Meanjin/Brisbane band Guppy don’t sound like anyone else. It’s post-punk, it’s noise rock, it’s No Wave, it’s art-pop, it’s guitar-less, there’s wild saxophone, but saying all that only tells part of the story—it’s a dizzying array of cool. There’s an accidental alchemy formed from the simplicity and joy of friendship and explorational, experimental jams. After seeing Guppy live earlier this year, we loved them so much we interviewed them and put them on the cover of our print publication of Gimmie Issue 2. Those that have seen their hectic live show can attest to their magnetism. Guppy features members of some QLD’s most exciting bands of the last decade Clever, Cured Pink, Per Purpose, Psy Ants and Come Die In Queensland.
Today we’re premiering their DIY debut video and song ‘Lipshitz’ from their forthcoming highly anticipated first album, 777antasy . We spoke with Guppy’s vocalist, Pam, who represents a new kind of thrilling frontwoman.
We’re excited to be premiering Guppy’s debut clip for song ‘Lipshitz’ from your forthcoming debut album in the works; why did you choose this song for your first video?
PAM: We’d been tossing round ideas for clips we could put together ourselves and in the process of spitballing one night we decided to demo this lip-syncing idea, thinking we could use some green paint around my mouth and key it out and it would look a bit like that Mulligrubs show. Because this song’s full of attitude, it made sense to try it out with this track. We did a bunch of takes that progressively became more complicated, with little cameos from Jack [saxophone-vocals] and Callum [drums] interweaved between closeups of Mitch [bass-vocals] and I, but in the end, the best take was basically our first one. I guess the choice of song wasn’t so deliberate, it was just meant to be.
How did the song initially get started? What’s it about?
P: As usual, the music came first. It had a real tense, unnerving undercurrent that held lots of space to drag out the tension. Jack wanted to make a lovemaking song. When it came to writing the lyrics, I knew it wouldn’t start with a melody. The gups joked that I should approach it like a rap. So I did. I was thinking more about words with bite, phrasing, repetition. It was like a word collage, guided by this book I got from the lifeline superstore Thugs and the Women That Love Them by Wahida Clark. It’s titillating stuff. And subconsciously it was helping me express parts of myself that I usually keep to myself. She snake-charmed the rude outta me. It felt good. Next prac, it came out in a blaze and I thought it was done, but I think Mitch could see the potential of more narrative if he were to voice the male perspective. And it made it even better. He’s not afraid to be tacky but also vulnerable. I think we get a real kick out of both our characters.
What do you love most about it? We love the co-vocals and attitude in the delivery, along with the hectic energy sonically.
P: Yeah I think you’re onto it. For me it’s less about the story and more about how it feels to deliver it. I step into the part of myself that doesn’t give any fucks and it’s completely liberating in a sexual hyper-feminine way. That’s probably what I love about it most, that it’s so fun to play live. Everyone’s so animated. Like, Mitch chugs this heavy bassline along with Cal who’s holding it down, holding the tension, and then Jack comes in at the end of every line with some sass, punctuated by this squealing skronk. Everyone’s suddenly moving more as the song builds. Yeah it’s got good energy.
Can you tell us a bit about recording it? What do you remember from the session?
P: We recorded in this little studio tucked away in Stafford just across from the Stafford Tavern. The roof was covered in egg cartons and Callum was propped up on this platform with what felt like a huge drum kit covered with mics. The drums really filled the room. We were so close together but listening to each other through headphone sets. It didn’t take long for us to get the final take.
We recorded vocals on a different day. For most of the day I’d recorded vocals alone but for this song Mitch and I recorded together and I remember it felt like I was properly hearing his lyrics for the first time. It just poured out of him, enunciated in the way that only he can do. It was so natural to him. It was cool, I remember him coaching me through my parts trying to get the gold outta me.
What is the symbol that appears at the beginning of the clip?
P: Well we decided to call the record 777antasy, like ‘zan-ta-see’. We were humouring ourselves with shit like ‘we belong to the fantasy genre’, ‘with roots in karaoke’ and a ‘smack of funk’, etc etc. Anyway, it stuck. And Jack came to practice with this symbol she’d fashioned at work, cut out from lino. It was perfect. If you look closely in the circle it reads 777antasy without being too obvious. The sevens cut down the centre and into each other in this angular way. Then I extruded it and warped it in cool 3D world. We’ll be using the symbol in slightly different incarnations across other videos and the record.
You made the video yourselves. What went into the making of it?
P: Well I feel like we almost lucked out with getting a one-take-wonder that night we were mucking around. Jack just got on my phone and started filming, fixing weird things to our heads that she’d rummage out of her car, giving us directions. She’s super resourceful that Jack. A few beers later and it’s as if the video made itself. It felt like the hard part was done cause we had the raw footage but little did I know how painstaking the video editing process would be. Feels like new territory. Lots of fun but lots to learn. I edited the clip in After Effects and used Blender to animate the opening sequence. The pain was worth it though, that 3D opening puts a big fat smile on my face everytime.
What’s one of the biggest lessons you learnt making the clip?
P: Just cause you have a million effects doesn’t mean you’ve gotta use them all.
What’s happening next for Guppy?
P: We’re working on a band website and album art so we can launch it early next year with the help of Gimmie (THANK YOU!). Also working on ideas for more videos… We like the idea of producing them ourselves so that we can put our own stank on it. There’s something about the way we work together, jamming and editing ideas that feels magical and we want that to come through in our videos, everything that we do. Plus, we’re gonna have more downtime so we can work on new songs and prepare for the 777antasy launch. That should be a hoot. I want it to be over-the-top larger-than-life, an extravaganza! That’s if I had it my way.
Our Carlson doesn’t hold back on debut EP A Bit Much, his writing is both funny and frustrated as he speaks to the experience of living, and of being diagnosed with epilepsy at thirty-three. Ranting over dance club and break beats, Carlson’s record is honest and from the heart. Today Gimmie is premiering the super fun video for single ‘Cappo Dog’. We spoke with Our Carlson just last week about the release, video, his punk origins (he was in hardcore band King Brown), epilepsy, the UV Race, MDMA, Gary Ablett, Save Our Scene and much more.
Your live show looks like it’s so much fun! I’m stoked to be talking with you today. Your EP A Bit Much came out at the start of the year, right?
OUR CARLSON: Yeah, it came out on the same day that I played a show at The Forum with Cash Savage and the Last Drinks. That was a bit of a buzz. I had DJ Katie Pearson with me on that one. Cash has been deejaying with me heaps lately, which is lots fun; I’m trying to get as many of them in as I can before The Last Drinks go bananas. They’re going to go to Europe a couple of times next year. My partner DJ Ruby Princess deejays with me sometimes as well.
It’s great that you can get lots of different people to join you on stage and DJ your set.
OC: Yeah. I honestly got sick of bands breaking up; members getting jobs and moving interstate, having kids, or whatever takes them away from music. I think anyone that has been in bands for a while, knows what I’m talking about there. You have to find new members, they have to learn the songs. I just wanted to do something that was nice and easy. It was very easy when we were twenty-one, it was like, “Yeah, let’s do a band and go on tour!” Lives get in the way.
How did you get into music?
OC: There was always music around the house. As far as me getting into music on my own, my next door neighbour, Emma, she was really into Fat Wreck Chords punk, pop-punk, things like that. It would have been in the late 90s. Through her I got into music and started going to shows.
I started a hardcore band just when I left high school, and really started getting into hardcore then.
What was the name of your hardcore band?
OC: King Brown. That’s just gone up on Spotify through Oz Digital Hardcore Archive. they have an Instagram The record label that we were on doesn’t exist anymore. That whole section [time period] of music is missing from Spotify; only older stuff that’s bigger is put on there. They started contacting people about putting their music on there and all of the money goes to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. Listening to it brings back memories, there’s so many bands that you forgot about. It’s really cool.
I was around in that period. There were some great bands. Having been involved in punk and hardcore for well over half my life and making zines, I have a big archive of Australian music from that period, lots of demos, especially on CD or cassette.
OC: So many good demos back then! Lots of amazing stuff. You’re from Brisbane?
I’m originally from Brisbane, but am currently on the Gold Coast.
OC: There were bands up there like The Daylight Curse, we played a bunch with them. It was a pretty big scene up there.
There were a lot of bands, a lot fell under that North Coast Hardcore scene umbrella.
OC: Live you can tell that I was a hardcore kid, I’m stomping around the stage doing the whole hardcore thing. It’s where I learnt to play to a crowd and do my thing. I got my chops at The Arthouse. It hasn’t left me.
Lately I’ve been going back to it. My car just has a CD player, whenever I’m out of range of community radio it’s onto CDs, listening to all that old stuff. I’ve been listening to heaps of The Nation Blue lately. I got to play with them at OK Motels. It was so great, they hadn’t played in ages. I still go to Mindsnare shows every time they’re on.
I love Mindsnare! I’d go to all of their shows when they’d come to QLD. I remember the launch for their first LP Credulity in like 1997 or ’98. They’re one of Australia’s all-time best hardcore bands.
OC: Definitely one of the best! They’re my favourite. I’m just looking at my first tattoo, on my foot, a Mindsnare tattoo [laughs] that I got when I was younger.
What attracted you to the hardcore scene?
OC: I was angry. It was a good outlet for me, and there’s the whole community vibe of it, I really loved that. All Ages shows; me and my friends would pile into cars and drive so far, we’d be in the northwest of Melbourne and drive all the way down to Frankston for shows. You’d know everyone. It was good fun. Touring bands, just hanging out with everyone.
How did you go from doing hardcore to doing what you do know with Our Carlson? It’s pretty different.
OC: It is different [smiles]. I started getting into a lot of different music. My friend Izzy [Stabs] that does a lot of the music, he really got into electronic music; he started buying me records. He’d be like, “You gotta hear this! You gotta hear this!” And I just started listening to it more. It’s really similar with the scene, there’s a really good community within that scene. There’s a lot of females driving that community as well, I’ve really enjoyed that aspect. I really get a kick out of the music, the people, the clubs. I really love a sweaty club or warehouse show, it reminds me of punk and hardcore in many ways. Being able to make music from your bedroom is pretty cool.
I know quite a few people from the punk and hardcore community that ended up going on to doing something electronic or beats-based. They still have that punk and hardcore spirit, they’re just channeling into something new and evolving; like what you’re doing.
OC: Yeah, I think so. I used to exclusively listen to punk and hardcore, then life changes and you start getting exposed to different things. I listen to everything. Sarah Mary Chadwick is a huge influence for me, her vocals and lyrics are so honest. For me, doing this, it’s the most honest I’ve ever been with music. Listening to her I was like, ‘I can do this!’ You know when you see someone else and you’re like ‘I can do it! I can put it all on the line.’ People connect with that, you just got to do it.
The first song I wrote was ‘Ain’t Too Great Mate’. I sent it to a few people, and people were just calling me going, “Are you alright?” I was like, ‘I am alright now, I’ve got this out and I’m feeling better.’
It all started from epilepsy. I had this idea in my head and I started rambling into the phone. I spoke to Izzy and said, ‘We have to do something with this. Do you reckon we can make some electronic music with this?’ We got together and made the first track, and it worked.
