was Powderfinger’s ‘D.A.F’. It had a really tricky hi-hat pattern in the chorus, and before I acquired a kit, I had practiced air drumming to it (with my mum’s old makeup chair as the “snare drum”) and was adamant that was going to be the first thing I tried.

What was your first introduction to DIY?

BC: Watching Fugazi’s ‘Instrument’ documentary was the turning point. It seemed like a subconscious roadmap on how to start a band. It was the most honest document of being in a band and everything that went along with it (recording, releasing, touring, etc).

A few years later, I went with a friend to this place in Red Hill called ‘Lofly Hangar’. It was a DIY space that had parties once a month and was filled with people with the same interests as me that I never thought anyone else in Brisbane shared. It was like an epiphany when I found it. That place was my church. I learned so much during those short-lived years. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the existence of Lofly Hangar.

You’re in band Tape/Off and Total Pace; how are they musically different from each other?

BC: They’re slacker rock bands in their own way, which are both loud, but have different intensities. TP has it’s foot on the gas 95% percent of time, T/O dynamically weaves through the gear changes. T/O listens to a lot of Pavement, Slint, Sonic Youth, Fugazi… and TP listens to a lot of The Replacements, Cloud Nothings, METZ…

What sparked each to start?

BC: I started T/O in 2008 and was my first go at starting a band from scratch. I had been in bands before that, but they never got off the ground. I was initially going to play guitars, but had more fun playing drums. Simon, Matt and [Luke] Henery had started putting TP together when they asked me to join. We’ve all been buds for years, so it was exciting to start something new.

The last release Tape/Off had was song ‘Work Xmas Party’ towards the end of last year; have you been working on anything new? What can you can tell us about it?

BC: Yep, we’ve been working towards a new album. It’s about half-written at the moment. We seem to be travelling to more intricate and quieter passages in the new songs. We’re challenging ourselves to not be so loud and introduce more warmth into them. I would love to get it out in the next year or so.

‘Work Xmas Party’ was something that we just needed to get off our chest. It came together quite quickly in the practice room and it was super quick to record. So rather than sit on it, we thought we’d get it out before the end of the year to coincide people’s favourite/least favourite time of year when they have to congregate with their fellow worker outside company time to mostly shameful results.

Does Total Pace have anything new in the works?

BC: This is also true. We have a new EP coming soon that we’re currently putting artwork together for. We released the first single off it ‘Stay In’ just two weeks ago on the internet. Most of the songs got their live debut when we played with Mclusky* in January. We’ve also been playing a cover of ‘Shopping’ by Pet Shop Boys which has been awesome to play. A recorded version of that should surface sometime in the future.

As well as playing in bands you also do radio show Unnecessary Knowledge with Tape/Off band mate Cam [Smith]; what’s some of your favourite songs and bands you’ve been playing lately?

Turnpike is probably the most played artist on our show. The most brutal music from the most humblest humans on earth. Requin is also another favourite and also sits in the humble basket. Party Dozen, Good Boy, Bushing, Majestic Horses, Local Authority, Good Morning, PYNES, Cable Ties are bands we’ve been playing lots of lately.

I love playing anything from Bearhug, Batrider, Can, Slayer, A Tribe Called Quest, Screamfeeder, Aphex Twin, OVLOV, Flying Lotus whenever I get a chance.

How did you get involved in community radio? What inspired you to do it?

BC: My good friend Rachel Tinney was my conduit into Community Radio. I met her at The Hangar in 2009 and when she started volunteering at 4ZZZ, she was the first one to start playing Tape/Off. She had a graveyard shift show called ‘Theme Me Up, Scotty!’ from 12am-2am on Wednesday nights. I used to finish work around midnight so she invited me down to the station to check it out. I’d keep her company whilst she was doing the show and would marvel at the CD library.

Six months later, she was offered a daytime show and asked me if I’d like to be her official co-host, which I completely jumped at. It was Rachel that called it Unnecessary Knowledge because she thought I knew too much of it and it has stuck ever since.

She moved interstate in 2013 and I then asked Cam if he’d like to jump on board. The rest is history.

You also have interviewed bands yourself; who’s been a highlight and what made it so?

BC: Too many to count, but talking with Conrad Keely from …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead about their magnum opus ‘Source Tags And Codes’ was pretty special. That album is in my top 5 of all time.

The Kashmere Stage Band was another highlight. You should check out the documentary about them called ‘Thunder Soul’. Rachel and I interviewed them when they came out to promote the doco and could’ve talked for hours about all of their stories.

What’s something that you’re really, really excited about?

BC: I’m working to start a new musical venture that is equal parts terrifying and exciting at the same time. It’s going to combine my love for music, graphic design and film all into one. It’s the new record label that launched a few weeks ago, called ‘Zang! Records’ and I run it with Jack McDonnell, who is a fellow 4ZZZ-er. You can check it out at: Zang Records Facebook and Zang Records Instagram.

I also play in a band called Gold Stars with Ben from Tape/Off and Phil from aheadphonehome/Lofly Hangar which is for fans of Guided By Voices. Look out for our debut album that will drop sometime this year.

Please check out: TAPE/OFF and TOTAL PACE. T/O on Facebook. TP on Facebook. Listen to Unnecessary Knowledge.

Matt Blach from Geelong Psych-Rock Band Beans: “We all listened to a lot of ELO and Slade and ‘70s music”

Original photo: Jamie Wdziekonski. Handmade collage by B.

Psych-rockers Beans are back sounding bigger and better than ever with sophomore album, All Together Now! We spoke with guitarist-vocalist Matt Blach (who also drums for The Murlocs) about the new record.

What first got you interested in music?

MATT BLACH: My dad played drums and he kind of taught me how to play drums. I’ve did it ever since I was a tiny kid.

When did you start playing guitar?

MB: That wasn’t until a bit later, I played drums first. I taught myself, I started playing when I was ten or eleven.

What were you listening to back then?

MB: A lot of the classics like Beatles and The Who and The Clash.

How did the new Beans’ record All Together Now get started?

MB: It’s our second album and we just wanted to make a bigger and better album from the first one.

Initially, did you have an idea of what you wanted it to sound like?

MB: Not particularly. We all listened to a lot of ELO [The Electric Light Orchestra] and Slade and ‘70s music and things naturally branched from there.

What have you been listening to at the moment?

MB: I’ve been listening to our label [Flightless Records] friends; Leah Senior. My friend Tim [Karmouche] just put out an instrumental album called Mouche [Live From The Bubble]. Another friend’s band called Smarts.

We love Smarts too! Lyrically was there any specific themes you were writing about with this record?

MB: Not particularly. It’s pretty scrambled really. We tried to match the lyrics with the aura of the song. Towards the last half of last year we tried to have at least one rehearsal a week as a group – three of us live in Geelong and two of us live in Melbourne – we took it in turns in terms of rehearsals and driving up and down each week. The host had to make dinner [laughs].

What did you make for dinner when it was your turn to host?

MB: Usually just pasta or tacos [laughs]. Communal food.

Song “Stride” on the record is about rediscovering your sense of self; were you going through that yourself when writing it?

MB: I guess so. It took me a while to write the lyrics to that song. I was going through that position in my life and that’s what made it come out.

The film clip for it is done in a Top Of The Pops style!

MB: Yeah, that’s what we were going for [laughs]. Over-exaggerated happiness.

What are some things that make you happy?

MB: Playing music [laughs].

What do you do outside of music?

MB: I do a bit of trade work. That helps me with the bills.

Do you ever find when you’re building something at work you’ll get song ideas?

MB: Yeah, definitely. I work by myself most of the time and I like being in my own head. I often don’t listen to music so I try and think of something or hum something.

Can you tell us a bit about the song “Street Troll”?

MB: “Street Troll” is a funny one [laughs]. I was on tour with Murlocs, we were in Belgium and we went out a bit later to get some takeaway beers and there was this big, drunk, scary Belgium dude that wouldn’t let us walk along the footpath. I called the song “Street Troll” and based it around that.

