Tropical Fuck Storm’s Fiona Kitschin: “When everyone comes up to rehearse or record, dogs outnumber the humans. It’s chaotic, but lovely.”

Original Photo by: Jamie Wdziekonski. Handmade collage by B.

One of Gimmie’s all-time favourite bands, Tropical Fuck Storm, have just announced a new 7” single for the song ‘Moonburn’, releasing a video for the B-side, a wild reinterpretation of The Stooges’ classic ‘Ann’. We caught up with bassist-vocalist Fiona Kitschin to find out about the release, their recent European tour, her history discovering and performing music, a new hobby she’s taken up, and the band’s love of dogs.

FIONA: My day has been good. I’ve been working. I organise all the TFS stuff; right now overseas tours, Australian tours, new releases. I’m our manager.

Gareth’s mentioned that previously, and said that you don’t get enough props for all of the behind the scenes things that you do.

FI: [Laughs] Awww. It’s bloody exhausting! It gets pretty hectic when you’re working across three different time zones – here, Europe and the US. You never get to sleep. I like sleep [laughs]. 

Thanks so much for talking with us today, it’s appreciated. We’ve wanted to speak with you for ages. We’ve spoken to Gareth and Erica before. Let’s start at the beginning; where did you grow up?

F: In the hills of Perth.

How did you first discover music?

F: I grew up in a pretty bogan area. When everyone I knew was getting into Sonic Youth, I was into Gunners and Black Sabbath [laughs]. I’ve always loved music! I’ve always loved performing; I’m a weird introvert performer. I’ve got tapes of when I was 4-years-old singing, it’s quite funny. It’s pretty cute. I have this really broad Australian accent [laughs]. 

Can you remember the kinds of things you would sing back then?

F: When I was a kid I would sing [breaks out into song]: one little speckled frog / sat on a speckled log / eating the most delicious grub / yum yum! [laughs].

Amazing!

F: I was obsessed with The Muppets too. My parent’s liked Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. I grew up with boys, so I used to high kick around the house singing that stuff.

Nice! What was the first concert you went to?

F: New Year’s Eve when I was fifteen, it was at Fremantle Oval. It was Baby Animals, Hunters & Collectors [laughs]. That was my first concert. Nothing very cool I’m afraid. Gaz always brags about his first concert being Bob Dylan, but it was nothing like that for me.

My first concert was the hip-hop group Arrested Development in 1993. I went with my older sister, everyone in the crowd near us were handing around joints. 

F: That’s a cool one. What a dream.

When did you start playing music?

F: I played trumpet when I was a kid in primary school. That was short-lived. You had to do a test. If you passed the test you’d have to chose out of three instruments: clarinet, flute or trumpet. Each of the instrument teachers would come around and try to sell to the kids, why they should play that instrument. The trumpet player said, “If you play trumpet, all the muscles that you build in your lips will make you a really good kisser.” [laughs]. As a 10-year-old that really appealed to me, and so did the fact that all the other girls played the flute and clarinet, and the boys did the trumpet. I didn’t want to play those “girly” instruments, I wanted to play the trumpet!

Sadly, when we had concert, the girls would stand with their clarinets and flutes and watch me blow on my trumpet and my face would turn bright red and I got teased so much because of that. I mean there’s lots of reasons why my trumpet career didn’t take off [laughs], it was also because it was annoying to my family. There were five kids in my family. I had a practice book that my mum had to sign – I’m lazy with practising musical instruments – but she was so happy not to have the noise, that she would just sign it whether I did it or not. Many factors went against me becoming a great trumpeter! [laughs]. 

[Laughter]. When did you start playing bass?

F: Not until I was much older. The share house that I lived in was a bit of a party house, all the dudes would come around and play music, that was our form of entertainment. I thought, ‘Stuff that, I don’t want to be left out of it. I’m going to play too!’ I took it up. It was like (going back to my trumpet practice) the easiest instrument to play.

Photo by Jhonny Russell.

Were you in any other band before The Drones?

