Original photo by James Caswell. Handmade mixed-media collage by B.
Dynamic Meanjin/Brisbane based pop duo Doggie Heaven pull from well-worn paths of new wave and post-punk to create a freshness with their expressive and magnetic sound. There’s twinkling magic offset by emotional lyrics with bite on latest release double single Berghain / Haircut. We’re premiering song ‘Haircut’ today. Gimmie caught up with vocalist Isobel and multi-Instrumentalist, producer Kyle.
How did you both first meet?
KYLE: We met back in early 2020, at a call centre we both worked at. We were both stationed in different sections of the office, so we didn’t actually interact with one another properly until we bumped into one each other at rave one time.
Did you grow up in a creative family?
ISOBEL: Not particularly, although I definitely have a lot of music enthusiasts/snobs in my family. Growing up, my mum, uncle and I would have discos in my living room with blankets covering the windows listening to weird electronic music. Mum is mental for Bjork. My Granddad is super into his rock and jazz so I spent a lot of time listening to records with him from a young age. I was basically not allowed to listen to pop, which is ironic because I love cheesy pop music now.
K: No, not at all, although my grandad was a professional jazz musician. I think he even released a few albums, though, I’ve never been close with him/ had much to do with him.
Is Doggie Heaven the first band/musical project you’ve been a part of?
K: yeah pretty much, but I’ve been producing music alone for years without ever releasing it.
I: I was in a punk band a few years ago that never really amounted to anything unfortunately. I never imagined myself making music until that point because I was basically just a huge drama kid who loved to write and perform and didn’t (and still don’t) know how to play any instruments.
What made you want to make music with each other?
I: Kyle and I instantly bonded over our love of New Wave music from the 80s and I think we just balance each other out really well in terms of our creative approaches and skill sets. Kyle is incredibly good at all the things I have no idea how to do. Without him, I would probably just be doing terrible stand-up comedy or something.
K: Yeah, I think me and Izzy clicked pretty quickly over our shared taste in music. Even beyond the new wave and 80s stuff; we both listen too many styles and genres and are always sharing new discoveries with one another. Aside from that, after meeting Isobel I very quickly learned how fun and unique she was. I remember her telling me she could sing early on, but even before we’d ever sat down to jam or whatever I knew there was something special about her; and then yeah, shit just kinda worked/clicked immediately.
Doggie Heaven’s name is a Simpsons reference; do you have a favourite character or episode?
K: Yes it is, haha. I love the Simpsons so much. I was raised on that shit. Tough question, I couldn’t tell you what my favourite episode is, but my favourite character is Mr. Burns.
I: There are too many brilliant episodes… but I definitely always go back to the episode where they go to New York. Mr Burns is for sure the best character, but also Marge is so hot and I love her sexy voice.
We’re premiering song ‘Haircut’; what inspired it lyrically and musically?
I: ‘Haircut’ is the tortured tale of having a crush on someone when you have an anxious-preoccupied attachment style. You just want to feel butterflies and excitement, but it’s clouded by an overwhelming feeling of stress. Having said that, this is undoubtedly a bop that you can dance that pain away to.
K: I did the instrumental for haircut around this time last year. I wasn’t really sure what our sound was supposed to be yet, (and we’re still figuring that out!) But I remember I was defs inspired and listening to a lot of 80s pop and new wave tracks (which you will still find me doing regularly). Think Madonna, Tears For Fears and New Order etc.
‘Haircut’ along with song ‘Berghain’ is out as a double single 7” on Colossus Records; what can you tell us about the cover art image?
I: So that’s a photo of me when I was around 6 years old dressed as Cruella Deville from 101 Dalmations. We thought it was very fitting for our band name. Photo credit to my Grandma, Margaret.
You’re launching your release soon; how do you feel when performing? What was the best or worst show you’ve ever played and what made it so?
K: I used to be a little nervous at first, but now I really enjoy getting into it and try to put on a show. The way I write/record music is maybe a little less traditional than your typical band, I kinda just sit down and record every individual part, layering everything as I go. And there’s also no real limitations when you’re in a studio environment, I can sit down and just do a hundred takes on a part to get it right if I have to. So it can get kinda tricky when It comes time to translate it all to our live show, especially when the part I’ve written is outta my reach skill-wise. I think I learned pretty quickly that I’m not at all the musician I thought I was in terms of discipline after performing regularly. Huge wake-up call there.
Hard to pick a best or worst show; a bad show can be a fun show and a good show can be a stressful one. It’s what you make of it really, and I’m just happy to be here. I think they’re all great.
I: I’ve been performing basically my whole life so as cringe as this sounds, I think I feel a lot more comfortable on stage than I do off it. I would definitely agree with Kyle in that a bad show is kind of fun and hilarious. There has been a couple of times that we’ve played in front of like 5 people and we really just let loose and had a laugh. Obviously it’s just such a beautiful feeling to perform for a full house who are dancing and know some of the words though.
Photo: Jhonny Russell.
What excites you the most about music at the moment? What have you been listening to lately?
I: I’m loving discovering local music at the moment. There’s nothing like turning up to a show and not knowing what to expect then being blown away! Some local acts that I’m obsessed with would be Square, Scraps, Verity Whisper, Guppy and Naaki Soul.
K: I just loving writing new music. It’s so fun and fulfilling. It never gets old. I’ve been super into Show Me The Body’s new album, Alex G’s new one and also Dry Cleaning’s!
What’s your most precious possession?
K: I would say my cat but he isn’t exactly classed as a “possession” lol. Probably my bed or something. Idk. I really love sleeping. I would sleep more if I could.
I: I have this Teletubby toy that is the most munted thing you’ve ever seen in your life. She’s been mauled by a dog and out clubbing to the valley a few times but still going strong.
What’re you looking forward to and what’s in the works for Doggie Heaven in 2023?
I: Super keen to get an EP out soon. Our sound is already developing a lot and we can’t wait to show you how much it’s grown!
K: Looking forward to taking our live show interstate and maybe overseas. The Doggie Heaven EP is half done, aiming for a late summer – early autumn release!
Meanjin band Terra Pines are dropping one of the albums of the year and we’re premiering it! Dynamic arrangements, elastic overdrive, atmospheric production, sugary harmonies, melodies washing over you in pulsating waves, glorious crescendos—this is the stuff that dreams are made of. Gimmie caught up with Terra Pines to get insight into making album Downbeats.
What’s life been like lately?
KELLY (guitar/vocals): Life has been pretty interesting adapting to this post-plague world. We are about to go on tour again and I’m definitely feeling the “Will everything be cancelled” anxieties.
CAM (drums/vocals): It’s kind of a weird time to be in a band. Getting some momentum into being active again has a been a bit of a challenge.
OWEN (guitar/vocals: I’m really excited that we’re finally getting to put these songs out. It’s been a long couple of years.
Is there anything that’s been engaging you lately that you’ve been watching, listening to, or reading lately?
KELLY:I’m going through a phase of listening to a lot of music at the moment. Enjoying the new Sasumi record Squeeze. Also really excited for the new Gilla Band record- the two singles ‘Eight Fivers’ and ‘Backwash’ have been superb.
CAM: Count me as another who is very excited about new Gilla Band. Also listening to the relatively recent Springtime and Infinity Broke records a lot. Low’s ‘Hey What’ is still getting a lot of play for me, too – such amazing production combined with Low’s usual quality songwriting. There’s been lots of really good local stuff, too, like the A Country Practice album from last year and the upcoming Renovators Delight album.
OWEN: Both Cam and Kelly’s other bands (Spirit Bunny and Ancient Channels) put out records semi-recently that I really enjoyed, and still listen to. The new Infinity Broke, Tropical Fuck Storm and Springtime records are all favourites of mine.
New album Downbeats is your second LP. You were putting finishing touches on it in January 2021; when did you start writing for it? How did you get into writing for this record?
KELLY: I’m always writing so I’m not sure if there was a point that kicked it all off. There are some songs on Downbeats that predate a lot of the songs off our first record. Songs like Sun Spells for instance (the album opener). It didn’t fit the first record and we weren’t sure what we wanted to do with it or even if we would do anything with it for a while.
