Dr Sure’s Unusual Practice: “I’ve been anxious to show anyone, it felt a bit too real, a bit too personal”

Original photo by Jacob McCann / Handmade mixed media collage by B

Dr Sure’s Unusual Practice’s driving force, frontman – Dougal Shaw, has welcomingly leaned further into electronic elements gleaning krautrock, new wave and ambient music in the creation of new release Bubble

Exisiting in a solo/experimental space rather than the usual full-band and born of solitude over a two-week period, it’s Shaw’s most personal, vulnerable and full of quirk (textures and randomness abounds) collection of songs yet. They explore solitude, sorrow and the line between sanity and insanity, while coloured with the wry humour that has resonated and endeared Dr Sure’s to us over the years. 

Listeners of Bubble will get to understand how this period of upheaval in Shaw’s life has been one of great inward reflection and growth as an artist and human. Bubble is a rewarding listen.

What’s life been like lately for you, Dougs? What’s news in your world?

DOUGAL SHAW: I’m a dad! That’s the big seismic shift in my life. I’m really trying to prioritise being with this little human as much as possible. But yeah trying to keep everything rolling outside of that means not sleeping much and just having every spare moment filled up. My partner is a saint and together we can kinda keep it all rolling.

Dr Sure’s have a new release, a “mixtape” of sorts, that was recorded during a two-week period of solitude; what was happening in your life during these weeks to inspire you to focus on making something? What made you want to explore solitude via song?

DS: It was a kind of involuntary solitude haha. It was during the big lockdown in Naarm/Melbourne that went for like six months. My partner was up in QLD visiting family when it started and ended up staying there for about five months. I was backing her to stay up there, it was pretty rough down here, but also I was definitely going a bit loopy alone. I was fairly void of creative energy and then my shed/studio flooded and the carpet was getting mouldy so I decided to pull everything out, got some self levelling concrete and raised the floor so I could seal the walls. A shitty thing ended up giving me some purpose to get outta bed in the morning. Once I set it back up I spent two weeks straight in there, it’d never been so well organised. Everything was patched in and I’d kinda just go in and hit record and wander around the room playing different things and talking to myself. I made the Bubble songs and another album worth of krauty instrumental ambient things or ‘Frog Songs’ as I was calling them.

Bubble is the album’s title; where did it come from? A reference to song ‘Life in a Bubble’? Is this how life was feeling during the two weeks making this collection of songs?

DS: Yeah, they were calling it the ‘bubble’, you couldn’t go further than 2 kms from your home or talk to anyone not in your house. I was in the shedio round the clock, which felt like my own little bubble within the bubble, and the songs were going into a drive folder called ‘BUBBLE SONGS’. ‘Life In A Bubble’ was just instrumental for ages but I found a note/poem from the same day it was recorded, so I got the robot to recite it for me. It ends with the words ‘life in a bubble’ so I thought it was a nice intro to the project. Also, totally unrelated, when the bub was in Liv’s tummy we started calling it Bubble, cos it looked like a little Bubble on the ultrasound. When he was born we called him Bubble for the first three months before he got a name.

What’s the story behind track ‘All My Friends Are All My Friends’?

DS: It’s like a little bit of insanity in a song. It’s about little faces appearing on my limbs and having yarns with them. It says something about keeping it on the down low so I don’t have to put on 13 masks when I leave the house. Eventually the faces start showing up on mugs and other things. It’s essentially about wanting to introduce my partner to all these new friends of mine when she comes back home and navigating how to break the ice. A lot of these songs are addressed to Liv.

We really love the song ‘Low On Time’ – especially the lyrics: No light for you is no light for me / I think we’ve found the light; what’s it in reference to?

DS: Honestly, it feels like a fever dream when these were made, but I’m gonna do my best to speculate. It’s talking about the simple things that seem so much more desirable once they’re no longer accessible, like driving into the night with the one you love. It talks about the joy of seeing other people succeed and wanting the best for them, and wanting to share in that experience. I think maybe that realisation was ‘the light’ that I refer to. It’s kinda like the epiphany ‘HAPPINESS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED’, in that movie (I’m blanking on the name) where the guy treks to Alaska solo.

‘Outside Looking In’ is another fav; where did the imagery for these intriguing lines: A hostage inthe porridge / An avatar on a dodgem car / A donkey with a house key – come from?