F: I played around in a few little things with other friends and then I met Gaz in Perth, we had this group of musician friends, and I played in two other bands with him before The Drones. We had a friend, mad cunt called Robin Maverick, and we had a band together. We had another band with a friend, Brendan Humphries and His Elephant Men. So, we had a few bands before moving over to Melbourne.

How do you feel you and Gaz complement each other creatively?

F: We have different roles. I do all the organisation and planning. He organises all the music-side of things. It’s actually a really good partnership, there’s not really a crossover where we step on each others toes. He’s 24/7 thinking about music and I have an organisational mind, so I’m plotting and planning things. I could’t imagine two of the same in a partnership, it wouldn’t work as good, you’d be trying to out organise the other one and out create. 

What’s one of your first TFS-related memories?

F: We hadn’t met [Lauren] Hammer when we started the band, so it was a really cool night when me and Gaz had a blind date with her, more or less. We stalked her through a metal friend, Gaz had seen her play in High Tension. Through the mutual friend we set up a blind date for the three of us. We didn’t know what to expect. We got really drunk and by the end of the night we were making plans. The real turning point was when she said she was vegan, I was like, ‘Oh my god! I love you.’ [laughs]. 

You’re vegan?

F: Yes! It was a such a happy accident to have everyone get along.

Lovely. Previously you’ve mentioned that going from The Drones into Tropical Fuck Storm, you told to Gaz that you wanted to be in band with more women.

F: Did I? I can’t remember that, probably. That sounds about right! [laughs].

And, you wanted things to be more fun and less depressing?

F: Yeah. Musically. I didn’t mean the band itself. Definitely TFS has more of a sense of fun. There was nothing much fun musically about The Drones.

What kinds of things have helped make TFS more fun?

F: Musically, it’s upbeat and less serious. It’s more danceable and silly, whilst being dark.

We especially love tracks you sing on like ‘Suburbiopia’.

F: I love singing. We have a new single coming out, I sing on that. It’s really fun. 

What’s the single called?

F: It’s called ‘Ann’ a Stooges cover.

I saw a photo of Gaz in at Zenith Records picking up a test pressing of the new single and wondered what was coming out. A new TFS release is always very exciting!

F: It’s a new 7-inch called Moonburn and the B-Side is Stooges cover ‘Ann’. 

What made you choose ‘Ann’ to cover?

F: It was at the beginning of lockdown when Melbourne had its “ring of steel” and Ham and Erica couldn’t legally come see us, there were checkpoints on the freeway. We’d set all this time aside for recording a new album and we were getting depressed about being unable to record it. I said, ‘Well, we could just do something, let’s just do it.’ So Gaz got on the drum machines and he came up with the idea of doing ‘Ann’.

What kind of song is Moonburn?

F: It’s one of my favourite emo TFS songs. It’s has a heavy vibe, it’s on that side of the TFS spectrum. 

Do you know where the title came from?

F: I could make something up, but I was probably just doing something else when Gaz told me about it. I wasn’t listening [laughs].

Single cover art by Gregory Jacobsen.

TFS were recently in Europe; do you enjoy touring?

F: Yes, I do. It’s fun. There’s touring and then there’s touring! The more comfortably you can do it the better. The days of sleeping on people’s couches are thankfully over, now I just have fun planning a secret night off in accommodation like a Scottish castle or something like that to surprise everyone. It’s fun that we can afford to stay in hotels now, nicely. People show up to shows too [laughs]. That’s always good when you don’t have to worry about no one showing in Europe sometimes, back in the day with The Drones that was a definite scenario. 

The last tour that we just got back from in the UK were sold out shows, it was such a surprise. There were younger people, like 19-year-olds, moshing and singing the words. We were deeply shocked and thrilled. It was weird and amazing.

We’re always stoked to see you play too. Previously Gareth mentioned in an interview that when you’re on tour he loves to drag people to see things like war memorials and other historical sites; is there anything you love to drag him to see?

F: [Laughs] Yeah. I don’t drag him to see anything, it’s easier to do it by myself.

What’s some of the coolest things you saw while away this time?

