Detroit Electro-Punk Duo ADULT.: “One of the most satisfying things about releasing work is helping create a community of likeminded individuals…”

Handmade collage by B.

ADULT. have been in existence for over two decades! Their darkwave, electronic, synthpunk is always interesting, always pushing boundaries and always reinventing itself. Towards the beginnings of isolation we caught up with ADULT.’s Adam Lee Miller and Nicola Kuperus from their home in Michigan to find out more about their eight studio album – Perception is/as/of Deception. Recorded in their basement, which they painted all black in an effort to deprive their senses and see what would come creatively, the result is a self-aware, tongue-in-cheek, thrilling record!

How have you both been doing? I remember reading an interview with you from way back and you mentioned that you liked working isolation.

ADAM LEE MILLER: [Laughs] We do. We also enjoy knowing that there is going to be a very public part of our lives after the isolation.

NICOLA KUPERUS: We’re beginning to wonder; when is that public time for musicians?

I know it’s an interesting time. We’ve been hearing here in Australia that we might not see live music until 2021!

NK: Same!

ALM: Our European booking agent just nuked our tour that was supposed to be at the end of August.

On the brighter side, you’ve released this incredible new album – Perception is/as/of Deception – on Dais Records! It’s one of my favourites that you’ve made so far.

NK: Thank you! It really feels like someone pulled the rug out from under us with the cancelation of our tour.

You had the launch for the album online?

NK: Yeah.

ALM: Yeah, you know how it works, the record cycle for things is so far ahead, the way it’s planned. If the record label has to push ours back then they have to push everyone else’s back and no one knows when to push it back to, that’s the problem. If we knew it was going to last for four months then we could reschedule according to that. Our North American tour that was supposed to start next Thursday, we’ve rescheduled it three times! Now we’re trying to start October 5th in Boston, but we don’t even know if that will happen. Our Governor today sent out another emergency alert extending the quarantine. We have a very severe lockdown in Detroit, we’re not allowed to visit anyone. We were just watching some of our neighbours taking a walk in the rain a couple of nights ago.

NK: Everyone’s losing their fucking minds!

ALM: They didn’t take an umbrella and it was 36 degrees out [laughs].

Why do you love to create?

NK: I don’t know? I don’t know what else we would do! [laughs]. My entire life I’ve just been interested in making stuff. It doesn’t mean just music, it means creating your own world. No one has ever asked that before… it’s just something that’s innately in you.

ALM: When we started hanging out, that was one of the main things that we had in common, we both liked to make things. It’s not like we were going to a movie and make out point! [laughs]. It was let’s stay in and work on a photograph or something. When we started making music together—the rest is history!

What do you get from creating stuff?

NK: It’s just a satisfaction.

ALM: It’s a compulsion. It’s not always fun!

NK: [Laughs].

As an artist what are the things you value?

ALM: The work that we like the most is the work that has its own vocabulary; the work that you know is always that person’s work. I get satisfaction when we’re making work like that. One of the most satisfying things about releasing work is helping create a community of likeminded individuals that feel like they can have a space place outside of society that we can all feel together in. I’m satisfied when the work is very against what we feel is wrong.

NK: It’s interesting because I think in 2008, we were basically fed up with the music industry and the way things were shifting. We were really burnt out! So we said, fuck it! We didn’t make a public announcement and we also didn’t say to ourselves that it would be forever; we said, we don’t want to do it anymore, the way that we’d been doing it. We actually made a short film and did construction work. We did construction work for money for three years. It’s 12 to 14 hour days of hard labour!

ALM: The work we was making wasn’t satisfying us.

NK: What that did was allow us to recharge and revaluate. It makes you realise that for us making visual work and making music it’s something that’s unavoidable, we can’t stop doing it for whatever reason.

I understand that. No matter what job I do and no matter what I try, I always end up coming back to doing interviews and making zines. I guess something inside you just tells you that it’s your passion, so do it! Like you were saying just before, you feel compelled to do it.

I really love the title of your new album Perception is/as/of Deception. Looking at it made me think; how do I say it? It has options.

ALM: Those lyrics are in the song ‘Total Total Damage’. I don’t see the words before Nicola starts singing them, she was rehearsing and I asked her if I could see those lyrics and we both got talking about how interesting it was… when it’s written as more say a poem on paper, you start seeing if/as/of all together. We thought it would be a great t-shirt if it said: is/as/of. That was before we had an album title. We drew it and put it on the wall and just kept looking at it thinking it was a cool image, somehow that then became the title. It came from designing merch, we weren’t trying to design merch thoug; it was just inspired from one medium to the other. I don’t know a lot of bands that have titles that can be read in different ways.

NK: Choose your own adventure! [laughs].

I love that it made me stop and think. I love words and new ways of looking at them. I’ve worked in libraries for the last twenty years so I read a lot; I’m a total word nerd. It’s really cool what you’ve done with the title.

NK: That’s great! It’s interesting too because it’s the first time in our history of albums that we have not actually put the text on the proper album jacket, so it’s just an image for the album art. I like that too because is/as/of; what does this mean? There is no title in the traditional sense of how titles normally are on the front cover.

I think that makes you more curious to want to know what it is, all you have to go on is the image. It makes you want to open up the sleeve and check out the record or go online to learn more about it, it becomes a different level of interactive experience.

When you recorded the LP I understand that you made it in your basement, painting the whole room black to use sensory deprivation to see where that would lead; where did you get this idea from?

NK: I’m not really certain where the moment was that the idea came to me. I was reading Aldous Huxley The Doors Of Perception and I was thinking of how interesting it is that he was taking LSD to intensify his visual writing experience. I was thinking sonically; what could you do to intensify your experience? What would make you use your ears more? I was thinking about spaces that were just visually void, that’s what led me to do this to our basement; what would it be like to be in this space that is visually void? What would it do to the sound? What would it do to how we’re feeling?

