We love Meanjin/Brisbane Grit Hop trio, Spirit Bunny, a joyful explosion of noise from multi-instrumentalists Kate Thomas, Joel Saunders and Cam Smith. We’re super excited to bring you the premiere of first single ‘Paper Handshakes’ from their upcoming sophomore album on new independent label Zang! Records. Spirit Bunny’s sound is a perfect storm of circuit bent Casio noise and C64 synths with phat beats and whimsical melodies.
Firstly, congratulations on signing with Zang! Records. We’re really excited that Spirit Bunny has new music to share with us. We’re really digging your new song ‘Paper Handshakes’! Where did the song name come from? I’ve heard that Spirit Bunny songs often start with a title before music and lyrics are written.
SPIRIT BUNNY: Thanks! We’re super happy and excited to be able to share some new stuff again. ‘Paper Handshakes’ actually had a different, working title until right at the last minute. That’s pretty normal for us – a lot of our songs start off with working titles that are related to how the songs sound or what they remind us of. A good example of that is ‘Gold & Brown’ from our first album, which in its very early stages of being written reminded us in mood of the song ‘Golden Brown’ by The Stranglers. Sometimes those working titles then inform the lyrics and themes, which are almost always the final part added to the song. So it almost always goes music, working song title, lyrics, and then sometimes a proper song title if we decide the working title is no good (or embarrassing). This song had an embarrassingly mundane and meaningless working title.
What inspired it both musically and lyrically?
SB: Musically we wanted something that was upbeat and really punchy. We started the writing of the album with a couple of more downbeat or weirder songs, and thought we should perhaps write a pop song. Which is what we did, or at least it’s what we consider to be a “pop song”. It was one of the first songs for the record where we started experimenting more in-depth with dual and duelling vocals, something we tried a little bit on the last record. Lyrically it’s about the sway that people with money hold over decision makers, and how that doesn’t always benefit the greater good.
How much did the song change from its beginnings to what we hear now?
SB: This is one of the songs that just kind of came out and didn’t need a whole heap of tweaking, it came together pretty easily (which can’t necessarily be said for the some of the other songs from our forthcoming album). The only significant change came right towards the end of recording, when we invited our friend Keeley Young (of Claude and Requin) to play saxophone on it. That’s something we experimented with on the new record, getting our friends in to replace our parts but playing them on an instrument that we don’t normally use, to try to get some new and often more organic sounds into the mix. So on this song, Keeley multi-tracked her saxophone to replace some of the chordal parts that Kate plays on Commodore 64.
What interests each of you in what you create as Spirit Bunny? I know you’ve all had many other bands and projects.
SB: It’s probably the most democratic and collaborative band any of us have been in, which can be challenging but also very much worthwhile. It’s definitely a project where if you were to replace any one of us you’d end up with a completely different thing. When we first got together we had an idea of what we wanted to sound like, but ultimately what came out is Spirit Bunny. It really pushes each of us in different ways, both technically and in what we’re comfortable with in terms of our roles in the band. For example, Kate is kind of the musical core of virtually every Spirit Bunny song and that’s not something she’s done in her other projects.
It’s also very different from any of the other projects we’re involved with. Some musicians like to play in a bunch of bands that are all of a kind, but that’s not something we’re overly interested in.
Spirit Bunny shows are pretty special, there’s an amazing synergy between you; do you ever have trouble capturing the spirit you play with live in recording or do you see live and recording sound-wise as two different things?
SB: The first record was definitely a pretty close representation of the live version of the band. The new album is perhaps very slightly less so, although the majority of the record was still built around the way we would play the songs in a live context. We did try a few new methods of writing and recording this time, with a few of the songs being partially constructed in the studio instead of extensively hashed out in the rehearsal room. We also tried to incorporate a few more textures this time, and to give some of the songs a bit more space than on the previous album. We definitely try to capture the energy of our live shows, though. That’s really important, and I think both albums go pretty close to achieving that.
What’s something surprising that people might find interesting about the way you write or record?
SB: We’re all multi-tasking in this band, each playing multiple instruments at the same time. Kate plays two Commodore 64s, Joel has two of his unique circuit-bent Casios plus a bunch of noise boxes, and Cam has his looped beats alongside the acoustic drums. So everything can get pretty layered and dense for a trio, but that’s what we actually sound like. It was a bit of a focus on this record to strip that back a bit sometimes and give the songs some room to breathe.
You use circuit bent keyboards/Commodore 64 synths; where did your interest in using these come from?
SB: We like repurposing obsolete or outdated technology in a creative fashion, giving it a second life that’s perhaps outside its original purpose. It’s cool to make something that’s somewhat futuristic and hopefully forward-looking with elements that could sometimes be considered somewhat ‘retro’. Also, these instruments have inherent limitations and we like that those limitations can force us to come up with novel solutions. An interesting example of that is that the Commodore 64 has virtually no dynamics, and Cam came to Spirit Bunny from bands that were highly dynamic so he had to rethink the way that his drums were going to function in this new context, where if he played quietly he was going to be drowned out but if he played loudly he would drown everyone else out. The answer ended up being adding dynamics to the drums via the density of the playing, rather than playing softer or louder.
What can you tell us at this point about your sophomore album you have coming up?
SB: Firstly that we’re really happy with it. There’s been a lot of work to get to this point. It’s been good to welcome some new people into the fold to help us get the record to the finish line, whether it’s been various friends of ours adding their own flavours to the record sonically, or teaming up with Zang! to get the record out into the world. Listening to it now, it seems like real growth from the first album. The songs are simultaneously more extreme and also more accessible, more dense and also more spacious. It’s been a journey of discovery for us as much as it is for anyone else, perhaps more so. From within the band, everything we come up with seems to be greater than the sum of its constituent parts.
What bands/albums/songs have you been obsessing over lately?
SB: We’ve been listening to Deerhoof’s two new records a lot, always listening to lots of Deerhoof. We love the new Party Dozen album, in a way we feel like they’re kindred spirits in the Australian music community. Similarly with the new Wax Chattels. Angel Olsen’s All Mirrors is a record that weirdly influenced some of the sounds on this album, in terms of some of the mellotron arrangements and a kind of chamber-pop sound we attempted to incorporate in parts (with varying success).
We also listen to lots of local stuff, and there’s been heaps of really good local releases lately. The new Ancient Channels is fantastic, which some of us are involved with in some ways (Cam recorded it, and Joel now plays in the live band). Zang! labelmates Gold Stars have a fantastic debut album. Local Authority, Ultra Material and Relay Tapes all put out some great shoegaze and dream-pop records recently. Nathan John Kearney put out a lovely solo record, It’s Magnetic have a wonderful debut album. There’s new Grieg. We’re looking forward to the new Apparitions record. There’s so much stuff.
What’s something that’s important to Spirit Bunny?
SB: Musically we just want to make something that excites and challenges us. On a more important note, we feel strongly about diversity and social responsibility, supporting community and grassroots art and initiatives. We delved into some of these issues lyrically on the new album, which we also did on the first one but often in a more oblique way – this time we were a bit more overt in the presentation of some of these themes.
Meanjin/Brisbane musicians Kelly Hanlon (Deafcult/Terra Pines) and Chris Preindl (Apparitions/Leavings/Vestiges) take us on a sonic sci-fi expedition exploring ancient, ceremonial drumming together with shoegaze dream pop and cosmic themes to create a band that’s outta this world, Ancient Channels.
How did you two first meet? What were your first impressions of each other?
