Original photo by James Caswell. Handmade mixed-media collage by B.
Dynamic Meanjin/Brisbane based pop duo Doggie Heaven pull from well-worn paths of new wave and post-punk to create a freshness with their expressive and magnetic sound. There’s twinkling magic offset by emotional lyrics with bite on latest release double single Berghain / Haircut. We’re premiering song ‘Haircut’ today. Gimmie caught up with vocalist Isobel and multi-Instrumentalist, producer Kyle.
How did you both first meet?
KYLE: We met back in early 2020, at a call centre we both worked at. We were both stationed in different sections of the office, so we didn’t actually interact with one another properly until we bumped into one each other at rave one time.
Did you grow up in a creative family?
ISOBEL: Not particularly, although I definitely have a lot of music enthusiasts/snobs in my family. Growing up, my mum, uncle and I would have discos in my living room with blankets covering the windows listening to weird electronic music. Mum is mental for Bjork. My Granddad is super into his rock and jazz so I spent a lot of time listening to records with him from a young age. I was basically not allowed to listen to pop, which is ironic because I love cheesy pop music now.
K: No, not at all, although my grandad was a professional jazz musician. I think he even released a few albums, though, I’ve never been close with him/ had much to do with him.
Is Doggie Heaven the first band/musical project you’ve been a part of?
K: yeah pretty much, but I’ve been producing music alone for years without ever releasing it.
I: I was in a punk band a few years ago that never really amounted to anything unfortunately. I never imagined myself making music until that point because I was basically just a huge drama kid who loved to write and perform and didn’t (and still don’t) know how to play any instruments.
What made you want to make music with each other?
I: Kyle and I instantly bonded over our love of New Wave music from the 80s and I think we just balance each other out really well in terms of our creative approaches and skill sets. Kyle is incredibly good at all the things I have no idea how to do. Without him, I would probably just be doing terrible stand-up comedy or something.
K: Yeah, I think me and Izzy clicked pretty quickly over our shared taste in music. Even beyond the new wave and 80s stuff; we both listen too many styles and genres and are always sharing new discoveries with one another. Aside from that, after meeting Isobel I very quickly learned how fun and unique she was. I remember her telling me she could sing early on, but even before we’d ever sat down to jam or whatever I knew there was something special about her; and then yeah, shit just kinda worked/clicked immediately.
Doggie Heaven’s name is a Simpsons reference; do you have a favourite character or episode?
K: Yes it is, haha. I love the Simpsons so much. I was raised on that shit. Tough question, I couldn’t tell you what my favourite episode is, but my favourite character is Mr. Burns.
I: There are too many brilliant episodes… but I definitely always go back to the episode where they go to New York. Mr Burns is for sure the best character, but also Marge is so hot and I love her sexy voice.
We’re premiering song ‘Haircut’; what inspired it lyrically and musically?
I: ‘Haircut’ is the tortured tale of having a crush on someone when you have an anxious-preoccupied attachment style. You just want to feel butterflies and excitement, but it’s clouded by an overwhelming feeling of stress. Having said that, this is undoubtedly a bop that you can dance that pain away to.
K: I did the instrumental for haircut around this time last year. I wasn’t really sure what our sound was supposed to be yet, (and we’re still figuring that out!) But I remember I was defs inspired and listening to a lot of 80s pop and new wave tracks (which you will still find me doing regularly). Think Madonna, Tears For Fears and New Order etc.
‘Haircut’ along with song ‘Berghain’ is out as a double single 7” on Colossus Records; what can you tell us about the cover art image?
I: So that’s a photo of me when I was around 6 years old dressed as Cruella Deville from 101 Dalmations. We thought it was very fitting for our band name. Photo credit to my Grandma, Margaret.
You’re launching your release soon; how do you feel when performing? What was the best or worst show you’ve ever played and what made it so?
K: I used to be a little nervous at first, but now I really enjoy getting into it and try to put on a show. The way I write/record music is maybe a little less traditional than your typical band, I kinda just sit down and record every individual part, layering everything as I go. And there’s also no real limitations when you’re in a studio environment, I can sit down and just do a hundred takes on a part to get it right if I have to. So it can get kinda tricky when It comes time to translate it all to our live show, especially when the part I’ve written is outta my reach skill-wise. I think I learned pretty quickly that I’m not at all the musician I thought I was in terms of discipline after performing regularly. Huge wake-up call there.
Hard to pick a best or worst show; a bad show can be a fun show and a good show can be a stressful one. It’s what you make of it really, and I’m just happy to be here. I think they’re all great.
I: I’ve been performing basically my whole life so as cringe as this sounds, I think I feel a lot more comfortable on stage than I do off it. I would definitely agree with Kyle in that a bad show is kind of fun and hilarious. There has been a couple of times that we’ve played in front of like 5 people and we really just let loose and had a laugh. Obviously it’s just such a beautiful feeling to perform for a full house who are dancing and know some of the words though.
Photo: Jhonny Russell.
What excites you the most about music at the moment? What have you been listening to lately?
I: I’m loving discovering local music at the moment. There’s nothing like turning up to a show and not knowing what to expect then being blown away! Some local acts that I’m obsessed with would be Square, Scraps, Verity Whisper, Guppy and Naaki Soul.
K: I just loving writing new music. It’s so fun and fulfilling. It never gets old. I’ve been super into Show Me The Body’s new album, Alex G’s new one and also Dry Cleaning’s!
What’s your most precious possession?
K: I would say my cat but he isn’t exactly classed as a “possession” lol. Probably my bed or something. Idk. I really love sleeping. I would sleep more if I could.
I: I have this Teletubby toy that is the most munted thing you’ve ever seen in your life. She’s been mauled by a dog and out clubbing to the valley a few times but still going strong.
What’re you looking forward to and what’s in the works for Doggie Heaven in 2023?
I: Super keen to get an EP out soon. Our sound is already developing a lot and we can’t wait to show you how much it’s grown!
K: Looking forward to taking our live show interstate and maybe overseas. The Doggie Heaven EP is half done, aiming for a late summer – early autumn release!
Meanjin band Terra Pines are dropping one of the albums of the year and we’re premiering it! Dynamic arrangements, elastic overdrive, atmospheric production, sugary harmonies, melodies washing over you in pulsating waves, glorious crescendos—this is the stuff that dreams are made of. Gimmie caught up with Terra Pines to get insight into making album Downbeats.
What’s life been like lately?
KELLY (guitar/vocals): Life has been pretty interesting adapting to this post-plague world. We are about to go on tour again and I’m definitely feeling the “Will everything be cancelled” anxieties.
CAM (drums/vocals): It’s kind of a weird time to be in a band. Getting some momentum into being active again has a been a bit of a challenge.
OWEN (guitar/vocals: I’m really excited that we’re finally getting to put these songs out. It’s been a long couple of years.
Is there anything that’s been engaging you lately that you’ve been watching, listening to, or reading lately?
KELLY:I’m going through a phase of listening to a lot of music at the moment. Enjoying the new Sasumi record Squeeze. Also really excited for the new Gilla Band record- the two singles ‘Eight Fivers’ and ‘Backwash’ have been superb.
CAM: Count me as another who is very excited about new Gilla Band. Also listening to the relatively recent Springtime and Infinity Broke records a lot. Low’s ‘Hey What’ is still getting a lot of play for me, too – such amazing production combined with Low’s usual quality songwriting. There’s been lots of really good local stuff, too, like the A Country Practice album from last year and the upcoming Renovators Delight album.
OWEN: Both Cam and Kelly’s other bands (Spirit Bunny and Ancient Channels) put out records semi-recently that I really enjoyed, and still listen to. The new Infinity Broke, Tropical Fuck Storm and Springtime records are all favourites of mine.
New album Downbeats is your second LP. You were putting finishing touches on it in January 2021; when did you start writing for it? How did you get into writing for this record?
KELLY: I’m always writing so I’m not sure if there was a point that kicked it all off. There are some songs on Downbeats that predate a lot of the songs off our first record. Songs like Sun Spells for instance (the album opener). It didn’t fit the first record and we weren’t sure what we wanted to do with it or even if we would do anything with it for a while.
