8 Hours In Billiamville

Original photo by  Jack Thomas. Handmade mixed-media collage by B.

We’re excited that Billiam has a new 7 inch release out today 8 Hours In Billiamville. It’s a lo-fi, punky dream. The release was written and recorded in 8 hours and has all of the spontaneity, energy and pure unbridled passion that you could hope for. We chatted with Billiam to explore it’s recording and all of the other projects he has in the works—a new Disco Junk record, TOR album, new project Verminator, releases from his label (he does with friend Lachy) Under Heat, some international releases and more Billiam. You’re going to hear and see a whole lot more of Billiam this year. We’re in awe of his creativity and productivity. Go Billiam! 

How are you? What’s been happening in your world?

BILLIAM: I’m doing pretty good, there’s been some ups and downs but overall I’m good. I’ve just been finishing off another album for Billiam, just trying to get a few more songs down. I’m finishing off recording the Disco Junk album too. I’ve been playing shows and just working, nothing insanely exciting, but I have a few things coming up. 

How long have been making music for now?

B: The most barebones example of me making music, was when I first got my guitar and I was recording videos on my iPad of songs and saving them to a folder on my desktop. That was when I was around 2014. That eventually graduated into doing stuff with GarageBand, which is how all of the early Disco Junk stuff was done. I’d just point my iPad at an amp or the electronic drum kit and record like that. I started releasing that stuff in late-2018. I’ve been making music ever since. Next year it will be 5 years of doing it. 

Awesome. Was there anything that influenced you to make your own music?

B: I’ve always liked the idea of making my own music, but I never viewed it as me having the resources to make it. I liked a lot of the bigger acts when I first started to get into music, like Green Day and Blink-182. I would make music trying to sound like them, I had no idea how to do that; I always thought it was about having a lot of money to buy resources. 

In 2018, I met my best friend Lachy, who I do record label Under Heat Records with. He showed me a lot of bands. I was also discovering a lot of bands through the internet that were recording stuff and writing songs that sounded like my songs. The Living Eyes was a big one for me, and hearing artists like Daniel Johnston. Also, a lot of early lo-fi progenitors like Weird Paul. It made me think, ‘I can make that. It’s something doable.’ I studied the techniques that they used and did my own screwy version of it and made something that I was proud enough to release. 

It’s not that hard to make music yourself. You can do it for very cheap. I eventually got a digital 8-track and stopped using my iPad, but I felt like I had a pretty good sound just recording off of an iPhone. 

Ruben, the drummer from Disco Junk, his solo stuff for a long time was record off his phone and that sounds incredible. I would highly recommend listening to Nystagmus. Even though Ruben now hates it, I think it’s a fucking amazing album. 

You could spend all day wishing you had something better or you could spend your time making the best thing you can with what you’ve got. Even if it ends up being something that you don’t want to release, at least you have it down in a medium that you could use later or rework. 

I know you have a lot of different musical projects, a label and zine; what do you have on the go at the moment?

B: I’ll narrow it down to the main ones. There’s Disco Junk. I’ve been doing that the longest. We’re recording our album that will hopefully be released late this year or early next year.

I have band TOR that’s really starting to ramp up now. We’re starting to gig now and we’re going to record, which is something that I am extremely excited about. Where basically just trying to be Bis 2! Bis is the band that we worship. Bis is our everything. We’re trying to be a more new wave version of Bis. All praise be to Bis! [laughs]. 

I have a new band called Verminator (it’s named after a character from Over The Hedge). Two of the members are classically trained musicians and are really vocally talented, there’s an extremely talented bassist, and then there’s me and my friend Jack that try to play hardcore beats on our guitars and it forms into a somewhat cohesive mess of noise. Hopefully we’ll get some recordings out soon.

Then of course there is the Billiam project. It’s the project I’ve been able to get the furtherest with. I’ve recorded a lot of stuff for it and am doing lots of little releases that will hopefully be put out soon.

Is it easiest to get stuff happening with Billiam because it’s just you?

B: In some ways. To make something that I’m happy with though, I think it’s the hardest project to do, because I am the only person working on it and I’m way more critical of it. When I’m in a project with other people it’s way easier to seperate yourself from the music and just enjoy it. In terms of recording, producing and getting stuff out, it is the easiest because I can just do it in my front room here and I do get final say; I don’t have to deal with the rest of the crowd, crowding around me. 

Photo by Jack Thomas.

What type of songs do you like writing the most at the moment?

B: It’s been changing, recently I’ve been getting into writing extremely poppy stuff. I’ve been listening to a lot of power-pop or that has a poppy style like Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys and Woollen Kits. I love the strong, catchy melodies and tiptoeing between major and minor keys. 

Although, I feel like I’m going to start recording stuff in a different style. I want to start writing more angler, punky stuff. Have you heard of the artist Print Head? I’ve been really inspired by his work, it’s very direct, short, fast songs with a good sense of melody to them. 

It’s exciting that you have so much on the go and that you’re always trying something new. 

B: If I don’t do something new or interesting I’m going to lose interest in any given musical project extremely quickly and will have to put it on pause and do something new. I like to keep a basket case of different things that I can pick up at any time, so I’m always active in music. 

The new release for Billiam that’s coming out and EP called 8 Hours In Billiamville because it was written and recorded in 8 hours!

B: It wasn’t originally the concept when I made it. It’s the concept that formed when I was putting it together. Before I recorded it I hadn’t really recorded a proper song in 6 months, I’d recorded and released a few little things, but in 2021 I barely released anything. I released two new pieces of music, total. That’s standard for a most artists but not for me. I didn’t consider it to be a very productive year. 

Right before I started recording, got a job doing online shopping for Coles. Having that retail boredom kicked me into this weird creative spiral. Over the course of a 3-day weekend and a total of 8 hours work I had the EP done and five other songs.

I’ve had retail, office and hospitality jobs in the past that were pretty mundane and I’d always find myself day dreaming on the job about what creative things I was going to do when I get home. Working for someone else all day not doing the things I really wanted to be doing made me value my free time and gave me a drive to use every moment not at work to do the things I love.

B: Absolutely. At my job I can spend the whole day thinking about a song or idea and then go home and immediately execute that and finish it off. Something that also helps (I hate that this helps but it does) the Coles Radio is completely unbearable at times! There’s a few songs they play on Coles Radio that when I hear them I have to walk outside when they come on because they shit me so much [laughs]. 

What’s one of those songs?

B: I have a playlist I can said you! [laughs]. The biggest one for me that shits me the most is ‘Jessie’s Girl’ by Rick Springfield. That song has always driven me up the fucking wall! Just, ugh. I walk out and no-one questions, I think everyone in the store has that one song that they do just walk out on; it’s an online store so you can leave whenever you want. 

That’s funny. When we shop at our local Coles I noticed that they play a lot of Gwen Stefani, which I’m more than fine with. I love Gwen.  

B: They play some good stuff. Gwen Stefani, hell yeah! It’s when they go into the modern country and sometimes weird Christian stuff—I just check the fuck out! [laughs]. 

When you recorded you mentioned it was just at your home?

B: Yeah. Over the course of last year I worked the front room into a studio space. It’s not perfect but I am able to get a sound that at the very least is good for demos, even releasable. I’m very lucky that my next-door neighbour is a drummer, he doesn’t care about the drum noise. I see him out on the street and he goes, “Oh, I see you’re getting a little bit better at the tom fills.” Which is something that I get really embarrassed about [laughs]. I’m very lucky I have a space to record in at a reasonable hour. I’m very lucky to have a very supportive family and most importantly supportive next-door neighbour.

When you record guitars do you standing up like if you were playing live or sit down?

