1-800-Mikey: “I encourage everyone to stay true to who they are”

Original photo courtesy of Mikey. Handmade collage by B.

We love 1-800-Mikey the lo-fi bedroom garage punk project of Eora/Sydney musician Michael Barker, who also plays in the live line-ups of R.M.F.C. and Gee Tee. Latest album Plushy is “for all the cuties”, sunny, full of infectious hooks and features Kel from Gee Tee and Tee Vee Repairman (Ishka) sharing drumming duties. If you want an album to make you smile and brighten your day—this is it! We spoke to Mikey and got an insight into his super kawaii world.

How did you discover music?

MIKEY: I was initially introduced to music by my dad. As a young boy he would always be buying CDs and would crank rock n roll and blues through the sound system he had. Once I was a bit older the internet was my gateway to music. That’s when it took over my life. 

Youre from a musical family, your dad sang in a band in the 60s; tell us about that. A couple of years back you came across photos of him singing in Chile, right?

M: Yea, that’s right! My mother and I were cleaning the garage out and she handed me these photos of my dad when he was about 18. I had no idea that he was in a band and so I was literally speechless seeing these photos for the first time. I really wish I knew more about this, he passed away when I was in high school, but it’s really awesome to know that were more similar than I thought.     

When did you first start making music? Who or what initially encouraged you to give it a go yourself?

M: I started making music in 2014 when I was in year 11. I started to get into garage rock and I found this band called Surf Curse on Bandcamp, which then led me to find the lead singers solo project Tele/visions which is now more commonly known as Current Joys. I was absolutely obsessed with Nick Rattigan and he did everything at home with whatever he had lying around. This convinced me if he could do it then I could as well. From there I started to find more artists with the same ethos and thanks to Bandcamp I found further inspiration from Frankie Cosmos, Alex G and Porches who all did it themselves. 

You have a prized possession in an original art work drawn and painted by outsider, lo-fi musician Daniel Johnston; is he an inspiration for you? I feel 1-800-Mikey has some of the innocence, charm and playful qualities that DJ has?

M: Yes absolutely! I’m so grateful to own one of his drawings and I have to thank my partner who got it for my birthday. He is a massive inspiration, especially how his family didn’t approve of him being an artist, that really hit home. His story is really special and it makes me so happy knowing he just went for it because he loved it. His work definitely seeps through my creative process, I really love his honesty and simplicity. He’s an absolute legend. RIP Daniel ❤ 

Have you always lived in Eora/Sydney? How did you find your local music scene? When you were under 18 it was hard for you to find shows to go to, so you and your friends would have house shows or warehouse shows, didn’t you?

M: Yea, I’ve always lived in western Sydney my whole life and it was very hard finding a scene not living close to the city. I found that I never sat comfortably within a scene until just recently. It felt like I was jumping around scenes when I was younger which wasn’t bad at the time but it feels really nice to know I have a family and am part of a community now. The first show I played was a gig at my mother’s house in Blacktown. It was heaps random and we had friends from high school come around. Shortly after I played a show at the MCA for an all ages event where I met more people who would then introduce me to other warehouse/house shows happening in the inner west. To be honest, there weren’t to many DIY shows, but when they did happen it was super exciting, even still to this day.

What are the local bands you super love?

M: Two underrated bands in Sydney that I love to death are Shady Nasty and Cakewalk. Shady Nasty have been around for ages and they sound completely different to everything else that’s happening. They have gone through many different sounds and I love it all, especially their punk stuff. Definitely keep your ears and eyes out for Shady Nasty. Cakewalk is also another band I love who are super low-key and barely play any shows. They are another super interesting band who are doing something different who I encourage everyone to go and check out. 

Photo courtesy of Mikey.

Youve previously been in bands Bleeding Knees Club, Wax Witches, Neighbourhood Void and Dying Adolescence; can you tell us a little about your experience in each?

M: Dying Adolescence was my first project which I started in high school. This was my bedroom pop project and kind of like a diary where I wrote and recorded everything. 

Neighbourhood Void was the sister band to Dying Adolescence and that is led by Gio. I did some of the writing and recording here and there for NV but it was mainly Gio’s project. 

I played lead guitar in Wax Witches and Bleeding Knees Club and it was thanks to these two bands I got to play heaps of shows and tour Australia straight out of high school. I cant thank Alex enough for giving me the opportunity to do that. 

Your album Please Be Kind for previous project Dying Adolescence was about all the things that affected you and that you experienced in adolescence. 1-800-Mikey is your next musical chapter. Whats the new album Plushy about? Tell us about the writing process. It seems as though cute (kawaii)is a theme running throughout? 