How about “Get It Right”?

MB: It’s a mixture of things. It’s basically about trying to do the right thing but sometimes it seems you’re not.

Is there a song on the album that was easy for you to write?

MB: I guess “Melt” came to me the easiest.

That one is about Climate Change, right?

MB: Yeah, and the government! [laughs].

Was there a song that was hard to write?

MB: I found it hard to put lyrics to “Montgomery”. It’s a busy song and there’s lots going on already so it was hard to find a neat little melody to put vocals in.

Do you demo first before you record?

MB: Yeah, I usually make a lot of demos at home and Facebook it to all the other guys and they get a bit of a vibe going before we get to practice.

Can you tell us about the recording?

MB: All Together Now was recorded in Geelong with Billy Gardner. We recorded it as four, everyone without Mitch the keyboard player. Jack did guitar overdubs, Mitch did the keys later and I did my vocals later.

Why did you call the album All Together Now?

MB: That was based on a private Facebook group I made with the boys to organise practices and jams. Three of us work and two of us do uni, it can be really difficult to get a practice together, especially with the hour and a half travel as well. I called it All Together Now because I was like, OK, everyone can you put down dates when you’re free. That’s how the album came together so we thought, why not call it that.

What is one of the biggest challenges of being in band for you?

MB: Self-doubt.

In what way?

MB: Personally. I guess that can be a good thing not to be overly confident and to doubt yourself and have that insecurity in a way [laughs].

The band were called Baked Beans, now it’s just Beans; does the name change mark new beginnings for you guys?

MB: Yeah, I guess we tried to approach it like that. A new album with a bit of a different name. The name wasn’t really a change for anything, we just didn’t really like the word “baked” and we just call it Beans anyway.

Once you finish an album do you go straight into writing new stuff?

MB: Yeah, exactly. Usually you follow up an album launch with a tour but we obviously can’t do that right now. Jack and I live together in North Melbourne, we have a little garage set up where we’ve been churning out demos. We pretty much write all the time!

Please check out BEANS; Beans on Facebook; Beans on Instagram; All Together Now out via Flightless Records.

A.C.T’s Noise Rockers Agency: “We started off as a dad’s band”

Handmade collage by B.

Agency’s new post-punk, post-hardcore, noise rock record is both vulnerable and staunch, there’s chaos yet a cohesive groove that drives the album along. Pretty guitars and melancholy melodies seep into the psyche, leaving it imprinted on your mind for days. We interviewed Sia and Tom from Agency to talk about their latest, Wild Possession. The album’s cover designer Adam J Bragg also gives us an insight into the art.

How’s your day been and what have you been up to?

SIA AHMAD (guitars-vocals-etc):Busy looking after my two young kids during the holidays at the moment while working from home, it’s been a juggling act I was never prepared for so learning on the job as they say.

LUKE ROBERT (bass-vocals): It’s school holidays here in the A.C.T, I’m fortunate to be able to work remotely, so I’m balancing work with building  couch forts – this morning the fort morphed into a submarine and we were attacked by a colossal squid.

We love Agency’s style of noise rock; what are some things that have helped shape your sound?

SA: Lucky for me, I got to see Hew and Luke play in their previous bands (A Drone Coda and Hoodlum Shouts respectively) a lot, even work with them when I was doing the hellosQuare label so I always respected them and loved their musicality.

I didn’t really ever play in a ‘rock’ band until Agency so the bond was really over ‘90s indie and math rock beforehand and then showed each other our other interests that lead us to fill the gaps in each other’s styles to end up where we have. I see us as a venn diagram of influence and aesthetics that make up our mess of sound.

LR: I’d say from the start we tried to not to smother the personality of each member’s playing. We had an inkling that our individual styles of playing would complement each other – it’s turned out to be the case. Songs develop fairly quickly as a result.

Agency have come back from a few years of inactivity; what was everyone doing in this period?

SA: We all seemed to be busy with our own personal stuff over the last few years – be it familial, work etc. In my case, I was juggling family time with the whole “quiver” journey for a long while. This also coincided with my last couple of years in the band Tangents, which was also full on with releases and touring.

LR:It was clear as soon as we heard her demos that Sia’s solo record was going to be special and a journey in personal growth. Both Hew and I wanted to respect that and give Sia room to explore her solo record and see where it took her. There was that and the Spinal Tap drummer situation.

The EP Wild Possession was recorded three years ago; why did it take so long to come out?

SA: Time kinda just flew by and with us maybe prioritising other things in our lives, we parked it on ice but always in the back of our minds until the time was right.

LR:It doesn’t feel like three years to be honest. The recordings sounded great to us and I don’t think we ever thought that we wouldn’t release them. Initially we thought we might record another session and then have a full length but time got away from us and it made sense to release the songs as a document of where the band was at, at that time.

What brought you all back together to release the record? Why is now the time to release it?

SA: We parted ways with our first drummer at the end of 2016 and then we worked with Hayden Fritzlaff from Moaning Lisa for 2017 – including recording Wild Possession – but then he moved on so we didn’t even have a drummer, let alone think about doing something else.

As Luke says, we didn’t stop thinking about the recordings so as we slowly got back moving on the shows front (with New Age Group’s Peter Krbavac on the drum stool), we started thinking that we should wrap it up with Jonathan Boulet and do something with them.

We’re all generally active with our politics and want for social justice so the real impetus to finalise a release ended up being that we could use these recordings as a fundraising exercise and talk about the causes we believe in.

LR:Like most, every band I’ve played in has been a collective, bigger than the sum of its parts type deal. An extension of that notion is using the platform no matter how big or small the scale to contribute to causes the collective believe in. I don’t take for granted being able to contribute in this way – a privilege awarded to musicians who, in our world anyway, aren’t looking to benefit or to pursue monetary rewards.

Do you have a different relationship to the songs now than when you wrote and recorded them years ago?

SA: I had to relearn so much when we played our first show in years in 2019, it’s pretty embarrassing to write a song and then forget about it so easily but I think it’s great that the songs still have the energy and power for us as when we were first played them out. It’s a shame that lyrically, so much of the things sung resonate a little too clearly with the current climate.

LR:Before recording we’d just finished a run of shows and were probably the tightest we ever have been. Listening to the songs now reminds me of a time when the band was clicking – that we could get the band to a level we were all stoked on feels like an accomplishment.

What’s the significance of the EP’s title Wild Possession?

LR: I liked the turn of phrase, the metaphor. Life is a number of wild possessions. It’s up to you to negotiate each possession however you see fit. There’s no right or wrong way but most people do so within a construct set of or sets of societal values. I like to find the humour, happy accidents, the absurdities in those constructs. By zeroing in on these things in each wild possession of life is a way of turning a potential cynical outlook on life into a positive one.

We love the EP cover by Canberra artist Adam J Bragg! I know Sia and Adam have collaborated on various projects for over a decade or more. Where was the EP cover photo taken? What emotion do you feel it conveys?

ADAM J BRAGG (artwork/design): The photo was taken sometime in 2012 on my parents old 35mm ricoh camera. My partner and I went out to visit a winery, Brindabella Hills, North West of Canberra. It’s directly west of Hall so the photo was taken around there.

It was taken out the car window. I have a bunch of photos of the landscape. I don’t think there was any thought put into it. I remember always loading up 400 iso film and taking photos on sunny days to get that blown out look.

When it came time to do the Wild Possession cover I really wanted to do something different, I haven’t painted in a while and nothing felt interesting. I was playing with some old paintings and it just wasn’t clicking.

A band called Regional Justice Center just put out a 7″ with a cover that was a homage to a No Comment cover and I thought it was a cool nod, especially for a smaller release.