F: We had two days off in Rome, which was fun. We did the Coliseum and all of that stuff. This time was a really stress-free tour. Though half way through we did get sick, really sick. It was quite awful, it was more on the holiday end of things. There was one show in Oslo that me, Erica and Gareth felt like shit, we all had insane flus. Erica’s doctor’s certificate says, laryngitis. I had a doctor come see me in Greece cos I was so sick. We also played a show in Athens when the three of us were really sick; it was the last show of the tour, when it’s the last show there’s no fear of totally fucking your voice for the rest of the tour. We just push ourselves so hard for that one hour and then if we collapse or lose our voice it doesn’t matter.

We still managed to relax in a villa on a Greek island for five days, eating yummy food, swimming. The other guys, not me, were cliff jumping into the ocean. If we can, we love to have some nice time on tour.

The Greek islands sound wonderful, it’d be so pretty at this time of year.

F: Yeah. We’ve got more Europe shows in September and it’s just show after show after show and no days off. 

Is there anywhere high on your travel bucket list?

F: I just love the Mediterranean countries. Greece and Italy. I hate the cold. I’d love to play South America. Me and Gaz have been there on holiday, Argentina, Brazil and Chile, to see some family. We’ve never played there though, that would definitely be fun!

I read that you went to Mexico and had some scary experiences.

F: We finished doing a tour and we ended up in San Diego and from there it’s a quick drive through Tijuana to Baja. It was wonderful we had a nice holiday. But, we’ve had some dicey experiences in Mexico. 

Two years later, we were at the end of a tour and thought we should go back to Baja, Mexico. We did it with our friend [Amanda] Roffy, she was driving on The Drones tour of the US. During that period the drug cartels had moved in and it had become a really dangerous area. No tourist were going there. Tourists were being kidnapped on the highway, women were being raped and money stolen. We got to our hotel and we were the only guests there. Two days later we read in the Gringo Gazette what was happening there, it was quite horrifying. We had to go through army check points. We also read that you should look at their shoes and machine guns to make sure they’re the real army, cos they could be the drug cartel. We had an outdoor jacuzzi at the resort, but had to turn the lights off at night so no-one would see us. Luckily, the over the counter chill pills are good in Mexico [laughs], it helped somewhat.

[Laughter]. I also wanted to ask you about your pups, Foxie and Ralph.

F: Awww my favourite topic!

They’d be around 10-years-old, right?

F: Yes.

How did you meet them?

F: They’re real characters, they’re quite naughty [laughs]. Our neighbours up the road had just had puppies. There’s a Fox Terrier breeder in a country town near us. Our friends up the road are Fox Terrier Fanciers. They’d always have fox terriers. They had a boy fox terrier called Kevin that was really cute. Our neighbour went to the breeders and the Grand Champion Bitch, Ruby, the owner said she couldn’t breed puppies anymore and they were going to fucking put her down.

Noooo!

F: So our neighbour Andrew took her. Gaz and I were recording an album up at Andrew’s with Spencer P. Jones with a band called The Nothing Butts. While we were recording the album, we saw conception out the window, Kevin was having sex with Ruby! It turns out that she could have another litter!

Miracle babies! 

F: Miracle babies! We would go visit them everyday since they were born and it just became inevitable that we would take them in. Everyone in the band loves dogs. Between the four members of the band we have five dogs.

I know Erica has Poncho!

F: Yeah. Ham has Jack and Toohey. When everyone comes up to rehearse or record, dogs outnumber the humans. It’s chaotic, but lovely.

Nice! That sounds perfect. We love dogs so much! We have a little pup named Gia, she’s half-Jack Russell Terrier and half-Maltese.

F: Awww.

Another thing I was curious about was the sparkly black dress you’ve been wearing when you play live. It’s amazing. The way it catches the lights on stage is pretty special. Where did you get it?

F: Thank you! It’s my favourite. I got it from my oldest friend, who I met when I was three. We grew up in Perth together as Mormons. You can only wear a stage outfit for so long I feel, I might have to put it away for a while. I would wear it every night if I could!

Last question; what’s something that you like to geek out about?

F: Well, I feel very middle age, middle class saying this, and it’s a bit of a trend at the moment but, I started pottery during the pandemic [laughs]. I was watching this series The Great Pottery Throw Down and I’d get on my pottery wheel and make bowls and things. That’s my latest thing.