M: I wanted to do something fun and less serious with 1-800-Mikey. The new album Plushy is a collection of everything I love since childhood and its nothing too serious. I really like all things cute and kawaii, so it made sense to me to make an album with these themes.  

What inspired the song Plushythat the album is titled after?

M: I guess I’ve heard lots of other songs based upon different perspectives from the songwriter and so I wanted to give it a go. During the time of writing, I was obsessed with claw machines which led me to the idea. I thought it would be cool to write a song from the perspective of a plush toy. I was surrounded by plushys from all the winnings I made from claw machines. After writing the song, I thought it would be the album title as it draws a clear line from the EP I did with the song claw machine. 

Song Pressureis about working 9 to 5; what do you do for a day job? Do you find it a challenge to work a day job and play music? 

M: I currently work at Relationships Australia as a Client Services Officer. I’m on the phones all day and I help people book in counselling or mediation when they are seeking support. I have always worked at a call centre which made me name the project 1-800-Mikey. I sometimes find it difficult working full time and playing music but my colleagues and managers find it really cool so they are heaps supportive and flexible about the whole thing. 

One of our favourite songs on the record is Snoopy; whats your connection to Charles M. Schulzs loveable cartoon beagle?

M: Oh man Snooooopy <3. My mother loves Snoopy. She would always get me Peanuts pyjamas, t-shirts and toys as a kid. He’s an absolute cutie and I wish Snoopy was mine. 

Kel from Gee Tee plays drums on five of the tracks and Tee Vee Repairman (Ishka) plays drums on two; what does each of their styles add to the songs? How do they differ?

M: Both of them are killer drummers. I’d say they are both quite similar but Kel’s got more of that budget home-style sound while Ishka’s got more of a tight garage sound. I reckon Kel adds more of a groove to the songs while Ishka drives the songs forward. Both of them are amazing and I thank them for helping me ❤ 

What was the recording process for the album? Kel lent you a 4-track, right? What was the setup for recording?

M: Kel lent me a 4-track in 2020 to record the EP. I’ve never recorded to tape before so it was a new way to get obsessed with recording again. After finishing the EP I got myself a 4-track for Christmas. The general setup is to record everything on tape then bounce it to GarageBand and complete the song there. It really makes recording drums a breeze. 

Who’s in the 1-800-Mikey live band?

M: At the moment the live band consists of Kel, Buz and Rohan. Kel is Gee Tee, Buz is RMFC and Rohan plays in a Grindcore and Hardcore band called Maggot Cave and Seethin. They are all sweethearts and I’m super lucky to have them in the live band.

On your Insta a few months back you sang your first song in Japanese Iggy Pop Fanclubby Number Girl; what inspired it?

M: Ahhh yes, I got obsessed with Number Girl and the lead singer’s second project Zazen Boys. I find that I get obsessed with different pockets of music around the world and so I wanted to little Insta cover. I’ve never sang in another language and I really love the melody to that Number Girl song so I gave it a go. It’s also motivating to see another Asian make rock music. Shutoku Mukai looks like a normal and nerdy guy and that is very relatable, which is heaps nice. 

You look like you had a lot of fun making the video for Claw Machine; what was one of the most fun or funny things that happened making it?

M: Yea, that was a really spontaneous one. Me and my long time friend Gio went into the city on a Thursday night to film a music video at the claw machines in Chinatown. The idea was that I’d leave with heaps of plushys as I would always win a couple. But this time around, I went in and I won nothing which was pretty funny as Gio didn’t believe I was heaps good at the claw. Also, the shop owner wasn’t impressed with us filming there after an hour or two. She asked if we wanted to continue filming that we would have to pay her. By this point we had enough footage so we bounced. 

Youve recently joined the live lineup of R.M.F.C. playing a 12-string guitar; whats the best thing about being part of R.M.F.C.?

M: I’ve never played 12-string before so that’s been very exciting. I’m very honoured to be able to play in Buz’s band. I think the best thing about being a part of R.M.F.C. is that I can pick Buz’s brain when learning his songs. It’s very inspiring to see how he writes songs and composes melodies. 

What’s next in the pipeline for you creatively? 

M: I’m definitely gonna have a little break while Gee Tee and R.M.F.C. are getting busy. I’ll be writing songs again soon, so keep an eye out. Also, I might be joining another band, which will be a secret for now. 

Anything else youd like to share with us?

M: I encourage everyone to stay true to who they are and do what they believe is right. Love Mikey.

1-800-Mikey is out now get it HERE. Follow @1800mikey.

Display Homes: “We started to draw more on influences from bands of the 80s like Delta 5, AU Pairs, Pylon, B-52s”

Original photo courtesy of Display Homes. Handmade collage by B.

