Beth, Lu and Ruby from “punk bitch” band The Vovos, collectively answered our questions about their invigorating new split 7” release, Vampire Club, with one of our favourite prolific Naarm-based punks, Billiam.
What have you been up to since last we spoke for Gimmie issue 5?
THE VOVOS: We’ve recorded and released Jessica Day, with an upcoming split 7-inch with Billiam. We went to the ABC to perform a song on Spicks & Specks, which is airing on Sunday 11 September. Meeting Adam Hills and having the whole ‘rockstar-on-TV’ experience was really fun. Our songs have also been featured on the new ABC Me show, Soundtrack to Our Teenage Zombie Apocalypse; seeing our name in the credits was truly surreal. We’re also gearing up to record our next album this month – so it’s been a busy year for The Vovos!
What’s your favourite experience as a band so far?
THE VOVOS: Seeing our projects come from random silly ideas to become real things in the world, like on physical vinyl and on the internet is really exciting. We all love writing songs and the moment that a song comes together for the first time is magical, and seeing it recorded & released & then watching people listen to it is honestly amazing.
You’re getting ready to release a split 7” with Billiam called Vampire Club; where did the title come from? I know there’s a line in your new song ‘Jessica Day’ that’s on the 7” that mentions a vampire club.
THE VOVOS: We took it from ‘Jessica Day’, and the line is reminiscing on our childhoods being part of spooky clubs and making believe about vampires & witches. It has since evolved into an obsession for some of us with all vampire-based media, but the line ties into the theme of the whole song about how it was easier to be authentic as children, and missing that.
We’re premiering the video for ‘Jessica Day’; what’s the song about? Tell us about writing it.
THE VOVOS: ’Jessica Day’ was written in the midst of Year 12 and COVID lockdowns, and it reflects that moment of transition out of high school, and struggling with new ideas around what is acceptable in terms of expression & creativity. It’s a rejection of the idea that art should be a certain way or people should behave a certain way in order to be taken seriously.
While we were in lockdown, we were all obsessed with the show, New Girl, and its main character (after whom the song is named) served as inspiration as well.
Describe the new song in five words.
TV: Energetic, funny, nostalgic, danceable, epic!
The video was made by Kalindy Williams from Hearts & Rockets; how did you first come to her work and why did you want to work with her?
TV: We love Kalindy & have played shows organised by her and with Hearts & Rockets for a long time. We love her bright colours & vintage aesthetic, and thought they really suited the vibe of the song, so when we heard that she made music videos we jumped at the opportunity!
Where was the video shot?
TV: To fit with the New Girl-ian tone, we shot in Ada’s sharehouse. We asked her housemates very nicely and bribed them with food and ended up essentially throwing a daytime house party equipped with Billiam Beers and a terrible Vovos cake to film it.
What do you remember most from shooting the video?
TV: Fatigue. The night before was the election, so we’d all been out late and when the day came, we were all hungover, the house was freezing cold, and it ended up being a 12-hour shoot. But it was so nice to have all our friends there supporting us, and dancing so enthusiastically to our song – even though they were essentially being forced to.
‘Justice For Pretzel Man’ is the other song on The Vovos’ side of the Vampire Club; what’s the story of this song?
TV: This is one of the weirdest songs we’ve ever written. Its inspiration came from a beautiful soft sculpture that Lu made, for Year 12 art class, out of recycled clothing, which we lovingly dubbed Pretzel Man. It took all of her energy and months of work, and yet in the end was given a brutally mediocre mark. The song ties in with a broader theme to our side of the record which questions the idea of ‘good’ art and grading creativity.
The 7” art is a collaboration between Billiam and The Vovos; how did it come together? You had an Art Day, right?
TV: Making the art for this was very stressful, as one of our chief artists, Ada, was in Europe for much of the period when we really should’ve been doing it, which led to mass procrastination. Eventually, we got together with Billy, some pastels and a photocopier at Ruby’s house and made the art together one Sunday afternoon after Ada got back. We dubbed this, Art Day, and made a little vlog.
Has your creative process changed much since your first release Constructive Criticism in 2019?
TV: The process itself hasn’t changed much – we’ve always gotten together to brainstorm lyrics, worked through the sections and added finishing touches to each of our parts on our own, and we still do that to this day. However, we’ve definitely gotten much better at each step in that process, and even since our latest release, Jana, we’ve gotten a lot more attentive with adding dimensions and complexity to the songs.
What’s your favourite Billiam track on the split release? What do you appreciate about it?
TV: Our favourite song is Jenny Destroys Records. The opening absolutely slaps and, as always in a Billiam song, the riff is catchy and sticks in your head. We love the distinctive Billiam sound & production style, and are very excited to be releasing this record with him!
What have you been listening to, watching or reading lately? Why does/doesn’t it rule?
TV: The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer, The Twilight Saga (movies), Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead, Vampire Diaries, What We Do In The Shadows, ‘Vampire’ by Antsy Pants, Jennifer’s Body, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, ‘Dracula, You Broke My Heart’ by bis, Scooby-Doo and the Legend of the Vampire, ‘Monsieur Dracula’ by Fleur, ‘No Vampires Remain in Romania’ by King Luan, Doctor Who Season 5, Episode 6. We love the way all of this media captures the experience of being alive in the 21st century.
What’s the rest of the year look like for you?
TV: We’re currently writing and recording our next album, and in the coming months we’ll be continuing to work on it. We’re very excited to have it out in the world sometime next year! We also have our launch for Vampire Club on September 16 at Nighthawks with Billiam & the Teethers, so come dance with us.
