Power Supply: In The Time of The Sabre-toothed tiger

Photo: Matt Weston. Handmade collage by B.

Power Supply have come together to bring us an inspired record for grim times. The Naarm/Melbourne group features Leon Stackpole (The Sailors), Richard Stanley (Drug Sweat), Per Bystrom (Voice Imitator) and Mikey Young (The Green Child). In the Time of the Sabre-toothed Tiger packs a one two punch with its bright melodies and first-class songwriting. An invigorated, yet chilled and charming style of garage rock, that will have you smiling; the sincere and entertaining lyrics a highlight.

Gimmie are excited to premiere first single ‘Infinity’! We chat with vocalist-guitarist Leon about the track and forthcoming album, out October 22, a co-release between Anti Fade and Goner Records.

We’ve been listening to the new Power Supply album In the Time of the Sabre-toothed Tiger on high rotation all week. It’s such an incredible record. It has a really bright feel to it and it’s made us really happy. In grim times, like the world has been experiencing of late, it’s nice to have something like your record to lift the mood.

LEON STACKPOLE: That’s really nice to hear. It makes me feel happy too.

When I recently spoke to Billy from Anti Fade Records (who is putting the record out) he told me that you’re one of the funniest guys he knows. How important is humour in your life?

LS: It’s through everything really for me. I really like music that has a sense of humour. I also like music that is serious too, but I think that some of my favourite stuff has that extra little bit, that humour, in it. I gravitate towards those sorts of things.

One of the things that I really love about Power Supply is your lyrics. There is a comedy in there, but then there is also introspection and a lot of thought behind it.

LS: I think you could say that… [pauses]. Sorry, I’m just walking past my wife in the garden.

Lovely!

LS: There is humour. The lyrics that are on there are probably no particular theme, yeah?

I feel like it’s a real collection of thoughts, from everywhere, just from living life.

LS: Yeah, there is. I made up all of the album pretty much. Probably the ones that get on there are the ones that are the least ridiculous [laughs]. Some of the songs I’d take to rehearsal to play to the guys and they’d just go, “Oh my god, what is that?” [laughs]. They may consider it to play live once in a while, but other than that they just go, “All right, it’s a bit too absurd.”

[Laughter]. I understand that when you got back into the shed to write the record that “jams became songs, jokes became lyrics”; what is one of your favourite jokes that became a lyric?

LS: I think the ‘Time of the Sabre-toothed Tiger’ one makes me laugh. It comes from the concept of when people talk about anthropology and evolution, these sorts of concepts, and how all of our behaviours go back to early humans, back in the time of the sabre-toothed tiger. When my wife and I are talking about things, we’d be like, ‘what would they have done back in the time of the sabre-toothed tiger?’ That crept into the lyrics to the point where I suppose you hop into a time machine and go find out. To me, that’s funny! I don’t know if it is to anyone else though [laughs].

[Laughter] It is. I totally get that. There are a lot of moments lyric-wise on the record that had me smiling in amusement and laughing.

LS: I think ‘Infinity’ is funny as well. That song is completely absurd. I haven’t actually talked about these songs to anyone, you’re the first person I’ve spoken to. It’s funny you’re asking me these questions because I was just out in the bush taking the child for a ride, feeding the guinea pigs and things, it was getting closer to the time for us to chat and I thought, aww sheezus those songs, I have to talk about those songs! [laughs]. I called up Per and said, Per, what do you think are the themes of the songs on this album? He said, “It’s kind of like all these songs that you made up before lockdown that kind of predicted lockdown. Fuck, we’re soothsayers or something like that!” [laughs]. I don’t know if I honestly believe that, but it’s interesting to hear his perspective on it.

I love how the opening lyrics for ‘Infinity’ literally say that Mikey sent you an MP3 and the title was ‘Infinity’.

LS: [Laughs] That’s exactly how it happened.

Did you ask Mikey about why he called it ‘Infinity’?

LS: I never did ask him about it. My son became a but obsessed by that song. With the last verse about lying on your deathbed, he’s like, “What’s a deathbed, dad?”

Wow. That’s a big question.

LS: [Laughs] Yeah. Then he became obsessed with the concept of infinity as well. I pinched all of his little phrases that he says for the other song… what’s it called?

Photo: Raven Mahon

‘Infinity and 90′?

LS: Yeah. ‘Infinity and 90’.

I was going to ask you if there is a connection between the songs ‘Infinity’ and ‘Infinity and 90’?

LS: Yeah, there’s a connection… I’ve never really thought of this before. So, since hearing ‘Infinity’, my son was obsessed with the concept and we were driving along in the car and he’s like, “Daddy, I think I know the biggest number ever! Infinity and 90!” [laughs]. I wrote it down and when it came time to write the song, I thought they made good lyrics, so I threw Archie’s lyrics on there.

That was one of the songs that had me amused by the lyrics. I also love the line: Does the mountains make the mist or does the mist make the mountains?

LS: I love that one too. We were driving to Melbourne passed Mount Macedon, it was covered in cloud. My son was contemplating that and said that, that’s how that lyric came.

The next line too, about there being a bee in the car; that was real too?

LS: We were in the car and there was a panic. In absolute terror and fear he’s like, “There’s a bee! There’s a bee in the car!” But actually, it was a piece of dust [laughs]. I don’t know how he confused dust with a bee, by the way.

It’s funny because as a listener who has no idea of the backstory of the song, you could listen to the lyrics and it could sound like an abstract metaphor and you could read really into it like, oh this is such a deep concept! In reality though, it comes from the everyday ordinary life stuff you experience.

LS: Yeah, for sure. I love that.

The way you deliver the vocal for ‘Infinity and 90’ is almost whisper-like; what inspired that?

LS: I’d been listening to a lot of La Düsseldorf that day and somehow or another that voice ended up on that song.

I think the vocal delivery really suits it. I also love how every song on the record sounds different. I don’t want to sound too wanky, but the cohesiveness of the album feels like a journey.

LS: Yeah, yeah. There’s nothing wrong with a good journey here and there.

Are there any lyricists that you really love?

LS: Yeah. It’s funny, this morning the local radio station was asking people about that, to text in and say their favourite lyricists. People were writing in fairly regular things. I thought, what would I do? I’ve been listening to Kate Wolf lately, a lot. I ended up texting in and saying, Kate Wolf. Some of her lyrics, songs like ‘Green Eyes’, I love that song. It’s beautiful, just so perfect and genuine.

When did you first start singing?

LS: I used to sing in bed when I was a kid, until I’d finally fall asleep. I didn’t really sing that much until we started a band with some friends of mine called, The Sailors. It was a good band because we’d all jump in and have a go. With Power Supply, I’m trying to get everyone to do backing vocals. I think Mikey is finally coming around to the concept [laughs]. I like to hear backing vocals, I love them.

Same! I’m a big fan of backing vocals. The band No Doubt have some really cool backing vocals that Gwen Stefani does. They’re actually really interesting and have some cool harmonies.

LS: Yeah, right. I haven’t really listened to their records except for the hits and a bit of her first solo record [Love. Angel. Music. Baby]. I kind of like that record.

That record rules!

LS: I like the big hit off of that one. The one where she’s basically struggling to come up with new songs.

‘What You Waiting For?’?

LS: Yes! That’s a classic that song. I do like that record. When the harmonies are done really well it’s just wonderful.

Totally! Do you ever get self-conscious doing vocals?

LS: Not so much anymore. I remember the first gig that us guys played, I didn’t really have any lyrics [laughs]. I was driving to the gig trying to make them up; that was probably a bit nerve-racking.

How did the gig end up going?

LS: Well, it’s amazing what you can get away with! [laughs]. The gig was fine.

Art by Mark Rodda

How did a Mark Rodda painting end up becoming the album’s cover?

LS: That was Per’s research. How it went about it, I’m not sure. We did look at a few different things and a few different artists’ styles. Per looked at all that stuff and we discussed a few. In the end he said, “This is the one.” And, we all agreed.