I was listening to a ton of Lungfish at the time and knew that they are a big influence for Luke, so pitched him the idea of doing a homage to Walking Songs for Talking with an Aussie looking vibe. He texted back and said he actually kept having a dream that Agency was playing Friend to Friend in Endtime, a song from Walking Songs for Talking.

That was it, we couldn’t not do it after that point. Like, he independently had a dream about a song off an album, that I decided to rip… how does that even happen?

SA: Adam’s actually known Luke for longer than I’ve known both of them, Adam and I met when he cold called me to do some design work for hellosQuare and we hit it off to start the partnership. I 100% trust him when it comes to visual aesthetic and he nails it every time!

We placed that trust in Adam to listen and respond with the cover and while we certainly didn’t think of ‘rural punk’ when we thought of the music, I couldn’t stop thinking how much sense that phrase made to me when he showed us the cover.

I think people don’t want to acknowledge us here in Ngunnawal Country as both city or regional folk, we’re the outsiders in between and the hazy blur of the image suits that thinking too, musical outsiders.

The EP was recorded by Jonathan Boulet; tell us about working with him? What did you learn?

SA: We met Boulet when Party Dozen did an early show with Agency in 2015 or 2016 and we got along really well. I loved the music he had made and that he had both a good hi-fi aesthetic when it came to recording along with a compatible DIY ethic too. He understood what we were about, was a great listener and very giving during the process (I mean, REALLY GIVING since we were dragging our heels to finish things off!) so just working through recording without having to monitor anything and concentrate on playing was great. We did everything mostly live but he got us so tight during the recording session, more so than we’d even been I think.

What’s each of your favourite track on the record; what’s it about? What do you appreciate about it?

SA: Buffaloes could be the most ambitious thing we’ve done. Luke’s initial words, my response and then getting Hew to do the lead vocal threw ego straight into the bin and then the music came together in parts but really quickly too. We joke about Creative Adult just wanting to sound like Oasis but I think the second half of Buffaloes is us channelling our garage-y psych-pop secrets too. Personally, I had a sore throat for the recording session so I sung on the end section of Buffaloes and went super low comfortable (imagine in between Barry White and Ian Curtis). The others and Jono thought it was great but I’d say it probably took me the best part of the last three years to be comfortable without and use it to completely strip out those perceptions of the gendered voice within myself too – another journey among the others.

What was the thought behind getting Tom Lyngcoln from Harmony and The Nation Blue to deliver a monologue on track “Sensitive”?

SA:If I recall right, I had a grand idea of doing a pair of tracks that complement one another so Sensitive was supposed to be the twin of Senseless but in reality, I manipulated the music out of a Hew outtake from a longer jammed out version of Senseless and then sat on a longer version for a while. I wrote the monologue separately but it seemed to make sense over Sensitive. I wanted my voice out of the mix. Not sure why but it just seemed like he’d be able to convey the resignation well.

LR:Tom’s been a big supporter of us in our previous bands. We played a show w/ Pale Heads and on the drive back to Canberra we talked about having Tom on something. He’s a terrific guitar player so of course we asked him to do a vocal!

Sidenote: Hew and I saw TNB play Tuggeranong Skate Park in the rain in front of us and three others – I think it was for Protest Songs. The kind of magic moments that can only happen in the nation’s capital.

Have you been writing anything new? What kinds of themes are coming to the forefront lyrically?

SA: There were a whole heap of things from before the Wild Possession recording session that was so close to done but not quite finished so I think even revisiting those with current moods will be nice, when we get there. The one luxury of Agency for me is that Luke tends to roll things out that I can respond to in some kind of fashion too.

LR:I think I’m sitting on enough songs for another release. I was inspired by Sia and her solo record and the candid interviews surrounding the record’s release. I’ve written some more direct lyrics as a result.

Agency have toured Malaysia; can you tell us a bit about that? What were the best and worst parts?

SA: I always had a special connection with that part of the world and touring so it was nice to be able to do this with Agency and meet good people at each show. There’s a nostalgia for the energy and vibes at the shows, which don’t seem to be the same for us here a lot of the time.
A lot of memories from that whole trip:

We played Sonic Masala Fest and a Tyms Guitars in-store in Brissy the weekend before flying to Malaysia; Owen from Terra Pines drove us straight from Tyms (after a Bens Burgers lunch) to Gold Coast Airport.

Fitting in a one day recording session in Kuala Lumpur before our first show and eating like demons at the hawker stall around the corner.

Our tour van driver Adam and his bud Chap taking us all over the country including a late night round trip to Malacca and being stuck in an epic 2 hour traffic jam on the outskirts of KL! (Also probably the ultimate low of the whole trip).

Getting my Scottish free jazz sax friend Raymond McDonald to join us at the KL show for a noise blast improv during Stillness track On The Loop and seeing our Killeur Calculateur buds at the show.

Lovely hospitality from the Dunce crew in Singapore including the best dim sum you can imagine.

LR: So many incredible meals w/ kind accommodating people who went out of their way to show us and accept us in their community. Discovering Malay and SG bands. Watching Malaysia compete for a Commonwealth medal in badminton was a highlight. The restaurant was jammed packed and teeming w/ anticipation and excitement. Playing in a shopping mall and then walking through downtown SG to catch an outdoor set by OG Singapore hardcore legends was another.

What have you been listening to lately?

SA: I’ve bought a lot during iso – records by William Onyeabor, Party Dozen, HTRK, Stereolab reissues. Also really excited for the June of 44 album!

LR:Ancient Channels, The Meanies, The Dammed, Sonic Youth bootlegs, Screamfeeder.

Agency are from Weston Creek, ACT; what’s it like where you live?

SA: It’s the edge of suburbia before heading into National Park, quite lush in some respects but also just very suburban. It’s nice not to be so close to CBR inner-city hipster colonies though.

How did you first get into music?

SA: New Kids On The Block and Kylie on Video Hits baby! I found my own way much, much way later on into what you can unpick now.

LR:I found my Dad’s cassette draw with dubbed versions of Kiss Alive, Blue Oyster Cult, and ZZ Top. I was a silverchair/Nirvana kid.

Can you share with us some of your personal favourite albums, bands or songs of all-time?

SA: So hard…say without early Something For Kate, I would never have even thought about Fugazi and Slint so there’s a thought! Unwound, Alice Coltrane, Deftones, Low, The Slits…all faves for sure but so much harder to pinpoint something.

LR:All time CBR bands Henry’s Anger, Old Ace, Hard Luck, Falling Joys, Koolism, Looking Glass,  Voss, Babyshakers, Cough Cough.

What’s something that’s really important to Agency?

SA: We started off as a dad’s band and I think that oddly enough, that element of friends hanging out to just hang is probably more at the core of our existence as a band now than it was in the first place? Even if we’re not in the same room, we’re still texting or sliding Insta DMs with all kinds of nerdy discussion points that align with the heart of the band.

LR:Boring drummers with constant stories of ‘90s musical ephemera.

What’s next for you all? Anything you’re working on you’d like to tell us about?

SA: There’s some interesting things on the boil outside of Agency that are interesting but really, life is very slow for me at the moment. I’ve made a whole lot of new solo music between bushfire season and current iso-era so that’ll show up at some stage but also keen to see what Agency might turn out in the future too.

LR:We’re due a band and extended families catch up. It’d be nice to come out of the hibernation of bushfires/Covid/Canberra winter with a new batch of Agency songs.

Please check out: AGENCY; on bandcamp; on Instagram; on Facebook.

Link Meanie of Legendary Melbourne Punk Band The Meanies: “There’s many things that you can get out of being creative but for me, if I didn’t have that I’d probably go insane”

Original photo: Peter Wheeler. Handmade collage by B.

The Meanies are one of Australia’s all-time bands. Forming decades ago, their music is melody-driven, explosive power-pop with lyrical tongue planted firmly in cheek. Their live shows are the stuff of legend, wild and action-packed. 2020 sees them releasing a new studio album Desperate Measures, one of their greatest yet. Gimmie’s editor started going to Meanies all-ages shows as a teen in the ‘90s and was very, very stoked to catch up with guitarist-vocalist, Link, to find out more about the LP and his song-craft.