CAM: There was probably a little break after the first album before we started working on things as a band. There’s usually a pretty big backlog of unused demos and song ideas that we can work on, so it’s great to be able to cherry pick the best ideas that get us all excited. From memory we had the vast majority of the album pretty well planned out before we started recording, maybe there might have been a song or two that was added in late in the piece (and perhaps knocked some other songs off the record, I think we’ve got another three or four somewhat completed songs that didn’t quite make the cut).
OWEN:I think we started with 16 rough ideas, 13 of which were recorded. And as Kelly suggested, sometimes they don’t fit the general direction of the record. Hopefully they’ll get used later on. There’s still good songs predating the first record that haven’t fit either album.
How did the writing evolve as you went along?
KELLY: We basically wanted to pick up where we left off at the end of the first record. The final songs on that record had a lot more layers and textures and were a bit more stylised. We wanted to explore that a bit more, I like to think about ‘Downbeats’ as more of a studio record.
CAM: We just wanted to push ourselves a bit more, try a few new things and experiment a bit more with song structures. A lot of the first album was us figuring out what we were as a band, so with this one we had that base already established so we could play around with things a lot more right from the get-go.
OWEN: There’s way more lead and less walls of guitar on this one, which left a lot more space for vocals and other things to come through.
Did Covid or the pandemic impact Downbeats?
KELLY: Definitely, we had mostly finished recording a few weeks before covid hit Australia. That absolutely messed with our momentum for a while with the stop/starting of the economy.
CAM: Yeah, things came to a screeching halt in 2020. We were almost finished with all of the tracking for the album, but weren’t quite far enough along to really get stuck into mixing etc. It took a long time for us to regroup and get things finished. Luckily once we restarted our enthusiasm for the songs was rekindled.
Did you have any ideas of what you did or didn’t want to do on your sophomore album?
KELLY: We didn’t want to make the same record again and we wanted to incorporate different sounds, ideas and atmosphere. Speaking for myself, I wanted to really cut the fat and have a really sharp record, all killer no filler etc. In order to do that we had to cut a few songs but I’m glad we did that.
CAM: Refinement and progression from the first record, really, with a few new twists thrown in. We wanted to try to add a bit more non-guitar instrumentation, which is something we started playing around with towards the end of making the first album. And as Kelly said, just making sure that songs didn’t meander or outstay their welcome, that they were always moving towards something.
Where does your love of melody come from?
KELLY: I’m a slave to melody so if there isn’t a nice hook I’m gone, bye! I’d say most of that comes from the music I’ve consumed throughout my life. Hooks are what resonates with me among other things.
CAM: As much as we’re a noisy, shoegaze-punk kind of band, we’re also a pop band. We want to add as much beauty and catchiness as we can to the feedback and fuzz. That tension between the extremes is a major part of what makes the best Terra Pines music.
What kinds of stories are you telling listeners with your lyrics in this collection of songs?
KELLY: A lot of these songs were written in 2019 so most of the lyrics are in response to what was going on around then. Some songs are inspired by the bushfires (‘Pinos Altos’ and ‘Indoor Kid’). Some are about love, burnout, escapism etc… I like to keep things a bit vague, lots of imagery and metaphor. I don’t like to be explicit in what I’m talking about. Classic Pisces.
Why did you choose Downbeats as the album title?
KELLY: The title worked on a few fronts for us, the gloomy nature of the record but also as a musical reference. We thought it was cool.
CAM: We had the pseudo- title track ‘Downbeat’ for quite a long time, it was one of the first songs written for the record and I think the first one we started playing live regularly. We kind of liked it as an album title but thought it might be a bit much, perhaps a bit too blatant to call a moody rock record ‘Downbeat’. Making it Downbeats gave us the double meaning.
The record was self-recorded again by Cam at Incremental Records. Tell us about the process.
KELLY:It’s such a privilege to have the engineer as part of the band. To begin with we recorded live demos in the studio in order to get the structure of the songs solid. Structure was something we thought a lot about this time around. When we got around to recording the songs we took our time and played around with sounds.It was lots of fun.
CAM: It’s also just practical. It allows us time and it saves us money, plus we felt like we hadn’t really explored the limits of what we could do in that context with the first album. The first record was recorded almost all live, at least in terms of the drums and guitars. There’s actually not a lot of overdubbing on that record other than the vocals, some keys and a smattering of extra guitars here and there. This record, while not necessarily being THAT much more layered than the debut, was recorded more piecemeal, building things up from the drums, guitars, vocals, etc. It was just a different way of working that allowed us a bit more time to focus on individual parts and sounds. We could take the time to vary the sonics a bit more.
How did you push the boundaries of creativity for yourself writing or recording Downbeats?
KELLY: I think we thought about the songs a lot more this time, the first record was all instinctual at least from a writing perspective. This time around a lot more thought went into structure and tone. I also spent a lot more time trying to workshop vocal melodies.
CAM: For me, I came into the first album very much as just being ‘the drummer’ – all of the songwriting was done by Kelly and Owen back then and I was just support for their ideas. I don’t think I was even going to be singing at first, that really only came about once we started playing some shows and we realised that it worked better if someone could harmonise with Kelly’s vocals. It wasn’t until towards the end of writing and recording that album that I started collaborating on songwriting. With this album there was a lot more workshopping the songs as a band, the songs were often coming in a little bit more skeletal than on the first one and there was a lot more room for adding new parts and really playing with structures and melodies. We were able to do some cool things like on the song ‘Pinos Altos’, where none of the choruses are played the same way twice. Just cool little unexpected changeups where previously we might have played things a lot straighter.
OWEN: There’s always things in the original demos that we’re trying to recapture, which presents its challenges, especially if the part is off the cuff, like most of the guitar solos tend to be.
What do you value about each other personally and creatively?
KELLY: I love the way Owen plays guitar, he doesn’t play like anyone I’ve ever heard. The way he accents notes and his playing style is so out there to me! As for Cam, I love his ideas around structure and his extensive knowledge of music in general. I’m glad we all get on personally because that would be very uncomfortable if we didn’t.
CAM: There are definitely some brutal truths uttered between us when writing and recording! We’re all working towards the same goal though, to make something which excites us. I think we’re one of those bands where we’re really a mix of each of our musical personalities, if you swapped any of us out it would be quite a different thing. I think showing your musical personality can sometimes be a challenge when you play a style that’s hidden behind so much fuzz and volume. Kelly and Owen have such unique ways of playing and writing, generally I’m just trying to slot myself in amongst them in a way that holds it all together – in all of my other drumming projects I don’t really play drums the way I have to in Terra Pines, I’m usually a lot looser.
OWEN: They’reboth great singers, and I like that this record has allowed that to shine through.
‘Downbeat’ was the first single released from the album back in October of last year; why did you choose this track to kick off sharing this album to the world?
CAM: It just seemed like a good indication of the record, and it has a good chorus and a cool momentum throughout. We’d been playing it live for a while and it had been getting a good reaction so we just went for it.
What influenced the album track sequencing?
KELLY: I think the sequencing selection happened organically, we all arrived at more or less the same conclusions based on flow. Certain songs just make sense as openers, closers and everything in between.
CAM: When we were listening to the demos we had a playlist order that over time became the album tracklisting. Along the way we added a few newer songs which meant that some others got bumped off, but for the most part that demo playlist stayed relatively consistent. I think for the most part there was mostly a consensus between us, and there were some songs that just seemed obvious, eg: starting the record with ‘Sun Spells’ and also starting side B with ‘Pinos Altos’. A couple of songs were maybe a little contentious in terms of their placement on the album, I think there was maybe a little bit of debate about closing the record with ‘Nightshade’?
OWEN: I’m pleading the fifth on this one hahaha
How does the album make you feel?
CAM: Really proud. I think it’s a cool record, I still listen to it occasionally from front to back for my own enjoyment, even after spending hours and hours recording and mixing it. I think it sets up a real mood while still going to lots of different places, which can be a challenge with the style of music that we play.
OWEN: I’m super proud of it. It improves upon all the elements of the first one, and that’s all you can ask for really.
What’s one of your personal favourite moments on the album? What do you appreciate most about it?
KELLY: My favourite moment on the record is Wiseacre. It nearly didn’t happen because I didn’t want to go there. It was an old demo we had lying around in the dark recesses of our google drive. The original demo was faster and more post-punk in nature, Cam had the idea of slowing it down and making it more doomy. I’m glad he convinced me because now it’s my favourite song on the record.