ALM: The basement was, we’re talking walls black, floors black, no windows, lights on dimmers, it was extremely dark. The record we wrote before called This Behavior we also worked in isolation up in a cabin in northern Michigan, in February when the temperature was -14 and there was two-feet of snow in the Great Lake. There were big plates of ice from the lake shifting on top of each other. We were in a beautiful knotty wood cabin with glass windows overlooking on this small cliff, it was cold, outside was beautiful, but you couldn’t go out there; you were isolated with a view. It had the complete opposite effect. This is just when we do the demo process… it was done in the summer for this album, you had this beautiful outside that was warm enough to go out but this time you couldn’t even see it.

Did anything surprise you about the experience of recording in these conditions?

NK: It was really hard. It was really exciting at first but then it just became like… wow! To go into that environment day after day after day for however many months… it’s funny because it’s a problem that you put on yourself, you created the circumstance, you don’t have to stay in it. That’s kind of the way we are though, we’re gonna do it and labour through it.

ALM: We’re changing the formula so we don’t repeat ourselves. It’s so easy for some bands after 20 years where you’re just like… oh, that’s the new Ministry single, it came out today and I heard it and really liked it and I was trying to tell Nicola why. I guess it’s ‘cause I liked it because it sounded like how they sounded ten years ago, that’s not a reason to like it. Anyways, we’re always just trying not to repeat ourselves so if we don’t follow our own rules then we’re not…

NK: We’re not pushing ourselves.

What mood were you in when making the album?

ALM: Well, super happy! [laughs]. Just kidding! It did start to really wear on you to go down there… we’d come up for lunch and be like, oh man, it’s so nice up here! I don’t want to have to go back down into the black hole! Once you were there, time was not an issue. We didn’t bring our phones down. There was just no sense of time, that was something that was amazing. You can get into routines. You’d come up from downstairs and suddenly it would be night-time or there’d be a thunderstorm. A song like ‘Total Total Damage’ was one of the last songs we wrote. I think that’s interesting how you can take a song like ‘Untroubled Mind’ which is one of the early songs along with ‘Second Nature’ and they have a lighter feel, as the record proceeds you get more into…

NK: Tension. Frustration.

I got that when I was listening to it. As the album unfolds I feel we’re along with you for the journey and we get a real insight into where you were at/what you were going through when making it. At the start you have ‘We Look Between Each Other’ like things are exciting at the start and then you get to the middle portion of the album there’s more frustration and by the time you get to the end you have ‘Untroubled Mind’… the synth parts in that one really soar!

ALM: [Laughs]. Thank you.

It’s like you’re ending on a happy note. The LP feels really introspective to me.

NK: When we put an album together we always try to work really hard on there being a journey you’re taking through the album. I do feel like it’s something we’ve done three times, where the end song… I don’t want to say that ‘Untroubled Mind’ is a meditation but, I think it has a relief from the rest of the album. I feel like it’s the song that’s most different from the other songs on the record, it almost has a coda, or a final thought that it’s saying. We did that on Why Bother?, the last song ‘Harvest’ it sounds like bees in a lawnmower almost; it has a strange meditation to me. On Detroit House Guests the last song [‘As You Dream’] on that with Michael Gira, feels like it’s a total “Namaste” wrap up song.

ALM: Just a little trivia on that song, we have this rule that you have to write the whole song in two to three days and if you haven’t got it by then you have to leave it. We could not get that song to go anywhere because it’s a really strange sequence line for us. It was the third day and it was getting late and I said, we just have to document what we have and move on! Nicola was like, ‘yeah, you’re right’. Then she just got on the delay pedal and went on over to the PRO-1 and wrote it. I was like, holy shit! You just finished the demo at the eleventh hour!

It’s my favourite track on the album. I love how it leaves things on a positive note and there’s a real freeness about it. It makes me curious as to where you’ll go next.

NK: I love that! That’s really nice,

ALM: Thank you.

Your record has been making me really happy while in isolation.

NK: The most amazing thing about music compared to visual art is that it is something that everyone can have, it’s out there. A painting is a painting on a wall, you can’t really…

ALM: Experience that on the internet.

I wanted to talk about your film clip for song ‘Why Always Why’. At the start of the clip there’s a quote from GJ Ballard’s book Millennium People: At times you feel like you’re living someone else’s life, in a strange house you’ve rented by accident. Why did you chose this quote?

ALM: We went through four billion quotes! [laughs]. We wanted to make sure that we don’t lead the audience that they feel what they want to feel and look into the work but we also felt the work could have a reading that was a critique of individual humans and their individual behaviours. It was more about us not feeling a part of this world. It was a way to gently say…

NK: That this is a foreshadowing of what you’re going to watch.

I love how in the film clip you’re at the mall and at Home Depot. I’s really fun!

NK & ALM: [Laughter].

ALM: It was so funny, we shot it in Florida. We shot it all on an iPhone. It was funny watching people, everyone was in shorts and flip flops, and we come in with full leather! People are like ‘what the fuck are these people doing!’ [laughs].

NK: It was entertaining.

It was funny too because the way your music is and how you dress etc. is a real juxtapose from the environment you were in. It gives that feeling of being out of place and out of step with the rest of the world.

NK: Certainly.

I especially love the bit where Adam, you’re standing in the foreground just looking at the camera and then there’s kids in the background on trampolines!

ALM & NK: [Laughter].

ALM: We actually went back the next day to get that shot. It felt funny because… we didn’t want it to be me standing there being like, I hate you people! Its more just, I don’t understand what’s going on behind me… you took your kids indoors to play on stuff that should be outdoors, you have no idea of the safety rating on this!