What do you love most about writing songs?

LINK MEANIE: It’s therapy [laughs], it really is! Honestly there’s many things that you can get out of being creative but for me, if I didn’t have that I’d probably go insane. The actual process of writing in some ways is the most enjoyable part for me, getting into the studio to varying degrees it can be fun but I find it a bit stressful.

Before you started writing songs was there any other ways that you expressed yourself creatively?

LM: Gang fights! [laughs]. No, I didn’t. I’ve always done it since as long as I can remember, from twelve years old I was always being creative with a guitar. It’s always played that therapeutic role in my life.

What got you interested in writing your own songs?

LM: I came from a kind of musical family I guess. My mum went to a pretty high level in piano and my brother played in a school band, he was a bass player and also a better guitarist than me, just being surrounded by that and a family of music lovers. It was inevitable.

I’ve read that you’re the kind of song writer that writes best when you have a deadline to work towards; was this the case for this record?

LM: No, that proves that statement to be an actual lie [laughs]. When I started writing this record there wasn’t any plan to record another album, I just did it because I was bored out of my skull over here in Spain… obviously though, I love being here with my wife and her kids… just not having that creative outlet though, to me it was medicine. I didn’t know if it was going to get recorded or not, it just evolved from there.

How much song writing did you do for it?

LM: The exact amount of songs that we recorded [laughs]. Actually, we recorded one extra which I think is coming out as a single. There wasn’t many throwaways, but I took that much time with it that I was pretty sure of those songs before we went into the studio. Sometimes if you do have a deadline and you write a whole bunch of songs and you get into the studio and for one reason or another a song just doesn’t work; even on paper if it looks good something just doesn’t click. Didn’t have that with this, which is fortunate but it helps spending a lot of time with the structure and demo-ing.

Do you write most of your songs on guitar?

LM: Yeah, or flugelhorn, one or the other. Mostly guitar. I use an online recording service called Soundtrap, I’m not getting money for that, it’s just a basic kind of setup and just demo on there and send them to the guys fairly complete. The songs end up getting a different feel just because of people’s different styles once you get in the studio, which is nice. On this one we have Wally singing the verse to one of the songs [“Cruel To Be Caned”] which has never happened before, which I’m pretty excited about, I can go up and grab a drink while he starts that one. I also co-wrote a song with Jaws which is something I’ve never done. There’s been a couple of firsts on this one.

One thing I have always loved about Meanies songs is the melody; where does your love of melody come from? Where does that knack for doing it come from?

LM: I really don’t know. Having a family that introduced me to good quality song writing, the obvious ones like The Beatles, The Who, my mum listening to Carol King or Burt Bacharach or whatever—growing up with a lot of very melodic stuff. It seeps into the consciousness and it’s just a part of me, man! [laughs].

When you first started The Meanies did you have a vision for it? Out of the gate you had a sound that was your own and even all the art you drew for your releases, it’s very fully formed.

LM: I’m glad you think so [laughs]. To me, I guess it has a certain continuity to it. I don’t know if it was very conscious. To start with, I think the imagery on the early posters was inspired by the Hard-Ons, pseudo-metal satanic imagery that they would do [laughs], then it developed a bit more into our own thing. Things didn’t always pan out the way I’d like it to, I didn’t always have the last say in things like artwork or choice of singles, I kind of like that though because I’m a lazy person—just tell me what to do! [laughs].

How did you first get into punk rock?

LM: Probably the Sex Pistols hearing them, or the Ramones, stuff like that is probably the earliest experiences… apart from Plastic Bertrand “Ca Plane Pour Moi” [laughs], that’s probably one of the earliest “punk rock” songs I ever heard. Also though, define punk; there’s so many different descriptions of what punk is, you could call something like The Romantics “What I Like About You” punk. All the things you hear growing up are part of the formative appreciation for the style.

Yeah. When punk started all the bands sounded different.

LM: Yeah, that’s the thing it wasn’t very homogeneous, there’s such a variety of sound. A bit later on people started narrowing the parameters of what punk was… that’s OK, but I just find it a little bit boring when it’s sort of cookie cutter.

Totally! With the new album Desperate Measures; what kind of emotion or place where you writing from?

LM: The same—a miserable bastard basically [laughs].

Photo: Peter Wheeler.

You seem pretty happy to me.

LM: This is all a façade! [laughs]. Inside I’m an emo. Most of the songs are pretty negative or analytical, a lot of them are about myself and then there’s more external songs like “Monsters” and “All the Bought Men” which are a bit more political.

When you write songs do you find it helps you learn stuff about yourself?

LM: Oh yeah, for sure. It’s always therapeutic to me because you are confronting parts of yourself that you might not otherwise do unless you were writing it down on paper, even if it is a little bit abstract—that’s probably a part of me not wanting to face it! [laughs].

When you write your lyrics do you do much revising?

LM: My lyrics? Not a great deal. Occasionally you’ll go back and find a line that’s a bit naff! You’re being lazy and you just wanted to move on and you go back and you’ve got a line like: I was walking down the street just the other day [laughs]. It’s like, c’mon! That’s what you wrote when you were fourteen. There’s a lot more consistency and quality with the lyrics now, a little less clumsy metaphor than I used to use when I was younger.

Is there a song you’ve written hat you’re really proud of?

LM: On this record?

Yeah.

LM: I’m really proud of the whole thing. It has a cohesion which isn’t always there in terms of how I view the record; maybe it always seems cohesive to people but, to me… I think because it was written when I’m older and also written in a similar time period. I think “Sousa” is one for me, it’s probably the least punk one on the record. I really love the melody, I think it’s a really sweet melody.

That’s one of my favourites on the album too and I also really love “Drowning Tower” as well.

LM: Ah, good! That’s the one I co-wrote with Jaws, he’ll be happy to hear that.

What’s that one about?

LM: That’s another sooky song about me [laughs]. You know man, like, I’m the tower! [laughs].

You make Meanies film clips too. You’ve made a couple so far for new songs “Cruel To Be Caned” and “Jekyll & Hide”.

LM: Yeah, really lo-fi clips that you probably couldn’t show on television because they’re too dodgy. We just figured we can get them done cheaper if I make them; how many times are they going to get played on television anyway? It’s mainly for YouTube and social media.

I still think they’re really fun! I love the clip with the dog!

LM: [Laughs] Aww thank you! Roveo! It’s so fucking daft! [laughs]. I’m really happy with them. It’d be nice if I had more technical know-hows and I could make them of a higher quality. I’m using a really old version of Movie Maker, it crashes every couple of frames. The clip I’m doing now, I’m up to about 500 frames and I’m halfway through, it takes a long time.

What are you making the clip for now?

LM: I’m doing one for the next single which is “Monsters”.

Nice! That’ll be a fun one.

LM: There’s a lot of scope for animation with a title of “Monsters”.

In the song, what kind of monsters are you speaking about?

LM: I’m speaking about the demonization of cultures, religions, anything you know… not that I really agree with religion, I think it’s had a lot of negative affect in the world; not so much religion but organised religion. By nature it becomes corrupted, when they become to big obviously you’re going to get someone at the top controlling things and they’re going to have their own vested interests, which corrupts any sort of message, positive message that a religion has. I’m not religious myself at all. I think it’s everyone’s right to believe what they want to believe, no matter how stupid [coughs]. We’re just seeing it more and more with the rise of the right-wing around the world and it’s really worrying. There’s this fucking insane clown running America, not to mention Australia! It’s scary and weirdly exciting because these sort of moments, no matter how fucked up they are, there’s great scope for change, possibly for the better. We’ll see.

What are the things that you believe in?

