The Murlocs’ Ambrose Kenny-Smith on new album, Rapscallion: “I was having a lot of fun reminiscing about growing up skateboarding”

Original photo: Izzie Austin. Handmade mixed-media collage by B.

The Murlocs’ upcoming new album Rapscallion sees them forging into new territory with a playful mix of drama and effervescence as they give us a loosely conceptual coming-of-age story of searching, love, loss, independence and belonging. There’s effortlessly catchy garage-rock groovers that we’ve come to love from The Murlocs, along with detours into chaotic heavy moments and unabashedly cool drifts into fruitful synth work that will pleasantly surprise listeners. Rapscallion has shown the band humbly continue to hone their songwriting craft, the writing even more precise and confident than previous outings. It’s an exciting and inspiring album. Gimmie chatted with The Murlocs’ Ambrose Kenny-Smith about the record. 

What’s life been like lately for you?

AMBROSE: I’m good . I’ve been home for two weeks. We had that tour in Europe cancelled. I went to Budapest and hung out with friends for a week and then came home back to the winter. Budapest is pretty fun, I found a couple of cool dive bars, went to some baths and went skateboarding. It was good to decompress after the shattering news of tour being cancelled. It was nice to avoid the Melbourne winter for longer. It’s been really cold, I guess I’ve just been acclimatised to the Europe summer for so long now [laughs].

Last we chatted, was for your album Bittersweet Demons and at the time I thought that was my favourite Murlocs record, but now I’ve heard your new record, Rapscallion, and it’s become my favourite Murlocs album. Congratulations! It’s an incredible album! I feel it’s stretched you guys into new territory; what do you think?

A: Sick, thank you. For sure it’s stretched us, it’s probably the heaviest thing we’ve done so far. I’m so proud of it. It’s been the easiest to talk about in interviews too, cos I actually have enough to talk about for once, rather than cringing thinking about my anxieties and shit. It’s nice to have something more conceptual that has a storyline. The music side of things has all come from our guitarist, Callum Shortal. It’s been the most seamless record we’ve had. 

Do you find it easier when someone else does the music and you just have to worry about arranging, adding things and the lyrics?

A: Yeah, but I’ve never had to do too much, over the years it’s gotten less and less. For the first time, I didn’t have to arrange or do anything, he’s just nailed it. He knows how our songs work. He knows when I’m supposed to sing and all of this, that and the other. For a while there, he would send me one-minute demos and had not really finished them off, but waited ’til we got together in a room and we’d piece it together. Because we were in the first lockdown here in Melbourne, he took it all on, did it himself and would send me tunes frequently. 

We finished Bittersweet Demons and that was 70% my songs written on piano. Cook [Craig] gave songs. Tim [Karmouche] contributed two songs and[Matt]  Blachy contributed. At the end, it was more half and half with the other guys song-wise. I wanted to try and step back and contribute more to King Gizzard, so I encouraged the guys to write. I told them I wanted to go back to focusing on lyrics. Callum had one song on that album, it was cut from Manic Candid Episode the album before. All of a sudden he got into a rhythm and was on a roll and would send me songs once a week or so. Before we knew it we had the whole record. We only cut one.

He’d quickly send stuff to me while I was working on Gizzard stuff, and I could sequence the album musically and write the storyline. I got the flow of the music and then it was like, cool, now I can conceptualise what this is going to be. I wrote lyrics as I went. The songs came in pretty much in order they ended up. It was a good flow. 

I read that the concept was inspired by Corman McCarthy’s book Blood Meridian. Where you reading that at the time?

A: Yeah. It was one of the first books that I had actually finished in the last couple of years. I connected with it, started riffing off it and channelling past experiences from my youth. It’s a lot more of a light-hearted version. 

In that book the main character is a teenager called “The Kid” and the story is of his adventures, He’s kind of an anti-hero.

A: Yeah, totally. Ours is a similar concept, but not as gruesome as the book. It’s that coming-of-age, outcast, ugly duckling-figure that runs away from home story. He has an attitude of, fuck trying to find his feet. As the album goes along, each song is a step by step progression into him going through all of these life changing experiences.

I enjoyed listening to it unfold. The book you were inspired by is a Western novel and I noticed easter egg references throughout the album, lyrically and musically. In the first song ‘Subsidiary’ there’s the lyrics: I’m leaving this one horse town.

A: There’s a bit of an urban cowboy vibe! [laughs]. 

