Meanjin band Lackadaisies: “Buy Lackadaisies tape now”

Original photo courtesy of Zang! / Handmade mixed-media collage by B

Indie slacker rock three-piece Lackadaisies (whose members also play in Full Power Happy Hour, Blankettes, Married Man, No DOZ and Camping) released EP Payphone Text a week ago. The EP has the band sounding lucid and at their breeziest yet, and its casual hookiness is hard to resist. Gimmie asked guitarist-vocalist Nathan Kearney, bassist Grace Pashley and drummer Marnie Vaughn about Payphone Text, what makes them nervous, the most romantic thing they’ve done for someone and what other projects they’re each working on. 

When you were starting our as a musician, was there anyone that you looked up to? What was it that you admired about them?

NATHAN KEARNEY: I spent all my pocket money on bargain-bin tapes as a kid and didn’t mind what I listened to. The first act I was really obsessed with, though, was Boys II Men. I thought they were cool as hell and I still do

MARNIE VAUGHN: Patience Hodgson from The Grates, I love her energy, she is so bold and fearless. 

GRACE PASHLEY: I am a big Erica Dunn fan. Everything she does is excellent, such a humble shred lord. One day I hope to play guitar like that!!

As a musician is there anything that you ever get nervous about?

NK: I only have one guitar and it breaks down a bit. Sometimes in cool sounding ways. I worry it’ll cark it on stage on day, though.

MV: Mainly forgetting how to play the drums or the drum stool falling off the back of the stage but both of those things have happened to me and I think I’m ok about it. 

GP: Yeah I get scared to sing sometimes! I’d never played bass before Lackadaisies so there were lots of pre-gig stress dreams about the bass neck morphing into a snake and biting my hand. But mostly I’m fine now!

You have a new album Payphone Text, which was recorded over three weekends in each of your respective homes. Why did you chose to record in several places? What were the pros and cons of making your album that way?

NK: We were gonna do it at Marnie’s brother’s house in Northern Rivers but COVID closed the borders. I woulda liked getting out of the city but the comforts of our own homes was the next best thing

MV: It was a logistical nightmare moving the set up between houses and having to trouble shoot new issues in each house. But the pros were grand, we got to play our own instrument in the place we felt the most comfortable and everyone got a turn at being a the host. 

GP: Look if we had our time again… maybe we would only record in one place! But we couldn’t make that work, and it was fun to hang out in everyone’s houses eating pancakes and curry, lots of coffees. 

EP art by Angelica RW

The title track’s lyrics were inspired by Nathan’s ex-partner sending him a payphone text once when they were away. It takes ages to type one of those on the phone dialpad. If you were sending a payphone text, who would you send it to and what do you think it would say?

NK: To Dad “In town. Can U pik me up” for nostalgia

MV: My best friend is a writer and would probably get the biggest kick out of it. I would say “DIS A PAYPHONE TXT B CUS I LUV U – MARN” 

GP: I’d spam as many people as I could to say “Buy Lackadaisies tape now”

Also, going to the effort to payphone text someone a message is pretty romantic; what’s one of the most romantic things you’ve ever done for someone?

NK: I make things for people I love and people who know me best generally make things for me. I’m not that materialistic and mainly hold onto sentimental items. I’ve been writing songs for friends lately, which is a nice change from writing for/about romantic partners.

MV: I made my partner a scrap book photo album of all the memories since we met. It had a timeline at the front and everything. Also, when I was the front person in a punk band I wrote a love song for my puppy. It was really sweet.  

GP: I’ve written so many love songs about my partner which I think is romantic but I think he might get embarrassed by it… hehe whatever sometimes you just gotta scream it from the rooftops etc. 

Going into the writing for the album, did you have an idea of how you wanted it to sound? Or what you did or didn’t want to do?

NK: I’m most comfortable with 4 track recording and I thought the Lackadaisies record would suit that saturated sound. We drove everything so that it was peaking to get that natural crunch over everything. The last release we just threw whatever mic out and hoped for the best. This time it was more considered cos we had James helping. He’s really clever

MV: Not really, I remember hanging out with Nathan when he first moved back to Bris and talking about playing music together. I really like his previous bands and solo albums so I think I wanted to be apart of something like that but I probably didn’t communicate that very well. 