CAM: That’s happened twice now, I’m pretty sure Kelly’s favourite song on the first album had a similar story. I think my favourite moment is the changeup with the alternate chords in the final chorus of ‘Blood Moon’, I really like the way that it makes that song feel really epic. There are other cool moments though, like the outro of ‘Indoor Kid’, or the solo in ‘Downbeat’. ‘Wiseacre’ is indeed a favourite, we were trying to turn it into a bit of a slowcore song, like heavy Low or Codeine. It turned out really well, I think it’s my favourite song production-wise.
OWEN: ‘Nightshade’ is definitely a highlight for me. Kelly’s vocals set such a mood. I really like where ‘Wiseacre’ and ‘Green’ ended up as well. Both of those songs changed considerably in the recording process.
Album art and single art features buildings and architecture; what was the idea behind representing these songs with this imagery?
CAM: Kelly had been doing some collages, a lot of which combined superimposed images of architecture combined with these cosmic backgrounds. Owen and I both loved them, so we all went out one day and took a bunch of photos of some brutalist architecture around Brisbane and basically recreated the vibe of Kelly’s mockups but in a slightly higher quality. We just really loved that combination of the rough, monolithic feel of all of that concrete brutalism, juxtaposed against the inherent sense of craft and beauty. Taking that and combining it with the epic scale of the night sky seemed to work well as a representation of our music.
You’re heading out on the road for an Australian tour to support Downbeats; what’s the best and worst things about being out there?
CAM: The travel is sometimes the best thing and sometimes the worst thing. Seeing the beauty of the spaces in between the major cities is wonderful, but it can be gruelling, especially when combined with struggling through peak-hour traffic in unfamiliar cities. I’m not a fan of the lack of sleep that generally goes hand in hand with touring, I like my sleep. But on the flip-side you meet some really cool people, see some really cool bands, hopefully get some time to eat some good food (as opposed to roadside maccas). Probably the worst thing these days is being away from family, so if you’re going to go on tour you’d best make it worthwhile.
KELLY: The food is both the best and worst part of touring.
OWEN: Catching up with mates that we don’t get to see that often, and exploring different cities is always a lot of fun. Eating good food, not drinking too much and getting enough sleep is crucial. Roadside Maccas is acceptable if Lord of the Fries is shut.
Indie slacker rock three-piece Lackadaisies (whose members also play in Full Power Happy Hour, Blankettes, Married Man, No DOZ and Camping) released EP Payphone Text a week ago. The EP has the band sounding lucid and at their breeziest yet, and its casual hookiness is hard to resist. Gimmie asked guitarist-vocalist Nathan Kearney, bassist Grace Pashley and drummer Marnie Vaughn about Payphone Text, what makes them nervous, the most romantic thing they’ve done for someone and what other projects they’re each working on.
When you were starting our as a musician, was there anyone that you looked up to? What was it that you admired about them?
NATHAN KEARNEY: I spent all my pocket money on bargain-bin tapes as a kid and didn’t mind what I listened to. The first act I was really obsessed with, though, was Boys II Men. I thought they were cool as hell and I still do
MARNIE VAUGHN: Patience Hodgson from The Grates, I love her energy, she is so bold and fearless.
GRACE PASHLEY: I am a big Erica Dunn fan. Everything she does is excellent, such a humble shred lord. One day I hope to play guitar like that!!
As a musician is there anything that you ever get nervous about?
NK: I only have one guitar and it breaks down a bit. Sometimes in cool sounding ways. I worry it’ll cark it on stage on day, though.
MV: Mainly forgetting how to play the drums or the drum stool falling off the back of the stage but both of those things have happened to me and I think I’m ok about it.
GP: Yeah I get scared to sing sometimes! I’d never played bass before Lackadaisies so there were lots of pre-gig stress dreams about the bass neck morphing into a snake and biting my hand. But mostly I’m fine now!
You have a new album Payphone Text, which was recorded over three weekends in each of your respective homes. Why did you chose to record in several places? What were the pros and cons of making your album that way?
NK: We were gonna do it at Marnie’s brother’s house in Northern Rivers but COVID closed the borders. I woulda liked getting out of the city but the comforts of our own homes was the next best thing
MV: It was a logistical nightmare moving the set up between houses and having to trouble shoot new issues in each house. But the pros were grand, we got to play our own instrument in the place we felt the most comfortable and everyone got a turn at being a the host.
GP: Look if we had our time again… maybe we would only record in one place! But we couldn’t make that work, and it was fun to hang out in everyone’s houses eating pancakes and curry, lots of coffees.
The title track’s lyrics were inspired by Nathan’s ex-partner sending him a payphonetext once when they were away. It takes ages to type one of those on the phone dialpad. If you were sending a payphone text, who would you send it to and what do you think it would say?
NK: To Dad “In town. Can U pik me up” for nostalgia
MV: My best friend is a writer and would probably get the biggest kick out of it. I would say “DIS A PAYPHONE TXT B CUS I LUV U – MARN”
GP: I’d spam as many people as I could to say “Buy Lackadaisies tape now”
Also, going to the effort to payphone text someone a message is pretty romantic; what’s one of the most romantic things you’ve ever done for someone?
NK: I make things for people I love and people who know me best generally make things for me. I’m not that materialistic and mainly hold onto sentimental items. I’ve been writing songs for friends lately, which is a nice change from writing for/about romantic partners.
MV: I made my partner a scrap book photo album of all the memories since we met. It had a timeline at the front and everything. Also, when I was the front person in a punk band I wrote a love song for my puppy. It was really sweet.
GP: I’ve written so many love songs about my partner which I think is romantic but I think he might get embarrassed by it… hehe whatever sometimes you just gotta scream it from the rooftops etc.
Going into the writing for the album, did you have an idea of how you wanted it to sound? Or what you did or didn’t want to do?
NK: I’m most comfortable with 4 track recording and I thought the Lackadaisies record would suit that saturated sound. We drove everything so that it was peaking to get that natural crunch over everything. The last release we just threw whatever mic out and hoped for the best. This time it was more considered cos we had James helping. He’s really clever
MV: Not really, I remember hanging out with Nathan when he first moved back to Bris and talking about playing music together. I really like his previous bands and solo albums so I think I wanted to be apart of something like that but I probably didn’t communicate that very well.
GP: I was just keen to get our existing songs recorded, we weren’t too precious about it which is pretty standard for us! I think something we definitely didn’t want to do was….pay for it haha hence why we did it all ourselves! Well we did pay James a wee bit but god knows it wasn’t enough for the tribulations he dealt with.
How do Lackadaises songs often come together?
NK: Fuck around til it feels good. We’re not the type of band that talks about genres or tries to be one thing. Whatever a song sounds like is what we sound like is how I figure it
MV: For me… either Nathan and Grace will bring a song or the ideas for a song to jamming and it goes from there. I’m sure it’s a much more lengthy process for them.
GP: Nathan is really the genesis for our material. He’ll bring a melody or chord progression and maybe I’ll write some lyrics but more often than not he has a zillion fresh ideas that we try out til something sticks. Its really fun that way (because Nathan does all the work ; )))
Not all bands we speak with do demos. Are you a band that demos? Did the songs change much during the process to what appears on the album?
NK: Phone demoes to remember ideas but if we have a mic out then that seems like serious release territory haha.
MV: We released our first Demo. We were thinking of re-recording the songs for this but we were like nahhhhh.
GP: Haha yeah…again, the lackadaisical approach. I wonder if Nathan finds the recordings demo-ish, he has added a few different parts to some songs once we laid down our tracks and now those new bits are my fave parts of the songs. Like the organ part on Payphone Text, that didn’t exist before we recorded it.
Tell us the story of one of your favourite tracks on the album.
NK: ‘How’d You Get This Number?’ Is a nod to me and Marnie meeting playing in bands that did dumb little 30 second songs. The lyrics are about phone scammers who were calling with numbers that looked like mine. I imagined they were bizarro versions of myself trying to make contact, like in a sci-fi movie. It also has a Freaky Friday reference.
MV: ‘The Comeback’ or ‘Payphone Text’ because I get to do screaming and that is fun for me.