When you look at the album cover, what do you get from it?

LS: I haven’t seen it for a little while, but it makes me feel warm inside.

[Laughter]. Awww.

LS: It probably looks a little desolate. I’m living in Central Victoria right now, so everything is a little like that sort of a landscape, which I feel pretty comfortable with. How about you?

I get more of a lush feeling from it. The tree gives me ancient forest vibes. I think it ties in with Time of the Sabre-toothed Tiger theme too.

LS: I do recall us making that connection. I do guess that’s why Per suggested it.

What’s one of your favourite things about the new album?

LS: I love the sound; I think it sounds amazing. We recorded it at The Tote in the front bar. We did a residency in September two years ago; we played each Sunday afternoon. We left our gear there on the last night and came in on the Monday and recorded it there, cos we were pretty well-practiced. You’ve got the traffic out the front, I thought it was all going to come through the windows, but it’s fairly well insulated and you couldn’t really hear anything else. In fact, the beer fridge was making more noise than anything else and we had to turn the beer fridge off.

What did recording at The Tote add to the songs or experience?

LS: It made it feel more comfortable because we’d just played there. It’s been hard for us to get together to play. I’ve been in Castlemaine, Mikey is down on the Peninsula, the other guys are in Melbourne. We have to make an effort. We played five gigs in a row over five weeks and recorded, we were hoping that we would feel comfortable, relaxed and well-practised. We do have fun together. We recorded in one day. We’ve added some overdubs and things in since; a few years for some overdubs! [laughs].

How does it feel to finally have the album coming out in October?

LS: A relief really. Just last year I was saying, oh, let’s just put this out on Bandcamp and be done with it. It kind of felt like that for me [laughs].

I’m glad you didn’t just release it digitally. It’s such a beautiful album and deserves a physical release. The album is too special for it to only be digital!

LS: It’s been such a long time since we recorded it all.

Have you listened back to it recently?

LS: Nah, but I probably should. We have been talking about playing some gigs, but I don’t think it’s going to happen for a while.

When we jam and it’s Mikey, Richard and Per just playing away, it’s the best thing for me, I just sit back and listen to those guys.

We’re excited to be premiering ‘Infinity’ the first single from the new album!

LS: That’s so great!

There’s a lot of stuff around water and the environment that seeps into the music.

I know that you work in environment protection roles, so obviously you have a passion for doing that.

LS: For sure. It’s probably the sub-theme in the whole sabre-tooth-tiger-thing—environmental change.

I totally got that. It’s interesting how a lot of the world seems so divided right now and people get so hyper-focused on particular things and who is right and wrong, but they also forget that there’s crazy stuff going on with the planet, climate change, depletion of land and resources. If we don’t have a planet then we’re not going to have anything! It’s pretty much the number one base thing we should be concerned about.

LS: Yeah. It’s pretty fundamental [laughs]… that’s just trying to add some humour to it, because it is fundamental.

Photo: Matt Weston

**Note: This interview is an extract. The entire chat where we talk more about the album, Sun Ra, turning every day occurrences into song, and more, will appear in the October print issue of Gimmie**

Here’s the first sneak peek at ‘Infinity’ from Power Supply’s forthcoming album, In the Time of the Sabre-toothed Tiger:

Available for pre-order HERE at Anti Fade and HERE (in the US) at Goner Records.

MOD CON’s Erica Dunn: “A plea for honesty and a real searching for truth in these sorts of times”

Original Photo by: Jamie Wdziekonski. Handmade collage by B.

Gimmie have loved Naarm/Melbourne trio MOD CON since we first heard their debut release in 2017, the MOD CON/Fair Maiden split 7”. In July we featured guitarist-vocalist Erica Dunn on the cover of our first print edition, and now we’re incredibly excited to premiere the film clip for song ‘Ammo’, the first single off upcoming sophomore album, Modern Condition. We chatted with Erica about the song and clip, and of finally playing live shows again, plus we get a sneak peek into the new record, due out October 1 on Poison City Records.

ERICA DUNN: I’m walking my dog, Poncho. We’re just strolling around in soggy-arsed creek-land.

Nice! How have things been since we last spoke a couple of months ago?

ED: Things have been busy. Sometimes I’m like, it’s a rat race in my mind! [laughs]. There always seems to be a lot to juggle. I feel like it’s a strange new era where, because we’ve been locked down, you have to clear your mental expectations if your mental health is going to be ok; you have to get really present. When the lockdown is lifted it’s fucking crazy the adrenaline kicks in, you feel like everything is on, and you have to make the most of it! There’s also a new gratitude for when you are able to work and do stuff. It’s just, let’s fucking go! [laughs].

You’ve finally got to play some live shows again.

ED: We [Tropical Fuck Storm] were pinching ourselves thinking that the gigs with King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard happened! We played every capital city without a hitch. It was incredible, it felt like normal life. We’re playing a MOD CON show on Sunday and the capacity is forty people, you just have to roll with it. We’re supporting Exek on Saturday night too, they just released one of the best records I’ve heard in ages! There’s only 100 people able to attend, it’s like a parallel universe.

We love that Exek album too!

ED: Shows have been varying degrees of normal. It’s always great to play though. Playing a show to forty people a year ago, might not have seemed worth it, but now I’m like, fuck it! The venue can sell beer and we can party—do it while we can! We have to take it as it comes. It’s hard to know where boundaries are when booking things because it can change so quickly, it’s all go, then stop, then go again. We’re about to release an album into a very different world than when we have previously.

[Erica talks to Poncho: “come on, up you get, in the car!”]

He’s old!

What kind of dog is Poncho?

ED: A mystery boy! [laughs]. He’s probably a Ridgeback mixed with a Staffy. He’s getting on to be thirteen now. He needs help getting into the car, but still loves to cavort around every day. We did our loop of the Darebin Parklands, which is so beautiful.

That’s a lovely way to decompress after rushing around doing things all day.

ED: For sure. There are times when I’m so busy or it’s freezing or raining and I’m like, fuck this! But then I always feel better afterwards.

Yeah, I get that too. Especially if it’s wet or cold, you kind of feel like you really accomplished something. I find that when you push yourself to do something and you do it, then that filters out into other parts of your life and you can start to achieve more and more.

ED: Yeah, that’s a great way to look at it. I’m going off to boxing class later, that’s the real decompression! [laughs].

We’re premiering the clip for your new album Modern Condition’s first single ‘Ammo’; can you remember writing the song?

ED: I was talking to the girls yesterday about it when we were having a practice. It was actually the last song written for the album, which is funny because it’s the first song out. It was the wild card song. It was the last one to get lyrics, I wrote them on the second last day of recording with John [Lee]. I just moved house and it was in the same week I spoke to you last; we just finished recording the record.

The song is not exactly how I have gone about things in the past. We had the riff, structure, tension and trajectory of the song sorted, and in the jams, I was yelling mystery words. In that coming together, we all recognised there was a vibe, an angle, to the song and the stuff I was spontaneously yelling. I had recordings of those jams and captured a couple of the bits of imagery that I was on about. The genesis is, that it was a bit of a mad, haphazard one [laughs].

One of the things we especially love on ‘Ammo’ is the drums!

ED: Raquel [Solier]! Fuck yeah! We were really running on a mad schedule and a couple of things interrupted the recording, [bass player] Sara [Retallick] got real sick and couldn’t make it, and there was a snap lockdown just before we were to start recording, which was meant to be our final pre-production-type thing.

There was a couple of days that Raquel and I did that was a guitar and drums day trying to nut out mystery question marks about a few songs. She came up with this crazy fucking rhythm for this song. It’s so sick! The subtext right there, is that it sounds kind of military-esque, it’s very explosive. She’s a wizard! She’s complicated and it’s fantastic [laughs]. We have a lot of back and forth, she often writes rhythms based on the lengths of my lyrics or parts of phrases. She’s much more adept at musical knowledge and language than I am. I get too fucking muddled and am like; where’s the one?! [laughs].