GP: I was just keen to get our existing songs recorded, we weren’t too precious about it which is pretty standard for us! I think something we definitely didn’t want to do was….pay for it haha hence why we did it all ourselves! Well we did pay James a wee bit but god knows it wasn’t enough for the tribulations he dealt with. 

How do Lackadaises songs often come together?

NK: Fuck around til it feels good. We’re not the type of band that talks about genres or tries to be one thing. Whatever a song sounds like is what we sound like is how I figure it

MV: For me… either Nathan and Grace will bring a song or the ideas for a song to jamming and it goes from there. I’m sure it’s a much more lengthy process for them.  

GP: Nathan is really the genesis for our material. He’ll bring a melody or chord progression and maybe I’ll write some lyrics but more often than not he has a zillion fresh ideas that we try out til something sticks. Its really fun that way (because Nathan does all the work ; )))

Not all bands we speak with do demos. Are you a band that demos? Did the songs change much during the process to what appears on the album?

NK: Phone demoes to remember ideas but if we have a mic out then that seems like serious release territory haha.

MV: We released our first Demo. We were thinking of re-recording the songs for this but we were like nahhhhh.

GP: Haha yeah…again, the lackadaisical approach. I wonder if Nathan finds the recordings demo-ish, he has added a few different parts to some songs once we laid down our tracks and now those new bits are my fave parts of the songs. Like the organ part on Payphone Text, that didn’t exist before we recorded it. 

Photo courtesy of Lackadaisies Facebook.

Tell us the story of one of your favourite tracks on the album.

NK: ‘How’d You Get This Number?’ Is a nod to me and Marnie meeting  playing in bands that did dumb little 30 second songs. The lyrics are about phone scammers who were calling with numbers that looked like mine. I imagined they were bizarro versions of myself trying to make contact, like in a sci-fi movie. It also has a Freaky Friday reference.

MV: ‘The Comeback’ or ‘Payphone Text’ because I get to do screaming and that is fun for me. 

GP: Yeah I love ‘The Comeback’. It’s got a creepy carnival energy, like a house of horrors with the lights on. The story of ‘Your Face’ is about this time when I thought I saw an old flame in the crowd, but it wasn’t him. Just a doppelgänger. But then I got to thinking about how he kind of sucked!! And THEN I thought wow imagine if that was him that would have been awkward. I guess this all happened at the time we needed lyrics to this song. 

J.E. Walker recorded the album; what was one of you the most memorable moments you shared with him during the recording process?

NK: My memory is shot in general but James is a gem. Always a pleasure.

MV: James was so encouraging, he thought everything was magic and it was so nice to be around that energy. 

GP: What an angel. Carted all his gear to three different houses, was an absolute saint when it took me hours to nail the guitar part for Your Face. We were recording to tape so you had to get the whole song right in one go, which is really not a strength of mine. I probably would have gotten embarrassed and quit if anyone else had been recording us but James was so patient and lovely. 12/10 person, j’adore!!!

How did you feel when you listened back to the entire album for the first time after mixing and mastering? Where were you when you were listening to it?

NK: Lying on my couch and looking out the window. I have a cassette deck I bought with my old bandmate, Allie, to dub our old releases and I listened on there. It’s a fun, little album. That’s what we were aiming for so I’m happy. I collect cassettes by local acts too so it’s nice to add something of my own that was also pressed properly.

MV: We had a sneaky listen at Nathans house when the recording / mixing process was happening and that was super exciting for me. 

GP: It was such a neat surprise hearing the album after Nathan had put some really great finishing touches on all the songs, like I said earlier there were a few new parts that he added that are the real heroes of the dish. 

Can you hear any of your influences on any of the songs?

NK: The Breeders. I love them. 

MV: My current influences are Party Dozen, Loose Fit and Petey. I think so.

GP: Maybe less the influences for me, but I can really hear all of us. The blood sweat and tears of DIY tape recording. I feel very proud of it!!

Besides Lackadaisies, what else is happening in your world? I know you have other bands or have other interesting projects on the go.

NK: Camping is my alt-country band with James Walker, Skye McNicol and a few other mates. We’re kicking around and gonna record an album soon.

MV: Yeah, new girl band in the works… Blankettes

GP: Yes me n Marnie started a new band called the Blankettes! With our friend Gemma (CNT EVN, Piss Shivers). I convinced my favourite punks to make a pop (ish) band hehe. And my other band Full Power Happy Hour has a tonne of stuff going on this year too!