GP: Yeah I love ‘The Comeback’. It’s got a creepy carnival energy, like a house of horrors with the lights on. The story of ‘Your Face’ is about this time when I thought I saw an old flame in the crowd, but it wasn’t him. Just a doppelgänger. But then I got to thinking about how he kind of sucked!! And THEN I thought wow imagine if that was him that would have been awkward. I guess this all happened at the time we needed lyrics to this song.
J.E. Walker recorded the album; what was one of you the most memorable moments you shared with him during the recording process?
NK: My memory is shot in general but James is a gem. Always a pleasure.
MV: James was so encouraging, he thought everything was magic and it was so nice to be around that energy.
GP: What an angel. Carted all his gear to three different houses, was an absolute saint when it took me hours to nail the guitar part for Your Face. We were recording to tape so you had to get the whole song right in one go, which is really not a strength of mine. I probably would have gotten embarrassed and quit if anyone else had been recording us but James was so patient and lovely. 12/10 person, j’adore!!!
How did you feel when you listened back to the entire album for the first time after mixing and mastering? Where were you when you were listening to it?
NK: Lying on my couch and looking out the window. I have a cassette deck I bought with my old bandmate, Allie, to dub our old releases and I listened on there. It’s a fun, little album. That’s what we were aiming for so I’m happy. I collect cassettes by local acts too so it’s nice to add something of my own that was also pressed properly.
MV: We had a sneaky listen at Nathans house when the recording / mixing process was happening and that was super exciting for me.
GP: It was such a neat surprise hearing the album after Nathan had put some really great finishing touches on all the songs, like I said earlier there were a few new parts that he added that are the real heroes of the dish.
Can you hear any of your influences on any of the songs?
NK: The Breeders. I love them.
MV: My current influences are Party Dozen, Loose Fit and Petey. I think so.
GP: Maybe less the influences for me, but I can really hear all of us. The blood sweat and tears of DIY tape recording. I feel very proud of it!!
Besides Lackadaisies, what else is happening in your world? I know you have other bands or have other interesting projects on the go.
NK: Camping is my alt-country band with James Walker, Skye McNicol and a few other mates. We’re kicking around and gonna record an album soon.
MV: Yeah, new girl band in the works… Blankettes
GP: Yes me n Marnie started a new band called the Blankettes! With our friend Gemma (CNT EVN, Piss Shivers). I convinced my favourite punks to make a pop (ish) band hehe. And my other band Full Power Happy Hour has a tonne of stuff going on this year too!
What’s the rest of the year look like for both the band and you personally?
NK: Good shows coming up with the band. I don’t think they’re announced yet but we get to play with some sick bands and head interstate. Personally, I’m finishing a horticulture degree and making beats on my MPC otherwise.
MV: Band, I’m hoping to do some little tours with Lackadaisies, it’s been so long since I’ve been on tour and I love it. Personally, I have a toddler that my heart melts for and new job that I’m pretty into, so things are looking good. Thanks for asking.
GP: I think it’s gonna be busy!! Heaps of music stuff which is great. I am hoping to kick my terrible Tiktok addiction but I honestly don’t see that happening any time soon.
Meanjin/Brisbane band Guppy don’t sound like anyone else. It’s post-punk, it’s noise rock, it’s No Wave, it’s art-pop, it’s guitar-less, there’s wild saxophone, but saying all that only tells part of the story—it’s a dizzying array of cool. There’s an accidental alchemy formed from the simplicity and joy of friendship and explorational, experimental jams. After seeing Guppy live earlier this year, we loved them so much we interviewed them and put them on the cover of our print publication of Gimmie Issue 2. Those that have seen their hectic live show can attest to their magnetism. Guppy features members of some QLD’s most exciting bands of the last decade Clever, Cured Pink, Per Purpose, Psy Ants and Come Die In Queensland.
Today we’re premiering their DIY debut video and song ‘Lipshitz’ from their forthcoming highly anticipated first album, 777antasy . We spoke with Guppy’s vocalist, Pam, who represents a new kind of thrilling frontwoman.
We’re excited to be premiering Guppy’s debut clip for song ‘Lipshitz’ from your forthcoming debut album in the works; why did you choose this song for your first video?
PAM: We’d been tossing round ideas for clips we could put together ourselves and in the process of spitballing one night we decided to demo this lip-syncing idea, thinking we could use some green paint around my mouth and key it out and it would look a bit like that Mulligrubs show. Because this song’s full of attitude, it made sense to try it out with this track. We did a bunch of takes that progressively became more complicated, with little cameos from Jack [saxophone-vocals] and Callum [drums] interweaved between closeups of Mitch [bass-vocals] and I, but in the end, the best take was basically our first one. I guess the choice of song wasn’t so deliberate, it was just meant to be.
How did the song initially get started? What’s it about?
P: As usual, the music came first. It had a real tense, unnerving undercurrent that held lots of space to drag out the tension. Jack wanted to make a lovemaking song. When it came to writing the lyrics, I knew it wouldn’t start with a melody. The gups joked that I should approach it like a rap. So I did. I was thinking more about words with bite, phrasing, repetition. It was like a word collage, guided by this book I got from the lifeline superstore Thugs and the Women That Love Them by Wahida Clark. It’s titillating stuff. And subconsciously it was helping me express parts of myself that I usually keep to myself. She snake-charmed the rude outta me. It felt good. Next prac, it came out in a blaze and I thought it was done, but I think Mitch could see the potential of more narrative if he were to voice the male perspective. And it made it even better. He’s not afraid to be tacky but also vulnerable. I think we get a real kick out of both our characters.
What do you love most about it? We love the co-vocals and attitude in the delivery, along with the hectic energy sonically.
P: Yeah I think you’re onto it. For me it’s less about the story and more about how it feels to deliver it. I step into the part of myself that doesn’t give any fucks and it’s completely liberating in a sexual hyper-feminine way. That’s probably what I love about it most, that it’s so fun to play live. Everyone’s so animated. Like, Mitch chugs this heavy bassline along with Cal who’s holding it down, holding the tension, and then Jack comes in at the end of every line with some sass, punctuated by this squealing skronk. Everyone’s suddenly moving more as the song builds. Yeah it’s got good energy.
Can you tell us a bit about recording it? What do you remember from the session?
P: We recorded in this little studio tucked away in Stafford just across from the Stafford Tavern. The roof was covered in egg cartons and Callum was propped up on this platform with what felt like a huge drum kit covered with mics. The drums really filled the room. We were so close together but listening to each other through headphone sets. It didn’t take long for us to get the final take.
We recorded vocals on a different day. For most of the day I’d recorded vocals alone but for this song Mitch and I recorded together and I remember it felt like I was properly hearing his lyrics for the first time. It just poured out of him, enunciated in the way that only he can do. It was so natural to him. It was cool, I remember him coaching me through my parts trying to get the gold outta me.
What is the symbol that appears at the beginning of the clip?
P: Well we decided to call the record 777antasy, like ‘zan-ta-see’. We were humouring ourselves with shit like ‘we belong to the fantasy genre’, ‘with roots in karaoke’ and a ‘smack of funk’, etc etc. Anyway, it stuck. And Jack came to practice with this symbol she’d fashioned at work, cut out from lino. It was perfect. If you look closely in the circle it reads 777antasy without being too obvious. The sevens cut down the centre and into each other in this angular way. Then I extruded it and warped it in cool 3D world. We’ll be using the symbol in slightly different incarnations across other videos and the record.
You made the video yourselves. What went into the making of it?
P: Well I feel like we almost lucked out with getting a one-take-wonder that night we were mucking around. Jack just got on my phone and started filming, fixing weird things to our heads that she’d rummage out of her car, giving us directions. She’s super resourceful that Jack. A few beers later and it’s as if the video made itself. It felt like the hard part was done cause we had the raw footage but little did I know how painstaking the video editing process would be. Feels like new territory. Lots of fun but lots to learn. I edited the clip in After Effects and used Blender to animate the opening sequence. The pain was worth it though, that 3D opening puts a big fat smile on my face everytime.
What’s one of the biggest lessons you learnt making the clip?
P: Just cause you have a million effects doesn’t mean you’ve gotta use them all.
What’s happening next for Guppy?
P: We’re working on a band website and album art so we can launch it early next year with the help of Gimmie (THANK YOU!). Also working on ideas for more videos… We like the idea of producing them ourselves so that we can put our own stank on it. There’s something about the way we work together, jamming and editing ideas that feels magical and we want that to come through in our videos, everything that we do. Plus, we’re gonna have more downtime so we can work on new songs and prepare for the 777antasy launch. That should be a hoot. I want it to be over-the-top larger-than-life, an extravaganza! That’s if I had it my way.
