Modern Australian Underground’s Christina Pap: “It’s nice to remember and appreciate nice little things because so much of our lives is spent clinging on to these bad things that have shaped us”

Photo courtesy of Christina Pap. Handmade collage art by B.

Christina Pap does A LOT! She’s currently the vocalist for Melbourne/Naarm punk band Swab (previously having fronted Vanilla Poppers), hosts the Modern Australian Underground podcast and co-hosts 3RRR’s Teenage Hate radio show, is an artist, creates punk zine Stitches In My Head, runs label Blow Blood Records (recently compiling and releasing 2 great volumes of quarantine recordings by a vast array of the AUS punk scene), and works at our favourite Melbourne record shop Lulu’s. Christina is an underground Australian music community treasure that works, and continues to work, hard to do all she does, it definitely hasn’t come without challenges and some very hard moments along the way. Gimmie sat down to chat with her frankly and candidly about her journey. 

 Hi Christina! How are you?

CHRISTINA PAP: I’m doing alright.

That doesn’t sound very convincing!

CP: [Laughs] Yeah. It’s been a bit of a stressful week but I’m trying to be ok, you know how it is.

I do. Aww, I hope your week gets better. You grew up in Melbourne, right?

CP: Yeah, I did. I was born in Brunswick and I grew up in Coburg. I feel like I’m one of the few people out of all of my friends who actually grew up in Melbourne, a lot of my friends moved here from other places.

And, you come from a big Greek family?

CP: [Laughs] Yeah, yeah, I do. Greek-Italian.

How were things growing up for you? Often Greek and Italian families can be pretty conservative and you’re into more alternative things and ways of living.

CP: Yeah, totally. I feel like it’s something recently that I’ve only started to be ok with, because most of my life I’ve been really fighting the fact that coming out of a Greek-Italian family I was a woman and didn’t really matter. Going into the punk scene I thought I had a little reprieve from that but then it was just the same situation, ya know. I broke away from my family, all my cousins were getting married and had kids and that wasn’t something that I really wanted. I didn’t really know any other way though because I grew up in a big Greek-Italian family and that’s the expectation.

How did you discover music?

CP: I’d always listen to the radio shit but I didn’t really know about punk, this was when I was ten. When I was fourteen, I decided that I wanted to do something that raised money for charity but I didn’t really know how to do that. Someone pointed me in the direction of council in Victoria, they have these FReeZA events; groups for young people between fifteen and twenty-five and they organise shows. I went and talked to the council and they let me join their young person committee and I put on a show and raised money for charity. I stuck around afterwards and kids there were into emo and ska and shit, street punk. It snowballed. I’d find out about street punk shows that were all ages. In my teens it was mostly emo and street punk [laughs], when I turned eighteen, I found punk music that wasn’t that.

So, you started going to local shows; would you go by yourself or with friends?

CP: I kind of met people there. I was the only punk in my high school though. I would go to school with a mohawk and people would think I was so weird. I slowly made friends; I know it sounds stupid but I felt like I didn’t fit in because I was culturally different from everyone. A lot of that, from what I’ve started to understand about myself, is that it was probably just in my head [laughs]. It took me a long, long time to make friends and feel like I fit in, and I’ve only really felt that in the last couple of years, I guess.

I can relate, especially being a person of colour and going to punk shows and being the only POC in the room at shows. Like you, at school I was the only punk girl as well. I’d always get, “Oh, you’re that weird, dark, punk girl.”

CP: Yeah, totally!

And you’d start going to shows and no one else looks like you. When I started going to punk shows there wasn’t that many girls at shows either, being a woman of colour here in Australia at shows you’re a minority within the minority of the punk world.  

CP: That’s true. The thing I’ve also had to learn over the years – and it’s been a good thing for me to learn – is that being Italian-Greek isn’t necessarily being a person of colour. Because I was brought up so different there were these things that made it different for me, but just for me to be brought up culturally different, I can’t claim I’m a person of colour. I don’t want you to feel like I claim that in any way.

I didn’t think that at all. Can you remember when you first came across zines?

CP: I used to read Maximum Rock N Roll when I was young, that was the first big punk zine. There were other ones like Distort around. I never really thought about doing one until my first boyfriend, who ended up being the singer for The Zingers – we started dating when I was nineteen – decided that he wanted to do a punk zine. I remember thinking if he was going to do one, he’s in the same boat as me – he didn’t play an instrument and wasn’t involved in the scene at all – but he was a guy and all of our friends were guys and I felt like he had an extra leg up because he was a guy. He did one or two issues and then I ended up doing it for six or seven years after I started it. When I started it, it was called When We’re Young We’re Invincible. It was pretty terrible [laughs], but I think I got better as time went on.

My first zines were terrible too! You have to start somewhere though. No one really shows you how to make a zine and it’s all learning, experimenting, trial and error. You just get that overwhelming feeling of wanting to contribute beyond just going to shows. When you know better you do better. I’ve read a lot of your interviews on your blog and in your zines and you can really see the progression of them, leading up to the great chats you do on your new podcast, Modern Australian Underground.

CP: Thank you.

I rarely find interviews that I think are exceptional but the one you did with Yeap & Heikal on immigrant punx and racism in Australia was really amazing.

CP: I really appreciate that because I definitely am trying and I want to make them interesting, there’s always this part of me though, with whatever I do, is this nerve-wracking thing to put something into the public eye because I always just think it’s shit and not good enough. I put something out and I can’t appreciate the effort that I put into it because I’m too busy worrying about someone telling me how terrible it is! The one with Yeap and Heikal was a really nice conversation, I’m really happy it happened.

I thought it was important to tell you I found it rad because I think often people don’t tell people enough when they make or do something that rules! People are quick to point out when you fuck up or they like to tear others down or be apathetic and I think sometimes in the punk community it’s seen as cool not to give a shit or to try—I think that’s bullshit. Trying and doing your best is the coolest to me, like the Minor Threat song: Well at least I’m fucking trying / What the fuck have you done?

CP: Yeah, for sure. I really appreciate the positive feedback I’ve gotten for the podcast but I’ve also lived in a time when… like punk six years ago in Australia was a lot different, people were a lot more critical and ready to cut you down over absolutely nothing. It’s nice to have a lot of people in the community to be down and support each other, they’ll be really positive and give each other advice. Whereas not that long ago I felt like it was really different.

What do you think has changed?

CP: I don’t know because I gave up on Melbourne and left the country for two and a half years. I grew up in Melbourne so it’s not like I grew up in Adelaide and moved to Melbourne and it wasn’t my home city, I’ve always been in punk in Melbourne. I left for a lot of reasons, part of it was I went through some really shitty emotional and physical abuse shit with a guy that I was dating that was in the scene. I remember being at a show and he was coming after me, yelling at me and saying he wanted to punch me and shit. I remember going up to one of his friends and just begging for help at a show and everyone turned their back on me. I was literally at a show, I never ask for anything, I never ask for help and I always contribute and here I was asking for help and I feel like everyone turned their back on me. Talking to Yeap, I could see that around the same time he had his own similar experience of the scene. I had been overseas and I had friends that were really supportive and I thought; why would I contribute to a scene here when I’m literally at my worst point and really need help and they don’t want to help me and deal with it? Why do I want to contribute to a scene when a white guy is being racist to someone of colour? Or there’s a guy threatening to punch his girlfriend at a show? I was like, bye everyone, have a good time! It’s funny because everyone thinks Cleveland [Ohio] is a fucked-up place, but Cleveland was the place I went because I felt like I had more family there then what I was feeling in Melbourne at the time.

I’m sorry that happened to you. I’ve had similar things happen to me in the scene. I’ve dated guys and when the relationship ended – because I experienced emotional, mental and in some cases physical abuse – I felt everyone turned their back on me too. Rumours start and you get made out to be the bad one even though it was the other person abusing you and all your “friends” desert you in favour of scene dude and you’re left feeling isolated, alone, confused, disillusioned and really let down.

CP: Totally!

You think these people are your friends and family and that you’re a community.

CP: Yeah, and especially it always happens to the chick when they’re breaking up with a guy and looking after themselves cos this guy is dragging you down and being really shit to you. When you do something for yourself everyone’s like, “Oh, she is shit, she gave up!” I was literally fighting so hard and I felt like I finally decided to look out for myself for one second and everybody hates me for it.

It’s a really lonely place to be in, especially after you give so much to the community with all that you do and you find there’s no support and you feel ostracized. You feel like your community failed you. I stopped going to shows for a while and making zines, two things I love doing so much. I fell into a deep depression and had crippling anxiety. Eventually I found a way that I felt comfortable coming back, but mostly it’s just doing the work I love – zines, interviewing and going to shows – but being more guarded in my social world. I found a way to contribute and not have to deal with the rest of the shit.

CP: Yeah. It sucks that you went through that as well. It’s hard when you hit the point of; why am I still here doing this stuff? It’s supposed to be a place where everyone supports each other but you just have the worst experiences. It’s cool you found a way to come back, I really love your art and interviews, they’re really cool. You’re doing great!

Thank you! I’m thankful we’re both still here, both still contributing and doing even cooler things than we ever have before. I was talking to one of my friends recently and he was saying how you come to the punk scene because you want a refuge within the world at large and you think you’ve found a place to belong that’s different, that it’s a little utopia in a way, but the reality I experienced was that it’s not really, it’s just a microcosm of the macrocosm. I’ve met a lot of great, great people in punk but there’s also a lot of shit terrible people.

CP: Yeah, definitely. That’s why nothing is black and white. There’s a lot of good things in PC culture, but there’s also a lot of dangerous things in PC culture, things are complicated. You have this definition of punk being family, being everything is ok but, if you look at the normal family, there’s always crazy shit going on anyway [laughs]. The best thing is growing up and you get better perspective on life and break out of these ideals that we’re conditioned with and you realise the world doesn’t work that way and you wonder what went wrong.

I notice that your zine is really music-centric and you don’t write personal stuff in there much; was it a conscious decision? Why did you decide to do that?

CP: I feel selfish talking about myself really. For me, I feel like it’s selfish putting myself on a platform and thinking people want to hear about me and what I have going on. If I talk about music, I can talk about a thing that doesn’t have to involve me but I can write about it and create something from me.

I can understand and respect that, it’s funny though, because my two favourite things that you’ve written are very personal pieces that I found on your blog.

CP: Which ones?

One was where you writing about the end of your band Vanilla Poppers’ tour in 2016. I really liked the piece because I felt it gave a real insight into you. I mean, I see and listen to your bands, enjoy the label and zines that you do and know you in a way as much as you can from that, but to see behind that I thought was really cool. There was a passage you wrote about being between cities in the middle of nowhere and you pulled the van over and all piled out of it and were standing on the side of the road and looked up at the stars, and how it reminded you of being in your grandparents’ backyard as a kid. I got teary reading that, it was really beautiful.

CP: Awww. Yeah.

I haven’t gotten to see you play live yet but I’ve seen videos of you perform and your sets seem so intense and then to read about that moment on tour, you see a totally different side.

CP: Yeah, for sure. That tour was really special to me, I wrote about it because I never wanted to forget it. I feel like I’ll never do something like that again, even if I did, it wouldn’t be that same experience. It really meant a lot to me, all the little things. It’s nice to remember and appreciate nice little things because so much of our lives is spent clinging on to these bad things that have shaped us, these bad experiences and trauma. When I was looking at those stars, I remembered being home when I hadn’t been home in two years, that moment meant so much. I’m glad you liked it.