What’s the rest of the year look like for both the band and you personally?

NK: Good shows coming up with the band. I don’t think they’re announced yet but we get to play with some sick bands and head interstate. Personally, I’m finishing a horticulture degree and making beats on my MPC otherwise.

MV: Band, I’m hoping to do some little tours with Lackadaisies, it’s been so long since I’ve been on tour and I love it. Personally, I have a toddler that my heart melts for and new job that I’m pretty into, so things are looking good. Thanks for asking. 

GP: I think it’s gonna be busy!! Heaps of music stuff which is great. I am hoping to kick my terrible Tiktok addiction but I honestly don’t see that happening any time soon.

Get the Lackadaisies EP Payphone Text on Zang! Records HERE. Find them @lackadaisies_ + on Facebook and check out Zang! Records.

Beijing duo Naja Naja: “A very large part of our music is instinct. We like to keep it very raw…”

Handmade collage by B.

We love duo Naja Naja from Beijing! They have no big ambitions beyond making music for fun; one of the very best reasons that often produces the most interesting and exciting music. Their music is a cool combination of motorik rhythms, post-punk, electronic bleeps and blips, indie and melody culminating in an off-kilter retro-futuristic sound. We caught up with bassist-vocalist-artist Gou Gou and guitarist-vocalist-beats programmer Yuhao on the day of their debut EP being released outside of mainland China. This is their first interview outside of China too!  

It’s an exciting day, your debut self-titled EP is out in the world.

YUHAO: Yeah, I’m glad we set up today to talk. We released it in China (Bie Records) at the end of last year but for overseas Wharf Cat Records help us to release it today. We’re glad to see that now.

Currently, one of you are based in Beijing and the other is in San Francisco, right?

GOU GOU: Yeah.

Y: Previously we were both based in Beijing, I moved to San Francisco this year for work.

How did you first meet?

GG: We first met actually in another band called Last Goodbye in Beijing.

Y: There were four people in Last Goodbye but it ends up me and Gou Gou have really similar tastes, so after a few years playing together we decided to start a project with only two of us. We don’t have a big ambition, it’s just for fun for the two of us to make something fun.

That’s one of the best reasons to make music. What does the band name Naja Naja mean?

Y: Naja actually means snake. We chose this name because we think it’s adorable, it’s not about snake that’s adorable, we don’t really care about the literal meaning but how it sounds and how the characters work is also a duplication, and we like many bands with duplication like Yin Yin, Django Django and Ratatat. We think this name is cool. 

You mentioned that you have similar taste in bands; what are some of the bands you both love?

GG: In the early years we listen to indie music bands more, but this years I have more appreciation for disco, like italo disco. 

Y: A few years ago, we both like post-punk. There’s a band called Snapline, it’s a band in China. Lately we like some artists in the 80s or old stuff like disco and other electric genres.

What’s the music scene like in Beijing?

GG: This year many club and live houses close…

Y: Yeah, because of the pandemic.

GG: Many bands are preparing some tours in China but it can’t go on.

Naja Naja started making songs for the EP by sending tracks back and forth to each other?

Y: Yeah. Because when we started this project the pandemic had just started. We were locked in our own home and we started to do some work on our computers and we send our ideas to each other to see if we can develop something based on the other’s work. That’s how our first songs got developed. Later the pandemic becomes less severe in China and we could go to some places to do rehearsals and to polish our songs, that’s how we write those songs in those years. 

What was the first song you wrote together?

GG: ‘Sunset Shopping Centre’.

That’s the instrumental track?

Y: Yeah, that one.

Do you have a favourite song on the EP?

Y: I would say ‘Running Dog, Floating Elephant’. 

What’s that song about?

Y: That song is written by Gou Gou, so maybe she can talk about it.

GG: [Laughs]. The name of this one comes from Japanese art festival. The first time I met this exhibition there was a big wall with some Japanese words on the wall and a very small English version behind and I see this…

Y: There were some words put together and some of the words were ‘Running Dog, Floating Elephant’. Gou Gou thought that maybe a scene can be developed from these words because it seems interesting. She thinks they’re like a dream or is maybe a weird scene. The idea is from the words, she just think about it and developed the song.