The second song ‘Bellarine Ballerina’ sees the character hitchhiking and crossing paths with truckers and transient folk. I love fiction narratives (in my day job I work as a book editor), I really got into the story you were telling. There’s so many cool lines on the album. There was one in song ‘Bobbing And Weaving’: Last train departing on the platform for the unloved. 

A: [Laughs]. Yeah. I’m glad you like that one. There’s a lot of sombre people getting the train sometimes. That song is about him dodging ticket inspectors and trying to find the ropes of living independently. 

I got a sense as well, that the character has always been a fighter.

A: Yeah, it’s totally about that, and about trying to find a second family, a group he can connect with. While I was writing it, I was having a lot of fun reminiscing about growing up skateboarding. I thought about all the friendships that I’ve gained from those experiences, travelling interstate or just being around the city and sleeping on whoever’s couch that I made friends with that day. It was derivative of that stuff, real experiences, but taken to a more extreme level. There were definitely people that I grew up with who had similar upbringings, and skateboarding was acceptance for us, any shape or form was welcomed. 

Photo: Izzie Austin.

As the story unfolds I found that there’s elements and a sense of danger, transience and free-wheeling, which is all stuff that ties in with being young and skateboarding; being nomadic, being spontaneous. I think all of that translated well and can be felt on the album.

A: Great!  It was a good coping mechanism to escape when I was locked down and couldn’t go anywhere. I couldn’t write diary entires or personal experience at the time because there wasn’t really much going on. It was nice to reminisce. 

Another line I loved was from ‘Compos Mentis’: Chubby rain soaking heavy like cinder blocks. That’s such strong imagery. 

A: Sweet. It’s self-explanatory, especially when you’ve got some real soggy socks [laughs]. 

[Laughter]. Each song is like a scene in a novel or film.

A: That was the name of the game.

In ‘Compos Mentis’ the character seems to be reflecting on his life.

A: Reflecting and trying to navigate what route he’s going to take next. He’s taking things day-by-day. That was my thought process for a lot of my life until all of a sudden, now I’m thirty. It’s all about taking things as it comes. 

Compos mentis means taking control of your mind, right?

A: Yeah, that part of the album has him by himself for a while and he starts to question if he has a sound mind and is cable of continuing on his journey [laughs].

In the beginning of his journey his parents don’t really understand him or even really just believe in him. Taking it back to the song ‘Living Under A Rock’ it’s like his life started a little sheltered but then the character realises that there’s this big world out there.

A: Totally! It’s that small town syndrome and not really been aware of stuff beyond his street and the shops down the road. He’s trying to escape and make it to the big smoke to see what’s happening [laughs]. 

That’s what you do when you’re a skateboarder living out in the suburbs, you head into the city to meet your friends and skate spots.

A: You hang around the streets and you meet different kinds of people, some your own age, but a lot of the time, people older. I was always surrounded by older people and was corrupted. My character was built quickly, early on. I was streetwise from a young age. All those elements were thrown in there. 

Then in song ‘Farewell to Clemency’ he gets into a fight and there’s the great line: Toxic masculinity is dead. That was a powerful lyric.

A: That’s just him trying to crush that whole scenario. I feel it’s a good way to stamp that song at the end [laughs]. 

As the story continues there’s song ‘Royal Vagabond’. I feel like that song is about survival.

A: Totally. When I was listening to it when I would skate back and forth to the studio, I felt like in that song, he felt like he was on the up and he’s found a family that he can call home with a leader that’s larger than life; someone who can direct him and give him some words of wisdom. He can help steer him in a direction where he finally starts to feel confident within himself. It’s about him finding a gang under a bridge, they’re hanging around fires and shooting the shit. He finally feels like he’s become a part of something. 

‘Virgin Criminal’ is next and it reflects that he’s new to crime, but then  in the following song his life takes a little turn in ‘Bowlegged Beautiful’ and he falls in love with Peg.

A: Yeah! [laughs]. Peg is a member of the gang but doing her own thing as well. When I heard that bass line, I thought of someone strutting down the street in the city towards him and he’s fixated on this person that’s coming into his life. He’s overwhelmed and all he wants is this one person. 

It totally captures that feeling.

A: She’s the love of his life.

Yeah. ’Wickr Man’ sees them both go dumpster diving and they have a violent itch in common, like when they kick the rats. Then they’re waiting around for the guy up stairs so they can get drugs. 

A: It’s a ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’ Velvet Underground rip. Each song is a new experience. He’s met this girl that’s in to dabbling in drugs. She teaches him a lot of things quickly and he grows up fast. By the end of that, it falls into tragedy with ‘The Ballad of Peggy Mae’.