KELLY: I first met Chris through the Brisbane music scene. Our other bands have played multiple shows together over the years so we’ve been in each other’s orbit for a while. I’ve been consistently blown away every time I’ve seen Chris play with any of his bands whether its Apparitions, Leavings or Vestiges. He’s all over the kit with such deft and precision, technically brilliant but also insanely creative, I swear he’s got an extra set of arms hidden away somewhere. I remember thinking that I’d like to work with him sometime soon after seeing him play, and here we are! Dreams do come true!
CHRIS: Our first meeting is hard to pinpoint because Brisbane often feels tiny. I do feel like my first impression of Kelly is one-and-the-same with what would be the most prevailing impression, that she’s an incredibly talented songwriter and musician, and a really cool, calm and compassionate person.
You both play in multiple other bands. Kelly plays in Deafcult/Terra Pines and Chris plays in Apparitions/Leavings/Vestiges; what inspired you to start Ancient Channels?
KELLY: I had wanted to start a project a little more pop-centric and beat orientated. I was also watching a lot of Ancient Aliens at the time (for pure entertainment, I don’t actually believe Ancient Aliens built the pyramids) which resulted in the idea of combining elements of ancient, ceremonial drumming with more contemporary style song structures and the aesthetics of dream pop, shoegaze and post-punk. I wrote a few demos and sent them to Chris and asked if he’d be keen and lucky he was. We didn’t practice together before recording just winged it on the day and Chris wrote and executed his drum parts with such energy it was beautiful! The drums are really the forefront of this band in my opinion, almost like a lead guitar or something, well and truly up front.
CHRIS: Kelly reached out about starting a new project together in early-mid 2019 and I didn’t deliberate much; sometime after my band Leavings played with Terra Pines (for something like the third or even fourth time around Southeast Queensland) Kelly had written some incredible demos and after hearing them I was very excited at the chance to collaborate. She suggested it’d be more of a studio project from the outset which was super ideal for my other band commitments and life schedule. Dates were then set for roughly six months later to record with Cam Smith at Incremental Records.
You’re into sci-fi soundtracks of early film and television; what’s one of your favourites? What do you appreciate about it?
KELLY: Film soundtracks, particularly sci-fi soundtracks are so evocative and they overtly convey tension in a way that I love. The 1950’s had some really great film soundtracks full of creepy theremin tones that make my skin crawl in the best possible way. It Came From Outer Space 1953 is a favourite, also The Day The Earth Stood Still 1951. I tried to get a theremin-ish like tone in “Orbital Dance” with one of the synth lines, it’s not exact but it’s the best I could do with the tools that I have haha. I also love the original Dr Who theme 1963 by Delia Derbyshire and Ron Grainer. It’s such an iconic piece of music, “Carpe Noctem” was an attempt to do something big and dramatic in that vein. There is a great doco on Delia Derbyshire called The Delian Mode on YouTube that everyone should watch for a bit of backstory on her. I’m also big into Vangelis like everyone else under the sun.
CHRIS: I think this is more Kelly’s realm, at least as far as direct influences on this project go, but for me I can’t go past such iconic scores as: Blade Runner (Vangelis), Akira (Geinoh Yamashirogumi), 2001: A Space Odyssey (Richard Strauss), and more recently the scores of Drive, Ex Machina and Good Time… although some of those absolutely aren’t sci-fis.
You’ve recently released Moments In Ruin; what inspired the writing of this album? It seems pretty cosmic!
KELLY: It all comes back to Ancient Aliens haha I feel like I was thinking about it for a year or so before we even started writing, but mainly the idea was to just have a collection of songs that draw from many influences both concrete: Shoegaze, Dream Pop and Post-Punk and Abstract: Time, Space, Ancient Worlds etc… I think there was also talk about writing a record full of singles. The idea that every song on a record could be a single is a bit of a novelty but thought it would be a fun challenge.
CHRIS: Other than a partial embracing and full appreciation of engineer/producer Cam Smith’s drumming (in specifically Terra Pines), and the desire to serve Kelly’s demos sufficiently I embraced influences stemming back to when I first started playing drums. Essentially bands like Metric, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and pretty much any DFA/New York City band from the mid-2000s.
I’ve heard that drums and percussion are the foundation of your sound; how do your songs form most often? Can you tell us a bit about your writing process?
KELLY: All the songs were written using Garageband to demo initially , and then Chris rewrote the shitty Garageband drum loops and made the songs infinitely cooler and more interesting. All the songs were written with the same approach though, built from the ground up, rhythm section, then guitars and synths (textural) and vocals last. The vocals took the most amount of time to write because melody was really important, most of the songs on the record have alternate versions of the vocal melodies and harmonies. I think “She-Rise” had about 8 different versions.
CHRIS: Up until now it has been part recreating the beats mapped out by Kelly and part improvisation in the studio environment. The intricate layers that formed the first versions of the songs that became “Moments In Ruin” afforded me a lot of room for inspiration and, to a degree, experimentation so it’s been quite a thrilling and fun process; the approach with Ancient Channels is different to the more jam-based process of other projects I’m involved with.
We really love the song “She-Rise”; what sparked this song?
KELLY: From memory it was one of the last songs written for this project, there was a feeling the record needed something a little more driving and immediate. I’d read an interview with Grimes about her writing process, that she’d often write songs to scenes from films. I kinda liked that idea and thought I’d give it a go. I picked the Bride vs The Crazy 88 scene from Kill Bill Vol1 and tried to write with that scene in my mind and often playing in the background on silent. Thematically I guess I projected myself into the role of the bride and sexist sound guys in the role of the crazy 88 (metaphorically speaking of course). It’s a clusterfuck, I’m not sure it works as a score to the scene but I was happy with how the song turned out.
CHRIS: For my part I really wanted the rhythms to be straightforward and blunt, as the song seemed to me to be one of the most propulsive and pounding. It embodies what is probably the most intense, menacing and bold energy and so I thought a rigorous and sweatily performed dance beat would serve the song best. An undoubted influence for me for “She-Rise” is the music of U.K. post-punk band Savages.
What most excites you about your new album?
KELLY: I’m excited that it’s out and we can move onto the next one.
CHRIS: Recreating the songs live, with additional members: Elise Clark, Imogen Kowalczyk, Kelly Saunders & Joel Saunders. We haven’t yet brought all the songs to life: as is the case for a lot of other bands (local and nationwide/worldwide) it’s been a difficult year to effectively showcase new music. Fingers crossed for the remainder of 2020 and the start of 2021…
I know that you love recording and being in the studio; was there anything you tried or experimented with while recording?
KELLY: Most of the experimentation came with the drums (different beats that Chris wanted to try and varying types of accompanying percussion. Everything else was locked in by the time we got to the studio as we had Garageband demos with sounds and tones finalised etc…
CHRIS: Percussive layering felt like the most immediate example of studio experimentation. Usually I’m quite hesitant to contribute or sign off on drum parts that aren’t in the realm of possibility to perform live, but we both agreed that we could maximise some of the songs with overdubbed drum hits and cymbal swells. It also helps that Elise is also a drummer!
We love the vocals on the album, very ethereal, haunting and atmospheric; how did you approach doing them?
KELLY: I would say that we wanted vocals to sound that way for sure, ambience and atmosphere were important but also melody. A lot of time was spent trying to make the vocal melodies as infectious as possible, as mentioned before they were rewritten a hundred times over and vastly different from their first incarnation.
CHRIS: I can only dream of having had a hand in the vocal process, though it’s fun to watch agape and in awe from the sidelines for this aspect. I guess there’s always the possibility to harmonise live!