CAM: There was probably a little break after the first album before we started working on things as a band. There’s usually a pretty big backlog of unused demos and song ideas that we can work on, so it’s great to be able to cherry pick the best ideas that get us all excited. From memory we had the vast majority of the album pretty well planned out before we started recording, maybe there might have been a song or two that was added in late in the piece (and perhaps knocked some other songs off the record, I think we’ve got another three or four somewhat completed songs that didn’t quite make the cut).
OWEN:I think we started with 16 rough ideas, 13 of which were recorded. And as Kelly suggested, sometimes they don’t fit the general direction of the record. Hopefully they’ll get used later on. There’s still good songs predating the first record that haven’t fit either album.
How did the writing evolve as you went along?
KELLY: We basically wanted to pick up where we left off at the end of the first record. The final songs on that record had a lot more layers and textures and were a bit more stylised. We wanted to explore that a bit more, I like to think about ‘Downbeats’ as more of a studio record.
CAM: We just wanted to push ourselves a bit more, try a few new things and experiment a bit more with song structures. A lot of the first album was us figuring out what we were as a band, so with this one we had that base already established so we could play around with things a lot more right from the get-go.
OWEN: There’s way more lead and less walls of guitar on this one, which left a lot more space for vocals and other things to come through.
Did Covid or the pandemic impact Downbeats?
KELLY: Definitely, we had mostly finished recording a few weeks before covid hit Australia. That absolutely messed with our momentum for a while with the stop/starting of the economy.
CAM: Yeah, things came to a screeching halt in 2020. We were almost finished with all of the tracking for the album, but weren’t quite far enough along to really get stuck into mixing etc. It took a long time for us to regroup and get things finished. Luckily once we restarted our enthusiasm for the songs was rekindled.
Did you have any ideas of what you did or didn’t want to do on your sophomore album?
KELLY: We didn’t want to make the same record again and we wanted to incorporate different sounds, ideas and atmosphere. Speaking for myself, I wanted to really cut the fat and have a really sharp record, all killer no filler etc. In order to do that we had to cut a few songs but I’m glad we did that.
CAM: Refinement and progression from the first record, really, with a few new twists thrown in. We wanted to try to add a bit more non-guitar instrumentation, which is something we started playing around with towards the end of making the first album. And as Kelly said, just making sure that songs didn’t meander or outstay their welcome, that they were always moving towards something.
Where does your love of melody come from?
KELLY: I’m a slave to melody so if there isn’t a nice hook I’m gone, bye! I’d say most of that comes from the music I’ve consumed throughout my life. Hooks are what resonates with me among other things.
CAM: As much as we’re a noisy, shoegaze-punk kind of band, we’re also a pop band. We want to add as much beauty and catchiness as we can to the feedback and fuzz. That tension between the extremes is a major part of what makes the best Terra Pines music.
What kinds of stories are you telling listeners with your lyrics in this collection of songs?
KELLY: A lot of these songs were written in 2019 so most of the lyrics are in response to what was going on around then. Some songs are inspired by the bushfires (‘Pinos Altos’ and ‘Indoor Kid’). Some are about love, burnout, escapism etc… I like to keep things a bit vague, lots of imagery and metaphor. I don’t like to be explicit in what I’m talking about. Classic Pisces.
Why did you choose Downbeats as the album title?
KELLY: The title worked on a few fronts for us, the gloomy nature of the record but also as a musical reference. We thought it was cool.
CAM: We had the pseudo- title track ‘Downbeat’ for quite a long time, it was one of the first songs written for the record and I think the first one we started playing live regularly. We kind of liked it as an album title but thought it might be a bit much, perhaps a bit too blatant to call a moody rock record ‘Downbeat’. Making it Downbeats gave us the double meaning.
The record was self-recorded again by Cam at Incremental Records. Tell us about the process.
KELLY:It’s such a privilege to have the engineer as part of the band. To begin with we recorded live demos in the studio in order to get the structure of the songs solid. Structure was something we thought a lot about this time around. When we got around to recording the songs we took our time and played around with sounds.It was lots of fun.
CAM: It’s also just practical. It allows us time and it saves us money, plus we felt like we hadn’t really explored the limits of what we could do in that context with the first album. The first record was recorded almost all live, at least in terms of the drums and guitars. There’s actually not a lot of overdubbing on that record other than the vocals, some keys and a smattering of extra guitars here and there. This record, while not necessarily being THAT much more layered than the debut, was recorded more piecemeal, building things up from the drums, guitars, vocals, etc. It was just a different way of working that allowed us a bit more time to focus on individual parts and sounds. We could take the time to vary the sonics a bit more.
How did you push the boundaries of creativity for yourself writing or recording Downbeats?
KELLY: I think we thought about the songs a lot more this time, the first record was all instinctual at least from a writing perspective. This time around a lot more thought went into structure and tone. I also spent a lot more time trying to workshop vocal melodies.
CAM: For me, I came into the first album very much as just being ‘the drummer’ – all of the songwriting was done by Kelly and Owen back then and I was just support for their ideas. I don’t think I was even going to be singing at first, that really only came about once we started playing some shows and we realised that it worked better if someone could harmonise with Kelly’s vocals. It wasn’t until towards the end of writing and recording that album that I started collaborating on songwriting. With this album there was a lot more workshopping the songs as a band, the songs were often coming in a little bit more skeletal than on the first one and there was a lot more room for adding new parts and really playing with structures and melodies. We were able to do some cool things like on the song ‘Pinos Altos’, where none of the choruses are played the same way twice. Just cool little unexpected changeups where previously we might have played things a lot straighter.
OWEN: There’s always things in the original demos that we’re trying to recapture, which presents its challenges, especially if the part is off the cuff, like most of the guitar solos tend to be.
What do you value about each other personally and creatively?
KELLY: I love the way Owen plays guitar, he doesn’t play like anyone I’ve ever heard. The way he accents notes and his playing style is so out there to me! As for Cam, I love his ideas around structure and his extensive knowledge of music in general. I’m glad we all get on personally because that would be very uncomfortable if we didn’t.
CAM: There are definitely some brutal truths uttered between us when writing and recording! We’re all working towards the same goal though, to make something which excites us. I think we’re one of those bands where we’re really a mix of each of our musical personalities, if you swapped any of us out it would be quite a different thing. I think showing your musical personality can sometimes be a challenge when you play a style that’s hidden behind so much fuzz and volume. Kelly and Owen have such unique ways of playing and writing, generally I’m just trying to slot myself in amongst them in a way that holds it all together – in all of my other drumming projects I don’t really play drums the way I have to in Terra Pines, I’m usually a lot looser.
OWEN: They’reboth great singers, and I like that this record has allowed that to shine through.
‘Downbeat’ was the first single released from the album back in October of last year; why did you choose this track to kick off sharing this album to the world?
CAM: It just seemed like a good indication of the record, and it has a good chorus and a cool momentum throughout. We’d been playing it live for a while and it had been getting a good reaction so we just went for it.
What influenced the album track sequencing?
KELLY: I think the sequencing selection happened organically, we all arrived at more or less the same conclusions based on flow. Certain songs just make sense as openers, closers and everything in between.
CAM: When we were listening to the demos we had a playlist order that over time became the album tracklisting. Along the way we added a few newer songs which meant that some others got bumped off, but for the most part that demo playlist stayed relatively consistent. I think for the most part there was mostly a consensus between us, and there were some songs that just seemed obvious, eg: starting the record with ‘Sun Spells’ and also starting side B with ‘Pinos Altos’. A couple of songs were maybe a little contentious in terms of their placement on the album, I think there was maybe a little bit of debate about closing the record with ‘Nightshade’?
OWEN: I’m pleading the fifth on this one hahaha
How does the album make you feel?
CAM: Really proud. I think it’s a cool record, I still listen to it occasionally from front to back for my own enjoyment, even after spending hours and hours recording and mixing it. I think it sets up a real mood while still going to lots of different places, which can be a challenge with the style of music that we play.
OWEN: I’m super proud of it. It improves upon all the elements of the first one, and that’s all you can ask for really.
What’s one of your personal favourite moments on the album? What do you appreciate most about it?
KELLY: My favourite moment on the record is Wiseacre. It nearly didn’t happen because I didn’t want to go there. It was an old demo we had lying around in the dark recesses of our google drive. The original demo was faster and more post-punk in nature, Cam had the idea of slowing it down and making it more doomy. I’m glad he convinced me because now it’s my favourite song on the record.