This issue we bring you even more in-depth chats with creatives than ever before!
Bass boss, dog mom and Academy Award winner Kira Roessler shares her musical journey, chatting Black Flag, Dos, her new solo album, film work, and shares life lessons of love and loss.
We get a peek into minimal synth-punks Laughing Gear’s world yarning on their couch over a few beers.
Leon Stackpole, frontman of garage rockers Power Supply (featuring members of Drug Sweat, Voice Imitator, The Sailors and Eddy Current Suppression Ring), explores new record – In the Time of the Sabre-toothed Tiger.
screensaver’s Krystal Maynard tells us about growing up in the Perth punk scene, playing in a riot grrrl band, guitar inspiration Poison Ivy and the journey of the band’s synth-punk debut album Expressions Of Interest.
Blonde Revolver’s vocalist Zoe (also of Alien Nosejob & Body Maintenance) chats drumming, realities of working in the music industry, her bands and new music.
Self-expressionist Tim Kerr gives us an insight into his art book Self Taught and new musical project Up Around the Sun. We cover DIY, skateboarding, surfing, and songwriting – all things Kerr’s done since the 70s to this day. We also talk about the Big Boys documentary in the making.
Pipe-eye’s Cook Craig opens up about creativity and home life.
The Vovos tell us about their “punk bitch attitude”, origins at Girls Rock! Melbourne, creative struggles and motivations.
Synth-punk cowboy Cong Josie wins our heart as he bares his soul.
Time For Dreams’ Amanda Roff gets deep about music, creativity and stunning new record Life Of The Inhabitant.
Husband and wife duo Chimers (championed by Henry Rollins) chat community, mental health, balancing being a musician and parent, plus their debut album.
Punk duo Piss Shivers met at a Propagandhi show and features members of CNT EVN and Toy, don’t even have a release out but we love them after seeing them live. We nerd out about punk and their drummer singing with Jello Biafra moments before acquiring a black eye.
Chinese-Australian avant-garde composer Mindy Meng Wang explores breaking tradition, punk and collaboration with Brian Ritchie (Violent Femmes), Ma Haipaing and more.
Dougal Shaw breaks down Dr Sure’s Usual Practice’s new album Remember the Future? Vol 1 & 2.
Kate Binning of Bitumen drops in for a “DJ set”, sharing a playlist of songs she loves.
New playlist for October is up now for your listening pleasure! This months features songs from screensaver, Dr. Sure’s Unusual Practice, Laughing Gear, Hearts and Rockets, Ausecuma Beats, Power Supply, Bitumen, Alien Nosejob, Springtime, and more.
Meanjin/Brisbane indie-folk alt-country five-piece Full Power Happy Hour’s songs have beauty and depth. Their self-titled debut album is sublime. Gimmie interviewed guitarist-vocalist Alex Campbell.
Last time we spoke was almost ten years ago! You were doing punk/riot grrrl band Gunk, and Slubs zine. Your latest band Full Power Happy Hour’s alt-country/indie-folk is quite the departure from Gunk’s sound; can you tell us a little bit about your evolution as a musician and towards this different sound? I know that folk and country were your first musical loves when you were growing up.
ALEX CAMPBELL: So long ago! I suppose I ended up in a punk band then, really just because two of the coolest people, Canna and Laura asked me to be in a band and I probably would have said yes whatever genre it was. But it came at the right time, I was learning to be a feminist and was pretty angry at the world so punk/riot grrrl was a good vehicle for that.
When my sister bought me my first guitar when I was fourteen, I started off playing folk songs, they were the first songs I learned on guitar, and I was in various choirs as a youngster, we sung Jazz, folk and country. I have always loved a lot of different types of music, so I like writing in different genres. I’ve been wanting to start a folk band for years, and it’s finally happened yay! It’s nice playing gentle reflective music now.
60s folk songstresses like Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Peggy Seegar are inspirations; what is it that you appreciate about them?
AC: They are all great song-writers who often got overshadowed by dudes, same old story. I think also, it was because they wrote protest songs, I mean folk and punk have a lot in common in that way, I guess they were just sort of subtle about it sometimes, because maybe they had to be in order to get a platform in the first place in the 60’s as women. I suppose I was just really into their music at a formative time in my life and so they were big influences.
Full Power Happy Hour have recently put out a debut self-titled full-length, with the songs having been written around eight years ago, many first as poems and then played solo before you had the band together; how did it feel at first playing solo after being in Gunk?
AC: I used to busk at the markets on the weekends when I was teenager so I’d had some experience performing by myself, but then playing gigs solo as Alekka, it was always pretty scary, and it took me a long time to feel ok with being vulnerable and alone up on stage, singing about personal things… it’s much better having the rest of FPHH with me up there now!
What was it like making the transition back to a band and hearing your songs really fleshed out with FPHH?
AC: It was the best feeling. I’d been trying to get a band together to perform and record these songs for years, so it was kind of a relief. I’m bloody ecstatic that I’ve found a group of deadset legends who just got what I was going for, and are passionate about the music as much as me.
How do you go about capturing various moods and emotions in your songwriting?
AC: Hmm, I write the songs as poems usually, so lyrics first, and that comes about from like writing in a diary, getting my feelings out, and then I just play around on guitar and see what chords and melody I can put to the lyrics and it just goes from there…
Lyrically on the record, mental health is a theme that comes through; are these written from personal experience? Why do you think it’s important that we have conversations about mental health whether that’s in a song or via everyday conversation?
AC: I’ve only really just got to a point in my life where I’m ok with talking about my mental health with people other than my close friends and family. I used to just write cryptic lyrics about it haha, because like many artists I use songwriting as a coping strategy for making sense of feelings and experiences, dealing with trauma. Art has always been great for that, and that’s also why people consume art, because when you can relate to a song, it can make you feel better because the song seems to be about what you’re going through so then you don’t feel so alone. It’s essential that we have conversations about mental health for that reason, to make sure people know they aren’t alone in their struggle, and to get rid of the shame surrounding it.
As a teacher I see my job being a lot about making sure the kids I teach grow into compassionate critical thinkers that will always ask questions about society and the world in order to make it a better place. Learning about other people’s experiences helps people to see different perspectives and realities. I feel like we’d be a much more compassionate society if we all listened to each other a little bit better and understood a bit more about mental illness, and the societal and political issues surrounding it. So many people waste their lives, and struggle to have healthy relationships with themselves and other people, because they don’t know how or are too scared to take care of their mental health. We need to talk about it so we can grow as a society in a regenerative and restorative way. That’s my two cents.
The album was recorded over a few weekends with Nell Forster at The Moon Room in Meanjin/ Brisbane. I understand that she gave you a lot of coaching during that time; what’s some helpful things you learnt from her guidance?
AC: I suppose we learned a lot about the recording process from Nell, and just got some really good music writing advice. She just gave us guidance about how songs would sound better with or without certain vocal or instrumental parts, or like when we wanted to go for a certain sound or mood in a song, she had a pair of fresh ears to listen to our songs and give us suggestions, she was so generous with her advice and support.
Can you tell us about the day making the video for ‘Old Mind of Mine’? Where was it shot? What is your fondest memory?
AC: The clip was filmed on Turrbal, Jaggera, Jinibura and Kabi Kabi country mostly at Loop Growers and lake Samsonvale. Finn made some curried egg sangas, I made some fairy bread, we got dressed up and got to hang out in the countryside being silly. Marnie and Nathan were so patient with us, and did an amazing job capturing this wholesome feeling that we have as a band, because we are all just a bunch of good friends, and so the fact that it looks like a holiday home video of friends is super authentic because that’s what it was.
‘Old Mind Of Mine’ expresses the importance of getting away from the city and having nature in your life; have you always had a strong connection to nature? What’s your relationship to it? Did it grow even greater during lockdown?
AC: Being in natural spaces calms me down but I haven’t always felt this way. My Dad grew up in the bush so we were a very outdoorsy family and were going camping all the time but I had a bit of insect and snake phobia so was always kind of reluctant on these trips. But as an adult that’s really changed, and I’m lucky to live near an area of bushland with a creek that’s really well looked after by the community. Being near any body of water really just re-sets me, when it rains, the creek is majestic. I try to walk down there every day, and during the lockdown I definitely valued it even more.