Cool. I really love the song ‘Dong Dong’. It’s got a really fun video for it too. Where did you film it?

Y: We worked together with Bie Records for the EP. Actually it’s filmed in their office. We planned a party and we invited our friends there. We celebrated the release of the EP on that day with our friends because we did a lot of work with them. We performed a few songs where they can dance with. The music video is just to record this celebration or party. 

It looks like it was so much fun!

Y: [Smiles] Yeah, yeah. I think that maybe some of the best memories for me in the last year, because we have been through such a lockdown and everyone is in their home, and we got this opportunity to be together and celebrate something that we worked together with and make it released. It’s a very good memory for me in the last year.

GG: Me too!

Did making music and art during the pandemic help you get through it?

Y: Yeah.

GG: No. 

Gou Gou, you did the art for the EP cover?

GG: Yeah. I draw the cover, I paint the cover.

Y: She made a lot of versions, different ones. She made a completely different version each day during a week. There are five to six. Finally we chose this one.

EP art by Gou Gou

What made you chose the one you did?

GG: Instinct. 

Do you use instinct a lot when you’re making music?

Y: Yeah, I think so. A very large part of our music is instinct. We like to keep it very raw instead of very polished. We wanted to keep our first feeling, our raw feeling of it.

How long have you been making music for? You mentioned that you were making music before Naja Naja.

Y: Naja Naja started from 2020. Before that we wrote some things by ourselves but I think we never released what we wrote completed stuff, ideas.

GG: For me, when I am in high school I start to like indie music. At that time I would be the Hit magazine and download the music from the internet. I will listen to more to bands from other nations but not the Chinese bands, but when…

Y: [Translates from Chinese to English for Gou Gou] She has started to listen to more local indie bands since college. 

For me, I think there’s a trend in China when I was in high school, there are a few years where pop-punk was very popular in China, especially American pop-punk like Sum 41 and the Offspring; that’s the first time I started to listen to different genres other than pop music. After that I started to listen to more genres and find music by myself on the internet. There was a time when I like post-punk very much and post-rock. It was a time I started a band in college.

Any challenges making your EP?

Y: What we thought would be a challenge was the recording and mixing. At that time we don’t have much money to record and find someone to mix, but later we thought ‘Let’s just try recording at home.’ We tried learning how to mix ourselves, we just did it. We found it turns out that it meets our expectations. It’s not a challenge anymore. 

There is a fun fact that we buy some microphones, some of them are little expensive, we thought it should be good, but it turns out that we used those microphones to record our vocals but the sound was too clean. When we hear our demos, we think that our demos are better because they have some, a little overdrive with the sound. Later on we decide to just use the low-end device to record some of our vocals. 

What is the song ‘Tunnel’ about?

Y: I think there is a person which enters this tunnel, but they could not get out from it. They go through a very long way and think they will come out the end, but actually it’s just another start of this tunnel, so you just have to loop in this tunnel and you never come out. It feels like something we think, ’Is this the end of something?’ But it actually turns out that it’s just another start.

Is that why you put the song last on the album? Because it’s the end of something but the beginning of something else.

Y: Yeah, yeah, that’s it exactly. We thought we must put this song at the end, we feel it was right to do. 

GG: It is my favourite song in this EP. The first time when it come out as a demo, I think it is very special because when he ask the lyrics in this song… I just like it.

Me too! We ordered the vinyl record version.

Y & GG: Thank you!

Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?

Y: Gou Gou is a designer. I am a software engineer. 

[Translates for Gou Gou] She has many interests, she likes drawing and has a lot of friends and she likes to talk to her friends a lot during her day. She mentioned that I am the exact opposite to her; that’s an introduction for myself [laughs]. 

GG: [Laughs].

What’s next for Naja Naja?

Y: We are planning for a full album. There are a couple of songs we are writing. We have already recorded some. We’re also working on a project, it’s like a connection of our music and our work, because I’m a software engineer and she’s a designer, we are working on our web art stuff so people can interact with it. We will put some of our music into it. It’s like a game with our music.

That’s so exciting! We can’t wait.

GG: Yeah.

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

Y: Gou Gou says she loves the puppy on Gimmie’s instagram! 