CAM: That’s happened twice now, I’m pretty sure Kelly’s favourite song on the first album had a similar story. I think my favourite moment is the changeup with the alternate chords in the final chorus of ‘Blood Moon’, I really like the way that it makes that song feel really epic. There are other cool moments though, like the outro of ‘Indoor Kid’, or the solo in ‘Downbeat’. ‘Wiseacre’ is indeed a favourite, we were trying to turn it into a bit of a slowcore song, like heavy Low or Codeine. It turned out really well, I think it’s my favourite song production-wise.
OWEN: ‘Nightshade’ is definitely a highlight for me. Kelly’s vocals set such a mood. I really like where ‘Wiseacre’ and ‘Green’ ended up as well. Both of those songs changed considerably in the recording process.
Album art and single art features buildings and architecture; what was the idea behind representing these songs with this imagery?
CAM: Kelly had been doing some collages, a lot of which combined superimposed images of architecture combined with these cosmic backgrounds. Owen and I both loved them, so we all went out one day and took a bunch of photos of some brutalist architecture around Brisbane and basically recreated the vibe of Kelly’s mockups but in a slightly higher quality. We just really loved that combination of the rough, monolithic feel of all of that concrete brutalism, juxtaposed against the inherent sense of craft and beauty. Taking that and combining it with the epic scale of the night sky seemed to work well as a representation of our music.
You’re heading out on the road for an Australian tour to support Downbeats; what’s the best and worst things about being out there?
CAM: The travel is sometimes the best thing and sometimes the worst thing. Seeing the beauty of the spaces in between the major cities is wonderful, but it can be gruelling, especially when combined with struggling through peak-hour traffic in unfamiliar cities. I’m not a fan of the lack of sleep that generally goes hand in hand with touring, I like my sleep. But on the flip-side you meet some really cool people, see some really cool bands, hopefully get some time to eat some good food (as opposed to roadside maccas). Probably the worst thing these days is being away from family, so if you’re going to go on tour you’d best make it worthwhile.
KELLY: The food is both the best and worst part of touring.
OWEN: Catching up with mates that we don’t get to see that often, and exploring different cities is always a lot of fun. Eating good food, not drinking too much and getting enough sleep is crucial. Roadside Maccas is acceptable if Lord of the Fries is shut.
Indie slacker rock three-piece Lackadaisies (whose members also play in Full Power Happy Hour, Blankettes, Married Man, No DOZ and Camping) released EP Payphone Text a week ago. The EP has the band sounding lucid and at their breeziest yet, and its casual hookiness is hard to resist. Gimmie asked guitarist-vocalist Nathan Kearney, bassist Grace Pashley and drummer Marnie Vaughn about Payphone Text, what makes them nervous, the most romantic thing they’ve done for someone and what other projects they’re each working on.
When you were starting our as a musician, was there anyone that you looked up to? What was it that you admired about them?
NATHAN KEARNEY: I spent all my pocket money on bargain-bin tapes as a kid and didn’t mind what I listened to. The first act I was really obsessed with, though, was Boys II Men. I thought they were cool as hell and I still do
MARNIE VAUGHN: Patience Hodgson from The Grates, I love her energy, she is so bold and fearless.
GRACE PASHLEY: I am a big Erica Dunn fan. Everything she does is excellent, such a humble shred lord. One day I hope to play guitar like that!!
As a musician is there anything that you ever get nervous about?
NK: I only have one guitar and it breaks down a bit. Sometimes in cool sounding ways. I worry it’ll cark it on stage on day, though.
MV: Mainly forgetting how to play the drums or the drum stool falling off the back of the stage but both of those things have happened to me and I think I’m ok about it.
GP: Yeah I get scared to sing sometimes! I’d never played bass before Lackadaisies so there were lots of pre-gig stress dreams about the bass neck morphing into a snake and biting my hand. But mostly I’m fine now!
You have a new album Payphone Text, which was recorded over three weekends in each of your respective homes. Why did you chose to record in several places? What were the pros and cons of making your album that way?
NK: We were gonna do it at Marnie’s brother’s house in Northern Rivers but COVID closed the borders. I woulda liked getting out of the city but the comforts of our own homes was the next best thing
MV: It was a logistical nightmare moving the set up between houses and having to trouble shoot new issues in each house. But the pros were grand, we got to play our own instrument in the place we felt the most comfortable and everyone got a turn at being a the host.
GP: Look if we had our time again… maybe we would only record in one place! But we couldn’t make that work, and it was fun to hang out in everyone’s houses eating pancakes and curry, lots of coffees.
The title track’s lyrics were inspired by Nathan’s ex-partner sending him a payphonetext once when they were away. It takes ages to type one of those on the phone dialpad. If you were sending a payphone text, who would you send it to and what do you think it would say?
NK: To Dad “In town. Can U pik me up” for nostalgia
MV: My best friend is a writer and would probably get the biggest kick out of it. I would say “DIS A PAYPHONE TXT B CUS I LUV U – MARN”
GP: I’d spam as many people as I could to say “Buy Lackadaisies tape now”
Also, going to the effort to payphone text someone a message is pretty romantic; what’s one of the most romantic things you’ve ever done for someone?
NK: I make things for people I love and people who know me best generally make things for me. I’m not that materialistic and mainly hold onto sentimental items. I’ve been writing songs for friends lately, which is a nice change from writing for/about romantic partners.
MV: I made my partner a scrap book photo album of all the memories since we met. It had a timeline at the front and everything. Also, when I was the front person in a punk band I wrote a love song for my puppy. It was really sweet.
GP: I’ve written so many love songs about my partner which I think is romantic but I think he might get embarrassed by it… hehe whatever sometimes you just gotta scream it from the rooftops etc.
Going into the writing for the album, did you have an idea of how you wanted it to sound? Or what you did or didn’t want to do?
NK: I’m most comfortable with 4 track recording and I thought the Lackadaisies record would suit that saturated sound. We drove everything so that it was peaking to get that natural crunch over everything. The last release we just threw whatever mic out and hoped for the best. This time it was more considered cos we had James helping. He’s really clever
MV: Not really, I remember hanging out with Nathan when he first moved back to Bris and talking about playing music together. I really like his previous bands and solo albums so I think I wanted to be apart of something like that but I probably didn’t communicate that very well.
GP: I was just keen to get our existing songs recorded, we weren’t too precious about it which is pretty standard for us! I think something we definitely didn’t want to do was….pay for it haha hence why we did it all ourselves! Well we did pay James a wee bit but god knows it wasn’t enough for the tribulations he dealt with.
How do Lackadaises songs often come together?
NK: Fuck around til it feels good. We’re not the type of band that talks about genres or tries to be one thing. Whatever a song sounds like is what we sound like is how I figure it
MV: For me… either Nathan and Grace will bring a song or the ideas for a song to jamming and it goes from there. I’m sure it’s a much more lengthy process for them.
GP: Nathan is really the genesis for our material. He’ll bring a melody or chord progression and maybe I’ll write some lyrics but more often than not he has a zillion fresh ideas that we try out til something sticks. Its really fun that way (because Nathan does all the work ; )))
Not all bands we speak with do demos. Are you a band that demos? Did the songs change much during the process to what appears on the album?
NK: Phone demoes to remember ideas but if we have a mic out then that seems like serious release territory haha.
MV: We released our first Demo. We were thinking of re-recording the songs for this but we were like nahhhhh.
GP: Haha yeah…again, the lackadaisical approach. I wonder if Nathan finds the recordings demo-ish, he has added a few different parts to some songs once we laid down our tracks and now those new bits are my fave parts of the songs. Like the organ part on Payphone Text, that didn’t exist before we recorded it.
Tell us the story of one of your favourite tracks on the album.
NK: ‘How’d You Get This Number?’ Is a nod to me and Marnie meeting playing in bands that did dumb little 30 second songs. The lyrics are about phone scammers who were calling with numbers that looked like mine. I imagined they were bizarro versions of myself trying to make contact, like in a sci-fi movie. It also has a Freaky Friday reference.
MV: ‘The Comeback’ or ‘Payphone Text’ because I get to do screaming and that is fun for me.
GP: Yeah I love ‘The Comeback’. It’s got a creepy carnival energy, like a house of horrors with the lights on. The story of ‘Your Face’ is about this time when I thought I saw an old flame in the crowd, but it wasn’t him. Just a doppelgänger. But then I got to thinking about how he kind of sucked!! And THEN I thought wow imagine if that was him that would have been awkward. I guess this all happened at the time we needed lyrics to this song.