We’re excited that Billiam has a new 7 inch release out today 8 Hours In Billiamville. It’s a lo-fi, punky dream. The release was written and recorded in 8 hours and has all of the spontaneity, energy and pure unbridled passion that you could hope for. We chatted with Billiam to explore it’s recording and all of the other projects he has in the works—a new Disco Junk record, TOR album, new project Verminator, releases from his label (he does with friend Lachy) Under Heat, some international releases and more Billiam. You’re going to hear and see a whole lot more of Billiam this year. We’re in awe of his creativity and productivity. Go Billiam!
How are you? What’s been happening in your world?
BILLIAM: I’m doing pretty good, there’s been some ups and downs but overall I’m good. I’ve just been finishing off another album for Billiam, just trying to get a few more songs down. I’m finishing off recording the Disco Junk album too. I’ve been playing shows and just working, nothing insanely exciting, but I have a few things coming up.
How long have been making music for now?
B: The most barebones example of me making music, was when I first got my guitar and I was recording videos on my iPad of songs and saving them to a folder on my desktop. That was when I was around 2014. That eventually graduated into doing stuff with GarageBand, which is how all of the early Disco Junk stuff was done. I’d just point my iPad at an amp or the electronic drum kit and record like that. I started releasing that stuff in late-2018. I’ve been making music ever since. Next year it will be 5 years of doing it.
Awesome. Was there anything that influenced you to make your own music?
B: I’ve always liked the idea of making my own music, but I never viewed it as me having the resources to make it. I liked a lot of the bigger acts when I first started to get into music, like Green Day and Blink-182. I would make music trying to sound like them, I had no idea how to do that; I always thought it was about having a lot of money to buy resources.
In 2018, I met my best friend Lachy, who I do record label Under Heat Records with. He showed me a lot of bands. I was also discovering a lot of bands through the internet that were recording stuff and writing songs that sounded like my songs. The Living Eyes was a big one for me, and hearing artists like Daniel Johnston. Also, a lot of early lo-fi progenitors like Weird Paul. It made me think, ‘I can make that. It’s something doable.’ I studied the techniques that they used and did my own screwy version of it and made something that I was proud enough to release.
It’s not that hard to make music yourself. You can do it for very cheap. I eventually got a digital 8-track and stopped using my iPad, but I felt like I had a pretty good sound just recording off of an iPhone.
Ruben, the drummer from Disco Junk, his solo stuff for a long time was record off his phone and that sounds incredible. I would highly recommend listening to Nystagmus. Even though Ruben now hates it, I think it’s a fucking amazing album.
You could spend all day wishing you had something better or you could spend your time making the best thing you can with what you’ve got. Even if it ends up being something that you don’t want to release, at least you have it down in a medium that you could use later or rework.
I know you have a lot of different musical projects, a label and zine; what do you have on the go at the moment?
B: I’ll narrow it down to the main ones. There’s Disco Junk. I’ve been doing that the longest. We’re recording our album that will hopefully be released late this year or early next year.
I have band TOR that’s really starting to ramp up now. We’re starting to gig now and we’re going to record, which is something that I am extremely excited about. Where basically just trying to be Bis 2! Bis is the band that we worship. Bis is our everything. We’re trying to be a more new wave version of Bis. All praise be to Bis! [laughs].
I have a new band called Verminator (it’s named after a character from Over The Hedge). Two of the members are classically trained musicians and are really vocally talented, there’s an extremely talented bassist, and then there’s me and my friend Jack that try to play hardcore beats on our guitars and it forms into a somewhat cohesive mess of noise. Hopefully we’ll get some recordings out soon.
Then of course there is the Billiam project. It’s the project I’ve been able to get the furtherest with. I’ve recorded a lot of stuff for it and am doing lots of little releases that will hopefully be put out soon.
Is it easiest to get stuff happening with Billiam because it’s just you?
B: In some ways. To make something that I’m happy with though, I think it’s the hardest project to do, because I am the only person working on it and I’m way more critical of it. When I’m in a project with other people it’s way easier to seperate yourself from the music and just enjoy it. In terms of recording, producing and getting stuff out, it is the easiest because I can just do it in my front room here and I do get final say; I don’t have to deal with the rest of the crowd, crowding around me.
What type of songs do you like writing the most at the moment?
B: It’s been changing, recently I’ve been getting into writing extremely poppy stuff. I’ve been listening to a lot of power-pop or that has a poppy style like Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys and Woollen Kits. I love the strong, catchy melodies and tiptoeing between major and minor keys.
Although, I feel like I’m going to start recording stuff in a different style. I want to start writing more angler, punky stuff. Have you heard of the artist Print Head? I’ve been really inspired by his work, it’s very direct, short, fast songs with a good sense of melody to them.
It’s exciting that you have so much on the go and that you’re always trying something new.
B: If I don’t do something new or interesting I’m going to lose interest in any given musical project extremely quickly and will have to put it on pause and do something new. I like to keep a basket case of different things that I can pick up at any time, so I’m always active in music.
The new release for Billiam that’s coming out and EP called 8 Hours In Billiamville because it was written and recorded in 8 hours!
B: It wasn’t originally the concept when I made it. It’s the concept that formed when I was putting it together. Before I recorded it I hadn’t really recorded a proper song in 6 months, I’d recorded and released a few little things, but in 2021 I barely released anything. I released two new pieces of music, total. That’s standard for a most artists but not for me. I didn’t consider it to be a very productive year.
Right before I started recording, got a job doing online shopping for Coles. Having that retail boredom kicked me into this weird creative spiral. Over the course of a 3-day weekend and a total of 8 hours work I had the EP done and five other songs.