Your music is a collage of genres and I love how your artwork for your releases is also collages; where did the idea for this style of artwork come from? You do the art Kelly, right?
KELLY: My friend Jason Cahill (who did our video for “Footprints In The Dark”) is a great visual artist and filmmaker and he sends me art all the time that he thinks I might enjoy. He had an idea once of doing a collage film clip for one of our songs by animating a collage and in doing research for that idea I came across the collage hashtag on Instagram and fell in love with the otherworldly nature of it. It’s a format that seems like it has no rules and so much possibility.
CHRIS: I think Kelly’s collage art precedes Ancient Channels! I love how effective and evocative it is.
Is there anything else you’ve been working on that you’d like to tell us about, Ancient Channels-related or otherwise?
KELLY: Stay tuned to our socials for show announcements and news, we’ll probably start thinking about the next record soon-ish. Both my other bands Deafcult and Terra Pines have new records coming out next year and I believe Chris has a bunch of exciting stuff up his sleeves too which he can tell you about.
CHRIS: We’re excited by the prospect of working on new music as a six-piece band. In the meantime Kelly’s other bands Deafcult and Terra Pines are working on new material. My other band Apparitions will be launching its album in roughly a month’s time with Deafcult as well, so I’m really excited for that!
Branko Cosic is one of the hardest working people in Brisbane’s music community. He plays in alt-rock band Tape/Off, punk band Total Pace, indie-rock band Gold Stars, organises shows including Sonic Masala Fest and does a show on 4ZZZfm radio. We recently chatted to Branko about his love of music and all he has going on.
What first got you into music?
BC: Earliest memory I have of liking music is seeing the video clip for “Out Of Mind, Out Of Sight” by Models on TV. It blew my mind. I think I kept begging my parents to hear the song again, so Mum went down to Woody’s Music down in Woodridge and grabbed the 12” single of it. I’ve still got the record.
I also had older cousins that had cool tastes in music, so I remember digging through their collections and hearing things like The Cure, Devo, Public Enemy, Ice-T, N.W.A, Stone Roses before turning the age of 10.
You play the drums; how did you first start? What drew you to them?
BC: A family friend had a drum kit setup in his garage, and I was enamoured by all the parts that went together to make it up. After that, every time I would see performance clips on Rage, I’d be mesmerised by the drummers and their setups. I got my first drum kit at 15. The first song I attempted to play was Powderfinger’s ‘D.A.F’. It had a really tricky hi-hat pattern in the chorus, and before I acquired a kit, I had practiced air drumming to it (with my mum’s old makeup chair as the “snare drum”) and was adamant that was going to be the first thing I tried.
What was your first introduction to DIY?
BC: Watching Fugazi’s ‘Instrument’ documentary was the turning point. It seemed like a subconscious roadmap on how to start a band. It was the most honest document of being in a band and everything that went along with it (recording, releasing, touring, etc).
A few years later, I went with a friend to this place in Red Hill called ‘Lofly Hangar’. It was a DIY space that had parties once a month and was filled with people with the same interests as me that I never thought anyone else in Brisbane shared. It was like an epiphany when I found it. That place was my church. I learned so much during those short-lived years. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the existence of Lofly Hangar.
You’re in band Tape/Off and Total Pace; how are they musically different from each other?
BC: They’re slacker rock bands in their own way, which are both loud, but have different intensities. TP has it’s foot on the gas 95% percent of time, T/O dynamically weaves through the gear changes. T/O listens to a lot of Pavement, Slint, Sonic Youth, Fugazi… and TP listens to a lot of The Replacements, Cloud Nothings, METZ…
What sparked each to start?
BC: I started T/O in 2008 and was my first go at starting a band from scratch. I had been in bands before that, but they never got off the ground. I was initially going to play guitars, but had more fun playing drums. Simon, Matt and [Luke] Henery had started putting TP together when they asked me to join. We’ve all been buds for years, so it was exciting to start something new.
The last release Tape/Off had was song ‘Work Xmas Party’ towards the end of last year; have you been working on anything new? What can you can tell us about it?
BC: Yep, we’ve been working towards a new album. It’s about half-written at the moment. We seem to be travelling to more intricate and quieter passages in the new songs. We’re challenging ourselves to not be so loud and introduce more warmth into them. I would love to get it out in the next year or so.
‘Work Xmas Party’ was something that we just needed to get off our chest. It came together quite quickly in the practice room and it was super quick to record. So rather than sit on it, we thought we’d get it out before the end of the year to coincide people’s favourite/least favourite time of year when they have to congregate with their fellow worker outside company time to mostly shameful results.
Does Total Pace have anything new in the works?
BC: This is also true. We have a new EP coming soon that we’re currently putting artwork together for. We released the first single off it ‘Stay In’ just two weeks ago on the internet. Most of the songs got their live debut when we played with Mclusky* in January. We’ve also been playing a cover of ‘Shopping’ by Pet Shop Boys which has been awesome to play. A recorded version of that should surface sometime in the future.
As well as playing in bands you also do radio show Unnecessary Knowledge with Tape/Off band mate Cam [Smith]; what’s some of your favourite songs and bands you’ve been playing lately?
Turnpike is probably the most played artist on our show. The most brutal music from the most humblest humans on earth. Requin is also another favourite and also sits in the humble basket. Party Dozen, Good Boy, Bushing, Majestic Horses, Local Authority, Good Morning, PYNES, Cable Ties are bands we’ve been playing lots of lately.
I love playing anything from Bearhug, Batrider, Can, Slayer, A Tribe Called Quest, Screamfeeder, Aphex Twin, OVLOV, Flying Lotus whenever I get a chance.
How did you get involved in community radio? What inspired you to do it?
BC: My good friend Rachel Tinney was my conduit into Community Radio. I met her at The Hangar in 2009 and when she started volunteering at 4ZZZ, she was the first one to start playing Tape/Off. She had a graveyard shift show called ‘Theme Me Up, Scotty!’ from 12am-2am on Wednesday nights. I used to finish work around midnight so she invited me down to the station to check it out. I’d keep her company whilst she was doing the show and would marvel at the CD library.
Six months later, she was offered a daytime show and asked me if I’d like to be her official co-host, which I completely jumped at. It was Rachel that called it Unnecessary Knowledge because she thought I knew too much of it and it has stuck ever since.
She moved interstate in 2013 and I then asked Cam if he’d like to jump on board. The rest is history.
You also have interviewed bands yourself; who’s been a highlight and what made it so?
BC: Too many to count, but talking with Conrad Keely from …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead about their magnum opus ‘Source Tags And Codes’ was pretty special. That album is in my top 5 of all time.
The Kashmere Stage Band was another highlight. You should check out the documentary about them called ‘Thunder Soul’. Rachel and I interviewed them when they came out to promote the doco and could’ve talked for hours about all of their stories.
What’s something that you’re really, really excited about?
BC: I’m working to start a new musical venture that is equal parts terrifying and exciting at the same time. It’s going to combine my love for music, graphic design and film all into one. It’s the new record label that launched a few weeks ago, called ‘Zang! Records’ and I run it with Jack McDonnell, who is a fellow 4ZZZ-er. You can check it out at: Zang Records Facebook and Zang Records Instagram.
I also play in a band called Gold Stars with Ben from Tape/Off and Phil from aheadphonehome/Lofly Hangar which is for fans of Guided By Voices. Look out for our debut album that will drop sometime this year.
Brisbane’s post-punk, ethereal, goth rockers Pleasure Symbols levelled up and really came into their own with last year’s release Closer And Closer Apart, a moody dream-pop affair. We’re excited to see where they go next, the band have been writing new material. We interviewed bassist-vocalist Jasmine Dunn.