DS: It’s not quite Alaska but seems I was trekking inward haha. A lot of the lyrics were coming from that train of consciousness type writing so it’s a reflection of where my head was at. I was running around this “shedio” and I guess like I was saying about the fever dream, it’s almost like I was outside of myself just watching it all unfold. I think it says, ‘Like a voyeur in the foyer of my mind’. Seems like I was tweaking out a bit. I was trying meditating and some other things to stave off the anxiety and existential rabbit holes my mind was trying to take me down. Just doing whatever I could to hold it together. The music video is a pretty solid visual representation of my headspace.

Was the song ‘Saturday Night’ literally made on a Saturday night? We’re curious, with the line: I just come here for the conversation – what conversation are you talking of?

DS: Yeah it was a Saturday night. Another weekend in the bubble. I just found some handycam footage on a hard drive a couple of days ago, it’s pretty funny, it seems I’d started setting up the camera and kind of chatting to it, documenting the creative process and whatnot. It was 10 or 11pm and I was like ‘it’s Saturday night, I’m back in the shedio solo, let’s party’. It goes for ages like I forgot it was recording and I’m just walking around playing different things and layering up this tune and humming to myself. I think the conversation I’m referring to is with the Juno, my synthesiser. I say something in the song about ‘mother of mars’, which is a reference to Juno in Roman mythology.

Music-wise how did ‘Ophelia’ come together?

DS: I reckon it’s written like the day after I made this Sleaford Mods ‘Jobseeker’ cover for a compilation my pal made on Critter Records. That’s an assumption, but the drum machine is pretty much the same beat. I reckon I walked in the next day and hit ‘start’ on the drum machine and just started layering up fresh sounds from there. Lyrically it’s another one for Liv and talking about how modern technology has failed us cos we can’t hold hands from 3000km’s away and how her internet in Central QLD was really shitty so our convos were always broken.

For us album closer ‘Ghostwriter’ is one of the most interesting on this release; what can you tell us about the ideas behind this track?

DS: So this is like the first and only time I’ve done this but it’s fully improvised. I did the synth, drum machine and vocals in one take and didn’t have anything written down or planned. It’s funny every time the drum machine adds an element I kinda stop playing synth cos I struggle to do both at a time. And I only do the synth lead when I stop singing. The words are ad lib. I guess it’s like the ghostwriter I’m singing about in the song is writing the song. The only overdub is piano which is also one take, as is. To be honest initially I was like oh that’s the rough idea, now I’ll record it properly, I think I tried twice on seperate occasions before realising it just is what it is.

Was there any happy accidents while recording that you actually kept on the release?

DS: Yeah I reckon most of it! I thought about going back and redoing some bits but in the end I think I just decided to keep it true to the time. It’s loose and raw and kind of written free from any idea of a release or a tour or any future to work towards, it was a time of all those things being stripped away and having to face reality and the present. I think that’s why I’ve been anxious to show anyone, it felt a bit too real, a bit too personal. In hindsight after sitting on it for long enough, and having enough distance from that time and that head space, I’m happy for it to exist as it is.

The photo on the cover of Bubble was taken by Jacob McCann; what do you remember most from the day shooting with him? And, what made you go with that image? How is it connected to these songs?

DS: It was at our first annual ODD BALL at Brunswick Ballroom last year. Jacob’s a great photographer, he’s not afraid to give direction and he always pulls something interesting out of his subjects. He spotted that random doorway to nowhere in the green room and got me up there. I just thought it was a striking image that fit with the bubble concept. I always liked cheesy solo album covers with a portrait on them, this is my cheesy solo album moment.

What’s something that you’ve been super into lately that you’d like to share with us?

DS: Mainly hugging my little guy, watching rubby the rubber tree, laying on the floor, learning to crawl. We listen to the Mug record most mornings, it’s his favourite, and mine. And then we listen to Mikey or Cluster & Eno or Gary Numan. We like to get up early and listen to records and let mum sleep in.

What does the rest of the year look like for you both professionally and personally?

DS: Hopefully lots of the aforementioned hugs. This Saturday we’ve got the big double launch with Kosmetika at Northcote Social Club, got Program and Adored on the bill. Last big home headline for the foreseeable but got some tours coming up. Doing a run up the East Coast with Bad//Dreems in June/July. Touring with my other band the Last Drinks, got a new album out this week as well which I’m super excited about. We’re working on new Docs stuff with the band at the moment, polishing a coupla albums worth of songs which I can’t wait to show ya. Some new stuff coming up on Marthouse. Massive thanks to you guys, Bianca & Jhonny, for the support over the years, appreciate you guys heaps and all your do for underground music here in Aus.

