Adele Pickvance of Brisbane’s Adele And The Chandeliers: “My bass guitar gives me superpowers…”

Photo courtesy of Adele; handmade mixed-media art by B.

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.

Please check out ADELE & THE CHANDELIERS on bandcamp and adelepickvance.com.

Brisbane dreampop shoegazers Ultra Material’s Matt Deasy: “The four of us have been working on our own gardens… we all live on main roads and it creates our own little sanctuaries.”

Original photo: courtesy of Ultra Material. Handmade mixed-media by B.

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.

Please check out ULTRA MATERIAL on bandcamp; on Facebook. Ep 3 is out now.

Meanjin Grit Hop band Spirit Bunny: “We feel strongly about diversity and social responsibility, supporting community and grassroots art and initiatives”

Original photo: courtesy of Zang! Records. Handmade collage by B.

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.

Photo: courtesy of Zang! Records.

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.

Please check out SPIRIT BUNNY. SB on Instagram. SB on Facebook. ZANG! Records.

Dreamy Meanjin based post-punk Ancient Channels: “Time, Space, Ancient Worlds”

Original photo: Jason Cahill. Handmade collage by B.

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!

Please check out ANCIENT CHANNELS; AC on Facebook; AC on Instagram. Moments In Ruin is out now get it here.