I know that feeling sometimes, like I go to the shops or a café and you’ll hear the conversations of people around you and you think, wow! I really am different from most people.

NK: Absolutely!

ALM: It’s funny how people would love to stare at us but the minute we stare back at them they’d be like, ‘oh shit!’ and run [laughs].

It’s funny how we can be more accepting of other people even if they’re not into what we are but then on the flip side, they can’t accept us. It’s so weird.

NK: It’s totally true!

I also love the ‘Total Total Damage’ film clip too. I know you built that set. It’s fun how Nicola is completely destroying the set and Adam, you’re just crouched down in the middle of it all totally calm. What were you thinking of in that moment to stay calm and in the zone?

ALM: You should see the very first time she swung the sledgehammer about an inch from my head! I grabbed her leg and was like; what are you doing?! [laughs]. Once that was established…

NK: There’s a lot of trust!

ALM: We always say, that if we die on an aeroplane going to a show or on stage or making a music video… well, there’s a lot of worse ways to go [laughs].

I’ve noticed in both film clips lampshades make an appearance.

NK: I think a lot of our visual work deals with domesticity and domestic situations and ritual.

ALM: We also love that the idiot always puts the lampshade on their head! [laughs]. We’ve used it in a lot of our video visuals…. we did a performance piece with Dorit Chrysler at the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York; she’s a theremin player from Austria. We created a performance piece together called We’re Thinking About These Lamps. Nicola put contact mics on a bunch of lamps, while Dorit and I performed music, Nicola played lamps. We’re always just playing on putting the domestic into a public situation, which has a lot to do with being in isolation and going out into the public.

It’s so cool that you both work across so many different mediums whether it’s music, visual art, performance art, film, photography or whatever.

ALM: When you work in a different medium you suddenly perceive things differently. You start to see what you’re really talking about and maybe not what’s superficial.

NK: Everything starts informing each other. If you start getting burnt out on music… really I think that back in 2008 that was the big problem that we were only doing music and we weren’t doing visual work, that’s why we had to stop. When we started back up again we knew we had to have a better balance of visual and music because otherwise it becomes too one-sided and it’s not interesting and it’s not inspiring.

Are there any books that you’ve read that have had a profound impact on you?

ALM: That would be the Holy Bible and The Art Of The Deal by Donald Trump! [laughs].

NK: [Laughs] Oh geeze! We have a lot of books and I read a lot of books but I don’t have something that’s become a staple.

ALM: It depends on what kind of inspiration we’re looking for.

Are you working on anything else now?

NK: Oh, yeah. We’re working on our live set.

ALM: Which is so hard because we want to work on it and we’ve rebuilt what the live rig is, obviously there’s tons of new songs in the set but, you just don’t know when you’re gonna do it. It’s such a strange feeling! I’ve always been more of a deadline orientated artist. It’s going well though.

NK: I’m actually working on… going into the isolation and lockdown and “shelter in place” it really brought up the realisation of how many songs throughout the past 25 years of working, how appropriate the lyrics are for this time and moment in our lives. I’ve been working on the idea of working on a book that’s the lyrics of these songs but, it’s more in form of a poetry book… also doing a recording of the words. I’ve been researching about poets who cross the line between visual artist, and music… it’s a whole new inspiration and world that I’m learning about. It’s exciting!

Anything else you’d like to tell me or add?

ALM: When I got the email from you, Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie zine… our album is called Gimmie Trouble, it comes from the [Black Flag] song ‘Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie’… I asked Nicola if we could spell the title that way because when I was fourteen I grew up in a small town in Indiana and a future friend moved up from Atlanta. I was like; how do you know about all this weird music I want to hear but can’t find it anywhere? He said his older brother had lots of that stuff and would make me a tape. The next day he brought me a tape which was my first tape; side A was Everything Went Black by Black Flag and side B was Depeche Mode’s A Broken Frame. I always say to this day that, that’s who I am as a musician  because of that tape, I have both parts in me!

Please check out: ADULT. / ADULT. bandcamp / Perception is/as/of Deception out on Dais Records.

Mystery Guest: “Inspired by Sun Ra and the musical output of cults like The Source Family in the 70s”

Original photo by Louis Roach. Handmade collage by B.

Retro-futurist pop duo Mystery Guest from Melbourne have just released their first album – Octagon City – on Tenth Court Records. The album is an interesting electronic, minimal-synth record, born out of a genuine curiosity to explore sounds in the studio. Throughout the record we are given heavy doses of a Bene Gesserit, ADN’ Ckrystall, SSQ type 80’s vibe (with the monologue on the album’s opener and title track reminding us of Algebra Suicide), though updated with their own style, clearly informed by post-80’s club culture. We interviewed Mystery Guests’ Patrick Telfer and Caitlyn Lesiuk to learn more about their LP and creative journey.

Can you tell us about your creative journey; how did you first come to playing music?

PATRICK TELFER: I was always interested in the process of music making, but only started doing this after school: I got hold of a Roland hard disk recorder—a VS880—which was really,really cool. I would make silly music with friends as a form of entertaining ourselves, call it “experimental music” and never show it to anyone.

CAITLYN LESIUK: I had piano lessons as a kid, but really started getting excited about music when I got my first guitar. There was something fascinating about not knowing what the “notes” were in the traditional sense: I loved learning shapes and experimenting with them.

Did you have any favourite bands or musicians growing up?

PT: The Beatles is the one that I always come back to! Also Wu-Tang Clan.

CL: My most enduring musical obsession has been with ABBA.

How did Mystery Guest come to be?

PT: It was a project based entirely on a curiosity about the potential of using a studio – it was our first experience of a proper commercial recording studio and we had a lot of fun playing with different sounds and methods of production.

CL: We had played in bands together before, and were both interested in creating music outside the traditional “bass/drums/guitar” format.