I’ve had retail, office and hospitality jobs in the past that were pretty mundane and I’d always find myself day dreaming on the job about what creative things I was going to do when I get home. Working for someone else all day not doing the things I really wanted to be doing made me value my free time and gave me a drive to use every moment not at work to do the things I love.
B: Absolutely. At my job I can spend the whole day thinking about a song or idea and then go home and immediately execute that and finish it off. Something that also helps (I hate that this helps but it does) the Coles Radio is completely unbearable at times! There’s a few songs they play on Coles Radio that when I hear them I have to walk outside when they come on because they shit me so much [laughs].
What’s one of those songs?
B: I have a playlist I can said you! [laughs]. The biggest one for me that shits me the most is ‘Jessie’s Girl’ by Rick Springfield. That song has always driven me up the fucking wall! Just, ugh. I walk out and no-one questions, I think everyone in the store has that one song that they do just walk out on; it’s an online store so you can leave whenever you want.
That’s funny. When we shop at our local Coles I noticed that they play a lot of Gwen Stefani, which I’m more than fine with. I love Gwen.
B: They play some good stuff. Gwen Stefani, hell yeah! It’s when they go into the modern country and sometimes weird Christian stuff—I just check the fuck out! [laughs].
When you recorded you mentioned it was just at your home?
B: Yeah. Over the course of last year I worked the front room into a studio space. It’s not perfect but I am able to get a sound that at the very least is good for demos, even releasable. I’m very lucky that my next-door neighbour is a drummer, he doesn’t care about the drum noise. I see him out on the street and he goes, “Oh, I see you’re getting a little bit better at the tom fills.” Which is something that I get really embarrassed about [laughs]. I’m very lucky I have a space to record in at a reasonable hour. I’m very lucky to have a very supportive family and most importantly supportive next-door neighbour.
When you record guitars do you standing up like if you were playing live or sit down?
B: It depends. 90% of the time I sit down because I’m doing it direct input and there’s no amp involved. Sometimes I have found that standing up can help, it adds pressure to what your’e doing. I do find that I’m a lot less precise when I stand up. When I’m recording I do try and showoff a little but and do guitar-filly bits that I would struggle to do standing up, so I sit down. Vocals I have to stand up to get the best out of my voice, whatever limited voice that I have.
Any challenges doing this project over 8 hours?
B: It was almost like an out-of-body experience. I didn’t even intend to make it, I just sat there on the drums and recorded some stuff and wanted to try and come up with things. The first thing I did was song ‘Prune’. It was instant. It felt like nothing was holding me back. I just went into this frenzied state.
On the final song ‘131’ I got extremely into it and completely blew out my voice. You hear that towards the end, my voice is really shrill. I felt like someone was possessing me to make this record, to finish it and just get it done. There was no time to wait. There was no time to spend mixing or trying to get a perfect tone or some idealised thing that doesn’t exist, I just needed to do it. There was no stopping. I think that ultimately was a big benefit to the record. It helped me learn a lot about how I work creatively and how I can get the best out of myself creatively.
What’s something that you learnt?
B: To not question myself in the moment and to just be ok if something doesn’t work. If I’m making something and it turns out to be crap I shouldn’t take that as an insult to myself I should take it as lesson. Why don’t I like this? What can work about this? Is there anything that I can salvage?
There was a song I did recently called ‘Barbie Doll Brains’ that I recorded but wasn’t happy with. I listened back to it and figured what parts worked and what parts didn’t. I really liked the guitar but I didn’t like the bass at all. I think the drums can sound better. It would be way better if the vocal line had a better melody to follow. I redid it and did one of the best songs I think I’ve written so far this year. It’s a song that I’m really proud of.
Is it for Billiam or a different project?
B: I reckon Billiam. I’m not sure though, songs tend to flip in and out of projects. A bunch of Billiam songs I’ve written recently I’ve found will work really well for TOR with Mary-Lou and Floyd’s vocals. You never know though, it could end up as a Disco Junk song or a new band song. It will come out eventually.
What track are you loving the most off of the new EP?
B: It changes. I go through phases of absolutely loving the EP then hating everything off it. Right now my favourites are ‘Leisure’ and ‘Lunchbreak’. They’re nice, fun, fast, direct punk songs. If you ask me tomorrow it’ll be a different song [laughs]. ‘Lunchbreak’ is a good taster for what’s on the record
Your songs are predominately written from your own experiences…
B: Yeah. I’m not good at writing about things I haven’t experienced or that aren’t right in front of me. I could never write a song about getting drunk and partying or heartbreak, because I don’t drink and I don’t’ date people. I write about what I can, that ends up usually being quite personally about mental health, stupid things things that happen in my every day life or sometimes I might write about a movie. I often write about a thing that I saw that was funny.
Are there any songs on this EP that are about mental health?
B: Definitely ‘Metal Bed’. I was very hesitant about putting that song on the 7 inch. Initially I’d written a two minute closer that was meant to be a replacement for the song that was more refined, I wasn’t happy with it though. I realised that ‘Metal Bed’ said it more succinctly and better. It’s about feeling like you can’t leave your bed and that the sheets that are on your bed are made of steel and you can’t lift them.
‘Clive’ is about mental health, but it’s more about being driven to the point of insanity by political advertising, which is pretty fucking relevant right now. I am not having a good time with the election so far. I’m super worried about this election.
They day after the last election when I probably felt at my worst, Disco Junk ended up opening for Amyl and the Sniffers at Record Paradise, which ended up being one of the best shows I’ve ever played. Hopefully this election can inspire another performance similar to that. I’m just taking it one day at a time. You can focus on trying to future proof everything but you can never predict the future.