When you were thirty-three you were diagnosed with epilepsy. I’ve had people close to me diagnosed with various conditions later in life, so I have an understanding of what that’s like. I wanted to ask you about your experience. What was life like for you before the diagnosis and then how did being diagnosed change things?
OC: Well, you have one seizure and you don’t have epilepsy, some people have one seizure and they don’t diagnose that as epilepsy. Once you have a second one, they say you have epilepsy. It was a year between them for me.
It’s just the fear of not knowing when it’s going to come. Sometimes I have panic attacks, I get a bit of anxiety and go, ‘Oh fuck! I’m going to have a seizure.’ It’s not, but that just builds. Meds are annoying, I love them and I hate them. Some days you forget to take them, you don’t have any on ya, you’ve got to drive back to the house to get them. I live in the country, everything is half and hour or forty-five minutes away. Once I have a seizure I can’t drive for six months. There’s no public transport out here. I live in a tiny little town, it’s a half hour drive to the train to get anywhere, the you have to get to Melbourne to go to all of these appointments. The doctors don’t seem to know much about epilepsy, that’s the most frustrating part. They don’t know too much and they can just theorise and they don’t want to tell you things that may not be true. Rich Stanley from Power Supply has epilepsy, and I learn more from him and other people with epilepsy than I do from the doctors. He’ll give me advice and tips, I’ll tell him what’s happening and we can talk all about it, it helps immensely—a big thank you to Rich!
With the music, I wanted to put it out there and let people know. I’m pretty comfortable about talking about epilepsy. I wanted people to know, because one in twenty-five Australians have epilepsy. People don’t really talk about it. Since putting it out there, the amount of people that have come up to me and told me they have epilepsy, that I didn’t even know had it, is so many; it’s because people don’t talk about it because there’s a stigma around it. If everyone knows about it and knows what to do, it’s not so scary… I mean it can be.
I know what you mean. When people talk about things it can help normalise these things, and people don’t have to feel that stigma or isolated and alone. Another big thing I think is that just looking at someone isn’t always an indicator of what’s going on with them, so many health challenges are things you can’t outwardly see all the time. Having health challenges can also very much impact on your mental and emotional wellbeing, all these things people just can’t always see.
OC: That’s it, exactly. The mental health side of it is huge! We all struggle with mental health at some stage in our lives, that’s come along way though from people talking about it. My dad committed suicide when I was fourteen, that was all through him being an old school dude. Everyone was like, “No. No way. Not Wayne.” He seemed so happy and was out and about, he had a larger than life personality, but he couldn’t talk about things because that wasn’t the culture. There’s been huge steps in that but there’s a long way to go.
The hardcore scene has lost a lot of people to suicide over the last couple of years. A lot of the time it seems to be men my age. Hopefully we can keep talking about it and people can get better and realise that you can get through stuff, that there is help and your friends will help you. It is tough, but I hope conversations can help it and we don’t have to go through losing people over and over.
Absolutely. That’s why I always make an extra effort to check-in with people, even people I might not know super well, or maybe it’s someone I’ve interviewed sometime over the years. I’ve experienced a fair amount of loss in my life and know how important it is for people to know that someone is there for them. I actively reach out to people, because having suffered from severe depression and anxiety in my life, felt like I had no one and I know how hard it can be to reach out when you’re in the midst of feeling that. Sometimes you feel like you don’t want to bother people or be a burden on them, cos everyone has something they’re dealing with.
OC: Yeah, I found myself doing that a lot of lockdowns too, calling friends and being like, ‘Hey, I’m just calling to check-in. What’s going on?” That helps a lot. When they do feel down at least they know they can reach out to me, that people care. It’s easy to forget that people care, and that your friends love you, when you’re deep in a depression. It’s nice to remind people of that whenever you can. Just a simple call and check-in, that’s all you need to maybe make a difference.
What helps you when you get depressed?
OC: My partner runs Ray Holistic Health. A lot of that has helped me lately. Things like acupuncture and meridian lines. I remember the first time she did it to me, she was holding these points on my head and it felt like all of this energy was rushing and coming up out of my head. I feel like talk therapy is good, but this other stuff, Chinese medicine and stuff like that where you don’t have to talk, seems to make a big difference for me, it realigns things.
Time to myself is good. I like to go off Ito the bush. Take a trumpet out there and blow as hard as I can. That’s really good!
Hanging out with my friends! I have really good friends I chat with. Cash Savage is always really good for me, we always check-in. Having people that you can just be really honest with, people that don’t judge. I find I always feel better after a big chat. Sometimes you don’t want to have that chat, but you’ll feel better after it if you do, it’s a good release.
Totally. How did you come to the name Our Carlson? I know Carlson is your last name.
OC: Our Carlson is just a play on “our Kylie”. I love Kylie Minogue, she’s amazing, has been for a long time. Never have I known her to have a scandal. How has she never had a scandal? [laughs]. I can’t think of one. Surely she has been scandalous! I wanted to have something with my name in it too, so I could really own it.
You did mention that this project is the most honest you’ve been in music.
OC: Yeah. The stuff I’m writing now is even more honest and pretty wild, really digging into stuff. I found it a little difficult to write in lockdown because a lot of stuff comes from talking with people, sayings and things I overhear. I might say something and then someone laughs and goes, “That’s a lyric.” I kind of just blurt them out. Listening to records helps me write too. I might be listening to a hardcore record and get something in my head. I just jot things down or yell into my phone. When I started seeing people I started writing a lot more again.
Where did your EP title A Bit Much come from?
OC: [Laughs] It’s just something I say a bit. Something came up and I said, ‘That’s a bit much.’ The whole thing is a bit much, the music is a bit much, epilepsy is a bit much, life’s a bit much—the whole experience I was having was just a bit much. It’s probably more than a bit much, but it’s a nice, cute little way of putting it.
We’re premiering the clip for song ‘Cappo Dog’. It’s a song about how we’re basically all capitalists living in a capitalist society.
OC: Yeah. I’ve had big troubles with money my whole life, coming from the punk scene, I never want to spend money. Buying a house for me was huge! Until my partner told me we were going to be paying ten bucks more a month than we were for rent in Footscray. The whole capitalist system and money is always something that I’ve struggled with, and making money off of other people. I’m a carpenter and I’m always going to give people the bill and I knock money off it. I’m horrible with making money.
We are all living in a capitalist society, you may think your not, but when you buy a beer there’s tax on that; when you fill up your car with fuel, there’s tax on that; there’s tax everywhere.
The film clip, my mate Flagz made it. He’s done a bunch of clips, the latest Blake Scott one, Cash Savage’s ones, Batpiss, a few for Tropical Fuck Storm. We workshopped the idea. He moved to Woodend, which is not too far from Blackwood. We’ve been hanging out a bunch, he’s got a shed, Stanley’s, which is named after his uncle Stanley who passed away. He gave him some cash and his dad was like, “What are you going to do with it?” He’s like, “I’m just going to pay off some of my credit card.” His dad was like, “Uncle Stanley would not like that.” Uncle Stanley was a bit of a party dude, so he bought a pool table and a dartboard, it’s in his shed. We just hang out there and workshop ideas.
We put up green screen all around the shed and made the clip in there. Tommy from Batpiss was living with him at the time (I think he’s just moved back to the city). Tommy, his partner and Flagz’ partner all came out and collaborated. I hadn’t been able to collaborate in so long, I can’t believe how much I missed it. We were putting costumes together, I’m playing three different characters as well as myself, Our Carlson in it. It was so much fun! They were yelling at me to do this and that [laughs].
One of the characters is Bradley, The Wolf Of Blackwood.
OC: Yeah. Bradley owns Capri Real Estate, he drives around in a Ford Capri, he works the stock market and is a news presenter on Channel 420. He’s a real capitalist grease ball.
Another character is Blaire.
OC: Blaire is a trustfund kid. He moved down from around the Byron Bay Area to the Southside of Melbourne and then moved over to the Northside. He has a bar and a restaurant named after himself, as well as a men’s skincare range. He started Anti-tax and Anti-tax League. He’s a shocker.
Then there’s Rico’s cousin. He was born in Ballarat. He’s rumoured to be Gina Rinehart’s illegitimate son. He’s been banned from Milney’s bar, which is a bar I frequent a bit when I’m in Melbourne. He’s a bricklayer’s son, he’s going to take over the business, but he started moving bags instead of moving bricks. He’s a bit of a character. He doesn’t pay much tax but he’s a capitalist too. He’s moving those units and making that money.
The song mentions Ray Cappo, the singer of Youth Of Today and Shelter. He became a Hare Krishna and started his own yoga thing, now I think he’s worth a couple of million of bucks!
I’ve interviewed Ray. When we spoke he was going to Cher’s house and teaching her how to prepare raw food dishes. He’s also the only person that has ever charged me money to interview them, he charged me the equivalent of a private yoga lessons. I’m friends with people that played in Shelter and they’ve told me how he’d go to India and buy cheap tulsi neckbeads and then come back home and jack up the prices to sell them to hardcore kids at shows.
OC: Wow, he’s gone from the punk world to Cher’s house! I would definitely go to Cher’s house.
OC: She’s amazing. There’s a great thing on YouTube about Cher, it’s Westside Story from back in the day, she plays all of the parts. It’s a 10-minute clip. There’s five of her dressed up as all of the gang members, singing and dancing. It’s really amazing. It’s a good few minutes of your life spent.
Nice! I’ll have to check it out.
OC: I’ve made a bunch of cash, that’s my promotional tool at the moment—$420 notes. It’s with the ‘Cappo Dog’ clip launch, everyone that comes gets a $420 note on arrival.
Cool, I love when people go the extra mile and do fun things.
OC: That’s what it’s all about, doing fun things! My friend Sophie made my suit I wear, it was fun to sit down a collaborate with her. She’s making another suit at the moment; SÜK workwear, it’s overalls. It’s non-binary workwear that more fits femme shapes, it’s really good stuff. They’re doing great things. We had to take mine in bit because my body is pretty straight, snake-hips [laughs]. There’s going to be all tassels and beads.
Because hardcore is so… oh, what’s the word I’m looking for?
OC: In a box!
Yeah, totally. With this project you can do whatever you want, it’s limitless.
OC: Yeah, that’s what I like about it. I remember when King Brown started, we were pretty silly. The songs weren’t so much, they were serious. At the shows we talked a lot, talk about 80s cricketers and silly stuff for too long. You’d see hardcore kids looking around at the cool kids to see if it was ok to like it; I loved breaking down those barriers. Hardcore was very straight edge, especially at that time in Melbourne. Everyone wore black. I’ve always liked to shake it up a bit.
I remember when things were like that. In Brisbane we had real militant straight edge kids that would go to shows and knock beers out of people’s hands. I remember people wearing all black too, I used to stick out because I’d wear bright colours or white; I didn’t want to wear the uniform.
OC: [Laughs]. I remember I went to a show at The Arthouse, everyone was wearing black and I was wearing a bright red Mindsnare t-shirt and people looking at me like, “Whoa! What are you doing? Are you in the wrong place mate?” It was like I was wearing the wrong outfit, so I thought, ‘I’ll keep doing this!’