Photo: Louis Roach.

What kind of headspace were you in writing and recording your new record, Octagon City?

PT: It was just pure clarity and bliss.

CL: I was somewhat trepidatious because I’d never recorded my own songs before, but it was an overwhelmingly positive experience.

What was the vision you had for the record?

PL: The vision I had for the record was completely surpassed by my incredible collaborators. There’s so much talent in everyone and I feel really lucky to have collected this much of it around me for enough time to make music out of it.

CL: I wanted to explore the idea of making a “musical manifesto”  in the vein of albums like Tropicália: ou Panis et Circencis. I felt inspired by Sun Ra and the musical output of cults like The Source Family in the ’70s.

You’re a duo; can you tell me about your dynamic and how you work together? What’s your songwriting process?

PT: A lot of the time I think of a song I like and say ‘let’s make that’. I’ve always had this idea that even if you set out to directly replicate something, the end product will be far enough away from the original that you can truly say it’s a new thing. It’s an interesting way to work – there’s nothing new!

CL: Aside from “The Day Lou Died” and “Moon Moon”, Pat would send me a beat and I’d take that away and start thinking about lyrics and melodies, and the song would start to take shape as we passed it back and forth. I hadn’t ever written songs like that before (or since), but it was an interesting process.

When do you feel most creative?

PT: When I’m happy. I find that my mental health is a little too linked to the quality—as I perceive it—of my current work.

CL: I’m only creative when I have to be, when there’s a deadline… whether that’s self-imposed or coming from somewhere else. I guess I’m still waiting to be touched by the muse.

Photo: Kurt Eckardt.

I love all the electronic sounds in your music; what’s one of your favourite sounds?

PT: White noise has it all! Every frequency is represented. I have a friend who taught me the healing qualities of white noise when it is filtered to sound like the ocean.. like a perfectly symmetrical ocean.

CL: The Mellotron (an early 70s version of a synth made using tape). It’s such an amazing hybrid of old and cutting edge technology of the time.

Do lyrics come easy for you or do you have to work at it?

PT: I don’t ever even try any more!

CL: I try not to get too hung up on lyrics: if I can’t think of anything, I’ll look for an interesting reference in a book or image, and write about that. I wouldn’t say they come easy, but I’m mindful of spending too much time slaving over them.

What inspired the song “The Day Lou Died”?

CL: The Day Lou Died is riffing on a poem by Frank O’Hara about Billie Holiday called “The Day Lady Died”. The lyrics—taken literally—are quite dramatic I suppose: they’re about killing pop stars because it provides the opportunity to reminisce with an old love on the music that you shared. I was also trying to emulate the form and melodrama of songs by The Shangri-Las.

How did you feel when in the middle of creating the record? Were there any challenges?

PT: Knowing when to stop is a challenge! There’s always one more thing you could add… 

CL: Because we’d never played the songs live, and were writing a fair few of them in the studio

What’s the most unexpected thing that’s happened on your music-making adventures so far?

PT: Caitlyn Leisuk.

CL: For want of anything else to do, I often walk around off stage when performing with a double mic lead. I never anticipated I’d perform in such an ostentatious way.  

As well as doing Mystery Guest you also both created, Little Music Lab, a program for children 4 – 12 years old with a focus on learning and play through music technology; what inspired this?

PT: I’ve always worked with kids, for a long time in childcares and kindergartens. I find it to be so rewarding to engage with really young people. There are so many interesting perspectives and ideas that emerge when you enter into a conversation with a child with a really open mindedly. They can be so creative and weird and crazy.. I’ve always got along well with them and music is such a powerful language to communicate with.

Electronic, technological music opens up even more interesting avenues as this can level the playing field in terms of creating music without the need for years of disciplined rehearsal of theory and technique.

CL: I was interested in giving the kids instruments that were thoughtfully (diatonically) tuned, to avoid the kind of cacophony you get when you have a whole class haphazardly playing xylophones and ukuleles in regular tuning. If you set them up for success, even the youngest, least dexterous humans among us can make cool music.

Photo: Louis Roach.

What’s your best non-musical skill?

PT: Cooking.

CL: Philosophising.

Why is music important to you?

PT: Music is important because it opens up new ways to communicate with people. It’s a really good vessel for expression – and it’s so suppressed in our culture – we’re all dying to sing but we almost never do. I mean aren’t we? Or is that just me?

CL: Because it creates community. That was one interesting aspect of exploring a fictional cult: in the absence of organised religion, music is a forum for bringing people together in a shared experience.

Please check out: MYSTERY GUEST. Get Octagon City on TENTH COURT Records. MG on Facebook. MG on Instagram.

RAAVE TAPES’ Joab Eastley: “It’s really nice to see how the community bands together and finds ways around things”

Original photo by Liv Jansons. Handmade mixed media collage by B.

Newcastle band RAAVE TAPES are back with a new single “Red Flag”. The single sees them move towards a more electronic sound, a sound they’ve always secretly aspired to—this is RAAVE TAPES for 2020. The anthemic sing-along feel-good choruses remain intact but we’ve moved further out into the middle of the dance floor and we’re dancing wildly like no one is watching. We chatted to RAAVE TAPES’ Joab Eastley about the new single and more new music on the way.

We’re excited about your new song “Red Flag” and where your music’s at!

JOAB EASTLEY: Awww thank you. It’s a bit of a weird time to be putting out music but I suppose there’s not much else to do, is there? Hopefully it can provide some sort of entertainment for everybody.

What’s your favourite thing about your new song “Red Flag”?

JE: I like that it’s a realisation that we’ve always been driving towards. We’ve always had these electronic undertones but with a very garage rock, punk sensibility but we really just flipped it on its head this time. We followed the path down to the electronic realm and it’s taken us to a nice little spot.