You broke my heart with that song! I was so sad listening to it. I wanted them to win.

A: She didn’t last for long [laughs]. 

Like three songs! When she ODs you get a sense from both the music and lyrics that the protagonist feels guilty and grief-stricken. 

A: I’ve had friends OD before on the street, so it’s channelling that vibe. It’s a very broad daylight and in your face that song. That’s why I put the city sounds at the start of it. I wanted it to sound chaotic. I couldn’t imagine the song without it having a sad narrative. I even tear up a bit when I listen to that one too [laughs].

Awww. Well, that is the reality of that life, these things totally happen. You mentioned that you’ve experienced friends OD-ing. It’s a hard thing to see. Do you find it’s easier to write about these kinds of things in a fictional narrative?

A: Yeah, you can let your guard down and dive into it being something else and put a different light on it.

Last song is ‘Growing Pains’ which has another line I really dig: Highlander with a harrowing track record. Growing up in the 80s and 90s I grew up watching the original Highlander movies. I used to watch them with my mum.

A: [Laughs]. He’s already thinks he’s seen it all by this point now. He’s experienced a lot. He’s had a fast-paced life, and now he’s just trying to keep his chin up. He rides off into the sunset and the horizon is an open book! [laughs]. 

Do you think there could have been another song after the last one? Where might he have gone?

A: Nah, I think ‘Growing Pains’ was a pretty good way to wrap it up. You can picture him walking off down the highway to go hitchhike and start again. There wasn’t anywhere to go from there. It’s a perfect closer song. 

Agreed. It’s pretty cool how you initially just started listening to the musical tracks Callum sent and then you just started imagining everything.

A: I’m lucky because Cal can write such great, gritty, garage-y songs that work will with my tone of voice and the themes I go for. In the past he’s written more poppy song, but it still has a bit of grunt to it, which I really like, and that’s because quite a theme to our music. It was great to have it set out. It had a great flow and I could just tell what would happen. The last three or four songs he goes very extreme. Then there’s a nice little trot along to the finish. 

The garage-y elements of Murlocs that we love are still present on Rapscallion but then it goes into a more post-punk kind of territory. There’s lots of cool noise and synths on this record. 

A: We got synth heavy at times, that was to add textures throughout for once instead of being straight. I’m still wondering how we’re going to pull off some of those noises live, because there’s overlapping things going on. We’ll find a way to work it out and make some things squeal [laughs]. There’s definitely a lot of layers, but then some parts there’s not much at all. There’s a couple of moments in songs where there’s lots going on. It was so fun! We were messing around with a Behringer Poly D synthesiser. Tim bought one as well, so we can play with that live. It made it go down more of a post-punk prog way. 

It was recorded at your houses, sending songs back and forth?

A: In hindsight, it’s a record that I wish we would have recorded the beds together in the same room. As it went along, Blachy got better at recording his drums. Ultimately, when we gave it to Mikey Young to start mixing, he nailed it. Each track took him one or maybe two goes.

Cal was listening to a lot of Eddy Current [Suppression ring] as he always does. He was listening to Country Teasers. There’s even elements of Pixies on there. I even hear Neil Young. He listens to a lot of Doom metal as well; he was in metal bands before we started the Murlocs, so he’s always had a darker shade of things going on than the rest of us. It was great because I got to take myself out of my usual shoes and write from another perspective.

On song ‘Wickr Man’ there’s a spoken verse.

A: Yeah. In ‘Bowlegged Beautiful’ and ‘Wickr Man’ I do my tryhard breath-y Tom Waits voice [laughs]. The first time I started realising it could be something was when I did the King Gizzard ‘Straws In The Wind’ song, I sing it differently live. But with those songs it just felt like those parts needed to be more spoken word and less sing-y. They didn’t need any melody because they already had this badass feeling to it. I wanted to riff on some things rather than always just sing a tune. 

It took me a few listens to realise it was you doing that part, I was like, ‘Is that someone else?’ 

A: [Laughs} These bits do kind of sound like some husky dude that’s been sitting at the end of the bar for too long. The voice suited those tracks.

How did you come up with the title, Rapscallion?

A: [Laughs]. Well, we always name our album titles after songs. It’s hard to go out on a limb and name an album something completely random that just sounds cool or makes sense for the whole thing. This time, because it was more conceptual, it didn’t make sense just to name it after a track. 