I’ve had people do that to me to. I was going to a punk show my friend’s band was playing and there were two punk girls, one with a Chelsea haircut and the other had a mohawk, out the front of the venue sitting on the sidewalk smoking. I’d just come from a formal dinner party, so was looking glam, and as I approached one of them spat near my feet. I looked at them and they’re like, “Are you lost love?” And I’m like, ‘No, I’m here to see my friend’s band.’ They rolled their eyes, kind of like, as if! As they were hassling me my friend came out of the venue and was like “Bianca!” And ran over and hugged me and the two girls looked at each other in astonishment. Punk police are so lame.
OC: [Laughs], yeah. I copped it at the last Maggot Fest. Haram were playing and I was in the pit wearing a white button up shirt with all these dolphins embroidered on it, these curst punks were targeting me and laughing at me. I went up to them and I was like, ‘I really like your uniforms boys, they’re so sexy. I love how you put the uniform on to come out!” [laughs]. It’s so silly, punk is an attitude, it’s not an outfit.
Yeah. The punk people that I love the most are the ones that continue to push things forward, to me punk isn’t a static thing.
OC: With the straight edge thing in the beginning for us, we’d see all ours friends sniffing glue and passing out at the shows just being wasteoids, and we just wanted to be positive. Not being in the punk box is punk, just doing your own thing. I think hardcore ruined punk a bit, in America especially, all the glitter kids and stuff like the Germs; there seemed to be a lot of queer kids and then Black Flag got massive and things got more macho, there were fights and all the freaks and weirdos stopped going to shows, which is a shame. From everything I’ve read and seen, that whole Germs-era looks rad to me.
The L.A. punk scene has inspired so many people I know. I was talking to Kira from Black Flag the other day and she mentioned how back then the scene was so small, and we talked about the impact that it had still to this day. It was such a diverse little community and things didn’t sound the same.
OC: It seemed like there was a lot of women involved in punk at the start. I love how the Germs were around for a year or so before they even played a show, they just had a logo and put flyers up around town, how cool is that?
There’s such a common misconception that there wasn’t many women in punk, but there totally was.
OC: Yeah, punks always seemed to focus on the men more.
Are there any other songs from your EP you’d like to tell me about?
OC: ‘Ideology’ seems to be one that gets a bit of a run.
We love that song, it’s one of our favourites.
OC: Intellectuals seem to like ‘Ideology’ so that says something about you [laughs]. All the smart art kids seem to be into that one. It’s all about, what is an ideology? What are you thoughts?
The whole Gary Ablett part actually happened. My sister and I was actually at this place with big pools, a diving board, it’s like a really crap Wet n Wild in Geelong. Gary Ablett Snr was sitting there, Jnr was probably running round in the pool somewhere and she went to the tuckshop and got a brown paper bag and got him to sign it. She still has it, she’s going to dig it out for me.
I like how that whole song works. The beats really cool. It hits you pretty hard. That song came out pretty easy.
It’s something that I think about and think about, I mean I’m not constantly thinking about having a seizure but it does come into your head all the time. You might stand up too fast, and be be like, ‘Oh, what’s that!’ I might be working on a roof or climbing up a ladder and you’re like, if something happened now I’d be in a bit of trouble. That one really hits me a bit.
I got a new song that’s all done pretty much.
What’s that about?
OC: It’s about conspiracy theories. It’s a fun take on it. I talk about Paul Kelly and How To Make Gravy and how that’s not how you make gravy! I don’t know what Paul’s going on about there, there’s a bit of a conspiracy around that [laughs].
It talks about The UV Race! They made their first film Autonomy and Deliberation, and then they made another film UV Race Disgrace Space; that hasn’t come out, it was made ages ago but it’s not finished editing. The line goes: The UV Race disgrace space before any billionaire but it was buried, conspiracy.
There’s parts about: no one like my ‘We want 6G’ sign at the no 5G rally. There’s stupid things that are going on in the world at the moment. People flying off to space. 5G. Anti-vax. It just drives me crazy, especially the anti-vax stuff, how could someone be so self-centred; disabled people can’t go out, if people with disabilities get Covid they’re going to be in trouble, they’re looking at death; the elderly as well. People go, “The vaccines new!” It’s not even new, they’ve been using it for different kinds of things for ages, it’s just a new twist on an old vaccine. It drives me nuts that people can be so selfish. I know it can be scary, it’s a scary time, but doing your research on the internet is not the way to go.
It’s a bit much!
OC: [Laughs] It’s a bit much! If I get Covid and get quite a high fever, there’s a good chance that I will get a seizure. If people with epilepsy get Covid there’s a good chance we’ll have a seizure. I’m living my life and if that happens it happens…
Is there anything you need to be mindful of in regards to your epilepsy? When you play live does strobe lighting effect you or loud noise?
OC: Not for me. I’m not triggered by strobes. I’ve done a lot of tests and strobbing doesn’t trigger me, which is very good. I don’t have strobes at my shows though because I want them to be accessible, especially to people with epilepsy. I love strobes and going to places like Strawberry Fields festival. I usually work there driving artists to the stage, giving them their riders and making sure they’re happy. It’s a pretty fun job.
Stress for me is a big one. I’m not meant to stay up too late either, sometimes I get a bit excited though, I come to the city and I’m having fun and I’m really bad at leaving a party, I always have been. I always want the fun to keep on continuing.
There’s actually been studies into MDMA and it stops sodium valproate for working, which is in my epilepsy medication, so no more MDMA for me. The love drug! There’s a few things you have to be weary of. For me the meds really work and I really need to continue to take them every day. I have to try not and stress out too much either, I don’t work nearly as much as I used to. Hopefully I can just do more music. When doing a trade sometimes it can be stressful and difficult working with people, organising things. I tell people now that I only work three days a week, or sometimes I might need a week off. We’re lucky that we bought in the country and live a pretty cheap life, so I don’t have to work too much. The whole having to work for five or six days a week, what are we doing? You have one or two days off, decompress and got to go back to it and do it all again. Capitalism has really sucked everyone in.
That’s a big thing to do with your mental health, working so much you don’t have time to work on your mental health. I have so many friends that were political but then you buy a house, have kids… my partner and I decided not to have kids, it makes things a lot easier. If we did have kids I wouldn’t be doing this and be able to put so much time into what I’m doing, and all my money into what I’m doing.
What you’re doing helps your mental health though, right? You can process things going on in your life through your art. You learn about yourself. Then there’s the joy of collaborating. Music, arts, culture and self-expression is so important!
OC: Yeah. I was talking to the Save Our Scene people over the internet. They were talking about how we need an economic feasibility study and health feasibility study into music and the arts, which a lot of different sectors have but we don’t have. If you have that, then the government can work off of that and know how much money the sector brings in and it’s this good for people’s health and maybe we should give it more funds! I contacted the local council, that’s a good place to start. They get a bad rap, but I think they’re trying to do the best they can with not a lot of resources.
I went and worked for the Hepburn Shire when I first got epilepsy. I had been working by myself and felt very uncomfortable, if I fell down and if it was in the morning no one would find me until night; I’m out in the backwater, working on properties with no one else around. I worked for the council in parks and gardens. They were great with my epilepsy. I had a seizure while I was there and couldn’t drive for six months, so they got someone to work with me and drive me around, and let me change my hours, they were very accommodating.
Going back to the feasibility studies, if you can get your local council and your state MPs to do that, then get the federal government to do that, maybe then we’ve got a chance of getting more money put into local arts and music.
We love the A Bit Much album art that Ben Mackie drew. How do you know Ben?
OC: I know him through music. He played in Cuntz, is now in Chemo Beach and Spiritual Mafia. Ben does a lot of different styles, but that crayon-style is something I really like. I sent him a few photos of me and asked him to do a portrait. He did a couple for the circular labels on the record, they’re pretty gnarly. He’s a legend. It’s nice collaborating with all of your friends.
Collab-ing with friends is the best. Nice Cong Josie shirt you’re wearing by the way!
OC: Love Cong! He’s coming up this way to play at the church in Blackwood. The Uniting Church sold three churches and put the money into the church in Blackwood. If you’re a local you can rent it out very cheap. I’m actually in the church committee, which is a bit of a laugh for me, I’m not too much into the church. They asked me to be on the committee, because I put on art shows and gigs in town a bit. I rocked up the first day and I’m like, ‘So, queer people?’ and they’re like, “The Uniting Church has queer ministers.” And I was like, ‘Are we going to have a welcome to country at this thing?’ They’re like, “Yep, we’ll do all that and pay for it.” There were a whole lot of things where I was like, ok, as far as church goes this seems not too bad.
You mentioned earlier that out in Blackwood you’re a town of 300 people. How do people out in your area respond to art shows and gigs you put on?
OC: There’s a lot of artists and musicians in the town. If you do something in the pub they want to hear covers. I did that a few times. Bitch Prefect played in the pub, another one of my bands Wild Blooms played, Eaten By Dogs, Joshua Seymour (who is one of the most underrated musicians in Melbourne). At the pub they really want to hear Midnight Oil; they want to hear covers.
I put on an art show, Terry and Vertigo played. I was like, ‘Oohhh, a hardcore band, I wonder how this will go?’ People loved it! They own the pub, it’s their space, but if you put an art show on somewhere else it changes their mentality and they’re more open to other things. Vertigo played and people came up to me afterwards and I’m like, ‘What did you think?’ They were like, “They’re great! The singer’s pretty cute.” [Laughs] . It’s so great, you’ve got fifty and sixty-year-old people getting into hardcore at the church.
Low Life are back with third LP From Squats To Lots: The Agony And XTC Of Low Life! A rich and complex album, that has vitality and backbone with an air of cool and restraint. There’s spades of texture and unfiltered emotion on this shining record. Gimmie recently caught up with Low Life’s drummer Greg Alfaro.
How are you? What’s life been like lately for you? What did you get up to today?
GREG ALFARO: All things considered, pretty damn good thanks. No band stuff for ages though, which sucks, just busy parent life. I’m far from the perfect father/role model type but I’m still learning things every day. There’s lots of lockdown home-schooling, work from home, trampoline sessions, feeding chooks, storytimes, watering gardens, kicking footballs, Lego, enforcing screen time limits, peacekeeping, nurturing and yelling, Dad shit.
Today was chill though, got first Vax jab, so come what may.
Low Life are from Warrang/Sydney; didyou grew up there? What was your neighbourhood like then and how have you seen it change?
GA: I actually grew up in a housing commish suburb down the freeway in the Dharawal/Illawarra. It was rife with the type of intergenerational criminality and mental illness you’d find in pockets of struggle all over the land. It was the typical BMX, bush and beach childhood mostly, but I do remember lots of overt and casual racism towards us wogs and Indigenous folk from the, I suppose, terminal bogan kids (Westies to us then) who didn’t know any better, and their older, scarier (to me) generations. Some wised up, worked hard and moved on from all that, some even became cherished friends, but most didn’t. Fun childhood, just fraught with bit of paranoia.
I do remember lots of family trips to places like Fairfield, Liverpool, Redfern, Bondi for South American festivals, functions and family friends sleep overs. My uncle had a band so music was central to those Sydney trips.