LM: Not a lot. I’m a bit of a cynic and a nihilist. I believe in friends actually. I believe in trying not to be an arsehole, which I manage to do sometimes. Just trying to treat people with respect, which I don’t do sometimes. Not judging, trying not to judge people with generalisations and not listening to people in power, they’ve all got their own interests—I don’t trust them at all!

Same! I’ve been like that since I was a kid. My parents always taught me not to trust authority figures and those in power.

LM: Yeah, same! [laughs].

Life can be so tough; what helps you get through?

LM: Love and music!

What’s life like for you in Spain?

LM: I love the vibe here, it’s a really nice culture, really relaxed attitude. Lots of just sitting in cafes drinking and soaking up the sun, I love it! I do miss Australia… well I miss my family and friends in Australia a lot. I should be coming back soon. Hopefully we can start doing gigs!

What do you get from playing live?

LM: Money! [laughs]. No, I don’t. Just enjoyment, it’s just fun! It’s a different kind of therapy than the actual creative side of it. I just loved catching up with old friends, it’s really great when you’re playing with a band you’ve known for 30 years, like Tumbleweed or Spiderbait, any of those sort of bands like that. It’s really some of my happiest times, just catching up with some of those people.

Please check out: THE MEANIES; on Facebook; on Instagram; Desperate Measures out now on Cheersquad Records and Tapes.

Leah Senior on new LP The Passing Scene: “I went through a really long period of not being able to write, this album is rediscovering play in creativity”

Original pic: Jamie Wdziekonski. Handmade collage B.

Melbourne-based musician Leah Senior writes philosophical, thoughtful, joyous songs. New LP The Passing Scene explores impermanence, acceptance, the natural world and the freedom of simply being. Gimmie spoke to Leah about her new record.

Right now you would have been finishing up a US tour with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard but due to the pandemic it was cancelled. You decided to go ahead and release your album; what inspired you to put it out now?

LEAH SENIOR: I don’t think the pandemic holds that much sway, from my perspective it was always going to come out now and it doesn’t matter if I’m touring or not, it’s a totally separate thing. Now is as good a time as any to put out music, if not more so.

The title of the album The Passing Scene is taken from the song of the same name on the album; as the title of the album what did you want it to represent?

LS: Looking back on all of the songs on the album there’s a real theme I suppose and it’s just acceptance of transit, that nothing ever stays the same. I just started reading a book by Pema Chödrön who is a Buddhist writer. I was reading this morning about the idea that everything falls apart and then comes back together and then falls apart. I think that “The Passing Scene” the song is about tuning into nature but at the same time accepting that nothing stays the same.

Impermanence?

LS: Yes, impermanence is the word I’m looking for.

I love the moving cover of your record, it’s pretty incredible!

LS: Yeah, it’s the same idea, that impermanence or that the passing scene is always changing. It was a way to visually express that idea.

Jamie Wdziekonski did the cover, right?

LS: Yeah, Jamie did it, yep.

Photo/album cover: Jamie Wdziekonski.

Was it his idea or yours?

LS: It was his idea to have it lenticular. I would never have thought of that.

Going into the album did you have a vision for it?

LS: No. This album has been recorded at home over the last few years. It’s taken a long time, I’m a slow song writer. It gradually was a piecing together of a record. I’d have a few songs that took it in one direction so I’d follow that and then I’d have songs that took it in another direction, so I’d cut songs; it was a real process of slowly piecing together the puzzle.

It’s a little bit of a departure from your previous work.

LS: Yeah. It comes out of trying to change my approach to creativity, I suppose. After my second album I went through a really long period of not being able to write, this album is rediscovering play in creativity. I was trying to relax a bit more, the songs come from play rather than anguish.

Often an artist’s work reflects or correlates with what’s going on in their life; were you writing from a happier place?

LS: Absolutely. It’s having stability.

You mentioned you recorded in your lounge room over a long period of time; how did this help shape the record? It feels more intimate.

LS: That’s good. Me and my partner Jesse Williams worked on it. He recorded the album. It affected the way it sounds so much. I have a really strong vision of how I like things to sound and for better or for worse having my partner record it means that I can really get it exactly how I want it. Having total control over how it sounds has affected it. It’s definitely intimate and relaxed and it’s meant that I haven’t been on anyone else’s time when I’ve been making it. I think the relaxed approach has translated to the sound.

I get that from the record, I also get that it’s hopeful and joyous.

LS: That’s good, I hope so.

Photo: Jamie Wdziekonski.

Can you share with us a fond memory from the recording process?

LS: I love doing full band stuff, again it’s just being relaxed and getting to play with all of your friends in the lounge room, it’s the best possible way of recording;  studios can be cold and scary and impersonable. It’s great to be able to just sit in my pyjamas and record [laughs].

I really love the last song on the record “Time Traveller”; what’s it about?

LS: That one I wrote about my niece Eleanor, she was a baby at the time. It’s about being frightened to look into the future. There’s a line in there: see the smoke hanging over the city… that was like a prediction for the summer [bush fires], I guess. It’s about being scared to look into the future and feeling that we never seem to learn from our mistakes.

What were you like growing up?

LS: I guess I was a lot of things. I grew up in the country. I was always really obsessed with music. My dad would sing me Beatles’ songs and my mum would sing me folky songs; she’s Swiss, and would sing me folk songs. From there I really just went on my own discovery expedition. I would work at a shop blowing up balloons on a Saturday morning and then go to the shop next door and look at the covers of CDs and buy the ones I liked trying to find new music.

Nice! I know that Howard Enyon performed in your living room not too long ago; did you learn anything from watching him play?

LS: Yeah, absolutely. That was a really powerful night! He can teach us all a lot. I felt a lot of the themes that I’ve been feeling on the record I made, he embodies that stuff; trying to relinquish ego and accepting impermanence. His presence is so joyous and free and youthful. He’s a perfect example of a way to live a life, I reckon.

Another song I really love on your album is “Jesus Turned into a Bird” it’s really pretty, especially the piano; how did that one come together?

LS: That song was written from being up really, really late one night and looking around me and seeing the sun come up and feeling so profoundly disconnected from nature. I wrote it the very next day. I constantly feel that way, I feel like we are so, so far away from nature the way that we live our lives.

Is there any songs on the album that hold a special significance for you?

LS: I feel like “Graves”… I really like playing that one still, even though we released it a little while ago. My partner Jesse and I wrote that one together. I’ll never not feel like I felt, what I was expressing, in that song. They’re all genuine expressions, they’re all real.

Jesse is from the Girlatones?

LS: Yep.

Is it nice having a partner that is also creative?

LS: Yeah, it’s great. I don’t think I couldn’t not have a creative partner. It’s especially nice working on my music with him. He can play anything on anyone of my songs and it sounds like how I would envision it. He has a total musical understanding of my emotions or something. I feel very lucky to have that.

The video for your song “Evergreen” was shot at a castle?

LS: Yeah. Kryal Castle.

Where did the idea for that come from?

LS: My friend Jess who shot the video we were talking and she was envisioning some kind of fun medieval thing. It was her idea. We were scouting out places and that place was perfect.

Do you have any other film clips coming up?

LS: Nah. I have a live clip… I’m not sure. Not at this point in time.

How has not being able to play live affected you?

LS: It’s been fine. It’s actually been pretty good. It’s freeing and fun for me. I’m not an extrovert, I don’t get my kicks from that sort of thing. I like trying to make things. For me, it’s been fine.

Have you been making anything lately?

LS: I’m always making things here and there. I haven’t been writing that many songs. One day I’ll do a tiny bit of poetry and the next day I’ll do a tiny bit of painting—I’m bad at settling and focusing on things.

What have you been writing about with your poetry?

LS: The last poem I wrote was about this idea that we are attracted to nature because nature can only be itself. It’s not my own idea, it was inspired by John O’Donohue. He was saying that a crow doesn’t wake up one day and go “oh, I wish I was a crow” it can only be itself, and there’s something really beautiful about that. We spend our time trying on new outfits and constantly trying to become, whereas birds don’t sing the song of becoming, they’re not song writers, they’re song singers.