How did you first discover music?
JASMINE DUNN: Slowly, it was always more of a background noise in my earlier years with some significant moments of discovery thrown in. I remember watching my parents dancing to Van Morrison’s ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ in the living room and realising that people can have sentimental attachments to music. On the flip side to that, I grew up in the 90’s so there was a lot of really cringe worthy pop music on the radio and on TV. I learned to dig deep!
How did the creative process begin with your first full-length, Closer and Closer Apart?
JD: I reached out to Steven to see if he would be interested in helping me record what I originally anticipated to be a solo body of work, we had only met once prior to that conversation so the direction for everything was still very unknown. The idea of a solo record quickly moved into talks of a collaboration between Pleasure Symbols and his project Locust Revival, which then evolved again into having him come on board as a guitarist to work on a Pleasure Symbols album, so we began writing and getting to know each other from there.
Sound-wise Closer and Closer Apart is quite different from your first self-titled EP, you’ve gone from a more synth-based dark-wave style to a more guitar-orientated dream-pop, shoegaze style; what influenced this evolution?
JD: Four years between writing and then bringing in Steven on guitar meant Closer and Closer Apart was never going to sound like anything previously released under the Pleasure Symbols name. The EP is very primitive overall and I was keen to push the sound further to better represent our influences and songwriting capabilities. We still have a lot more to learn and a lot further to reach, but we’re getting there!
‘Image Reflected’ is one of our favourite tracks on C&CA; can you tell us a little about writing it?
JD: On the weekends I’d drove over to Steven’s place and we’d start with nothing, maybe a very loose idea and have a song or two close to completion in just a couple of hours. It was kind of surreal how easily we were writing together and I kept wondering if these songs were going to turn out horribly because of how easily they were coming together! I’ve never had such ease in songwriting before and I think a lot of that comes down to the trust and respect we have for one another. For ‘Image Reflected’ Steven had programmed the drums the day before I had come over and a good portion of the song really wasn’t changed much from the first take we did.
Do lyrics come easy for you? Who’s one of your favourite songwriters?
JD: Unfortunately not, I hesitate because I want the lyrics to perfectly articulate a feeling or a mood that’s driving each song. Sometimes there’s too many thoughts or it’s a lost moment in time and trying to catch those fleeting moments can be difficult. When it happens though, it’s an incredibly satisfying feeling. I mostly read to inspire lyrics and to get myself into the right headspace and I was pouring through a lot of Roland Barthes in particular while writing for the record. I came across a very well loved, second-hand copy of Colin Wilson’s The Outsider and my best friend had lent me Lorrie Moore’s Self-Help. Both of these books also ended up proving to be great influencing texts for me at the time.
We love the Closer… album cover; what’s the story behind the cover image?
JD: The photograph was taken by a friend of mine Haydn Hall who would hide out inside this restaurant on the Lower East Side in New York. The photo resonated with me as writing had already begun for the record so I had some idea in which direction we were heading sonically. It’s simple and unassuming with a soft focus. It feels like the calm before the storm.
JD: Chris Campion is an old friend from when we both lived in Brisbane, plus he recorded and mixed the very first Pleasure Symbols demos so there is a bit of history there! He asked to do a remix a while back but it took a little while for me to bounce it across to him in New York.
Last year PS toured Europe; what was one of the coolest things you saw in your travels?
JD: We drove the whole leg so we were exposed to a lot, but we saw so much and loved our time spent there, it’s hard to narrow it down! We hope to be back as soon as we can.
Is there anything you’ve been listening to a lot lately? We love finding new things to listen to!
JD: There’s some new Locust Revival tracks that more people should hear, as well as the new SDH record I’m really enjoying too. Still spinning the latest Tempers record too, that’s an incredible album.
Have you been working on anything new lately?
JD: Yes! We’re currently writing for the new record.
Lastly, what do you love most about making music?
JD: It’s a love/hate relationship for the most part, but it’s a vessel to create and a compelling medium to capture a moment in time and that has to be worth something.
Lunchtime are a band that wouldn’t be out of place in the ‘90s; the dream of the ‘90s is alive in Brisbane. Their songs are a mix of grunge, punk and indie rock, the band co-founded by twin sisters Eden and Constance along with high school friend Lachlan. We interviewed them just as they were getting set to drop their latest single and video ‘Science Of Sorrow’.
Lunchtime are from Brisbane; what can you tell me about where you live?
LACHLAN: Constance, Eden and I live at Stafford but they used to live in Deception Bay and I lived at Caboolture while Tim lives in Carindale.
CONSTANCE: The best thing about Deception Bay was going down to the local shops and seeing people sitting at the bus stop drinking wine. Our single ‘Deception Bay’ was inspired by these three blokes who were omnipresent at that bus stop.
EDEN: I always know if it’s a cloudy day in Stafford cuz Constance only does the washing when it’s raining which is annoying but funny.
How did Lunchtime get together?
LACHLAN: We started when the twins and I were at school and then two years ago Tim joined the band after our previous drummer left.
CONSTANCE: It was kinda weird how we ended up in the same band because Eden and I were in a band with these other guys that broke up and started a band with Lachlan which also broke up then the three of us formed Lunchtime with the drummer from the original band.
EDEN: I just remember me auditioning Tim before the others got there and the only question I asked was “Do you like Tiny Teddies” and he said “Yeah they’re alright” and I was like yup this is the one.
How did you start playing music?
LACHLAN: I picked up a guitar.
TIM: I started drums in school.
CONSTANCE: I found my dad’s old guitar in the garage. It had three strings and that’s how I taught myself to play. Hence the punk rock band…
EDEN: Constance needed someone to back her up so I got forced into it and then I decided playing piano was cool cuz I was obsessed with Mika back then. Then I also got forced into playing bass cuz our first bass player decided he wanted to play guitar instead.
Can you tell us something about everyone in the band?
LUNCHTIME: Tim can do a kickflip. Eden is an artist @mumblebee_art and has 93 cacti. Lachlan can put his legs over his head Constance is a Pilates nut!
Constance and Eden are twins; what’s it like creating with your sibling?
CONSTANCE: It’s pretty great because I never really have to explain the artistic direction I want the song to go in, she just knows. Or if one of us is struggling with part of a song in the writing process we can run it by the other and they usually can make it perfect in two seconds.
EDEN: I love it because it’s like we were made to harmonise with each other. Singing together is so easy and she can always finish things if I hit a wall or tell me how to do it better. You can be brutally honest with each other and there’s no hard feelings.
What’s an album that means a lot to you?
LACHLAN: Hungry Ghost by Violent Soho. They’re a really good Brisbane band, I think we look up to them a lot.
EDEN: I remember hearing ‘Covered in Chrome’ and thinking he had a weird voice and I liked that cuz I thought I sang funny as well. The show at the Riverstage for that album was my first mosh pit and I lost my toenail which I keep to this day in a jar.
What was the first song you wrote for Lunchtime? What was it about?
CONSTANCE: The first song I wrote for Lunchtime was called “Get over it”. It’s the last song on our first EP Feedback and it was about the first time a band I was in broke up. When bands break up it is way more upsetting than any romantic break up. For me anyway haha. The song was me telling myself that you can try and do everything to forget and still feel the pain but you need to find a way to move on and get on with your life.
EDEN: My first song for us was “I Bleed Lemonade” it was about me punching a concrete pillar after my mate told me he had unknowingly set up my secret crush with someone else.
Your latest song was released late last year and called ‘Deception Bay’; how did that song get started?