Sydney skateparks, record stores and eventually gigs featured a lot as I got older. Shows around all the ‘live music mecca’ venues from the Annandale over to Selinas. For me this wasn’t in some classic yobbo, beer drenched, oz rock, heyday nostalgia terms (that vibe was still around). I was just out of high school, so heading up to watch proper weirdo local and overseas bands most weekends was a real eye and ear opener. The 90s were also way darker and more violent in my recollection than the pre-pandemic decade or so. Young and winging it with a lot of funny and heavy ‘firsts’ to discover.
These days (or before lockdowns) there’s still the proper weirdo bands and characters, just seems everyones nicer to everyone’s faces. There’s no real pub circuit and its punch-ons (no great loss). More warehouses and DIY shows by dedicated fans and the odd friendly swindling scumbag. Still heaps of great young and middle aged bands too.
Recently on the LL Instagram you guys posted a photo of a “pseudo squat” on Shepherd Lane in Chippendale where LL was born; what do you remember about the place?
GA: That was just before I joined Lowlife. I did work with Mitch & Cristian & was in a different band with them around that crazy time too(2009-ish?), so I was all too familiar with that energy. I just don’t remember personally ever going to that particular house. From what I’ve gathered it sounds just like places I’ve lived and squatted in(some with Cristian) where decadent, deviant behaviour festered and thrived. But also a special place where deep, lifelong friendships and grudges form and intensify.
How did you first discover music?
GA: Remember that ‘Moscow!Moscow!’ song? Where the blokes are doing the Fonzie dance? It’s wild. That’s my first musical memory.
When did you start playing drums and who or what first inspired you to play? Was there ever any other option for you?
GA: My uncle’s wog band had this exotic looking drum with a proper black and white cow skin, looked like it had been violently hacked off its rump somewhere in the Andes and plonked straight on this big arse bass drum. This thing fascinated me as a kid and I would whack the shit out of it with gusto every chance I got. From there I was hooked and would tap out beats and make whimsical childish songs on and about anything and everything.
I kept tapping away, absent-mindedly encoding lots of 80s metal, pop and hip hop I’d hear as a kid for many years before I properly started giving two shits about bands. I’m pretty sure it happened one day when my older bro and his mates must have been smoking some of that gold-stamped red-cellophane hash that was everywhere back then. Because the dodgy fuckers put on The Doors (as they do). With those vapours swirling around I remember zoning intently into the drums on ‘Peace Frog’, a simple beat doing some heavy lifting on the galloping rhythm. After that, they probably greened out, and I started taking drums slightly more seriously.
Punk & hardcore stuff got me going faster and more intense. Fuck, I even tried and failed those blast beats, but that shit is unnatural to me, more human torture ordeal than drumming. But hats off if you can be bothered learning it.
I’ve played different instruments in different bands over the years too, but plodding along on drums is my favourite thank you very much.
How did you find your local music community? What was the first local show you ever went to?
GA: Kinda inevitable, music was so linked with our skating so much back then, but also a bit of blind luck. We just happened to grow up where some older friends were getting amongst the Sydney and Melbourne punk underground scenes, which spurred us on. We sputtered through attempts at various covers and line ups until we got it going for ourselves. Eventually we’d get our own songs and shows on the scene. Sometimes our friends would invite us onto their bills. Been at it ever since.
Pretty sure first show was ‘Proton Energy Pills’ and ‘Social Outcasts’ at Thirroul Skating Rink/Skatepark around 1990-ish. They were our older mates and had 7″ records so were totally legit to us. I remember seeing old VHS copies of ‘Decline..’ some ‘Target’ vids, ‘Repoman’ & even ‘Thrashin’ and the cluster of punk clips on Rage. We were doing our post pubescent aping of all that action down the front. Pretty funny memory. One of the records was actually sponsored by the governments ‘Drug Offensive’ harm reduction campaign, which we all found utterly hilarious. Holy shit, if only they knew the completely unhinged animals they’d sponsored.
I understand that Iggy Pop’s albums Lust For Life and The Idiot were reference points sonically for Low Life’s new album, From Squats To Lots: The Agony And XTC Of Low Life; in what ways? What do you appreciate about those records?
GA: Probably were, but I just can’t remember anyone mentioning it or writing that in the album notes. It’s been ages and too much has happened since. I can really only remember Killing Joke’s name being tossed around somewhere in the haze.
But so they should be reference points, they’re amazing albums. I think there’s definite nods to them, and I appreciate shitloads.
I knew this duo had form because my younger self heard Bowie’s polarising mix of ‘Raw Power’ first. That hellride became an instant all time favourite.
I heard ‘Lust for Life’ next and that immediately raced for the title, just via different neural pathways. The famous usual suspect songs are lauded with good reason. They are perfect anti pop masterpieces that manage to spark the intellect and warm the genitals. Thats some feat.
But songs like ‘Sixteen’ ‘Some Weird Sin’ ‘Turn Blue’ ‘Fall in Love With Me’, they carved slow & sinister routes into my subconscious, they’re still carving. This record has often been a flaming torch in a dark cave for me. The cover alone should cheer any sad fuck up.
I heard ‘The Idiot’ last. This record took longer to seep deep into my bones. Big departure from what I’d grown up on to that point, but I trusted their instincts. Before actually hearing it, I’d read in Iggys ‘I Need More’ book that they were mostly Bowie arrangements with Iggy chiming in his nihilistic poetry and ad libs. I thought I was ready for it. So when ‘Sister Midnight’ kicked in like the depraved evil twin of ‘Fame’, it was clear it was gonna be an awkward journey through Bowie’s coke-ravaged musical psyche, just with Iggy, fresh from the asylum, as the (mis)trusted co-pilot. I love how its cold monotony almost smothers it’s funk pulse (Low Life turf), but it’s there, as is Iggy’s, reanimated from his death tripping scumfuck years, just without all the mania pushing his voice to its limits. Yep, less was finally more here (more Low Life vibe too). The rest of the album stays icy, but with beautiful, fleeting hooks on ‘Baby’ and ‘China Girl’.
‘Nightclubbing’ still washes over like a heavily tranquillised cabaret number, squinting west through a glory hole in the old Iron Curtain at all the fake, sexy madness swanning around. Uncomfortable, but at peace, piling out in its own warm fluids. Great song.
‘Mass Production’ is an almighty closer. Building and writhing into almost David Lynch creep territory. An unnerving loop of self loathing & cruelty (LL anyone?) and oppressive, unrelenting head-in-a-greasy-vice synth that essentially does the job of squeezing any remnants of Dum-Dum-Motor-City guitar muscle out of Iggy (for some decades anyway) and any poor, unsuspecting, punker-wanna-be (young me included) who sat through a listen, axe at the ready, impatiently waiting in vain for some kind, any kind of ‘Extra’, ‘Rawer’ or ‘Furthermore’ fucking power. It’s brave. Glad I persisted with it.
Each listen still astounds, and it’s still casting a long shadow over the rich post punk underground from mid 70s Berlin all over the anti mainstream music world & my feeble brain. I just can’t help but imagine influential bands like… ahem… Einsteurzende Neubauten, Tuxedomoon, Wire, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Boys Next Door, Warsaw, Big-blah-Black blah fucking blah etc, all having the initial fire cracker lit under their pimply post punk arses upon hearing ‘The Idiot’ back then.
And so they should of, because despite Iggy’s penchant for self-sabotage back then, and Bowie’s possible own attempt on his careers life with ‘The Idiot’, it’s still an amazing fucking album. So yeah, shitloads.
It’s up to each listener who gives enough of a flying fuck, to decide if we’ve summoned anything sonically from those records. I certainly won’t be dwelling on it, they poisoned my blood years ago. But from what I’ve heard so far of the new album, and remember making it, it definitely feels like they’ve been stirred through the LL cauldron of ideas. Mitch is a lifer, no hand-brake, always stirring. Next!
The album’s title borrows a little from the Irving Stone 1985 novel title, The Agony and Ecstasy, about Italian Renaissance artist, Michelangelo; how did it work its way into your title?
GA: Hahaha, It does? Never read it.
The boys may or may not have a deep appreciation for that book that they drew the inspiration from, I don’t know or care really. Sounds interesting though. I just figured it was a common enough relatable phrase that rolls off the tongue nicely? Innit? Triumph/Tragedy, Comedy/Horror, Pleasure/Pain, Mushrooms/Manure, it’s all part of the calm and the chaos. It all suitably applies to the Low Life saga over our lifespan that’s for bloody sure.
What has been the most standout moment of both agony and ecstasy for you from LL’s journey so far?
GA: There are reams to draw from here, but I think the ill-fated USA tour some years back perfectly encapsulates both.
Imagine all that organising, booking, payment, anticipation, excitement & long arse flights. Only for poor Salmon to be detained in immigration limbo with Guatemalan gang bangers and unceremoniously shafted back across the ocean. After the initial confusion, stress & shock, and after it was clear he was home safe, we just accepted our cards. We were in America and we weren’t playing any gigs. So naturally we pivoted to glass half full mode. Met old friends over there and made new ones. Had a ball.
How long did you guys spend writing for The Agony And XTC..? Is there a particular way that your songs often form/come together?
GA: Maybe a year, Mitch had half the song ideas mostly worked out not long after Downer Edn came out. But different things stretched it out, and even standard band stuff like getting a jam locked in can take us ages. I remember getting a lot of these new songs started around practising sets for upcoming shows, then we’d run out of time. I really felt underdone before finally recording this one too. Covid wiped out heaps of preparation time. We only had a few proper band sessions where we got to write stuff, flesh out ideas and refine them where necessary. But I felt like I personally just needed a few more ahead of recording my drum parts. The guys, bless them, would sweetly reassure me it was sounding fine though. Liars. Normally we would have done just enough without over cooking it.
What’s the song ‘Hammer & The Fist’ about?
GA: I’m so sorry but I haven’t even heard that song in ages. I still haven’t received the record, Cristian’s got ’em all. I only have scant memory of a slowish beat with a sombre bass run, no guitar or vox. So fuck knows what it’s exactly about yet. I do have my own suspicions about ‘Hammer’ & ‘Fists’, and they ain’t pretty. Mitch insists it’s all open to listener interpretation anyway, so choose your own misadventure I suppose, yeah sorry, maybe just ask Mitch?
How did song ‘CZA’ get started?
GA: I did hear a rough cut of this with some Samoh footage early this year. Dizzy started up that riff and it sizzled straight away. Yuta and I jumped onto it quick smart, not wanting to lag on the flavour he was frying up. Cristian rumbled in. I do remember pissing ourselves laughing at all the backing vox on this one, because Salmon had put on some suitably absurd, dark but hilarious lyrics to harden it’s crust.
Which song on the new record means the most to you? Why do you have a fondness for it?
GA: So far ‘Collect Calls’. This tempo is right in my sweet spot and the mood kinda shifts gears quickly into some unexpected guitar twists. Like that Crossroads-Battle of the Hot Licks duel, but with Johnny ‘Dizzy’ Marr vs Greg ‘Yuta’ Sage. Sounds like the lyrics could be about a troubled soul who isn’t completely detached from family and friends, but possibly wanting to detach from a desperate reality? Your mate? I dunno, ask Mitch. But they are kinda harrowing and beautifully delivered by him and his sister Beth.