You could feel it and it was genuine and honest, I think that’s why I connected with it so strongly. The other thing I read that really struck me was you taking about getting the nickname “Stress Head”.

CP: [Laughs].

And there was a moment you were sitting in the back of the tour van while it was driving along the highway and you cracked and were rocking back and forth crying. When I read that I just wanted to give you a hug.

CP: Awww, thanks. That shit is real, it’s not something that I often talk about, my whole life dealing with mental shit. That’s like when you first called and asked how my day was and I said “alright” when I’ve really been having a shit day. It’s hard to write about that stuff because it is really emotional, emotions are hard to deal with and you spend so much time trying to push them aside to try and get by in every day life. It felt good to write that piece and be able to just get it out. There’s a lot of times, even writing vocals for Swab, I have such a hard time because I don’t know how to open up and it hurts too much to open up.

I think that’s why we make music and songs and art sometimes because we want to communicate and say things but sometimes it’s hard to talk about it and it’s easier to just put it into a song or what we’re making.

CP: Definitely. The thing about joining Vanilla Poppers, I went to North America for two and a half years, I had a great time, but the whole time I was going through really bad mental health. Vanilla Poppers was a way for me to have an alter ego where I could write and sing about these things… usually when I lose my mind, I feel powerless and I don’t know what to do and I feel weak, but doing Vanilla Poppers I could lose my mind and be strong about it and yell about it and tell people “fuck you!” It was nice to have an outlet where I felt I had some kind of power.

Doing a band is the most nerve-racking fucking thing in the whole world. Whenever I have a show coming up, I’m always like; why am I doing this again? It’s so stressful to stand in front of people and perform and know people are looking at you. All I can think about is that I don’t feel good enough to be on stage because I’m not a hot chick.

Firstly, you are hot! Secondly, hot is subjective and the way you look shouldn’t influence people to love what you create. I’ve known guys I’ve mentioned different women performers to and the first thing say they is, “She’s hot.” It’s like, why does what a female performer look like matter?

CP: I know. It’s all conditioning. I think for me it also comes from me being a wog chick and not a hot white chick or some shit! I’m white but not an Australian white chick. That’s all my own conditioning and it’s something that I try to work through.

There’s been times when I’ve felt the same way though too.

CP: Really? Are you in a band?

I’m working on a band with my husband now, Know Future. I’ve been in a few bands in the past but nothing too serious. I used to find it hard to find people to play with, I’ve had similar experiences to you where because I’m female people are reluctant to start a band with you, you’re not taken seriously.

CP: Totally!

Part of why I made a zine was it forced me to talk to people and be more social, I’ve always been more of a quiet, loner type person.

CP: Yeah, it’s an excuse to talk to people. If I’m at a show when I was younger, I felt like I didn’t really have a reason to go up and talk to anybody, no one is going to want to talk to me, but if I have the excuse of doing a zine and interviewing them, then I have an excuse to talk to people. How long have you been married for?

We’ve been together for twelve years this year, married since 2013.

CP: That’s cool. I’m married as well. He’s great but I haven’t actually seen him in over a year because he lives in Cleveland. It was going to be a situation where I worked on a visa and went over there and he would come here and visit, but because of Covid I don’t know when I’m going to be able to see him again! We speak everyday though.

That sounds so brutal! Having to be apart.

CP: Yeah, I was really upset about it for months at the start of Covid, it was hard to deal with. We have a good relationship. I’ve just come to accept that we’re both living our lives separately and, in the future, we’ll be able to come together. I’m glad that you’re married and happy.

It’s the best when you find the coolest person that you just want to be around all the time. When we met, I was ready to move to America, I was ready to go, I’d had enough of the scene here; I can relate to you in so many ways. I went to a show my bandmate was playing with his other band and my husband-to-be’s band was supporting. I had a really challenging day looking after my mother with advanced Alzheimer’s and seeing Jhonny’s band play brought me so much joy and a respite from some hard stuff that was happening in my life. After the show he talked to me and I told him all about my shitty day and he sat and listened. I had to go home early and a few days later he contacted me to see how I was going and we started trading mixtapes and art through the mail. I realised I simply couldn’t go to America anymore because I had found this amazing person to love and that loved me equally.

CP: Oh my god! Amazing. That’s a love story!

Moving back to music; is there any particular performers that inspire you?

CP: I’ll listen to a record and feel like it’s awesome, then if I see a band live and I feel like they’re going through the motions and there’s nothing actually behind it… when I do my band, I just try to do the best that I can. I hate watching a band where the singer will just stand there or lean on the side of the stage and sing, like; what is this?! I’m here to watch a shredding band and you’re being so blasé. Really play a show or don’t do it! A show that I really like is when you can tell that they’re really fighting for themselves or what they’re talking about. It doesn’t even have to be a punk show, you just have to feel that it’s genuine, I find that inspiring. I remember seeing this hardcore band in Toronto and they were crazy, so great and at the end of the set they hugged each other!


CP: It’s the little things: being genuine and fighting for something. It’s not like they’re out at a protest fighting for rights but it’s their own personal struggle and you sense that, that’s what inspires me at a show. I love watching a band and you feel like they have something to lose and they’re fighting for it.

You moved back to Australia in 2017?

CP: In October, 2017.

How have things changed for you? You mentioned that when you left you didn’t feel accepted or supported here.

CP: While I was gone, I could see that things had started to change. More chicks in bands. Different styles of music had come into punk. When I left, I felt like there was just this guy hardcore scene. From overseas I could see different bands popping up and different people have a voice. The fact that I went away and did a band and came back, people were more interested in what I was doing. At first, I felt it sucked because I’d been around all this time already doing stuff and people didn’t care and now because I left the country and started a band – which I couldn’t do here, I literally had to move to Cleveland – worked hard and did all these tours, now I’ve been acknowledged. There are chicks in the scene and even though they’re not in bands they still go to shows, buy merch and support bands, without them you don’t have a crowd; why are they less important?

I grew up a bit as well. It’s hard because I feel like a lot of my memory from my past is very… I don’t know what happened because it’s been scarred by depression. People will tell me stories about myself and I don’t remember. A lot of my past has been coloured by my own depression and anxiety and traumatic experiences that I didn’t know how to work through as a younger person. When I think back sometimes, I don’t know if I was feeling that bad or if I was feeling and that was the world that I was projecting. Everyone makes mistakes. I think with the punk community most people have addiction or mental problems or they’re battling something and people there can have a little more patience because there is understanding. There are a lot of good people in the scene now. There’re still problems but you deal with them as it comes and hopefully you grow and know better and can deal with them better than you could in the past.

As I’ve mentioned before I’ve had severe depression and had mental health challenges too; what are some things that you do that helps you with your mental health?

CP: I avoided going on meds for a long time but I hit a point about two years ago where I could not cope anymore. I went on anti-depressants and started seeing a therapist, I’ve been doing that for two years. It has changed my life and I do feel a lot better. My level of anxiety is nothing where it used to be. I can talk to people; even just taking a phone call is something I hate; I hate talking on the phone. Your number came up and I was like, just answer it, it’s fine! Before the meds it was definitely a terrible time and I thought I could get through it myself but there was a point where if I don’t deal with this now, I’m going to ruin my relationship and fucking kill myself in some way. My therapist is awesome though. I drink every day, which is a terrible thing. I try to eat as well as I can and go for walks. Through therapy, I try to see my triggers and if I see myself having a panic attack, I work through it. I still have my moments even now.

I have PMDD [Premenstrual dysphoric disorder], it’s basically a worse version of PMS [premenstrual syndrome]. I feel like I’m losing my mind for ten days and then I have my period and I’m ok. I take multi-vitamins. It feels like a full-time job dealing with my mental health on top of working and my hobbies, that can be stressful when I need time to work out my mental health. Even though things have gotten better in society around having space to deal with your mental health, I still find it hard to get that time. That’s my old school mentality creeping in though, my conditioning. I’m glad I’ve taken the steps I have, but I still feel I have a way to go.

Thank you for talking to me about this. I have a health condition – hyperthyroidism – that effects my moods and mental health especially before my period too. I just become so unreasonable and irrational, my brain gets foggy and it’s hard to cope.

CP: Yeah, you feel like you’re going crazy. Afterwards you’re like, “Oh shit!” because you didn’t mean to be a bitch but at the time what you’re experiencing feels so real and you feel people are fucking with you, all these different feelings. When you come out the other side you feel like, “Oh fuck! Now I have to go back and apologise to everybody” [laughs]. It’s so hectic.

Totally! I know you said this week has been stressful but what’s been some good things that have happened?

CP: I’ve been doing the podcast. It was actually Dan [Stewart; Total Control/Straightjacket Nation], that asked me if I wanted to do it. I said, yes, I may as well give it a shot; I don’t know fucking shit about podcasts though. I have been doing the radio show at 3RRR [Teenage Hate] for a few years so I know how to talk in front of a mic and write up a script. He asked me a few months before we did it if I’d been writing for it but I kept putting it off because I was fucking depressed. Finally, I went in and pulled it together! I like talking to people. It’s nice getting to know people’s stories because everyone has some shit in their life and has done something interesting. It’s nice to share my friends’ stories or some weird music that I like. There’s so many people out there doing cool stuff that I think other people should know about!

Please check out Christina’s podcast: Modern Australian Underground. Teenage Hate on 3RRR. Christina’s bands: Swab (on Blow Blood Records) and Vanilla Poppers. On Instagram @blow_blood. Stiches In My Head zine.

Melbourne punks OUZO!: “Go to Google images and type “Joey Ramone in a pool”. It’s not how I’m living but it’s how I think I am.”

Original photo by Jamie Wdziekonski. Handmade mixed-media collage by B.

OUZO!’s guitarist Nathan Korver and vocalist Aidan Link-Freeman caught up with Gimmie to tell us about their debut EP Dried Tomato, their beginnings, influences and where they’re headed.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s a day in your life like at the moment?

NATHAN KORVER: My day in the life is a bit boring at the moment. I was meant to start an IT course but I lasted a week, can’t do this online learning feels like I’m watching a YouTube tutorial. So, most days I’m looking for work or writing music. Think I’m starting to go a bit insane though, glad gigs are back to get me out of house.

AIDAN LINK-FREEMAN: Go to Google images and type “Joey Ramone in a pool”. It’s not how I’m living but it’s how I think I am.

How did you first get into music?

NK: I’ve always been obsessed with music from a really young age. My earliest memory of music is listening to [Nirvana’s] Nevermind on repeat in the car with my dad when we’d go stay at my grandparents’ holiday house that was about four or five hours away. My mum got me into Green Day at a pretty young age or whenever American Idiot came out? I was five when that came out, I think and that is what probably made me pick up the guitar. But I don’t think I started taking guitar seriously until I was about thirteen or fourteen, which was when I started to listen to bands like Metallica, Silverchair and Black Sabbath.

AL-F: One day I was trekking through the wilderness amongst the native trees of the Dandenong ranges when I reached an opening. Right there floating in front of me was an entity like no other. Half human, half pig. It turned to me and without speaking reached out and handed me a record, I looked down and it was GG Allin live. From then on, I became obsessed with music and its pure beauty.