[Laughter]. I’m excited to hear the full album. How amazing is that remix that Ela Stiles did for ‘Ammo’?

ED:  It was something that we did on the last record too, we approached Jacky Winter to do a remix for us. I don’t know if other artists get this certain hang up, but if you record something it’s strange, it’s like, is that it? It’s very finite in a way and then it’s out in the world. I’m interested in melodies and melody writing and playing around with ways of doing things, it makes sense to chuck out a remix and have a different perspective; another layer on all the ideas that are in there. You can see people’s reactions to it as well, for some people it’s another way into the band. Remixes freak some people out and others think it’s bangin’! It’s another way to explore the world of the song.

We’re definitely on the it’s-bangin’ side of things!

ED: Same!

It’s always cool to hear a song in a new context.

ED: And, it’s fun! Ela is another musician, composer, producer that has such mad chops! I have a lot of respect for her. It’s so cool to see how your song comes back at you and you can see things that someone else picked up, and what they have as the backbone, how they put a whole new spin on it. When I first heard it, I was driving in the car and I was like, far out! It raises your heartrate for sure! It’s anxiety inducing in a good way, especially how she pulled out the melodies.

Let’s talk about the ‘Ammo’ film clip. It was Oscar O’Shea that filmed it?

ED: Yeah, Oscar is someone that is so positive and excitable. He’s a can-do problem solver, up for anything. The clip, artwork and all the things that come beside releasing a song and album, are the stepping stones in which to explore and springboard some of the ideas at play in it. The clip is a play on sitting in a society that is always throwing shit at each other and navigating that, hoping it doesn’t stick, hoping that it doesn’t fly up in your face. It was a couple of packets of Golden Circle pancakes and crumpets, and a few friends on the side chucking them in our faces. It was a challenge trying to eyeball the camera, get the lyrics out and seem unphased [laughs]. It’s an analogy, sometimes I feel like that in life. It was a fun way to build on what I’m ranting about in the track.

It looks cool visually. Did you cop any crumpets to the head?

ED: We got a couple! [laughs]. I definitely got a couple in the face; I could definitely do a blooper reel! Raquel is Kung fu trained and did a couple of badarse, sick moves at the end. She grabs one out of the air without even paying much attention to it, it’s super cool!

I noticed in the clip she was reading The Tao Of Pooh [by Benjamin Hoff].

ED: Yeah, how good! I wanted her to bring along a prop. She was reading it at the time. She’d come over for a cup of tea and she brought up that she had been re-reading that and finding pearls of wisdom in it. I was like, fucking bring that to the clip, it’ll be perfect! That was legit on her bedside table at the time we made the clip. It sat perfectly in this world of trying to be present while everything is exploding overhead. Then we were playing around with the flour and the milk, it was evoking smoke and explosions, which was cool fun to experiment with.

There was a bit of a collab on the clip too. Carolyn Hawkins from Parsnip and School Damage did a bunch of the stop motion.

When we first saw the clip, we totally thought it was reminiscent of her style, that’s so cool it actually is her work!

ED: Yeah, it’s got her all over it. She’s another person that we thought of working with because she’s got the mad prowess, great vision and she understood what we wanted straight away. I sent her an old clip of the Sesame Street [sings] “one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten…” old school thing. I was thinking about “ammo” and thinking about it in all these different contexts, weaponry, and objects in our lives gaining agency. She nailed the undertones of aggressiveness and the sinister aspect that simple objects can have, especially en masse. It’s not overdone or in your face. That’s how I feel at least when I watch it. Part of me is like, woo hoo! Look at those little forks fly! Oh my god they’re getting power! They’re growing and stockpiling and conspiring with each other! [laughs]. There’s an edge to it. Props to my housemates too, that are still wondering when they’re getting their bottle opener back, and our forks!

I love that you’re all such nerds and there’s so much thought that goes into everything you do.

ED: Yeah, it’s true! I feel like there’s two ways of looking at things. In the past, album releases like this have a big emotional weight for me, they can be fucking stressful. You can think, argh! I’ve already put all of my spirit into making the record and now there’s all these other strange hats you have to wear as a musician.

The other thing is, you can see it as extra opportunities of getting to collaborate with people that you want to work with and make it really fun! This experience has been completely fun. I am completely enamoured with what Caz has done, and all of the mad ideas with Oscar; same with Ela. It’s all fun new ways to see the song. A new dimension.

I love that there’s a light-heartedness to it too. The things you’re singing about can be serious, but then the clip give them a levity.

ED: It’s definitely crossed my mind that the song is not prescriptive, I’m not saying there’s a better way or that I have an answer, these are things that are going around in my mind and this is an avenue in which I can explore them. Having a light-hearted aspect is part of my personality, there’s a tongue-in-cheek-ness. Often, I realise retrospectively that I’m asking questions in my lyrics. It’s definitely an exploration.

It’s also a double-sided coin, the band is really serious and aggressive, we play live shows and there’s not much mucking around, the things that the three of us bring to a live show can be pretty staunch! However, the flip is that we’re in love with each other and when we’re playing, we’re having a really good time, it’s just the best for our mental health and for our relationships, it’s what the band is built on, and we’re always laughing. That gets represented in the music and all we put out, in some way.

I’ve always loved the quote from Gareth [Liddiard] where he said: MOD CON is like a cross between The Bangles and Black Flag. I thought that’s pretty on the money, because you have that aggression but then also pop sensibilities.

ED: [Laughs] Yeah! I think he was chuffed about that quote being pulled out about our last record. Maybe it’s just the two bands Gaz knows?! [laughs] Only kidding! I do think there is a crossing of a couple of worlds.

With the new album being called Modern Condition is the title a reflection of the album’s themes?

ED: Yeah. We had a long car trip together recently, we played a show three hours outside of Melbourne, and we were sussing out what the album should be called. We wanted it to be another MOD CON-ism, keeping Mod in the title. I think this is going to be two of three, there’s probably going to a trilogy. This section “Modern Condition” is a bow that can be tied between all of the songs, it’s really exploring human sensibilities. People talk about the human condition, but this is what humans are up to in these kinds of circumstances. If I was going to pull out some overarching themes of this album—it’s mostly a plea for honesty and a real searching for truth in these sorts of times.

“Ammo” is the first cab off the rank to represent that. It’s having a little investigation and inspection of the human condition in modern times. I feel like the backdrop of big scale and small-scale weaponry is the first investigation, without wanting to sound mega highbrow or whatever the fuck! [laughs]. I’m still trying to work it out for myself. It’s investigating myself too; what are my default positions? What am I defensive about? Doing that I’m also trying to investigate how to be open and how not to always be on the default and being defensive and collecting ammo, shit to chuck at another person.

I feel that finding your truth and actually living it can be a very hard thing. I’ve been going through that the last few years of my life, but I can definitely say since I found it and have been living it, nothing but great things have happened.

ED: You’re absolutely right, it’s a life journey! It can be totally confronting. But, once you have realisations about some things in your life, you can’t go back.

Please check out: MOD CON bandcamp; on Facebook; on Instagram. All things MOD CON at Poison City.

Bec Allan and James Lynch of Naarm Garage-Rock Post-Punk Band Delivery: “We are both kind of each other’s hype person… it makes it a really fun positive experience”

Original photo: Sam Harding. Handmade collage by B.

Delivery is an effortlessly cool garage-rock, post-punk combo with programmed beats from Naarm/Melbourne. Today Gimmie are premiering their debut EP Yes We Do in full. Delivery’s Bec Allan and James Lynch were kind enough to fill us in on the energetic release and give us a glimpse into the band.

What do you love about making music?

BEC ALLAN: Really just hanging out with likeminded people and friends, doing a creative thing that we’re all passionate about, nothing funner than that!