The other thing is, I love food and cooking! I’m always thinking about new recipes and cooking. I make a lot of Mediterranean thins, and savoury pies.

Tropical Fuck Storm have a new 7” single Moonburn/Ann available for pre-order HERE. Check out TFS Records. Find them at @tropical_fuck_storm and TFS Facebook.

Catch them on their Australian tour kicking off tomorrow (August 4):

MOD CON’s Erica Dunn: “A plea for honesty and a real searching for truth in these sorts of times”

Original Photo by: Jamie Wdziekonski. Handmade collage by B.

Gimmie have loved Naarm/Melbourne trio MOD CON since we first heard their debut release in 2017, the MOD CON/Fair Maiden split 7”. In July we featured guitarist-vocalist Erica Dunn on the cover of our first print edition, and now we’re incredibly excited to premiere the film clip for song ‘Ammo’, the first single off upcoming sophomore album, Modern Condition. We chatted with Erica about the song and clip, and of finally playing live shows again, plus we get a sneak peek into the new record, due out October 1 on Poison City Records.

ERICA DUNN: I’m walking my dog, Poncho. We’re just strolling around in soggy-arsed creek-land.

Nice! How have things been since we last spoke a couple of months ago?

ED: Things have been busy. Sometimes I’m like, it’s a rat race in my mind! [laughs]. There always seems to be a lot to juggle. I feel like it’s a strange new era where, because we’ve been locked down, you have to clear your mental expectations if your mental health is going to be ok; you have to get really present. When the lockdown is lifted it’s fucking crazy the adrenaline kicks in, you feel like everything is on, and you have to make the most of it! There’s also a new gratitude for when you are able to work and do stuff. It’s just, let’s fucking go! [laughs].

You’ve finally got to play some live shows again.

ED: We [Tropical Fuck Storm] were pinching ourselves thinking that the gigs with King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard happened! We played every capital city without a hitch. It was incredible, it felt like normal life. We’re playing a MOD CON show on Sunday and the capacity is forty people, you just have to roll with it. We’re supporting Exek on Saturday night too, they just released one of the best records I’ve heard in ages! There’s only 100 people able to attend, it’s like a parallel universe.

We love that Exek album too!

ED: Shows have been varying degrees of normal. It’s always great to play though. Playing a show to forty people a year ago, might not have seemed worth it, but now I’m like, fuck it! The venue can sell beer and we can party—do it while we can! We have to take it as it comes. It’s hard to know where boundaries are when booking things because it can change so quickly, it’s all go, then stop, then go again. We’re about to release an album into a very different world than when we have previously.

[Erica talks to Poncho: “come on, up you get, in the car!”]

He’s old!

What kind of dog is Poncho?

ED: A mystery boy! [laughs]. He’s probably a Ridgeback mixed with a Staffy. He’s getting on to be thirteen now. He needs help getting into the car, but still loves to cavort around every day. We did our loop of the Darebin Parklands, which is so beautiful.

That’s a lovely way to decompress after rushing around doing things all day.

ED: For sure. There are times when I’m so busy or it’s freezing or raining and I’m like, fuck this! But then I always feel better afterwards.

Yeah, I get that too. Especially if it’s wet or cold, you kind of feel like you really accomplished something. I find that when you push yourself to do something and you do it, then that filters out into other parts of your life and you can start to achieve more and more.

ED: Yeah, that’s a great way to look at it. I’m going off to boxing class later, that’s the real decompression! [laughs].

We’re premiering the clip for your new album Modern Condition’s first single ‘Ammo’; can you remember writing the song?

ED: I was talking to the girls yesterday about it when we were having a practice. It was actually the last song written for the album, which is funny because it’s the first song out. It was the wild card song. It was the last one to get lyrics, I wrote them on the second last day of recording with John [Lee]. I just moved house and it was in the same week I spoke to you last; we just finished recording the record.