CONSTANCE: Deception Bay is where Eden and I grew up. I wrote it when I was about 16 and in the midst of trying to figure out life and all these crazy emotions. ‘Deception Bay’ was named because when it was discovered they thought it was a river because it was so shallow. Random fact but it started the process of ‘huh this place isn’t as it seems let me make some art about it.’ At 16 I was at the restless point when you just want to run away from your problems and used my hometown as a synonym for everything (mentally, etc) I was trying to escape from.
Last year you released single ‘Show n Tell’ which is a song about domestic violence and feeling like there is nowhere to go even when you’re in the place where you are supposed to be safe; what inspired you to write this song?
CONSTANCE: Eden and I had a lot of family issues (as you can probably tell cuz half of our songs are about it.) ‘Show n Tell’ was written about my family and basically what it was like for us growing up. Writing songs has always been a coping method for me because I felt the only way to be heard was through music. The lyrics are pretty dark and sarcastic I think I wrote them after a particularly nasty fight.
EDEN: Family and emotional violence is a hard topic because love is used as a weapon so often. I think we’re trying to help young people who are going through similar situations feel strong and let them know they can get out because there is so much to look forward to in life.
I saw that you were recording last month; is there new music in the works? What can you tell me about it so far?
LACHLAN: We’re recording every day for a couple of things hopefully you see it sooner rather than later cause we don’t have any excuses for time.
CONSTANCE: We’ve been working away at an album which should be finished this year at some point. Its top secret but we may be about to drop a new single – ‘Science Of Sorrow’ [Ed’s note: the song has come out since we did this interview]. We are pretty stoked about this song as it is our longest yet (over 5 mins) and quite different from our other material.
EDEN: One of our mates is hiding in a scene so there’s a Where’s Wally kinda scenario in the new music vid.
I know recently you were super excited to be working on a music vid with Kieran Griffiths Filmmaking; tell us a little bit about it?
LACHLAN: Kieran is a mate we met at a gig and have been good mates since and he did a degree in film so we thought it would fun to work together.
CONSTANCE: We were filming the music vid for our next single. It was pretty fun we all just set up in Tim’s living room for a couple of hours. Kieran is super talented and we are pretty honoured to be working on this with him.
EDEN: The Griffiths twins are our insanely talented best mates, Kieran had been bringing his camera to Gathos and one night we got talking and said it would be cool to do a collab. He directed and shot the whole thing singlehandedly. I’m really proud of it cuz the new song is my baby and is very personal to me. He made me punch yet another concrete wall and made Tim sing which was great. Keen as mustard for yas all to hear it.
How are you keeping busy while we’re all locked down at home right now?
LACHLAN: Lots of recording and Netflix and Minecraft.
CONSTANCE: Studying a marketing degree and a lot of songwriting and jamming.
TIM: Hanging with my girlfriend and fishing.
EDEN: Painting and gardening and watching Friends at 6pm on channel 11.
One of our Brisbane-based favourites The Stress Of Leisure are premiering the song ‘Interesting Times’ along with its DIY made in isolation video here on Gimmie today. The track is a mix of post-punk and new wave goodness with hypnotic keys, a stomping drum beat and Tina Weymouth-ish bass line. We spoke to guitarist-vocalist Ian Powne about the track.
The Stress of Leisure are premiering a song today “Interesting Times” which was recorded during the sessions for your album Eruption Bounce; why was the time right to release this track now?
IAN POWNE: Jessica Moore (drums) had been lobbying hard for this song ever since it didn’t fit Eruption Bounce. Subtle representations were made again at the start of March. I’d kind of forgotten about it. Jessica is smarter than me, so here we are.
Can you tell us a little bit about writing the song?
IP: We wrote the music for this song at the end of a rehearsal from memory, very quickly, most probably in 2016. My memory of this song is quite blurry but I remember spending a lot of time on the lyric and really hollowing it out to it being very non-specific subject matter. It feels like kind of a response to modern ‘tough guys’ like [Donald] Trump and [Jair] Bolsonaro, but then again strangely, it also feels aligned with the present pandemic.
You’ve made a real DIY clip for it while in isolation; how did you go about making it?
IP: DIY is the word. Pascalle Burton was the creative force behind this. She had assembled a whole lot of Prelinger footage. Coupled with that, was her idea to have a social media feed. We set up a green screen in our living room and I was the difficult talent in the end performing to the song. Pretty much like training a cat. I find it hard to watch, but I’m trusting my bandmates’ judgement on this one.
How have you been faring during these interesting times currently happening in the world? Other than making videos, what else have you been doing while in isolation?
IP:Observing all the health systems and people struggling around the world, it’s not hard to feel vulnerable. Both Pascalle and I are working from home so we’re very lucky. I’ve become an infectious disease armchair expert in the meantime.
Recently you went to Melbourne to record for a new record; what can you tell us about it at this point? What is it sounding like?
IP:We recorded it just in time it seems, and have mixed it now. It feels like a great capture of who we are, all the idiosyncrasies of what makes us tick. John Lee who has recorded and mixed it for us, ‘got us’ pretty much straight away and has really drawn out our punkier side. There’s something a little No Wave-ish about the spirit of it. It’s our most political album too, a lot of discontent in the lyric. We’ll release it later this year, Scomo will be trembling.
Can you recommend something we should check out?
IP: Have really enjoyed the release of Use No Hooks The Job that Chapter Music just put out. Basically it’s a collection of songs this funky Melbourne art band recorded in 1983, but had never put out. Lots of fun, and smart. We’ve played with Cable Ties before and am excited for their new album Far Enough which I’ve just started listening to.
The Stress Of Leisure are one of Brisbane’s hidden gems of post-punk, indie, new wave excellence. Their shows are one big party, fun and engaging – frontman Ian Powne’s stage banter always witty – as are the group’s lyrics. They’ve shared the stage with Kid Congo, Dave Graney, Regurgitator, Shonen Knife, Custard and more. TSOL’s Ian and Pascalle (Burton) dropped by the Gimmie office to chat about their love of music, where the band’s been and where it’s headed next, the importance of community and artistic longevity! TSOL may very well be your new favourite band as they are ours.
Why is music important to you?
IAN: Music is important to me because I value culture in general, I’m interested in the expression of community or society. I think music is the one form I can grasp of that expression, of a place, of a time. For me, that’s from a punter’s perspective of a love of music, I get into the time and place of it and how it interacts with the environment that I’m in. On a musician level I really love the immersive experience that it gives, the physicality of the performance, of listening to the drumming or the guitars or the keyboards or whatever the thrust of the music is, I imagine myself in it—I don’t get that feeling from a lot of other art forms that’s probably why music feels, I’m moving when I say this because, it feels… I’m interacting with it on a physical level. Apart from all of that community, I get a physical response.
PASCALLE: I think I have to agree with that in terms of, when the band is playing together, something is coming together from all of us and you feel it, here [motions to heart] and here [motions to head]. It is amazing. Seeing music that moves you is an incredible experience as well because it’s not only as a live… or in a time and space that you are in and you’re being moved by it, but there’s something that happens inside your head, it really shifts your way of seeing or experiencing the world. It’s a very broad approach to why I like music, I also do the poetry stuff and often in that poetry journey when I’m making a piece, sometimes that lends itself to making soundtracks and stuff like that as well. I often think it’s a very isolating experience for me, but when we play it, it’s really a bringing together of all of us, and the audience, and all the other layers of it.