JAMES LYNCH: Yeah, just a good excuse to hang out with friends really! Also, quite cool how quick the process can be between making something up and having it out in the world.

How did you both first meet? And, when did you realise you wanted to make music with each other?

BA: We first met at this music festival Boogie in 2017 and have been going out for about four years now… haha. We never really planned to make music together per sé but I guess since we were both doing it separately and share similar musical interests it was bound to happen at one point or another. Also being locked in a room together for a few months helped push that along pretty quickly.

JL: I think we’ve also been big fans of each other’s bands for as long as we’ve known each other, so it was pretty easy to trust we’d be able to make something sorta cool together, even if it was just to pass the time.

Delivery formed in lockdown. You’re both in various other bands – Gutter Girls, Blonde Revolver, The Vacant Smiles & Kosmetika; what did you want to do differently with this new band? I know you started out just making songs up for fun.

BA: We were actually trying to figure out how and why we even started doing this project the other day, but neither of us can really remember haha. I think this band is cool because we both play pretty different music in other bands and it’s kind of a cross over between both our styles. Someone said when we first started that it’s probably the most punk band James has played in and the least punk I have. I think for me, it’s also been really cool to write lyrics for the first time and have a way bigger songwriting input than in other bands.

JL: I guess it was also a nice opportunity to play with someone else who had a pretty different musical background/set of experiences so there wasn’t really an obvious intention to begin with, we just wanted to see what might happen – I don’t think we had any specific goals other than to have some fun with it. It’s definitely forced us both to think about what our usual musical tendencies are, but to also come up with something that suits the group dynamic, which is a good challenge, and I think so far we’ve been able to meet somewhere in the middle nicely.

I love the synthesisers and programmed beats in Delivery’s music; where did your love of these stem from?

JL: To be honest, I don’t think either of us have a proper love for synth heavy or drum machine music haha, this band is my first time ever using drum machines and I know almost nothing about synthesizers. I suppose it was more a necessity to be able to make something interesting from within a bedroom, when you don’t have too many tools are your disposal and can’t really go too loud. That said, I think it’s maybe shifted my brain a bit to be a bit more curious about how bands that I like do use synths and drum machines in cool ways, there’s so many good bands doing this kind of stuff and using those instruments to mess with whatever feels like a ‘normal’ rock band setting. It’s nice to throw yourself in the deep end a bit sometimes too.

Personally, who are your biggest creative inspirations?

BA: Well, I’ve always been really into the 70’s New York punk scene but have definitely been expanding my music taste way more in last few years and that’s probably where more influences for this band came from – recently a lot of garage rock and post punk bands like Parquet Courts / The Clean / ESG / Raincoats and others have been on pretty high rotation so I use them as inspo for sure. Also, just the Melbourne music scene in general is super inspiring and being part of it always keeps me motivated, listening to new stuff coming out constantly and seeing so many sick bands all the time is so cool, so I guess to be able to work on my own things is exciting to be part of it.

J: When we started Delivery, a big reference point was The Intelligence – they’re such a good band and I think a lot of the music coming out of Melb shares a lot of qualities with their stuff but no one really talks about them! Just generally though, I think the biggest inspiration I get is from local bands and friends though, it’s so exciting being in Melbourne and being able to see an amazing band one night and then using that to prompt something in your own music, feels a bit less like you’re ripping off a band if you know them haha.

What puts you in the mood to create?

BA: Literally having any spare time haha… playing in so many bands plus work and uni keeps me busy for sure so getting a sec to relax and just fiddle around on the bass is a bit of a luxury that I try make the most out of when it comes around! And when I can come up with something cool or interesting (to me at least) I pretty much charge with it cause it’s always pretty exciting having something new to bring to the band and work on.

JL: I don’t know if I really need a mood to create either. I think I almost like the idea of having lots of songs more than I like the creative process, so actually making up songs is just a means to an end. I think I’m fairly lucky that I can just force myself to make up ideas if I really want to, so if I do get an idea, I like I’ll run with it regardless of my mood because it’s kinda nice to have another song at the end of the day.

We first heard you on the Blow Blood Records ALTA comp with song ‘Poor-to-middling Moneymaking’; how do you feel your sound has grown since that first song?

JL: A couple of the songs on Yes We Do were written at the exact same time as ‘Poor to Middling’, so that’s a bit of a hard question to answer. I guess both the 7” and that song catches us while we’re trying out different ideas of what Delivery could sound like and maybe testing out a few of our tricks all at once – although maybe the final version of the 7” songs were given a little more focus. We play that song live at the moment though and I’m really excited to do a full band version of that song, maybe once we do that it’ll be easier to compare and see how Delivery has developed. The full band help it rock a little harder I reckon.

Bec, you’ve previously said that writing lyrics is always pretty intimidating; what intimidates you about it and what helps you push through that?

BA: I guess the most intimidating thing is that people will hear what you’re saying and think about it then think it’s lame or bad haha but over time I’ve come to realise people don’t really read into lyrics that much or if you don’t want to give too much away you don’t really have too. Definitely working with our guitarist and my housemate Lisa has made me feel way more comfortable rolling with ideas or even lines of songs. We are both kind of each other’s hype person when it comes to that so it makes it a really fun positive experience and makes me feel way more confident as we go!

What’s something you love about your debut EP Yes We Do?

BA: I love the artwork by Mac Int., massive legend and she hit the nail on the head with it. Feels a bit weird saying what I like about my songs but I will say I love Delivery and everyone in it!

J: I like the drum sound. I also like that Bec and Lisa’s deadpan singing makes us sound a bit more badass than we maybe are.

Was there anything that surprised you about writing or recording this release?

BA: How quickly writing and recording 7” can be done if you want it to be haha – think we decided in April we actually wanted to do this so it all came together pretty quickly.

JL: When we started Delivery, I thought we’d be writing these wild punk songs and then when they were finished it sorta turned out that my most punk still is kinda not super punk whoops. Sam from Spoilsport actually said a nice thing along those lines, that even though we sorta do post-punk there’s still a fair bit of garage and pop smarts about it that maybe helps us stand out a bit from the real punks. If you can’t join them, beat them.

Can you give us a little insight into each song on the EP? ‘Floored’, ‘The Explainer’, ‘Rubber’ & ‘Brickwork’.

BA: ‘Floored’ literally about a stain on my carpet (Lisa and I are pretty precious about our carpet so we were devastated to find it) but also maybe it’s about some other things in life that are stuck and hard to get rid of or move on from. I dunno haha maybe just trying to place some meaning that isn’t there or maybe it is??? You can make what you want of that.

JL: ‘Explainer’ is a song about how you don’t need to hear the end of every story. I’m a sucker for wanting to know what happens next in every irrelevant anecdote, and this is a reminder that you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.

BA: I wrote ‘Rubber’ after a kinda shitty experience buying some things from a music store near me and I guess it’s a little diss track to some people that work at some music stores that don’t always take non-male identifying people seriously, not all stores are like this but it still gets you every now and then.

JL: ‘Brickwork’ is about how anyone who does anything good or shitty is ultimately either as celebrated or held as accountable as the people who back them up. Good to double check the people you hold up deserve your support, I guess.

Sound-wise, why was it important for you to keep some of the spirit of the sound of your early home recordings rather than really polish things up too much?

JL: Playing with the band is so good that it was very tempting to just ditch all the home recordings and make an album like we sound live. But there was lots of charm to our original production style that I thought would’ve been a shame not to share, so I guess it seemed nice to do the 7” as a little stepping stone.

After starting as a two-piece Delivery have now expanded into a five-piece; how have the songs evolved with the additions to the band and finally getting to play them live?

JL: It’s been fun making the songs sound a bit bigger, and it’s nice having a few more perspectives in the band to throw in the mix. The 7” definitely wouldn’t have come out as it did if we didn’t have the full band helping to steer the ship. All five of us are real good friends too, so it’s just a blast to play rock songs with more of your buds.