The song is not exactly how I have gone about things in the past. We had the riff, structure, tension and trajectory of the song sorted, and in the jams, I was yelling mystery words. In that coming together, we all recognised there was a vibe, an angle, to the song and the stuff I was spontaneously yelling. I had recordings of those jams and captured a couple of the bits of imagery that I was on about. The genesis is, that it was a bit of a mad, haphazard one [laughs].

One of the things we especially love on ‘Ammo’ is the drums!

ED: Raquel [Solier]! Fuck yeah! We were really running on a mad schedule and a couple of things interrupted the recording, [bass player] Sara [Retallick] got real sick and couldn’t make it, and there was a snap lockdown just before we were to start recording, which was meant to be our final pre-production-type thing.

There was a couple of days that Raquel and I did that was a guitar and drums day trying to nut out mystery question marks about a few songs. She came up with this crazy fucking rhythm for this song. It’s so sick! The subtext right there, is that it sounds kind of military-esque, it’s very explosive. She’s a wizard! She’s complicated and it’s fantastic [laughs]. We have a lot of back and forth, she often writes rhythms based on the lengths of my lyrics or parts of phrases. She’s much more adept at musical knowledge and language than I am. I get too fucking muddled and am like; where’s the one?! [laughs].

[Laughter]. I’m excited to hear the full album. How amazing is that remix that Ela Stiles did for ‘Ammo’?

ED:  It was something that we did on the last record too, we approached Jacky Winter to do a remix for us. I don’t know if other artists get this certain hang up, but if you record something it’s strange, it’s like, is that it? It’s very finite in a way and then it’s out in the world. I’m interested in melodies and melody writing and playing around with ways of doing things, it makes sense to chuck out a remix and have a different perspective; another layer on all the ideas that are in there. You can see people’s reactions to it as well, for some people it’s another way into the band. Remixes freak some people out and others think it’s bangin’! It’s another way to explore the world of the song.

We’re definitely on the it’s-bangin’ side of things!

ED: Same!

It’s always cool to hear a song in a new context.

ED: And, it’s fun! Ela is another musician, composer, producer that has such mad chops! I have a lot of respect for her. It’s so cool to see how your song comes back at you and you can see things that someone else picked up, and what they have as the backbone, how they put a whole new spin on it. When I first heard it, I was driving in the car and I was like, far out! It raises your heartrate for sure! It’s anxiety inducing in a good way, especially how she pulled out the melodies.

Let’s talk about the ‘Ammo’ film clip. It was Oscar O’Shea that filmed it?

ED: Yeah, Oscar is someone that is so positive and excitable. He’s a can-do problem solver, up for anything. The clip, artwork and all the things that come beside releasing a song and album, are the stepping stones in which to explore and springboard some of the ideas at play in it. The clip is a play on sitting in a society that is always throwing shit at each other and navigating that, hoping it doesn’t stick, hoping that it doesn’t fly up in your face. It was a couple of packets of Golden Circle pancakes and crumpets, and a few friends on the side chucking them in our faces. It was a challenge trying to eyeball the camera, get the lyrics out and seem unphased [laughs]. It’s an analogy, sometimes I feel like that in life. It was a fun way to build on what I’m ranting about in the track.

It looks cool visually. Did you cop any crumpets to the head?

ED: We got a couple! [laughs]. I definitely got a couple in the face; I could definitely do a blooper reel! Raquel is Kung fu trained and did a couple of badarse, sick moves at the end. She grabs one out of the air without even paying much attention to it, it’s super cool!

I noticed in the clip she was reading The Tao Of Pooh [by Benjamin Hoff].

ED: Yeah, how good! I wanted her to bring along a prop. She was reading it at the time. She’d come over for a cup of tea and she brought up that she had been re-reading that and finding pearls of wisdom in it. I was like, fucking bring that to the clip, it’ll be perfect! That was legit on her bedside table at the time we made the clip. It sat perfectly in this world of trying to be present while everything is exploding overhead. Then we were playing around with the flour and the milk, it was evoking smoke and explosions, which was cool fun to experiment with.

There was a bit of a collab on the clip too. Carolyn Hawkins from Parsnip and School Damage did a bunch of the stop motion.

When we first saw the clip, we totally thought it was reminiscent of her style, that’s so cool it actually is her work!