There is so much in the world that we can’t control. We make art and put that out in the world to balance all the crap things, express what we’re feeling, to come together…
B: That’s a great way of putting it and at the very least, we’ve finally got a copy of Scomo Goes To Hawaii/While Aus Burns on vinyl, which I’ve been begging Dougal [from Dr Sure’s Unusual Practice] to make since it was first released. I fucking love that EP, it’s so good!
We’ve excited for it too! The song ‘10 Million Acres’ on it, is one of my favourite songs that Dougal has ever written. It’s a really powerful song.
B: Yeah. It’s an EP I struggle to listen to though because it was so emotionally impactful and I was doing that charity tape when the bushfires happened. I had to listen to a lot of those songs a lot when I was putting together the tape and a lot of other songs that were about the bushfires. It was a strange time mentally. It’s strange to me that it wasn’t so far away, it feels like it happened 10 years ago, but it really happened 2 years ago. I’ll just keep on making rock n roll and keep on rockin’!
What can yo tell us about ‘Lunchbreak’?
B: I’m kind of mad because of that one Hot Tubs Time Machine song about being your co-workers hedging what your lunch is, because that’s literally what my song is about! I was in the break room at work and people were literally looking at me while I was eating cereal and I was just like, ‘Fuck off!’ I was really annoyed and angry. I think I had just written down the line that I’m on my lunch break and I need some space, and the song just went from there. The song is about being judged at work for your eating habits. Hot Tubs Time Machine this is a call-out, we need to fight to see who can have the rights to this song. I’ll see you in the streets!
Great minds think alike!
B: Ok, listen, you can call me a great mind, but Marcus [Hot Tubs Time Machine] is on another planet. He’s a genius. I don’t know how he does it, but he is a philosopher that we will not appreciate the brilliance of until 10,000 years in the future. He’s like Plato or Aristotle. He’s on another playing field.
Let’s talk about some of the other songs on the EP. Tell us about ‘B Beat’.
B: [Laughs] I don’t know if that barely counts as a song. Lulu’s [Records] were posting a bit about D-Beat and I was like, ‘I’m going to try and understand D-Beat.’ I posted on my story: send me all of your D-Beat recommendations. I was going to go through the whole catalogue of best songs and figure out what this genre is. I just didn’t get it. Either it was literally the same song or it was hardcore punk. D-Beat is a good warm up for me on drums, because it gets me to work the foot pedal. I was warming up to record something and I Just recorded a 10 second drum beat, not even intending to use it for anything, but then I was like, ‘Wouldn’t this be funny if this was the song and I made a song about, I don’t get D-Beat.’ That was the only lyrics [laughs].
I feel like someone at some point will probably get mad at me for that song, just know that I don’t hate D-Beat, I just don’t get it. I’ve listened to too much Green Day to ever get D-Beat. If I ever get a Billiam band started I want to write a D-Beat song at some point and then transition that into B Beat. Open with a song that says, “I don’t get D-Beat” then immediately after into a D-Beat song.
You mentioned that ‘Leisure’ was a favourite song.
B: I was trying to write something kind of like the Screamers. I feel like it makes sense for the Screamers to write a song being angry at people for having leisure time; that sounds like a Screamers-y concept. I don’t think it sounds like the Screamers but it’s a bit synth-y and sounds weird. I do a Tomata du Plenty-style vocal.
Was there a point during the process where you had to take a break and walk away for a bit?
B: I don’t really think so. I started recording at 12 noon and stopped around six or so. I didn’t even stop for lunch. Throughout the period I was recording for it, I put my phone in the other room and submerged myself in trying to make music. I felt a compulsion to do it. Generally, I like to seperate myself from my phone and the outside world and just make something. I don’t know if I could do it again as intensely as I did with this one. I really went bang into it. I had the drive to make anything.
How cool is the artwork for it!
B: I’m really happy with the art. It’s funny how I found the artist, one night I was with Ada from The Vovos on a Zoom call talking during one of the lockdowns and we were looking at a Spotify playlist that The Vovos were on (artists can see what playlists they’ve been added to). I decided to have a look at the ones that Disco Junk have been added to and I saw this playlist with insane artwork. I was like, ‘Holy shit! This is awesome.’ I went to the dudes account and all these playlists had this insane art. I thought he was so talented. I couldn’t find any information about him, he didn’t have an instagram or Facebook; I was complexly stumped. It drove me a little insane trying to find the artist. I thought, ‘Fuck! They would be so great to get to do an EP cover.’ I ended up finding a super old instagram post that mentioned his Tumblr. I eventually found his page where he’s uploaded his comics. From there I found his twitter and then sent him a message. He was thrilled to do it!
His name is Theo Johannesson, right?
B: Yeah. He’s a fucking insanely talented artist that is really good at doing a cartoon-y style.
Do you feel the cover is reflective of how you felt during the process?
B: Oh absolutely! [laughs]. It was a perfect representation; being grabbed, smashed and attacked by a bunch of clocks and I’m flinging around an instrument like I don’t know what I’m doing.
How did you feel at the end of the process?
B: I was like, ok, next thing! I immediately recorded the next thing, which is an EP coming out on Goodbye Boozy. It was all just, let’s go, go, go, go, go! Evert from Under the Gun Records said he’d do a Billiam 7 inch. I’m so grateful.
I get so much done, I guess, because I always prefer the stuff I’m making and once something is done I get quite critical and want to make something better. I do take breaks. I haven’t done that much this week, I only recorded two songs. I do try to take breaks because I don’t ever want to burn myself out or force myself to make art. If I’m not feeling creative in a certain medium, I view that as something natural. No one is going to be making great music 100% of the time. You need to find something that inspires you or you need to take a breather and step back and look at things to be able to see where to go next. I’m just a creative little guy.