Why is music important to you?

LS: That’s a huge question. It speaks the language of nonsense, the reality of the world is all nonsense—music is in tune with that. Music expresses so much more than we ever could express without it.

Vid: Button Pusher more here.

Please check out LEAH SENIOR; on bandcamp; on Facebook; on Instagram; Get The Passing Scene via Flightless Records.

Amyl And The Sniffers’ Gus Romer: “I was losing my mind, I was so nervous. It’s insane. I hadn’t experienced anything like that before”

Original photo Jamie Wdziekonski. Handmade collage by B.

Melbourne pub punk band Amyl and the Sniffers need no introduction. We recently chatted to bassist Gus Romer to find out about the progress on new music, how he came to join the band and about their travels all over the world.

When we were teeing up this chat you mentioned that you’re a late sleeper; have you always been one? Is it because you’ve played so many shows – I think around 250 or so in the last year – that contributes to you keeping late hours?

GUS ROMER: In the past two years we’ve played a lot of shows. I’ve always been like that though, I’ve always cherished a good lie in [laughs].

How did you first discover music?

GR: From a young-ish age my mother always had an emphasis on my brother and I learning an instrument, doing something musical.

Why do you think she pushed you guys towards something creative?

GR: She’s an art teacher, so we’ve always done creative stuff from the start. It’s a good outlet to always have, something to do and something to work on.

You’re originally from Tasmania?

GR: Yep, yep.


What was it like growing up there?

GR: It was great! I love Tassie a lot. Super small. Super beautiful. Pretty cold [laughs].

What kind of stuff were you into as a kid?

GR: Mainly music, bits and bobs, that came in and out of my interest because I spent most of my childhood and teens just skateboarding, I was really into that!

What bands were you listening to?

GR: At the very start when you’re really young it’s just listening to the radio and whatever is around you. I got really into the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Led Zeppelin and Rage Against The Machine. I fell off for a while and got really into hip-hop for a few years in my teens, that’s all I listened to, I wasn’t into too much else at the time. Later on I got back into punk rock.

What hip-hop were you listening to?

GR: I was really into Big L and MF Doom and Wu-Tang.

Did you start off playing bass? Was that the first instrument you learnt?

GR: What got me into playing bass was that in primary school we had a strings program where you could get out of class for an hour a week and this person would come around and teach a few kids how to play. I played the cello. When I finished primary school and went into high school, I obviously couldn’t do that anymore, so I got a bass for my birthday. I joined this band with my friends.

Was that the band Bu$ Money?

GR: No, that was way later. This is when I was younger. I got into playing bass initially from that transition from playing the cello.

Did you have a bunch of other bands before Bu$ Money?

GR: Bu$ Money was when I started listening to more local music and shit around in my scene in Hobart and what inspired me to get back into it and have a crack. Even though I didn’t play bass in Bu$ Money, I played drums.

How did you first get into your local scene?

GR: There’s not a great deal of places to go out and drink in Hobart. The Brisbane Hotel was where me and my friends always went ‘cause there wasn’t a bunch of dickheads there. There was alternative people, more like-minded people. I started going to drink with my friends, I started going to more shows from that and really started getting into it. I thought, this is pretty good! I’m gonna have a crack. I got one of my friends and a guy I worked with and pretty much forced them to start and be in a band with me! [laughs].

What local bands were you listening to and seeing live?

GR: Treehouse were a big one! I’m a big fan! The Dreggs, are a great, great Hobart band. There were a lot of bands that came and gone. Native Cats are a great, great Hobart band!

How did you end up being in Amyl and the Sniffers?

GR: I was already good friends with the band, I met them when Declan’s old band, Jurassic Nark, came to Hobart and Bu$ Money supported them. So that’s how I met him and then I went to Melbourne soon after and hung out with everybody else; I was good friends with them and a big fan of the band. When their old bass player parted ways with the band they called me one day and said, “Move to Melbourne and join the band”. I thought, sweet! I quit my job and moved to Melbourne.

Did you have to give much thought to it?

GR: I’d already been toying with the idea of moving to Melbourne for a while but it would have taken me even longer to do if they hadn’t asked me, it was a nice little push. It got me going and got me moving. I was already such good friends with them and a really big fan of the band so it wasn’t too much of a decision. It was super natural, cool, let’s do it!

In around March 2017, I think, is when you played your first show with them?

GR: I don’t even know ‘ey? [laughs].

Do you remember anything about that first show with them?

GR: Yeah. It was the band’s second tape launch. It was at the Curtin. I was so, so nervous! I couldn’t really play bass that good. At the time I hadn’t played bass in seven years! [laughs]. I got my friend to teach me all the songs. We had one practice. I remember being really nervous and didn’t think I played that well. I was like, oh god! I blew it! I blew! They said, “Nah! That’s great!” No one was looking at me anyway [laughs]. It was a good time. A couple of drinks loosened me up a bit and I just got up and it was fine.

Do you ever get nervous now playing shows?

GR: Not at all. Being filmed makes me really nervous though and feel uncomfortable [laughs], doing an in the studio kind of thing. We played on Jools Holland last year.

I saw that!

GR: I was off it before that, I was losing my mind, I was so nervous. It’s insane. I hadn’t experienced anything like that before.

You guys have got to do all kinds of interesting things. I saw photos from when you did a Gucci campaign and walked in their Fall 2019 show and there was a photo shoot at an Archaeological Park.

GR: It was at these ruins in Sicily. It’s pretty crazy. The first time doing that and going into that it was the first time I’d ever experienced anything like it, the level of the production, the money and effort that goes into that stuff is just mind blowing! The scale is insane. For one campaign there was over 100 staff there, everyone running around doing this, that and everything. It was crazy! It was an hour out of Palermo the capital of Sicily. There were all these old, old buildings, these ruins on the coast.

Is there something else cool that you’ve seen in your travels that sticks out to you?

GR: Too much! There’s always something crazy going on somewhere. Having the opportunity… we’ve played in Russia before, stuff like that sticks out, we were only there a day and a half. Getting to play places like Russia and Istanbul, is pretty mind blowing! I never thought I’d get the opportunity to do anything like that.

What was Istanbul like?

GR: It was so cool! Definitely the coolest place I’ve ever been, we were only there for a day though. We flew in and out. I got to walk around for two hours but it was so cool. Everything was so cool, the vibe, the architecture, it was super, super beautiful.

What was Russia like?

GR: Russia was pretty, pretty crazy. We went to Red Square. It was pretty insane, the drive from the airport to our hotel was an hour, hour and a half, and on the outskirts of the city it seems like there’s really intense poverty, in the city there is so much money! On the outskirts you see massive, massive apartment blocks that look so run down and dilapidated; in the city centre it’s so clean and there’s so much money everywhere, sports cars everywhere!

What was it like playing shows in places like that? Is it similar to here?

GR: The show in Moscow was for a festival, that was the very first show we played in Europe. We played a festival to a relatively small crowd, they were getting it though and a few people even knew all the lyrics! It’s always pretty wild because you go in not expecting much and then you have people singing your lyrics back to you. It’s mind blowing!

Have you got to see many beautiful nature spots in your travels?

GR: Driving through America is always really, really cool, the diversity of the landscape; you drive through the hills of Oregon and then drive through the desert. That stands out in terms of nature to me.

What’s one of the coolest things that you’ve seen in America?

GR: It’s all a blur to be honest [laughs]. There’s a lot, a lot of driving and a lot of drinking!

You’ve been working on a new Sniffers album?

GR: Yep, at the moment we’re trying to get some songs together to become an album at some point.

In December I think you guys mentioned you had around 12 songs?