Thank you. We love puppies. Whenever we’re asked for a photo of ourselves for a press thing we always send people a photo of us with the Gimmie dog head over our heads, because we don’t want things to be about us, it’s about all of the bands and artists that we feature on the site and in our print zine. Often when people do magazines, someone is the face of it, sometimes people use it as a vehicle for themselves to be known as a somebody, for their ego, but we’re not interested in that. It’s all about the music and art.

GG: Yes. And, the puppy is adorable. 

It is! Everything we do, we do on instinct, like you do too. 

GG: I think it is very meaningful. 

Absolutely. We do it because we love it. 

GG: It’s very cool! 

Y: Thank you for doing this interview. It’s the first time we do it overseas. We are very excited to have this talk with you. 

NAJA NAJA’s Bandcamp HERE. Follow Naja Naja @najanaja_band. Naja Naja self-titled EP out via Wharf Cat Records (US) and Bie Records (China)

Gimmie RADIO OCT 2021

New playlist for October is up now for your listening pleasure!
This months features songs from screensaver, Dr. Sure’s Unusual Practice, Laughing Gear, Hearts and Rockets, Ausecuma Beats, Power Supply, Bitumen, Alien Nosejob, Springtime, and more.

Oihana Herrera of Spain-based Dreamy Garage-Pop band Melenas on new album Dios Raros: “It talks about strange days… wondering things about the past or wishes about the future”

Original photo: Sharon Lopez. Handmade collage by B.

Pamplona band Melenas have released a beautiful sophomore album – Dios Raros – full of sweetness, melody, sparkle and shimmer. A perfect soundtrack for spending a carefree summertime with your best friends making memories that will last a life time. Jangly guitars, cascading vocals, a lushness and atmospherics make this an unforgettable album. Sung entirely in their native Spanish the LP transcends linguistic borders, the emotion and sentiment present in every note played. Gimmie recently spoke with guitarist-keyboardist-vocalist Oihana Herrera.

OIHANA HERRERA: I work as a graphic designer here at my place, so I’ve been working a little bit until we have the interview. My day is usually from here where you see me working at my computer. I have a set up with my guitar and keyboard so sometimes when I am bored or I want to rest a little bit I go and play. After I meet with the girls sometimes and we rehearse or I go out and drink something.

How did you first discover music?

OH: I remember because I have some videos to remember it, when I was two years or so or three, I already spent so much time singing and dancing on the sofa with all of the family around singing with them. I was super young when I felt this interest for the music. When I was three my parents decided that they were going to take me to violin lessons. I’ve been surrounded by a very musical family, kind of a classical music mood. Afterwards when I was a teenager I started looking into other styles. My father and mother used to listen to the Beatles and classical rock, after that by myself I started discovering other styles too.

Is Melenas your first band?

OH: Yeah, it is. After I started learning violin, I went to the Conservatory and I have a very classical background but, I really wanted to play in a band. I didn’t see how with the classical music I could have this experience that I am having now. One day a friend of mine leave me a guitar and I started messing around and learning by myself and I felt more free because I didn’t have various tricks or ways of learning it was free. I started composing and felt like I could start a band or something, then I met my bandmates in a place called, Nebula, which is the rock n roll bar in our city. We live in Pamplona it is a very small city. It was a very cool place and it has lots of shows there. We became friends because we used to go to the same shows. One day we decided with these songs I had started composing with a guitar for six months, we started rehearsing. Some of the girls had played in other bands. For me and Maria it was the first time we play in a band.

Can you remember what your first impressions of them was when you first met them?

OH: It is a small city so we spend time in the same bars, when we started talking to each other is when we first met. I remember us dancing in the first row to the bands that would come. I felt we had the same energy. From the bar Nebula you would see the same thirty to forty people in different bars; we nurture each other, we share a lot. I think that has created this burning thing that made us want to have our own band. We share the rehearsing space with another friend of ours, another friend has the recording studio where we play, so it’s kind of like a little community.

That sounds similar to the music community that I grew up in. What was the first concert that you went to?

OH: I can’t really remember but maybe it was some classical music show when I was young and I was surrounded by all of this atmosphere.

Can you remember a favourite rock n roll show you’ve been to?

OH: Nebula Bar has this basement where they have the shows, they were so cool. We saw a band called Holy Wave, they are from Texas, we become friends with them. There was no space to dance and the walls were sweating. There was this energy all together that was very cool. It was a very special show because of the energy, and the contact we had with the band afterward; the human experience, the knowledge and the sharing. I really like this a lot.