I was visiting my dad, we were talking about the storyline of the album and that I wanted some kind of word for this feral kid protagonist, that didn’t have a name throughout the album. He said, “What about rapscallion?” There was another one like “curmudgeon” and a few other words that came up. He said “rapscallion” first. I thought it sounded a bit Pirates Of The Caribbean [laughs]. I think it fits perfect though. I think some of the guys were a bit [talks in a comedic voice]  “Rapscallion!” kind of in a Monty Python-type voice! It makes sense now, so I’m glad we stuck with it. 

It’s a memorable, fun word to say. 

A: Yeah. It has been used a whole bunch, Cal sent me a scene from The Simpsons the other day where someone says it [laughs]. 

The album art is by Travis MacDonald; was it made specifically for the album or was it an existing piece?

A: It was an existing piece, someone in Sydney owns the original painting. We’d been friends for a bit, and I was looking at a bunch of Travis’ paintings and I thought they would suit the vibe of a classic rock, 70s-sounding record that we were going for. I wanted to have a n album cover that could work without titles for once. I just wanted to make a statement that was timeless. I had a bunch of references of paintings I grew up with and a few other things, I set him some drawings and he started to sketch up what it was going to be and was going to commission me for that. But, I just kept going back to that painting we ended up using. I was already too hung up on it. It was perfect, that’s just Rapscallion, right there. 

Album art: Travis MacDonald.

The figure in the painting does look like a street tough. 

A: Yeah, someone said the other day that it looks like the cover of a novel that is a coming-of-age story, which I agree with. The original painting was called, Graceland. He said it was of a random weirdo-lurker out the front of Graceland. The way it’s come out with the street light lamppost and all of the colours and textures, it fits it perfectly. I didn’t want it looking all dark and gloomy, I think the painting is a good happy medium. 

After having listened to the album a lot and been immersed in the Rapscallion  world, I can imagine that when you came across that painting you would have thought, ‘That’s it!’ I know the feeling because sometimes with Gimmie we’ll come across something we love when making it, but then we’ll try other things and more often than not we end up coming back to what we first were drawn to.

A: Yeah, when you do art and creative things, even like writing songs, when you make demos, often you end up just going back to the original of what it was before it got too out of hand. I didn’t want to go down that road where I was just going to do a 180 and go back to the beginning anyway, so we stuck with it [laughs]. 

Is there a specific moment on the album that you really, really love and think is super cool?

A: There’s lots of different sections, they all have their moments really. I listen to softer music generally rather than heavier stuff, so I’ve probably listen to ‘The Ballad Of Peggy Mae’ the most more recently than the other songs. In ‘Growing Pains’ there’s some parts in there too. I like how the album starts and finishes with synth intros to album opener ‘Subsidiary’ and closer ‘Growing Pains’. 

We’ve finally learned to play ‘Bellarine Ballerina’ live and ‘Living Under A Rock’. I definitely have a lot of fun playing those two songs. ‘Bellarine Ballerina’ is a good one, it’s nice to have some more uptempo songs. We did ‘Subsidiary’ once at a gig, but I feel like it’s not quite there yet.

What have you been listening to lately in general?

A: Not a whole bunch really, that’s probably way I’m so understimulated. 

Is that because you’ve been so busy?

A: Yeah, I feel like I’m always too over my own head in shit that’s going on whether it’s with Gizzard or Murlocs. I feel like I’m always trying to keep up with things. I listened to the new Chats record [Get Fucked] this morning. R.M.F.C. is great, so is that new The Frowning Clouds [Gospel Sounds & More from the Church of Scientology] record on Anti Fade. Listening to that takes me back to being a teenager and hanging out with this guys and going to those gigs.

That was a great record. We’ve heard some of the new R.M.F.C. full-length that’s in the works, it’s sounding incredible. 

A: Sick! They’re great. 

There’s also a new Gee Tee album in the works that rules too!

A: Cool! I haven’t seen them play live yet but I’ve heard stuff and I’ve seen video snippets online and they’re sick!

Totally! What’s the rest of the year look like for you?

A: I’ve got four or five weeks rehearsing with The Murlocs, we’re going to start to learn this album on Wednesday. We’re going to do a test run of those songs at a show here in Melbourne, so we can get more confident with that. We’re going to rehearse a couple of nights a week forth month, but then I go to the States with King Gizzard for all of October, then the three Murlocs will come over and meet us towards the end of the tour and we’ll do three shows supporting Gizzard. At that point we wanted have played together for a month. I’m getting a bit nervous about that, rocking up to Levitation and Red Rocks hoping that our muscle memory will be enough to go off. Then Murlocs do the US in November. Then I’ll come home for December and we might do a Gizzard Melbourne show. That’s about it!

That’s all! Phew, that seems like a lot to me. 