What kinds of things are influencing the most recent songs you’ve been writing?
AC: On the next record, there’s a big theme of friendship and family, I think I’ve now written a song about every one of my friends (they don’t know which ones though!), but I have a few new songs dealing with past traumas and the relief of getting clarity and growing and making peace with all of that. There may also be a couple about climate justice and shitty politicians…
What’s something you’ve been interested in lately that’s had you really engaged that you’d like to share with us?
AC: I’ve been obsessed lately with Sydney band “Sunscreen”, The Weather Station’s latest album, Little Simz latest album, and Electric Fields has gotten me through my final prac at Uni. Also, two podcasts I’ve loved over the last few months are Oh My Dog, a locally made dog appreciation podcast, and a podcast called Nothing Much Happens, which has helped me improve my sleep so much this year.
Tangled Shoelaces were an alternative-pop band, formed in 1980 in Capalaba (a suburb 20-minutes from Brisbane City’s centre). The band centred around three siblings Stephen, Lucy and Martin Mackerras, with neighbour Leigh Nelson on drums; ranging in ages from 10 to 14. Their music captures the innocence and magic of youth while their experimentalism is testament of imagination and fearless self-expression. Before the age of 18, they recorded at the legendary studios of Sydney label M Squared, supported the Dead Kennedys and John Cooper Clarke. Recently, Chapter Music has released a collection of their recordings: Turn My Dial – The M Squared Recordings and more, 1981-84. To celebrate, Gimmie spoke with bassist Martin Mackerra.
I’m very excited to be speaking with you. We love Tangled Shoelaces. We collect a lot of zines and came across Bruce Milne’s cassette zine Fast Forward, there was a Tangled Shoelaces song on their that we absolutely love. That’s how we first heard your band.
MARTIN MACKERRA: That would have been the song ‘World’ on Fast Forward. Those cassettes are great. I remember them.
We’ve always wanted to find more of your songs, and now Chapter Music is releasing a TS album of collected works, Turn My Dial – The M Squared Recordings and more, 1981-84. The album comes out tomorrow (23 April); how do you feel about it?
MM: Oh, great! It’s that thing of, you never know what’s around the corner [laughs]. We were happy with what we did all those years ago, we were always proud of it, but never in our wildest dreams did we think someone would want to put it out and make a proper release of it. Especially, someone like Guy [Blackman], Chapter [Music] is such a renowned label. I’ve played with [Chapter artist] Laura Jean a few years ago. Being involved with the label is just amazing! I’d always admired Chapter, not just for all the local artists they put out, but also that they do release old recordings, especially things like Essendon Airport; they’ve always had that interesting aspect to the label. It’s exciting.
When Tangles Shoelaces started you were around ten-years-old; did you have any hesitation joining your older siblings in a band at such a young age?
MM: No, never. You don’t think about those things. You don’t ask questions; you just do it. It’s, this is the normal thing, you play music in a band. That’s the interesting thing about being young.
Did you find your peers, other kids your age, being supportive? Or did they not believe that someone their age could be in a band?
MM: It’s interesting we were talking about Capalaba school before, on the record there is a picture of us playing at Capalaba Primary. To be really honest with you, I don’t remember anyone saying anything, they just starred like, oh, you’re the weird guy that plays music. That was basically it, it was strange. But, when I went to Villanova [College] in Coorparoo (that’s where I started high school, catching the bus all the way there) and there were kids there that had heard about us and knew about us. We had an article about us in The Courier Mail [newspaper]. There was more interest, because there were kids there that were actually interested in music; that might be the age too though, we were twelve and thirteen. I remember having kids come up to me, who later became my friends, and they’d be like, “Oh, I read about you. You’re that guy in Tangled Shoelaces!” There were kids that listened to 4ZZZfm. So, there was a little bit more support then. We played a few things for school. It was something I didn’t talk about that much; it was another world that we kept to ourselves. I was always involved with music in school though.
What bands did you first find growing up that were your own bands you loved listening to?
MM: Oh god! There were so many. They weren’t necessarily like Tangled Shoelaces. I was just obsessed with music from a young age. I’d listen to early Split Enz, the B-52’s. We went and saw the B-52’s, a long time ago [laughs], I was in Grade 5. It was at Festival Hall. We were so blown away by that concert, we went crazy dancing! Our mum took us and a friend of our mum who was in her 60’s, she was a photographer and took photos of all the amazing people there, the punks with their coloured hair; all the people that went got so dressed up. It was around ’80-’81 just after ‘Rock Lobster’ came out. It completely blew me away! We also listened to 4ZZZfm. We were completely obsessed with music. Always listening.
Why has it always been such an important part of your life?
MM: There’s musical blood in the family. We have an uncle who was a conductor, my dad is obsessed with classical music; I went on to do classical music too. They say you don’t choose music; music chooses you. I’ve always had a life in music.
What inspired you to play bass?
MM: Purely, I did what Stephen asked me to [laughs]. He said, “Right, I’m the guitarist and you’re the bass player!” That was it. I was just a little brother that did what my big brother told me.
Where did the name Tangled Shoelaces come from?
MM: I really don’t know; it was probably Stephen who thought of it. It was almost like anything, it just happened naturally and you didn’t question it. It could have been Stephen just said, “The band is called Tangled Shoelaces” and we just went, “Ok, yep!” That’s it. It all just flowed.
It’s such a great name. It has a nice flow to it, sounds great and is really fun to say.
MM: Yeah, I agree. I’m very objective about all of this now though too, it’s almost 40 years later. It is a fun name. It’s one of those great names that tells you what the music is in away, it’s kids making music.
You’ve mentioned that 4ZZZfm was big for you; do you remember hearing your band on the radio?
MM: Yeah, yeah. They were supportive of us. There were a few DJs that really liked us that we sent tapes to and they played them. We put out an EP too, there’s a bit of an evolution of the band. There are photos of us at the Primary School, that’s very early stages, I was ten. At about thirteen, fourteen and fifteen we were still playing, by then we had put out an EP on vinyl, 4ZZZ were supportive of that. 4ZZZ has always been integral, they put on gigs and you’d hear all these different bands, they’d interview us. They’ve always been so supportive of bands and are a great network for Brisbane music. I listened to them constantly, I had a radio beside my bed—4ZZZ all of the time!
It was the same for me growing up. I was a teenager in the ‘90s and I’d have the radio beside my bed and listen to 4ZZZ, that’s how I found out about all the local bands and shows and that we had a scene and music community here. You start going to local shows and you realise there’s people just like you that have bands, then you really get excited.
MM: [Laughs] Exactly! Its’ true. You would have heard of XERO?
MM: John-e Willsteed, he went on to play with the Go-Betweens, he took us under his wing a little bit. Then there was Peter Pit [from The Pits]. We’d meet them, maybe through 4ZZZ, and they’d say, “Come play a gig!” It’s the connections that you make. Things are still the same today with community radio, down here there’s 3RRRfm.
4ZZZ had some really great people, there was a guy called Andy Neal, he told us, “This is great. This is wild. You kids, this is far out.” He told us to send it to M Squared. He said, “They’ll love it!” And, they did. They wrote back and told us to come and record. We’re very lucky.
I understand that when you were recording at M Squared Studios you would catch the bus down to Sydney on the weekends to record; what things stick out to you from that experience?
MM: It was just the normal, just what you do. It was like, ok, we’re going down to Sydney to record at M Squared, great, let’s book the tickets. Stephen organised it. We were lucky because we had relatives in Sydney who we could stay with. Being in Brisbane and having family in Sydney, it wasn’t that unusual to go to Sydney. Having grandparents in New South Wales and cousins living in Sydney, we’d go visit them. It was no big deal, Mum dropped us off and we just caught an overnight bus. By the time we were going to Sydney we were a little bit older, we were thirteen and sixteen (being younger than Stephen, I saw him as an adult).
So much cool stuff has come out on M Squared! Australian post-punk artists like Systematics, Scattered Order and Ya Ya Choral.
MM: Oh yes, I love M Squared.
You mentioned the local Brisbane band XERO; what other local bands were you into at the time?