GR: Yeah, November last year we had a fair long slog of trying to do it, trying to get something going—we got a lot of good stuff. Now we’ve just hired a little unit at a storage place near our house, which has been great. At the start of lock down we were bumming around doing nothing for the first six to eight weeks. We’ve set up in the storage unit and we’ve been hitting that up quite a bit, which has been really good. We’re trying to write new stuff and trying to do stuff that we’re all super happy with.

You all live together?

GR: Yep, yep. It’s cool. Because we’ve toured so solidly for the past two years, we’ve pretty much spent 24-hours a day with each other, we’ve been overseas together for months at a time so, it’s a pretty smooth transition for us. We all know how each other rolls.

Was it weird for you at the start of isolation not being able to tour?

GR: Kind of. It was a nice break though. We were meant to be in the States for a month, not too long after it all started. We’ve been so busy the past few years, this past six months has been the biggest break that we’ve had, the most time we’ve spent in Australia in such a long time. I’ve just been enjoying being home.

With the new stuff you’re writing have you been trying anything different to previous work?

GR: Yeah, there’s a couple of tracks that are heavier and faster, on the other spectrum there is some different stuff. We’re not trying to limit ourselves too much to a particular sound or style, just playing around and seeing what we like. Most of the time either Declan, Bryce or myself will bring a riff and we’ll jam it out. Most of the time we just try to finish it, get something and then talk about it afterwards, see what we like about it and if we keep it or don’t.

When you’re making your own music do you listen to other people’s music much?

GR: Always, I always have something going. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Dick Diver and Low Life, Vertigo—I’ve been pumping all them recently. There’s always good stuff!

Previously, just after the Sniffers debut album came out, you mentioned that you felt a really big sense of relief that the album was done and it was nice to not have to stress and worry about it; what kind of things do you stress and worry about when making an album?

GR: Well, with that, that was in the thick of us touring like crazy… when we recorded it we had come off of four months non-stop touring overseas; we flew to Sheffield in the UK and recorded the album there. We’d been away for too long, we’d work so hard non-stop touring—we just wanted to be home, we were so over it! It was definitely not the greatest time and was really stressful.

What were you tired of?

GR: We were pretty happy with what we had but we were happy to get the album out of the way. A lot of the songs, we’d already been playing for a couple of years, we just wanted to record it and get it out and never think about it or listen to it again.

Do you have a favourite Sniffers song to play?

GR: I’d probably say “Some Mutts (Can’t Be Muzzled)”. That’s my favourite. Usually we play it last. I like the build-up, it’s fun to play.

What was the last band you saw live before lockdown?

GR: Just before everything went to a halt we were in the middle of an Australian tour, we played Sydney and Newcastle, they were the two last times I went out. I got to see Gee Tee and R.M.F.C. supporting us in Sydney, that’s always, always a great time! Concrete Lawn are a Sydney band who we are really good friends with us played in Newcastle. They were the last live shows I got to see before everything stopped.

Do you have plans yet for the rest of the year or is it too hard to plan with all the uncertainty around?

GR: There’s always stuff. We’re hoping to do an Australia tour before the end of the year, it just depends. We’re hoping to get overseas again from the start to the middle of next year. It’s a guessing game though and no one is too sure how it will go.

What have you been doing in isolation to keep sane?

GR: Now that we have the practice space we’ve been utilising that a quite a bit, other than that we haven’t been doing much… bumming around watching dumb shit on the internet and movies. The boys bought an Xbox, so they’re playing a lot of FIFA [laughs].

Last question; what inspired you to get your mullet haircut?

GR: I was really, really into the Cosmic Psychos. I was watching a lot of old footage and the doco Blokes You Can Trust and decided I wanted to look like Ross Knight! [laughs]. It’s pretty funny! I love the Cosmic Psychos.

Please check out: AMYL AND THE SNIFFERS; on bandcamp; on Facebook; on Instagram.

Guerilla Toss’ Kassie Carlson: “I don’t need to be super rich or super popular with my music, I just want to see the world and see amazing shit!”

Handmade collage by B.

New York art-punk band Guerilla Toss make fun, interesting, super cool, cosmic, synth-pop post-punk! They recently released two new songs – “Human Girl” and “Own Zone” – as part of the Sub Pop Singles Club. Gimmie chatted to vocalist Kassie Carlson from her home on a farm in Upstate New York as they work on new music.

How have you been Kassie?

KASSIE CARLSON: I’ve been good, I’ve just been quarantining here. I don’t live in New York City, I live in Upstate New York, which is two hours away from the city. I’m on a bunch of land, I’m able to not be around people. New York City is pretty crazy right now!

The area you live in has a lot of woodland, a lot of countryside, right?

KC: Yeah, wilderness and farmland. I live on a 260-acre farm, but it’s not a farm anymore it’s kind of… mow the grass and make hay. There’s a lot of open space, we go hiking a lot up here.

You go hiking with your Chow Chow dog, Watley?

KC: Yes, definitely [laughs]. He’s actually outside with me right now as I chat to you.

Do you have a favourite spot you like to go?

KC: There’s lots of different places to go. The other day we hiked to a place called the Balsam Fir Fire Tower, which is an old fire tower that they used to go up to the very top and look over the whole forest to see if there was any fires. That was really cool. It was a really warm day and we hiked all the way to the top of the mountains and at the top there was snow and all of these Balsam Fir trees, it looked like a fairy tale!

That sounds beautiful. I love natural places and just being outside in nature.

KC: Yeah, me too.

Do you ever get inspired creatively from nature?

KC: Yeah, definitely, how could I not!

Have you been doing anything creative lately?

KC: Always, every day I’m doing something… working on music, some days it doesn’t always pan out… just working, writing, reading, stuff like that.

Why is music important to you?

KC: Oh, I don’t know? I guess I’ve always been a fan and then I started making music. I started off young singing in choirs and playing violin, but I was always really into rock music. My brother was a musician in punk rock and metal bands, I thought that was kind of cool. Haphazardly it happened for me, it didn’t happen right away, it happened when I was older. As a teenage girl I was kind of just observing music but then as I got older I became a part of it.

It’s great when you can finally get the confidence to give something a go yourself.

KC: Yes!

Is there anything that’s helped shaped some of your ideas about art and creativity?

KC: When I say I entered the music world being in a band, it was kind of because the entryway was easy, it was paved out… I don’t know if they have these in Australia but, here we have a lot of underground shows, basement shows; I lived in a house that had basement shows every night. It was easy to just try something out, the atmosphere was very supportive. I hung out with a lot of people that went to art school and music school. There was a lot of room to experiment in a way that I think a lot of people don’t necessarily have, I was lucky in that sense. I had a really supportive audience.

I read that when you were younger you liked to listen to Mariah Carey, TLC and Destiny’s Child…

KC: Yeah, of course! [laughs]. Did you?

Yes, sure did! I grew up liking those artists and then punk and hip hop and all kinds of things, I had four older siblings that all liked different music and my mum and dad too, I kind of just absorbed everything. I love stuff from doo-wop all the way through to noise stuff.

KC: Yeah, same.

I saw a photo of Watley online and there was a big record collection in the background; is that yours?

KC: They weren’t my records, they’re the drummer from Guerilla Toss’ records. We have a lot of records in the house that’s for sure.

Is there an album that you’ve listened to more than any other?

KC: I’m all over the place. I’m always listening to a million things. I’ve been trying to find new things lately, I’ve been going through things and just picking random shit to get my creative ideas flowing. I have a lot of cassette tapes too.

I used to find a lot of new music through trading tapes with my friends.

KC: Yeah, I feel like that’s how I discovered a lot of new music too. I grew up in Cape Cod, which is kind of like a beach town in Massachusetts. They have these swap shops there at the dump so it’s basically like a free store and you take whatever you want, sometimes there’s really good stuff there; I got my first guitar amp there and a bunch of cool clothes. I got my very first cassettes there too, they were mixtapes that somebody had made.

That’s awesome! I love going to thrift stores and the dump shop near where I live here too. It’s good for the environment too reusing items rather than putting them in landfill; people can be so wasteful.