Dr Sure’s Unusual Practice’s Bubble out now digitally and on cassette via Marthouse Records HERE. For more info follow @drsuresunusualpractice and @marthouserecords.

Read previous Gimmie X Dr Sure’s chats: 

It’s important to have some kind of light at the end of the tunnel because a lot of what we see in the world today is pretty bleak

Being human is a lot to fucking handle

DR SURE’S UNUSUAL PRACTICE’s dougal shaw: “Being human is a lot to fucking handle”

Original Photo: Cielo Croci. Handmade mixed-media by B.

Dr Sure’s Unusual Practice are Gimmie favs (they were one of the first bands we chatted with when we started Gimmie). We’re thrilled to announce the new wave art-punks’ forthcoming full-length album Remember The Future?, which will be out on Marthouse and Erste Theke Tonträger, as well as premiering the entertaining video for song ‘Infinite Growth’. We love their blend of clever social commentary and politics with catchy well-written compositions and fun visuals. Gimmie spoke with guitarist-vocalist Dougal Shaw to find out more.

How have you been feeling? I know a lot has happened this past week in Naarm/so-called Melbourne with lockdowns still in place, protests and an earthquake!

DOUGAL SHAW: I’m actually surprisingly pretty good at the moment. The pendulum has swung back around to the positive end [laughs]. It’s been swinging back and forth pretty consistently. Today I’m feeling good. Yesterday I had one of those days where I was just, what’s the point? Why? [laughs]. Trying to find some motivation to keep pushing forward. In general, in the last month, I’ve been feeling pretty positive.

Good to hear. On the “why?” days like yesterday, do you just allow yourself that space and know that what you’re feeling will pass?

DS: Yeah. The last couple of years if it’s taught me anything, it’s taught me to listen to your body and mind if you’re having those down times. Maybe in the past I would have tried to push through those times and keep working on projects. I’ve realised now that, if I do try to work through those times it’s pretty shit work; you go back to it and it’s got this weight to it, you’re putting all this stuff onto it. I’ve learnt to give myself days off, which I’ve never really been good at giving myself days off—what’s the next project?

Same! Jhonny and I are like that too. This next print issue of Gimmie has taken longer to get together because we both deal with (as many people do) bouts of depression, anxiety, stress, heath problems and things of that nature. Even though it’s something you absolutely love doing and it’s fun, some days you still find it hard.

DS: Exactly. I feel like it can work both ways. In the past I have used my creative practice as a way of processing a lot of what’s going on in my world and the world around me. Potentially in those down times would be when I was more inclined to get in the studio and write music. Now maybe being removed from all of the good times, and being able to have that separation where you’re out in the world doing things and having a good time, obviously you’re not going to be doing creative things and writing in those moments, so when you have that quiet moment to yourself and you’re feeling introspective, those might be the times that I’ll go and create. Now being removed from the outside world and being stuck in my own little world, it’s made me a bit more conscious of those kinds of things. A bit more conscious of your emotional state and more intuitive when it comes to what I need for myself in each moment. Sometimes it will be that I’m not doing anything today, I’m just going for a really long walk and I’m going to try and clear these cobwebs out. The one positive, I guess, is that I have a lot more tools now to manage those things, in the past I may have found those bouts of anxiety and depression to be really overwhelming and not know how to deal with them; going out and partying used to mask those things. Without those vices to lean on, you’re faced with yourself and your like, ‘Fuck this is a lot!’ Being human is a lot to fucking handle [laughs].

Photo by Alivia Lester

There’s been a period where you haven’t been writing too many songs, especially not as many political songs, but writing more fun songs when you do write.

DS: Yeah. For a long time, I thought of my music as a vessel for change, to use my voice and privilege to start conversations. At the same time, I’ve always just written silly songs as well. I pretty much didn’t write anything for a year. I was working on other projects. I didn’t feel like I had anything to say.

I feel like you did say a lot before that, you had this run where you put out a lot, and everything was such a high quality.

DS: Thank you. Maybe that was part of it, feeling a bit empty. Being isolated from the community and from actually being able to engage with the world, I found it really hard to think about what I had to say, or I found what I had to say wasn’t worth documenting. Deciding to put this album out this year… it was floating around for a while, we finished it a couple of months ago and we didn’t feel like there was any rush, because we aren’t able to play shows for it.

By this album do you mean, Remember the Future Vol. 1 & 2 together?