How did the song get started?

JE: It started as a completely different song, it had a guitar riff and a little loop on a drum machine, just playing the song over that and it had almost a spoken word verse over it. The only bit that stayed was the pre-chorus, the “ahhhh woooo” bit. We took it to our good friend and new producer Fletcher Matthews, Fletcher-boy! We’ve always recorded in a basement in Newcastle, very D.I.Y. punk-garage kind of vibes. He’d been pestering us for ages to come do some stuff with him and try it out. We went down and it was just a nice process. When we got there, because he was such a good friend, he really didn’t pull any punches when talking to us, that barrier was taken down straight away and he didn’t mind telling us what he thought [laughs].

How did it feel for you having come from a previous experience of self-recording?

JE: It was nice the way he went about it, it was a really, really nice technique. I think if he did come in and say “This is what you should do” we would have got our back up straight away. We got there and we said, “Here’s our seven songs we have to record” he said, “Cool, I don’t’ care” and we were like, “what?” He was like, “This is the first day, let’s listen to music! What do you like sonically? What are your influences? What do you like production-wise? What do you like, songwriting-wise? Let’s touch on all of the things you like in a song? What do you want to get out of this?” So we sat down and listened to music for hours. He was scribbling notes the whole time and making little ideas in his head. Once we finished he showed us the notepad and said “Instead of me telling you what I think you should do, here’s what we’re going to do given the things that you’ve showed me. You’ve told me what you want, let’s do that!” He was very supportive of trying things and if it didn’t work out we could go back and do something else. It’s was all natural and organic, a real eye-opening process.

Photo by Liv Jansons

Nice! What kinds of things did you listen to?

JE: Everything! It’s a broad scope. We went from old school Naked & Famous to old Presets; he really pushed us to our guilty pleasures as well, things he said we shouldn’t feel guilty about like The Veronicas, and I’ve always really like The Bloody Beetroots. We went down to these realms of weird places, we listened to a lot of weird techno artists and Ross from Friends. We picked a lot of little sounds we liked and production techniques and from there we painted a pictures of where we wanted to go, which was nice.

What were some of the new techniques you tried?

JE: The main one was electronic drums, electronic percussion. Out of all the twenty-two songs we listened to only two had real drums [laughs]. I’d just gotten a nice new fancy drum machine so it was kind of something we were delving into anyway, he helped tease that out.

Will you be using a drum machine live?

JE: Yeah, we still have out little drummer boy Dan, he’s got a nice big sample pad and I have a sample pad in front of me, a sampler drum machine-y kind of thing. I guess it’s the first step in this electronic process, I don’t know where it’s going to end up. We’ve been practicing for quite a while trying to get this set where we want it to be. Obviously though, that’s all on the backburner for now.

That’s exciting!

JE: Yeah, it’ll be a lot of fun! It’s definitely been a massive learning process to try and get our head around everything, once we do have that sorted it’s going to be a lot easier on stage.

It’s like when you started out and you were playing guitar and using all of the effects pedals that RAAVE TAPES is known for, for creating interesting sounds. Now you’re just using different instruments.

JE: Yeah, exactly. We still have all the dumb guitar pedals [laughs] but now we’re just putting more electronic things in there that could go wrong on stage [laughs].

I’ve read you say that song “Red Flag” is about “experiences of needing to use self-preservation tactics to avoid, yet appease, unwanted advances or encounters… These experiences can range from frustrating and irritating, to completely terrifying”; could you share an instance where you have experienced this?

JE: The whole genesis of the song is that we were talking about a kebab shop in Newcastle that we pass on the way home – shout out to Cappodocia – from a night out, I think all roads lead to Cappa’s no matter what pub or club you came from [laughs]. It’s a melting pot of different cultures and subcultures, which can be a nice thing if you like to chat to different people but, sometimes it can also be a negative thing due to some of the characters you come across. Lindsay [O’Connell] and I were talking about how there’s often this one or two or group of people that are just trying to bait everyone. They’re being over the top and you feel like you have to tread on egg shells around them, you have to say that right thing and you have to be polite, ‘cause they’re the kind of people that will do something silly. You have to use those self-preservation tactics to get in and get out; just let me be and give me a break.

There’s a lot of people in this area like that too out at night, they’re just waiting for you to look at them and then they’re all “What the fuck are you looking at? Do you wanna go?!”

JE: Yeah, quite often in Newcastle you don’t even have to make eye contact, it’s just these big groups of dudes there and they’re really chirpy and they just wanna say things to everyone walking by. What they’re really waiting for is for someone just to say something back. It’s so stupid and so wrong—boys will be boys, as they say! Fucking idiots!

Do you work for your lyrics or do they come easy?

JE: It varies but usually I have to work for them, to try and get things to fit. We usually work music first then lyrics and vocals after. We quite often have to get the crowbar out to squeeze some lyrics in. This one came pretty painlessly though. Because this song was an amalgamation of another song, it all came together in the studio, which is very different for us. We usually get it all together in our little practice space first before we record. This one was the opposite, we pretty much fleshed it all out in the studio. We put all the vocals and melodies last.

When did you record?

JE: Around September of last year.

Fletcher also mixed and mastered your Dancing Because I’m Sad EP cassette tape, right?

JE: Yeah, it was all a bit of a remix / remaster kind of thing. It was a bunch of our old songs that didn’t really have a home. They were first recorded very D.I.Y. in the basement and mixed by our good friend Frasier, we really wanted those garage-y punky vibes and got that. Moving forward tough we wanted to give things a fresh coat of paint, moving into 2020 kinda vibes!

What else has been inspiring your songwriting lately?