KC: Oh yeah! People don’t want to take it to the second-hand shop and they just leave them at these places and it won’t just go to the trash. So much clothing gets thrown away.

Totally! Basically my whole wardrobe is made up of clothes from thrift stores. You find so much cool stuff, and its stuff that not everyone else is wearing. I find it so hard to go the regular shops/mall to buy stuff. Before you started playing in a band; did you express yourself creatively in any other way?

KC: I’ve done some painting but nothing major really. [Laughs] Sewing, I guess.

You mentioned that you started singing in choirs; did you jump into bands from there or were you making music yourself?

KC: It was kind of like hot and cold, off and on. I didn’t really play in bands until I was in my twenties. I’d mess around on the keyboard and make little guitar songs… I was kind of in a metal band! Then I made my own music.

Your solo stuff was the Jane La Onda stuff, right?

KC: Yeah [laughs].

I understand that you have a real love for words and enjoy reading; what are you reading at the moment?

KC: I’m reading a lot of magazines. I’m reading Italian Folktales by Italo Calvino. They’re really cute, interesting, whimsical Italian folktales with a cerebral twist. I really like the way he uses words and meaning. I started reading The Water Dancer [by Ta-Nehisi Coates].

One of your favourite books is Siddhartha by Herman Hesse?

KC: Yeah, yeah. I like him a lot. I like the way he uses words and perception. He takes you on a journey with words.

I wanted to ask you about your writing; do you ever have a vision for a song before you sit down to write it?

KC: Not usually. Usually I’ll be listening to sounds that could become a song and those sounds have a meaning in them that I like after listening to it over and over. Sometimes I write little things before but it’s more that I hear the music and the words are already in there, the pattern is in there somewhere and I have to find it by listening to it over and over again.

What kinds of things have you been finding yourself writing about lately?

KC: Honestly, I’ve been writing a lot of political stuff in a way. Coronavirus isn’t as crazy in Australia, right?

That’s right, we’ve been pretty lucky compared to a lot of countries.

KC: New York is crazy. I haven’t worked for a whole month because I have a heart condition. I’m usually working a lot and keeping busy being out and about talking to people, but I haven’t really gone out much. It’s interesting writing in this time.

Do you feel lonely living away from your band members Upstate?

KC: Oh definitely! The drummer is up here and the guitar player is up here right now too, we’ve been working a new music. It’s kind of like a reprieve though, we played over 100 shows last year and toured all over the country as well as going to Europe. To be in a city too is really taxing too.

I feel that when I go into the city too, I live in a costal beachside town that’s really laidback. I’ll drive to the nearest capital city that’s an hour away from me and after being there a half hour I’ll get too overwhelmed!

KC: Yeah, it’s like chaos!

Previously you’ve mentioned that when you play live it’s like a deep meditation for you; do you do meditation in any other areas of your life?

KC: Yeah, walking meditation when I’m walking through the woods with Watley. Anytime really, doing anything. Even washing dishes, like feeling the warmth of the hot water on your hands or pausing in any way; looking at a plant; or even driving is a meditation in a way, I think.

So for you it’s having an awareness of what you’re doing and being in the moment?

KC: Yeah, awareness and a pause, remembering that you’re in a body. It can be resting for a second.

In isolation do you have a typical day or a routine you do?

KC: Yeah. I wake up around 9 or 10am and then I make some oatmeal and coffee. I take a shower. Then I’ll work on music from 11 to 7. Maybe have a snack somewhere in there at around maybe 2pm. At 7 I’ll make dinner. After that I’ll work on music again until 10pm. At 10 I’ll watch a movie. That’s what I do every day. Maybe in the middle of the day I’ll take a hike or two.

 Do you learn things about yourself when making music?

KC: Definitely. Writing lyrics is like going; what’s happening in my brain? How am I feeling? What is my current experience? What do my past experiences mean? Even the lyrical process beyond writing the lyrics initially, when I’m performing, the meaning of lyrics singing them over and over again for many years, eight years now in some cases, the meaning of the lyrics change. I feel like I’m constantly learning about myself, it’s like a constant self-awareness and the awareness of people around you and what’s happening on the Earth and how you interpret that. I’m a pretty high anxiety person, so the profession of being a frontwoman in a band is a weird choice; it’s also not a weird choice because it’s a process, the process of me coming out of my shell and me interpreting my anxieties and dealing with them and dealing with trauma. I would definitely say that I am always learning about myself and other people [laughs] and those interactions.

So by your showing those parts of you and you trying to work yourself out, because it’s honest and really looking at things, that resonates with others and might help them in their life?

KC: Yeah. I hope someday you can see us perform because I think our performance brings the music to a different level. I can act things out and you can see different accents on things. The music recordings are great but I hope you can see us perform.

Same!

KC: When I first started touring we would be the only band with a girl on it on the bill. It was crazy and so weird. Now there’s a lot more women and all different types of people. It felt like; do they just like us because I’m a girl? I want people to like us because it’s good music.

Another thing I love about Guerilla Toss is the art work for your albums, I’s always so colourful!

KC: Yeah! [laughs].

Is there any thought behind making it so colourful?

KC: I guess to make it fun and interesting. We’re doing a release for the Sub Pop Singles Club and that one is actually not colourful.

What songs will be on that release?

KC: It’s actually two new songs that no one has heard.

I love that Guerilla Toss’ music is all so different.

KC: I always think it’s weird when someone’s like, ‘I like your older stuff’; if we were to make stuff that sounds the same all the time that wouldn’t be very genuine.

Is sharing your music with others important to you?

KC: Yeah. I hope people listen to it and have fun or have some kind of experience, even if it’s, ‘oh god, this is intense!’ and they think it’s awful… at least they had some sort of reaction and experience with it [laughs]. Or if they see us and go, ‘oh, that was really harsh’ or ‘wow! That was softer than I thought it would be’.

Ok, last question; have you ever had a really life changing moment?

KC: Yeah. So many. When I had heart surgery, is an easy thing to say. I had open heart surgery two years ago. I had an infection in one of my heart valves. It was crazy, really intense. For the first time… I usually feel my whole life that I’ve been kind of like a tank: I’m super strong, I don’t really get sick, I feel strong-willed and do what I want. I was really floored by this sickness. I didn’t really feel right until kind of recently. It took a long time to recover. The recovery was so abstract that I didn’t really feel like I could relate to anyone. It was a multi-faceted recovery. I felt alone in it but I really am glad that I am where I am right now—in a beautiful place in nature and still writing music and still alive! It’s cool to have Watley too, he’s a great dog!

Is there anything that you’d really love to do creatively or in life in general right now?

KC: I really just want to travel more. That’s probably my favourite thing about touring. It wasn’t until more recent years of touring that we started to be more tourist-y, like going to national parks. We went to Yellowstone National Park! That was always my dream to go there. I remember having a National Geographic magazine when I was a kid and seeing all the geysers in it and the buffalo—I love animals and nature! Another time we were in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and we went to this amazing place and went on a river raft ride. In San Diego we went on this kayak ride, we were ocean kayaking through these sea caves. It was super epic! That’s what I really want to do with the rest of my life, I don’t need to be super rich or super popular with my music, I just want to see the world and see amazing shit!

Please check out GUERILLA TOSS; on bandcamp; on Facebook; on Instagram.

GIMMIE RADIO [11] ‘Best and Fairest’

Gimmie Radio is back and for this edition we have done a round up of songs from the Gimmie team’s favourite releases of 2020 so far (well, the one’s that are available on Spotify, that is). Including Cold Meat, Alien Nosejob, Bananagun, Dr Sure’s Unusual Practice, Nnamdi, Primo!, Zoe Fox and the Rocket Clocks, Parsnip, Hearts and Rockets, Sunfruits, the Stroppies, Mystery Guest, Traffik Island, Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, Millionaire and many more!