MM: The Pits; Peter Pit. Pork, they’d put on gigs in halls in Coorparoo (Peter lived around there)… Wooloongabba and those inner city suburbs, there were lots of bands like, This Five Minutes.
I was just up in Brisbane and there’s this exhibition of all of these old music posters from all of these bands. Have you seen it?
Yes! The Cut Copy: Brisbane music posters 1977-87 exhibition. That’s at my work, I work at the State Library of Queensland.
MM: Great! Half of those bands on the posters, I saw so many recognisable names. There were so many bands I loved, but the ones that stand out is John-e Willsteed from XERO (who we played a lot of shows with) and Peter from the Pits; we ended up becoming good friends. He came down to Sydney with us and sings on the record.
Looking back at the record now, which are the most interesting songs for you?
MM: The very early ones. ‘I Need A Stamp’ is just a bizarre and amazing song, Stephen’s voice is really high. ‘Little Bear’ that’s Lucy singing on it, I love that one. And, ‘What Do You Want From Me Now?’ They’re the ones from the very beginnings of Tangled Shoelaces. I don’t know where they came from, they just happened. I love all of them though. As Stephen matured, he started to write some really, really great songs. ‘Just For You’ I always find that really touching. There’s some extra ones that aren’t on the vinyl, like ‘Beware Of Falling Objects’. It gets a bit experimental. I like ‘Bordumb’ because that’s my song, it’s a bit of a snapshot of being in Brisbane at the time and being ten-years-old. I’d be playing Space Invaders, riding my bike down to Capalaba Park shopping centre [laughs]. I love all the songs but I especially think ‘Little Bear’ and ‘I Need A Stamp’ are amazing because we are very young there. Stephen’s voice hadn’t even broken, he was around eleven or twelve and I was nine or ten.
‘Little Bear’ and ‘I Need A Stamp’ along with ‘What Do You Want From Me Now’ were all recorded at Capalaba Primary School, right?
MM: Yes. Huge thanks to our teacher Steve Colbourn. Guy wrote up a great thing about it all in the album’s liner notes. Steve was also a professional musician as well as our teacher, he played gigs and did lots of things. Without him we wouldn’t have made those recordings and without those recordings we wouldn’t have had something to send to M Squared. It was a 4-track, he set it up in the school library for the holidays. I’m incredibly grateful. He’s passed away now, sadly. He organised the show for us at Capalaba school too. He helped us do everything. We didn’t know how to plug in a microphone, we didn’t know what a P.A. was even [laughs].
You might not have known how to put it all together but you sure did know how to play!
MM: [Laughs] Yes! It’s not that hard to play a bass, for me I just picked it up, I never had a lesson. I did have clarinet lessons though. We practiced and worked at it though. Mr Colbourn showed us what foldback is and how to plug in a P.A.
It must have been such an exciting time for you!
MM: It was! People ask about my recollections and I don’t know how school fitted in! We had the weekends to work on music. I never took school too seriously; I was much more interested in music. I knew from an early age and through Tangled Shoelaces that I just wanted to do music. I played clarinet in the Queensland Youth Orchestra.
I was the same with school. My mum would drop me off at the front gate and I’d walk out the back gate, change my clothes, catch a bus to the city, find whatever bands were in town or local ones and hang around, eventually interviewing them for my fanzine.
MM: Fantastic! Isn’t that brilliant.
All these year’s later, I’m still making zines.
MM: It’s so great! It’s lucky if you can find what you want to do while you’re at school when you’re young. If you find what your passion is and what you love doing, you’re a lucky person.
Totally! I know that Tangled Shoelaces supported the Dead Kennedys when they came to Australia in the early ‘80s!
MM: Yes. We did some crazy things! That was a funny one because, somewhere in there is a joke, someone was thinking wouldn’t it be funny if we got Tangled Shoelaces to play with Dead Kennedys, let’s do it! We did it. It was scary, there were some pretty scary characters there—they didn’t like us. We were not a punk band [laughs]. We wanted to get out of there pretty quickly after we played, we thought we’d get picked on. It was a funny little episode.
We also supported John Cooper Clarke! It was one of the first ever gigs. People there loved us. You know how with popularity it comes and goes?
MM: That point seemed to be the time, at least for a few months, we were the flavour of the month. Whenever we played people would cheer, but then that dissipated and we got on with things. A big thing that happened, one gig, we were offered to support Public Image Ltd at Festival Hall. It would have been incredible. It was last minute, they rang us on the afternoon of the gig that as on a Friday night because someone pulled out, but our drummer had gone away and we couldn’t get in touch with him, long before mobile phones. To say I played at Festival Hall, that would have been amazing. We did do other stuff that was great.
Do you remember meeting Jello Biafra or John Cooper Clarke?
MM: No, none at all. I was aware of the Dead Kennedys but I wouldn’t have known who Jello Biafra was. Often support bands don’t meet the main act because they’re tucked away in their room or they’re not even there yet when the support act play. It’s a hazy memory.
Can you tell us the story behind the album cover image please?
MM: Yes. Being from Capalaba, you would know about Leslie Harrison Dam.
Yes! It’s supplies the water for the area.
MM: We lived there (my parents are still there), literally two minutes’ walk from the Leslie Harrison Dam. We weren’t supposed to, but we spent a lot of time there and went swimming there all of the time. We grew up there, it was our back yard, you can see it from our house. You can see the spillway, it’s all fenced off now but it wasn’t then, that was our playground. Stephen put it all together. He did photography at school and had a camera. It was all his ideas.
Is there something really important that you learnt from Stephen that has stuck with you all these years?
MM: Heaps of things! He was a mover and a shaker, so I’ve taken that on myself. You really have to make things happen. You have to do the work first; you have to write the songs and then people might cotton on to it. You have to practice. He was always very motivated, that taught me a lot. I’ve carried on with music.
Tangled Shoelaces went on to become Wondrous Fair?
MM: Yes, that’s right. I don’t know all of the details of why Tangled Shoelaces didn’t continue. When you’re kids, I guess it’s natural to move on. Leigh became a born-again Christian, he went on to play in Christian bands, he’s an excellent drummer. Lucy went to uni, she moved out, she had her own interests. We didn’t think, oh we have something interesting here, we should keep it going. You just went along with whatever. Oh, this girl Deborah [Cavallaro] wants to have a jam with us at her house, it was all fun and great, let’s form a band from this! [laughs]. You didn’t think about things, you just went along with things, what felt good. Wondrous Fair evolved from another friend of mine who did play in Tangled Shoelaces from maybe one rehearsal.
Stephen eventually went away because he was more into film. After he left school, he went down to Melbourne. He was very motivated, he wrote to [director] Paul Cox and said, “I’m really interested in film, can I just come and help on the set of your next film?” He got invited down to Melbourne and helped with Paul Cox.
MM: Stephen’s that kind of person. He’d just write to people and ring people and ask to help them.
You mentioned that you’re still making music now.
MM: Yeah, I am. I’m a composer and songwriter. I absolutely continue to make music.
Has there ever been a time in your life when you didn’t make music?
MM: No! I live and breath music. There would never ever be that. I hope that doesn’t sound arrogant.
No, not at all. I get it.
MM: It is my life. Music is the life force; it’s how I live. I teach music, that pays my bills but I always make music. After Tangled Shoelaces. it was Wondrous Fair. I moved to Melbourne and formed about three different bands. I have a band currently called Maya-dreamer & The Future Happiness Orchestra. They have not been popular; I haven’t had that sort of success but that’s not necessarily what I want in a way—I just want to make the music that I love. I’m working on a third album now. I compose avant-garde music, more obscure music. It’s weird, very experimental music [laughs]. (You can find it at martinmackerras.com). For me, it’s about the experience of making music, getting in a room with five other people and singing together. We have a lot of fun! Music is always there. I can’t live without it.
Meanjin/Brisbane trio Adele & The Chandeliers play jubilant pop with post-punk energy, full of charm, playfulness and sparkle. Before forming the group, vocalist-bassist Adele Pickvance was a member of The Go-Betweens plus solo work with Robert Forster & Grant McLennan, and did multiple albums with The Dave Graney Show. Gimmie interviewed Adele about moving to Brisbane from the UK as a teen, beginnings as a musician, a love of Pete Shelley, the band’s debut LP First Date and of what the future holds.