JE: To be honest I haven’t really done much songwriting lately, all of these songs we recorded last year in September-October. This whole process has been the most inspiring thing. Taking the shackles off in the studio, we were so focused on: we have to be a garage punk band ‘cause that’s what we are, a punk rock band, that’s what people like, we should do that. We were focusing on making dancey-punk music on our acoustic instruments, our recalibration from Fletcher has really let us do whatever we want. It’s been so much fun playing electronic instruments and playing with new sounds and new devices. It’s a whole new world, it’s really, really fun!

So does all this mean you have a new album coming?

JE: An EP, I’m not sure that’s been announced though. I don’t’ really know, we have a whole bunch of songs that we gave to our management team and they’re dealing with all of that.

Coming from being a D.I.Y. punk band in the basement is it weird having a management team and giving your work over to them?

JE: We’ve kind of always had a management team, our manager is one of our good friends from Newcastle. He, Ben Cooper, has always been there helping us out. He started his own company called Love And Rent, he was starting out and we were one of his first bands, now he’s doing big stuff and has a big office in Sydney, we’re friends that have grown together. He’s a big mover and shaker [laughs]. I used to do a lot in the Newcastle scene myself, No-Fi Collective; we’d put on shows. It’s nice to let go of stuff and let Coops deal with it and not know when it’s coming out and to not care and just be able to focus on writing songs—its’ a relief.

Are there any new sounds that you’ve found that you’re loving heaps?

JE: Yeaaaah! I just got this sample pad drum machine and you can download sound packs from the internet for it and when I get bored I just jump on the net, grab a sound pack a see what it does. It’s fun to distort the sounds and make it as gross as I possibly can [laughs]. Then melding it with my guitar sounds is so much fun. I love making a big mass of dumb noises!

Last question, right now the world can be pretty scary with things so uncertain; what’s one of the best things you’ve seen lately?

JE: One of the best things I’ve seen lately is, I’m a preschool aftercare teacher, I’m still in work at the moment because we provide care for kids of essential service workers and just going to work and seeing how much the kids don’t care, they’re not stressed at all. I really like going to work because the kids are so chipper! [laughs]. Or they get upset over the stupid things like, “Mate, the world’s falling down and you’re upset because your milk fell over” …it really brings you back.

The other nice thing is, I’m actually looking at it right now – I’m sitting in my car outside of my house – I can see a really nice gin distillery down the road. The gin distillery has turned into a hand sanitizer distillery. The way you make hand sanitizer is basically alcohol, it’s basically ethanol I think, one of the things you do in the process to make alcohol. Everyone is coming from around town to buy hand sanitizer from here because they can’t get it from anywhere else. It’s really nice to see how the community bands together and finds ways around things.

RAAVE TAPES seems though you’ve always had a dedicated community around you?

JE: I suppose that’s what we do this for. I’m from a little bit out of Newcastle and the idea of even getting big in Newcastle was foreign and over the moon to me. When we did our first show in Newcastle I was like, oh my god, I’ve made it, this is it! We’re here. We’re doing it! Just to travel around and meet lovely people and doing what we love is what keeps me going. I love it and I love everyone!

Every time we go to one of your shows it’s so fun!! So joyous! I love when you ask for “more friends having fun in the foldback, please”!

JE: Awww [laughs]. Thank you. Our quote in the studio at any point, maybe once an hour we’d check in with us all and be like “Are you having fun?” …it was important that if we weren’t having fun we’d leave it and move on to another thing. It had to be fun. The whole rule was, everything had to be fun!

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Californian musician & artist Lealani: “Everyone should be working together, helping each other, sharing ideas and having fun”

Photo: courtesy of Lealani’s porfolio. Handmade collage by B.

Lealani’s creations are highly original and hit you right in the feels! Her debut album Fantastic Planet was written between the ages of 12 and 19 as she experimented with synths, guitars, drums, apps, samplers, effects and production hardware to create her own universe. It’s a really special record and we voted the record our favourite international release of 2019 our praise of the LP said “It’s like BMO became a real girl by back-engineering human experience from discarded Portishead and Massive Attack tapes.” We caught up with Lealani last week to get an insight into her world.

You really love entertaining people; where did this desire come from?

LEALANI: When I started I actually used to be really nervous during shows. I would just stand there and I would never be myself or super loud in front of people, I was just a really nervous person. I started to perform when I was twelve years old, gradually I just started getting more and more comfortable in front of people. I really like entertaining people because it really gives me a chance to be myself and to encourage other people that they could just be themselves on stage too—everybody could be comfortable in that way. It’s been a learning process and it’s been progress to be comfortable on stage. Now that I am pretty comfortable with myself, I want to entertain more and more people, whether that is through music, performing or making art and making animation as well. It’s all really fun.

Why is art and music important to you?

L: Music and art is way for me to express myself. I love it so much because I just get this certain feeling from it that I can’t really get from anything else; where you feel like you’re in your own world, you’re in your own space and you are where you’re meant to be. I love both art and music because it’s a way to show people the world I am in and that they are all in their own world as well. Music and art is a way to express that world, to represent it to people—to show people this is your world and you can be who you want to be. You are yourself and you know yourself well enough to be that and do that.

I’m with you, I’ve always been a big believer in being yourself and creating your own world. When I was a kid people would pick on me and bully me and I found a solace in music and art and creating my own world and in time I became okay with, and proud of, who I am. Did you ever deal with that kind of thing at school?

L: Yeah. Actually in elementary school, I used to have a really, really high pitched voice. Even though we were all kids, my voice was much more higher than the other kids. I’ve always been a very small person – I’m below five feet, I’m 4’11 [laughs] really tiny – I guess kids were like, ‘whoa! She has a high pitched voice and is super tiny’ and I would get made fun of. Eventually that wore down and I didn’t really have that voice anymore. Not everybody was nice [laughs]. But it’s totally fine, I like singing so, maybe that’s way my voice was high back then!