B: It depends. 90% of the time I sit down because I’m doing it direct input and there’s no amp involved. Sometimes I have found that standing up can help, it adds pressure to what your’e doing. I do find that I’m a lot less precise when I stand up. When I’m recording I do try and showoff a little but and do guitar-filly bits that I would struggle to do standing up, so I sit down. Vocals I have to stand up to get the best out of my voice, whatever limited voice that I have.

Any challenges doing this project over 8 hours?

B: It was almost like an out-of-body experience. I didn’t even intend to make it, I just sat there on the drums and recorded some stuff and wanted to try and come up with things. The first thing I did was song ‘Prune’. It was instant. It felt like nothing was holding me back. I just went into this frenzied state.

On the final song ‘131’ I got extremely into it and completely blew out my voice. You hear that towards the end, my voice is really shrill. I felt like someone was possessing me to make this record, to finish it and just get it done. There was no time to wait. There was no time to spend mixing or trying to get a perfect tone or some idealised thing that doesn’t exist, I just needed to do it. There was no stopping. I think that ultimately was a big benefit to the record. It helped me learn a lot about how I work creatively and how I can get the best out of myself creatively.

What’s something that you learnt?

B: To not question myself in the moment and to just be ok if something doesn’t work. If I’m making something and it turns out to be crap I shouldn’t take that as an insult to myself I should take it as lesson. Why don’t I like this? What can work about this? Is there anything that I can salvage?

There was a song I did recently called ‘Barbie Doll Brains’ that I recorded but wasn’t happy with. I listened back to it and figured what parts worked and what parts didn’t. I really liked the guitar but I didn’t like the bass at all. I think the drums can sound better. It would be way better if the vocal line had a better melody to follow. I redid it and did one of the best songs I think I’ve written so far this year. It’s a song that I’m really proud of.

Is it for Billiam or a different project?

B: I reckon Billiam. I’m not sure though, songs tend to flip in and out of projects. A bunch of Billiam songs I’ve written recently I’ve found will work really well for TOR with Mary-Lou and Floyd’s vocals. You never know though, it could end up as a Disco Junk song or a new band song. It will come out eventually. 

What track are you loving the most off of the new EP?

B: It changes. I go through phases of absolutely loving the EP then hating everything off it. Right now my favourites are ‘Leisure’ and ‘Lunchbreak’. They’re nice, fun, fast, direct punk songs. If you ask me tomorrow it’ll be a different song [laughs]. ‘Lunchbreak’ is a good taster for what’s on the record

Your songs are predominately written from your own experiences…

B: Yeah. I’m not good at writing about things I haven’t experienced or that aren’t right in front of me. I could never write a song about getting drunk and partying or heartbreak, because I don’t drink and I don’t’ date people. I write about what I can, that ends up usually being quite personally about mental health, stupid things things that happen in my every day life or sometimes I might write about a movie. I often write about a thing that I saw that was funny. 

Are there any songs on this EP that are about mental health?

B: Definitely ‘Metal Bed’. I was very hesitant about putting that song on the 7 inch. Initially I’d written a two minute closer that was meant to be a replacement for the song that was more refined, I wasn’t happy with it though. I realised that ‘Metal Bed’ said it more succinctly and better. It’s about feeling like you can’t leave your bed and that the sheets that are on your bed are made of steel and you can’t lift them. 

‘Clive’ is about mental health, but it’s more about being driven to the point of insanity by political advertising, which is pretty fucking relevant right now. I am not having a good time with the election so far. I’m super worried about this election.

They day after the last election when I probably felt at my worst, Disco Junk ended up opening for Amyl and the Sniffers at Record Paradise, which ended up being one of the best shows I’ve ever played. Hopefully this election can inspire another performance similar to that. I’m just taking it one day at a time. You can focus on trying to future proof everything but you can never predict the future.

There is so much in the world that we can’t control. We make art and put that out in the world to balance all the crap things, express what we’re feeling, to come together…

B: That’s a great way of putting it and at the very least, we’ve finally got a copy of Scomo Goes To Hawaii/While Aus Burns on vinyl, which I’ve been begging Dougal [from Dr Sure’s Unusual Practice] to make since it was first released. I fucking love that EP, it’s so good!

We’ve excited for it too! The song ‘10 Million Acres’ on it, is one of my favourite songs that Dougal has ever written. It’s a really powerful song.

B: Yeah. It’s an EP I struggle to listen to though because it was so emotionally impactful and I was doing that charity tape when the bushfires happened. I had to listen to a lot of those songs a lot when I was putting together the tape and a lot of other songs that were about the bushfires. It was a strange time mentally. It’s strange to me that it wasn’t so far away, it feels like it happened 10 years ago, but it really happened 2 years ago. I’ll just keep on making rock n roll and keep on rockin’!

What can yo tell us about ‘Lunchbreak’?

B: I’m kind of mad because of that one Hot Tubs Time Machine song about being your co-workers hedging what your lunch is, because that’s literally what my song is about! I was in the break room at work and people were literally looking at me while I was eating cereal and I was just like, ‘Fuck off!’ I was really annoyed and angry. I think I had just written down the line that I’m on my lunch break and I need some space, and the song just went from there. The song is about being judged at work for your eating habits. Hot Tubs Time Machine this is a call-out, we need to fight to see who can have the rights to this song. I’ll see you in the streets! 

Great minds think alike! 

B: Ok, listen, you can call me a great mind, but Marcus [Hot Tubs Time Machine] is on another planet. He’s a genius. I don’t know how he does it, but he is a philosopher that we will not appreciate the brilliance of until 10,000 years in the future. He’s like Plato or Aristotle. He’s on another playing field. 

Let’s talk about some of the other songs on the EP. Tell us about ‘B Beat’.

B: [Laughs] I don’t know if that barely counts as a song. Lulu’s [Records] were posting a bit about D-Beat and I was like, ‘I’m going to try and understand D-Beat.’ I posted on my story: send me all of your D-Beat recommendations. I was going to go through the whole catalogue of best songs and figure out what this genre is. I just didn’t get it. Either it was literally the same song or it was hardcore punk. D-Beat is a good warm up for me on drums, because it gets me to work the foot pedal. I was warming up to record something and I Just recorded a 10 second drum beat, not even intending to use it for anything, but then I was like, ‘Wouldn’t this be funny if this was the song and I made a song about, I don’t get D-Beat.’ That was the only lyrics [laughs]. 

I feel like someone at some point will probably get mad at me for that song, just know that I don’t hate D-Beat, I just don’t get it. I’ve listened to too much Green Day to ever get D-Beat. If I ever get a Billiam band started I want to write a D-Beat song at some point and then transition that into B Beat. Open with a song that says, “I don’t get D-Beat” then immediately after into a D-Beat song.

You mentioned that ‘Leisure’ was a favourite song.

B: I was trying to write something kind of like the Screamers. I feel like it makes sense for the Screamers to write a song being angry at people for having leisure time; that sounds like a Screamers-y concept. I don’t think it sounds like the Screamers but it’s a bit synth-y and sounds weird. I do a Tomata du Plenty-style vocal. 

Was there a point during the process where you had to take a break and walk away for a bit?

B: I don’t really think so. I started recording at 12 noon and stopped around six or so. I didn’t even stop for lunch. Throughout the period I was recording for it, I put my phone in the other room and submerged myself in trying to make music. I felt a compulsion to do it. Generally, I like to seperate myself from my phone and the outside world and just make something. I don’t know if I could do it again as intensely as I did with this one. I really went bang into it. I had the drive to make anything. 

Album art: Theo Johannesson.

How cool is the artwork for it! 