I only heard a mix of some songs together while my son was in a major surgery in October 2020, which was a welcome distraction. Then nothing for ages while dealing with all that in hospital. When we finally got him settled home in December 2020, the Passport video came out with ‘Collect Calls’. Hearing that song in that video really snapped me out the hospital reality that had been all consuming and all around grim. That song reminds now reminds me of starting a very different phase of life with great hope for his recovery & future. Ripping skating clip and a beautiful song.
The album was recorded last year with Mickey Grossman (who also did your previous release Downer Edn and Oily Boys’ Cro Memory Grin); What was the process like for you? What can you recall of the recording sessions?
GA: Disjointed & gruelling, but fun. With no practice for months, I did about 10+ songs in about four hours and was exhausted, pretty out of it and just plain struggling. The vocal sessions were cool though, just back to clowning around with the gang again, yelling & hooting funny backing vox and improper dining. Mickey rules, he seemed to innately know what we were doing more than we did sometimes, and had more patience with us than we probably deserved. He is a treasure. Luv him.
One of the overarching themes of the new collection of songs is the celebration of resilience. I know that personally you and your family went through a lot last year with your beautiful boy Vincent having an awful accident while bushwalking. How is everyone doing now? What are some things that have helped you with your resilience and helped you get through this challenging time?
GA: Doing great now, just got the all clear for all physical activities again but the nature of a brain injury means possible future challenges. He is totally still the sweet, fun loving and mischievous little boy he always was. We were lucky on many different fronts with this outcome because it is clear that after a whole year that his selfless nature and bright personality are still all there. That is probably the biggest joy and relief to us all. Getting him and his brothers back to the school environment amongst friends is next in his recovery.
His strength recharged my resilience when it got dark for me. I can still be a nervous wreck around him in some situations too, but having the family, friends and band behind me, random texts, big and small gestures, sympathetic smiles and hugs, lovely meals cooked and delivered, rides to and from the hospital, babysitting, was all so important. All this support from family, friends and even strangers will be appreciated for as long as I’m breathing. Thanks again gang..X
Can you share with us a funny Low Life-related moment that still makes you laugh when it comes to mind?
GA: Yuta the scooter rebooter cracking the public scooter code in Adelaide and shredding down the boulevard towards our show was hilarious. We ended up getting fed so much food off the venue before playing that it actually ruined us.
That may sound silly, and it is, but it stands out to me because it happened in a heightened emotional time just after some close friends had passed, and just before Covid stopped everything. This bizarre inter-zone period in time and space also coincided with a super rare Low Life purple patch of gig momentum (about 3 gigs!) that was focused and fun, with plenty more on the horizon.
That and the last Maggotfest featuring Coco-the astounding human kick pedal, that was funny.
Turns out these were our last two real life, beer drenched, oz rock, sweaty gigs.
Why is music important to you?
GA: Wow, again, reams.
Being preoccupied with Vincent’s recovery in and after hospital, Covid lockdowns, home schooling and the general pandemonium of family life within this whole shitstorm, has just meant that music hasn’t been important at all for so long now.
But this interview has brought it all home for me. I’ve dribbled on heaps, so I’ll try to keep it short.
It’s been a direct portal and a soundtrack to countless worlds, perspectives, memories, emotions and the odd nightmare. Creating music with friends (and kids now), and expelling all the energy, good and bad, through it. That’s important and shitloads of fun for me. Hopefully do it again ASAP.
Aborted Tortoise return with new LP – A Album – their first full-length since 2017’s lauded An Beach. Today we’re premiering the first single ‘The Sun’ along with its super fun video. Gimmie caught up with the band to find out about it all.
What’s life been like lately? What did you get up to today?
ALEX: Been great thanks! I recently moved to the country about two hours south of Perth and it is bloody serene. I’ve set up a budget studio in the new place and it’s been super liberating being able to demo tracks whenever I want without worrying about annoying the neighbours cos they’re so far away. Today I drove back home from Perth after a wicked Halloween party on Saturday night with our sibling band Ghoulies. Had a heinous HJ’s lunch on the way back and I feel crook.
What’s the best and worst things that have happened to you in the last week?
CHARLES: Best: The Unknowns dropped a hell good ‘Monster Mash’ cover. Worst: One of my students drew me a picture of what I would look like if I had “good hair”. The pigeon out the front of my house has not returned to its nest and I’m panicking.
You’re announcing the new Aborted Tortoise album; what can you tell us about it? What’s it called? How would you describe it?
CHARLES: It is called A Album, we would describe it as A Album.
ALEX: Correct. It’s got 11 songs and clocks in at around 23 minutes, therefore it is technically A Album. Ultimately, it’s just an attempt to remind people we are still a band and want to remain in the optimum position in people’s alphabetically sorted record collections. It’s going to be out through Bargain Bin Records in Australia, Bachelor Records in Europe and Under The Gun Records in the US. All three labels are amazing so it’s been sick to work with them all at once!
I understand that you’ve had the album recorded for a while now. What did the writing process for it look like? What are some of the main things that inspired it lyrically?
ALEX: Yeah, we recorded it a very long time ago, maybe December 2018? That’s fucked to think about, I didn’t realise it had been that long. The writing process was more or less the same as the last LP. No real concept or grand ideas, just a collection of unrelated songs that we had built up that needed to be recorded. As such it’s pretty all over the place in terms of subject matter. Anything from being shot into The Sun, being born, being consumed by ooze, and sanctimonious bozos is fair game in this wretched band.
What track was the most fun to write? What made it so?
ALEX: Definitely ‘Amniotic’, the one about being born (obviously). That one stemmed from a story one of our friends told us. They knew someone in primary school who swore blind they clearly remembered being born which is cursed. To us that was the funniest thing we’d ever heard so we all wrote the lyrics in the studio during the LP session around the idea of being born as a fully self-aware human. Lyrically it’s our most collaborative effort so far, we just sat in the control room and wrote it in about 15 minutes.
CHARLES: We have never had particularly clever or meaningful lyrics, but we hit new lows when we write together haha. The entire ending segment was improvised on the day of recording and just got stupider and more ludicrous with each take. It was very self-indulgent, but we had a lot of fun.
Sonically, is it a continuation of your sound on last release Scale Model Subsistence Vendor 7” or did you try some new things this time around? Did you have any reference points from the outset of the creative process?
ALEX: We wrote Scale Model Subsistence Vendor over a year later than the new LP, so everything is a bit all over the place chronologically. I’d say both releases we’ve pushed pretty hard to make the interplay between the guitars more interesting rather than just having Tom and Charles both play the same part at the same time. I can’t say we had any super direct reference points but at that time we were all listening to the first two Uranium Club LPs so that’s probably rubbed off in an indirect way. There’s a wee bit of keyboard on a couple of the tracks too which is something that we’ve been keen to do for a while now which is new for us.
You recorded previous Aborted Tortoise releases, starting with the Do Not Resuscitate 7”; did you record the new album? What did you enjoy most about the process?
ALEX: Yeah, so I recorded the last two 7”s but the new LP was recorded by Brod Madden Scott at Tunafish studio. He recorded An Beach as well. He’s a really great engineer and guy so everything went super smoothly. Recording yourself is a blessing and a curse because on the one hand there’s less pressure as it’s just the band in the same room and there are no financial constraints. At the same time though worrying about 1000 different things on top of needing to actually play properly can be a bit stressful. It is much easier in the sense that you can get things to sound exactly how you want though without things getting lost in translation or without external influences muddying stuff up. At the end of the day though I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing so we decided to record the LP properly with Brod and I reckon that was a very wise decision.
We’re premiering the new song ‘The Sun’ along with its film clip; what’s the song about?
TOM: The song is about The Sun, but also the idea of getting launched into The Sun as a way to die. We’ve also had this idea of being the first person on The Sun, as a kind of milestone for humanity. This song expresses that sentiment.
Where did the idea for the clip come from?
ALEX: We were kinda stuck for ideas for a fair while but ultimately decided on depicting the band playing amongst various sun-scapes. Initially the plan was to go out to some sand dunes or a salt lake on a hot sunny day and film there but the weather has been uncharacteristically shitty for Perth this time of year, so The Sun hasn’t been its usual reliable self. Instead, we opted to go the safer green screen route with our friend Thomas Cahill (Bunkyvids) who did a fantastic job rounding up us idiots and teasing out a semi-coherent video.
What do you remember from filming it?
CHARLES: Skeletons and John not helping pack up.
ALEX: We only filmed it maybe two weeks ago so it’s all still fresh in my mind. Lots of skeletons and Crown lager (as a treat). We spent over $200 on KMART skeletons. Money well spent.
Like most bands, Aborted Tortoise haven’t had the chance to play live much in the last couple of years. Last we spoke Connor was overseas in Germany, and when he finally returned you started rehearsing again. You played a show in July this year; is there a part of the experience that you’d completely forgotten about?
ALEX: Yeah, the whole Covid thing obviously really fucked things up. Connor had moved to Europe so we were taking a break from live shows as is. Though we did have grand plans to meet him over there at some point for a tour but obviously the pandemic rendered that impossible. Connor ended up coming back though and once everything calmed down a bit in WA we did manage to sneak in a couple shows around our limited lockdowns. We have made a conscious decision to keep live shows a bit sparse though, at least until touring is more feasible. That July show was really rad, we were just stoked people still gave a fuck enough to come watch us because for a while there I think people assumed we were no longer a band. We had a ripper night though and would love to play a couple more shows here and there. Playing live is always the best part of being in a band.
Have you ever gotten nervous before you’ve played a show?
CHARLES: I think everyone has unless they’re a filthy liar. I still take nervous poos pre show.
What’s your favourite release from this year so far? What do you appreciate about it?
ALEX: Aw geez that’s a tough one. Can’t say I’ve been listening to a whole lot of new music lately which is a bit stupid. Though we have all been religiously listening to The Spits’ VI. Kinda cheating but it came out 366 days ago today so technically counts? Anyways, that album is unstoppable. The lyrics have to be the greatest shit I ever heard but that’s what you expect from The Spits. They scratch an itch that no other band can personally.
What’s five things that have made you really happy this year?
ALEX: 1. We’re all crypto gremlins now so Shiba Inu’s recent spike has been nice. 2. Connor bought a sailing boat recently. 3. Connor and I recently started whittling wood so have been trading ideas on how to carve spoons and the like. 4. The prospect of a return to near normalcy (???) 5. Adding to our plastic skeleton collections.
‘The Sun’ is the first single taken from Aborted Tortoise’s second LP, A Album. A Album is out on November 8 through Bargain Bin Records (Australia), Bachelor Records (Europe) and Under The Gun Records (United States).
New playlist for October is up now for your listening pleasure! This months features songs from screensaver, Dr. Sure’s Unusual Practice, Laughing Gear, Hearts and Rockets, Ausecuma Beats, Power Supply, Bitumen, Alien Nosejob, Springtime, and more.