Who was the earliest musician that influenced you?

L: I Middle School, that was the time when I was getting into music, I was introduced to mainstream music like Katy Perry, I didn’t realise that there was more underground music scene that existed. My dad started slowly showing me that. He used to be a DJ back in the day, he used to mix old school hip-hop records like Wu Tang and other old hip hop masters. He started showing me things like MF Doom. He had all this vinyl lying around. One day he said, “You should try to make music on this app on the iPad”. He gave me an iPad and I got a music application when I was twelve years old and I made my first beat. He was like, “Oh, that’s pretty cool”. He started introducing me to more and more music, he never forced anything on me though, he put it there in front of me to look at, if I liked it… I knew that it was something I wanted to pursue. My dad is a huge inspiration of mine.

The band Portishead, was when I first felt chills on my skin and felt goosebumps—the music was so weird. When I was a little kid I actually used to be afraid of their music because it was so striking to me, now I understand it more. They’re one of my favourite bands in the whole entire world. Portishead was a huge influence on me and the Gorillaz! When I heard them I realised how funky people could be in music, they were mixing it with art and they were cartoons too!

You’re studying animation, right?

L: Yeah I’m currently a Second Semester Junior here at California College Of The Arts studying in Oakland for animation. It’s really fun to learn about how to make better animations.

Your debut album, I know you also had a radio show of the same name, Fantastic Planet; that’s named from the 1973 sci-fi French (La Planète sauvage) animated movie?

L: Yes! It is. I was really inspired by that.

My husband and I really love that movie, he’s a big fan of animation and has made animated film clips, and he always loved the film’s animation. I’m actually looking at the movie poster on our wall right now! As soon as we found your stuff we knew straight away that was an inspiration. How did it inspire you?

L: Cool! That’s so awesome. I love that animation. The first time that I heard of it I was searching on YouTube and I saw this music video and I saw the clips of the aliens and I wondered what film it was, I looked it up and ever since then I’ve been like—that’s my world! [laughs]. Like I wanna live in Fantastic Planet! I didn’t know that it was going to turn into a whole album. At first it was like, I need a cool name for my radio show, I choose Fantastic Planet because I really liked the movie. That turned into more than that, I can’t really explain it.

What kind of emotions did you’re album Fantastic Planet come from?

L: It comes from an emotion of discovery, finding yourself, it comes with a lot of realisation and being in tune with yourself. Also, feeling all the pain through the journey of figuring out certain things. On the album I talk a lot about the space, the atmosphere I’m in, the feeling that I’m in. What I also try to include in it is the texture of these feelings. I don’t think too hard when I’m making my songs, they’re pretty much freestyle, they just come out of me. I’m not sure if it’s because that’s how I’m feeling that day or if I’m writing about something I felt years ago. I just let the songs come to me and just freestyle them in the best way that I possibly can, to not think too hard about it. The emotions that it really comes from though is pain, not necessarily bad pain but pain that is just felt, it’s just there.

Maybe because you wrote the album between the ages of 12 and 19 it’s just the pain of growing and growth?

L: Yeah, the pain of growth, exactly! That’s what I’m trying to say [laughs].

You re-released the album yourself?

L: Yeah. There was a little situation that happened with the release of the album. Basically it was a whole situation where I took all of my music off all platforms for a series of months… the whole situation that happened affected me in a way that I tried to not let it affect me. Especially for people that are making music on their own and they really want it to be out there… my advice to people basically is, make sure you own everything! I’ve written all my songs, I’ve written all of my lyrics, I make all the beats and then sometimes there are people out there that are trying to take that from you, to take that world away from you. My album is the first album that I have ever released, it means so much to me, there’s people out there that are basically trying to take away my right to my music, which is something that I never signed up for, I have never signed any contracts for. I decided to just go self-release and to really make it my own. I do realise that a lot of people don’t really talk about it but some artists are stuck with certain companies because they feel like they can’t do anything about it. For me, I was willing to take down all of my music because it meant so much to me that everything I made I owned. From learning my lessons and stuff I know so much more about the music industry.

I want to be there for other artists that make stuff and who wants to put their music out there, I want to encourage people that you can do it on your own. The internet is so large and wide out there that it’s making it more accessible for people to be able to do stuff on their own. Fantastic Planet is my heart and my world and it’s really hard when people are trying to take that away from you. I worked really hard to make sure everything was mine. I don’t want to discourage people from certain companies but you do have to be careful. Know what you’re trying to represent and who you want to be, what your goal is with things. There was a certain company that gave me a hard time about some things—make sure what’s yours is yours!

Courtesy of Lealani’s portfolio.

I get what you mean. I’ve been doing what I do for 25+ years since I was 15 and I’ve seen so much not-cool stuff happen in the music industry, that’s one reason why I’ll forever be on the fringes, that’s where the exciting things happen anyway. I’ve seen what the music “industry” is and it’s not for me.

L: Yeah, and it’s not like I’m trying to take money away from anyone, I just want to create, I don’t want any distractions.

Like you said, you play all the instruments on your album, you wrote it, the concepts, the art—that’s ALL YOU!

L: Exactly!

Is there a song on Fantastic Planet that’s really significant to you?

L: It’s definitely “Lonely Stars” and “Floating” is another one. “Lonely Stars” is so significant to me because – that’s probably why it’s the first track on the album too – it’s one of the first songs I’ve ever made that is totally me, this is who I think I want to be. It’s such a simple track, a synth, a bass and a drum and hi-hat and me singing over it. There’s just something about the melody and how I made it fit into the instrumental and how it flows. I hold that song really close to my heart. I love performing it live too.

I love “Floating” as well.