I love how in the album insert that you wrote about how you got the different sounds and what instruments you used.
B: It’s something more bands should do. I’ve seen a few do it, I was just listen to Ausmuteants’ Order Of Operation and they list the exact gear. I hope someone that gets my record and wanted to make music can see the list and realise not only is it not that hard but it’s not that expensive. The average person can afford to make really good music and you don’t have to go hunting for fancy analogue gear, you can get what you have and learn methods that can create the same sound.
I like how you mentioned the Korg sound and you are honest and like, “I don’t even know how I got this.”
B: [Laughs]. I got that Korg secondhand and it hd a bunch of things programmed into already and I thought it sounded so cool, and just used that. I have no idea who made ‘em. If someone really wants to know about the sound they’re welcomed to come to my house and look at the synth, I’m sure they could work it out. I know nothing about synths. I know the one that I have makes sound when I press it, that is it. Floyd from TOR has a proper synth that’s adjustable and you can create different sounds every time. I have no fucking clue how to do it. He’s the smart one, maybe ask Floyd, he’s the fucking genius.
In the album, insert there is also a photo of you and a dog called Moose. Who’s Moose?
B: Mid last year the dog we had, Russell, passed away. He was extremely sad. He lived a very long and good life. He was a rescue. One day I came home and my mum called to me and said, “We got a new dog! He’s a Jug. A Jack Russell x Pug. His name is Moose.” He was starring at me for a solid minute and then came up to me and started barking. That’s been our relationship ever since. I think he does love me in some aspect, but he really is ok with letting me know he doesn’t really want to interact with me. I try to pet him but he’ll just start growling. Sometimes he does come in my room and he demands that I give him my full attention for an hour. He’s a very strange and needy dog, but I love him. I wanted to give him a shoutout in the record. You got to shout out the Moose.
What music and bands have you been listening to lately?
B: I’ve been trying to expanded out my musical tastes into different areas. I’ve been listening to a lot of Harry Belafonte, a calypso artist. On the complete opposite end of the Spectrum that new Erupt 7 inch that came out on Cool Death Records, I’ve just been smashing constantly. I’ve been getting into that grimy dark sound. I absolutely adore the new Romero EP. I’ve been listening to a lot of the Woollen Kits. I’ve been listening to a lot of the Buzzcocks recently. I listened to them a lot when /I first got into punk but then put them down for a bit and now I’m able to come back and realise how much of an incredible band they are. Their albums are hit after hit after hit. They did so much innovative stuff that no other punk band at the time were doing, like incorporating krautrock and hardcore influences into a very poppy sound. It’s very relatable.
What’s been some live shows lately that you’ve been to that have be great?
B: Obviously Jerkfest was fantastic. Dragnet at Jerkfest completely blew me away. I saw Party Dozen recently and they’re one of the most insane things I’ve seen, a saxophone and a drummer, who is also controlling all the backing tracks. I saw Pinch Points a couple of days ago, I played with them, that was great. Their new album is really fantastic, they sound incredible live. Tabloid TV Darlings was another band I’ve seen recently that really impressed me; a cool 90s-style band with catchy song writing. I’m really excited to see Ada from Vovos do her solo stuff soon. I’ve helped her record some of it. It’s sort of Moody Peaches/Kimya Dawson kind of stuff. Very silly and personal. I adore it. I love Kimya Dawson so much.
Me too. I interviewed her many years ago, she’s super lovely and funny. What’s next for you?
B: There’s six Billiam releases coming out in the second half of this year. The 7 inch on Goodbye Boozy. A cassette on a few different labels Painters Tapes in the US, Dial Club in Japan and Cow Tool Records in Australia, which is a new label started by friends of mine, they have some exciting things coming. I have a Halloween release that I’m doing; it’s completely ridiculous and I’m so excited for everyone to hear it. I have a split record 7 inch with the Vovos coming up too (it may not come out until next year though because Ada is going to Europe and Vovos are taking a break). It’s already recorded though.
How many songs do you think you’ve written?
B: I’m going to say 1,500 that I’ve properly documented in some way. Recently I did a clear out of my 8-track and I’d gotten up to 500 songs in it and since then I’ve recorded another 200. I also wrote and recorded a lot of stuff before that; it was embarrassing but cute. I’ve written a lot. How much of it that I’m proud of or will ever be released is yet to be determined [laughs].
Zines are really important! Good ones burst with life and can capture a culture, a scene, community, document a time, and share ideas and stories in a way that conventional publications can rarely, if ever; they offer an alternative narrative to the mainstream. There’s a genuineness, imperfection and sometimes awkwardness on their pages we resonate with. They’re written with unfiltered voices and self-expression of someone finding themselves (aren’t we always?), navigating the world and exploring their local creative community, likes and dislikes. They spread music, art, thoughts, feelings, information and perspectives. Anyone can make a zine. Making zines hones your skills or teaches you new ones you might not have known you had! Making one can sometimes save your sanity. A zine gives creative freedom. It can help you use your voice. A zine most importantly connects people.
A few weeks back Gimmie’s Editor Bianca sat down for a chat with Billy, they did an interview collaboration! Billy interviewing Bianca can be found in the new issue (#7) of Magnetic Visions, which also features interviews with Alien Nosejob, Lassie, Girlatones, Cool Death Records and more! Bianca interviewing Billy is below.
It’s important to support each other! The more people making interesting, unique rad stuff and expressing themselves creatively the better!
How did you first discover zines?