Your release is coming out on Spoilsport; what’s one release you’re loving from a fellow Spoilsport band we should check out?

BA: EGGGYYY!! My favs and besties! Bravo is just excellent but also so many friends and great music on the label… Quality Used Cars, Carpet Burn, Hooper Crescent etc. just go on the bandcamp and pick anything and there will be no disappointment.

JL: Spoilsport are the best in the biz and I love every album they’ve put out. A particularly cool one for me is Quality Used Cars album, Francis is one of my longest friends and the two of us helped each other get into making music when we were about 14, so there’s something special in coming full circle and putting out music in different bands but on the same label 13 years later.

Please check out: DELIVERY on bandcamp. Delivery on Instagram. Delivery’s Yes We Do 7” out now on Spoilsport Records.

Psych Pop band Sunfruits’ Winter McQuinn’s solo record: “Nature and the environment is on my mind most days, it’s all around us and is us, we are it, it is us but I think we’ve lost touch with that”

Original Photo: Liam Brownlie. Handmade collage by B.

Naarm/Melbourne-based musician Winter McQuinn gifts us a shimmering psychedelic pop album, A Rabble of Bees. Themes of environmentalism, friendship, connection and change thread throughout the highly enjoyable jaunt. Gimmie got in touch to find out more about the record and learn more about project, Green Your Noise, co-created with Acacia Coates (Pinch Points) as an initiative for musicians and creative industry workers to get a better idea of how to make events and tours more sustainable.

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

WINTER MCQUINN: I’m doing okay! Drove back from Wadawurrung Country / so-called Fairhaven today on the Great Ocean Road, it’s so dreamy down there. Currently in the midst of either cancelling the rest of the album tour or continuing it! Geez.

What inspired your new album’s title A Rabble Of Bees?

WM: The album had a couple of name options. A Rabble of Bees was actually an idea given to me by the album covers visual artist Zac Terry when we we’re talking about what a group of Bees were called. A Rabble! I think the album was always going to be called something related to Bees; due to the environmental theme running throughout the songs as well as the idea that these songs all used to be B-sides and really rough demos before they got cleaned up.

This collection of songs was written during lockdown; how did writing help you during this time?

WM: Writing was something that I could do to escape from the world around me and make something that was purely creative and not driven by any other forces. I think that I’m always influenced by the world around me though and this poured into my songwriting around this album’s conception. The privilege to be able to spend a lot of time writing and demoing heaps of ideas is something I’m very grateful for and think it’s important to use that privilege to write about things that matter and are meaningful to you.

What sparked the writing of ‘George Harrison’s Crystal Ball’?

WM: I was inspired after a conversation with my mum about our Prime Minister (gross) and her hope for his kids to grow up to be contemporary artists and to reject the church because that would really hurt him the most. It’s really just a foretelling of what future he’s condemning his own kids (and everyone’s kids) to. The name is centred around looking into the future and the guitar line after the first verse kinda gave me George Harrison vibes.



What’s your favourite lyric you’ve written for this record? Where did it come from?

WM: Hmm probably the line between me and Acacia “you make avocados green, yes you do, bananas yellow and still you” I had the most fun with that haha. I think I really wanted to keep it fun and light with the lyrics on Friendship Pheromone and this was the perfect encapsulation of that feeling in a few words.

What was the best part about recording this record yourself in home studios in Brunswick and Northcote?

WM: I guess the freedom both financially and creatively is the best part about home studios in general. Most of the album was done in the Northcote spot which is where I wrote it all. To have written and recorded my first solo album in my childhood home feels pretty special so I think that might be the best part.

Can you tell us a little bit about the recording process? It was produced by Sunfruits’ drummer Gene Argiro and recorded with two SM57 microphones, right?

WM: The recording process was a pretty messy one in all honesty, there was never any intention with this group of songs to make them into an album but I’m so glad they are now! I usually send most demos that I’m working on to Gene to see what he thinks and suss if they’re worthy or not to make the Sunfruits bag of magic. These songs we’re all tracks that maybe didn’t quite fit the Sunfruits vibe but still we’re worthy of something.

I think I actually just decided I wanted to clean up the songs a bit more and asked Gene if he’d wanna mix them. He is such a talented producer, mixing engineer and songwriter and makes everyone he works with a better songwriter so It was a blessing to have him mix these songs. All the recording was done with two SM57s that I have (Drums included!) and I think sometimes that’s all you need.

Some of the songs are centred around friendships; did you find your friendships changed in any way during or even after time spent in isolation due to the lockdown?

WM: Yeah, I think that friendships in my life changed profoundly during lockdown. When you’re involved in a music community, I think you are “friends” with so many people as you share a common interest and share common meeting places e.g., venues, record stores, festivals, studios etc and that helps you connect with a vast range of people. Lockdown changed and stopped these connections from happening as regularly so I felt quite isolated and had a longing for that feeling again.

We really love the song ‘Friendship Pheromone’; what was the writing process for this track? Acacia Coates does vocals on ‘Friendship Pheromone’ and ‘Tangerine La’; what do you love most about her voice?

WM: Thanks so much! “Friendship” was written during a particularly hard part of lockdown where I was really missing a lot of the people in my life. It’s just a reminder to love your friends and spend time with them and listen to them. Acacia is my favourite collaborator and we really have a great synergy when it comes to songwriting and general life! She has such a good ear for melodies and writing catchy but interesting lines and lyrics. I love her voice and just asked if she wanted to sing on both of those tracks.

Nature is a recurring theme on the LP; what compels you to write about the environment?

WM: I think nature and the environment is on my mind most days, it’s all around us and is us, we are it, it is us but I think we’ve lost touch with that. I think it informs anything I do and it has such an effect on my moods and life in general so it was kind of inevitable that it intertwined with all the songs on the album.

Acacia and yourself started Green Your Noise after questioning what else you could do, as musicians and individuals, to combat climate change, for those who might not know about it; can you give us an overview? What’s something important you’ve learnt from this initiative?

WM: Yep! So, we co-founded Green Your Noise together as a way to help musicians and creative industry workers get a better idea of how to make their own events and tours more sustainable. In short, Green Your Noise is an online carbon calculator specifically tailored to musicians and creative industry workers who want to figure out the emissions created from their events, how to mitigate them and how to make their events more sustainable in the future.

I think the one of the most important things we’ve learnt by doing this project is how eager everyone in the creative sector is to be able to work out their impact and how to mitigate it. It was also really interesting to really get into the nuts and bolts of carbon calculating and accounting and just how broken our systems are in terms of power, waste management and transport.

What’s something that’s been interesting to you lately that you’d like to share with us?

WM: I’ve recently been researching the history of environmental activism within music and songwriting and just seeing how widespread and how far back the two go together is really interesting and quite inspiring. To see it in the mainstream as well with Billie Eilish etc is really great, a personal favourite from these research sessions has been a song “I Pity The Country” by Willie Dunn, really powerful folk music from the 60s/70s that’s still so poignant today.

Are there any other projects you’ve been working on?

WM: Yeah a few! I’ve been working on a concept album quietly in the background which is examining environmental activism within music which will be paired with a visual accompaniment. I’ve also been preparing with Sunfruits to record our debut album at a house down on Great Ocean Road which I’m super excited about!

What was the last thing that made you really, really happy?

WM: I think getting to play the solo album live with a group of musicians and people I really admire made me really happy. To be able to travel and play songs you’ve written is a huge privilege and I’m very grateful to be able to do that.

Please check out: WINTER MCQUINN; on Instagram; find GREEN YOUR NOISE here. A Rabble of Bees out now on Third Eye Stimuli.

Naarm/Melbourne-based musician Michael Beach: “Good things in my life have happened because of music”

Original photo: Sarah Gilsenan. Handmade mixed-media collage by B.