ED: Yeah, it’s got her all over it. She’s another person that we thought of working with because she’s got the mad prowess, great vision and she understood what we wanted straight away. I sent her an old clip of the Sesame Street [sings] “one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten…” old school thing. I was thinking about “ammo” and thinking about it in all these different contexts, weaponry, and objects in our lives gaining agency. She nailed the undertones of aggressiveness and the sinister aspect that simple objects can have, especially en masse. It’s not overdone or in your face. That’s how I feel at least when I watch it. Part of me is like, woo hoo! Look at those little forks fly! Oh my god they’re getting power! They’re growing and stockpiling and conspiring with each other! [laughs]. There’s an edge to it. Props to my housemates too, that are still wondering when they’re getting their bottle opener back, and our forks!

I love that you’re all such nerds and there’s so much thought that goes into everything you do.

ED: Yeah, it’s true! I feel like there’s two ways of looking at things. In the past, album releases like this have a big emotional weight for me, they can be fucking stressful. You can think, argh! I’ve already put all of my spirit into making the record and now there’s all these other strange hats you have to wear as a musician.

The other thing is, you can see it as extra opportunities of getting to collaborate with people that you want to work with and make it really fun! This experience has been completely fun. I am completely enamoured with what Caz has done, and all of the mad ideas with Oscar; same with Ela. It’s all fun new ways to see the song. A new dimension.

I love that there’s a light-heartedness to it too. The things you’re singing about can be serious, but then the clip give them a levity.

ED: It’s definitely crossed my mind that the song is not prescriptive, I’m not saying there’s a better way or that I have an answer, these are things that are going around in my mind and this is an avenue in which I can explore them. Having a light-hearted aspect is part of my personality, there’s a tongue-in-cheek-ness. Often, I realise retrospectively that I’m asking questions in my lyrics. It’s definitely an exploration.

It’s also a double-sided coin, the band is really serious and aggressive, we play live shows and there’s not much mucking around, the things that the three of us bring to a live show can be pretty staunch! However, the flip is that we’re in love with each other and when we’re playing, we’re having a really good time, it’s just the best for our mental health and for our relationships, it’s what the band is built on, and we’re always laughing. That gets represented in the music and all we put out, in some way.

I’ve always loved the quote from Gareth [Liddiard] where he said: MOD CON is like a cross between The Bangles and Black Flag. I thought that’s pretty on the money, because you have that aggression but then also pop sensibilities.

ED: [Laughs] Yeah! I think he was chuffed about that quote being pulled out about our last record. Maybe it’s just the two bands Gaz knows?! [laughs] Only kidding! I do think there is a crossing of a couple of worlds.

With the new album being called Modern Condition is the title a reflection of the album’s themes?

ED: Yeah. We had a long car trip together recently, we played a show three hours outside of Melbourne, and we were sussing out what the album should be called. We wanted it to be another MOD CON-ism, keeping Mod in the title. I think this is going to be two of three, there’s probably going to a trilogy. This section “Modern Condition” is a bow that can be tied between all of the songs, it’s really exploring human sensibilities. People talk about the human condition, but this is what humans are up to in these kinds of circumstances. If I was going to pull out some overarching themes of this album—it’s mostly a plea for honesty and a real searching for truth in these sorts of times.

“Ammo” is the first cab off the rank to represent that. It’s having a little investigation and inspection of the human condition in modern times. I feel like the backdrop of big scale and small-scale weaponry is the first investigation, without wanting to sound mega highbrow or whatever the fuck! [laughs]. I’m still trying to work it out for myself. It’s investigating myself too; what are my default positions? What am I defensive about? Doing that I’m also trying to investigate how to be open and how not to always be on the default and being defensive and collecting ammo, shit to chuck at another person.

I feel that finding your truth and actually living it can be a very hard thing. I’ve been going through that the last few years of my life, but I can definitely say since I found it and have been living it, nothing but great things have happened.

ED: You’re absolutely right, it’s a life journey! It can be totally confronting. But, once you have realisations about some things in your life, you can’t go back.

Please check out: MOD CON bandcamp; on Facebook; on Instagram. All things MOD CON at Poison City.