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 Nowbecause 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?
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!
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.
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].
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!