B: I’m really happy with the art. It’s funny how I found the artist, one night I was with Ada from The Vovos on a Zoom call talking during one of the lockdowns and we were looking at a Spotify playlist that The Vovos were on (artists can see what playlists they’ve been added to). I decided to have a look at the ones that Disco Junk have been added to and I saw this playlist with insane artwork. I was like, ‘Holy shit! This is awesome.’ I went to the dudes account and all these playlists had this insane art. I thought he was so talented. I couldn’t find any information about him, he didn’t have an instagram or Facebook; I was complexly stumped. It drove me a little insane trying to find the artist. I thought, ‘Fuck! They would be so great to get to do an EP cover.’ I ended up finding a super old instagram post that mentioned his Tumblr. I eventually found his page where he’s uploaded his comics. From there I found his twitter and then sent him a message. He was thrilled to do it! 

His name is Theo Johannesson, right?

B: Yeah. He’s a fucking insanely talented artist that is really good at doing a cartoon-y style. 

Do you feel the cover is reflective of how you felt during the process?

B: Oh absolutely! [laughs]. It was a perfect representation; being grabbed, smashed and attacked by a bunch of clocks and I’m flinging around an instrument like I don’t know what I’m doing. 

How did you feel at the end of the process?

B: I was like, ok, next thing! I immediately recorded the next thing, which is an EP coming out on Goodbye Boozy. It was all just, let’s go, go, go, go, go! Evert from Under the Gun Records said he’d do a Billiam 7 inch. I’m so grateful. 

I get so much done, I guess, because I always prefer the stuff I’m making and once something is done I get quite critical and want to make something better. I do take breaks. I haven’t done that much this week, I only recorded two songs. I do try to take breaks because I don’t ever want to burn myself out or force myself to make art. If I’m not feeling creative in a certain medium, I view that as something natural. No one is going to be making great music 100% of the time. You need to find something that inspires you or you need to take a breather and step back and look at things to be able to see where to go next. I’m just a creative little guy. 

I love how in the album insert that you wrote about how you got the different sounds and what instruments you used.

B: It’s something more bands should do. I’ve seen a few do it, I was just listen to Ausmuteants’ Order Of Operation and they list the exact gear. I hope someone that gets my record and wanted to make music can see the list and realise not only is it not that hard but it’s not that expensive. The average person can afford to make really good music and you don’t have to go hunting for fancy analogue gear, you can get what you have and learn methods that can create the same sound. 

I like how you mentioned the Korg sound and you are honest and like, “I don’t even know how I got this.”

B: [Laughs]. I got that Korg secondhand and it hd a bunch of things programmed into already and I thought it sounded so cool, and just used that. I have no idea who made ‘em. If someone really wants to know about the sound they’re welcomed to come to my house and look at the synth, I’m sure they could work it out. I know nothing about synths. I know the one that I have makes sound when I press it, that is it. Floyd from TOR has a proper synth that’s adjustable and you can create different sounds every time. I have no fucking clue how to do it. He’s the smart one, maybe ask Floyd, he’s the fucking genius.

In the album, insert there is also a photo of you and a dog called Moose. Who’s Moose?

B: Mid last year the dog we had, Russell, passed away. He was extremely sad. He lived a very long and good life. He was a rescue. One day I came home and my mum called to me and said, “We got a new dog! He’s a Jug. A Jack Russell x Pug. His name is Moose.” He was starring at me for a solid minute and then came up to me and started barking. That’s been our relationship ever since. I think he does love me in some aspect, but he really is ok with letting me know he doesn’t really want to interact with me. I try to pet him but he’ll just start growling. Sometimes  he does come in my room and he demands that I give him my full attention for an hour. He’s a very strange and needy dog, but I love him. I wanted to give him a shoutout in the record. You got to shout out the Moose. 

What music and bands have you been listening to lately?

B: I’ve been trying to expanded out my musical tastes into different areas. I’ve been listening to a lot of Harry Belafonte, a calypso artist. On the complete opposite end of the Spectrum that new Erupt 7 inch that came out on Cool Death Records, I’ve just been smashing constantly. I’ve been getting into that grimy dark sound. I absolutely adore the new Romero EP. I’ve been listening to a lot of the Woollen Kits. I’ve been listening to a lot of the Buzzcocks recently. I listened to them a lot when /I first got into punk but then put them down for a bit and now I’m able to come back and realise how much of an incredible band they are. Their albums are hit after hit after hit. They did so much innovative stuff that no other punk band at the time were doing, like incorporating krautrock and hardcore influences into a very poppy sound. It’s very relatable. 

What’s been some live shows lately that you’ve been to that have be great?

B: Obviously Jerkfest was fantastic. Dragnet at Jerkfest completely blew me away. I saw Party Dozen recently and they’re one of the most insane things I’ve seen, a saxophone and a drummer, who is also controlling all the backing tracks. I saw Pinch Points a couple of days ago, I played with them, that was great. Their new album is really fantastic, they sound incredible live. Tabloid TV Darlings was another band I’ve seen recently that really impressed me; a cool 90s-style band with catchy song writing. I’m really excited to see Ada from Vovos do her solo stuff soon. I’ve helped her record some of it. It’s sort of Moody Peaches/Kimya Dawson kind of stuff. Very silly and personal. I adore it. I love Kimya Dawson so much. 

Me too. I interviewed her many years ago, she’s super lovely and funny. What’s next for you?

B: There’s six Billiam releases coming out in the second half of this year. The 7 inch on Goodbye Boozy. A cassette on a few different labels Painters Tapes in the US, Dial Club in Japan and Cow Tool Records in Australia, which is a new label started by friends of mine, they have some exciting things coming. I have a Halloween release that I’m doing; it’s completely ridiculous and I’m so excited for everyone to hear it. I have a split record 7 inch with the Vovos coming up too (it may not come out until next year though because Ada is going to Europe and Vovos are taking a break). It’s already recorded though. 

How many songs do you think you’ve written?

B: I’m going to say 1,500 that I’ve properly documented in some way. Recently I did a clear out of my 8-track and I’d gotten up to 500 songs in it and since then I’ve recorded another 200. I also wrote and recorded a lot of stuff before that; it was embarrassing but cute. I’ve written a lot. How much of it that I’m proud of or will ever be released is yet to be determined [laughs].

8 Hours In Billiamville is available at Under the Heat Records (Australia) from today and Under The Gun Records (US) from the May 20. Find Billiam HERE and on insta @billiamofbilliam.

Pop Monsieur Paish: Imbruing Power to the Mundane and Absurd

Original photo courtesy of Cease & Desist. Handmade mixed-media collage by B.

Naarm-based artist Paish’s breezy, lo-fi, bedroom pop on debut release, Pop Monsieur Vol. 1, makes the slog of modern life he writes of, seem poetic. Gimmie bring you his very first single and video.  

Originally you’re from the UK; how did you come to be based in Naarm/Melbourne?

PAISH: Before Naarm/Melbourne I had lived in Leipzig in Germany for about 4 years, trying (and failing quite impressively) to complete a degree in physics. My sister has been living here for going on 10 years now so I thought I’d come over and try and make a go of things, live here for 6 months and then home. I sort of accidentally made a life for myself here and now I can’t really imagine living anywhere else. I was also really excited to get into the music scene here, and after a mere 4 years I have finally actually made some!

In your music we can hear all kinds of influences like Orange Juice and Human League; what artists or scenes informed your formative years musically?

P: I grew up in a small town in the middle of England, where there was quite literally no music or culture of any kind (although I believe it hosts the UK’s biggest motorcycle festival, does that count?) Basically everything I got into was through relentless searching through blogs and Last.FM. Being the youngest of 5 also meant I was shown a lot of stuff that was maybe a little before my time. Originally I was super into math rock (which was the only ‘scene’ close to me) and that turned into getting really into 90s midwest emo stuff (Cap’n Jazz are still one of my favourite bands of all time) but then I started getting heavy into post-punk after hearing Gang of Four’s Entertainment for the first time. Since then my music taste has only gotten worse and more embarrassing but I’m fine with that.

What made you want to pursue a creative path yourself? How did you get into making music?