DS: Yeah, that’s this one. It was a really drawn-out thing because of Covid that really felt like it was hanging over my head for ages. That was this big black cloud in my head as well. We recorded half of it at the start of last year and we were booked in to do another session in April, two weeks after we first went into lockdown. The whole idea with the record was that it was going to be the first full band recording, so I was kind of stuck on that for ages. Rather than moving on, finishing and getting it out, it was like, no, we gotta do this with the band. We finally finished it in May this year. It’s finally come together! It feels like a really weird one, because of the Covid stuff we decided to put out the first half last year. Our European label Erste Theke Tonträger, hit me up to do a record, he really liked Remember the Future Vol. 1, he wanted to do a full-length with that and then another of our EPs on the other side. I was like, well, this is half of a full record. That was the push to finish this record.

You recently had a song ‘Live Laugh Love’ on the Blow Blood Records compilation, A Long Time Alone.

DS: That was the first song I’ve written after this huge gap of not writing. The compilation was the kick I needed. I’d seen that Christina had been advertising for contributions for ages, and I thought, ‘I have to do a song for this.’ The deadline had come and I hadn’t done it, which was a Friday, so the next day, Saturday, I plugged everything in for the first time in ages and made this really dumb song.

Did it feel weird plugging everything in again after so long?

DS: Kind of. The song is funny in itself, I’m glad it has a home on the ALTA compilation, because otherwise it would have been another one on a dusty hard drive. It feels like a song after not having written a song in ages, it’s a silly song.

It has a fun title!

DS: [Laughs] I know! The concept came before the song. It’s about forgetting about how to live, laugh, love. I saw one of those inspirational infographic things that someone had posted. I’m glad it’s getting a home. I wrote that song, then in the week following it, I wrote one or two songs in a day, ten songs in a week. A week later I sent Christina a different song, and was like, ‘I actually made some decent songs now. Do you want to put one of these on?’ She was like, “It’s too late, I’ve already sent it off.”

A couple of days ago you released the song ‘Ghost Ship’ too.

DS: Yeah, that was another compilation [on Critter Records]. I wrote that one at the very start of the lockdown. It was inspired by… they were coming out with all these bail out packages, but they were going to big corporations and multi-million dollar companies [laughs]. It was a funny concept.

It’s crazy how all of these big companies received bail outs and then ended up making a profit and doing better than ever!

DS: Exactly! They didn’t actually lose any revenue; they gained all this government funding that was designed to help struggling people. That’s capitalism!

We’re premiering Dr Sure’s new clip for the song ‘Infinite Growth’. It’s a fun clip. What sparked the idea?

DS: A lot of the time when I’m doing visual stuff, I want it to be fun and playful, because a lot of the time I find the lyrical content to be pretty heavy. I liked to offset it with something a little more accessible. Potentially if you were to follow the narrative of the song then the clip would be pretty heavy—talking about mining, the destruction of the ecosystems. By taking a representation of these things, of people in suits, business men, which is a reoccurring motif in a lot of our visual stuff, and thinking about the result of their actions. For this one, they’re still pedalling their narrative of infinite growth, while the climate has heated up so much that their faces as literally dripping from their body.

Love the special effects!

DS: Yeah, really top of the line. We got the hair and makeup team… professional prosthetics! Nah. I looked up how to make prosthetics and the easiest solution that I came across was to just mix Vaseline and flour, then use coco to create different tones of it. It was pretty gross stuff to put all over your face, but it was worth it.

Pic by Cielo Croci

You wrote the song around the time that our government were talking about destroying sacred Indigenous sites.

DS: Yes, exactly. It was Djab wurrung Country. They decided to build a new highway that was going to take off two-minutes of drive time for people commuting into the city. To do so, they had to destroy these hundred-year-old sacred birthing trees. That was the spark, but at the same time, it felt like a real time of solidarity for people coming together to stand against those things. That’s where the duality in that song is trying to reframe this capitalist terminology talking about infinite growth and kind of reclaim it for the people and the ecology.

Nice. What else have you been up to?

DS: I’ve been collaborating with my partner Liv on some things, which is really nice. She’s an artist and really good photographer. We’ve worked on stuff before, a lot of the time our practices have been off in different directions. Having a lot of time together and being isolated from anyone else, we’ve been working on stuff. I spent this week making a zine to go out with the record. It’s a collaboration with Liv, she took all the photographs. It’s a zine of lyrics, photos, my art and poetry, all mashed up. She took a series of photos based around the concepts of the record and I mashed them up with my brain spew! [laughs]. We’ve been thinking about creative ways to put out this record.