L: That’s another significant one as well because I made it when I first got the synths I made it with. I was playing around with it all day, I was playing around with a certain sound. It was the first time that I made the track and then wrote lyrics on the spot to how the synth was sounding. If you listen to the track instrumental I really feel like the words just come your way. That was probably the quickest song that I made on the album. It felt right to say those words and for the melody to be the way it was. It was really fun to write.

I think sometimes the simplest tracks can have a big impact because there is a lot of space.

L: Yeah, there’s lots of freedom.

I really love your song “Minuscule” too. You have a clip for it by Mitch Pond.

L: Yeah, Mitchell Pond. He’s an animator he made a film, he’s an animator for the Adult Swim show Dream Corp. He’s a very, very good animator. The first clip he sent me he had animated the Fantastic Planet bird in my hair and me saying “I feel miniscule” and I was like, ‘whoa! This is so amazing!’ I let him do the rest of the video. I feel it’s probably the first music video that captures the Fantastic Planet word incorporated into my own world as well. He is so good as capturing the artist and the song. I was really happy with how it came out.

You finished your first animated short recently Rapper Cow?

L: Yes, Rapper Cow [laughs]. It’s an idea that I’ve had in my head for a few years. Last semester I was finally ready to animate the film, I spent three months animating it with everything that I learned from all my classes. I did the sound for it. Rapper Cow’s voice is actually my voice, I just pitched it down. I was taking a shower when I came up with the idea like, oh, a cow that raps that bumps into this roller skater cow and they get abducted by aliens and they make beats. I’m trying to turn it into an animated series, Rapper Cow episode two should be out by the end of May.

You mentioned you had the idea in the shower; do you find you get most of your best ideas when you’re doing something other than music or art, like just non-thinking things like going for a walk or something?

L: Yes, definitely. It’s always when you least expect it and your mind is free and relaxed. If I’ve been thinking about something so hard and I can’t come up with something I take a shower and all of a sudden everything will make sense.

It’s minimal distractions, you can’t be connected to your phone, computer or whatever!

L: Yeah! That’s so true.

Have you been working on any new music?

L: Yes. I have been working on a lot of collaborations. One that I will mention is a collaboration with the beatmaker, Snakefoot. He’s from L.A. I’d seen him at shows and we said we should collaborate sometime, he’s been sending me some tracks. I’ve really liked the beats. It’s such a challenge for me learning how to collaborate with other beatmakers, just to collaborate with other people in general. It really changes your process because this time I’m working with someone else’s beat rather than making my own. I’m still working on my own music as well. Collaborating is a really big learning process for me and it improves how I make beats as well. It gives me an opportunity to try things I haven’t tried before. There will definitely be new music coming out in the summer. Snakefoot and I will release an EP over the summer.

Courtesy of Lealani’s portfolio.

I’m excited to see how it all comes out; you usually make your beats by yourself in your room?

L: Yeah all by myself. Sometimes I do need to find a way how to use a different drum pattern or try and find a different process… sometimes it’s hard to figure it out.

You started off playing piano when you were 12, got bored of that started playing guitar, drums and synths; you love the drums the most, right?

L: Yeah, yeah! The drums to me are the best instrument. It is limited in a way because there isn’t pitch changes, that limitation really… I believe that limitation sometimes can allow more freedom in how you express yourself. The drums are the most important factor in the tracks because it moves the tracks and makes it come alive. I love bass. I love ‘60s drumming. I love vintage sounding, crunchy drums. That’s something I want to actually incorporate into my next solo album, something that’s more hard and raw, but mixing in a new electronic sound at the same time as being Fantastic Planet. This time I want it to be more raw or hard, just more of everything! I love the drums, it’s the most fun instrument that you can jam on. It’s really good exercise as well [laughs].

I know you and your dad like to collect broken and vintage instruments from Craig’s List; what’s one of the coolest things you’ve found?

L: The coolest thing we’ve found… a lot of the Casio instruments that we find that are broken… a Casio SK1; there’s a circuit bent version called the S-CAT… that’s one of the instruments I really like using. I’ve been experimenting with using more Casio instruments. It’s really interesting how much you can bend sounds through circuit bending. My dad found a Casio calculator, it’s a calculator that’s a keyboard. Casio instruments give you a really vintage sound. I like the encouragement of using broken machines and turning them into something we can make music with.

Through collecting Casio keyboards, I was thinking about majoring as a Music Tech at CalArts. I actually did get accepted but I decided I wanted to do animation. I feel that gave me more freedom to come up with ideas rather than just building instruments. I also wanted to tell stories through animation rather than technology of music. Maybe it would have been better if I did Music Tech, maybe I would have been a complete wizard [laughs]. I’m really happy with my decision though, I feel like I can put out my ideas in a lot of different ways.

I love your illustrative art as well. I guess everything informs each other. There seems to be a real community and collaborations around you.

L: Its cool people support me and for me to see them make things as well. Someone who went to one of my shows at bandcamp headquarters in Oakland and made a “BEEP BOP BOOP” wooden piece for everybody and gave them out at my show. It was really cool to see someone incorporate my little phrase into their art and give them out. For the “Miniscule” music video to come out and to see someone else’s animation with my music was really cool too. It’s one big collaboration. Everyone should be working together, helping each other, sharing ideas and having fun.

Art by Lealani.

As far as your art goes I feel like freedom, exploration and connection are the things that matter most to you?

L: Yeah! Exactly.

Anything else to add?

L: BEEP. BOP. BOOP. Fantastic Planet. Aliens. Thank you so much for listening to Fantastic Planet. Stay tuned for more music coming out and more Rapper Cow. Thanks Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie zine for having me. If anyone needs help with releasing their own music, to self-release, we’re here with a new record company… if you have questions about the music industry feel free to contact me, I want to be there for other artists that might be going through anything. I don’t know everything but I know some things now.

Please check out: Lealani. Lealani bandcamp. @veggieburgerr Instagram.