Melenas have a new album out Dios Raros; how long did it take to make?

OH: When we made our first LP, then we started playing a lot. When we were playing we were also composing but we didn’t have a lot of time to practice the new songs. It already start when we were touring the first album. Last summer we spent two months rehearsing a lot the songs and thinking a lot; how did we want them to sound like? Finishing all of this work that we started when touring. Mostly last summer was the time we spent really composing and finishing the songs, three months deeply doing that.

Is there a song on the album that’s really special to you?

OH: Yeah, I will say “El tiempo ha pasado”, it’s the fifth song. It has no drums. It talks about being in your bedroom remembering someone that you don’t have contact with anymore and you wonder what this person will be doing. In this space I am talking about a guy and what he will be doing, if he will be the same person or different, where will he live. With the music, the music for me is very heart-touching. Do you say that in English?

Yes. Even though I don’t speak much Spanish, I’m still happy that I can in a way understand your songs, I can still feel the sentiment behind it.

OH: I love that. That is very special to hear. Some other people tell us that too. I think that the music will represent what the lyrics talk about a lot of the time. The lyrics are usually the last thing we do and we try to relate it with the mood of the music; maybe that’s why you can feel it.

When you were making the album did you have any challenges?

OH: We have our level high always. We like to have some kind of quality. We have our limits, I know how I play but I want to do the best I can. It’s sounding better I think. Trying to find special sounds for each songs was the most challenging thing for us.

Why do you like writing songs?

OH: I love music so much, I am always listening to music. It’s another form of expression after that, playing it for me. I can start playing and spend so much time and I don’t even notice that, that time is going. It’s very relaxing for me. A lot of times doing a song is like, it cannot be from me somehow! I take this nervousness and whatever that is happening to me and filter it by the music I play.

I really love the seventh song “3 segundos” on the LP, which translates to “3 Seconds”. It talks about how things can change in just a few seconds; is there a moment in your life that something like that has happened that you could share with us?

OH: With the band I feel like that happens a lot. For example the last time I remember that happening is when we received an email to see if we wanted to go play New York Fashion Week! It didn’t happen yet but just the proposal is like, what?! It marks something very big in my life. There have been so many moments for me like this one that is just, WOW! It means something very big. The song talks about the power of some people to make some things change with their persons, someone who has that energy that makes you do things. They have some special energy, no?

Yes! Why did you decide on “Vals” for the last track on your record?

OH: We thought a lot about the order, we tried to keep our rhythm with the whole record. We thought that was a nice way to finish. Somehow I think this song makes you think a little bit about the rest of them and a little bit you let them go. I like that song because of that, it talks about spending time with a friend and just being together, not talking just being a companion and just sitting and the time go by. It’s a cool way to finish the album. It talks about strange days and days you were thinking about your own stuff in your bedroom and wondering things about the past or wishes about the future. This song is about being with a friend, time goes by and I’ll see you tomorrow. I like that.

Why did you call the album Dios Raros? Rare Days?

OH: Yeah, Rare Days or Strange Days, something like that; I don’t know the little differences in English. It talks about these days where you feel somehow disconnected to what is going on outside, you are in your bedroom in your world. This is what a lot of our songs talk about.

How has being in isolation because of the pandemic been for you?

OH: Our record has been released during isolation. We’ve been working a lot on the promotion not having to combine it with playing or rehearsing, which has been good and let us focus on that a lot. We are very happy because the record has worked very well. At the same time we have plans to play and we can’t play. That’s a little bit frustrating because you put a lot of energy into creating the album and all the work behind it, like the videos and promotion; you need that energy back from playing. Playing is what we love most! It’s good to have the feedback from the people, knowing it’s helping them and they’ve been happy because they could listen to it!

As well as music, as you mentioned, you also do art; what made you want to express yourself that way too?

OH: As a graphic designer?

Yes.

OH: My father is an architect and I felt that I really like that world but I felt that it was too technical. I didn’t like all the technical part, I thought it was too hard for me [laughs]. One of the partners of my father had a son that was a graphic designer, I didn’t even know what one was! After he explained to me one day when I was trying to choose what I wanted to do, I thought this is what I want to do. It was something creative but I like the functional thing also. Graphic design is communication and it has function—I like that combo. I didn’t see myself creating art with no function, different parts of the brain, rationale and artistic.