When did you decide to start OUZO!? Who or what was influencing your sound in the beginning?

NK: OUZO! started out of our drummer Josh [Peeters] and I buying a drum kit together when we lived about a two-minute drive from each other. This would have been early 2019? Then I met Aidan through his partner who is a childhood friend of mine. Josh and I started recording demos and I’d send them to Aidan and he’d put whatever lyrics over the top of them. Aidan and I were super into 60’s garage rock when we first met so a lot of that probably influence the music I was writing and the lyrics he was writing, but around this time was when I started going to local shows in Melbourne so they influenced us a lot and still do.

AL-F: Yeah, was definitely hugely influenced by 60’s garage at the beginning which very naturally turned into a somewhat heavier sound which I’m glad it did because it made for a more unique sound.

Your Dried Tomato EP came out in December last year; where did the album title come from?

NK: When I’d save a demo, I’d always give them silly names and ‘The Martian’s Mistake’ was originally called ‘Dried Tomato’ when I first sent it to Aidan. Then somehow, he managed to add that in as a lyric in the song, it’s right before the bridge section of the song, I think? It doesn’t have any real connection to the rest of the song and Aidan didn’t want to call the song that so I always had that as the title for the EP since then.

Can you tell us a little about writing the EP? Is it a collaborate process?

NK: For the EP it was pretty collaborative, it was always Josh and I writing and structuring the songs then Aidan would put whatever lyrics over it. It’s kind of strange these were really the first songs I’d ever written and I don’t really remember writing the songs or coming up with riffs specifically but more memories of structuring the songs. They were already about a year old when we recorded them so some are probably coming up to two years now.

Are lyrics something that come easy for you or do you have to work for them?

AL-F: I would say they come fairly easy but like everything they come in waves and it just depends on whether or not I’ve caught the wave at the right time. Anytime I force lyrics or feel pressured to write a song they almost always reek of plasticity, like what I’ve written is just to please someone important in the crowd. While I hope people can understand and appreciate my lyrics I have to understand and appreciate them first.

Who are your favourite lyricists and what do you appreciate about their work?

AL-F: I’ve been obsessed with Lou Reed since I was like 16, his writing breaks my heart turns me on and gets me dancing. And yes, I do understand the irony in this considering our song ‘Glorified Junkie’.

What’s the strangest thing that inspired a song?

AL-F: Turning terrestrial television on. That shits wild, Grant Denyer hosts Family Feud and they let sports stars who have no personality open their mouths. Name one memorable thing that Matthew Richardson has ever said. Oh, and there’s somebody that dresses up as a cow and gives random people money. Although… I’m lactose intolerant and if a cow gave me money rather than a sore tummy, I guess I’d be pretty happy.

How long did the recording process take? Nathan recorded it; what are the benefits and/or challenges of recording yourself?

NK: Took a while actually, given Covid restrictions and what not it certainly took longer than expected. Recording was pretty much here and there, the drums were recorded around I think late January or February last year, then I don’t think we continued recording until May? By July it was all mixed and mastered. Freedom is a benefit of recording it ourselves, don’t have any pressure to be like, we’ve got an hour booked at a studio or something and have to get it done! Challenges I’d say is that I don’t really know what I’m doing, I did a short course in sound production at the end of 2019 so I learnt a bit there but have learnt more by myself and YouTube tutorials.

Aidan did the artwork for the cover; can you tell us about the inspiration/idea behind it?

NK: I guess I came up with the concept for the artwork pretty early on, maybe before we had even recorded anything or at least finished mixing it. Aidan got a lot of inspiration from a book too, what was that? Punk 45 isn’t it?

AL-F: Yeah, lots from this Punk 45 book. Basically, just wanted to use bold simple colours like all the great corporations do. OUZO! was never intended to be just a band. It’s also a pyramid scheme.

How did the lockdown period last year test your creativity?

NK: No gigs and no work make Nathan go something something? Go crazy?  Yeah, I think for me it helped? I guess we did a lot of writing, wrote about three times the amount of songs we had prior to lockdown. Our setlist was every song we had. But maybe towards the end of lockdown it started to get a bit stale because for both of us gigs are a main source for inspiration.

AL-F: It help because I wrote heaps of bullshit over that time but once it ended, I had more clarity, but yeah during lockdown I felt there was a lot of pressure to be creative.

Have you been working on new songs? What direction are you headed with them?

NK: We have been working on a lot of new songs, we aren’t deliberately heading in any sort of directions it’s more just we write a song and that’s the song regardless if it sounds like us or not. I don’t want to limit us to any certain ‘sound’ and just be free creatively, it gets boring writing the same thing and I don’t think I could even write a song like something off Dried Tomato anymore. So yeah, the direction is mixed, there’s heavier stuff, synth stuff, quiet stuff, but I’m really excited by them.

Please check out OUZO! on bandcamp; on Instagram; on Facebook.

Streetview magazine’s Jack Cherry: “There are more kind people than there are arseholes in the world, don’t let yourself focus on the worst.”

Handmade art by B.

Gimmie loves zines! (independent self-published, small-run, mostly photocopied/printed works). One of our current favourites out of Melbourne is Streetview, a music-related mag created by Jack Cherry from band, Vintage Crop, as well as a host of collaborators (FYI the Gimmie team have contributed to the next issue). Streetview is free available by mail-order. This issue features interviews with The Stroppies, Roolette Records, Christina Pap from Modern Australian Underground podcast/Swab, Quality Used Cars, OUZO!, Ishka from Set-Top Box/Research Reactor Corporation/Warttmann Inc. Records/TV Guide zine and more. Check it out!

How did you first find out about zines?

JACK CHERRY: I think the first zine I saw was a photocopied, hand-drawn tribute to Nirvana. It was in a local record store in Geelong, I didn’t buy it or even really read it; it was just a moment where I realised that people actually make/buy/sell/share that sort of thing. It was years before I ever made one – I think I had to wait long enough for me to think it was my own idea, even though I was probably just copying that Nirvana zine deep down.

What’s some zines you enjoy?

JC: I really like Conscript, which is a graphic design mag that my buddy Darcy Berry (Moth, Gonzo) puts together occasionally. He has done a lot of great design work for Vintage Crop and it’s really cool to be able to see more of his work and he also gets a few other designers to contribute work too.

I also enjoyed the first mag that Meaghan Weiley did, it was just called Issue 1 and it had some real cool content in there. I think she’s still working on the next issue of that too. It would be rude not to mention Magnetic Visions, the zine of the hyperactive Billy Twyford (Disco Junk). GGG is also one of my favourite, your long-form interviews are always engaging and interesting. It feels like people so rarely do phoners anymore that it really helps your interviews stand-out.

What inspired you to start your own zine?

JC: I’ve always dabbled in writing, I started a few different zines over the years but chickened out when it was time to distribute them. I think the big inspiration was just giving myself something that I can dig into and exercise my brain a little. I don’t really have any goal and I certainly don’t want to be the best; I’m just enjoying the whole process.

Why did you decide to make a print zine?

JC: It just didn’t feel real if it’s not a hard copy, I’m not really an in-depth writer and my work tends to gel better as a collection of articles rather than individual pieces on a blog.

Where does the name Streetview come from?

JC: It’s stolen directly from the latest Vintage Crop album, but I made it up so it’s okay. I just think it works so well for the name, it’s the view from the street-level. I’m writing from my own point of view and I’m not pretending to be above the music scene or anything.

What are the things that are important to you when making it?

JC: Highlighting local artists is probably the main thing, and people who don’t receive as much attention as I think they deserve. I also strive to make the content interesting, asking questions that are a little different without being too serious. It’s gotta be fun and fresh otherwise you’re just like the rest.

We love that you have a Pheature Photographer each issue and subscribers receive prints; why did you want to spotlight photographers work?

JC: I think music photography is kind of taken for granted lately, especially given that everyone has a camera in their phone that is of such high quality. There’s an art to capturing the right moment at a show, its actually pretty hard to take a great pic of a band and I just wanted to share some local photographers that do a good job of it. The idea of including prints of their work with each issue is just cool because I feel like a lot of these photos get posted on Instagram or Facebook once and then their buried underneath the ever-consuming news feed. It’s nice to offer them some longevity.

What do you hope people take away from your zine/mag?

JC: I don’t know if I want people to take anything away from it as much, I think I just want people to read it all. I’m trying to slowly expand the content parameters, so that you see a real eclectic bunch of people and bands side-by-side. I love the idea of people taking the time to read an interview with a band that they’ve never heard before and really giving it time of day. It’s easy to scroll past something online and pay no mind, but I hope that people feel a little more inclined to give different things a chance in the physical mag.

What was the last film you watched? Tell us your thoughts/feelings on it?

JC: I saw Tenet the other night at the cinema. I enjoyed it, I’m a fan of Christopher Nolan’s work, even if he does often make things harder than he needs to. I’d recommend it to sci-fi fans but not action movie fans. It was also super loud, which got old after two and a half hours. I was big into Robert Pattinson’s performance too, gave me some confidence for the new Batman film.

Outside of the zine, what else are you working on?

Well, my band Vintage Crop just released a new record (Serve To Serve Again) which was a big process and incredibly rewarding. I also run a little record label called Weather Vane Records and have put out 5 releases this past year, working with some great bands from all over the world.
I’ve been putting the finishing touches on another exciting project which I’ll hopefully be sharing more about early next year. On top of all that I work full-time as a swimming pool technician down in Geelong, servicing pools and pool equipment.

What’s your best non-musical or non-zine related skill?

JC: I’m pretty good at the new golf game on the Playstation, I’m also weirdly good at remembering numbers but nothing else. I can’t tell you what I had for lunch yesterday but I can tell you my best friend from Primary School’s old home phone number.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from 2020?

JC: A good attitude is just as contagious as a bad one. There are more kind people than there are arseholes in the world, don’t let yourself focus on the worst. Pay attention to the kindness in the world and do your good deeds.

Check out and sign up for a free copy: @streetview.mag on Instagram.

Naarm/Melbourne’s Hot Tubs Time Machine: “I laugh ‘til my face is sore.”

Photo: Arthur Twomey. Handmade collage by B.

Marcus Rechsteiner (The UV Race, Luxury) and Daniel Twomey (Deaf Wish, Lower Plenty) have gotten together and made an album under the name, Hot Tubs Time Machine. It’s a delightful bare-bones jaunt of minimal bass, 808 beats, layers of synth, bright guitar and percussion, soundtrack-ing Marcus’ engaging, humorous and very relatable stories taken from his daily, that give us an insight into his world. We interviewed Daniel to get a look into the making of Hot Tubs…

Hot Tubs… is yourself and Marcus from The UV Race; how did you both first meet? What were your initial impressions?

DANIEL: I first saw The UV Race at the Tote for Deaf Wish’s 7-inch launch in 2008. I thought Marcus was a loose unit. He won me over when he sang about M*A*S*H. We were always on the periphery of each other’s lives but I didn’t really get to know him very well.

What sparked the idea for you guys to start working together on this project?