A: [Laughs]. It is a lot, I’m just trying to play it down in my head, so I don’t stress too hard.

[Laughter]. Do you enjoy rehearsals? Is that fun for you?

A: Yeah, I’m really looking forward to it and how we’re going to be doing these new Murlocs songs. It’ll all come together. I haven’t played much guitar in a while. I’m going to have to play guitar pin a few of the newer ones, that’ll be a bit wonky [laughs]. I’m looking forward to just hanging out with the guys, we don’t get to hang out as much as we’d like. 

Do you have anything else other than music stuff happening?

A: I’ve been skateboarding a little. I had that week in Budapest skating with friends. I skated a few times since I’ve been home. It’s the classic I’m-starting-to-get-my-groove-back thing and I fell over on my wrist a few times and hurt it, so I have to stop again. I was getting too excited! [laughs]. I can’t risk hurting my hands or arms. When you don’t do it for a while, you forget how to fall. 

Do you still get the same feeling now that you had when you were younger skateboarding?

A: Yeah, totally. It’s really good for my mental health or for anyones. You get a nice release, a feeling of freedom. You’re out and about and you catch up with old friends. You get back on your feet and it’s a nice feeling—that feeling you get when you land something after trying for a while. It’s a nice rush of adrenalin. 

There is plenty in the pipeline. With Gizzard there’s always stuff, and we have another Murlocs record that’s done as well. I’m just trying to figure out the art for it now and trying to talk everyone into doing video clips, but everyone tells me to “chill out!” [laughs]. That’s all well and good, but I’m never home enough and I like to do things well in advance so I’m not scrambling to do things at the last minute. 

Totally! As this album is loosely a concept album with a narrative, is the next album different to that?

A: Yeah, the next one is less strings attached. It’s still a while off ’til it will be released, but I’m really pumped on this next release! Somehow we’ve maybe topped Rapscallion! It’s more poppy. I’m starting to think of the plan of attack for that one. Things seem to only be getting better and better. As we all get older we’re getting better and better at writing songs. It’s all good. 

Rapscallion is out September 16 –  pre-order HERE. Follow @themurlocs + The Murlocs on Facebook. Murlocs’ Bandcamp.

**Another in-depth chat with Ambrose can be found in the our print zine – Gimmie issue 3.**

Matt Blach from Geelong Psych-Rock Band Beans: “We all listened to a lot of ELO and Slade and ‘70s music”

Original photo: Jamie Wdziekonski. Handmade collage by B.

Psych-rockers Beans are back sounding bigger and better than ever with sophomore album, All Together Now! We spoke with guitarist-vocalist Matt Blach (who also drums for The Murlocs) about the new record.

What first got you interested in music?

MATT BLACH: My dad played drums and he kind of taught me how to play drums. I’ve did it ever since I was a tiny kid.

When did you start playing guitar?

MB: That wasn’t until a bit later, I played drums first. I taught myself, I started playing when I was ten or eleven.

What were you listening to back then?

MB: A lot of the classics like Beatles and The Who and The Clash.

How did the new Beans’ record All Together Now get started?

MB: It’s our second album and we just wanted to make a bigger and better album from the first one.

Initially, did you have an idea of what you wanted it to sound like?

MB: Not particularly. We all listened to a lot of ELO [The Electric Light Orchestra] and Slade and ‘70s music and things naturally branched from there.

What have you been listening to at the moment?

MB: I’ve been listening to our label [Flightless Records] friends; Leah Senior. My friend Tim [Karmouche] just put out an instrumental album called Mouche [Live From The Bubble]. Another friend’s band called Smarts.

We love Smarts too! Lyrically was there any specific themes you were writing about with this record?

MB: Not particularly. It’s pretty scrambled really. We tried to match the lyrics with the aura of the song. Towards the last half of last year we tried to have at least one rehearsal a week as a group – three of us live in Geelong and two of us live in Melbourne – we took it in turns in terms of rehearsals and driving up and down each week. The host had to make dinner [laughs].

What did you make for dinner when it was your turn to host?

MB: Usually just pasta or tacos [laughs]. Communal food.

Song “Stride” on the record is about rediscovering your sense of self; were you going through that yourself when writing it?

MB: I guess so. It took me a while to write the lyrics to that song. I was going through that position in my life and that’s what made it come out.

The film clip for it is done in a Top Of The Pops style!

MB: Yeah, that’s what we were going for [laughs]. Over-exaggerated happiness.

What are some things that make you happy?

MB: Playing music [laughs].

What do you do outside of music?