Liv and I have been making some songs too. She’s been learning the guitar for the last couple of years. We’ve been putting down some of her ideas. With Liv’s limited knowledge of playing, it’s been good for me to teach her that a song can be really simple; it’s made me reassess my approach to songs. When you make a song that’s only two chords, you can leave all of this space for layering and making it interesting in other ways. It doesn’t have to have all of these chord changes for it to be engaging.

When Jhonny and I make music, I like to go for how does this feel, and keep trying things until eventually something fits and feels good to me and us. That’s when you come up with something that is unique to you, because you come with all of your experience or lack of, and that all comes out in those moments.

DS: Exactly. I feel like I’ve always approached music in a really similar way. I’ve purposely avoided learning too much. Sometimes I question if that has been the right approach? Most of the time, I stick by that approach, it’s more about feeling and how you react to it. To me, it’s always been about how you react to whatever it is you’re recording. Picking up the next instrument is a reaction to the last instrument. It’s about what feels interesting.

Pre-order Remember The Future? HERE.

Dougal Shaw of Dr Sure’s Unusual Practice: “It’s important to have some kind of light at the end of the tunnel because a lot of what we see in the world today is pretty bleak”

Handmade collage by B.

Melbourne band Dr Sure’s Unusual Practice play raw, angular, new wave-ish, post-punk delivering an intelligent, thoughtful perspective on hot topics in our society’s increasingly uncertain landscape. Multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, Dougal Shaw, chatted with Gimmie a few days ago about his musical beginnings, the challenges he’s gone through to do what he does, of the importance of having purpose in life and gives us an insight into his songwriting.

When did you first start playing music?

DOUGAL SHAW: It started when I was about eight years old, a bit of violin. Then I jumped on the trumpet for a couple of years, I was in the school band back in Central Queensland. I started out with the more classical instruments then it wasn’t until I was eighteen that I really got into playing the guitar. When I was twenty-three, when I first moved here [Melbourne], I started my first band.

Previously you’ve mentioned that Rowland S. Howard changed the trajectory of your guitar playing; how so?

DS: I reckon, yeah, for sure. Growing up in Central Queensland the only real source for alternative music outside of my parents’ record collection was Triple J, so you’re kind of reliant on the major broadcasters to give you alternative tunes [laughs]. In my early teens I got a lot more into punk and hardcore music, then worked my way back a bit from there. When I moved to Melbourne I was exposed to stuff like Roland S. Howard, The Birthday Party and that early ‘80s Melbourne vibe—that was a huge influence for me.

You lived on the Gold Coast for a little while?

DS: Yeah. When I was fifteen I moved from Rockhampton down to the Gold Coast. I did a solo mission. We’d talked for years as a family about getting out of Central Queensland [laughs]. I feel like it was something that was always on my radar, some kind of pipedream about getting out of Central Queensland and going to places that seemed like, from afar, they had so much going on—surfing and music, things I was really interested in. When I was fifteen I reached a point and I was like, I’m going with or without you! I bailed up there. My dad and my brother followed a year later.

I did my last two years of high school at the Gold Coast. The Gold Coast is where I fell into the hardcore scene, a real cool D.I.Y. community that were putting on shows in sheds, warehouses, community halls. It’s where all the misfits and outcasts, people that didn’t feel like they had a place, got together. Coming from Central Queensland, really not knowing anyone or not having a support network, which was a huge thing for me. All these people were just making really raw tunes and having a good time, jumping off balconies into crowds below, moshing—it was a real eye opener, a whole new world that have never before existed for me.

I spent a lot of time going to punk and hardcore shows on the Gold Coast too, we were probably at a lot of the same shows! I remember that shed venue, Shed 5.

DS: Yeah, true! That’s classic. Awesome!

There’s still a little scene, places like Vinnie’s Dive has really helped a little scene flourish.

DS: Yeah, we played there last time we were up. I think it’s the first time I’ve been to Southport in years since I used to go to the Southport Community Hall shows. It’s cool you were around the same scene.

How did you end up in Melbourne?

DS: I went to live overseas for a couple of years after high school, did a bit of travelling. I came back to the Gold Coast after living in the UK, I came back for my dad’s 60th! He ended up having a stroke the day after I got back. I ended up caring for him for a year and a half while he learnt to speak and stuff again. During that time, I was pretty much a full-time carer; I had a lot of time on my hands to play my guitar. In a way even though it was a really tough time it was also what lead me to where I am now. I had heaps of time to develop my art and music, all the things that I may not have had the time to commit to otherwise.