Eora/Sydney 3-piece Display Homes are back with new music! The asymmetric guitars, bass grooves and dynamic drums we’ve come to love on their previous two EPs are all there brighter than ever on forthcoming debut album What If You’re Right & They’re Wrong?. It’s raw but sharp, minimalist and danceable. Their pop sensibilities make it accessible while their post-punk leanings make it exciting. We’re calling it now as one of our favourite albums of the year! 

Today Gimmie are premiering first single ‘CCTV’ with accompanying video shot via CCTV at a pub vocalist Steph King once worked at. We caught up with the band for a yarn.

We’re excited that you have new music coming out. The sneak peek copy of your debut full-length album, What if you’re right & they’re wrong? has been on high rotation at Gimmie HQ! It’s one of our favourite releases we’ve heard so far this year. How long have you been working on it and how does it feel to be releasing it into the world?

GREG CLENNAR: Thanks, glad to hear you are enjoying it! We recorded the album at the end of 2020 and the songs were written over the two years prior to that, so it has been a long time coming. To finally announce the album is very exciting to say the least. The delay caused by COVID and the subsequent delay with pressing plants has drawn it out as I am sure many other bands have experienced. It’ll definitely be a relief once it’s out.

What influences have shaped Display Homes’ sound?

GC: I’m not sure if there’s been any one collective influence for our sound, even though it may come across that way. At our first ever practice, none of us had any idea of what we wanted to do, except that Darrell had already declared our name was Display Homes, which Steph and I both wholeheartedly endorsed. We didn’t even know who was going to sing, which entailed a few failed attempts on mine and Darrell’s behalf before realising that Steph was clearly the best singer in the band. As we evolved and the sound started to make more sense, I think we started to draw more on influences from bands of the 80s like Delta 5, AU Pairs, Pylon, B-52s etc, who we all love.

How has the band grown from 2019’s EP E.T.A.?

DARRELL BEVERIDGE: In 2019 we all lived together in one of the most beautiful sharehouse in Marrickville. Seriously, this place was incredible, a true Display Home inhabited by us FRAUDS. It looked like one of those places that instagram bedsheet companies use to shoot their ads and people look at them and go, “If I get these pistachio coloured sheets, maybe I can live somewhere like that!”  Unfortunately the owner dogged us and kicked us out because they wanted to move back in. 

In terms of progression as a band, I think we’ve just tightened a few loose screws. When we were recording the album and I was doing guitar for one of the songs, Owen the producer stormed into the room on about the 38th take of a very simple guitar part and said to me, “You keep hitting that top string, do you even use it?” I replied, “I do not.” Owen: “Then take it out!” So now I only play with 5 strings (seriously).  So technically, I’ve regressed musically.

Where did the album title come from?

STEPH KING: I always find it hard to give anything a title. I couldn’t think of a title for one of the songs on the album and I asked Darrell and he named it ‘Neenish’– which was the name of his cat at the time, probably because he remembered he needed to feed her. It worked out surprisingly well as the lyrics very much matched the behaviour of a little kitty cat. 

I was struggling to think of an album name and was rewatching season 1 of Fargo during lockdown. What if you’re right & they’re wrong? is the quote on the poster in the basement that Lester reads moments before he loses the plot. It just stuck with me. I asked Greg and Darrell what they thought, and they liked it, so we went with it. I think if I asked Darrell for an album name he probably would have suggested ‘Beans’ – which is the name of his current cat. But cat names can only go so far.

Photo courtesy of Display Homes.

We’re premiering first single ‘CCTV’ as well as the video for it, which is your first music video. Tell us about the writing of ‘CCTV’.

SK: The lyrics were inspired by a game that I’d play when I was bored on long car trips using letters from number plates. Using the three letters I would add one more letter to make a word. I came up with a drum beat and brought it to practice and then Greg and Darrell added their parts. I think it was one of the quickest songs we have ever written. Over time I have found that if I bring an idea to practice that has the drums and vocals already aligned it makes it a lot easier. Playing both at the same time means they really need to work together, and if it isn’t written with that in mind, it can be a struggle to play live. 

The album was recorded and mixed by Owen Penglis; what brought you to working together? What was recording like? What was one of the most fun moments for you? What was one of the most challenging?

DB: I met Owen close to 10 years ago and was actually going to record one of my old bands EP with him (we were called Sucks) but we ended up going with someone cheaper for the same reason one would drink cask wine over bottled wine.  Sucks were cask-punk, Display Homes is more bottle-punk. It’s still cheap but it’s in a bottle at least. 