DANIEL: A couple of years ago Marcus and his mate Brent were looking for a drummer and asked Mitch Marks to join them the same week that I suggested to Mitch that we might start something with me on guitar. So instead of getting a drummer, they got me tagging along. I suggested I play bass cos there was nothing else left. Mitch didn’t stick around but I did. It was a really fruitful and joyous six months of making music with Brent and Marcus in a group called Luxury with Steph Hughes joining us on drums. When the first lockdown happened last year Brent (who is from the States) was on a visa run to New Zealand so got stuck there. Not the worst place in the world to ride out the pandemic but Marcus and I were gutted. We miss him a lot.

So, late last year, Blonde Revolver asked us to play a show with them and Marcus suggested we do it as a duo. “But we can’t play any Luxury songs” he said. “We’ll write all new stuff”. So that was the brief. “Daniel, write a set of songs in two weeks and I’ll sing on them.” And that is an accurate description of the process. I write a bass line, put together the beats on an 808. Add layers of keyboard or guitar or percussion. Marcus waltzes in and tells a story over the top and I laugh ‘til my face is sore.

What inspired the name?

DANIEL: Marcus called me Tubs. He called me Tubs for about a year. One day I called him and he answers “Hot Tubs Time Machine.” Three weeks later we need a band name. Two months later it’s on an album cover. It’s a funny old world.

What was the first song you wrote for Hot Tubs? What’s the story behind it?

DANIEL: ‘Pants Off O’Clock’ came first. Marcus had been talking to a friend about that moment that the door shuts and you can leave the shackles of pants behind. They had been reflecting on the extended hours Pants Off O’Clock was experiencing due to lockdown. Pants Off O’Clock around the clock.

What kinds of other things inspire this collection of tunes? We love that each song tells a very relatable story, like ‘Southern Hemisphere Christmas’ and ‘No Thanks, Google Maps’.

How were the vocals recorded? They’re so honest and have such a purity and charm in delivery.

DANIEL: Marcus has spoken to me about how anxious he gets about recording vocals so I knew that I had to create the right environment for him. Recording everything as I went meant that the only thing missing fourteen days after I started working on the songs were the vocals so, I was so keen to get some in the can. I recorded the first lot of vocals on the sly. When I was setting everything up at rehearsal, I ran the microphone through the laptop without telling Marcus. A good chunk of the vocals are from that session. Marcus singing away with no idea the red light was on, sometimes it was the first time he had tried singing on a tune. On those takes you can even hear the rest of the music reverberating around the music room we were jamming in because I couldn’t really put headphones on him without him catching in. So then at the end of all the songs I broke the news to him. “Congratulations Marcus, the vocals are recorded!”

Of course, some needed re-recording so when Marcus arrived a couple of hours early for our annual steak night – long story – I casually suggested he have another crack at the vocals. I purposely set myself up facing away from Marcus – so that he didn’t have the pressure of someone watching him, but set him up behind me – so he could see me laughing at all of the words. Apparently, that is how Stanley Kubrick directed Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove. He got the camera rolling, made sure Sellers could see the effect he was having on him and proceeded to roll around on the floor laughing. So that’s what I did.

Where or how do you think your best song writing ideas come to you?

DANIEL: Marcus says they are usually from conversation. He’ll be talking to someone or himself and thinks “that would be a good idea for a song”.

What do you personally get from creating stuff?

DANIEL: The second lockdown last year was hard. Everyone you speak to experienced it so differently but myself, I really struggled and I know that for Marcus it was even harder. When he asked me if I thought it was possible to pull a set together, I knew how good it was going to be for his mental health. There was no way I was going to say no. I did it for my brain too. I love a project, one with a deadline is even better. Stretching out of my comfort zone and playing a synth for many of the parts was such a satisfying puzzle to enter into. Knowing I only had seven days left and five songs to go was thrilling. Four days left and three songs to go. Two days left and one song to go. The finish line. For me personally, creating this particular stuff was a very enjoyable, liberating process that resulted in a really great gift for a good friend. Watching Marcus sing on the songs and get a kick out performing them a week later was so rewarding. His enthusiasm is painted in bright colours on his sleeves.

Cover Art by Evelyn Nora Hanley

What was one of the most fun moments you had while making the Hot Tubs… album?

DANIEL: I had a silent partner helping me on all of the music. Over the two weeks that I was writing the material, my twin brother was in quarantine. First in a hospital in Bangkok, then in a little place in Vientiane, Laos. He had some recording equipment and instruments with him so he could work on music while he waited the days away so I started hitting him up regularly for ‘bits’ for songs. We spoke every day, multiple times these calls were some of the highlights of the whole process. His whole world was a hospital room for a patch and So the two of us just fell into these songs together. We locked into the twin zone. He served up some very funny shit that didn’t make the record – and some that did. I am still recovering from his bass solo for Hot Tubs Time Machine Theme. Left on the cutting room floor because the world just wasn’t ready.

What’s next for you guys? Will you be playing live shows?

DANIEL: Yes! Sunday the 28th of February we are playing our album launch. A roving, pop-up, public transport powered, guest spot extravaganza. Over the day we will play three busking sets at different locations. Each with a different guest joining us for our set:

  • Bourke St Mall 1pm with my daughter Hetty.
  • Edinburgh Gardens 3pm with Pam, the music teacher at the school I work at.
  • Under the High St Bridge, Merri Ck 4:30pm with Sleeper & Snake.
  • At 6:30pm they will all join us on stage at Avalon Bar.

Please check out: HOT TUBS TIME MACHINE on bandcamp. All profits from album sales go to Djirra in Abbotsford. “Djirra is a place where culture is shared and celebrated, and where practical support is available to all Aboriginal women and particularly to Aboriginal people who are currently experiencing family violence or have in the past.”

Melbourne Noise-Punks Super-X’s George Ottaway: “Mechanical and wild sounding…”

Photos: courtesy of Super-X; handmade mixed-media by B.

Super-X’s debut self-titled album is full of aliveness, possibilities and risk. The Naarm/Melbourne trio walk the tightrope of balance of control and dissonance that’s beautiful and ugly at the same time. Gimmie interviewed co-vocalist-guitarist, George Ottaway.

Hi George! How are you? What did you get up to today?

GEORGE OTTAWAY: Hey Bianca! I’m pretty good, it’s the weekend, so I’m taking it pretty easy so far. My girlfriend is from Madrid so tonight we are heading to what’s meant to be one of Melbourne’s best Tapas bars. Will report more on this later!

What’s an album in your music collection that’s important for you?

GO: For me, it’s got to be Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works 85-92. It’s a really beautiful album and I find myself coming back to it again and again since first discovering it in my mid-teens. It evokes a lot of memories for me, including a really memorable solo trip I did to Iceland for All Tomorrows Parties Festival back in 2015, when I listened to it a lot. I also think it’s probably the most coherent and consistent Aphex Twin release, and maybe the only one where he isn’t intentionally trying to fuck with his audience!

How did you first get into music? Did you and your brother (Super-X’s co-vocalist-guitarist) Harrison get into music together?

GO: Growing up, music had a very important presence in our house. Our parents are both music fans and liked to fill every possible moment of silence with community radio or a CD from their collection. I remember hearing a lot of the Rolling Stones, Nirvana and Nick Cave. Our dad in particular made it his personal mission to impart his musical taste on us; by the time we hit primary school he was pumping The Stooges’ Raw Power on cassette in the car as he drove us to school! When we were teenagers, we both picked up guitar and formed garage bands with our friends. It was a pretty interesting, exciting time to be making music, websites like Myspace and programs like Garage Band were suddenly making it really easy and accessible for young kids like us to record songs and get them heard by a wider audience. This was also around the time we discovered the Melbourne underground scene! We got into bands like Kiosk, Bird Blobs, Sea Scouts, Circle Pit, Witch Hats, ECSR, Zond, the Nihilistic Orbs label and started going to a lot of shows.

When did you first know that you wanted to play music yourself?

GO: I think around the age of 13. I was pretty obsessed with music and just knew it was something I had to do. In primary school I had a pop-punk band that played to the other students in the school hall, which was pretty cute and my first taste at playing music.

What inspired you to start Super-X?

GO: I’d watched Harrison – he’s a bit older than me – play shows in different bands over the years and I was itching to get into it myself! We were both living together at home at the time and both of us playing guitar just made it easy. We were intrigued by each other’s styles – I’d say Harrison is more technically astute, while my own style is a bit more naive and abrasive. We both wanted to play in a band that was a bit grimier and more ferocious than what we had previously done, so we outlined a bunch of key influences that we both enjoyed and started jamming regularly. After a while Harrison wrote the guitar line for ‘Weapon-X’, which is where we found our sound. A little after that we recorded our first demo, with me playing drums – it’s still up on our Soundcloud!

Can you tell us a little bit about the writing process for your debut self-titled album? Do you write collaboratively?

GO: A lot of the time we just bring in a riff or even a drum idea to practice and see where it takes us. Super-X rehearsals are always really fun: we spend a lot of time just jamming and improvising together. Harrison, Kaelan [Emond ] and I have been playing together now for a while so we all know how to interact with each other, when to rise and when to tone everything down. After we have the instrumentation down then we usually work on our lyrics – often it just begins with a murmur and becomes more fully formed as the song grows.

The album was recorded over six months between August 2019 and February 2020 at Invention Studios in Footscray working with Ryan Fallis and Mathias Dowle. Ryan & Mathias are fantastic to work with – they are incredibly patient, contribute great ideas and have one of the most incredible guitar pedal collections I have ever seen, including a number of pedals from the former U.S.S.R that they let us use! They are also lovely dudes, highly recommended!

Was it intentional to take your time recording or was it a necessity because of other commitments?

GO: In 2019 we had actually hit a bit of a slump with the band. We were all beginning to lose a bit of interest and all had a lack of direction with what we wanted to do and had all considered breaking the band up. We had tried recording a year prior but were pretty disappointed with the results. With work and other musical commitments (Kaelen plays drums in Obscura Hail, and I play rhythm guitar in Future Suck) we were also struggling to find the time to devote to Super-X. It was at this stage we decided to take a gamble and head back into the studio with Ryan Fallis & Mathias Dowle at Invention Studios. We were pretty unprepared in a number of ways, a lot of songs were only 80% complete, but I think taking this risk definitely added a bit of vulnerability and excitement to the sessions. We weren’t really sure what was going to come out of it and we just dived in head first. The album was recorded as live as possible with very minimal overdubs. We’d been thinking about the structure of the album for a while: we wanted a strong narrative and a focus on ambient and sound pieces throughout. Figuring out the exact track listing and order of the album was really exciting – we experimented with it as the tracks started to take shape – and ultimately pretty satisfying.

What influenced your choice to go with a real bare-bones vocal?

GO: Harrison and I aren’t natural singers, and the focus of Super-X has always really been on instrumentation, with lyrics and vocals taking a bit of a backseat a lot of the time. I think a lot of our inspiration vocally came from a the early Iceage LP’s. We wanted a delayed sound on the vocals and to have them gritty and pretty low in the mix. I think lyrically we just wanted them to be direct and to the point as possible so they could pierce through all the distortion and effects.

The album came out right in the middle of lockdown because of the global pandemic; how did you feel about not being able to play shows for its release? Any plans to play shows soon?