Michael Beach’s fourth studio album Dream Violence carries a touch of the sublime throughout, with moments of naked expressionism and dramatic arcs he explores the duality of the human condition and the struggle of finding and maintaining hope in times that are not so hopeful. A beautiful album from an interesting artist. Gimmie recently got a little insight from Beach.

You first started playing music while at the University of Southern California, but didn’t fully dive into it until you spent your first year here in Melbourne. Previously you’ve mentioned that “my first meaningful connections with other musicians came from my initial year in Australia”; how were the relationships different here than what you’d already experienced in California?

MICHAEL BEACH: I guess it’s just timing.  I met amazing people in Southern California, but when I met my first bandmates and friends in Melbourne, it was life changing.  Those early friendships were the ones that gave me the confidence to pursue music. 

In March you released your fourth album, Dream Violence. The title comes from a song on the release; where did the title-track’s name come from?

MB: I like the dichotomy of the two words.  Dreams aren’t often associated with violence, but can quite often be.  Violence seems to be just behind the veil of society and certainly seemed to be seething when I was writing this record.

Album art by Charlotte Ivey.

Dream Violence was recorded with multiple line-ups in multiple locations in Australia and the US; how do you feel the energy of the varying line-ups and locations helped shape the LP?

MB: Everybody brings something different to the table, and I like bringing people together and seeing what happens.  The record has a lot of different moods that reflect all of those different people and places.

What’s one of your fondest memories from recording?

MB: Etep, Matt and Innez (of Thigh Master fame) and I recorded a few of the tracks from the record at my place.  It was one of those really relaxed sessions where all the mistakes sounded right—there were a lot of happy accidents—it was a really fun way to record.

I understand that you have a pretty laborious process of writing, editing, and arranging your music; can you tell us about your artistic process please?

MB: Yeah—I take my time, and probably over scrutinize things.  Not always the most enjoyable process, but I’m working on that.   I don’t really have any one process, but I do try to play at the same times every day, so I have a routine built around that.

What’s a really special moment for you on the album?

MB; I love that got to improvise the title track with Chris Smith.  It was a first take.  I’m a big fan of his records, so to have him play on mine is really special.  But really that’s the same with all the folks on the record as well. 

One of the overarching themes on the record is of the struggle to maintain hope during challenging times; what are some things that has helped you with your personal experience of this?

MB: Off the top of my head—friends, music, art, books, nature, seeing a psychologist, exercise, and my partner’s eternally optimistic outlook on life. 

We really love the album cover art painting by Charlotte Ivey; can you tell us the story behind the cover please?

I’m glad you love it, I do as well.  Charlotte did a bunch of eye studies of friends’ eyes.  That’s her eye, and I love the intensity and hyperrealism of it. 

During the lockdown as well as continuing your day job you worked on the completion of your studio; tell us a little bit about your studio? What were some important considerations in regards to creating a conducive space for your work?

MB: It’s an 8-track analogue tape setup with a nice mixing desk, outboard gear, and a bunch of synths and amps, and my piano in my living room/live room.  I’ve got digital recording gear if I need more than 8 tracks, but I like working within those limitations when I can.  I like having good light in my studio, and I have a favourite kind of tea that I keep stocked.  As long as all the equipment is working and not getting in my way, I’m happy. 

I know you also had the opportunity to read a lot more during lockdown; what were a couple of the reads that had you engaged and what did you appreciate most about them?

MB: I recently read Shots by Don Walker—that dude can write!  Such gorgeous prose and a very visually immersive book.  Utopia for Realists by Rutger Bregman was pretty great as well—it was inspiring to read a hopeful book amidst a lot of rough news last year. 

Who is an artist that makes you think outside of yourself or your surroundings? What particular work of theirs first had you feeling this way?

MB: I’m listening to Fennesz while I’m writing this.  His music is totally transportive and dreamlike.  I love it.  My bandmate Etep played me his record Endless Summer on a long highway drive in America, and I’ve been a massive fan ever since.

Why is music important to you?

MB: Most of the good things in my life have happened because of music.  It was and still is transformative for me.  It brings me together with my closest friends. 

Please check out: michaelbeach.org; MICHAEL BEACH on bandcamp; Dream Violence out on Poison City Records & Goner.

EXEK’s Albert Wolski on up coming new album ‘Good Thing They Ripped Up The Carpet’: “I definitely like to make a little universe”

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

One of Gimmie’s favourite bands Naarm/Melbourne-based EXEK have a new single and clip out today—‘Several Souvenirs’ from upcoming LP Good Thing They Ripped Up The Carpet out soon on Lulu’s Sonic Disc Club. Gimmie had a quick chat with vocalist-guitarist, Albert Wolski.

What’s life been like lately for you, Albert?

ALBERT WOLSKI: Pretty normal. I work full-time with Billy [Gardner] and Jake [Robertson] from Ausmuteants. We worked all throughout Covid, it was business as usual; actually, work was as turbo as it could possibly get, a bit too turbo. It was fine though. We had to work when a lot of people were able to have time off and could do their creative stuff, and just read, chill and hang.

We’re really excited EXEK has a new album coming out! I’ve been listening to it a lot since Lulu’s Sonic Disc Club sent it through to us. It’s so awesome!

AW: Thank you! Rad!

Last we interviewed you (March 2020), EXEK had just released Some Beautiful Species Left. You mentioned “We’re currently working on the next album. I wrote all these lyrics for it ages ago, most of them were written whilst I was on holiday in Europe in 2017.” Is Good Thing They Ripped Up The Carpet that album you were talking about then?

AW: That is actually the next album, that was done before this new one. It’s all kind of confusing and everything overlaps, there’s a bit of a tapestry now. Things aren’t too linear half the time. Good Thing They Ripped Up The Carpet comes out the 4th of June. We’re working on stuff for next year as well, just trying to stay busy.

Lots of EXEK in our future, lucky us! I noticed a few songs on Good Thing… have been on other releases, split 7-inches and compilations overseas; the first six tracks are newer ones?

AW: Yeah. It’s split between the A-side and the B-side. The A-side is new and the B-side is older stuff. One of the songs feels like it’s new because it hasn’t come out yet, there’s been a delay in a compilation it’s on, that a French label SDZ is putting out, they put out Some Beautiful Species Left. They were celebrating their 20th year anniversary last year, but it all got delayed. It’s the song ‘Four Stomachs’.

The title of the album Good Thing They Ripped Up The Carpet is a lyric from the first song ‘Palazzo Di Propaganda Fide’. Being the nerd I am, I was looking up what the song title was in reference to and found a palace located in Rome has that name.

AW: Yeah. It’s known for its architecture [designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, then Francesco Borromini]. I wanted to loosely connect that building and almost pretend that the cover of Biased Advice, which just got reissued [on Castle Face] … I wanted to refer back to that record. There’s a lyric that goes: someone turned the lights on, and it looks like the sweatshop from the first album. Now it’s full colour, so it’s almost like someone did turn the lights on and its loosely painting a narrative that the sweatshop is in that building, but obviously it isn’t. It’s all very nonsensical really.

I love how in EXEK albums there’s always so many layers, from the music to lyrics and to art and videos. It’s cool how things connect over releases.

AW: Yeah, I definitely like to make a little universe and for that universe to exist and try and make sense out of it; it is its own universe so it doesn’t have to make sense in comparison to this universe. [Laughs].

The song we’re premiering along with its video is ‘Several Souvenirs’.

AW: I guess that one is related to Covid, just after the lockdown in Melbourne, everyone was really stinging to go out and be social again; maybe not everyone, but at least I did and my friends. We really felt like connecting with people and having some fun. I was writing that song when I was going out and partying a lot, a lot! Definitely during Covid there was none of that, I gave up alcohol for three or four months during the first lockdown. After the second one I just felt like partying again. ‘Several Souvenirs’ is kind of the EXEK party song, it’s definitely not a party song but it does have the romanticism of creating the perfect evening and the perfect memory of the perfect evening. It’s a little bit new wave-y, a little bit romantic, and probably the most poppy that we get.