You first moved to Brisbane from Bury in Lancashire as a teenager; what were your first impressions of Brisbane? What was the music scene like? Was it an exciting time for you?
ADELE PICKVANCE: I was 15. The smells of Brisbane’s flora and the bugs and creatures… and the heat and humidity really threw me. There were a lot of changes to get used to. My school uniform for one… suddenly I could, and everyone else could, see my white hairy legs. They seemed to glow in the sunlight. My parents promised me a pony in our back garden so I could ride to school, but it ended up being a bicycle to ride to Sandgate High and that was bloody hard work as we lived at the top of a hill.
I think we all watched too much Skippy The Bush Kangaroo as prep for immigration.
In England, I was listening to music by Depeche Mode, Visage Fun Boy 3, etc and anything on Top Of The Pops and sometimes The Old Grey Whistle Test if I stayed up late enough. My world was BBC radio and TV. The only experience of Aussie music I had was Men At Work. At the time, I had heard of The Go Betweens, but I thought they were a punk band from Germany, not Australia, probably because they were spending a lot of time touring there.
When we landed in Brisbane, it was Radio 10 and commercial radio again. Cold Chisel, etc… I didn’t quite get it… so I was happy to continue to listen to my old mix cassette tapes.
I know that you come from a musical family, both your father and grandfather were musicians. Early on you played violin, who or what inspired you to switch to playing bass guitar?
AP: My dad used to play in the clubs in England as organist and generally with a 3-piece band. One morning I woke up and found a Vox bass guitar on my bed, he told me it fell off the back of a truck! Bass guitar has 4 strings, like the violin, but the other way round, so I jumped onto it quickly. When we arrived in Brisbane, I had left behind my violin teacher, the youth orchestra and my grandad, who I adored, as we would play violin duets together. There was no music at Sandgate High so the violin stayed in the case and my bass guitar became my instrument.
Can you please share with us an album that has had a really big impact on you? How did it effect you?
AP: At the time, I was soaking bass lines and had a nice set up in the Granny flat underneath the house in Brisbane with the record player and bass amp. Kissing To Be Clever by Culture Club hit me. At the time I didn’t understand my attraction to the album, I just loved it and learnt the bass parts. I’d come home from school, switch on the record player and turn on my amp and play along to it on repeat. Now on reflection, it was the gathering of different types of styles like soul, reggae, pop and calypso. Each song had the magical taste of Soho, London, which was something I was being drawn to. And of course, Boy George and his gender bending was appealing to me.
You’ve had long stints as a member of The Go-Betweens plus solo work with Robert Forster & Grant McLennan, and four albums with The Dave Graney Show; why was it finally time for you to do your own thing with your band Adele & The Chandeliers?
AP: I moved to Sydney in 2010, after playing with recording and touring Robert’s The Evangelist album, and made a record with Glenn Thompson called Carrington Street of which the two of us toured, and I suddenly then realised I wasn’t getting offered the gigs as a bass player that I used to get so frequently and easily. I moved back to Brisbane in 2017 and still the phone didn’t ring, and so thought if I wanted to continue making music and performing music, I would have to form my own band and do it myself.
How does it feel to be the person up the front singing the songs now? Is it ever scary for you? What feeling do you get from playing live?
AP: I might be in denial, but I still feel like I’m not the centre of attention. And there’s something about being a wee older and wiser. It’s never been scary… more exciting and a wee bit nervous which helps me play better. My bass guitar gives me superpowers too! It is a different headspace and I’ve had to come to terms with being the one who is responsible for the maintenance of the band/ keeping it going/ planning, etc… That’s all new to me. I love playing live, I’ve gigged since I was 17. My comfort zone is plugging the jack in to the bass, switching the amp on, testing the microphone and being on stage. It’s not the glory of being on stage, it’s the making of music that’s the thrill for me. I think the audience picks up on the energy and excitement.
One of the first things your band released was recorded during one of the group’s first ever sessions in the studio, the Buzzcocks’ song ‘Love You More’; has this song got a special significance to you? What do you appreciate about Pete Shelley’s songwriting?
AP: I was in a cover band when I was 21 called Torn Sweaters, three girls, guitar, bass and drums, and we did a version of that song. It’s a song that’s always stuck with me, it’s such a great song to play and you have to be a bit brave to sing it, you almost shout it out. When Pete Shelley had passed away, I did a really big deep dive back into Buzzcocks.
The Chandeliers’ original drummer, Ash Shanahan loved to play fast and I believe we ended up recording the song quicker than the Buzzcocks version, which I was shocked about… as that feels really quick.
The connection I have with Buzzcocks is of course Pete Shelley. I think of him as a queer guy in a 70’s/80’s DIY punk band singing love songs that aren’t about specific genders and I really like and admire that. I like to think my songs are similar… And of course, he’s from around Manchester.
At the end of last year Adele & The Chandeliers released your debut LP First Date; where did the album title come from?
AP: Our album name comes from a band discussion with Scott Mercer and Ash Shannahan when we first started. We felt like we were on a first date of sorts with all those similar questions of: do we want to hang out together? Do you want to commit to turning up to rehearsals? Do we have a connection? And of course, when considering touring: does anyone snore?
The album’s cover photo features your parents, Bill and Alma, at Manchester United Supporters Club, Deansgate, England 1965; was this their first date? Is this why you chose it as the cover image?
AP: The older I get the more I see the nostalgia and hip coolness caught in their black and white photos. They were bohemian types. The First Date cover photo was the first photo of them together. Dad had just finished his gig with his jazz band and mum brought her girlfriend with her as she knew she wanted to chat up the pianist as she had seen him and his band play before. I love this moment where everyone is having a good time sitting on the edge of the stage, you can see there’s a sparkle happening.
How did First Date get started? Tell us a little bit about writing the record. Were many of the songs in your notebooks for a while beforehand?
AP: Two of the songs are from an early solo EP recorded at home in Sydney called My White Rabbit. I released that around 2017. The other Chandeliers’ songs were formed from riffs or chords on the guitar that I record onto my phone, and I make sure I write in my notebook any line or idea I have…. then the two meet. I record roughly into my home studio then send off to the band for us to have a crack at the next rehearsal. We then record the songs at band rehearsal, then listen back and try again next week. When I write, I try to make the songs come quickly. II don’t like to spend a lot of time overworking the words and the music. I try to maintain the initial spontaneity and the guts and vibe of a song in the final result. There’s a chance to think about keyboards and extra guitar parts after the sessions in the studio, when we get the songs home.
How does a song most often come to you?
AP: I generally start with a predicament or a thought and I write notes in my book. I come up with catchy riffs and I play them on my bass and record into my phone and then try to get the two to meet. Generally, in my bedroom. That’s where the good songs come from.
There’s a universal theme of love that runs through each track on the LP; what inspired you to write about love in its many different forms?
AP: Writing about love isn’t intentional. I used to write a lot of miserable love songs with the acoustic guitar in my 20’s and 30’s. I wasn’t miserable, it’s just what I did. As I’ve aged, I’ve turned it around with the Chandeliers to be up and pop… bright, and I guess that’s where the Chandeliers come from – light and bright. Nothing miserable there, up and fun, but I’m still thinking about the curly things about love and the wayward adventures I get myself into. I like to play with it.
Cam Smith at Incremental Records record First Date; what was one of your favourite moments from recording?
AP: Cam creates a relaxed environment in his studio and nothing is too difficult, which encourages everyone. I like to work fast. My favourite moment was when we invited Karin Bäumler to sing her response to the song German On My Mind in her native tongue of Bavarian. Ive known Karin for many years, since 1995 and it was the first time we had sang together. We planted the microphone in the middle of the room so we could both sing into it, face to face. I had no idea what Karin was responding/saying… but it sounded great and we had a ball!
What’s next for you?
AP: I’m writing in my notebook, sitting on my bed, there’s new songs in the pipeline for Adele & The Chandeliers. We’ve been gigging a little, and we’re always looking for shows. We don’t mind if it’s in a back garden.
We’ve had a change of drummer. My brother Jonny Pickvance has joined us and he’s bringing a new energy to our songs. I feel like we’re going to make some great new work because of the familiarity Jonny and I have, even though we come from different styles of music… Scott, myself and Jonny all have a playful sense of humour. I have a feeling the next record will be even more playful, with a little more splash of old rock’n’roll.