I’d been to Melbourne a couple of times during that period and my brother had moved there, a few friends too. A good friend and I were trying to get music stuff happening at the Gold Coast, we were trying to get a band together. That was where I really started hanging out with Jack Mccullagh, who plays guitar in Dr Sure’s now. He had moved to Coolangatta from the Sunshine Coast and we were going around doing open mic nights and random shit like that. It got to a point where we were like, fuck it, let’s move to Melbourne! That’s where everything is happening! That’s where the music scene is! The catalyst really was, chasing the dream! [laughs]; to move somewhere where I thought being a musician was actually a sustainable way of life.

How crazy is it now with all this COVID-19 stuff that so many people in music and arts sectors are effected and who knows if/when things will be sustainable again! Like, what do we do? You can’t play shows!

DS: Yeah, it’s wild! It’s a pretty scary time. Being a musician and making that lifestyle choice, it’s scary and uncertain at the best of times. When something like this happens it puts a lot of people in a really tough position. Everyone is pretty much living week to week, most of my friends and peers in the music scene are already working other jobs. People that make music generally have jobs that are around the music scene that’s sustaining them, whether it’s recording or doing live sound or printing merch for people, doing artwork and posters—all those things stop when these kinds of things go down. I feel like it’s also an unprecedented event, it’s hard to say what the long term effect is going to be in terms of people continuing to chase the dream, as I put it earlier.

You’re a visual artist as well as a musician, I wanted to ask you about the art on your album cover for your debut LP, The West; where did the inspiration for it come from? You studied art?

DS: I did study fine art but it was specialising in sound. My art degree was all sound stuff. I am a tattooist by trade. I do a lot of art work in my life. That design, it’s funny because I made the design for that album cover before I even had a band to play the music. I just drew it one day and thought it would make a good album cover [laughs]. It felt appropriate for the songs I was writing in that it’s got a little bit of a surrealist element to it, it’s also raw and got the little “yee boy” in the middle which is a reoccurring theme of my tattoo work, the little blob character dude, it’s almost like a little compass in a way; with The West it was so appropriate having that directional element.

When you were writing the songs that would become The West you were writing by yourself and you set a personal challenge of writing and recording a song a day…

DS: Yeah, in a way it was an extension of that fine arts degree. For my major project of the last year of my arts degree, I was developing a process which I called “reactionary composition”. It was basically a way of composing music or sound, it was reactionary and taking a lot of the thinking out and more or less just doing. I was trying to develop a new language around composition that makes it less exclusive. I can’t read music. A lot of the way music is written can be quite exclusive, with this reactionary composition it was designed around being more inclusive and interactive in that anyone can participate in this process no matter what your musical knowledge. I took that idea and applied it to the way I was making music. I started making these things with the idea of not thinking and not rewriting and picking things apart. I’d sit on the drums for two minutes and lay down a beat and then I’d pick up the bass and lay down a bass line that was a reaction to the drum part, and so on and so forth layering instruments. Having some restrictions in the way of saying, ok, there can only be two guitar parts, one vocal take or whatever. Having it as a fluid process and not going back over songs too much to perfect them, letting it be this raw thing.

So it’s like a stream of consciousness thing?

DS: Exactly! Letting the conscious mind flow.

Having a spontaneity as well?

DS: Yeah! It was the same with the lyrics, just a stream of conscious spew of whatever was at the top of my mind. A lot of the time it was taking “the feed” and turning it into some kind of spew of words, filtering the news of the day into song form.

A lot of your songs tend to have bleak themes but the way you deliver it has hope and humour in it; how important is it for you to have humour in your music?

DS: Totally! It’s something that I was subconsciously putting across. It wasn’t until I brought it to the band and I had to pick it apart more and you could see the threads running through it. I feel like it’s important to have some kind of light at the end of the tunnel because a lot of what we see in the world today is pretty bleak. Being able to find some glimmer of hope or being able to laugh about things, to not take yourself or the world too seriously is important… because if you don’t, you may as well find the nearest cliff, that’s how I feel a lot of the time! It’s a daily struggle to stay present and not dwell too much on the negativity you’re surrounded by. I’d pretty much lose my mind otherwise or end it!

I guess that’s why we make stuff though… we view the world and might not enjoy what we find and want to express our dissatisfaction, and through creating things we get to do this and make our own world. We have the ability to create our own happiness.