P: There just wasn’t anything else to do in my town! The options were either get drunk in an underpass or get in fights outside the Tesco Express. My brother started playing guitar first and I started learning drums so we could play together (never happened). One time I was going to visit my Dad and was suffering pretty bad insomnia so I nicked my brother’s guitar and took it with me, I basically brute-forced learning guitar in a couple weeks and have been doing music on and off ever since.

Photo courtesy of Paish.

How does creativity connect to self-expression for you? 

P: Maybe a trite answer so sorry for that, but I think in my case music is a way for me to express myself while at the same time allowing me enough distance that I’m not overwhelmed by embarrassment. I think whenever I start making a song it’s about nothing, and by the end there’s something of myself in there that I can just about see. It also feels really good to create stuff of any kind

What initially inspired the beginning of Paish?

P: Like probably every other person in this city I have about 500 Ableton files in various states of disarray, I’ve been making stuff since I arrived in 2017 but it just never really came together. Finally in 2021 I got so frustrated with myself I self-imposed a block on making any new songs until I had my most recent ones in a finished state that COULD be shown to other people. I started with something like 30 and whittled them down as time went on. At some point I realised I’d sunk so much time into making the tracks and learning how to mix them it would be shame for them to go back into the vault, so I decided to create Paish as an outlet for them.

What’s the story behind the name?

P: My parents clearly had plans for hundreds more children, and since I was the last one I got saddled with THREE middle names. Two of them are as bland as my first and last names but one of them is Paish, which is apparently an old French word and I used to hate because it was different, but now kinda love. It seemed to make sense as a solo name, firstly because I don’t think I’d do too well calling my solo project ‘Chris Brown’ for obvious reasons, and secondly because I like how mysterious it sounds. It makes sense as a name for a project where I’ll (hopefully) be releasing quite an eclectic mix of music going forward.

IPaish is a one man project; what’s the challenges of doing everything yourself?

P: I think the main one for me is just the constant thought ‘Is this all terrible?’ When you’re in a band you have other people to bounce ideas off, and you can pretty quickly get an idea of when something you’ve made is good or awful. When you’re doing it all yourself you just kind of have to make it all and then hope intensely that you haven’t created the worst music of all time. I’ll leave that up to the listeners!

Your release is called Pop Monsieur Vol.1; can you tell us about writing this 8-song collection? 

P: The basis of most of them was written in a 4 month period in 2021 after a break-up (how predictable!) The only exception I think is ‘Embarrassing 6’ which I had a very vague idea for a few years ago, though it was really so different as to not be the same song anymore. I also used the project as a tutorial on how to mix (and to a much less successful extent, master) tracks and it’s been really invaluable in that regard, I think whenever my next release after Volume 2 comes out I’ll try and do as much as I can myself. Not sure if that’s noble or narcissistic!

There’s not really a consistent theme, which is something I’d like to aim for with future releases. I think I tried to channel a bit of David Byrne in that I don’t really want to sing about love and stuff, but try and imbue some emotional power to quite mundane and absurd things. 

How does it feel to be releasing your songs into the world?

P: Terrifying! I have this bizarre mental image of people laughing at me in the street, but hey, at least I’ll be famous! Honestly I’m just happy to finally have something out after so long, and who knows maybe I can get some of that sweet sweet iPhone advert money.

We’re premiering the song and clip for ‘Big Red Thing’; how did the song get started? What’s it about?

P: ’Big Red Thing’ started in lockdown, trapped inside. I’d always see the air ambulance flying overhead (an Agusta-Westland AW-139 since I’m sure people care about nerd stuff as much as me) and I guess I started to anthropomorphosise it a bit and I felt bad for it flying around helping people and all the while being unappreciated. I’m always a little wary of giving the meaning of these songs, not for any precious artist reasons, just because people always seem to come up with much better and more profound meanings than the reality! 

You made the clip with Damien Kane; can you tell us about filming it? What do you remember from the day?

P: Huge thanks to my boy Damo for putting the clip together, he did a great job of working a bunch of random footage into something I actually quite like! Really my main goal was to not have a horrible time doing it, I’d rather have no video than get all bossy and annoying, so we just found some places that were aesthetically appealing and then rocked up and filmed as much random stuff as we could. The medieval reenactment thing was happening just down the road from us in Royal Park and I really just wanted an excuse to go and watch it! 

Album art by Revee Bendixen.

We love the art for Pop Monsieur Vol.1, who did it? What were your initial impressions when you first saw it?

P: My friend Revee Bendixen! She does crazy good paintings and I really wanted her to do one for me. I had a bunch of ideas about what I wanted and she was basically like nope they suck (which they did) and then she just painted this crazy good portrait of me! It was better than I could have hoped for really, she asked to listen to the music and I think what she painted captures it very well, a decrepit lounge singer zombie with pretensions of greatness.

Are there plans to perform live?

P: Not right now, though I definitely think at some point my inherent narcissism will require me to perform on stage, for the adoration (or hate) of the crowd. Either way it’s attention! I’m currently playing in another band, The Shifters, so that’s giving me my fix of live performance without the attendant stress of being in charge of everything.

Besides doing Paish, how else do you spend your time? 

P: Being an extremely boring standard guy: work full-time, occasionally make a soup, I’m pretty much the Default Male. My main interests are seasons 3 through 8 of the Simpsons, and watching 90 minute long YouTube videos about how aeroplane engines work. How depressing!

Paish’s Pop Monsieur Vol. 1 will soon be available on cassette and digitally from Cease and Desist Records.

Patrick Flegel: “When I did the first Cindy Lee cassette my life was a wreck… Taking responsibility for myself and caring about myself, that’s leaning in a different way for me, to realise that I am worthy”

Handmade collage by B.

Canadian artist Patrick Flegel creates heart-wrenching, hauntingly devastating music with project Cindy Lee. Sounding akin to classic 60s Girl Groups but recast for now, with atmospherics and dreamy melody, the sheer beauty of these somber and at times wild songs that push and pull in many directions make for compelling listening.

Why is music important to you?

PATRICK FLEGEL: It makes me feel good. I’ve loved music since I was a kid. It’s a really uplifting thing, yeah?

Yeah! Why is recording music one of your favourite things to do?

PF: It’s just so engaging! It’s a certain kind of headspace where you’re not thinking about anything else. I guess it’s kind of an escapist thing… [pauses; a siren is sounding in the background]… sorry there’s just this crazy storm here, a full on downpour, lightening striking the trees!

It sounds pretty full on where you are! When you go to record, do you have a song that’s fully formed or do you create as you’re recording?

PF: Writing and recording are kind of the same thing to me but I’ll be rehashing and thinking of stuff constantly, pretty obsessively. It’s a pretty time demanding thing. I play guitar all the time and that’s usually where things will start or I’ll come up with something. A lot of the stuff I have released, people would say they’re “demo recordings” but I am usually just happier with it and over it by the time that’s done so I’m not going to go into some studio and redo it… sorry, I’m kind of thrown by the storm and everything happening here, I’m squatting in the street [laughs]. I just go until I can’t anymore, it’s definitely a bingeing, obsessive kind of thing.

I read that you’re actually working on a new record already called Diamond Jubilee?

PF: Yeah, I am. That’s the tentative name for the record but I actually moved to North Carolina, temporarily anyways, that put a wrench in things. I’m going to be moving into a house to set up a temporary studio and I’ll start on that. I wanted to have it out this summer but obviously circumstances has put a wrench in a lot of things. I also came down here. I think I’ll finish it by Halloween.

Nice! That’s exciting news. I can’t wait to hear it. What prompted your move to North Carolina?

PF: My partner! We wanted to be together so I came down here.

Aww that’s lovely, I love love! It’s my favourite thing besides creativity and nature. It’s really important.