GO: I was actually quite thrilled with the album coming out in 2020. It’s such an iconic year for all the wrong reasons, but with no shows on and everyone having a lot of solitude I think it enabled us to carve out our own space and get the interest of Spoilsports records and Polaks, who did a joint release for the album. I think a lot of people took the time to actually give it a spin who might not have given it the time of day in other circumstances. Friends and fans have always described our music and live shows as a bit dystopian so I think having it released in 2020 is sort of fitting funnily enough?

We’ve actually got two shows coming up! Thursday March 4th at the retreat with Crash Material and our official LP launch on Saturday March 27th at Old Bar. We will be revealing the full line-up a little further down the track for that one.

What’s the most fun you’ve ever had playing a show? Where was it? What made it a blast?

GO: I lived in a massive pretty run-down house with an enormous backyard in Caulfield from 2015-2020. A lot of the LP was written in that house and is based on that particular chapter of my life. We had a bunch of parties with my housemates and would get bands to play in the lounge room which would always go off. There’s something about seeing live bands outside of the normal constraints of a venue which gets people really fired up. We had over 100 people at one of the parties and set up smoke machines and strobes, we had a fire lit outside and a TV at the end of a dark corridor looping Clint Eastwood’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly on high volume. Super-X played with Tony Dork (who just released a brilliant LP on Legless last year!) and it went off! Both bands played well and I’ve got some pretty memorable photos from the night. After bands we had a bunch of techno sets going well and truly into the early hours. Someone put the smoke machine on full blast and the dance floor turned into a thick, smoky nightmare scene for an hour or so with people panicking and spilling out into the backyard. My neighbours wouldn’t look me in the eyes for months after! I went to a music festival a year later and a guy I swear I had never seen before in my life came up to me and was preaching to me about how it was one of the best parties he had ever been to haha. It was loose.

Travel has been off the cards for most people for a while now because of the pandemic but if you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

GO: I had plans to go to Brazil for a 6-8 weeks on my own but COVID of course fucked everything up. I’ve always loved hot weather, good food and to be as far away from anyone who’s first language is English as possible when travelling. In 2018 I travelled through the Balkans and wound up getting a bus from Athens to Gjirokaster in Albania. Its where the dictator Hoxce was born and has a pretty fascinating history. There’s loads of old Nazi war loot that the Albanian army kept after they defeated the axis in the castle, including old tanks and captured flags, weapons and a documentation on how they defeated the retreating axis armies, which is pretty interesting. Albania was definitely a highlight of recent years, beautiful country and off the beaten track.

You did the artwork and design for the album; did you study art? How did you decide on the imagery? What made you go with a stark black & white palette?

GO: Yeah, I did! I did a fine arts course at RMIT specialising in drawing, so I was glad to put it to use for creating the imagery for the album. I’ve always been a firm believer in that the imagery and aesthetics of bands are just as important as the music. It’s got to be strong, bold and to the point. I honestly think if the Germs and Black Flag didn’t have their great aesthetics (the four bars symbol and Germ’s circle one logo) they wouldn’t be anywhere near as popular as they are today. People want to feel cool when they wear your band t-shirt or buy your record so the aesthetics have got to hold up.

Locally HTRK have incredible design for every release they do, I’m a massive fan of them. Nigel Yang is one of my favourite guitarists.

With Super-X I wanted something equally as bold so I decided on an industrial looking electrical plug image. Super-X is pretty mechanical and wild sounding at times so I think it suits what we do. I think for a debut LP classic black and white can never go wrong. I also drew a lot of inspiration from Peter Saville’s design and techno/ambient LP’s from the ‘90s like Underworlds Dubnobasswithmyheadman and Autechre LP’s. A lot of musical groups the less you see of the artists themselves sometimes the better, it creates more mystique and intrigue.

I never want Super-X LP’s to be about my Harrison, Kaelan or myself, or the way we look or whatever or to have us pictured on the front or back cover. I want the experience of listening to a Super-X LP to be like putting on a film with narrative of beginning, middle and end. With a strong emphasis on visual bold aesthetics to suit. The less focus on us as individuals the better. I’m a firm believer in that.

Have you been working on anything new?

GO: We have! We’ve got a bunch of tracks we’ve started to develop and have been working on some ideas in terms of sound and aesthetics for the next piece. It’s going to sound a little bit different.

Who are some bands you love that we should know about?

GO: I think locally Romero – shit hot band that a bunch of our buds play in. I used to play drums in the guitarist Ferg’s post-punk band Eyesores years ago when I was cutting my teeth playing my first ever shows. These guys are working on an LP that I am very much looking forward to, it’s really fun rocking power-pop. I really dug the new TOL album, Justin Fuller has influenced me a lot, he’s an amazing guitarist and always creates a very intense atmosphere. It’s like gothic tinged hardcore? I’m really enjoying Snowy Band, beautiful gentle pop and the production is excellent.

What’s something that’s been interesting you lately that you want to share with others?

GO: I recently discovered Japanese cyberpunk metamorphoses films from the early ‘90s. 964 Pinnochio (check out the trailer on YouTube for an idea) is fucking wild, I guess you could describe them as industrialist-fetish films? and the soundtracks is an absolutely incredible mix of techno and ambient selections I’ve never heard. The director Shozin Fukui also directed Rubber’s Lover which is just as twisted as 964 Pinnochio. There’s also Tetsuo The Iron Man which is more well known by Shinya Tsukamoto. These films are very confronting! Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Please check out SUPER-X on bandcamp; on Facebook; on Instagram; on Tumblr. Super-X’s self-titled debut album out via Spoilsport Records and Polaks Records.

Melbourne rock n rollers Civic’s bassist Roland Hlavka: “Sounds someone recorded seventy years ago can make you want to punch a wall or cry yourself to sleep.”

Photo: courtesy of Flightless. Handmade collage by B.

In November last year beloved Melbourne rock roll band Civic put out their first release 7” Radiant Eye on new label home Flightless Records; powerful and exciting with a muscular sound and caveman groove, flourishes of psychedelic apocalyptic guitar meltdown, cutting through fire hooks. As we eagerly await their debut full-length, slated for early this year, we caught up with bassist Roland Hlavka.

What did you get up to today?

ROLAND HLAVKA: I went to work for a few hours moving furniture. It was hot!

When Civic first started, around 2016/2017, I know your concept was to simply play good rock n roll; what embodies good rock n roll to you?

RH: I think it was more to just make music we collectively listen to and like. Which happened to be rock n roll at the time. The type of music we play, I personally think just needs to be loud, catchy and have a fairly even mix of not caring and caring too much. A lot of what we do is very thought out. But you need to balance that with some naivety, or you just end up sounding like what’s been done.

Why do you think rock n roll matters?

RH: It’s pretty obviously influenced popular culture for the last 70 years, be it in music, fashion, art etc… countless sub-cultures have come from “rock n roll”. It has changed and morphed over the years. But I think what hasn’t changed is its sentiment. Doing or making something because you think it’s good and it conjures a feeling. And doing it regardless if it’s well received or not.

What’s one of the staple records in your collection that you always keep going back to? What do you appreciate about it?

RH: This is going to be pretty obvious coming from us but The Stooges first three albums. I still listen to them heavily to this day. What always fascinates me is hundreds, if not thousands, of bands and musicians have used them as a point of reference and no-one in my opinion has even come close to making something in their era that has been so widely accepted as “cool”.

What have you been listening to lately?

RH: Over the last few months I have been enjoying a lot of compilations put together by people I like.

One to note has been Sad About The Times a 12″ compilation by Mikey Young. It features a bunch of weird outsider artists and one hit wonders. Lots of great tracks.

Outside the context of this interview… I’ve also been listening to a lot of Westside Gunn and his affiliated acts. Very talented rappers.

There’s often a bunch of sneaky references to both Australian and international bands you love in your music; what’s an Australian band you love that you feel is totally underrated? Why do they rule?

RH: I’m not sure how underrated they are but definitely The Celibate Rifles have been a big influence on us, more so in the early days. As I said early… loud, catchy and a good middle ground of self-consciousness.

In November last year you put out a new 7” and your first release on Flightless Records, Radiant Eye. We’re really digging the brass on the track; what inspired you to add it into the mix?

RH: We had played the song live a handful of times before recording it. And had said to each other it could be cool to have some horns. We are all fans of The Saints and Ed Kuepper in general. Not that this is a nod to them. But the mix between what we were doing and some brass obviously sounds great. So, we called up Stella Rennex [Parsnip/Smarts] while we were recording and got her to come up with a part. We have her playing on a few tracks from the upcoming album too.

On the b-side you covered The Creation’s 1966 hit ‘Making Time’; how’d you come to choosing this song to cover?

RH: That was Lewis’ idea. We liked the idea of having a cover on the b-side. So, we started listing tracks we thought would work. Had a few run throughs at practice and it was sounding good. We recorded it, and it sounds good.

Civic’s full-length debut is coming out early 2021. We’re super excited for it! What can you tell us about it at this point?

RH: It’s twelve tracks. We’ve been working hard on it. There was an idea to make it sound more like an ‘album’ rather than slapped together songs that sound exactly how we sound live. I don’t like this phrase at all, but we wanted it to ‘feel like a journey’. I think there is a pretty diverse group of songs on the album in my opinion. Some of which we may never play live. But as I said, we worked hard. I like it. Hopefully you will like it.

How do you feel your collaborative relationship has grown since first EP New Vietnam?

RH: We’ve always had somewhat of the same format for a lot of our songs. Someone comes up with a few parts that we piece together at rehearsal. Or, someone will bring a fully finished song to the table and not much, if any tweaking needed. This upcoming album is no different. We all work well together and aren’t afraid to tell each other if something is terrible.

All your artwork thus far has had a red, black & white colour palette; was their much intention behind this? There’s also a one-eyed face both on your Radiant Eye and Those Who No releases; what’s the story with that?

RH: The intention behind the colour choice was somewhat sub-conscious. They are about as bold and contrasting as you can get. Endless bands, brands and companies have used them. Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Ferrari, Supreme… the list goes on and on. I’ve always like labels and bands that keep a similar aesthetic across their releases. Sacred Bones Records have their border and lay-out the same on every release as an example. Your colour choice becomes your brand after a while. This doesn’t work for everyone and every band… and who’s to say our next release will have any of those colours on it. But I think this far it has served us well. And narrows down the decisions on what colours things should be.

In relation to the one eye… people say when one sense is lost the others get stronger. We view this eye as an eye of judgement. Everyone more so now than ever is being watched and documented. If I say deodorant too loudly around my phone, when I open an app all of my targeted ads are for deodorant. If I use my credit card to buy something from a website. That information is stored, sold and marketed back at me. As technology advances, so does the eye watching us. We use this eye to our advantage. We have taken away the second eye and have put all the focus on the one, powerful, beautiful eye. Do you see what I mean?

What do you love most about music?

RH: That you can use something to change your mood just by listening. No pills needed. Sounds someone recorded seventy years ago can make you want to punch a wall or cry yourself to sleep.

What’s something you learnt in 2020 that you’re taking into 2021 with you?

RH: If you think something is good you should just do it. Worry about it later, because as we’re seeing now more than ever… you could become completely irrelevant very quickly.

Please check out: CIVIC on bandcamp. Radiant Eye 7″ out via Flightless Records.

Bouba from AUSECUMA BEATS: “Music is everything. It educates me, it gave me the opportunity to leave Africa and to experience different cultures and different worlds.”