Cook Craig returns with Pipe-eye release number four, Dream Themes. The record is adventurous and playful, crafting stories without needing words, in the tradition of the greatest soundtracks and Library Music, but with his own twist. Gimmie chatted with Cook in-depth for an hour about Pipe-eye’s beginnings, songwriting, his creative process, new passions that emerged in lockdown, finding a love of jazz in his “twilight years”, we get a little peak into his home life, and of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard touring. Today we’re premiering the song and clip for first single ‘Ancient 5G Aliens’ along with an extract of the chat; the full interview will appear in our next print zine, Gimmie Issue 5.
Where did the title of your new album Dream Themes come from?
COOK CRAIG: I had the idea that all of the songs on the new album would be theme songs, instrumental. I wanted to match them with the song titles, that they were weird dreams; they weren’t real TV shows. I thought it just sounded cool too.
It does have a nice ring to it—Dreeeammm Themmmes!
CC: [Laughs] Yeah! And, I googled it and there weren’t many things called dream themes.
Did this collection of songs come from dreams?
CC: Kind of. Just wacky day dreams. Day dreams about my cat and my dog [laughs]. ‘Detective Dogington’ is about my dog, Homer. He’s really snoopy and walks around investigating things. ‘Martina Catarina’ is about my cat, Martina. She’s real crazy, she’s like a kitten.
Are all of the songs on the album from something in your life?
CC: Yeah, or things like current events, like ‘Ancient 5G Aliens’ is about deadshit conspiracy theorists [laughs]. I usually write the music first and then try to think up titles and themes that I think match the vibe of the music. It’s what naturally comes out when I sit down. I wasn’t going for an overall theme or vibe for the album. In terms of the titles, they’re not particularly linked.
For you are the songs linked musically?
CC: Definitely. I pretty much wrote all of the songs at the one time, within a week. It was actually on my honeymoon.
Is that where ‘Let’s Get Married’ comes from?
CC: Yeah. We got married in our backyard the day before the very first Covid lockdown. We did that because we had an overseas wedding planned, but had to can it. We went to an Airbnb for two weeks and were locked down, and that’s when I wrote all of those songs. The Airbnb was really isolated in a costal country town, we didn’t really have that much to do, so I’d sit down for a couple of hours every day in the morning and wrote a song at a time.
I’m guessing just having got married and being on your honeymoon you would have been in a really great mood and that might have helped your creativity and productivity.
CC: I definitely had some gusto! Normally I’m not like that, I usually take ages to do anything. When I have an idea, it doesn’t take me long to write a song, but it takes me a while to get started and to get motivated.
Is there anything that helps you get motivated?
CC: I have to just sit down and force myself to do it sometimes, I’m so busy with my other bands, with Pipe-eye I find it hard to get the time to sit down and write a song, or I don’t feel like it because I’ve been at band practice all week and I’m mentally fatigued or musically fatigued. Sometimes I’ll just sit down for a week and write a bunch of songs, and that will last me for the next six months.
How did the song we’re premiering ‘Ancient 5G Aliens’ come together?
CC: I made a lot of the songs on the album to drum machines that I had programmed. Later on, I got Cav (Michael Cavanagh the drummer who plays in King Gizz) to drum on it. I was going for a fast afro-esque groove, looped that a heaps of times, and it turned into a song from there. The title was inspired by the History Channel, it’s really funny now. It’s all about Ancient Aliens [laughs], it’s all about that crummy, really trash kind of TV.
Ha! I remember watching the first couple of episodes of Ancient Aliens thinking, ok, maybe there’s a little something here, but then as the series continued on, it just really, really started to stretch things and make some wild claims.
CC: Yeah. I was sold on it! Still am I reckon! [laughs].
Was it a conscious choice to make this album instrumental (of course besides the song ‘Chakra’ that has the part where the word is said over and over)?
CC: I started it without any intention of doing that and as it went on, I thought a lot of the songs were strong without vocals. I thought it would be cool to take a different direction for a change and focus really hard on the music itself, rather than… I normally make songs then I write the lyrics, the vocals as an afterthought. I wanted to change it up.
Was there a freedom or relief that came from not having to write words for the songs this time around?
CC: A little bit. I like writing lyrics, but making the music is definitely my favourite part.
What’s the first song you wrote for this album?
CC: ‘Let’s Get Married’. I wrote it when I was engaged.
Awww. How did your partner feel when you showed her?
CC: She liked it. She likes it when I sing though, and I don’t think she quite got the whole instrumental thing [laughs]. She was still appreciative.
‘Oakhill Avenue’ was the last one I wrote. I wrote it to fill a gap in the songs in terms of vibe, another slow kind of chill vibe song. I wanted to do something in a different time signature that wasn’t in 4/4.
Most of the songs are fairly in my comfort zone. I feel like when I do Pipe-eye stuff it’s never that challenging, because I’m writing everything myself; I don’t’ necessarily write hard parts. In general, it was challenging to find sounds that I hadn’t used on albums before. I’ve done keyboards and synths a lot, I tried to push that a fair bit more on this record.
I noticed that. Do you ever bounce your ideas of someone else when you’re working on Pipe-eye material?
CC: It’s pretty much just me. Sometimes it’s good to get Michael, who drummed on it, I’ll send him a song and not really give him much instruction on what kind of drums to play, which is good because sometimes he sends it back and it’s completely different to what I would have thought of, and I’ll roll with that.
As the album progressed and evolved where there many other changes you noticed in the songs?
CC: The main one was just deciding to make it instrumental. I was halfway through when I decided to do that. I just plod along and slowly do things.
No stress! I assume with other projects you’re a part of it could get real hectic. With Pipe-eye you have control over everything yourself and no urgency to do anything, you can just take your time.
CC: Exactly! I don’t play live with Pipe-eye, it’s just a recording project. There’s less stress to do albums by deadline. It’s not like I have to do an album to do an album tour and promote it. I take my time and do it as it comes…
When I first listened to Dream Themes, I was wondering is you’d be listening to a lot of soundtracks and Library Music?
CC: Yeah, 100%, I always listen to that kind of stuff…
There’s also a film clip to go with ‘Ancient 5G Aliens’; what can you tell us about it?
CC: It’s made by a guy called Jake Armstrong, he’s from The States. I learnt about him because Ambrose hit him up for a Murlocs clip; he did the ‘Skyrocket’ clip. I hit him up out of the blue and he was keen. It’s animation. His stuff is pretty kooky and playful, but there’s an underlying vibe of darkness, I guess. With this clip, he’s never done anything like it before. He fully went animation, they kind of look like PlayStation 2 graphics! It’s real cool. It’s kind of got a storyline, there are these two aliens fighting and it’s in a cityscape. It looks like the old kind of not-quite-there graphics, that PlayStation 2 kind of graphics.
Yeah, I remember those and Sega and Atari and all the games!
CC: [Laughs] Yeah. I still game a bit. I got a PlayStation 5 recently! There’s not too many games out on it yet, so I haven’t got to play it too much. I was playing Ghost of Tsushima where you get to play a samurai, it’s a bit like playing open world. Pretty nerdy!
At Gimmie HQ we’ve been bumping the new Cong Josie album Cong! hard since it arrived in our inbox. We loved it so much that we ordered the hot pink limited edition vinyl version. The album is officially out Oct 22 on It Records (home of our favs – New War and Atom). It’s a fabulous high energy clash of minimal synth, EBM (Electronic Body Music), rockabilly-ish vocals, punk attitude with a whole lotta throb and thrust, along with some heart tugging surprises.
Today we’re debuting the electrifying song ‘Cong The Singer’ along with its video, a guerrilla D.I.Y. ode to the Naarm/Melbourne suburbs that spawned Cong! We chatted with the man, the myth, the legend himself, Cong Josie alter-ego of musician Nic Oogjes.
In your heat beat ensemble NO ZU you play instruments; now as Cong Josie you’re just singing?
CONG JOSIE: Yeah. It was a really deliberate choice, a really arrogant choice [laughs], that’s kind of what the song ‘Cong The Singer’ is about. Arrogant in that I’ve never been a singer. I love singing; I love singing in the shower. I’ve always loved singing along to Roy Orbison, trying to sing ‘Crying’. Very ambitious targets! All of the “Bobby Movement” like Bobby Darrin; there was a lot of guys called Bobby in the 50’s that did rock n roll ballads. Elvis. All that kind of stuff. It was a deliberate decision not to carry around instruments anymore.
I keep going through these things with each new project. After my first when-I-was-becoming-an-adult-and-start-taking-things-seriously band, I was like, ‘I don’t ever want to have to carry around a drumkit anymore!’ I would be up front playing some rototoms so that I could stand up, and that led into NO ZU. I was only going to carry standup percussion, but then it expanded. It grew to a point where I didn’t want to carry all this stuff around; trumpets, all sorts of stuff. There was lots of clothes for each band member too, I’d carry around to each gig. Our baggage loads on planes were crazy!
I was like, ‘I just want to be a singer!’ Even though I can’t sing. That’s really arrogant, but I have always had the belief that anyone is an artist and anyone can make something interesting if you have the drive and ideas. In fact, most of my favourite singers, that I just mentioned… even Roy Orbison, sings off key, which makes his voice really interesting and intriguing, where he often has to bend into a note. There are a lot of notes that aren’t quite right.
I love singers that are non-singers, I find their voices really interesting. There’s this Greek singer Márkos Vamvakáris, who was one of the biggest rebetiko stars; they call it the Greek Blues, it’s a lot about hash dens and sordid activities. It was real people’s music, real working-class music. His voice is like a chainsaw! It’s not good, but I love it, it has the most edge to it. Obviously, that throughout punk and post-punk as well, it’s like that. It’s from that background that I thought I could at least make something interesting. I can sing these two notes, kind of, if I’m in this register [laughs].
[Laughter]. What else is the song about?
CJ: It’s about playing with that idea of a singer. It’s a fantasy tale about being a hero of the suburbs. I’ve never really understood why everything has to be so city-centred, and why everything has to play into these references of what’s cool and what’s happening now. In my fantasy dreamworld, there would be pockets all throughout the urban sprawl of Melbourne and beyond, where amazing music is happening. And, there’s this one singer that plays around the Eastern suburbs, around the R.S.L. and chicken-parmigiana-pubs, that are actually really creative and great but for whatever reason in our culture (in the 80’s bands would go out and play those places), it’s just not a thing now. It’s about that, because it’s just an impossibility.
The other layer is that actual baring of childhood and real-life things. As I was saying before, it’s amazing to hear yourself in music. I haven’t heard other people mention the Eastern Freeway in a song before! It’s a pretty good road [laughs]. It also expresses that driving was a form of freedom when I was younger. Going to the city, to places for “culture” and discovering different kinds of music was really important to me. So, that road means a lot.
Even my suburb. I’ve actually moved back to my teenage house, that’s where I am now. I bought it off my mum, which was very strange. I remember living here when I was younger, I remember this Australian rapper called Bias B, he talked about the trainline here. Aussie hip-hop around 2000 was the first time I ever heard specific areas mentioned. He talked about the Burra to Eltham train! Growing up here in a leafy suburb having nothing to say, but it’s not true, hearing things like that, I loved it, and that’s probably how it fed into my work.