PF: Yeah, it’s kind of the bottom-line [laughs].

You’ve already put out two albums this year – What’s Tonight to Eternity and Cat o’ Nine Tails – and with the one you’re working on that will make a third; did you expect to put out that many albums this year?

PF: Yeah, that’s just what I want to do. When you’re working with a label, it can take a year before your record comes out, even though it’s done. There’s a way things are normally done and then the way that I would like to do things. I just have so many ideas all of the time and it’s all that I want to do—it’s what I’m driven to do. I want to make more music more often, it’s that simple I guess.

Do you feel that there’s a connection through all three albums? Do they tell a complete story together or are they separate things?

PF: I have no idea of what I’m going to move into but I wanted to move into the more positive, I don’t know if that will be in terms of sounds or the lyrics—it’s just where I’m at. I feel like everything that I have done so far is really doom and gloom and taboo and the dark corners of things. Now that’s not what I want to put out into the world, not even because of what’s happening [the global pandemic], I think things have always been bad [laughs]. It’s just where I’m at personally, where I’m at as a person… you were saying that love is more important, I want more of that kind of feeling, something that makes people feel good. The kind of music I have been listening to more, over the last four or five years, has been basically easy listening, light music [laughs], that’s kind of pacifying, background music. I have no idea what it is going to sound like or whether it’s going to be doom or gloom again, let’s get real [laughs]. What I have in my head is a pleasant-sounding record that’s comforting and isn’t just some kind of hell ride!

I think you’ll surprise yourself!

PF: Yeah! You always set out to do something but you never know. By the time it’s wrapped up, for better or for worse, you’re in awe of what actually happens. It might be a bad thing, or a good thing [laughs].

I know you’re still working on the new record but to me in a way it sounds kind of like a rebirth, like everything you’ve gone through on your last two albums, all the doom and gloom, the heaviness and darkness, it’s almost like you faced all these different things and now it’s like a triumph over those things and a much deserved celebration.

PF: Yeah, I would like that. Of course things will still be a hot mess and complicated but more personally I’m leaning in a different new direction than I have, my head isn’t in the place it was… that’s where the title comes from too… just the mentality of self-victimisation and self-indulgence, this inward, often selfish state of mind you can get in when you’ve got some mental health shit going on. I just don’t want to hear it anymore, over time I’ve just wanted more pleasant sounds. I’m not listening to this hell ride, anguish kind of music, I want music to make me feel good or have it really take me somewhere… just spiritual music in general where I would think of gospel music or choral music. Where it is terrifying and confronting some dark things but ultimately it’s… oh, I don’t know what I’m talking about.

Would you say that you’re a spiritual person?

PF: Oh, yeah, absolutely! It’s hard to talk about in short without sounding kind of woo-woo. For me it’s a more big picture perspective. If I think about universal consciousness, that’s where my head’s at. Part of it would be that I see things in the big picture, what I mean is, 300 years ago the clothes that people were wearing and the things they were saying and the big ideas they had, we look at it now… in the future people will look at us in the same way; I feel like there’s this perpetual oblivion that everyone’s in. In that context it seems like unnecessary human suffering, or it seems redundant. All this domination and exploitation, greed and whatever, it seems redundant to me in the big picture, whatever people are in competition for, in the bigger picture I don’t see the point in this competition that everyone’s got.

Do you set timelines for yourself making your Cindy Lee work?

PF: I just make the time to do, it takes a lot of time to do it. It sounds haphazard to a lot of people I think but it actually takes hundreds sometimes thousands of hours to make a record, from the conception of a part that turns into a song, to the actual mastered final version of twelve songs or whatever.

When you get lost in making music and time goes by and you’re not even noticing, is that in a way a meditation for you?

PF: It absolutely is! You don’t think about anything else and it’s a whole self-expression. It sounds ridiculous but it really is a transcendent state of mind; you’re not even there or something. It’s like any kind of physical activity like maybe chasing a ball or having sex or any visceral thing like that, I feel like music ties into that where you’re just fully engaged and you might just forget your own name [laughs].

I feel that way with interviewing. I just do it because I enjoy it and I like sharing music, art and stories with people. I’ve done it well over half my life. No one is paying me to do it.

PF: If you make that sacrifice for a while – I mean it’s a total crap shoot as well – if you actually do what you want and do it well, whatever that means, maybe the two will cross over at some point where you don’t have to do things you don’t want to. Or maybe you don’t want the money to intersect with what you’re doing ‘cause it takes the fun out of it. Thankfully there’s just enough people that like my stuff that I can keep my head above water and float. These days I feel you can do anything and people are pretty open-minded. You don’t even have to fit in. Someone will show something to me like Kendrick Lamar’s albums and I’ll be like, what the fuck? This is one of the most popular music in the world! This music is wild! It’s unique and jarring and strange.

I’ve often found with some of the artists I’ve interviewed over the years, when they get popular and get some money they change and it makes them more sad. They wanted those things for so long but when they got them they realised it wasn’t what they thought.

PF: Oh yeah, I experienced that in my own life on a very minor level. To play music and tour like I did when I was younger, we’d do an album cycle, I didn’t even really know what that was at the time… I didn’t enjoy it at all – I had some good times – but the lifestyle of playing 150 to 200 live shows in a year and not making anything new, doesn’t appeal to me at all [laughs].

When I found your Cindy Lee stuff I thought it was just so cool, I didn’t know anything about your past bands.

PF: I’m most excited about everything I’ve been doing lately, that’s pretty normal for a creative person I think. I feel alright about it. Speaking of doing things that you don’t’ necessarily want to do, if you want to sell units sometimes you have to do stuff… I got a publicist for the last record, but you watch the press and publicist (who’s a friend of mine) people stumbling around queer… branding you… the whole thing makes me squirm, the way people talk about… just branding myself as queer, which I do align with that in my values and beliefs and the way I see things as far as I understand that stuff, but it’s also a funny thing to be branded by that… does that make sense?

It does. How has Cindy Lee helped you grow?

PF: It was a personal thing with… being from Calgary, I noticed it when I lived in Vancouver, Montreal, these places that grew up with the values in their family were very liberal or more left-leaning and got fast tracked into a way of seeing things and certain values… there was absolutely no representation of where I’m at now in my life when I was growing up, like none! It was stunting. When I was twenty-five I had an epiphany, realisation or meltdown revolving around my identity, my sexuality and these kinds of things. I feel like that’s maybe something some people go through younger. It feels like something that should have happened to me as a teenager but didn’t. It was a kind of revelation about things… I kind of ended up turning on that as well, I could talk about that for a long time. You start wondering what’s really motivating you to counter your masculinity with this superficial aspects of femininity and then the aspects of your personality in your mind that are aligned with femininity and then over the years kind of realising that it’s just using the same framework… for me to counter masculinity with these sign posts of femininity, or particularly the way I dress… I ended up feeling that I don’t know how much that adds up… for example, I talk about the Devil a lot in my music and that’s the opposite of Jesus or God, but it’s a hilarious thing to use this ammunition to fight against something, and have it be from the same book. It’s a long, weird road the way that I look at myself and feel about myself and what that means. So that’s been lumped into this creative process and publicly being put out there, growing up in public.

I’m grateful for people that have paved the way so it’s permissible for me to cross-dress in public and not in my experience get any trouble for it. People are actually congratulatory about it and that makes me feel weird [laughs]. Sometimes people talk to you like you’re a hero for cross-dressing. That’s a funny aspect of it. I think my experiences with gender identity… that’s probably why the music has so many hardcore ups and downs, bi-polar [laughs].  

Talking to you now, you seems so happy.

PF: Oh yeah, I am. I had some pretty tumultuous periods, that are behind me; probably the last two or three years I got my feet on the ground. I had a pretty sloppy existence [laughs].

What helped get your feet on the ground?