Original band photo by: Nick MkK. Textile Work by Anne Harkin. Handmade collage by B.

Ausecuma Beats are a Naarm/Melbourne-based ensemble that have come together from all parts of the globe – Gambia, Guinea, Mali, India, Senegal and Cuba – to explore the idea of transplanting cultural heritage into a contemporary city through the universal language of music and community. Ausecuma Beats is a melting pot of their rich experiences, languages, craft, heritage and cultures. Their mission is to learn from one another and uplift people with their art. Gimmie caught up with bandleader and master djembe player, Boubacar Gaye to find out more about debut self-titled album, out now on Music in Exile (home of another Gimmie fav Gordon Koang).

Hi Bouba! I understand that you are from Senegal in West Africa; what was it like growing up there?

BOUBACAR GAYE: Senegal is a rich country in the west of Africa and there is a strong French and Arabic influence. I was born in Senegal and grew up there as well, so I had the chance to learn Arabic music and culture and also a chance to speak French too. It is a rich culture because there are so many different tribes there. Each region has their own instrument and I had the chance to learn different instruments of each tribe. 

What is one of your favourite things about Senegalese culture? 

BG: Food! My favourite is a fish and rice dish. 

I know that both your father and uncle influenced you with the music they listened to; what would you listen to together?

BG: My uncle liked jazz music like Miles Davis and my father liked old music called tango, so I listened to those styles.  I get the jazz and afro flavour from what they used to listen to. My uncle used to go to parties and he would wear a suit, he would dress well, and I would watch how he would dress. You have to dress up good to go to the nightclub and listen to good music! His influence on me was in clothes as well as music!

What instrument do you like to play the most? What do you love about it?

BG: I like to play a bass drum called a Dum Dum. I’m a djembe player professionally though, but I like both high and low pitch so I can’t just pick one! They both have energy! 

Why is music important to you?

BG: Music is everything. It educates me, it gave me the opportunity to leave Africa and to experience different cultures and different worlds.  I think if I was not a musician, I don’t know what I would be. My family says that I was born for music and I believe so. Good music takes me out of the street and makes me not take the wrong way in life. When I was young, not everyone takes the right track. Thanks to music, I have found my path. Music is my life. 

Photo by: Nick MkK

How did you first feel when you came to Australia? Why did you decide to come to Australia?

BG: I was in Japan for 8 years living there. I came to Melbourne for 10 days visiting a friend who said that Melbourne was a beautiful city and I should come. Japan was already far from home but Australia is also very far! I came to Australia for music and because of curiosity. My friend introduced me to an African drumming company; the boss was very welcoming to me and he introduced a big community to me. There is a strong drumming community here which made me feel that this is a place I can adopt. I was scared to make the move to come here, I already moved to Japan! My visiting holiday was fun but thinking about living here was not easy. There was stress! Was I making the right choice and decision to do this? There is always something I trust – don’t worry, you have the music! The music will lead you to make your own community! Go for it and don’t look behind. Let it go and move forward. Making a move can be a big decision, but be patient and have your goals. It will not be easy but as long as you keep working on it it will be ok. 

I visited and did the tour things, I like the design of Melbourne, you can see the sky. It’s great! In Japan it is very hard to see the blue sky because there are so many buildings. In the winter it feels like there is no day time because there isn’t too much light, so much shadow from the buildings. 

Throughout your debut self-titled album there flows messages of love and respect; what inspired this?

BG: I think respect is an important thing for us as Ausecuma Beats members because we are all different – sometimes language is difficult as the tone can be interpreted in the wrong way for members of the group who are not fluent in English. We need to be careful – the respect needs to be there. We always need to respect each other even if we have different ways of speaking English. We don’t always agree on everything, but we all have to share music and music is love. 

Your latest single ‘Cherie’ speaks about the importance of equality in relationships, especially in marriage; what inspired you to write about that?

BG: Cherie is a French word – you can use ‘cherie’ to make the relationship very nice, “oh my cherie, oh my love, my darling.”  This word,  ‘cherie’ is for caring and loving someone who is your daughter, wife, or husband. 

The track is based on a traditional song which is a true story from an older storyteller. The storyteller donated his music to the world and many musicians reinterpret his songs. He was singing about his wife; “you carry my children, you make me proud as a man, I don’t know how I can thank you, if i go first i will wait for you, if you go first wait for me,  my cherie we are together for everything.” This story is quite old, not from my Mum’s generation but from my Grandma’s generation!

Each track on the album displays the different talents of each musician; what do you feel are your talents?

BG: The groove! I always make sure we are tight. My role is always to control the volume when we are recording or performing. We all have a role and we have to give the same energy, but there needs to be space to solo. There are so many members, we also need to control all of the instruments and make space. I think in Ausecuma Beats, there is no leader in our music because all instruments have space and are equal. My role is to make sure that there is an equal role in the music. 

Why is improvisation an important part of Ausecuma Beats’ creativity? Can you tell us a bit about your song-writing process?

BG: We want to do something beautiful and unique and to do that you have to let there be space for that, space for creativity and composing music. When you’re improvising, sometimes it can be good, but sometimes it can be good and then crash! When we’re improvising, we’re cooking and everyone brings their own ingredients! 

Auseucma Beats music always starts from the engine – the percussion. After this, we compose the melody, sometimes with the belafon, kora, or sometimes from the percussion. The voice always comes on after we have built the road; when the road is smooth the voice comes in. 

What is something important you’ve learnt from your journey as a creative person that you’d like to share with us?

BG: What I have learnt is that it is beautiful to build a community. You feel you’re all on the same page, it’s great! The best things I’ve achieved in my musical career is to build community. Not only with Auseucma Beats but also drumming. We’re sharing the same passion. If you listen and you want to come and dance, you’re part of our community!

Ausecuma Beats’ debut LP out now through Music In Exile.

Please check out AUSECUMA BEATS via this link.

Melbourne punk band The Shifters are: “avid fans of the weirder side of rock n roll and a cocktail of differing lifestyles, habits and dependencies”

Original photo shot in France by @tmphotograph. Handmade collage by B.

The Shifters from Melbourne are a prolific lo-fi DIY band that put a post-modernist spin on punk. Gimmie interviewed vocalist-guitarist Miles Jansen and keyboardist-vocalist Louise Russell to chat about their 2020 releases Live In Gaul recorded from shows played in France, 7-inch Left Bereft/Australia and Open Vault a compilation of 26 unreleased studio material, early demos, live 4-track, live iPhone, covers and solo home demos. We also explore their musical discovery, touring Europe and a double LP in the works!

Tell us a bit about yourself.

MILES: I am a Musician from Melbourne, Australia. I lost my job in hospitality at the beginning of COVID and now studying programming and cybersecurity at VU.

LOU: I am a musician and a chef in Melbourne. I’m originally from Cairns. I’ve just finished my second year of primary education at La Trobe University and can’t wait to finish and get a real job!

How did you first get into music?

MILES: My Grandparents, parents and older brother all had a big musical influence on me growing up. My Grandparents always had Bach and Pachelbel blasting from a custom set of speakers in their house. Mum and Dad were kids of the ’60s, so a healthy dose of all the classics, including interesting additions like [Captain] Beefheart and Lou Reed’s ‘Transformer’.

My brother Liege introduced me to stuff like Wu-Tang, Mobb Deep and Dr Octagon. My little ears did not really relate to what was being said, though I really dug how the music sounded. The loops and samples Wu-Tang use on 36 Chambers was what I liked most. They were young geniuses. Liege also had a good guitar-based musical influence on me through stuff like Sebadoh, Nirvana, Sonic Youth and then skateboarding. Skating for me, like so many others, was a major eye-opener for music. We would religiously watch skate videos that would have some really eclectic soundtracks, then dub the music and make mixtapes with skate noises in the background. Gang of Four’s Entertainment! was probably my biggest ‘lightbulb’ moment. Sometime after hearing that I started to meet musicians at local punk shows in Brisbane. There was a great little scene happening back then.

During that time, James Kritzler (White Hex, Slug Guts /author whom I lived and played in a band with at the time) gave me a CDR with The Fall’s ‘How I Wrote Elastic Man’ on it! I’d never heard such an interesting use of language in ‘Punk’. I was mesmerized. As the late, great MES said himself, “real head music”. I was thereby sold and my love for them still trumps all of the fantastic music I’ve been made aware of since. The band with James was called ‘On/Oxx’. It was a strange concoction of sounds but it was through that I got into the Liars album ‘Drums Not Dead’, the drums on that record are really great and we were just kinda rhythmically ripping them off. It featured saxophone, which James called “skronking”, two drummers- ‘Butthole Surfers’ style and sometimes James would bang on bits of metal with contact mics attached. He is the very smart, charming and talented ringmaster of sorts. I pretty much did as I was told. It was a great first band to be in. We toured in Australia two or three times, released a 7” and an LP, then it suddenly all ended after the bass player Lachlan moved to NZ to join ‘Die!Die!Die!’.

LOU: I guess my initial introduction to music was playing the piano. My parents refurbished a 1901 upright piano they found at an antique store and I started learning on that at age 7. We lived in middle-of-nowhere Far North Queensland and I had some pretty weird piano teachers. One was obsessed with porcelain dolls and another used to take her false teeth out and put them on top of the piano before each lesson. I only learned classical pieces but always had an affinity for anything in a minor key. I loved gettin’ a bit spooky.

Mum and Dad listened to a lot of music from the ‘80s and ‘90s. Mum was a fan of Alanis Morissette and Savage Garden whilst Dad loved The Clash and Radiohead. I remember my dad having a copy of Beck’s album Odelay from 1994 and it was my favourite. That was probably my introduction to music that differed from Britney Spears and Spice Girls.

I had atrocious taste in music as an adolescent. I think the first cd I ever bought was the first Panic! At the Disco album. I listened to it on this old Walkman mum found at the tip shop. I knew every word and had a massive poster of them above my bed. Probably alongside Pete Wentz or something.

Like a lot of people from my generation, I went through that whole emo/scene/hardcore phase. In that progression, too. We didn’t get a lot of acts up in FNQ and when we did they were those all-ages hardcore shows. I think the first band I ever saw was either The Amity Affliction of Parkway Drive. If I hear them now I cringe. Things kinda just got darker as I got older and I started getting into black metal and death metal. I remember someone showing me Cradle of Filth’s album Midian in year 8 and I thought it was so sick. I’d never heard music like that before. An older kid at my school let me borrow his Children of Bodom in Stockholm 2006 DVD and I remember being hooked after that. Watching these dudes with long greasy hair and camo pants, one shredding a keyboard faced the wrong way around and another coking sausages over barrels of fire. Loved it.

My parents were always super supportive of all the music I listened to – even if they didn’t understand it – and I think that’s what’s allowed me to be so diverse in what I enjoy musically. Moving to Melbourne in 2011 opened my eyes to the punk scene. I had a lot of older friends from Queensland that were musicians down here and I would tag along to shows. I remember seeing a lot of Drunk Mums, Eddy Current Suppression Ring and Total Control. I don’t even know what kind of music I’d be into if I didn’t move to Melbourne and be immersed in this scene. Being in The Shifters has definitely influenced my taste in music a lot. These guys have introduced me to a lot of crazy and cool stuff.

What are some things that you are really good at?