DS: Yeah, totally! Maybe that’s why I write a lot, because when I sit down to write a song it’s usually because I’m not happy [laughs]. I’m sitting down writing, alone in a room, and I’m processing everything. It makes me feel happy that you can get hope and humour out of my songs, you’re taking the positive elements out of it. I do sometimes feel like I dwell on the negative too much. It’s important to try and find some light in the dark.

Absolutely! After you wrapped up your tour for The West you took a trip to Bali and you started writing for your new album. I remember at the time you were stoked because you had such a productive time and you were happy with what you’d written then you came back home and your house was broken into while you slept. They stole your laptop with your new work on it as well as thousands of dollars worth of musical equipment. Obviously you would have been feeling bummed; tell us about that time.

DS: Yeah. It was a very strange time for sure. My dad and a couple of his buddies were going on a Bali trip and randomly the week of, I decided to jump on-board and go for a little mission. I was in this tropical paradise, way out of the west side of Bali away from all the chaos. It was an idyllic location, so far removed from where I’d usually be creating in a converted shed out the back of my house in Melbourne; which is often a bleak city to be in except from the couple of months a year where the sun comes out and the parks get packed out, people are more happy and bubbly [laughs]. It was funny to jump into that environment and try to write. I was writing all these happy songs about finding your centre and being balanced [laughs], all these things that since I’ve been writing songs I haven’t written. It’s been a little bit comical in a way that those songs got stolen and destroyed by the universe [laughs].

Were you able to write them again?

DS: Yeah. There was a couple of songs that I “bounced” out and sent to the band while I was overseas, that was cool. One of them was the song we just put out “Super Speedy Zippy Whipper”. That was the first song I wrote when I got over there. That song feels super appropriate to over there because when you get to Kuta you enter absolute chaos, there’s a million super speedy zippy whipper bikes cruising around. Going from there to the other side of the island where I was writing was the exact opposite of that. You can hear that in that song, a feeling, a juxtaposition of chaos and calm.

From the experience of losing your songs how did you bounce back so quickly creatively?

DS: I just got straight back into it, the fact that I lost those songs it made me want to get in there and see how much I could remember. Pretty quickly I just gave up on trying to remember the parts and just tried to make something else. I think I’m pretty much constantly writing, I get antsy if I don’t get my ideas down. My brain is constantly ticking over, I feel it’s my brain’s way of processing the world, if I don’t’ get it out it just builds up inside and turns into anxiety and it manifests itself in different uncomfortable ways. I always try to make time to get it out, to unleash the demons within! [laughs].

You have new 7 inch EP; what can you tell me about that?

DS: That one is four tracks that we recorded in December. We were initially working towards an album but everyone got super busy mid-year so we decided to put out these four now and another four in a month or two, then combine them. It’s called, Remember The Future? Volume 1. We’re working on Volume 2 at the moment.

Do you have a favourite song in that collection of songs?

DS: I feel like they work together super well as a four track thing. It’s really cohesive. It’s 11 minutes. It feels nice and snappy. They all quite different but there’s a common thread running through them.

What’s the common thread?

DS: With title, Remember The Future?, there are all these things which feel to me are talking about the future but, it’s all very present. It’s kind of a feeling that we’re living in this dystopian future, we all talk about it likes it’s in a future time. To me it feels like it’s already here, it’s upon us. It’s a common theme in a lot of things I’m writing at the moment, I have been for a while.

Like the book George Orwell book, 1984!

DS: Yeah, yeah, exactly! It’s not a new ground breaking idea. When I’m filtering the daily news it feels really dystopian—this is now! It’s a surreal feeling that I can’t quite grasp, I’m trying to explore it and articulate it in my songs. The absurdity of the present. [Laughs]

There’s a lot of unknowns right now, none of us know what will happen.

DS: Yeah, there’s an uneasiness in the air. It’s all a little bit comical though [laughs]. It’s a little bit ridiculous. We can either laugh or cry about it.

That’s right. Before my mother passed away, her thing was always that when things get tough or rough in life, you just gotta laugh! You gotta take a step back, realise you’re still alive and just do your best to keep moving forward.

DS: Yeah, that’s a great approach!

Why was it important for you guys to write the mini album, Scomo Goes To Hawaii?

DS: Again it was me processing this absolutely ridiculous scene that we found ourselves in, where the guy who’s meant to be leading up through this disaster unfolding, decides to go on a luxury holiday to Hawaii! It flowed out really quickly and easily, I wrote it over two days. I wrote it and released it within the time that he was in Hawaii! He cut the trip short because everyone was like, “what the fuck are you doing dude? You’re meant to be steering the ship”. It was all falling apart!