BILLY: A while ago Strangeworld Records had a flood and they needed to get rid of a lot of the water damaged 7-inches so I went in there and bought quite a few. Richie who runs Strangeworld Records threw in a couple for free. One of them was Meat Thump which is the band ran by Brendon Annesley who made Negative Guest List zine. I ended up contacting Matt who put out the Meat Thump 7-inch to ask if he had another cover for it, because it was completely destroyed from water damage. When he sent the cover, he sent a few copies of Negative Guest List. I remember being completely blown away by them, the journalism and the whole formatting of zines. I developed a curiosity about them and I’d find a couple at Lulu’s and eventually I discovered Sticky Institute in Melbourne. From there I learnt about zine culture. I’ve probably learnt the most since doing Magnetic Visions because it’s put me in contact with a lot of people that know a lot more than me.
Nice. I used to have my earlier zines stocked at Sticky back in the early to mid-2000s.
B: It’s a really great place! I don’t think I’ve asked to stock there but maybe post-pandemic I should see if I could get a few put in there.
Totally! Do it. What inspired you to take the plunge and start making your own zine?
B: Initially it was just meant to be a one-off thing. I’ve always wanted to do a comp tape with a zine, so I put together five or so of my friends’ bands; I interviewed them and I put an exclusive track on a cassette. I put it out and I found that it was a really freeing process because it allowed me to be connected to music without actually making music. I sat on it for a bit and I started working on issue two during February, as that turned into COVID time, I plunged completely deeper into zine making, making it properly, properly publishing it and trying to put in as much effort as possible as I can to make it as good as I possibly can.
What are the zines that you really enjoy?
B: Negative Guest List is the main one, which ended in 2012 when Brandon died. I absolutely love Distort from the issues I’ve been able to get, there aren’t that many. There’s a zine in Europe called Rat Cage which is starting up at the moment that I really like, it’s focused on European hardcore and post-punk. Of course I love Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie zine! A friend of mine runs a zine called DST that I really like that’s based in the US, its half writing like short stories and half interviewing bands.
Do these zines have any similar qualities?
B: I like really good interviews, I like interviews that are very conversational and have good graphic design. I’ve always loved the visual appeal of a zine, making it as visually appealing as possible because you are paying for that physical visual aspect.
Is there a difference for you reading a zine digitally vs. reading print?
B: Digitally I have less of an incentive to read it. If I buy a zine I’m more inclined to read it because I’ve spent money and there’s an investment in there so I might as well get as much out of it as I can. I also find I’m able to get more value or enjoyment out of something on paper because I put more of myself into it.
What are your favourite and least favourite parts of making a zine?
B: I’ll start with least favourite, it can be very intense trying to put something together that you think you’re truly proud of, hoping people will buy it, that’s not particularly fun. I’ve had a lot of trouble dealing with that and at times the zine has been quite taxing on me. I think I’m a lot better at it now. I’ve figured out the main parts.
The best part is being able to be involved with so many music scenes around the world and being able to talk to artists that I absolutely adore, in a somewhat conversational way is absolutely fantastic!
Yeah, it’s pretty cool getting an insight into people who make stuff that you admire and appreciate.
B: Yeah, I did an interview with Jake from Alien Nosejob for the next issue. Even though I’ve talked to him a bunch this was the first time that I think I felt really comfortable really talking to him and it was absolutely incredible!
Amazing! I can’t wait to read it.
B: It’s really good. It’s a good issue, I’ve also done an interview with Lassie and Silicon Heartbeat—awesome bands.
I love all the zines, they’re all really good.
B: Thank you, it’s good that people are actually seeming to enjoy them. I didn’t really know there was much of a zine market until I started doing it, I had no idea that people would actually consume and enjoy them.
For me growing up in the ‘90s zines were such a normal thing, there were lots of them and there was a vibrant zine culture.
B: Yeah, back then I guess it was more essential to have zines. That was the only way to publish things on somewhat of a budget.
Yeah. I used to have friends that would have access to photocopiers and I’d get to photocopy my zines for free a lot of the time.
B: That’s what I’ve been trying to do at the moment. I started off printing them at school but they put the hammer down on that so at the moment I’ve had to go through Office Works.
Here in Brisbane there’s a really great place in Fortitude Valley called Visible Ink, it’s a Youth Arts Hub and you can go in there and photocopy your zines for free. They have lino printing resources and a badge maker you can use too. Do you stand there and photocopy it yourself or do you leave it with them and get them to print it and come back later to pick it up?
B: When I’m printing the final version that’s what I do but when it comes to designing it and all that, I’m usually just there getting specific things or trying to get a specific paper stock that will stick better to the background and all that.
I’ve been there! I love doing zines with a coloured paper cover, I’ve done full colour and A3 folded and A4 folded sizes.
B: I think right now at the moment doing just A4 black & white is the best for me because colour printing is so expensive. For this issue I might do colour covers just for fun, I like the way it looks.
It’s always good to keep trying different things and evolving.
B: Plus colour covers stand out more when everything else is in black & white.
Yes. What’s something that making zines has taught you?
B: I don’t know? I guess it’s taught me how to put together a complete artistic product. I’ve done albums before but I feel like putting together a zine is a lot more than just releasing an album because you’re involved in every aspect, asking every question, cutting out everything, paying or the printing and all that. I hadn’t really had much experience doing that until making a zine. I’d done tapes but some part of them I was able to rely on other people, this one, a zine, was all me. The main thing it’s taught me is to create a completed product.
Do you set deadlines when making zines?
B: No, not at all but they’ve all somehow been finished! Since issue three they’ve all come out, one a month or at least thirty days in between them. I sort of want to slow down but no matter how many brakes I put on like, I’ll only do one interview a week, or don’t work on it during this time period, I always manage to at least finish one by the end of the month. There’s no deadline but one forms naturally, I guess.