MILES: The ability to sit for very long periods, playing ‘mini headbutts’ with my cat, ranting about bygone nonsense and pointing out all of the mistakes in war films.

Honestly, I don’t think I’m REALLY good at anything, maybe I’m just ‘good’ at a few things? and bad at most other things. If I had a barometer that measures how useful individual citizens were for the betterment of the current order, I would fare pretty poorly.

LOU: I wouldn’t say I’m ‘really’ good at anything. More than I’m adept at some things. I’m getting good at barbecuing. My partners calls me The Pitmaster. I like making things. I’ve been making little models out of balsa wood and I think I’m alright at that. For my teaching course I have to make a lot of arts and crafts type things so I’ve been getting pretty good at that. I’ve also become quite the gardener. It’s super cute watching plants grow and I find gardening therapeutic.

What influences culminated in creating The Shifters’ sound?

MILES: A mutual love for similar ideas and sounds. For example, Tristan has always loved the sound of live Velvet Underground recordings. I just messaged him to ask what age he got into them and he sent me this:” Dad showed me the Velvets when I was 8, and it ruined my life”. I feel we were on a similar musical path. The Shifters are avid fans of the weirder side of rock n roll and a cocktail of differing lifestyles, habits and dependencies.

LOU: I think a combination of everyone’s varying music tastes and history. I’ve always been attracted to weirder, askew types of music and I The Shifters’ music fits that mould. Tristan, Miles, Ryan and Chris all knew each other from yonks ago and share a lot of common interests. I was a newer recruit so I’m not sure if I have directly influenced our music but it’s definitely a mix of everyone’s eclectic tastes in music.

What contributes to your raw, jangly Shifters’ guitar tone that we love so much?

MILES: Listening to too much John Cale and Swell Maps, not really knowing how to play the thing is a good start, not using any pedals also helps. When I started getting into this kind of music as a teen I would look at photos or watch footage and like a sound and see where their hands were placed. All the guitarists thus far in the group have been self-taught (to my knowledge).

When I lived in London I played in a Cramps cover band and that was really handy in terms of learning classic chord progressions or shapes. They asked me to play with them as they knew I played a little guitar. They laughed so hard at me during first practice as I didn’t know an A from a C and still don’t really. I know I can play all the chords but I don’t know which ones I’m doing. Sorry Shifters.

LOU: Probably just always being a little bit out of tune. Somehow, no matter how much we tune up, someone, or all of us, is slightly out of key. Someone – usually me – forgets what notes to play and sometimes that can work in a dissonant way but a lot of the time it doesn’t. We don’t really use any pedals or effects and always try to strip it back a bit. I guess that’s what gives us that ‘jangly’ sound.

Art by Miles.

You recently released a Live In Gaul recording from shows you played in France early last year. It was recorded on Tristan’s iPhone; can you tell us a bit about your time in France? What was it like? What did you see? Did anything surprise you?

MILES: We went over not knowing what to expect. I knew that we had been selling a few records over there but had no idea the level of support we were to receive. There were people who knew the words to songs and were singing along at shows and asking for autographs every night. I was gobsmacked. I don’t remember signing anything in Australia. Moreover, it wasn’t like they were all Shifters fans, but they were just really psyched to see a somewhat ‘weird’ band from the other side of the world come to their small University town or Industrial city during the end of winter. We played to over 500 people in Paris. For a band like ours, that’s pretty wild. I think it’s the biggest crowd we have ever played to. I was shocked. We were rolling in cash from selling out of all of our merch and being paid pretty well for shows. Especially Paris. As far as tours go, we couldn’t have asked for more. I think I can speak for all of us here and say it was probably one of the best times we have ever had. There were fights and tears but that is to be expected existing as we were. We did not sleep much, we smoked a million cigarettes a day and drank ourselves silly partying with all of our new-found friends. We ate fantastic food. I love France and the French. I wish we could have done some more sightseeing but it doesn’t quite work like that. It’s the ultimate escapism. No work, no worries really, just get back into the van and do it all over again. We all got sick as dogs! Merci to our friends in France and Belgium. We shall be back whenever we are able.

LOU: Oh man, France was sick. We honestly thought we’d be playing to empty rooms but the crowds were amazing. We hadn’t experienced the calibre of hospitality in Australia compared to France. We were fed every night, given as much booze as we wanted, had parties thrown for us and made to feel comfortable in other people’s homes. We are eternally grateful for those that looked out for us. I knew the cheese and wine would be good but holy dooley, I wasn’t prepared for just how good it was. Especially in Bordeaux *chef kiss*. Have to say, the croissants in Melbourne are way better though so I guess that surprised me. Sorry France.

We made some really rad friends and got to see some cool places. I spent my 25th birthday on a boat in Lyon which is an experience I will never forget. The show in Paris was incredible. We played on another boat on the Senne River to 500 people and that was mad.

I don’t know about the other guys but I got really good at sleeping in the van. I felt really bad for Chris though, who ended up driving us around throughout the UK leg of the tour. We’re all a bunch of babies that can’t drive except for Chris. Tristan kept us entertained with a comic series he called Cucumber Man. He even came up with a theme song. He started singing “I’m a cucumber man and I do what I can” during sound checks and it almost brought me to tears every time.

I think we ate our weight’s worth of servo sandwiches and learnt that European McDonald’s don’t do all day breakfast which was a bummer on our rock dog schedule. 

The combination of being so sleep deprived, hungover, excited and wired made for some pretty funny and memorable moments. It was a really great experience and something we will look back on in awe for the rest of our lives.   

In March this year you released Open Vault a compilation of 26 unreleased songs including studio material, early demos, live 4-track and live iPhone, covers and solo home demos recorded between 2016 and 2019; what inspired you to put these out into the world? Often bands are shy to share their demos. Did you have a process for choosing what was included?

MILES: I just like them. Aside from the studio-recorded stuff, to me, it sounds like Daniel Johnston met up with John Cale, got really hammered, then tried to make their own White Album on GarageBand only using the inbuilt mic on an old MacBook. Whether they were successful or not is another question. I also just wanted to put SOMETHING out as releases were all put on hold due to COVID.

It turns out some other people rather liked it and we have recently been approached by a German label that wants to release it as a double LP late in the year or early next. Danke Kamerad!

Your Left Bereft 7-inch has just come out also; how did the A-side title track come into being? Lyrically it seems to talk to the current frustrations with our society’s systems and the information we’re bombarded with from news etc. in our daily lives.

MILES: Well I feel things are a bit different now as these were all written pre-COVID, but still valid as it seems the new federal budget is a welfare package for the bosses of the country and the Liberal party is back on track making the poor suffer. It came about when we returned from our European tour. I made a point throughout the yomp to talk to as many people as possible about what was going on in their respective countries politically and socially. At the end of it all I was left with the impression that everyone felt in a similar way to myself about their own Governments and fracturing communities. ‘Left Bereft’ is an overly simplified rabble-rouser that people who maybe use English as a second or third language can understand and maybe feel a bit of solidarity. I like to imagine drunk students in France listening to it whilst wrestling on the kitchen table, which we witnessed in Rennes, but the soundtrack was ‘Constant Mongrel’.

Can you explain to us what the 7-inch B-side Australia is about?

MILES: It’s more or less in the same vein as ‘Left Bereft’ but more localised. I think only those familiar with Australian happenings would know what the hell I’m on about. To be honest, I think I was just in a fairly grumpy mood writing both of them. I love Australia and wouldn’t swap my passport for any, BUT saying that I think this country has been an absolute embarrassment in terms of turning into free-market capitalism’s wet dream. I would happily see many Liberal and National party politicians get life sentences in prison for crimes against humanity, the environment and the general erosion of 90% of the population’s best interest. Nepotism and corruption are rampant within the Liberal party but your average Aussie does not give a toss as it’s not reported in the major outlets as the news is dictated by the Liberal party, who is dictated by Mr Murdoch, who owns all of the major outlets, aaaaaaand Bunnings is still open. Instead of watching a horror movie tonight, just watch Sky News Australia on YouTube!

Australia is not the benevolent, all welcoming, sun-bleached, forward-thinking country that the media likes to portray. We may have had some of those attributes in the past, but sadly they have been slowly pulled from under us. Shame, as we have all of the ability and necessary attributes to sustain a far better standard of living for all people today and tomorrow. 

Is it important for you to tell a story in your songs? They often have some kind of social commentary thematically.

MILES: No, I don’t think so. I don’t sit there and think “I need a story for this song” It just falls to what interests, amuses or bemuses me at the time. I have noticed something that does seem important to me, and that is to use words that have multiple meanings wherever possible so it can be adjusted by your own interpretation of the content.

LOU: Miles writes most of the lyrics and I don’t think he’s ever purposely trying to tell a story in the songs, but they usually become some sort of history or politics lesson. Which is cool, ‘cause learning is fun!

What’s the hardest thing The Shifters’ have ever had to do as a band?

MILES: Probably the Euro tour?? We are all pretty quiet and reserved people most of the time and that tour kicked the shit out of us. In many ways.

LOU:  Definitely the Europe tour. We were all so sick. Except for Ryan. Lucky dude. That man has an iron immune system. When I came back I had bronchitis and felt like absolute death. I also looked about 10 years older. That’s what no sleep, high adrenaline and endless partying will do to you. We all had our grumpy moments and I think just being around each other in those bad times was pretty hard.  

What’s coming up for The Shifters?

MILES: We have the double LP compilation to look out for. Hopefully, we can get together again soon as a band to write/record a new LP. We have not been able to get together since March as Melbourne has been under strict lockdown.

 LOU: I just wanna see everyone! We haven’t jammed in months and I miss my dudes. Can’t wait to go to the pub, have a bunch of beers and reminisce. We were really keen to go back to France at some point this year but then life got cancelled because of COVID. Hopefully we can tour again at some point. At the moment we’re all just keen to see each other and write some new stuff! We are seeing some light at the end of the tunnel and hopefully, we can meet soon.

What are you most excited about right now?

MILES: I’m unsure about using the word excited, but I’m very intrigued right now by the general collapse of the Nu Roman Empire. Electing Trump was a Rubicon moment, of sorts. Though I think they had their ‘Pax Romana’ a long time ago. The fall of the Western Roman Empire was a gradual decline in the upkeep of state administration and the inability to pay its troops holding the borders of a bloated and fracturing empire in a time of famine and crop failure. Landowners and senators slowly ‘left out the back door’ so to speak, and started hiring out-of-work soldiers to protect their own interests in volatile provinces left in a vacuum of post-Roman centralised authority. Thus, began sowing the seeds of European feudalism. Trump = Commodus. History can be screamingly interesting. 

LOU: I’m excited to make money again! I haven’t had a job since June. I never thought I’d say that I miss the stress and pressure of a kitchen environment but I honestly do. I feel like I don’t have a purpose at the moment and I’m becoming too much of a hermit. I’ve become a full-blown gamer during lockdown and I’m getting a new PC soon. I guess that’s pretty exciting too! 

Please check out THE SHIFTERS on bandcamp; on Instagram; on Facebook.

Atlanta X Melbourne Hip-Hop Collaborators Suggs: “Artistry in the world is on the brink of coming back to a place of rediscovering what it means to be punk”

Original photo: Jamie Wdziekonski. Handmade collage by B.