It was really pissing me off that the government had the power and position to support these fire fighters who were trying to stop our country from fucking burning and they weren’t. I thought, what can I do? I had these five songs and I thought I’d put ‘em up for a fundraiser and hopefully be able to help someone at least. It was born out of some feeling of hopelessness, that I was sitting here feeling useless. I thought it was something I could do to feel useful in this terrible situation.

I think it’s really important when there are hard times happening in the world that we ask, what can I do to help? Community is important. I believe we can all do something no matter how small to bring positive change. You can always find a way to help, your contribution does matter!

DS: Exactly, that’s so true. With the power of the internet… like people were saying, why don’t’ we do this more often? Record stuff, master it ourselves and put it up on bandcamp – that process is super easy and quick – and we can help different important causes. We made around $800 by selling that release on bandcamp. The technology we have at our finger tips makes it super easy for anyone to contribute in whatever was they can. What skills do you have? My skillset is that I can write a song and make some art and videos. Think about how you can take what your skillset is and use it to make a positive difference. As a human living in this anxiety riddle reality we find ourselves in, you need to find some way to make yourself feel useful. If I don’t find a way that makes me feel like I’m doing something useful, the walls start crumbling for me [laughs].

It’s important to have purpose!

DS: Yeah, that’s it.

What’s next for Dr Sure’s?

DS: We have a tour we were set to announce, right now it’s all hanging in the balance. We’re doing video clips at the moment, just trying to continue that theme from last year making surrealist video clips to go along with the tracks. I’ve just been writing heaps. I wrote a follow up of Scomo Goes To Hawaii called While Australia Burns. It’s sitting on my Google drive, I probably should have just put it out like the other one.

Do it! Do it!

DS: [Laughs] Yeah! Scomo Goes to Hawaii was written from his perspective just sitting in Hawaii. While Australia Burns was written from the perspective of me driving three and a half thousand kilometres from Central Queensland to Melbourne and seeing all the damage form the fires. I have way too many songs backed up that we just can’t keep up with. I made the call after putting out The West that I really wanted to do the next album with the band, we’ve been playing together for a while and I really love that energy that comes with playing with a full band, that power that doesn’t come across when you’re one person layering up the instruments. With that comes patience, I keep trying to work with everyone else’s schedule because everyone else had lots of other things going on in their life and different projects.

I have to find a balance right now of doing the band stuff and also releasing things that I’m doing. I don’t want it to get to a point where songs aren’t relevant anymore. Doing that Scomo one was important because it opened that up a little. I was stuck on the idea of doing an album with the band and that release has broken down that barrier in my own head, where I can just put things out and it doesn’t all have to have a tour and everything that goes with it. I’m letting go a little bit of all those processes.

Yeah. There’s no rules in punk rock!

DS: That’s it! Exactly. When I did the Scomo one it didn’t take months so I didn’t feel it owed me anything. Sometimes you get in a thing where you spend six months on a record or a year and you feel like you need to put a lot of energy behind releasing it, so that year wasn’t in vain. It’s easy to get caught up in all the bullshit! I just need to rely on myself to be present and create and not overthinking all this other crap that you can get sucked into.

I’ve released a lot of stuff now over the years and the more that you’re in the music industry the more you see the “proper” way of people doing things. There’s people paying for marketing campaigns and PR, all these things that were never really a part of my world. You kind of start to think, is that how I’m supposed to do it? Am I doing it wrong? Then you remind yourself, fuck all of that! I don’t want to conform to some process. I go to and fro with that, it’s a yin and yang tug of war between my punk non-conforming self and the ego-self going, I’m putting so much of myself into it and it would be nice if people heard it and the radio played it.

I think it’s natural for artist to want to share their work with people, a lot of people. Connection is also a part of the creative process and the human process. You go on tour, you play your songs, you connect with people; someone hears your song on the radio, they connect with it. It might spark something creative in their own life. We’re all in this together!

DS: Yeah! That’s the most important stuff. That’s why I’ll sit down and spend a month booking a tour, sending a million emails that suck the life out of me—because I love that! I love going to new places, seeing new bands, connecting with people and seeing what you do has some positive effect. All the hours spent in a dark room making stuff, the payoff is that connection, seeing it out in the real world.

Please check out: Dr Sure’s Unusual Practice. Dr Sure’s Facebook. Dr Sure’s Instagram. Marthouse Records.