IAN: There’s great value of music in society, depending on how people value themselves, it’s always an important element that’s there. I’m involved in radio as well as being in a band, I just love… for me, because of the radio perspective but also being part of a band community it just comes back to that word of community, it’s communal, that’s what I love about it. It’s not just us it’s a whole community of people experiencing the same thing, getting a thrill from the same thing. That’s why it’s important to me because I find likeminded people that have that same communal experience as I do, that’s why I keep going back to music because it means so much more than all the other art forms.
I know that when you first started doing Stress Of Leisure stuff, around 2003, you would do it by yourself in the afternoons after work…
IAN: Yeah, I did it by myself. I actually performed at poetry gigs, it wasn’t really conventional. All the gigs I did were part of a book launch, or poetry gigs, to a lot of writers essentially [laughs]. It was just me on an acoustic guitar. There was no congruence to what the project was, how it was recorded to how it was being delivered. It was just me going, this is The Stress Of Leisure, I want to be a band but I don’t know. I didn’t have a lot of confidence in the whole thing. I was just fumbling in the dark. What I know now is, I was probably aiming for that community.
PASCALLE: The collaboration.
IAN: Yes, the collaboration and being part of a gang. I had no gang it was just me.
PASCALLE: Your song writing was prolific before you even started doing gigs.
IAN: Lots of people in music produce music over a long period of time trying to discover who they are through music. They have this vision that they can never quite capture, that’s what keeps them going. They’re like, this next album is going to be great, and you do that album and it’s not quite right and they keep going…
PASCALLE: They’ve got more to do.
IAN: Yes. At that beginning stage, I’m at the beginning spot and not really having the full realisation. Starting from there I think songs had to start to live on a solo performance aspect rather than a band. A lot of them are me, me, me, Ian, Ian, Ian! That’s really what broke me in terms of wanting to get to the band level, I wanted to escape that reality [laughs]. Dave Graney maintains that if you play with an acoustic guitar you have to tell the truth, maybe that was the issue I had… if you play electric guitar you don’t have to tell the truth [laughs]. Maybe I just wanted to get from the acoustic guitar to the electric.
You mentioned that in the beginning you weren’t confident, seeing your shows now, you seem so confident, times have changed.
IAN: Yes, well that’s part of the great journey.
PASCALLE: I remember seeing you in those early days and you were terrified.
IAN: Yes. The first time I ever played in a band Pascalle was part of it, that was 2009, when we finally became a full band. That first gig was one of those Sunday afternoon Powerhouse gigs. Jo Bell who was Brispop set it up, it was in conjunction with this movie that got made, Crooked Business. One of the songs off the first album was called “Rooster” and “The Rooster” was on the Crooked Business soundtrack, Chris Nyst wrote this character that was called The Rooster. That show was our first gig and it was terrifying.
PASCALLE: There was a statement in the contract for the show that said something about delivering quality, rehearsed music, or something like that. It was really funny. I remember Ian saying something about that and thinking, oh, well we’ve gotta be pretty good then [laughs].
IAN: That really added to the terror I think. That was my first ever band performance and it was more of a relief when I finished it rather than enjoying it. The more you play, obviously the more confidence you get. The confidence thing has taken a while, also doing a radio show has helped, being jokey and thinking of stuff to say, banter.
PASCALLE: I love watching Ian perform. I have seen him from being a terrified performer to just owning what he does. It didn’t take forever but having the band to back you gives you a lot more confidence and you can have a lot more fun now.
IAN: The present makeup of the band – Jessica Moore on drums, Jane Elliot on bass, Pascalle Burton on keyboards and myself – that’s been since 2015, the longest version of The Stress Of Leisure; that in itself gives a lot of comfort. You know that we’ve played the songs and we know what we’re doing, the more you play with people the more confidence you have in stretching it out a bit and having fun. It’s not a worry to play the wrong notes, everybody is on the same page.
One of the things I love the most about when I see you play is that you look like you’re having so much fun!
IAN: Thank you, we do. There was something before that made me think of this anecdote, we play a couple of shows for Deaf QLD, we played to people that were deaf. They designed it so it had to be a place with floorboards so you could feel the vibration and interact with it, but also they had balloons for the vibration. They had a signer, we had a signer that does it for the Premier, she signed for us in those couple of gigs we did. We got asked back the second time because Karen Lantry was the CEO, she’s deaf herself and she said she liked us because we felt good! That was one of the best compliments we’ve ever had—we feel good!
PASCALLE: You don’t have to be able to hear our music to get some sense of what it’s about. As you get further into the relationship to the band you know each other better, what direction you want to go in. When we come up with new songs, if Ian’s not happy with it, he’ll put it to the side. Every song we play is fun for us, that’s an important part of it.
I read somewhere that you feel with this line-up of the band it feels more collaborative; you’re used to writing the songs yourself Ian, right?
IAN: It feels like the start of the band was 2012, in 2011 we released a song called “Sex Time” that was the first song where each element of the band is doing something to contribute to the whole. What I mean is, the guitar is doing this, the bass is doing this, the drums are doing this pattern and the keyboard is doing something… it’s not all the same note. It’s not all coming in and the drums are fitting in with it, I’s not C, G, C, F, G… everything is playing something different. If you took one of the elements out, it doesn’t work, you have to have all of those four elements; that was the genesis to where we are now. It’s like early DEVO where their sound sounds a lot bigger because all the elements fit together, once you take one of those elements out there’s something missing…
PASCALLE: There’s a gap.
IAN: Yes, from there, that was what started the spirit of collaboration. The Cassowary album had a few collaborative songs, from then on I wanted the band to be more collaborative. The last album, half the songs are written by the band and the other half by me. I think the best music is created when people work together and contribute different ideas, it’s not about one person, it’s about interaction. It makes for a more interesting dynamic.
I love working with other people, because often someone will have a totally different idea that you might not have ever thought of.
IAN: Yes. I think you tend to devalue your own stuff. Some of your own stuff might go, oh it’s like this, then someone else will go, “That’s great, we should do something with that.” You can come up with an accidental pop song or something accidental that you never would of thought because you had that collaborative model.
How important are lyrics to you? Often your songs seem really fun and humorous but when you look deeper there’s a lot more going on.
IAN: Getting back to the philosophy of lyrics, the intent behind it is the important thing I think. People enter music for a whole lot of reasons, whether they want to be famous, whether they want to make a lot of money, whether they want to have sex with a lot of people, or they just want to sound like their favourite band, there’s another element which comes into it which is a certain ideology, you have a certain ideology you’re pushing… I think that’s where I think I’m focused with a lyric. I have a little bit of history in that my first degree was in Marketing, I’m fascinated by advertising. My fascination is that I see it as a monster, I see it as what’s behind the whole ills of our society at the moment. You see this constant sort of hyper-consumerist cycle which we’re all part of and enjoy to a certain extent. I think that’s the kind of conflict that I find in the world, being made to feel that we’re not quite enough. That’s what advertising does—you could be a whole lot better than you are. That’s the driving ideology of our music and a lot of what capitalist society is pushing. The whole album Achievement was so tongue-in-cheek about that. Aim high, get high. No Idea is the new idea. “Girl On A Lilo” is an acronym for GOAL [laughs].
PASCALLE: The reason I was very happy to be a part of the band was the lyrics, I think they’re fantastic. One of the things I appreciate about Ian is that he will get all those ideologies but put them in a certain kind of a snapshot of a narrative, he’s a storyteller. He doesn’t just spell it out for people, we have to get the ideologies from the story. I think it’s always fun.