J.E. Walker recorded the album; what was one of you the most memorable moments you shared with him during the recording process?
NK: My memory is shot in general but James is a gem. Always a pleasure.
MV: James was so encouraging, he thought everything was magic and it was so nice to be around that energy.
GP: What an angel. Carted all his gear to three different houses, was an absolute saint when it took me hours to nail the guitar part for Your Face. We were recording to tape so you had to get the whole song right in one go, which is really not a strength of mine. I probably would have gotten embarrassed and quit if anyone else had been recording us but James was so patient and lovely. 12/10 person, j’adore!!!
How did you feel when you listened back to the entire album for the first time after mixing and mastering? Where were you when you were listening to it?
NK: Lying on my couch and looking out the window. I have a cassette deck I bought with my old bandmate, Allie, to dub our old releases and I listened on there. It’s a fun, little album. That’s what we were aiming for so I’m happy. I collect cassettes by local acts too so it’s nice to add something of my own that was also pressed properly.
MV: We had a sneaky listen at Nathans house when the recording / mixing process was happening and that was super exciting for me.
GP: It was such a neat surprise hearing the album after Nathan had put some really great finishing touches on all the songs, like I said earlier there were a few new parts that he added that are the real heroes of the dish.
Can you hear any of your influences on any of the songs?
NK: The Breeders. I love them.
MV: My current influences are Party Dozen, Loose Fit and Petey. I think so.
GP: Maybe less the influences for me, but I can really hear all of us. The blood sweat and tears of DIY tape recording. I feel very proud of it!!
Besides Lackadaisies, what else is happening in your world? I know you have other bands or have other interesting projects on the go.
NK: Camping is my alt-country band with James Walker, Skye McNicol and a few other mates. We’re kicking around and gonna record an album soon.
MV: Yeah, new girl band in the works… Blankettes
GP: Yes me n Marnie started a new band called the Blankettes! With our friend Gemma (CNT EVN, Piss Shivers). I convinced my favourite punks to make a pop (ish) band hehe. And my other band Full Power Happy Hour has a tonne of stuff going on this year too!
What’s the rest of the year look like for both the band and you personally?
NK: Good shows coming up with the band. I don’t think they’re announced yet but we get to play with some sick bands and head interstate. Personally, I’m finishing a horticulture degree and making beats on my MPC otherwise.
MV: Band, I’m hoping to do some little tours with Lackadaisies, it’s been so long since I’ve been on tour and I love it. Personally, I have a toddler that my heart melts for and new job that I’m pretty into, so things are looking good. Thanks for asking.
GP: I think it’s gonna be busy!! Heaps of music stuff which is great. I am hoping to kick my terrible Tiktok addiction but I honestly don’t see that happening any time soon.
Meanjin/Brisbane indie-folk alt-country five-piece Full Power Happy Hour’s songs have beauty and depth. Their self-titled debut album is sublime. Gimmie interviewed guitarist-vocalist Alex Campbell.
Last time we spoke was almost ten years ago! You were doing punk/riot grrrl band Gunk, and Slubs zine. Your latest band Full Power Happy Hour’s alt-country/indie-folk is quite the departure from Gunk’s sound; can you tell us a little bit about your evolution as a musician and towards this different sound? I know that folk and country were your first musical loves when you were growing up.
ALEX CAMPBELL: So long ago! I suppose I ended up in a punk band then, really just because two of the coolest people, Canna and Laura asked me to be in a band and I probably would have said yes whatever genre it was. But it came at the right time, I was learning to be a feminist and was pretty angry at the world so punk/riot grrrl was a good vehicle for that.
When my sister bought me my first guitar when I was fourteen, I started off playing folk songs, they were the first songs I learned on guitar, and I was in various choirs as a youngster, we sung Jazz, folk and country. I have always loved a lot of different types of music, so I like writing in different genres. I’ve been wanting to start a folk band for years, and it’s finally happened yay! It’s nice playing gentle reflective music now.
60s folk songstresses like Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Peggy Seegar are inspirations; what is it that you appreciate about them?
AC: They are all great song-writers who often got overshadowed by dudes, same old story. I think also, it was because they wrote protest songs, I mean folk and punk have a lot in common in that way, I guess they were just sort of subtle about it sometimes, because maybe they had to be in order to get a platform in the first place in the 60’s as women. I suppose I was just really into their music at a formative time in my life and so they were big influences.
Full Power Happy Hour have recently put out a debut self-titled full-length, with the songs having been written around eight years ago, many first as poems and then played solo before you had the band together; how did it feel at first playing solo after being in Gunk?
AC: I used to busk at the markets on the weekends when I was teenager so I’d had some experience performing by myself, but then playing gigs solo as Alekka, it was always pretty scary, and it took me a long time to feel ok with being vulnerable and alone up on stage, singing about personal things… it’s much better having the rest of FPHH with me up there now!
What was it like making the transition back to a band and hearing your songs really fleshed out with FPHH?
AC: It was the best feeling. I’d been trying to get a band together to perform and record these songs for years, so it was kind of a relief. I’m bloody ecstatic that I’ve found a group of deadset legends who just got what I was going for, and are passionate about the music as much as me.
How do you go about capturing various moods and emotions in your songwriting?
AC: Hmm, I write the songs as poems usually, so lyrics first, and that comes about from like writing in a diary, getting my feelings out, and then I just play around on guitar and see what chords and melody I can put to the lyrics and it just goes from there…
Lyrically on the record, mental health is a theme that comes through; are these written from personal experience? Why do you think it’s important that we have conversations about mental health whether that’s in a song or via everyday conversation?
AC: I’ve only really just got to a point in my life where I’m ok with talking about my mental health with people other than my close friends and family. I used to just write cryptic lyrics about it haha, because like many artists I use songwriting as a coping strategy for making sense of feelings and experiences, dealing with trauma. Art has always been great for that, and that’s also why people consume art, because when you can relate to a song, it can make you feel better because the song seems to be about what you’re going through so then you don’t feel so alone. It’s essential that we have conversations about mental health for that reason, to make sure people know they aren’t alone in their struggle, and to get rid of the shame surrounding it.
As a teacher I see my job being a lot about making sure the kids I teach grow into compassionate critical thinkers that will always ask questions about society and the world in order to make it a better place. Learning about other people’s experiences helps people to see different perspectives and realities. I feel like we’d be a much more compassionate society if we all listened to each other a little bit better and understood a bit more about mental illness, and the societal and political issues surrounding it. So many people waste their lives, and struggle to have healthy relationships with themselves and other people, because they don’t know how or are too scared to take care of their mental health. We need to talk about it so we can grow as a society in a regenerative and restorative way. That’s my two cents.
The album was recorded over a few weekends with Nell Forster at The Moon Room in Meanjin/ Brisbane. I understand that she gave you a lot of coaching during that time; what’s some helpful things you learnt from her guidance?
AC: I suppose we learned a lot about the recording process from Nell, and just got some really good music writing advice. She just gave us guidance about how songs would sound better with or without certain vocal or instrumental parts, or like when we wanted to go for a certain sound or mood in a song, she had a pair of fresh ears to listen to our songs and give us suggestions, she was so generous with her advice and support.
Can you tell us about the day making the video for ‘Old Mind of Mine’? Where was it shot? What is your fondest memory?
AC: The clip was filmed on Turrbal, Jaggera, Jinibura and Kabi Kabi country mostly at Loop Growers and lake Samsonvale. Finn made some curried egg sangas, I made some fairy bread, we got dressed up and got to hang out in the countryside being silly. Marnie and Nathan were so patient with us, and did an amazing job capturing this wholesome feeling that we have as a band, because we are all just a bunch of good friends, and so the fact that it looks like a holiday home video of friends is super authentic because that’s what it was.
‘Old Mind Of Mine’ expresses the importance of getting away from the city and having nature in your life; have you always had a strong connection to nature? What’s your relationship to it? Did it grow even greater during lockdown?
AC: Being in natural spaces calms me down but I haven’t always felt this way. My Dad grew up in the bush so we were a very outdoorsy family and were going camping all the time but I had a bit of insect and snake phobia so was always kind of reluctant on these trips. But as an adult that’s really changed, and I’m lucky to live near an area of bushland with a creek that’s really well looked after by the community. Being near any body of water really just re-sets me, when it rains, the creek is majestic. I try to walk down there every day, and during the lockdown I definitely valued it even more.