I got that romanticising feeling from the film clip. It creates that mood, with the shots, lighting and even the ballerina character. Where was it shot?

AW: Yeah. It was shot at a pub [Stingrays Upstairs at the Bodriggy Brewery], not our next show but the one after we’ll be playing there with Body Maintenance. The place is named after a friend of mine. The narrative is that Carol is about to start her shift at the bar, a song comes on and she just goes into her fantasy world and it gets more and more extravagant. The dresses get crazier, the lighting gets crazier, there’s wind and smoke. Then she snaps out of it. We managed to get the place for free to do the clip, on the one condition that we play there. I was like, “Of course, it’ll be fun.”

It seems like a really amazing venue.

AW: I don’t think anyone has played there yet. It should be interesting because there is a mezzanine level, which is six or seven steps high – we’re going to playing at that height – which is really, really high. My ideal stage is one to two steps. It’s a brand-new place that opened right after Covid, not many people know about it.

Where did you find the ballerina for your clip?

AW: She’s a friend of a friend; a friend of my wife and I – Kasey – she runs this fashion label and store. Carol (the ballerina) loves Kasey’s fashion. She’s a professional dancer and model, we thought she’d be great for the clip so we asked her if she’d be keen. She was. Then it was all happening.

Were you there on set when it was being filmed?

AW: Yeah, yeah, yeah. There was a big crew of us all behind the scenes, letting her hog the spotlight really [laughs].

Who shot the clip?

AW: Robyn my wife and her close friend Hannah. They’re both photographers. Hannah is also a videographer. Also, Alex McLaren who you just interview was there too; he was helping us out behind the scenes with some tech stuff and we were fortunate enough to borrow his equipment. It turned out good.

One of the tracks on the LP’s B-side is the theme from Judge Judy (that originally appeared on your split 7-inch with Spray Paint); how did you come to choosing to cover that?

AW: I really love that bassline. You know when you were back in the day and you’d stay home from school and Judge Judy would come on? I thought, damn, I love that bassline. I thought it would be good to cover because EXEK basslines are kind of like that, it would kind of lend itself to what we do. We just fleshed it out and it was really easy to do, really fun to record.

Anything else to tell us about the album?

AW: The songs on the B-side of the album have been retweaked. I just can’t help myself. The mixing process never ends with us. I always thought that when I got a chance, I’d retweak a few things. Even the last track [‘Too Step A Hill To Climb’] I redid the whole vocals for that. I wasn’t too keen on the originals. All the songs on that side have been modified to freshen them up.

On a side note, I know you love watching films, and I’m always up for great film recommendations; what have you been watching lately?

AW: I’ve been watching all these silly blockbusters lately. I feel like watching the world blow up, I think I see it as cathartic when things aren’t really going too well outside, that visual chaos. It’s really chaos right now in the world. One film that I saw a couple of years ago that I’m keen to rewatch is Under The Silverlake, which I think slipped by a lot of people.

I love that movie.

AW: Yeah, I think I might watch it again tonight. It’s so good.

Did you find that the lockdown affected your creativity?

AW: To an extent, I didn’t want to write about what was going on, so that made it a little bit harder. I didn’t want to write about Covid, even though I like to write about hard science stuff and which I do anyway. My writing process is really hard to shift gears away from hard science, pathogens and diseases and science-fiction dystopias [laughs].

Please check out: EXEK on bandcamp; on Facebook; on Instagram. Tickets to the EXEK/Body Maintenance show here. Good Thing They Ripped Up The Carpet out on Lulu’s Sonic Disc Club June 4.

Videographer-Animator-Photographer Alex McLaren: “I love the outsider weirdo people that are just doing their own thing”

Original photo: Hannah Nikkelson. Handmade mixed-media by B.

Naarm/Melbourne-based videographer-animator-photographer Alex McLaren is the man behind some of the coolest music videos that have come out of Australia in the past few years. He’s made videos for King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, ORB, Parsnip, School Damage, Bananagun, Sunfruits, Pipe-Eye, The Murlocs and more. His clips are vibrant, dynamic and psychedelic. We chatted with Alex about his creations, of making skate vids with his friends growing up in a country town and it’s influence on his work, the music video medium, claymation, collage, making a living as a creative, new projects in the works and more.

How’s your day been?

ALEX MCLAREN: I had to go to my mate’s house and feed their cat, that’s pretty much all I’ve been up to this morning.

Nice! Sounds like it’s been a cruisy one then.

AM: Yeah. How about you?

I’ve been easing into the morning. Yesterday my husband Jhonny and I went and picked up a box of 45’s (records) for $10, so that’s always a little exciting. We’ve been going through them this morning. We’re big record nerds.

AM: Cool. Sweet. Any good stuff in there?

There was a Hawkwind ‘Silver Machine’ picture disc and some AC/DC in there, and some funk and soul. The guy we got it off was interesting; he had all of this Elvis memorabilia, including Elvis’ dad’s electricity bill. We love all kinds of music and have music to suit every mood in our collection. We’ve both collected records since we were teens.

AM: Nice. It’s good to have a good mix!

I’m stoked to be talking with you. We love your work so much!

AM: That’s so sweet.

The film clips you make are really cool. We find that whenever an awesome clip comes up from a local band, you’re usually behind it.

AM: [Laughs] That’s cool. Thank you!

Have you always been a creative person?

AM: I suppose. The main way that I got into it was from being into skateboarding growing up. Watching skate videos; they have little animations and stuff, they’re almost arthouse in a sense. That stuff really triggered where I’m at now. Dad would have the family camcorder; I’d end up stealing it to film my friends skateboarding. Through that I got into editing the footage and tinkering around with it.

Do you have any favourite skate videos?

AM: Yeah, for sure. There are so many! Alien Workshop videos, they were kind of wild in the sense that they had a ton of animation, strange little stop motion things. That all influenced me to some degree, even subconsciously at the beginning. I definitely look back at that stuff occasionally and can see how it affected where I am now. Also, with skate videos how quickly they’re edited, all chopped up and short, flashing by really quickly; I think that informed some of how I edit videos. With the King Gizzard [& The Lizard Wizard] one, I’ll have a bunch of visual styles and things changing rapidly, that’s all part of it. Videos from Girl Skateboards company, had little skits and animations. I think Spike Jonze did a bunch of that stuff.

I made a bunch of skate videos with friends and a couple of people who make music, like Nick Van Bakel from The Frowning Clouds and Bananagun, we grew up together in Warrnambool; it’s funny how a lot of people that skated then make music, art and video stuff now. It’s cool to work with Nick occasionally making videos, it’s fun to think that it all stemmed from skating together back in the day. Music interests were pretty eclectic… it’s almost like having a big brother in a sense, opening up a world in terms of music and visual stuff, arthouse 16mm and 8mm animation. I feel like all of that stuff was the initial seed of inspiration and opening the doors to new sounds and visuals.

My brother and I had a skate shop in the mid to late-90s, he’s had skate shops since the 80s, we used to watch all the skate vids, so I can relate. My love of punk and hip-hop in part comes from those vids. What was it like growing up in Warrnambool? You mentioned listening to eclectic stuff; what kind of bands were you listening to?

AM: I guess eclectic, in hindsight it probably wasn’t. But at the time in a country town, skate vids were good exposure to punk, hip-hop and more obscure stuff than what you may get otherwise, playing footy or cricket. Living in a country town anything outside the norm is eye-opening and exciting.

Did you grow up watching the music video show Rage?

AM: For sure. That was a big part of it as well, having Rage, Video Hits, Channel V and all that stuff on Austar (if you can remember that? [laughs]). That stuff was always on in the mornings. There’d be clips where I wouldn’t necessarily grasp into the song and think, yeah, I might not like this artist, but I would be engaged in the video. Spike Jonze doing that Daft Punk clip ‘Da Funk’ with the dog walking around, things like that, that visually stick out.