PF: My relationship with alcohol definitely has been a huge thing, when I did the first Cindy Lee cassette [Tatlashea] my life was a wreck but when I did Act of Tenderness and Malenkost there was a period where I didn’t drink for three years, nothing. I’ll occasionally drink now, but it’s something I’m always considering; I would attribute it to that. Taking responsibility for myself and caring about myself, that’s leaning in a different way for me, to realise that I am worthy and not inferior, basic self-help things. When I stopped drinking it was amazing, that’s the most creative stretch that I’ve had to that point, when I went sober. That’s been a consistent thing since then. I live like I’m retired or something, I live very slow; I eat, shower, sleep and make music, just really basic things that appear to be easy for other people [laughs].

Do you have routine to your day?

PF: I just go with the flow. I have things set up so I don’t have a ton of obligations and I can do things at my own pace—I’m living very cautiously! [laughs].

I heard a [David] Bowie interview and he was saying like “art’s a car you can crash over and over and walk away from” which I appreciated. He talked about how chaotic his life was when he was younger and how he wanted to pour that insanity into his music… it may be obvious but I think that’s really the kind of person I would like to be, I’m taking care of myself and the people I care about and maintaining things in my life and then in my creative world I can just go straight to hell if I want to! [laughs].

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

PF: I guess I just wanted to mention a couple of things as a buffer to what I was saying about spirituality so it doesn’t sound dumb. When I was a teenager I took a lot of psychedelics and that ties into my overarching… I’ve seen it! I’ve seen what I think reality actually is—infinite and formless and beyond our description.  

Please check out CINDY LEE. Cindy Lee on bandcamp. Get vinyl edition of Cindy Lee via Superior Viaduct.

Sleeper and Snake on new LP Fresco Shed + first single ‘Flats’: “There’s all these people with power next to disempowered people… AND it’s all on Stolen Land. Everywhere you look is a little snapshot of this…”

Original photo Mia McDonald. Handmade mixed-media art by B.

Melbourne duo Sleeper and Snake, Amy Hill and Al Montfort, are set to release new album Fresco Shed via brand new independent Australian label Lulu’s Sonic Disc Club (from the folks behind Lulu’s record store) and the UK’s Upset the Rhythm.

Sleeper and Snake craft beautiful and delicate songs about tough matters, their songs are political without being overtly so, you have to dig deeper, they make you think. Al and Amy skillfully and uniquely tell stories observed from their local surroundings of trains, farmers, corrupt handshakes, of Pentridge prison and the Melbourne war memorial. Through laid back alto and tenor saxophone peppered lo-fi soundscapes and poetic words, Fresco Shed sparks imagination and charms the listener.

Gimmie chatted to Al and Amy about the forthcoming LP and song “Flats” which we’re doing the Australian video premiere for today. We also talk about their other projects in the works.

What initially inspired you to write a new Sleeper and Snake album Fresco Shed?

AMY: Good question! [laughs].

AL: Yeah.

AMY to AL: You’re just always writing music, endlessly… it’s gotta go somewhere.

AL: We were writing a lot of Terry songs together…

AMY: We just enjoy playing music together.

AL: I guess…

AMY: Some of it didn’t suit that.

AL: Yeah. We had saxophones so we were making a lot of music with them.

I wanted to ask you about using saxophone, because that’s kind of a less traditional instrument to write songs with; have you been playing for very long?

AMY: No, not really. Al got one…

[Laughter]

AL: Yeah, I got one. I got a tenor sax from EBay from a fancy rich suburb in Sydney for 200 bucks! [laughs] …maybe six years ago when Total Control were up there for a gig. I didn’t bother getting any lessons, in case you can’t tell.

AMY: I tried to play it once and I managed to get sound out of it and he pestered me into playing [laughs]. Georgia from The UV Race plays saxophone and she had babies recently so she wasn’t using her saxophone, I managed to borrow hers and that’s what I’ve been playing. We thought it would sound quite cool to have the tenor and alto saxophones together. It seemed like a fun thing to do.

AL: Yeah. Amy just picked it up and was way better. She was a total natural at it straight away.

What do you enjoy about making music?

AL: It keeps me sane-ish. I think any kind of creative outlet is really important for people. The process of writing lyrics is a really great outlet for me to get through the day, to make things compute and it helps this horrible place make sense.

AMY: I think it’s just fun!

[Laughter]

Making something from nothing is the most fun!

AL: Totally!

AMY: Yeah. It’s also been a real social thing for me, I get to hang out with my friends and we do music together. It’s always been what you do, go see bands and play music together.

How have you guys been dealing with not being able to be as social and do those things, especially play live?

AMY: It’s pretty weird. At first it was almost like a little bit of a holiday from it. By playing in numerous bands we’d find ourselves playing something like four gigs a week, which is quite insane when you’re also working fulltime [laughs]. The first lockdown it was kind of a bit of a novelty but it starts to just become quite odd, I feel a bit odd. There’s a lot of people that you don’t see anymore because you’re not going out to see live bands. Your life feels a bit like it’s on hold, I guess most people would be feeling that.

I think so. I’ve been going to gigs my whole life and this has been the longest I’ve gone without going to see live music. Right now in Brisbane a handful of venues have brought back a live shows but with a small capacity and it’s sit down at tables, socially distanced; you pay the ticket price and then you have to pay a minimum of $40 each extra on top of that which is redeemable in bar tab or venue merch. That means for my husband and I to go see a local live band it can cost around $120; we don’t drink and we’re not going to spend $80 on soft drink and we don’t need venue merch, so these new rules excludes us from going to do something we’ve done and supported our whole lives.

AL & AMY: Whoa!

I can understand venues are in a weird spot with having limited capacity and not having been opened for a bit but to basically enforce a alcohol minimum to see bands is really weird.

AL: That is really weird.

AMY: Someone was telling me that Cherry Bar here in Melbourne was trying to gauge interest, they want to do a gig where there’s some hotel and it must have a courtyard in the middle and the rooms have balconies that look down on it; they want to have the bands in the courtyard and then you book a room, so it’s a festival where you have to have your own room. It’s insane.

Wow! Totally.

AMY: You have to have money to be able to do that!

Same with the bands doing gigs at drive-ins up here. It’s something like $200-$250+ per car to go.

AL: Whoa!

Yeah, it puts going to a show out of the reach of a lot of people, especially with many people losing their jobs.

AMY: Do you think people do it because they think they’re supporting live music? But then it’s so inaccessible for so many, it’s so weird.

Yeah, the kind of crowd that end up being able to afford it are the ones that go to a festival like Splendour In The Grass just for the experience… its crazy to me that festivals like Splendour have a stall/tent you can go to and get your hair done and a nail bar! I mean, what the actual fuck?

[Laughter]

Is there anything that frustrates you about making music?

AL: Hmmmm [thinks for a moment]… dealing with promoters. I think there are a lot of good promoters that have their heart in the right place, but I think the money making, money obsessed side of it…

AMY: It’s a bit grim!

AL: It is pretty grim. Even what’s happening now with the shutdown, I know a lot of the venues are keen to open up because there’s people that work for them and the landlords need money from the venues, the business owners need money and they’re pushing this stuff more than the artists I feel. I feel like the artists and the fans are like, let’s respect this, it’s OK…

AMY: We’ll just have a break. There’s a real push from the business side because they’ll go under if they don’t have the chance.

AL: I feel like maybe there’s not that much interest in the cultural, artistic side of musicians/artists… it’s more about the bottomline. That can be frustrating.

AMY: Some people probably love it, if they’re in it to make money [laughs].

AL: Yeah, totally.

Photo: Mia McDonald

I grew up in the punk rock community so I’ve always been very wary of the music industry.