What kinds of things are influencing the most recent songs you’ve been writing?
AC: On the next record, there’s a big theme of friendship and family, I think I’ve now written a song about every one of my friends (they don’t know which ones though!), but I have a few new songs dealing with past traumas and the relief of getting clarity and growing and making peace with all of that. There may also be a couple about climate justice and shitty politicians…
What’s something you’ve been interested in lately that’s had you really engaged that you’d like to share with us?
AC: I’ve been obsessed lately with Sydney band “Sunscreen”, The Weather Station’s latest album, Little Simz latest album, and Electric Fields has gotten me through my final prac at Uni. Also, two podcasts I’ve loved over the last few months are Oh My Dog, a locally made dog appreciation podcast, and a podcast called Nothing Much Happens, which has helped me improve my sleep so much this year.
Meanjin/Brisbane trio Adele & The Chandeliers play jubilant pop with post-punk energy, full of charm, playfulness and sparkle. Before forming the group, vocalist-bassist Adele Pickvance was a member of The Go-Betweens plus solo work with Robert Forster & Grant McLennan, and did multiple albums with The Dave Graney Show. Gimmie interviewed Adele about moving to Brisbane from the UK as a teen, beginnings as a musician, a love of Pete Shelley, the band’s debut LP First Date and of what the future holds.
You first moved to Brisbane from Bury in Lancashire as a teenager; what were your first impressions of Brisbane? What was the music scene like? Was it an exciting time for you?
ADELE PICKVANCE: I was 15. The smells of Brisbane’s flora and the bugs and creatures… and the heat and humidity really threw me. There were a lot of changes to get used to. My school uniform for one… suddenly I could, and everyone else could, see my white hairy legs. They seemed to glow in the sunlight. My parents promised me a pony in our back garden so I could ride to school, but it ended up being a bicycle to ride to Sandgate High and that was bloody hard work as we lived at the top of a hill.
I think we all watched too much Skippy The Bush Kangaroo as prep for immigration.
In England, I was listening to music by Depeche Mode, Visage Fun Boy 3, etc and anything on Top Of The Pops and sometimes The Old Grey Whistle Test if I stayed up late enough. My world was BBC radio and TV. The only experience of Aussie music I had was Men At Work. At the time, I had heard of The Go Betweens, but I thought they were a punk band from Germany, not Australia, probably because they were spending a lot of time touring there.
When we landed in Brisbane, it was Radio 10 and commercial radio again. Cold Chisel, etc… I didn’t quite get it… so I was happy to continue to listen to my old mix cassette tapes.
I know that you come from a musical family, both your father and grandfather were musicians. Early on you played violin, who or what inspired you to switch to playing bass guitar?
AP: My dad used to play in the clubs in England as organist and generally with a 3-piece band. One morning I woke up and found a Vox bass guitar on my bed, he told me it fell off the back of a truck! Bass guitar has 4 strings, like the violin, but the other way round, so I jumped onto it quickly. When we arrived in Brisbane, I had left behind my violin teacher, the youth orchestra and my grandad, who I adored, as we would play violin duets together. There was no music at Sandgate High so the violin stayed in the case and my bass guitar became my instrument.
Can you please share with us an album that has had a really big impact on you? How did it effect you?
AP: At the time, I was soaking bass lines and had a nice set up in the Granny flat underneath the house in Brisbane with the record player and bass amp. Kissing To Be Clever by Culture Club hit me. At the time I didn’t understand my attraction to the album, I just loved it and learnt the bass parts. I’d come home from school, switch on the record player and turn on my amp and play along to it on repeat. Now on reflection, it was the gathering of different types of styles like soul, reggae, pop and calypso. Each song had the magical taste of Soho, London, which was something I was being drawn to. And of course, Boy George and his gender bending was appealing to me.
You’ve had long stints as a member of The Go-Betweens plus solo work with Robert Forster & Grant McLennan, and four albums with The Dave Graney Show; why was it finally time for you to do your own thing with your band Adele & The Chandeliers?
AP: I moved to Sydney in 2010, after playing with recording and touring Robert’s The Evangelist album, and made a record with Glenn Thompson called Carrington Street of which the two of us toured, and I suddenly then realised I wasn’t getting offered the gigs as a bass player that I used to get so frequently and easily. I moved back to Brisbane in 2017 and still the phone didn’t ring, and so thought if I wanted to continue making music and performing music, I would have to form my own band and do it myself.
How does it feel to be the person up the front singing the songs now? Is it ever scary for you? What feeling do you get from playing live?
AP: I might be in denial, but I still feel like I’m not the centre of attention. And there’s something about being a wee older and wiser. It’s never been scary… more exciting and a wee bit nervous which helps me play better. My bass guitar gives me superpowers too! It is a different headspace and I’ve had to come to terms with being the one who is responsible for the maintenance of the band/ keeping it going/ planning, etc… That’s all new to me. I love playing live, I’ve gigged since I was 17. My comfort zone is plugging the jack in to the bass, switching the amp on, testing the microphone and being on stage. It’s not the glory of being on stage, it’s the making of music that’s the thrill for me. I think the audience picks up on the energy and excitement.
One of the first things your band released was recorded during one of the group’s first ever sessions in the studio, the Buzzcocks’ song ‘Love You More’; has this song got a special significance to you? What do you appreciate about Pete Shelley’s songwriting?
AP: I was in a cover band when I was 21 called Torn Sweaters, three girls, guitar, bass and drums, and we did a version of that song. It’s a song that’s always stuck with me, it’s such a great song to play and you have to be a bit brave to sing it, you almost shout it out. When Pete Shelley had passed away, I did a really big deep dive back into Buzzcocks.
The Chandeliers’ original drummer, Ash Shanahan loved to play fast and I believe we ended up recording the song quicker than the Buzzcocks version, which I was shocked about… as that feels really quick.
The connection I have with Buzzcocks is of course Pete Shelley. I think of him as a queer guy in a 70’s/80’s DIY punk band singing love songs that aren’t about specific genders and I really like and admire that. I like to think my songs are similar… And of course, he’s from around Manchester.
At the end of last year Adele & The Chandeliers released your debut LP First Date; where did the album title come from?
AP: Our album name comes from a band discussion with Scott Mercer and Ash Shannahan when we first started. We felt like we were on a first date of sorts with all those similar questions of: do we want to hang out together? Do you want to commit to turning up to rehearsals? Do we have a connection? And of course, when considering touring: does anyone snore?
The album’s cover photo features your parents, Bill and Alma, at Manchester United Supporters Club, Deansgate, England 1965; was this their first date? Is this why you chose it as the cover image?
AP: The older I get the more I see the nostalgia and hip coolness caught in their black and white photos. They were bohemian types. The First Date cover photo was the first photo of them together. Dad had just finished his gig with his jazz band and mum brought her girlfriend with her as she knew she wanted to chat up the pianist as she had seen him and his band play before. I love this moment where everyone is having a good time sitting on the edge of the stage, you can see there’s a sparkle happening.
How did First Date get started? Tell us a little bit about writing the record. Were many of the songs in your notebooks for a while beforehand?
AP: Two of the songs are from an early solo EP recorded at home in Sydney called My White Rabbit. I released that around 2017. The other Chandeliers’ songs were formed from riffs or chords on the guitar that I record onto my phone, and I make sure I write in my notebook any line or idea I have…. then the two meet. I record roughly into my home studio then send off to the band for us to have a crack at the next rehearsal. We then record the songs at band rehearsal, then listen back and try again next week. When I write, I try to make the songs come quickly. II don’t like to spend a lot of time overworking the words and the music. I try to maintain the initial spontaneity and the guts and vibe of a song in the final result. There’s a chance to think about keyboards and extra guitar parts after the sessions in the studio, when we get the songs home.
How does a song most often come to you?
AP: I generally start with a predicament or a thought and I write notes in my book. I come up with catchy riffs and I play them on my bass and record into my phone and then try to get the two to meet. Generally, in my bedroom. That’s where the good songs come from.
There’s a universal theme of love that runs through each track on the LP; what inspired you to write about love in its many different forms?