IAN: Yeah, it’s not straight forward it’s metaphoric. A whole lot of stuff is going on. That’s why I got away from that stuff of me on guitar, me, me, me, I, I, I! A little bit of earnest and feelings and stuff. No more feelings in terms of me, it’s feelings about the community. There’s a little bit of me but it’s going more towards an ideological approach, we’re writing from the perspective that we’re told we’re not good enough. That’s’ where “the stress of leisure” is! [laughs].
PASCALLE: When we rehearse – there’s not too many people that can probably improvise over music but Ian does – he generates words easily off the top of his head. A lot of times we’ll be working on a song, and I’m glad we record a lot of the rehearsals because there will be a line that comes out that will be really good.
IAN: Some lyrics are easy but a lot are hard. I put them off for a long time and just revel in the thought of what it is. I’ll be like, ‘This is a great song but it doesn’t have any words yet’ [laughs], one day it will have words. That’ll be the boring part because I’ll have to sit down and really work at it. I really love the thought of the song before it gets to the lyrics, the lyrics are usually the last part of the song. A lot of the time we have unfinished songs, often they won’t be finished and we’ll play them live and I’ll just be improvising words. I’m just saying stuff but not saying anything. I’m just finishing off words. You think I’m saying a sentence but I’m not. [Laughs].
PASCALLE: There was one song that we were playing on the Regurgitator tour that was unwritten at that point and Greg Jard who does the sound – he was really great in giving us life experience of being on the road – in a soundcheck we decided we wanted to do this unwritten song and Ian who going “blah, blah blah” whatever over the music and Greg was like, “I can’t hear what you’re saying, you’ve gotta pronounce your words.” Ian was like, “It hasn’t been written yet!” [laughs].
You mentioned before that you studied marketing, I know at the start of The Stress Of Leisure you didn’t do much promotion; was that intentional?
IAN: It was just confidence really, and not having a band and not being confident, as a solo thing it didn’t really fit. I had friends that helped me out, who were really great in encouraging me but it wasn’t an easy fit because they didn’t live close to me. I didn’t have any idea of how it would happen until I started getting gigs.
PASCALLE: I sometimes say to Ian, you have a Marketing degree surely you would know what would make us better known!
IAN: When it comes to the business side of things…
PASCALLE: He hates it!
IAN: Yeah, I really hate it but it’s so important as an independent musician that you have to be across it. I find that when I’m working with other people and helping them…
PASCALLE: He’s a champion!
IAN: I know what to do and can hook them up with the right people; the networking brain comes on. Whereas the networking brain for myself is, ‘we’re just chumps don’t worry about us!’ I’d probably talk us down or not even talk about us. I’m just happy to meet people on whatever terms that may be.
PASCALLE: I think Ian has an idea that he would like everything to happen organically. This has happened. Our experience so far has been organic. You meet people, like we met Ben Ely (Regurgitator) and you just become friends with each other. It’s a nice feeling because it feels authentic. Whereas the rest of the machine of promotion doesn’t seem like it’s authentic, you have to work it and schmooze and all of that. I don’t think anyone in our band wants to do that! [laughs].
IAN: When people start talking industry stuff with us… when people suggest, “oh, you should tour with that band” and we’re like, we don’t have anything in common with that band, that would be horrible! We’ve only toured with bands we like, Custard, Regurgitator, Dave Graney and we’ve played with The Gin Club. That keeps it positive! It’s kept it on a level. If you start getting into the industry side of things… there’s always been a mercenary aspect to it, but when it becomes too focused on what someone in the industry thinks, it’s horrible—nobody really knows! [Laughs].
PASCALLE: It’s a challenge because there’s that part of putting yourself forward and saying we have a good band and want to play… and if we don’t, it’s almost apologising for what we do—I don’t like that either. I like the idea of standing by what we do. There’s a fine line of selling out and kissing arse…
IAN: The facts are you have to sell what you do, there’s no way around it. You have to get out there, say you’re great and that you can play.
I was really stoked for you guys when you got to play with Kid Congo!
PASCALLE: Oh my god! That was the best! It was so fun!
IAN: That was a nice feeling because they had been told about us. Before we played with them in Brisbane they told us that they were told to check us out! That was the best thrill. Meeting Kid was amazing! He told us that someone in the band, The Scientists, told him to check us out. I was like, really?! Dave Graney and Clare Moore are big supporters of us too, I’m sure they probably mention us too. They played with the Pink Tiles girls, we know them too… there’s always lovely connections. In the real world you have people talking about you, that’s what good managers do, they set it up for the band to succeed; we don’t have anybody like that though. We don’t have the hype machine.
PASCALLE: It was such an amazing show! They were such lovely people, great people. I love that when it comes along, that people you admire are also really nice.
I know that feeling, Kid was really lovely to me too. We met him after his show and he remembered the interview he did with me. People do a lot of interviews so the fact that he remembered it was nice. That was such a heavy week, my father passed away, seeing Kid Congo play on the beach in my town really helped. I guess rock n roll really does have power.
It was a really special show for me, it reminded me that there still are good things in the world. At the time I was really struggling, but seeing Kid up there in his sequinned cape play music really helped and brought me back to life.
IAN: That’s one of the great things about playing in bands, you get to meet other people and you get to see their world. You can touch it, it’s as easy as that. People have worked hard to get where they are.
I love such a variety of music. I love moving between the different worlds and maybe seeing something I love in one world and taking it to a new world and giving it a new interpretation and life.
PASCALLE: With my keyboard lines, not that you would say they sound like it, but I will see a band and go, I love what they did with that sound and I’ll see what would happen if I brought it to a synthesizer. We have a new song called “Beat The Tension” it doesn’t sound like it but it’s completely inspired by Xylouris White, Jim White and George Xylouris new band. We saw them play Woodford [Folk Festival] and they were just so inspirational. There was a song they were playing and I remember thinking that I really want to bring that into the synthesizer. I often do that, the last line I came up with that Ian liked was…
IAN: Was that from a Crete Lute? [laughs].
PASCALLE: “Beat The Tension” was basically something that George was playing.
IAN: I’ll have to listen to that line again and think of Crete [laughs]. This is what’s good about collaboration.
PASCALLE: Jane Elliot is a classically trained musician. I often play really discordant lines and you just see her face go, argh, do you have too? [laughs]. She’ll come around to it eventually. She’s like, “You can’t play a B flat with that!”
I love when people make things that sound different and that breaks rules. I find often people are like, I love this band and I love this other band because they sound just like the other band I like; people are often limited in the things they like.
IAN: It’s like the sound de jour is everywhere and you want to escape the sound de jour ‘cause you now things are already turning.
Things always work in cycles and often if something’s been popular for a while, the next thing that’s popular is the opposite. How do you guys inspire each other?
IAN: I’m restless creativity, so scientifically I tell everyone we’re coming up with new songs, bring ideas. Once you get everyone together you can try your idea and your idea together and see if they work, or go with one idea. The first couple of ideas we come up with after having a bit of a break, are really electric! There’s something about it, they really work. There’s a science. Everyone gets energized by it, that’s what keeps us bubbling along. If you’re playing the same set all the time it can get a little tough. Coming up with new stuff is important, it’s like regrowth.
PASCALLE: There was a time when you’d make mixtapes for us. You’d be like, “I think the album is going to take these kinds of sounds in.” We’d listen to that and come up with ideas. That was really good.
IAN: We’ve all got different ideas. We work with titles. “Achievement” was the overall title and we worked towards that. If I can just coast on the top of all the other ideas [laughs] that’s a perfect scenario, I can come in and my guitar can just fit amongst everything that’s already laid out.