AL: Yeah. I went to a lot of punk gig growing up, there weren’t many at pubs, there were many at cafes during the day or DIY venues, house parties, and they went along just fine without these huge bars making a lot of money off of people drinking themselves to death… I’m not quite straight edge but…

AMY: I guess there’s that thing that musicians often get paid in their bar tab to a certain degree which… it’s a bit of a weird normality that that’s what you get.

I’ve been listening to the new Sleeper & Snake album Fresco Shed all afternoon since I got a sneak peek of it, it’s so cool. The opener “Miracles” is an instrumental and has a feel about it sonically that is kind miraculous and magical sounding.

AMY: Thank you.

AL: “Miracles” is inspired by Scott Morrison when he won the election and was like “it’s a miracle… I’ll burn for you” and he kept on saying all this stuff about miracles [laughs]. It was really upsetting.

AMY: [Laughs].

That’s like how in the US Donald Trump said that the pandemic will “disappear… like a miracle”.

AL: A miracle! Ugggh… Love that! [laughs].

I love how Fresco Shed has a real gentleness to it but then the themes are very political and serious.

AL: Yeah. It’s funny just making the music at home because we don’t play through amps very much with this project. Because we’re doing it like that and playing at home using saxophone and that, it does become gentle in a way.

AMY: You don’t have to be loud.

AL: Maybe it’s just sad and defeated?

AMY: Sad?! [laughs].

AL: It’s that side of politics… it’s the sound of defeat [laughs].

I saw press photos and there was an abstract hand-painted “fresco shed” in the pics; did you make it yourself?

AMY: We were getting quite crafty in lockdown.

AL: [Laughs].

AMY: Al’s always trying to make papier-mâché things. In Terry he made the papier-mâché Terry. He likes to get crafty.

AL: Yeah, I like to get crafty! I was really proud of the corrugated iron type roof.

AMY: We envisioned a real shed covered in fresco paintings but then all we could physically achieve was a cardboard box [laughs]. We like making the art and being hands on in that way. We had a lot of time on our hands.

We were nerds and zoomed in on the photos to check out the paintings better and we noticed that each picture correlates to song themes on the record, you have the V-Line country train, Pentridge prison, crooked handshakes…

AL: It’s conceptual but literal [laughs].

AMY: Al told me what to paint and I just painted it, that was the rule! [laughs]; I said I’d paint it if he told me what to paint. They all relate to the songs.

I really love the image of the “farmer full of feelings”.

AMY: [Laughs].

AL: That’s one of my favourites, I think. That person definitely looks defeated!

That image is related to the song “Lady Painter”?

AMY: Yep. The farmer full of feelings has just watched a Scott Morrison press conference [laughs].

That song even mentions the “fresco shed” right?

AL: Oh yeah.

AMY: That’s where the title comes from.

We’re premiering the video for your song “Flats”; what’s that one about?

AL: We moved to a different suburb a year and a bit ago, Richmond is an inner east suburb of Melbourne…

AMY: No one we know really lives here, everyone lives north side. We moved to a suburb that’s kind of wealthy…

AL: It’s diverse, it has a lot of public housing but it’s really rich as well, heaps of wealthy people. You really see gentrification at that umpteenth level, how extreme it can get…

AMY: All the apartments going up and stuff. It was during summer and we were going for walks and we were talking about ideas and things and that kind of came up and that turned into a song.

AMY to AL: Did you write it?

AL: I think we both wrote it while we were walking around taking Tramadols [laughs]. We were walking by the Yarra River, it runs through the whole thing and you really see the worst of Settler society here…

AMY: All the wealthy people have their houses on the river and all the wealthy schools row on the river.

AL: There’s all these people with power next to disempowered people… AND it’s all on Stolen Land. Everywhere you look is a little snapshot of this.

It’s always boggled my mind since I was a kid, the world always seemed to me to have enough for everyone but, then there’s some people that have so much that they don’t even need and then there’s people with nothing, no place to live. I remember observing that as a kid and thinking it was so weird and wrong.

AL: Yeah, totally. Moving to the suburbs that are much older, the juxtaposition between these two things are in your face. Another aspect of the song is about the privilege we have as white Australians, we don’t have experiences the same way… we might not even be from wealthy families or whatever but we benefit from it every single day. The “flats falling into the floor” lyrics is a reference to the Opal Towers in Sydney, all these apartment building falling down and such wealth being made from that stuff, it’s disgusting!

Totally! Do you have a favourite track on the new record?

AMY: I like playing the ones that we just play saxophone on together, they’re really good to play.

AL: They’re all good ‘ey! [laughs].

What do you love about playing saxophone together?

AMY: I think it’s just so new for me. To be playing a very different instrument than what I’m used to and having to work out how they sound good together… literally I don’t know some of the notes on it and have to figure it out [laughs]. Because it’s new it’s exciting to play. Challenging!

Musical experimentation must keep things creatively interesting for you; was there anything new you tried writing or recording this release?

AMY to AL: I don’t’ know if it made it on to the record but you were clanging on something, weren’t you?

AL: Oh, yeah. I was banging on a pot.

AMY: I don’t know if it sounded any good [laughs]. We just like to try weird things. We do that though with all of the bands to a different degree. Nothing ground-breaking.

AL: We recorded on the 4-track, which is what we usually do with Terry and Primo! too.

Photo: Mia McDonald

Toward the end of the song “Lady Painter” there’s some cool weird sounds that I couldn’t work out what was making it?

AL: That could be the organ, Nan’s old organ!

AMY: The Funmaker.

AL: Yeah, it’s called the Funmaker!

AMY: It has this one level of keys…

AMY to AL: Do you think it’s broken? Or is that just what it sounds like?

AL: That’s just what it does.

AMY: We didn’t even effect it, that’s just what it sounds like.

AL: I’ll plug it in… here we go! It’s pretty crazy.

[Al plugs in the organ and plays]

[Laughter]

I feel like fun is a really important part of what you both do?

AL: Yeah.

AMY: It’s sort of like a hobby, what we do to relax and blow off steam and hang out with our mates.

Did you start creating from when you first got together?

AL: It took a while. Maybe Terry was the first band that we wrote together for, that’s four or five years ago.

AMY: We’ve been together for ten years. It took us five years because we just had our own separate bands.

AMY to AL: You were pretty busy because you had ten bands or something like that.

AL Too much going on ‘ey! [Laughs].

What’s something you both do differently when writing songs?

AMY to AL: You remember them, that’s one thing.

AL: I remember more of the riffs than some other people in the band [laughs]. I rush, I’m always keen to get things done…

AMY: Whereas I work more slowly.

AL: Not slowly though, I think more thoroughly.

AMY: I like to think over things.

AL: Amy does things properly and I rush it [laughs]. That’s what the report card says! Maybe that’s from just being in bands that tour a lot for a while… UV Race and Total Control would write a record, finish a record… we’d jam a lot and write a lot to have a record for touring; maybe that has affected my song writing style?

AMY to AL: You want to churn it out…

AL: Yeah, I want to fucking churn it out!

AMY: I’ll think about something for three months. 

AL: Which I think is better! I listen back to stuff and I’m like errrrrr, I wish you told me to chill out on that.

AMY to AL: Yeah, like… you need to do those vocals again!

[Laughter]

Did you do the Sleeper & Snake stuff in a few takes?

AL: I’ll always be like, that first take was good!

AMY: He’ll tell me to put something on it and I’ll be like; this is a demo, right?

AL: I’ll be like, yeah it’s a demo. Then I’ll be like, OK, let’s send it away for mastering now!

[Laughter]

I love when you sing together on your songs; what kind of feeling do you get doing that together?

AL: It’s pretty fun!

AMY: I’m like, oh god! [laughs].

AL: Singing is so fun. I think we both love singing and we try to egg each other on.

AMY: I sing high on some songs on the record. I think I sing better when I sing high but I really don’t like singing high. I’m always trying to go low but it always ends up that, nah, I’m gonna have to go up. It’s all figuring out harmonies.