The video clip we’re premiering for ‘Cong The Singer’is really fun! What do you remember about filming?
CS: We only shot it two weeks ago, so I remember all of it [laughs]. And if anyone wants to know, we did do it Covid safe, I’m even wearing a mask in one part. I was actually saying this to Nick [Mahady] who filmed it with me…
He did your ‘Leather Whip’ clip too!
CJ: Yeah. This is kind of like ‘Leather Whip #2’. The first song was set in Greece because we happend to be there before Covid. Nick is a really great friend and talented artist; he did the portrait artwork for my releases so far and the Cong! cover. He’s an example of someone that is so open and creative and sensitive. We have a really great relationship, since I discovered more about myself and valued that aspect in people even more.
I was saying to Nick, that this video and ‘Leather Whip’ mean so much to me and are so close to me, because we literally went out with a camera and a few sketched ideas. We saw a rabbit, so we filmed a rabbit. We saw a bin chicken… or we decided to go to the river, which felt like minus thirty degrees! It was all very spontaneous over two days. It was nerve-racking also.
The first shot we did was Footscray Amphitheatre. We got there and it was so quiet. It was a Saturday morning, beautiful weather. A couple of people were sitting in their Northface jackets drinking coffee. There were two groups of people looking down at exactly where we were filming. There were people jogging. Being in a cowboy hat, add to this debaucherous music, which we knew was going to be loud for a moment; I had my little Bluetooth speaker to mime to. It was scary! We actually started talking to each other, “Oh maybe we can do this other shot” [laughs]. We started setting up and one of the people there made a joke to me, he said, “Are we going to get an organ performance?” Because he saw my pants underneath my long jacket I was wearing and that broke the ice. I was like, ‘Ok, this is alright’ [breaths a sigh of relief], and then I started performing. I was like, ‘This is the best grassroots campaign ever, I just made three fans!’ It was me and Nick, and Johnny Cayn(Cayn Borthwick) was there.
The clip is very direct and real. It’s very D.I.Y. This is going to sound really bad, but I can’t stop watching it. My band The Crimes that are in it, can’t stop watching it either. There’s so many funny bits. They’re like, “Why are you presenting the Westgate Bridge?” [laughs]. I’m like, ‘I don’t know?!’
Do you have a favourite moment from the video?
CJ: In one of the first musical breakdowns, I’m on the Coburg Lake stage and there’s people having picnics, bemused by what we were doing – I’m either clicking my fingers or combing my hair – and there’s a rollerskater behind me twirling. That was a guy we met while we were packing up. Initially there were two boxers on stage. They said they were happy to be in the video and they had the music cranked, they were big beefy guys; then they told us they didn’t want to be in it. As we were packing up one of the boxers were like, “Hey, get Tony! Tony is amazing. Get him in it.” We introduced ourselves and asked if he wanted to be in it. He said, “Ok.” Then he started doing spins and we pretended music was going on. It’s one of the most beautiful shots, because he’s really great. It’s a great juxtaposition.
That’s one of my favourite shots too! His leg movements are perfect, such finesse. It works so beautifully.
CJ: There’s another one second shot of us with a beautiful white dog.
That’s my other favourite shot!
CJ: There was a mum and daughter walking their dog. I was doing the shot where I comb my hair near the car, obviously people were looking at us a bit strange. I said ‘hi’ as they walked past and thought maybe I should ask them if we can get a shot with that big gorgeous dog. They were really happy to, and they gave me treats to keep the dog in the vicinity. You don’t get shots like that otherwise. I wanna keep doing it. Maybe it’s a great way to build my fan base [laughs], very slow and labour intensive.
[Laughter]. We’re so happy to be premiering the song and video, it’s right up our alley. We really love your whole album Cong! It fuses so many things we love together – it has a kind of rockabilly vocal and then it’s got an EBM feel and a punk spirit.
CJ: Yeah, cool! It has all of those things. I really dug into a world of the Norton Records label, they do some really great outsider rockabilly like Hasil Adkins. Those wild rockabilly/rock’n’roll/country fellas: Jack Starr, Stud Cole, Legendary Stardust Cowboy, Terry Allen are some of the sleezy cats that have been an influence. Also, a lot of the artists that The Cramps were inspired by, they called them wild men, and apparently some of them really were—that’s a big influence on who Cong is. Cong is the wild rockabilly artist but in a suburban Australian setting, so he’s also gonna be a bit different.
In terms of the electronics, I was never able to focus on the throb, as I call it, the throbbing rhythm. In NO ZU everything was still mechanical and awkward funk, a bit more danceable in a different way. It’s a big clash of those things.
I love Johnny Cayn’s guitar on the track. It’s probably the most slide-y, rockabilly thing on the record. It’s just wild and out of control.
Yes! It’s very cool.
CJ: I really love Simone aka Mona Reeves’ voice with the “Saturday night” part on there too, which is inspired by the Elton John ‘Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting’ track. Just that idea of being really excited by a Saturday or Friday night is a musical trope that was really fun to explore!
Ed’s note: We spoke with Cong Josie for over a hour, this is a small extract from a more in-depth chat exploring the entire album, growing up in Melbourne, toxic masculinity, Nicolaas Oogjes musical evolution, creativity, getting through life’s challenges, and creating your own world to heal and grow. Read it in our next print issue (#5) we’re currently working on.
Dr Sure’s Unusual Practice are Gimmie favs (they were one of the first bands we chatted with when we started Gimmie). We’re thrilled to announce the new wave art-punks’ forthcoming full-length album Remember The Future?, which will be out on Marthouse and Erste Theke Tonträger, as well as premiering the entertaining video for song ‘Infinite Growth’. We love their blend of clever social commentary and politics with catchy well-written compositions and fun visuals. Gimmie spoke with guitarist-vocalist Dougal Shaw to find out more.
How have you been feeling? I know a lot has happened this past week in Naarm/so-called Melbourne with lockdowns still in place, protests and an earthquake!
DOUGAL SHAW: I’m actually surprisingly pretty good at the moment. The pendulum has swung back around to the positive end [laughs]. It’s been swinging back and forth pretty consistently. Today I’m feeling good. Yesterday I had one of those days where I was just, what’s the point? Why? [laughs]. Trying to find some motivation to keep pushing forward. In general, in the last month, I’ve been feeling pretty positive.
Good to hear. On the “why?” days like yesterday, do you just allow yourself that space and know that what you’re feeling will pass?
DS: Yeah. The last couple of years if it’s taught me anything, it’s taught me to listen to your body and mind if you’re having those down times. Maybe in the past I would have tried to push through those times and keep working on projects. I’ve realised now that, if I do try to work through those times it’s pretty shit work; you go back to it and it’s got this weight to it, you’re putting all this stuff onto it. I’ve learnt to give myself days off, which I’ve never really been good at giving myself days off—what’s the next project?
Same! Jhonny and I are like that too. This next print issue of Gimmie has taken longer to get together because we both deal with (as many people do) bouts of depression, anxiety, stress, heath problems and things of that nature. Even though it’s something you absolutely love doing and it’s fun, some days you still find it hard.
DS: Exactly. I feel like it can work both ways. In the past I have used my creative practice as a way of processing a lot of what’s going on in my world and the world around me. Potentially in those down times would be when I was more inclined to get in the studio and write music. Now maybe being removed from all of the good times, and being able to have that separation where you’re out in the world doing things and having a good time, obviously you’re not going to be doing creative things and writing in those moments, so when you have that quiet moment to yourself and you’re feeling introspective, those might be the times that I’ll go and create. Now being removed from the outside world and being stuck in my own little world, it’s made me a bit more conscious of those kinds of things. A bit more conscious of your emotional state and more intuitive when it comes to what I need for myself in each moment. Sometimes it will be that I’m not doing anything today, I’m just going for a really long walk and I’m going to try and clear these cobwebs out. The one positive, I guess, is that I have a lot more tools now to manage those things, in the past I may have found those bouts of anxiety and depression to be really overwhelming and not know how to deal with them; going out and partying used to mask those things. Without those vices to lean on, you’re faced with yourself and your like, ‘Fuck this is a lot!’ Being human is a lot to fucking handle [laughs].
There’s been a period where you haven’t been writing too many songs, especially not as many political songs, but writing more fun songs when you do write.
DS: Yeah. For a long time, I thought of my music as a vessel for change, to use my voice and privilege to start conversations. At the same time, I’ve always just written silly songs as well. I pretty much didn’t write anything for a year. I was working on other projects. I didn’t feel like I had anything to say.
I feel like you did say a lot before that, you had this run where you put out a lot, and everything was such a high quality.
DS: Thank you. Maybe that was part of it, feeling a bit empty. Being isolated from the community and from actually being able to engage with the world, I found it really hard to think about what I had to say, or I found what I had to say wasn’t worth documenting. Deciding to put this album out this year… it was floating around for a while, we finished it a couple of months ago and we didn’t feel like there was any rush, because we aren’t able to play shows for it.
By this album do you mean, Remember the Future Vol. 1 & 2 together?
DS: Yeah, that’s this one. It was a really drawn-out thing because of Covid that really felt like it was hanging over my head for ages. That was this big black cloud in my head as well. We recorded half of it at the start of last year and we were booked in to do another session in April, two weeks after we first went into lockdown. The whole idea with the record was that it was going to be the first full band recording, so I was kind of stuck on that for ages. Rather than moving on, finishing and getting it out, it was like, no, we gotta do this with the band. We finally finished it in May this year. It’s finally come together! It feels like a really weird one, because of the Covid stuff we decided to put out the first half last year. Our European label Erste Theke Tonträger, hit me up to do a record, he really liked Remember the Future Vol. 1, he wanted to do a full-length with that and then another of our EPs on the other side. I was like, well, this is half of a full record. That was the push to finish this record.
You recently had a song ‘Live Laugh Love’ on the Blow Blood Records compilation, A Long Time Alone.
DS: That was the first song I’ve written after this huge gap of not writing. The compilation was the kick I needed. I’d seen that Christina had been advertising for contributions for ages, and I thought, ‘I have to do a song for this.’ The deadline had come and I hadn’t done it, which was a Friday, so the next day, Saturday, I plugged everything in for the first time in ages and made this really dumb song.
Did it feel weird plugging everything in again after so long?
DS: Kind of. The song is funny in itself, I’m glad it has a home on the ALTA compilation, because otherwise it would have been another one on a dusty hard drive. It feels like a song after not having written a song in ages, it’s a silly song.
It has a fun title!
DS: [Laughs] I know! The concept came before the song. It’s about forgetting about how to live, laugh, love. I saw one of those inspirational infographic things that someone had posted. I’m glad it’s getting a home. I wrote that song, then in the week following it, I wrote one or two songs in a day, ten songs in a week. A week later I sent Christina a different song, and was like, ‘I actually made some decent songs now. Do you want to put one of these on?’ She was like, “It’s too late, I’ve already sent it off.”
A couple of days ago you released the song ‘Ghost Ship’ too.
DS: Yeah, that was another compilation [on Critter Records]. I wrote that one at the very start of the lockdown. It was inspired by… they were coming out with all these bail out packages, but they were going to big corporations and multi-million dollar companies [laughs]. It was a funny concept.