You also mentioned before that you have a setup in your room with keyboards and guitar; have you made any songs lately?

OH: Yeah. I’ve been composing a little bit, so there are new songs on the way. We will be rehearsing the new record and preparing the new songs. Sooner or later we will do something with these new songs.

When you’re writing songs do you write more on guitar or keyboard?

OH: When I started I felt free when I started playing guitar, because I didn’t have to read notes; I never composed with a piano or violin, it’s difficult. When I played guitar with no teacher or reading notes I felt free. After I play it on guitar myself for a little while I start playing it on piano too, with the keyboard. I did something that I couldn’t do before, it was to compose with it. I spent five or six years learning piano after violin. On this record we’ve got songs composed with guitar and some with two keyboards and no guitar. It’s a different feeling in different songs, I love that. I love growing and experimenting with new stuff. I just got a new little synthesiser two days ago and I’m trying new things with that, experimenting and putting them in new songs and see what happens.

Please check out MELENAS; Melenas on Instagram; Melenas on Facebook.

Melbourne Jangly-Reverbed-Indie-Pop band Swim Team: “Sarcasm and self-deprecation is embedded in our personalities and sense of humour – we certainly don’t take ourselves too seriously”

Original photo by Kalindy Williams. Handmade collage by B.

From the first jangly-twang of song ‘Everyday Things’ that we heard while watching Rage one morning last year, the Gimmie team have been addicted to Swim Team. Their infectious sweet melodies, hypnotic harmonies and catchy hooks reel you in. We interviewed Sammy to talk about their debut LP Home Time, their beginnings, self-care and more.

How did Swim Team first come together?

SAMMY: I had been thinking about starting a new band for a while. At the time Krystal was playing in Bad Vision and I was playing tambourine with the Pink Tiles, and we were gigging around a lot and I was really into the scene and the kinds of garage pop bands that were popping up. In 2016, Krystal moved in with me and we had already been friends since we worked together in Perth back in 2005. Back in those days she was playing in punk garage bands and I was playing in twee indie bands. I suggested that we should start a new band together with both of us on guitar and so we both just started jamming at home.

I asked my friend Esther to join – I really wanted her to be in the band even though she had never played the bass, and Krystal recruited TJ even though she had never played drums. We built our band based on how we thought the dynamics would work with the four of us hanging out together, not for how technically good a player or songwriter anyone was. It was kinda like building our own fantasy football team or something, and luckily they were both keen to give it a red hot go haha.

We got together in a rehearsal room and the first song we played together was ‘Green Fuzz’ by the Cramps. Eventually I booked us our first gig which was with Girl Crazy at their Tote residency, and that meant we had a deadline to write a few songs and get our shit together. If there’s one thing that Swim Team are collectively good at, it’s working under pressure!

We love the jangly guitars in Swim Team’s music; what inspired you to choose this sound?

SAMMY: A combined love for bands like The Clean and Go-Betweens, a tendency to lean towards Fender and a penchant for chorus pedals haha.

I think that given mine and Krystal’s backgrounds in music and the kinds of bands we were both used to playing in and listening to, when we brought them together we ended up with this kind of sound naturally. It’s kinda a combination of my pop background, Krystal’s punk background, and both of us meeting in the middle, then evolving together.

Last year you released your LP Home Time which was written over the course of a couple of years, one of the main themes of the record being change; over the time of writing what do you think was one of the biggest changes you went through in your own life that helped colour the songs you were writing?

SAMMY: Oh boy, there was a lot of change during that period for us all, not to mention that in the time it took us to start writing the songs, recording and then releasing it, we had three different bass players.

Krystal and I are the main songwriters in the band and we both had a lot going on over the course of a couple of years. Krystal’s dad sadly passed away while we were writing the album and so there is some really personal grieving there. There are relationship breakdowns for both of us, whether it be family or friendships or just simple observations. For me, at the beginning it was the end of a long-term relationship, and then by the end of the writing process it was meeting someone new. So yes, it’s quite the rollercoaster thematically!  

Many of your songs can be self-deprecating; where does this come from?

SAMMY: Haha you might have to ask my therapist that! At the end of the day, I think that sarcasm and self-deprecation is embedded in our personalities and sense of humour – we certainly don’t take ourselves too seriously most of the time.