AP: Writing about love isn’t intentional. I used to write a lot of miserable love songs with the acoustic guitar in my 20’s and 30’s. I wasn’t miserable, it’s just what I did. As I’ve aged, I’ve turned it around with the Chandeliers to be up and pop… bright, and I guess that’s where the Chandeliers come from – light and bright. Nothing miserable there, up and fun, but I’m still thinking about the curly things about love and the wayward adventures I get myself into. I like to play with it.
Cam Smith at Incremental Records record First Date; what was one of your favourite moments from recording?
AP: Cam creates a relaxed environment in his studio and nothing is too difficult, which encourages everyone. I like to work fast. My favourite moment was when we invited Karin Bäumler to sing her response to the song German On My Mind in her native tongue of Bavarian. Ive known Karin for many years, since 1995 and it was the first time we had sang together. We planted the microphone in the middle of the room so we could both sing into it, face to face. I had no idea what Karin was responding/saying… but it sounded great and we had a ball!
What’s next for you?
AP: I’m writing in my notebook, sitting on my bed, there’s new songs in the pipeline for Adele & The Chandeliers. We’ve been gigging a little, and we’re always looking for shows. We don’t mind if it’s in a back garden.
We’ve had a change of drummer. My brother Jonny Pickvance has joined us and he’s bringing a new energy to our songs. I feel like we’re going to make some great new work because of the familiarity Jonny and I have, even though we come from different styles of music… Scott, myself and Jonny all have a playful sense of humour. I have a feeling the next record will be even more playful, with a little more splash of old rock’n’roll.
Meanjin/Brisbane dream pop shoegaze quartet Ultra Material are getting set to finally play live in support of their Ep 3 which was released in May this year. It’s both energetic and dreamy at the same time; a powerful and lovely release. Gimmie caught up with drummer Matt Deasy.
How did you first find music?
MATT DEASY: My earliest memories of music are of listening to records on my Dad’s turntable stereo. I used to love sitting next to the player with headphones on listening to 7-inch singles. I guess it was my earliest exposure to the idea of DJ’ing as I was more taken by individual songs than listening to full length albums. I loved listening to the radio and watching The Rage Top 40 on a Saturday morning. I would attempt to tape songs from the Rage Top 40 onto my little portable cassette player, this of course resulted in a lot of shouts and breakfast table talk from family members in the background.
What was the first concert/gig you ever went to?
MD: My very first ‘live gig’ or more accurately ‘live band experience’ was on a trip to Bristol in the UK with with my Dad to when I was 14. My English cousin, (who I’d met for the very first time that trip and became the absolute coolest person in my world) took me to her boyfriend’s band rehearsal at a share house. They were a ska/skate punk band who went on to make a few waves locally and nationally. It was an inspiring first experience actually seeing how a band functions in their own environment. I also met them all afterwards and we were all both equally intrigued by each other geographically.
Who or what inspired you to make music yourself?
MD: I wanted to play drums from an early age. The only thing was that I didn’t have a drum kit, so I use to just tap on things and eventually started entertaining the other kids in my class by playing wipeout on the top of desktops or whatever other surface might create enough of a tone to get the class moving (this resulted in a lot of detention from memory). I’m not even sure how I learnt to play the wipe out, but I spent a lot of my childhood tapping out rhythms on any available surface I could find. The idea of making my own music came much later in high school when I bought an electric guitar from a friend and decided to start chipping away at that. I became fully engrossed in styles of music that were not popular with my peers at all, bands like Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth and the grittier side of the Seattle scene. Then after high school finished, I started making tapes of me just playing guitar. Slowly these formed the basis for the first songs I wrote which turned out to be the foundation of my first band.
What brought Ultra Material together?
MD: Sarah and I met Nick and Zuzana at a Do the Robot show (which was our previous band).
They were fans, so of course we immediately became friends. Nick and Zuz had been writing their own music under the name Monochrome and had just started a band with fellow architect friends Jonathan and Veronica Kopinski called Sunshine State. We all instantly hit it off, playing double bills together across Brisbane for a couple of years. After Sunshine State and Do The Robot dissolved in 2012 we decided to start a new project which quickly morphed into Ultra Material.
What draws you to making a combo of shoegaze and dream pop sound-wise?
MD: I think it’s the music that comes most naturally to us. All of our previous bands had at least some elements of shoegaze and dream pop to them and once we’d started Ultra Material those kinds of sounds became the main emphasis of the band. In a lot of ways dream pop and shoegaze is a mood to us, a constant and shared feeling we have about life in general and that obviously influences our song writing process quite a lot.
Ultra Material are known for really beautiful all-encompassing live shows; how has not being able to play live over the past few months affected you?
MD: It’s been a little tough as we had to cancel our EP launch show originally scheduled in May. Since Nick and Zuz had twin bubs last year we’ve had to become a bit more selective in what we take on, so we were already looking to only play 2 or 3 times a year before the shutdown happened. Our routine over the last few years has usually been to write and record within a few months followed by a couple of shows to promote the release then have a break for a while. It’s likely we’ll continue this way, but hopefully we can make the few shows we do play really worth it.
On your latest release Ep 3 there’s a bit of a garden/flower theme via the art and songs like ‘Marigold’; what inspired this?
MD: The idea for the ep artwork came from some polaroid photos Sarah and I took on our travels through Ireland and the UK last year. Our approach was to find a wild flower garden and use the polaroid camera to create a soft-focus look to the photographs, with Nick and Zuzi providing accompanying illustrations of native flora from their home garden. The four of us have been working on our own gardens over the last few years, and it’s another thing we bond over – we all live on main roads and it creates our own little sanctuaries.I think generally nature plays a big part in our artwork, and whether it’s planting some new natives or just daydreaming in the garden, it can be quite cathartic.
Can you tell us a bit about the recording process for Ep 3? We love how you layer sound!
MD: Our last two releases we’ve recorded with Marly Luske at Alchemix Studio in West End. I think Marly is a bit of a mind reader with translating what we want into reality and is always open to ideas and experimenting. He’s also a genius and whizz when it comes to editing and mixing as we keep a pretty tight schedule when it comes to recording. Generally, we try to have all the songs down beforehand so we can come in and record everything together in one room over a couple of days, and then record vocals and overdubs throughout the mixing process to create the layered sound. With Ep 3 we actually recorded in February 2019 but didn’t get back to mix it until the end of that year, so it was an opportunity to return after some time away with fresh ears and add additional layers.
We love the extra love and care that you always put into the packaging of your physical releases!EP 3 had a handmade screen-printed gatefold jacket with bonus fold out screen printed poster with two versions a white card and kraft version of the jacket; why is it important to you to give us something special? Can you tell us about the thought behind the latest packaging?
MD: My work at No.7 print House gives me the opportunity to be thinking about and planning physical releases, sometimes months before we’ve even written and recorded the songs. We’ve always approached each release as a new art project, and factoring our budget and time frames usually decides what physical format will be best suited to that particular release. All 4 of us have some kind of design background but we are pretty democratic about everyone having a chance to have creative input into a release – it helps that we all love each other’s work. Being able to build these super deluxe packages all in house, creating accompanying artwork for inserts or fold out posters, making each release something special and different from the last one, I think it’s all a natural extension of our music. We’d been dismissive of CDs for years in favour of vinyl or cassette, as they just seemed a more interesting physical product. But lately we’ve been getting back into CDs in the car (the only place any of us have CD players) so it was nice to change things up and with CDs being so compact and affordable it was just perfect for this release.
This year’s been a challenging year; what’s something important that you’ve learnt about creativity or making stuff in 2020?
MD: I felt some pressure to take advantage of the lockdown and subsequent quiet periods this year to focus on art, although having large amounts of downtime to work on art alone can have the opposite effect on me as far as productivity goes. I’m very much used to working within small pockets of time that become available in and around my regular work schedule. The downtime did however prove to be very handy for the actual making and construction side of art projects especially when it came to the screen printing. If we are ever to have another year or period like 2020, I only hope I’ll be better equipped to deal with the potential that comes with large amounts of downtime.
What’s something that’s really engaged you lately? What did you appreciate about it?
MD: Lately and especially during lockdown music by Roy Montgomery, Seefeel, Windy & Carl, Pink Moon by Nick Drake, Julee Cruise’s The Voice of Love, locals Mckisko and Ancient Channels’ new albums. These have all made up this year’s soundtrack and kept me company during the best and the worst of this year.