It’s crazy how all of these big companies received bail outs and then ended up making a profit and doing better than ever!
DS: Exactly! They didn’t actually lose any revenue; they gained all this government funding that was designed to help struggling people. That’s capitalism!
We’re premiering Dr Sure’s new clip for the song ‘Infinite Growth’. It’s a fun clip. What sparked the idea?
DS: A lot of the time when I’m doing visual stuff, I want it to be fun and playful, because a lot of the time I find the lyrical content to be pretty heavy. I liked to offset it with something a little more accessible. Potentially if you were to follow the narrative of the song then the clip would be pretty heavy—talking about mining, the destruction of the ecosystems. By taking a representation of these things, of people in suits, business men, which is a reoccurring motif in a lot of our visual stuff, and thinking about the result of their actions. For this one, they’re still pedalling their narrative of infinite growth, while the climate has heated up so much that their faces as literally dripping from their body.
Love the special effects!
DS: Yeah, really top of the line. We got the hair and makeup team… professional prosthetics! Nah. I looked up how to make prosthetics and the easiest solution that I came across was to just mix Vaseline and flour, then use coco to create different tones of it. It was pretty gross stuff to put all over your face, but it was worth it.
You wrote the song around the time that our government were talking about destroying sacred Indigenous sites.
DS: Yes, exactly. It was Djab wurrung Country. They decided to build a new highway that was going to take off two-minutes of drive time for people commuting into the city. To do so, they had to destroy these hundred-year-old sacred birthing trees. That was the spark, but at the same time, it felt like a real time of solidarity for people coming together to stand against those things. That’s where the duality in that song is trying to reframe this capitalist terminology talking about infinite growth and kind of reclaim it for the people and the ecology.
Nice. What else have you been up to?
DS: I’ve been collaborating with my partner Liv on some things, which is really nice. She’s an artist and really good photographer. We’ve worked on stuff before, a lot of the time our practices have been off in different directions. Having a lot of time together and being isolated from anyone else, we’ve been working on stuff. I spent this week making a zine to go out with the record. It’s a collaboration with Liv, she took all the photographs. It’s a zine of lyrics, photos, my art and poetry, all mashed up. She took a series of photos based around the concepts of the record and I mashed them up with my brain spew! [laughs]. We’ve been thinking about creative ways to put out this record.
Liv and I have been making some songs too. She’s been learning the guitar for the last couple of years. We’ve been putting down some of her ideas. With Liv’s limited knowledge of playing, it’s been good for me to teach her that a song can be really simple; it’s made me reassess my approach to songs. When you make a song that’s only two chords, you can leave all of this space for layering and making it interesting in other ways. It doesn’t have to have all of these chord changes for it to be engaging.
When Jhonny and I make music, I like to go for how does this feel, and keep trying things until eventually something fits and feels good to me and us. That’s when you come up with something that is unique to you, because you come with all of your experience or lack of, and that all comes out in those moments.
DS: Exactly. I feel like I’ve always approached music in a really similar way. I’ve purposely avoided learning too much. Sometimes I question if that has been the right approach? Most of the time, I stick by that approach, it’s more about feeling and how you react to it. To me, it’s always been about how you react to whatever it is you’re recording. Picking up the next instrument is a reaction to the last instrument. It’s about what feels interesting.
Forming just over a year ago, nipaluna/Hobart-based band RABBIT are releasing their debut 7 inch on Rough Skies Records (home of bands we love: Slag Queens, All The Weather, 208L Containers and The Native Cats) today. The quartet give us three high energy, power-pop gems. Overdriven guitars, catchy riffs, solid driving rhythms, and melodic vocals singing songs of love and heartbreak. Songwriter and guitarist, Bobby K, tells us about the band’s formation, recording the EP, and their inspirations.
RABBIT is inspired by forgotten power-pop groups and new wave punks; who are some of these inspirations and what is it that you appreciate about them?
BOBBY K: There’s a demo by Peter Case’s band The Nerves that I come back to a lot. I stumbled on a lot of these old power-pop songs because they were made popular by other artists. The first Cyndi Lauper record has a couple; Robert Hazard wrote Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, The Brains wrote Money Changes Everything. The Nerves wrote Hanging on the Telephone which I only knew as a Blondie song until I started sniffing around its roots like a truffle pig. There’s so many truffles underfoot hey, The Flamin’ Groovies, The Records, Vibrators, The Soft Boys, The Only Ones, Television Personalities, Buzzcocks, The Motels… plus all the Oz punk stuff like Celibate Rifles and Birdman and Saints. What ties the truffles together for me is sharp, simple songwriting – I’m always a lovesick fool for a pop song but rough it up a bit with overdriven guitars and demo-quality recording and you get me all buttery. Recently I got hooked on the Buffalo Springfield song Burned – prime example of perfect guitar pop, and coincidentally almost the same title as a RABBIT tune from the 7”.
You wrote and recorded the demos for the three songs on the Gone 7” yourself on a Tascam 4-track tape before forming the band. Who or what first got you into music?
BK: My Aunt Lou played me a tape of a Welsh choir when I was about 6 and I guess it got in there pretty deep, pretty powerful music. Neil Young taught me guitar, Bill Ward taught me drumming. I studied classical music at uni too, but it wasn’t much chop and crushed me into a tonal box from which I’m still trying to escape. Nahhh, I like tonality, it’s comforting. Anyway I’ve been in heaps of gross punk bands since I was 13, and one that was pretty good, and now I’m in RABBIT.
On your Instagram there was a vid of you playing guitar with the caption: upstrokes are for arseholes. Where does your love of the downstroke come from?
BK: It’s a worthy commitment! I got it from Dave Gibson (Funeral Moon/Spacebong/Ratcatcher). Dunno where he got it from but probably The Misfits or The Ramones or The Slayer [sic]. Have a look and a listen next time you watch a guitar band, upstrokes are so floppy and limp. There’s nothing worse than listening to limp floppy upstrokes, nothing, except like if you’re running back to your car because you’re two minutes overparked but as you get back the inspector is taking a photo and the ticket is there on your windscreen and you were too late, and you try to protest but the inspector just simpers at you, and then later you’re at the pub and there’s a band playing and IT’S HIM, THE INSPECTOR, and he’s playing third wave ska! That’s worse! But it’s the same thing! Also, the tone and attack of downstrokes rips.
How did the band come to be? How did you meet each band member: Maggie Edwards (vocals), Sean Wyers (drums) and Claire Johnston (bass)?
BK: I was living in a sharehouse with Magz around the time I was recording the demo. My singing voice sounds like Leo Kottke’s farts on a muggy day, so I asked Magz to sing on it. Even her retching is sonorous. I think I met Clairey at the Brisbane Hotel one night and she put her name in my phone as ‘CLAIREY MEGABABE’. She’d heard the demo and was super keen, so we tried to get a band together with her on drums. I went overseas for work and it fizzed, and then she kicked it back into life last year, she put the word out and pulled it together with Sean on the kit. I’d met him a year before when I showed up at a rehearsal space for a weekly blast beat practice and his metal band had muscled in on my slot. They went to the pub for an hour while I sweated it out over his snare, and eventually I moved into his spare room. That’s how Hobart works. Clairey is still MEGABABE.
Each of the songs on Gone speak to various aspects of love and/or relationships. Can you tell us about the writing of ‘Gone Gone Gone’? What sparked it?
BK: The songs on the demo came out of a singularly painful and traumatic breakup, sort of diversionary processing tactic or something, dunno what was going on upstairs but I chucked it all into writing loud pop songs. Somebody in France was very kind to me when I was low, dusted me off as I was passing through so I stayed with them for a few weeks and eventually got a flight to Dublin and drank a million pints with my Da and then BANG, wrote a song about it. It’s in G major and it’s got a bunch of suspended 4ths which try to convey the feeling of vomiting in the rain in the front yard of a BnB while your Da takes photos of you from the rental car. Berlioz for the 21st century or whatever. Actually, the lyric in the chorus came out of a dream I had many years ago and I never knew what it meant but now I sort of do.
You made a film clip for ‘Gone Gone Gone’ directed by Joseph Shrimpton; what do you remember most from filming it?
BK: Shouting SHRIMPTON a bunch. I’d just met Jo that day and was pretty excited. They’re really nice! It was an easy film shoot – mostly I just lay on a mattress and read a book about chess while Clairey had a bath. Magz and Sean had an argument about a lamp. SHRIMPTON!
The songs were recorded with Zac Blain (A. Swayze and the Ghosts) in a sharehouse on Muwinina Country. How did the collaboration come about?
BK: We just asked the guy because he’s a ripper. We more or less all knew one another, so it was an easy thing to organise. Sean and I were living in the old sharehouse on Warwick Street (where the video was filmed), the neighbour screeched at us like a bat, Zac was an absolute pleasure and he gets where RABBIT comes from. He’s got cool spectacles.
Can you share with us some details of the recording of ‘Burnt’?
BK: More room mic and less close mic in the drum mix, Bonham style for Seans. Two almost identical guitar tracks panned L/R – one through a Fender Bassman and one through an Orange Rockerverb II, same set up for every song on the 7”. Clairey’s bass guitar signal attended the Zac Blain School of Wonderful Works and graduated with a Certificate III, and Maggie just sings everything perfectly, every time. That’s what she does.
How did the song ‘Love Bites’ change from the original demo version to the final recording version we hear? We especially love the dual vocals!
BK: Well, Love Bites wasn’t on the demo that went up on bandcamp, it was a later song that I demo’d after we’d started rehearsing. I recorded it really rough for the band to hear and Maggie filled in a missing verse. It still changed quite a bit from my demo to the band recording… the dual vocals are more contrapuntal on the 7”, I think on the demo it was more of a straight harmony. Clairey reworked the bass part and made it more harmonically colourful. Sean and I are very different drummers, so the drums were bound to feel different. I’m an absolute slop-fest octopus while Sean is much more precise with his fills. The brief I gave to Sean for Love Bites was “play it like Mitch Mitchell, y’know, like just put shit everywhere”, but Sean hits ’em harder and more solid than Mitchell, so there ya have it!
Rabbit are nipaluna/Hobart-based; what’s the best and worst bits about living where you are?
BK: Worst bit is how the gaming industry dominates pubs all around the state and there’s relatively few venues to support live music and there’s not much we can do about it.
The best bit is how everyone drives 10ks under the limit and the sky always looks like an ice-cream cake.
What’s one of the most memorable local shows you’ve attended or played and what made it so?
BK: We recently played at Junction Arts Festival in Launceston and after our gig we went and watched a friend’s band Broken Girl’s Club, and I was standing on the grass in the dark with Sean and he taps me on the shoulder and shouts over the music ‘OI, BOBBY LOOK AT THIS’ and I look down and he’s holding a handful of wriggling worms.
Ohhhh, also there was one at Altar where the sewage backed up and flooded out onto the dance floor and The Bonus didn’t get to play because it was a public health emergency.
What do you love about making music?
BK: It’s the only thing in the world that I ever want to do, and I GET TO DO IT.
What else should we know about you? BK: I used to go for the dim sim but now I go straight for the corn jack.