MB: I do a bit of trade work. That helps me with the bills.

Do you ever find when you’re building something at work you’ll get song ideas?

MB: Yeah, definitely. I work by myself most of the time and I like being in my own head. I often don’t listen to music so I try and think of something or hum something.

Can you tell us a bit about the song “Street Troll”?

MB: “Street Troll” is a funny one [laughs]. I was on tour with Murlocs, we were in Belgium and we went out a bit later to get some takeaway beers and there was this big, drunk, scary Belgium dude that wouldn’t let us walk along the footpath. I called the song “Street Troll” and based it around that.

How about “Get It Right”?

MB: It’s a mixture of things. It’s basically about trying to do the right thing but sometimes it seems you’re not.

Is there a song on the album that was easy for you to write?

MB: I guess “Melt” came to me the easiest.

That one is about Climate Change, right?

MB: Yeah, and the government! [laughs].

Was there a song that was hard to write?

MB: I found it hard to put lyrics to “Montgomery”. It’s a busy song and there’s lots going on already so it was hard to find a neat little melody to put vocals in.

Do you demo first before you record?

MB: Yeah, I usually make a lot of demos at home and Facebook it to all the other guys and they get a bit of a vibe going before we get to practice.

Can you tell us about the recording?

MB: All Together Now was recorded in Geelong with Billy Gardner. We recorded it as four, everyone without Mitch the keyboard player. Jack did guitar overdubs, Mitch did the keys later and I did my vocals later.

Why did you call the album All Together Now?

MB: That was based on a private Facebook group I made with the boys to organise practices and jams. Three of us work and two of us do uni, it can be really difficult to get a practice together, especially with the hour and a half travel as well. I called it All Together Now because I was like, OK, everyone can you put down dates when you’re free. That’s how the album came together so we thought, why not call it that.

What is one of the biggest challenges of being in band for you?

MB: Self-doubt.

In what way?

MB: Personally. I guess that can be a good thing not to be overly confident and to doubt yourself and have that insecurity in a way [laughs].

The band were called Baked Beans, now it’s just Beans; does the name change mark new beginnings for you guys?

MB: Yeah, I guess we tried to approach it like that. A new album with a bit of a different name. The name wasn’t really a change for anything, we just didn’t really like the word “baked” and we just call it Beans anyway.

Once you finish an album do you go straight into writing new stuff?

MB: Yeah, exactly. Usually you follow up an album launch with a tour but we obviously can’t do that right now. Jack and I live together in North Melbourne, we have a little garage set up where we’ve been churning out demos. We pretty much write all the time!

Please check out BEANS; Beans on Facebook; Beans on Instagram; All Together Now out via Flightless Records.

Melbourne Post-Punk Band Moth’s Darcy Berry: “The whole point of the band was to do something completely different, new and weird”

Original photo: Guy Tyzack. Handmade collage by B.

We’re big fans of Darcy Berry’s creative work, post-punk band Moth and rockers Gonzo, as well as his graphic design work from various bands. Moth have recently put out EP Machine Nation a slice of “discordant robot rock”. We spoke with Darcy to hear more about the EP, his art and a new Gonzo record in the works.

Hi Darcy! What have you been up to today?

DARCY BERRY: Not much, it’s my day off. I was working on a little demo this morning but now I’m just sitting in the sun.

Nice! I wanted to start by asking you; what do you personally get from making stuff?

DB: It’s just not being bored and having something to do really. I get really happy from being productive and not just sitting on my arse doing nothing.

Same! I know that you’ve grown up with a real passion for rock n roll; where did this start?

DB: When I was younger, my brother that was eight years older than me, showed me a lot of music. I was into Rage Against the Machine when I was ten years old, which I think is pretty funny. My parents love Aussie rock n roll as well. My dad’s a big AC/DC fan and loves Rolling Stones and the Beatles. I just got introduced to it, I guess.

When you fourteen I understand that’s when you really started getting into music?

DB: Yeah. I’d met Jack Kong, who I play in the band Gonzo with. We realised we lived a few doors down from each other and he played guitar and I played drums. I’d never really played music with anyone before, it just went from there. Playing with him, we’d show each other different things; he showed me a lot of ‘60s music and I showed him a lot of punk, we met in the middle. I became really obsessed with music from there.

All photos courtesy of Darcy Berry.

Was drums the first instrument you played?

DB: Yeah, it’s the only instrument that I’ve actually learnt to play and taken lessons for, everything else I’ve taught myself. I started playing drums when I was ten years old.

You moved to the city, the Melbourne/Geelong area; where were you before that?