That’s how I felt when we started doing Gimmie, it’s been six months now and I’ve done over 100 interviews up on gimmiezine.com, I think there’s 113 maybe at this point.
B: That’s pretty fantastic!
Yeah, I just started and kept going. I love interviewing so much and I like making the art that goes with each interview. I love sharing new bands and music with people.
B: Yeah, it seems to be going pretty well so far.
One of the things I love about your zines is when you write your personal pieces; are you every scared of putting your thoughts out there, committing them to paper? Do you ever censor yourself?
B: Not really, I’m not really self-conscious of putting out my actual thoughts. I often find that I’m just not able to put them in words. There isn’t very much of it in issue six, because mainly when I would write about something I wouldn’t be happy with it, it would feel show-off-y or not correct. I’ve put the brakes on it for issue six but issue seven will have a lot more of it. I’ve been doing some writing on bands I like. I’m doing a big piece right now on probably one of my favourite bands right now, Bis.
I love Bis!
B: I don’t get why more people don’t talk about them. I don’t know if you’ve heard the new TOR single, but TOR is basically my love letter to Bis—I love that band so much!
I’ll have to check TOR out. I’ve seen Bis live!
B: Did they ever tour Australia?
Yeah, they did. I have the ticket stub somewhere here.
B: That’s awesome! I have an old poster I was able to get on eBay that I have in my room, it’s a promo poster for The New Transistor Heroes; it’s probably the coolest piece of art that I own. Mandarin’s art is fantastic!
Agreed! We have a lot of art on our walls here.
B: I’ve got a lot of posters from gigs or prints that I’ve bought from photographers, or flyers.
That sounds like our place. We have a pretty big collection of posters some from the ‘70s through to the ‘80s and ‘90s to now.
B: That’s awesome!
How do you choose what bands you’ll feature in your zines?
B: I pick bands that I’m listening to at the moment or that I think could give an interesting interview. I don’t like to just pick bands that have a record coming out, but that sometimes helps because they have a reason to talk, things to talk about and they’re in that mindset of sharing it. I really just try to pick people that I think are interesting. I don’t try and pick from one particular scene or a particular area of music to follow, I just pick what I find interesting. Issue six has a mish-mash of a bunch of different things: Toeheads, are from Detroit, they’re an amazing garage rock band; there’s an interview with two of the members of Meat Thump and we were able to talk about Brendon Annesley, it was fantastic. I interviewed Jack from Vintage Crop and that went really well. Even Mark Vodka who is this obscure Canadian artists who is probably the closest thing to a second Ramones we’re ever going to get.
Is there anyone you’d like to interview that you haven’t yet?
B: A lot! Usually it’s because I don’t feel comfortable asking them. The dream interview, the one I’ve always been desperate to do is someone from Razar, the Brisbane punk band—that’s the dream! I’ve never been able to find a single interview with them. I consider them to be pretty close to being the most important Australian punk band of all-time. I’m still on the chase for it so if anyone knows any of them send me a message!
ABC put out a punk compilation, I bought it because it had Frenzal Rhomb on but I heard ‘Task Force’ on it and [Psychosurgeons] ‘Horizontal Action’ and it set me on the path towards what I’m doing now.
What’s been one of your favourite interviews you’ve done so far?
B: Issue one I was pretty proud of the one I did with CB Radio and Glue Eater, I think they both turned out really well. Issue two, Mikey Young I was really happy with, same with the one with Spoil Sport Records. Issue three, I think I did a good one with Drunken Sailor and Dr Sure’s Unusual Practice, those were ones I was really proud of. Issue four is where I think I start to get it down and I’m more or less happy with every single one in there, Research Reactor Corp, I was really happy with. Issue five, I was really happy with my interview with The Ghoulies and Hearts & Rockets. The one I did with Australian Idol I was extremely proud of and I still think that tape is the most underrated thing released this year. I’m really happy with everything in issue six, all of those are pretty good.
What makes an interview good for you?
B: It’s having a conversational feel and revealing interesting information. The interviews I really like I feel they show the artist’s personality really well and they’re interesting to read. Not every interview I read is with a band I like but, if the person is interesting to talk to I can get something out of that.
We love Melbourne punk band, Disco Junk! Guitarist-vocalist-songwriter Billy really, really loves music and wanted to make his own so bad he taught himself how to play guitar and recorded his first songs simply using an iPad. At Gimmie we believe that if you really want to do something, you’ll find away—be like Billy! He’s already put out 15+ releases, including a compilation of 32 underground bands to raise money for Australia’s recent bushfire tragedy relief, has a zine Magnetic Visions AND he only turned 18 in January this year!
How did you first discover music?
BILLY: The earliest memories of music I have are listening to Midnight Oil and Spice Girls with my parents when I was like 3. I guess a more technical definition of me discovering music was when I heard “Warning” by Green Day on some internet video and was sucked into that fandom. I got into local music when I was 15 and one of my mum’s friends told me to listen to Modern Living by The Living Eyes and it changed my entire perception on reality, went from the Beatles to Ausmuteants real fast. Long story short Spice Girls and Green Day!
When did you first know you wanted to make music?
B: I guess after listening to Green Day I started wanting to make music. I’d always been somewhat “creative” but very lacking. Tried painting, drawing, animation, film making and other hobbies for years with no success. But once my aunty gave me an acoustic guitar, I just wanted to do stuff on it, and I started to figure out how to do stuff on it. Once you start seeing some success in what you’re doing it really motivates you to continue, every time I’d learn a new chord or I’d figure out how to open Garageband, I’d just want to do it more.
What was the first gig you ever went to? Tell us a bit about it.