What’s next for Ultra Material? Have you been working on anything new? What can you tell us about it at this point?
MD: We have our second (and final) show this year on the 5th of December at The Cave Inn with Ancient Channels. Unfortunately, the show is only 30 capacity, so all tickets are sold but it will be a nice end to what was a really dark and insanely bizarre year. We’re also writing songs for what will most likely become our next EP, so I think that will be our main focus for the next few months.
We love Meanjin/Brisbane Grit Hop trio, Spirit Bunny, a joyful explosion of noise from multi-instrumentalists Kate Thomas, Joel Saunders and Cam Smith. We’re super excited to bring you the premiere of first single ‘Paper Handshakes’ from their upcoming sophomore album on new independent label Zang! Records. Spirit Bunny’s sound is a perfect storm of circuit bent Casio noise and C64 synths with phat beats and whimsical melodies.
Firstly, congratulations on signing with Zang! Records. We’re really excited that Spirit Bunny has new music to share with us. We’re really digging your new song ‘Paper Handshakes’! Where did the song name come from? I’ve heard that Spirit Bunny songs often start with a title before music and lyrics are written.
SPIRIT BUNNY: Thanks! We’re super happy and excited to be able to share some new stuff again. ‘Paper Handshakes’ actually had a different, working title until right at the last minute. That’s pretty normal for us – a lot of our songs start off with working titles that are related to how the songs sound or what they remind us of. A good example of that is ‘Gold & Brown’ from our first album, which in its very early stages of being written reminded us in mood of the song ‘Golden Brown’ by The Stranglers. Sometimes those working titles then inform the lyrics and themes, which are almost always the final part added to the song. So it almost always goes music, working song title, lyrics, and then sometimes a proper song title if we decide the working title is no good (or embarrassing). This song had an embarrassingly mundane and meaningless working title.
What inspired it both musically and lyrically?
SB: Musically we wanted something that was upbeat and really punchy. We started the writing of the album with a couple of more downbeat or weirder songs, and thought we should perhaps write a pop song. Which is what we did, or at least it’s what we consider to be a “pop song”. It was one of the first songs for the record where we started experimenting more in-depth with dual and duelling vocals, something we tried a little bit on the last record. Lyrically it’s about the sway that people with money hold over decision makers, and how that doesn’t always benefit the greater good.
How much did the song change from its beginnings to what we hear now?
SB: This is one of the songs that just kind of came out and didn’t need a whole heap of tweaking, it came together pretty easily (which can’t necessarily be said for the some of the other songs from our forthcoming album). The only significant change came right towards the end of recording, when we invited our friend Keeley Young (of Claude and Requin) to play saxophone on it. That’s something we experimented with on the new record, getting our friends in to replace our parts but playing them on an instrument that we don’t normally use, to try to get some new and often more organic sounds into the mix. So on this song, Keeley multi-tracked her saxophone to replace some of the chordal parts that Kate plays on Commodore 64.
What interests each of you in what you create as Spirit Bunny? I know you’ve all had many other bands and projects.
SB: It’s probably the most democratic and collaborative band any of us have been in, which can be challenging but also very much worthwhile. It’s definitely a project where if you were to replace any one of us you’d end up with a completely different thing. When we first got together we had an idea of what we wanted to sound like, but ultimately what came out is Spirit Bunny. It really pushes each of us in different ways, both technically and in what we’re comfortable with in terms of our roles in the band. For example, Kate is kind of the musical core of virtually every Spirit Bunny song and that’s not something she’s done in her other projects.
It’s also very different from any of the other projects we’re involved with. Some musicians like to play in a bunch of bands that are all of a kind, but that’s not something we’re overly interested in.
Spirit Bunny shows are pretty special, there’s an amazing synergy between you; do you ever have trouble capturing the spirit you play with live in recording or do you see live and recording sound-wise as two different things?
SB: The first record was definitely a pretty close representation of the live version of the band. The new album is perhaps very slightly less so, although the majority of the record was still built around the way we would play the songs in a live context. We did try a few new methods of writing and recording this time, with a few of the songs being partially constructed in the studio instead of extensively hashed out in the rehearsal room. We also tried to incorporate a few more textures this time, and to give some of the songs a bit more space than on the previous album. We definitely try to capture the energy of our live shows, though. That’s really important, and I think both albums go pretty close to achieving that.
What’s something surprising that people might find interesting about the way you write or record?
SB: We’re all multi-tasking in this band, each playing multiple instruments at the same time. Kate plays two Commodore 64s, Joel has two of his unique circuit-bent Casios plus a bunch of noise boxes, and Cam has his looped beats alongside the acoustic drums. So everything can get pretty layered and dense for a trio, but that’s what we actually sound like. It was a bit of a focus on this record to strip that back a bit sometimes and give the songs some room to breathe.
You use circuit bent keyboards/Commodore 64 synths; where did your interest in using these come from?
SB: We like repurposing obsolete or outdated technology in a creative fashion, giving it a second life that’s perhaps outside its original purpose. It’s cool to make something that’s somewhat futuristic and hopefully forward-looking with elements that could sometimes be considered somewhat ‘retro’. Also, these instruments have inherent limitations and we like that those limitations can force us to come up with novel solutions. An interesting example of that is that the Commodore 64 has virtually no dynamics, and Cam came to Spirit Bunny from bands that were highly dynamic so he had to rethink the way that his drums were going to function in this new context, where if he played quietly he was going to be drowned out but if he played loudly he would drown everyone else out. The answer ended up being adding dynamics to the drums via the density of the playing, rather than playing softer or louder.
What can you tell us at this point about your sophomore album you have coming up?
SB: Firstly that we’re really happy with it. There’s been a lot of work to get to this point. It’s been good to welcome some new people into the fold to help us get the record to the finish line, whether it’s been various friends of ours adding their own flavours to the record sonically, or teaming up with Zang! to get the record out into the world. Listening to it now, it seems like real growth from the first album. The songs are simultaneously more extreme and also more accessible, more dense and also more spacious. It’s been a journey of discovery for us as much as it is for anyone else, perhaps more so. From within the band, everything we come up with seems to be greater than the sum of its constituent parts.
What bands/albums/songs have you been obsessing over lately?
SB: We’ve been listening to Deerhoof’s two new records a lot, always listening to lots of Deerhoof. We love the new Party Dozen album, in a way we feel like they’re kindred spirits in the Australian music community. Similarly with the new Wax Chattels. Angel Olsen’s All Mirrors is a record that weirdly influenced some of the sounds on this album, in terms of some of the mellotron arrangements and a kind of chamber-pop sound we attempted to incorporate in parts (with varying success).
We also listen to lots of local stuff, and there’s been heaps of really good local releases lately. The new Ancient Channels is fantastic, which some of us are involved with in some ways (Cam recorded it, and Joel now plays in the live band). Zang! labelmates Gold Stars have a fantastic debut album. Local Authority, Ultra Material and Relay Tapes all put out some great shoegaze and dream-pop records recently. Nathan John Kearney put out a lovely solo record, It’s Magnetic have a wonderful debut album. There’s new Grieg. We’re looking forward to the new Apparitions record. There’s so much stuff.
What’s something that’s important to Spirit Bunny?
SB: Musically we just want to make something that excites and challenges us. On a more important note, we feel strongly about diversity and social responsibility, supporting community and grassroots art and initiatives. We delved into some of these issues lyrically on the new album, which we also did on the first one but often in a more oblique way – this time we were a bit more overt in the presentation of some of these themes.
Meanjin/Brisbane musicians Kelly Hanlon (Deafcult/Terra Pines) and Chris Preindl (Apparitions/Leavings/Vestiges) take us on a sonic sci-fi expedition exploring ancient, ceremonial drumming together with shoegaze dream pop and cosmic themes to create a band that’s outta this world, Ancient Channels.
How did you two first meet? What were your first impressions of each other?
KELLY: I first met Chris through the Brisbane music scene. Our other bands have played multiple shows together over the years so we’ve been in each other’s orbit for a while. I’ve been consistently blown away every time I’ve seen Chris play with any of his bands whether its Apparitions, Leavings or Vestiges. He’s all over the kit with such deft and precision, technically brilliant but also insanely creative, I swear he’s got an extra set of arms hidden away somewhere. I remember thinking that I’d like to work with him sometime soon after seeing him play, and here we are! Dreams do come true!