DB: Ocean Grove, its right down the coast near Geelong and Torquay. I was a surf rat growing up.

How did you find new music?

DB: There was a cool little scene going on in Geelong with The Frowning Clouds and Living Eyes. I started getting into Melbourne bands, I didn’t even know there was a Melbourne scene! I got into Total Control and thought they were an American band [laughs]. I was at a party and some dude told me “they’re from Melbourne”. I thought, I’ve gotta get to Melbourne and check more of these bands out!

Did you also move to Melbourne for school too? I know you’ve studied art.

DB: Yeah, yeah. Uni was up in Melbourne but I was still living down the coast at that point. I stayed at my friend’s house and then I moved up myself and realised you could go to a good gig any night of the week. It was an overload of music, which was great!

Why did you choose to study graphic design?

DB: It was one of the only things that I was good at, at school. I dabbled in that and art and at uni I could do a sub-major as well, my sub-major was art. I wanted to blend art with graphic design. I became more passionate about it.

Do you have any art influences you could share with us?

DB: I really like the whole Dada movement. I really, really respect lots of different painters but, I’m not very good at painting or drawing. I really just appreciate good art.

A lot of your art and design work is digital?

DB: Yeah. It’s mainly digital. I always try to do other stuff like drawing and collage, photography but it always ends up coming back to the computer and just messing things up digitally.

Is there something that you find challenging in regards to making your art?

DB: Trying to just do it more and more. Sometimes I can get real lazy with it and not be in the mood, that’s why it’s good when I get hit up to do a poster or an album cover for someone—it makes me do it and makes me not be lazy!

It’s funny how with things that we love we can sometimes get lazy with it and procrastinate.

DB: Yeah, definitely. Even with writing songs, if I’m not in the mood, I don’t want to be anywhere near a guitar or anything. I have to really be in the mood, I have to really want to do it to make something.

Is there a piece of art you’ve made that has a real significance to you or that’s special to you?

DB: The album cover I did for Vintage Crop’s album New Age. Everyone really seemed to like it, I got praised for it, which was really weird. I thought it was a bit of a fluke! Since doing that it gave me more confidence.

Do you remember making it?

DB: Yeah. I remember I did an initial idea and it really sucked so I just started all again. I feel like when I do something good, that it just happens really quickly. I’m like, ah, cool, it’s done! I try not to spend too much time on one thing because then I start getting in my own ear like, oh, that’s shit, you shouldn’t have done that! I like to just do it and get it out of the way.

Yeah, I get that. I do that with the interview art for Gimmie. I come from a punk background and I love punk art, flyers etc. and if you look into the history of that, a lot of stuff is photocopied and taken from elsewhere and reused and they’re typically done quickly using the resources you have on hand. I like the spontaneity, get it done, resourcefulness.

DB: Yeah. That’s it. I like using my computer because I don’t have to buy another one and it doesn’t really cost me anything to use it.

Are you working on any art pieces at the moment?

DB: Not really. I’ve set up a little screen printing studio in my shed. I’m going to get some t-shirts done. That’s been good because it’s more hands on, trial and error, and messy, which is fun!

You have your band Moth, and play in Gonzo and U-Bahn, as well as make art for bands, you do a zine…

DB: I was working on a new zine but I’ve just kicked it to the curve, I will do another one eventually though.

I feel like you’re really immersed in the creative community but, it wasn’t always the case for you and a few years back you were really struggling with things and felt isolated and didn’t want to be part of a scene; what was happening?

DB: Yeah, just some personal things happened. I was in a place where I didn’t really want to talk to anyone and I didn’t really have any friends around, they were all travelling and I broke up with my girlfriend at the time… I was like, OK, I’m just going to lock myself in my house. A lot of art works and songs came from that period though, it’s classic, cliché… I think Kurt Cobain said it: thanks for the tragedy I need it for my art. It does make sense I guess. Your influences don’t have to be sad though or bad things that have happened to you, these days I try to be influenced by different things.

Do you find it harder to write from a happier place?

DB: Yeah, definitely [laughs]. I’ve always wanted to write a really nice, beautiful, happy song. I guess it’s really hard for me though.

What was it that brought you back from that darker period and got you back into doing stuff again?

DB: When I joined U-Bahn. I knew one of the dudes in the band but didn’t even really know him that well. I met Zoe and Lachlan in it and they were great. We started playing a lot of gigs and people really started liking the band. That really threw me back into everything. I think playing in a new band is exciting and fresh. That was the same thing with starting Moth, it was good not to be a drummer for a change.