Is there anything else that you’re working on?

AL: We have a few demos in the can. We’re got most of the new Terry record done.

AMY to AL: You’re still working on that Dick Diver record?

AL: Yeah, there’s a Dick Diver record that’s been 75% recorded about two years ago…

AMY: Sleepless Nights have been working on another record but that kind of stopped with Covid. Our drummer just went to Perth, we were like; why did you go to Perth?! There’s a few things in the works but everything is a bit on hold.

AMY to AL: Truffle Pigs?

AL: Yeah, Truffle Pigs! That’s Steph Hughes from Dick Diver, Amy and myself. It’s more like Soakie, country Soakie…

AMY: It’s a concept album. We’re always doing bits and bobs. Al writes songs and we figure out which band it sounds like [laughs].

AL: You write so many songs too; what are you talking about? [laughs].

AMY to AL: Noooooo. I write a riff and play it for a little while and then I forget it and then you remember it and turn it into a song [laughs]. You’ll be playing and I’ll be like; oh what’s that song?

[Laughter]

What are the things you value in terms of your creativity?

AL: I value collaboration and maybe a level of improvisation, especially in a live setting.

AMY: I enjoy that. Performing is good as well. But, we don’t’ get to do that at the moment. I do get really nervous though, but I enjoy it a lot [laughs]. Sometimes my hands will be shaking so much that I can hardly play the organ.

You could never tell you’re so nervous. We watched the live Button Pusher performance recently, which was great!

AMY: It’s just a physical thing I guess, it’s so weird. I’ve been playing for so long and it just never goes away. I still get so nervous! I think it’s a good things though to have some nervous energy.

Please check out: SLEEPER & SNAKE. Fresco Shed out in September via Lulu’s Sonic Disc Club (AU, NZ and Asia) and Upset The Rhythm (UK) pre-order HERE now. S&S on Instagram. S&S on Facebook.

Gee Tee: “I just wanted to make some less serious sorta music, makes it easier to record everything by yourself too”

Handmade collage by B.

Gee Tee started out when its creator Kel began creating tunes solo in his bedroom on the Gold Coast. Gee Tee’s music is a touch unconventional, a little weird, humorous, lo-fi, buzzy, maxed out, wobbly and highly entertaining – think somewhere in the ballpark of Geza X, Dow Jones and the Industrials and Scientific Americans. Now residing in Sydney and having a full live band we’re excited to see what Gee Tee does next! We interviewed Kel and he told us of his beginnings, how he creates and lets us know what’s coming up.

How did you first get into music? Are there any albums that are really important to you?

KEL: My dad introduced me to music when I was a kid, he’s heaps into ‘70s and ’80s UK punk and Oi + a lot of late ‘80s and ’90s alternative, Dinosaur Jr, Flying Nun Records bands etc. Some of my favourite albums and bands though would be: Buzzcocks – Another Music In A Different Kitchen. D.L.I.M.C – Cassingles. Sickthoughts. King Khan & BBQ. Nikki and the Corvettes – Self-titled. The Spits – V. Set-top Box. Useless Eaters – Zulu. Ramones – Leave Home. Nancy – With Child. R.M.F.C. Jay Reatard. Satanic Togas – Chain Reaction. Muff Divers – Dreams of the Gentlest Texture. Research Reactor Corp. Devo. P.U.F.F – Living In The Partyzone. Ausmuteants – Order of Operation.

What was your first concert? Can you tell us a little bit about it?

KEL: Never went to concerts when I was younger hey, first big show I can remember going to would be Thee Oh Sees back in 2013.

You first started Gee Tee while living on the Gold Coast in 2016; what inspired you to start making your own music?

KEL: Yeah I guess I just wanted to make some less serious sorta music, makes it easier to record everything by yourself too. I was in Draggs at the time and that was sort of wrapping up. So thought it was a good time to start something new.

What’s the story behind your name Gee Tee?

KEL: It’s off these 1970’s trading cards/sticker series Odd Rods, its hell mongrels in blowout cars, real similar to “Ratfink” Ed Roth drawings. There’s a Gee-Tee-O card in the first series.

All the early Gee Tee stuff is written and recorded by yourself; can you tell us a bit about how you go about making a song?

KEL: It used to be mainly recording drums first with no idea on how the songs gonna be then hoping for the best keeping the original drum track/take. But I don’t have a kit set up in Sydney, so I use a drum machine to demo the songs on Ableton then re-record the finals on tape with a kit. Synth parts are just mucking around till something sounds right and vocal bits the same. Neanderthal stuff.

What kind of set-up do you use to record?

KEL: The drums are recorded on a Tascam Portastudio 2 then the rests recorded on a Yamaha MT1X or a MT4X. Using a mix of these AKG 190e mics and Shure 57/58’s. All the overdubs, backup vox/ synth etc. is done on Ableton.

What are the kinds of things that inspire you lyrically?

KEL: Just easy to remember choruses and lyrics + stuff I’m not gonna forget. Used to be full on car only themed tracks but that’s changed over the last year, only so many songs you can write about the same thing before you get burnt out on it.

What was the first song you wrote; what was it about?

KEL: “Flame Decals” was the first track I wrote and recorded for Gee Tee, pretty self-explanatory and pretty stupid haha!

What prompted the move to Sydney?

KEL: Just not a lot happening on the Gold Coast, in my opinion. It’s a chill place to grow up but there’s no weirdo music scene and barely any overseas bands that I like would come through on tours. I was friends already with a couple of people in Sydney too.

In October last year you released Chromo-Zone as a digital album and on cassette tape, it’s the first Gee Tee release featuring someone else, Ishka Edmeades (Set-top Box, Satanic Togas, Warttmann Inc); how did you come to working together?

KEL: I was living with Ishka for a couple of months when I moved to Sydney so it just kinda happened. He’s got a similar drumming style to me as well but better and can rip lead guitar. For the new Gee Tee tracks Ryan Ellem who plays drums in the live band and runs, Slime Street Records, is gonna be on ‘em mostly.

You also do the art for your releases, it has a real distinctive style; what influences it? Do you hand make it? Is it cut n paste?

KEL: Yeah, it’s mostly cut and pasting stuff outta old magazines then scanning it. Big fan of old punk posters, zines and the art/visual style of them. I still use a PC though to add extra bits etc. so it’s not all physical.

Were there any challenges in taking the Gee Tee songs you wrote by yourself to a full band live set?

KEL: Yeah, some of the songs just don’t work live, e.g. “Hot Rod Juice” and “Commando” don’t come off the same as they do in the recordings. Compared to songs like “FBI” and “I’m a Germ” which are smokers live!

What’s been the best and worst show you’ve played so far; what made them so?

KEL: I reckon the best show we’ve played recently was at the Lady Hampshire with Research Reactor Corp, R.M.F.C and Set-top Box. Heaps of people came out + playing a set on the floor is sweet! Also, playing The Tote for Maggot Fest was smokin’!

For the worst show I dunno, played a fair few stinkers when I was in Draggs. Wack greedy shit like bookers sending you an invoice for $50, when the venue was sold out! Getting set up playing with bands that are dickheads, etc. 

Have you been working on any new music; what can you tell us about it?

KEL: Yeah for sure, I’ve been working on recording tracks for a couple of 7”s and a LP. Not sure when they’re gonna be out though. A new G.T.R.R.C covers EP has been recorded that’ll be out in a couple of weeks on cassette, maybe on a 7”. Possibly a few guest rocker cameos on this one too from Melbourne and USA.

Vid GEE TEE @ Buz’s birthday bash footage by video. ezy (converted by Gordo Blackers, 60% of footage recorded by Gio Alexander).

Please check out: GEE TEE bandcamp. GEE TEE on Instagram.