Your songs are deeply personal but written ambiguously so listeners can imagine themselves in the song story; who are the songwriters that you admire? What is it about their songs you love?

SAMMY: I have a deep appreciation of many different styles of songwriting, whether it’s poetic and metaphorical or literal story telling. One of my favourite songwriters is Mara Williams from the Pink Tiles. If you want deeply personal but ambiguous and completely charming, she is the queen of it!

What’s the significance of the album’s title, Home Time?

SAMMY: Aside from being one of the tracks from the album that we thought tended to sum up the entire vibe pretty well, it’s also a play on the title of our first EP ‘Holiday’. We went from ‘Holiday’ to ‘Home Time’ with these releases which is kinda symbolic of us growing as a band as well as our own personal situations.

Why did you decide to kick your record off with the track ‘Grown Up’?

SAMMY: We wanted something with a bit of an intro to kick things off sonically, but we found ‘Grown Up’ set the tone for the rest of the album in terms of context. It’s kinda a proclamation of this feeling of never really quite achieving those expectations that we set for ourselves as adult humans, and then bam – the rest of the album runs through and it’s a continuation of those general musings. Thematically we write about all aspects of life, whatever takes our fancy at the time: our crushes, our bad habits, our ex’s bad habits, our dysfunctional families, our grievances – both serious and silly.

The song ‘Everyday Things’ is an ode to first world problems; what first sparked this song idea?

SAMMY: Basically one long complaint about all the things that didn’t go right in a single day. They’re all a part of daily existence and not ‘actual’ problems. The song is laughing at the way we tend to complain about everything when in all reality the scenarios mentioned are trite and trivial.

What’s your favourite track on Home Time? What’s it about?

SAMMY: For me it’s probably a tie between ‘Time and Sacrifice’ and ‘New Year’. ‘Time and Sacrifice’ I feel has a different vibe to it than the rest of the album. The subject matter is far more complex and I think it ended up that way musically too. It’s also the one we experimented with the most as far as production goes, which was really fun. ‘New Year’ has been a favourite for a while, I have always loved what everyone has brought to the song in terms of parts and the feel – Anna really brought this to life for us!

Could you tell us a little about recording the record please?

SAMMY: We were lucky enough to have our dream team for our album recording. We had Anna Laverty produce and engineer it at our favourite studio in Melbourne, Audrey Studios. We tracked the majority of it live, all four of us in the room playing our parts, and then afterwards we did a few guitar overdubs and vocals. Working with Anna is always a real pleasure. We were lucky enough to have a bit of extra time to play around, and some of the songs had parts that were written on the spot which was something I’ve never had the privilege to experiment with before.

You’ve mentioned online that there’s been “a bunch of personal and health stuff that’s gone down since late last year” which has made you take a little break from making music. I hope everything’s alright? During the downtime what do you do to take care of yourself? Self-care is so important!

SAMMY: Thank you! Yes, self-care is super important for both our physical and mental health. For us it means eating well, exercising, doing things that make you calm and happy (for me it’s things like listening to music, pottering around the house, cooking and tending to plants), and not being too hard on yourself or having unrealistic expectations of yourself (that part is hard sometimes!) We had a really busy year with the release of the album and then with the personal stuff happening on top of that it felt like we needed to just step back and look after ourselves and put a priority on those things. We are actually really close friends outside of music so we have a really strong support network in each other – we are really lucky to have that level of support and understanding from one another I think.

Other than making music do you do anything else creative?

SAMMY: Krystal has a podcast that she hosts with her friend Ruth called ‘First Time Feelings’ that you can check out here. TJ is a tattoo artist and when there’s no pandemic you can find her at her shop Heart & Soul Tattoo in Melbourne CBD. Our original bass player Esther is a designer and owns the label Togetherness Design. Our newest member and current bass player Jill is involved in a bunch of comedy and fringe festival shows, but is known best for her role in co-founding the iconic Shania Choir. I don’t have many creative talents outside of music, but it keeps me busy enough for now.

What’s something – band, album, song – that’s really cool you’re listening to at the moment?

SAMMY: RVG’s new album Feral, and patiently anticipating the new Dianas record Baby Baby.

Please check out: SWIM TEAM. ST on Facebook. ST on Instagram. Home Time out on Hysterical Records.