I heard that U-Bahn had a new record recorded?

DB: Yeah, I’m not in the band anymore. I know they were recording with the same guy that Gonzo recorded our new album with. I don’t know what they’ve done with it or if it’s coming out or not.

You started doing Moth as a solo thing and now you’ve expanded into a full band… I noticed on your bandcamp you had the Russian word “мотылек” which means motility…

DB: Yeah. Veeka [Nazarova] who plays synths in the band, she also sings one of the songs on the 7” [Machine Nation] in Russian.

The song “Jealousy”?

DB: Yeah. That all came from a lot of the lyrics I was writing was just gibberish and didn’t make sense, I was like; what if Veeka sang in Russian? Then it’s going to sound like gibberish to people but there will actually be meaning behind it. She’s writing some more Russian lyrics for new songs too. The whole point of the band was to do something completely different, new and weird. I feel like no one really sings in Russian in Melbourne, so we just rolled with that.

Did you get the title of your new EP Machine Nation from the Richard Evans book of the same name?

DB: No, I haven’t even heard of him.

He writes sci-fi and his book Machine Nation is about developing biological robots, it’s got a real modernised society/sci-fi theme and I thought because your release has a modernised society kinda theme through it, it may have been influenced by it.

DB: I’m going to check it out, it sounds cool! The title actually came from the word “machination”. I’ve forgotten what it means, but I think it’s doing things or making things with an evil push behind it [laughs]. I read it in a book once and thought it sounded like “machine nation”. A lot of the songs I was writing revolve around the modern world, the digital aspect of everything and of humans becoming machines.

I understand you’re inspired by writers’ like Henry Miller and JG Ballard?

DB: Yeah. I really like Henry Miller, I like how the way that he speaks about himself is quite honest. You read his books and it’s just him telling you the story. JG Ballard’s books has a lot of weird subjects. Reading stuff like that makes me want to write stuff that’s honest but weird as well—it’s about embracing your inner weirdo! [laughs].

Vid: VOGELS VIDEO (for more vids go here).

Recording-wise I know you like learning different techniques and that changes the style of the way you write, with your new EP; what techniques did you use?

DB: With this one I recorded it with my friend Matt Blach who plays in The Murlocs and Beans. He’s trying to get into the whole recording world and I was talking to him about it. He wanted a guinea pig, someone to play music so he could fiddle with the controls and work all that out. I’m comfortable with him and thought it would be much easier to do it with someone other than myself. It turned out way better than I thought it could. I bought him a slab of beer for it [laughs].

Is there a song on the EP you’re especially loving right now?

DB: Maybe the last one “Indulgent Indeed” because it was the newest out of all of them; some of the songs I wrote two years ago. I wasn’t getting sick of them but, I guess it was more exciting for me to have a newer one. It was also maybe going in more of a refined direction from the other songs.  

What’s it about?

DB: [Laughs] Ahhh… it’s about people. Maybe specific people that have wronged me. It’s about back stabbing and wanting to be successful and doing anything to be successful and just leaving your friends behind.

What does success mean to you?

DB: Being content and happy with what you’re doing. It doesn’t matter if you’re praised for it or not. The whole Moth thing wasn’t meant to be enjoyed by others, my indulgence was just playing it, not putting it out or being praised for it. I just wanted to enjoy it. I feel like success is just enjoying what you do and doing it for yourself.

Just making art for art’s sake!

DB: Yeah, that’s it!

I feel like you seem to be in a really happy place with all the stuff you’re doing now.

DB: I’m pretty satisfied, I couldn’t really ask for much more.

What’s happening with Gonzo right now?

DB: We’ve finished recording the new album, it’s been done for ages, we just haven’t mixed it yet. We have plans for doing a little instrumental thing, we’re also going back to garage roots and just doing a real classic garage rock album. We’ve been starting to write new songs for it.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell me or that you’re working on?

DB: I’ve just really been trying to keep my sanity during this crazy time.

What’s helping with that?

DB: Getting drunk and doing karaoke with house mates is good! [laughs]. Dancing. I’ve gone back to work this week which has been nice, ‘cause I was getting really cooped up. I’m a graphic designer for a fashion brand, I make t-shirts and it pays the bills.

The fashion world is just a whole other world unto itself!

DB: Yeah, I never had any interest in that world but then I got offered this job and thought, I should take it, even just for an experience thing. It’s been great to learn how that whole world woks. It’s pretty crazy!

Please check out: MOTH on bandcamp; on Instagram. Get Moth’s Machine Nation on MARTHOUSE Records; GONZO bandcamp.