Suggs is a hip-hop project from Melbourne musician Zak Olsen (Traffik Island/ORB/ Hierophants/The Frowning Clouds) and Atlanta multi-instrumentalist and rapper Sheldon Suggs. Their first release We Suggs was conceived from collaborating over the internet to create a thrilling alternative, psychedelic hip-hop that’s a real triumph. With lush sounds, a refreshing adventurous musical approach and an exciting original voice gliding the beats, Suggs hasn’t left the Gimmie HQ stereo since it dropped in September.

How are you going?

SHELDON SUGGS: Pretty well. It’s 8 o’clock here so I’m just chilling out [laughs]. Today I took it easy. It’s raining here and the seasons here in Atlanta are changing… just trying to keep sane with my dog and my cat and working on some other stuff here that me and Zak are working on.

What’s it like where you live? Did you grow up in Atlanta?

SS: It’s the South… I grew up between a couple of different places. I was born in California, went to high school in the Chicago area, my mom lives in Atlanta. Though I’ve always moved around a lot, Atlanta has always been a home base. It’s nice, I love Atlanta! It’s a US metropolitan city, probably one of the bigger ones these days. One of the coolest parts about it, for better or for worse, is that you get a good pulse on how people are feeling that are out in the street, dealing with each other and doing things, you kind of get more of a personable, accurate representation of how people are feeling.

How did you first discover music?

SS: Hmmm… I want to think about it and give you my absolute first trigger for music. I can’t necessarily give you the first one but I can get close. The first CD that I ever bought was NSYNC’s No Strings Attached [laughs], I was so happy about it! I knew all the songs, I used to perform for my parents, it was the funniest thing. Besides from that, I was in a band in school, I played a number of different instruments, I still do. As far as rap’s concerned, the first rap CD that I bought was probably either Common’s Be album or Kanye’s College Dropout—both were very, very important for me. They gave me a lot of inspiration! I’ll never forget when Kanye West dropped his single ‘Jesus Walks’ and when I heard it I freaked out!. I think I was in 7th Grade. I heard it on the radio with my mom in the car and I was like; stop the car! What song is this?! I demanded to know what song it was because I thought it was so crazy and so different, someone was on the radio talking about a topic like Jesus! [laughs]. All the knowledge I had of Jesus at that point was my parents taking me to church. To hear this rapper rapping about Jesus in a way that wasn’t corny, it was crazy!

It’s a powerful song. I love that era of Kanye. All the stuff he was dropping was really cool and different. When Kanye came out he was so different to everything else that was happening.

SS: That was totally a different time, for everybody.

So were they the albums that inspired you to start rapping yourself?

SS: Yeah. I heard ‘Jesus Walks’ and then I heard Common. I love that Be album so much because it elaborates on the kind of aesthetic and feeling Kanye had on ‘Jesus Walks’—nice, good, soul food! It’s nothing special or flashy but when you eat a good home-cooked meal, as long as it sits in your stomach well, it tastes familiar and gives you that feeling of satisfaction, that’s what that did for me at that time.

My older cousins were big into Jay-Z, I was pretty into Jay-Z too at the time, ‘cause that’s who was the biggest star. When Kanye started coming around and you started hearing about his solo stuff and how he’s produced this, that, and the other… it’s crazy looking back on it because that was my champion, so to speak. My older cousins are super cool and I was trying to be like them, trying to catch up and then Kanye comes along and now I have something that I can grab onto and call my own.

As an artist, what are the things that you value?

SS: It’s kind of corny but the authenticity is really big for me. It’s not so much just authenticity, it’s something that’s kind of hard to explain because it’s an art in and of itself to express yourself, clearly, it’s an understatement. In creating, if anybody is creating, if you’re working, most of the time you know what you’re supposed to do and usually the problem, if you have one, is how to do it. Most of the time I feel that you know what to do and know how to go about doing it and that’s the skill that I believe you have to develop as an artist. What I hold near and dear is staying in the proverbial moment, not being afraid and pushing the button when it needs to get pushed and maybe letting go of it when it needs to be let go of is super important. What I value most, as far as artistry, is to know when to go and know when to stop.

When you write lyrics is it from a personal place or more observational of what’s going on around you?

SS: Definitely both for sure. I feel like my artistry has changed a lot over the years. I had actually stopped rapping completely when me and Zak linked up.

How did you meet?

SS: It was a lot of space talk on the internet! Some people like to call me humble, I totally respect that, I just think I know when to be aggressive and know when to hang back… I saw Zak posting things about hip-hop, he posted something to do with J Dilla and I was like, OK, J Dilla! I messaged him because I’m a huge fan of pretty much anything to come out of Australia to be honest—ORB, Traffik Island, anything to do with Zak, I love! We started going back and forth. I wasn’t rapping at the time but when I started picking it back up, I noticed how different it was. It’s been quite a trip witnessing it because I came from a place that I was previously into it, it was more from a place of anger, if I’ve got to be honest! It is what it is …comparison to now is that it’s coming from a place of understanding, a place of purpose and duty.  

What was it that started you rapping again?

SS: We were chatting, I mentioned that I could rap and he sent a beat, we played around with it. The ‘Silence!’ on the album was the first song we ever did. It was funny, we linked up on [King] Gizzard’s [and the Lizard Wizard] tour when it came to Atlanta. There were a couple of people coming up to me and asking me how I know Zak and I said we met online and did a couple tunes here and there, they had heard one of our songs and they were digging it. Once we made that song we never stopped.

That’s one of my favourites on the album. Sending songs back and forth to each other over the internet, you made it over a three month period, right?

SS: Yeah. When we decided, OK let’s put a project together, I’d say it took course over a three month period.

Do you have any favourites on the record? I’m sure you love all of them or you wouldn’t have put them out, obviously.

SS: I’m not that egotistical… most artists are egotistical [laughs]. If I had to say a favourite it would have to be ‘Thank Christ’. I’m not super religious or nothin’. The reason it’s my favourite is because how I’m not super religious but it’s still there kinda what it means to me… its got a special place for me. I wanted to put that song there, it’s kind of clickbait in a way. I know people would see Christ and be like; yo, what’s he talking about with Christ? The song is maybe a wake up, a flash in a moment where you’d expect to talk about the idea of a saviour, the idea that a saviour came to save you… it’s not about believing in it… I think a lot of times self-improvement, sometimes people catch themselves up on it because they think they have to change… what I have gathered from Christ… I grew up getting dragged to church Sunday morning and I wanted to go out and play basketball or do whatever I wanted to do, church isn’t my cup of tea but, what I gathered from those trips is, you don’t have to change yourself to improve yourself, in fact, when you’re improving yourself you’re probably setting the parts of yourself that you don’t want to have anyway if you could choose to. It’s abstract how I put it but that’s why that song is important to me, to refresh people’s minds and put it to them that, hey, it’s not this condemning thing; at the same time it’s poking fun and pointing a finger so to speak at people that claim to be good and do bad. There’s a line in there: I thought this century’s meme was to uplift women. That right there demonstrates to me the purpose of the song is, if we claim to be on the same page about ‘xyz’; why is it not really so?

What about the song ‘Pearls’?

SS: [Laughs] It’s funny that you said that because if ‘Thank Christ’ is my serious favourite, ‘Pearls’ is my wholesome favourite ‘cause…. Zak sent that beat to me late at night, I heard it and instantly wrote the song. I love when that happens because you know it’s going to be a good one. What’s so sick about it is, that’s the song that most people generally speaking would put as their single, we had an idea of what we wanted this album to be taken as and it shows that we can also… the album is largely heavy and heady but ‘Peals’ is like, FYI, hey, we can make a Wiz Khalifa pop single too! [laughs].

I love pop! I can hear the pope elements for sure.

SS: It’s pretty cool having it on there. More often than not I attack the song when I hear the beat, that’s what will start writing lyrics for me. If I hear the track sometimes I automatically know how I want to approach it, like ‘Pearls’ it had this airy, cool, not so serious but awesome vibe. It was a sight for sore eyes because writing had been so intense. I was going so tough on a lot of stuff and being relentless that ‘Pearls’ is a refresher in a more poppy way. I like pop too. It gets spat upon, especially now days ‘cause anything poplar gets spat upon. The proof is in the pudding though.

Do you have reoccurring themes you write about?

SS: People closest to me, I’d imagine that on that list that numbers one through five would say, kind of a social philosopher type of situation. I’m very hard on myself, unfortunately; it tends to make it that I’m hard on everybody else around me, it’s something I’m constantly keeping in check. Lately when it comes to what we’re doing with Suggs and in the future, it would be this route of just taking a look at myself and the world and seeing what’s going on, that’s where I get a large portion of the topics I talk about. There’s such a huge space right now for artists to express themselves in a time where expression is being manicured. I think we’re on the front period. Artistry in the world is on the brink of coming back to a place of rediscovering what it means to be punk. Punk to me demonstrates… if there’s one genre I had to pick that is the most honest… metal and punk is white people’s rap [laughs]. The reason I say that is that it’s true, it’s visceral, it’s hard and it’s hardcore. Hip-hop and punk have very similar trajectories as far as where they were and where they are now. It’s high time for us to get back to where we were.

Both are about community and DIY.

SS: Definitely. It’s so true. It’s the raw energy and frustration being expressed in real time—that’s awesome! We need more of it.

Did you learn anything about yourself writing the We Suggs record?

SS: I rediscovered the sense of purpose and how it is intrinsically connected to creation and intuition. We all try to force stuff at times and make something happen because we think it should happen and it’s what we want to happen but, what I’ve rediscovered through this process is the things that truly effected my trajectory were things that were beyond my control; what was under my control was my choice and my action and whether or not I acted in the moment or let it pass.

You mentioned before that you’re not religious; are you spiritual?

SS: I don’t want to prescribe to being religious or spiritual. The reason is because both have connotations that are not true. Alluding to it in ‘Thank Christ’ is religion has got a bad rap as has spirituality. I’m a child of God and I’m not afraid to say it, I’m proud in fact but, that also has connotations as well… to explain that would be to explain that in my personal view, the most practical way of explaining God is logic, love logic, I’ll put it like that. That being said I operate in a way that that is void of myself; what would be the best decision? What would be the best way to react by virtue as opposed to how I feel? I’m not a religious or spiritual person—I’m myself and a child of God.

Are there any books you’ve read that have meant a lot to you?

SS: I will say this, because I’m not afraid… It’s so crazy that I even have to feel I have to be careful when it comes to these topics of God and truth, it’s crazy because I know how people are going to react… that’s why I had that whole spiel about connotations of religion and spirituality, you’ll get damned either way. What I’m trying to get forth here is the book A Course in Miracles [by Helen Schucman], once I read that, it put me on the path of a very, very, very preliminary path of understanding that it’s not my fault but, now that I know that it is on me so to speak, how I express myself and deal with internal trauma, all that stuff, A Course in Miracles was invaluable. It can lull you into an idea that thinking everything is a flower [laughs] but everything is not a flower! As a whole though it’s done wonders for me dealing with how to navigate blame and what to do after the pain.

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

SS: Zak and I have a new EP coming out. It’s going to be called Who Hurt You? We’re approaching the end of it. We’re excited about it! We’re seizing the opportunity of seeing what’s out there in the world and responding to it.

Please check out: SUGGS on bandcamp; on Instagram.