PASCALLE: That’s what I’m thinking too! [laughs]. I’m just like, ‘You just all do your thing, I’ll work myself into the space’. We’re all probably thinking the same thing! We live together, Ian is always playing constantly, he has guitars in several rooms. He’ll just pick one up and start riffing on something.
IAN: I’m mainly just playing scales and stuff
PASCALLE: That’s not true [laughs]. You play all the time and I find that inspiring. I think, ‘wow! He’s so dedicated’ [laughs].
IAN: I like to work out corny songs like “Under The Bridge” (Red Hot Chilli Peppers) or “Money For Nothing” (Dire Straits) [laughs]. I look up guitar tablature online. You get ideas form everywhere. You go into somebody’s song book and you cop a few of their moves and you see if some of those moves work in another context. It’s important to keep ideas coming, that’s what gives the band sense of purpose. That’s what can be troublesome for some people in the industry, they get in this cycle of, they’ve got this album and they’re still on the same album… you need the regrowth, you need to burn that and grow something new! You might get a lot of satisfaction out of the live moment, but you keep needing to move forward creatively. We’re in a position where we can, and we do.
I know that TSOL is working on new stuff; how far are you into that?
IAN: We’ve tried four songs out live, we’re happy with how they worked and how they felt. We’re kind of road testing things a bit more than we have. We’ve probably got another four on top of that…
PASCALLE: That made the cut, we have more songs on top of that.
IAN: We’re pretty harsh judges…
PASCALLE: He’s the harshest! [laughs].
IAN: Out of twenty ideas, maybe six work. If you’re going to be playing them a lot you want to make sure they tick all the boxes going forward. Will they fit the album? How fun will they be to play? If you play it live and someone goes, “I really like that new song of yours,” you remember that and go tick.
TSOL used to wear matching outfits but you’ve moved away from that and want no rules; what was the thought behind wearing matching outfits? Is it ‘case you’re a gang?
IAN: Yeah! [laughs].
PASCALLE: I think when we didn’t have a unified uniform our clothes were really shooting off in different tangents, we wanted to be a gang. We had a winter and an autumn palette. We played at Girls Rock Camp and we were wearing our autumn look and after our set they threw it to the audience to ask questions… one of the questions was; would you ever think of wearing a uniform?
IAN: This ten-year-old girl smashed us [laughs]. It takes a 10-year-old girl to go, “Hang on, your idea is not defined enough” [laughs]. That’s the focus group we needed to have.
PASCALLE: Jane actually answered the question and said, “We’re actually wearing it right now.” Then from that point we thought, if we really want to get across the message that we’re a gang we probably have to start wearing the exact same thing, so that’s where that came from.
IAN: A lot of bands that stick in your psyche have a look. We choose a very simple look.
You guys had the shirt that said “Product”.
PASCALLE: We liked the idea of that one, we just used t-shirt transfers. We also wore shirts from Seth Bogart’s label Wacky Wacko.
PASCALLE: Yeah. We also wore a condom shirt, it’s just a shirt that has a whole heap of condoms on it. A lot of people didn’t realise they were condoms, they’d come up to us and go, “Oh, you look so great!” [laughs].
IAN: We played with Regurgitator throughout August last year and that gave us time to reflect…
PASCALLE: Are we ready to go beyond that uniform?
IAN: Yes. We’d been doing this for a while. Pascalle and I were having a chat whether we liked the uniforms or not and what the idea might be going forward. I don’t know where the tipping point was. We just wear what we want just as long as we’ve got a style that meshes.
PASCALLE: The point of agreement was, the idea of wearing lots of clashing patterns instead of block colours; it sets up a challenge for everyone to find something that’s bold.
IAN: We just didn’t want to be, wear whatever you want… come out in a Freddo t-shirt…
PASCALLE: And jeans…
IAN: Yeah, black jeans or something.
PASCALLE: We want to elevate it a little bit. Not too comfortable.
IAN: The band uniform was to distinguish us in the crowd. I’m noticing a lot more bands, a lot more younger bands, doing the uniform. I like it. Now we’re moving beyond though.
Do you have any themesyou’ve been writing to for the new material you’re working on?
IAN: We had a title, but I can’t really giving it out and jinx us. There’s no overriding theme other than we’re continuing on from Eruption Bounce. Eruption Bounce was the first album where we were all together, recorded, toured it, I want the same thing to happen with this one. It’s like Part two of this line-up. This album and the last should sit beside each other as companion pieces. The songs are different obviously, the song structures with the last album were kind of tight whereas this one is a bit more elastic. The influences are a little bit more, Eruption Bounce was more American post-punk, this new one is a bit more English post-punk.
PASCALLE: A little more like The Fall.
IAN: Yeah, there’s more ranting in there. It’s more collaborative than ever, so it’s probably going a lot more weirder and some of it’s going more poppy.
PASCALLE: It’s fun, I like what we’re doing. Now is a really fun time in the making of it.
IAN: We sit down to write songs together…
PASCALLE: Then there’s fighting [laughs]…
IAN: Couples must fight, that’s how it works [laughs]. When I write with Pascalle it usually hardens my reserve as to where the song will go, it’s very helpful, even though it must be very frustrating for Pascalle a times.
PASCALLE: Again, it’s another way to work out of you knowing the songs more, what works, what’s easier.
IAN: Yes, Pascalle is a springboard into being productive, essentially. There won’t be anything out this year  but hopefully next year.
PASCALLE: We have some unreleased songs we might put out in the meantime.
IAN: There’s about seven songs we might do a digital release for. We have to get them mixed.
What are you both listening to at the moment? What’s exciting to you?
IAN: Because I do a radio show I’m always listening to stuff [Brighten The Corners on 4ZZZ FM]. I’m not talking whole bands or anything, I’m hearing ideas; I’ll be listening to bands and hearing ideas that I like. There’s a whole lot of stuff.
PASCALLE: We’ve been to a lot of the same gigs; Nun is amazing. We saw a band supporting Angel Olsen in Seattle called, Hand Habits, that were great. I’m stuck on that Destroyer album, Ken, it’s a beautiful album. There’s a few song that if I’m feeling down I’ll go to straight away like a Bonnie Prince Billy song.
IAN: I’m really impressed with Tropical Fuck Storm. It’s a great capture of their band’s name what they do. The lyrical depth and breadth of what Gareth Liddiard does is probably…. I have a different style but I can see a similarity with how he approaches… I’m not as dystopian as that. There’s a lot of inspiration in the way that he attacks it. Nun for the energy, Jenny [Branagan]’s performance, and just the clever way that music interacts. I’m always inspired by seeing older musicians play! Seeing someone like Neneh Cherry play, they don’t get worse, they get better! People that keep playing, I get inspired by that… they describe it as heritage acts…
IAN: Yeah, they call someone like Ed Kuepper a heritage act.
PASCALLE: That’s what Australia is like, it dismisses older acts.
IAN: I’m inspired by the facet of how people just stick with it, work with it and get better. You see Kim Salmon, Dave Graney and Ed Kuepper, any of the older artists…
PASCALLE: Even though they’re not that old, bands like Regurgitator and Custard, still producing really great music.
IAN: I think that’s the big thing that Australia misses, it’s so catered to the youth market, which fits in with that hyper-consumerist model, churn out the new act… but there’s really a depth to our scene. Because there’s not a big demographic of support, due to the bean counters, there’s that lost scene. That’s what I see as a big opportunity for Australia to embrace more of their older musicians rather than just the young ones, which is what a lot of industry effort goes into. I get inspired by longevity essentially, in whatever form. Bands that stick together and keep playing is inspiring.