CHRIS: Our first meeting is hard to pinpoint because Brisbane often feels tiny. I do feel like my first impression of Kelly is one-and-the-same with what would be the most prevailing impression, that she’s an incredibly talented songwriter and musician, and a really cool, calm and compassionate person.
You both play in multiple other bands. Kelly plays in Deafcult/Terra Pines and Chris plays in Apparitions/Leavings/Vestiges; what inspired you to start Ancient Channels?
KELLY: I had wanted to start a project a little more pop-centric and beat orientated. I was also watching a lot of Ancient Aliens at the time (for pure entertainment, I don’t actually believe Ancient Aliens built the pyramids) which resulted in the idea of combining elements of ancient, ceremonial drumming with more contemporary style song structures and the aesthetics of dream pop, shoegaze and post-punk. I wrote a few demos and sent them to Chris and asked if he’d be keen and lucky he was. We didn’t practice together before recording just winged it on the day and Chris wrote and executed his drum parts with such energy it was beautiful! The drums are really the forefront of this band in my opinion, almost like a lead guitar or something, well and truly up front.
CHRIS: Kelly reached out about starting a new project together in early-mid 2019 and I didn’t deliberate much; sometime after my band Leavings played with Terra Pines (for something like the third or even fourth time around Southeast Queensland) Kelly had written some incredible demos and after hearing them I was very excited at the chance to collaborate. She suggested it’d be more of a studio project from the outset which was super ideal for my other band commitments and life schedule. Dates were then set for roughly six months later to record with Cam Smith at Incremental Records.
You’re into sci-fi soundtracks of early film and television; what’s one of your favourites? What do you appreciate about it?
KELLY: Film soundtracks, particularly sci-fi soundtracks are so evocative and they overtly convey tension in a way that I love. The 1950’s had some really great film soundtracks full of creepy theremin tones that make my skin crawl in the best possible way. It Came From Outer Space 1953 is a favourite, also The Day The Earth Stood Still 1951. I tried to get a theremin-ish like tone in “Orbital Dance” with one of the synth lines, it’s not exact but it’s the best I could do with the tools that I have haha. I also love the original Dr Who theme 1963 by Delia Derbyshire and Ron Grainer. It’s such an iconic piece of music, “Carpe Noctem” was an attempt to do something big and dramatic in that vein. There is a great doco on Delia Derbyshire called The Delian Mode on YouTube that everyone should watch for a bit of backstory on her. I’m also big into Vangelis like everyone else under the sun.
CHRIS: I think this is more Kelly’s realm, at least as far as direct influences on this project go, but for me I can’t go past such iconic scores as: Blade Runner (Vangelis), Akira (Geinoh Yamashirogumi), 2001: A Space Odyssey (Richard Strauss), and more recently the scores of Drive, Ex Machina and Good Time… although some of those absolutely aren’t sci-fis.
You’ve recently released Moments In Ruin; what inspired the writing of this album? It seems pretty cosmic!
KELLY: It all comes back to Ancient Aliens haha I feel like I was thinking about it for a year or so before we even started writing, but mainly the idea was to just have a collection of songs that draw from many influences both concrete: Shoegaze, Dream Pop and Post-Punk and Abstract: Time, Space, Ancient Worlds etc… I think there was also talk about writing a record full of singles. The idea that every song on a record could be a single is a bit of a novelty but thought it would be a fun challenge.
CHRIS: Other than a partial embracing and full appreciation of engineer/producer Cam Smith’s drumming (in specifically Terra Pines), and the desire to serve Kelly’s demos sufficiently I embraced influences stemming back to when I first started playing drums. Essentially bands like Metric, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and pretty much any DFA/New York City band from the mid-2000s.
I’ve heard that drums and percussion are the foundation of your sound; how do your songs form most often? Can you tell us a bit about your writing process?
KELLY: All the songs were written using Garageband to demo initially , and then Chris rewrote the shitty Garageband drum loops and made the songs infinitely cooler and more interesting. All the songs were written with the same approach though, built from the ground up, rhythm section, then guitars and synths (textural) and vocals last. The vocals took the most amount of time to write because melody was really important, most of the songs on the record have alternate versions of the vocal melodies and harmonies. I think “She-Rise” had about 8 different versions.
CHRIS: Up until now it has been part recreating the beats mapped out by Kelly and part improvisation in the studio environment. The intricate layers that formed the first versions of the songs that became “Moments In Ruin” afforded me a lot of room for inspiration and, to a degree, experimentation so it’s been quite a thrilling and fun process; the approach with Ancient Channels is different to the more jam-based process of other projects I’m involved with.
We really love the song “She-Rise”; what sparked this song?
KELLY: From memory it was one of the last songs written for this project, there was a feeling the record needed something a little more driving and immediate. I’d read an interview with Grimes about her writing process, that she’d often write songs to scenes from films. I kinda liked that idea and thought I’d give it a go. I picked the Bride vs The Crazy 88 scene from Kill Bill Vol1 and tried to write with that scene in my mind and often playing in the background on silent. Thematically I guess I projected myself into the role of the bride and sexist sound guys in the role of the crazy 88 (metaphorically speaking of course). It’s a clusterfuck, I’m not sure it works as a score to the scene but I was happy with how the song turned out.
CHRIS: For my part I really wanted the rhythms to be straightforward and blunt, as the song seemed to me to be one of the most propulsive and pounding. It embodies what is probably the most intense, menacing and bold energy and so I thought a rigorous and sweatily performed dance beat would serve the song best. An undoubted influence for me for “She-Rise” is the music of U.K. post-punk band Savages.
What most excites you about your new album?
KELLY: I’m excited that it’s out and we can move onto the next one.
CHRIS: Recreating the songs live, with additional members: Elise Clark, Imogen Kowalczyk, Kelly Saunders & Joel Saunders. We haven’t yet brought all the songs to life: as is the case for a lot of other bands (local and nationwide/worldwide) it’s been a difficult year to effectively showcase new music. Fingers crossed for the remainder of 2020 and the start of 2021…
I know that you love recording and being in the studio; was there anything you tried or experimented with while recording?
KELLY: Most of the experimentation came with the drums (different beats that Chris wanted to try and varying types of accompanying percussion. Everything else was locked in by the time we got to the studio as we had Garageband demos with sounds and tones finalised etc…
CHRIS: Percussive layering felt like the most immediate example of studio experimentation. Usually I’m quite hesitant to contribute or sign off on drum parts that aren’t in the realm of possibility to perform live, but we both agreed that we could maximise some of the songs with overdubbed drum hits and cymbal swells. It also helps that Elise is also a drummer!
We love the vocals on the album, very ethereal, haunting and atmospheric; how did you approach doing them?
KELLY: I would say that we wanted vocals to sound that way for sure, ambience and atmosphere were important but also melody. A lot of time was spent trying to make the vocal melodies as infectious as possible, as mentioned before they were rewritten a hundred times over and vastly different from their first incarnation.
CHRIS: I can only dream of having had a hand in the vocal process, though it’s fun to watch agape and in awe from the sidelines for this aspect. I guess there’s always the possibility to harmonise live!
Your music is a collage of genres and I love how your artwork for your releases is also collages; where did the idea for this style of artwork come from? You do the art Kelly, right?
KELLY: My friend Jason Cahill (who did our video for “Footprints In The Dark”) is a great visual artist and filmmaker and he sends me art all the time that he thinks I might enjoy. He had an idea once of doing a collage film clip for one of our songs by animating a collage and in doing research for that idea I came across the collage hashtag on Instagram and fell in love with the otherworldly nature of it. It’s a format that seems like it has no rules and so much possibility.
CHRIS: I think Kelly’s collage art precedes Ancient Channels! I love how effective and evocative it is.
Is there anything else you’ve been working on that you’d like to tell us about, Ancient Channels-related or otherwise?
KELLY: Stay tuned to our socials for show announcements and news, we’ll probably start thinking about the next record soon-ish. Both my other bands Deafcult and Terra Pines have new records coming out next year and I believe Chris has a bunch of exciting stuff up his sleeves too which he can tell you about.
CHRIS: We’re excited by the prospect of working on new music as a six-piece band. In the meantime Kelly’s other bands Deafcult and Terra Pines are working on new material. My other band Apparitions will be launching its album in roughly a month’s time with Deafcult as well, so I’m really excited for that!