B: The first gig I ever went to was Courtney Barnett at the Palais Theatre, it was kinda weird, Courtney seemed like she was really uncomfortable. I’ve seen her three times since and they where MUCH better. I think the true first gig was Jebediah at Melbourne Zoo, met the band and they were amazing live. I bought my first electric guitar after seeing them in order to try and do what they were doing.
When you started Disco Junk you wrote, recorded and produced all your songs yourself; can you tell us about how you got started? Were there any challenges?
B: I got started by just pointing my iPad at my guitar amp and just pressing record, it was a hellish set up and there where a lot of angry screams trying to get a decent sound. Eventually I just sorta gave up and worked with what I have, which is what you sorta hear on Disco Junk’s Party With Spools Of Tape. I eventually got a lot better at it through a lot of trial and error.
What kind of things inspires your songwriting?
B: Really anything. I’ve had times where I’ve put my heart and soul into it, tried to come up with really deep lines and its just been awful and then a song I write about the film Robots will be (in my wrong opinion) a million times better. The main inspiration is other people, bands like Pinch Points, Rhysics, Living Eyes, Program, Sunnyboys, Lemon Demon and Lassie are some big inspirations right now.
What’s your favourite song you’ve written so far? What’s it about?
B: In terms of released stuff, I think “Outta Melbourne” (which is just meaningless, it’s a bunch of lines I put together) and “Defenestration” (which is just a social outcast song). In terms of UNRELEASED AND EPIC stuff I think “Where’s Bigweld” (the song about the film Robots), “Investment Banker” (a song my dad wrote so I cant really take credit) and “All The Cows Come Home” (which is sort of a self-referential song, in the vein of Ouch!!).
You recorded your “four best songs” in a “proper studio” with Billy from Anti Fade last year; what’s one of your fondest memories from recording your Underage Punk 7” (on Hozac Records)?
B: Really it was just all the time I got to spend with Lachie and Billy Gardner. Lachie (the man behind Under Heat Records) is one of my best friends and he came down to Melbourne from Mount Gambier to do the drums and it was so good to hang out with him. We went and saw Drunk Mums and Meat and it was so good. And it was incredible to spend time with Billy, he’s so switched on and wise and is such an incredible man. I learned so much from talking with him during the session. Also me loosing my voice and trying to order from a burger shop afterwards was pretty funny.
Can you tell us about your favourite gig you’ve played?
B: I can’t decide between playing with Amyl And The Sniffers at Record Paradise and the birthday show I did at Cactus Room. They where both just a bunch of friends coming together to have fun and watch some incredible bands. The energy at both shows were just incredible!
When you first started playing live you were on stage by yourself, right? Were you nervous?
B: Yes! I got offered my first gig by Ishka from Warttmann Inc before I had a band so I decided to just play by myself with a backing track. I wasn’t actually that nervous to be honest, I think I was in such a tight state of fear that I didn’t feel any emotion. But after playing with a live band and having played some more solo shows recently I now get a lot more nervous on stage solo. It’s harder to go back to if that makes sense.
Last year in 11 days you put together a cassette compilation, There’s Gotta Be Hope Right?, featuring 32 bands with money from sales going to NSW and VIC Rural Fire Services; why was it important for you to do this?
B: Well it was important because if I didn’t do it I would’ve gone insane! During the bushfires I was having some very serious mental problems and I found that working on ANYTHING was better than thinking about it. It was a nightmare to do and I still haven’t been able to donate the money because of one fuckwit but it GREATLY helped. I’ve had to start doing a similar thing with the Beer Virus epidemic recently where I upload one song at a time onto the Billiam Bandcamp in order to keep my mind off things (#shamelessselfpromotion).
Around the time you put out the cassette you mentioned online that you had a “panic attack/nervous breakdown about the state of the world”; what do you do to get through this period and manage your anxiety? It can be pretty scary and debilitating!
B: I honestly don’t even know what got me through it. I think the only thing that helps with me is work as previously mentioned. It is really scary and debilitating but some good stuff does come out of it. I’m truly proud of that compilation and I think so far it will be my biggest legacy on Melbourne music and that’s helped me get through hard times since them.
What’s something important that you think more people should care about?
B: I could say environment but thank god people are starting to clue into the fact that MAYBE all these weather events are caused by humans pumping sludge into the atmosphere constantly. But other than that people need to be more aware of what their friends are feeling. Like not in just an empty “Are you ok?” way but in a way where people understand that things they might be doing or not doing really impact other people and that they need to be aware of that. Just check up on friends and do things to make them happy, sending a funny YouTube video or talking with them on the phone does so much more than just asking if they’re ok and saying that you are there.
What have you been listening to lately?
B: A lot! ha ha… Quarantine gives you time to listen to some records. There’s a Chicago band called Spam Risk I’m obsessed with at the moment, they’re really good Eggy nervous punk rock. Other than that a list of bands and artists I really like are Hannah Kate, ISS, XTC, Leeches, Toyotal, P.R.N.D.L., Jungle Breed, Nick Normal, Met Dog and Gonzo. Lots of great music coming out at the moment
What are you working on now?
B: A lot. There’s going to be a Disco Junk album eventually but I need to finish writing it, were releasing a 7 inch through Goodbye Boozey in Italy but that will most likely be delayed but stay tuned. Ruben is working on a solo album of punky psychedelic stuff, Tom is continuing to finish the Aggressive Hugger tape and I (Billiam) am making an album available on bandcamp as I go (meaning I upload one song a day for like two weeks) and I’m writing the next issue of my zine Magnetic Visions (Issue one and two are out now #againshamelessselfpromotion).
Anything else you like us to know about Disco Junk?
B: All the members are actually just really elaborate Muppets.