It was all fun except for this satanic devil dog in the studio that had it in for me and wanted to fucking bite me all the time. I find recording really difficult and uncomfortable and while I enjoyed the process as a whole, actually doing my parts made me pretty self-conscious on many levels.  Why am I self conscious? Why do I keep fucking these parts up? But Owen was great, he could really pull you out of your head. Just as you’d finish a song and convince yourself you had nailed it, you would look up and see Owen with a big smile and he would say, “Tune your guitar and do it again!” He really encouraged us to get the best out of the recordings.

The video was made using the CCTV cameras at the Cricketers Arm Hotel, a pub, that Steph used to work at. Steph, what were some of the best and worst bits about working there?

SK: The Crix is a very special place. It’s the best pub in Sydney! It’s like the clock stopped in 1995 and everything is the same. It was my first job when I moved to Sydney and the overwhelming sense of community with staff and locals was very welcoming. Worst bits – hmm, it’s near the SCG so maybe on game nights when rude men would buy three Jack and Cokes at a time. It always felt weird, kinda like the outside world was entering the pub for a few hours and then leaving again. 

What do you remember most about the day of filming ‘CCTV’?

SK: It was an interesting music video to ‘shoot’ because there wasn’t a great deal of shooting involved. As it was all done on the CCTV cameras, we would set up in front of one of the cameras with the help of our very good friend Luke Smith who brought along some lights and his handy cam to get some additional footage. I would yell out to our friends who we coaxed into coming along with a couple of free beers “Ok everyone we are doing it now”, often without anyone hearing me, and then one of the bartenders would start the song on the speakers so that we could try and play along to keep the footage in time. We couldn’t hear a thing and every take we would finish a couple of seconds before the recording ended. The whole day was very much an experiment and even by the end of it we didn’t know what was caught on the cameras. It wasn’t until we got home that we could really try and figure out how we would put it all together. 

What was it like putting together the downloaded footage for the clip?

SK: The first hurdle was downloading the footage. After we finished up for the day I was told by the pub manager that “the security camera guy is coming in the morning and last time he came he wiped all the footage from the system”. Panic mode kicked in at the thought of losing it all and involved me arriving at the pub at 7.30am the next morning and contacting several different people to get a hold of the key that opened the cupboard of the security system. I kid you not, there was about 10 seconds remaining on the last piece of footage as the camera guy was walking up the stairs at 10.30am. Then came sorting through the thousands of files of footage, which was very tedious, but also very fun at times. It was my first time editing and I obsessed over it for months – but we got there in the end and we are all really happy with it.

Which is a favourite from the album?

DB: I liked recording ‘Proof Read’. When Steph was doing the vocals, me and greg were standing in the other room looking through the window psyching her up to make her get as tough and intense as she could. Jumping up and down yelling “GO STEPH!!! FUCKING BELT IT OUT!!!!!! YESSS !!!! IT’S A HIT!!!!” Steph nails it in that song I reckon.

Album closer ‘Aufrutschen’ was on the E.T.A. cassette; how do you feel the album version has changed?

DB: Part of me didn’t want to do it, but then I remembered growing up hearing multiple versions of the same song from bands I liked – I really liked that. Like a live recording, EP version, and then an album version or whatever. I always thought there was no bad that could come from that.  If people like it they’ll listen to both, if they don’t they’ll listen to neither. It’s like if you put $5 in the pokies and got $10 credit, or put nothing in there and got nothing. Everybody wins! Or no-one wins! Take your pick!

We love the album art; who did it?

SK: We actually had a completely different cover that I did on lino. We were sitting on it for a while and I just wasn’t sold on it. I am studying architecture and almost every semester I always partnered up with my friend Allyson because we worked so well together. We always managed to produce our best work at the last minute. Five minutes before a presentation we both grabbed pastels and started scribbling our building on the page. I asked her if she would mind if I used it for the album cover and she said go for it (thanks Allyson!). It reminds me of a time when my studies and hobbies were at peak productivity. Sometimes it’s crazy how much you can get done in a day.

Can you tell us a fun fact about Display Homes?

GC: When we supported Real Estate at the metro the official run sheet said ‘Display House’. As Darryl Kerrigan of The Castle says, “It’s a home not a house”. 

What do you do when not making music?

SK: I think I can answer this one for all of us. We all work 9-5, enjoy swimming laps, and eating delicious charcoal chicken. 

What’s next for Display Homes?

GC: The record will be out on Erste Theke Tontrager this European Summer and then we will look to play some album launch shows. We have played Melbourne and Brisbane before but we are excited to play some other cities/towns this time round. We have started writing some new music too, so maybe another album!

Display Homes’ debut album What if you’re right & they’re wrong? out soon via Erste Theke Tontrager.  Follow @displayhomesband + DH on Facebook. DH on Bandcamp.