I really liked Michael Jackson when I was really little. I remember hiring Michael Jackson VHS from the video store.

Same! I still have a bunch of MJ VHS tapes. I joined his fan club too.

AM: That’s so good [laughs]. I used to do drawings of him too, it’d be so funny.

Me too!

AM: Oh wow! I remember this real crap one that I had that I even framed, it’d be so funny to see what it looks like now looking back.

Back then he was one of the greatest artists in the mainstream that the world had ever seen. His artistry will always hold out, despite everything else that’s happened. He was always pushing things forward art-wise. His film clip premieres would be a big deal, remember here in Australia Molly Meldrum would premiere them in a primetime slot.  His 13-minute film clip ‘Thriller’ really changed the film clip game.

AM: Yeah, definitely. ‘Thriller’ is pretty wild. Back then and still to some degree now, people had huge budgets for film clips. It was such a new thing as well, there was such a burst of creativity in the medium. So much money was getting pumped into it and people were coming up with some really cool stuff. It’s pretty easy to go back to that stuff and reference it and think about it.

I read an interview with music video director Hype Williams (who did Tupac’s ‘California Love’ and videos with Nas, A Tribe Called Quest, Jay-Z, Outkast, Missy Elliott and more), he was talking about his career and said that in one year of his career he made forty-four videos and how it was such a golden time with big budgets in the hip-hop world.

AM: Yeah, that stuff was definitely playing a lot around the time I had Channel V and that stuff. In my early teens that stuff would be on all the time!

The other night I saw Outkast’s ‘B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad)’ it’s so wild, visually; everything about it is nuts. It’s crazy cool looking back at it.

Yeah. The director had the edit shipped to India for individual painting of each frame, which gave it that psychedelic look.

AM: It’s just amazing!

How do you see music videos? What is their function in your eyes?

AM: The obvious thing is that they’re a promotional tool. It’s a weird time for music videos because there seems to be that bands have less and less budget but it’s still a promotional tool. If you can make it interesting enough, it’s another way into the artist you can grasp on to. Initially the music video may draw you in more than the song but you keep watching it and you might end up liking the artist more. It’s definitely happened for me. It’s a good accompaniment for the song.

It’s a similar thing with artwork, vinyl, albums—I really like having a visual. If you like the music, it’s nice to be a part of it and create a visual for how you interpret that music itself.

How do you first approach a song when you’re going to make a video for it?

AM: Usually artists will send me the song or a few songs and ask, what do you think? Which do you like? Most of the time they let me do whatever, which is a nice freedom to have. I don’t mind a little bit of direction as well. Usually they’ll send me the song, I’ll listen to it a bunch and whatever it evokes emotionally or visually, I’ll pretty much run with that initial thought. Certain sounds and instruments will remind me of other music or clips from the past and I’ll loosely get a vibe or style from that and go from there. I like when songs have different musical elements and changes, the verse and the chorus are really different or at the end of the song the song will just change completely. It gives you a nice chance to have a completely different visual go along with it. Half the time I end up doing practical stop motion things. Every time I finish a video, I’m like, I really have to not do that again because it’s so time consuming, it is fun though! I always think the next time I should do something I can finish real quick, like live action. I can do that in two weeks and not have to go through the roller coaster ride of being really excited and then thinking, what have I got myself into? Getting excited again. Then getting worried. It’s up and down until it’s done, then I can’t believe I actually finished that!

I noticed in a lot of your work you have the stop motion animation-style and then you also have a collage-style in there too. Where does the collage aspect come from?

AM: I reckon it must be something of growing up and the children’s television that had that style back in the day, and early music videos. I don’t’ feel like I’m technically that savvy when it comes to computers; doing the stop motion seems like a really obvious choice to me, you have something sitting there, you take a photo and then move it and keep doing that until it’s animated and alive. I thought, I can do that. It may seem like a long painful process but it’s doable. It’s an easy process that makes sense in my head. It’s probably a reaction to not feeling technically savvy with software. I use it a lot and I’m probably more adept at using it and animation techniques and computers now then when I started doing stop motion. I think there’s a lot of charm in it though and that’s why I keep going back to it. I like when things aren’t quite perfect, that’s where all the charm lies; things being off, things being handmade, things being human-made, errors, jumps and flickers—that’s where all the magic lies. I always make it feel like I’m doing something new and different, even if it might seem minor in the end product; little steps forward so I feel like I’m evolving. I need to keep things interesting for myself.

Did you have any formal training or education in visual arts or film?

AM: I went to RMIT and did a two-year course of film and television, that was in 2009 when I first moved to Melbourne. Before that, in high school I did stop motion for my Year 12 project, it was all claymation stuff. I would have learnt stuff at RMIT, perhaps more how to use [Adobe] After Effects and programs like that. At the same time, I think what I initially learnt was through trial and error and skate videos. I would have made four or five skate videos with my friends, filming and editing it. And using my dad’s 8mm camera and learning to use that as well. A lot of learning has been through just trying to make stuff. It’s hard to say though, because when I went to RMIT I had just moved to Melbourne, and I was like, oh I live in Melbourne now and I’m out of my parents’ house so I can do whatever I want! I don’t have to go to school if I don’t want to. I definitely learnt stuff at RMIT but most stuff I’ve learnt on my own.

A few years ago, I went back to study. I did a three-year Bachelor of Photography at Photography Studies College in Melbourne. I work in video production (corporate videos and market reports) that pays the bills and video clips I just do in my own time. Working in corporate video production got a bit dry and boring, my partner at the time went and studied photography; I saw what she was doing and heard about the teachers. It made me really want to go back and study photography. Even more so just for myself, not as a move to start a business in photography or anything like that. I thought it would be great to go back and learn as a mature student; I was twenty-seven at the time. It got me thinking of the history of photography, images and what they mean and represent, the eras they’re from, what they’re saying politically, as a response to what was happening in that time. That stuff made me think differently about visuals. Beforehand it was more about what looks cool and interesting and compliments the sound. It gave me more of an appreciation of the thought process behind what images I’m using and how they might communicate ideas.

I’ve always been a more learning through doing person as well. I think doing things that way helps you to develop your own style. Often when people go study, they lose that creative spark or that uniqueness in their work, it gets learned out of them and people start making stuff that’s all the same. Coming from punk and skateboarding, that world is very DIY. With all the art for Gimmie, that’s all handmade inspired by my background in making zines and love of punk art. If you look closely at some of the art you can see the corner of my art desk in the image or some imperfection. I like that you can see it’s physical as opposed to digital, it’s handmade.

AM: It’s great how you can see the edge of the frame in your art. There’s an energy to it, an immediacy you can see in the work, which is something that I respond to. That immediacy is something that I try to create in my own work.

I think that’s partly why I resonate with your work; I can totally feel that in your work. I think if you spend too long on something it can feel tortured and it becomes overworked. Not always, but often. The life gets sucked out of it.

AM: Yeah, for sure. That initial energy and spark is what attracts me to things. In doing something like stop motion, it’s such a long process, initially I’ll be excited about it but after a few days and you have a couple of seconds worth of video, that energy is so hard to sustain for months or weeks to finish the video. That’s the only struggle when applying that to something as tedious as stop motion, keeping that initial spark and energy.

I can definitely see that. Have you seen the stop motion work of Bruce Bickford who did a lot of the Frank Zappa videos?

AM: Yeah, yeah. He’s the best! His stuff is amazing.

Your clips reminded me of his work.

AM: I’ve done some work with Sean McAnulty, my friend who is also from Warrnambool, we discovered Bickford eight or nine years ago. That first ORB video that we did that was all Claymation, it’s very Bickford inspired. I love the outsider weirdo people that are just doing their own thing. Bickford seemed to be working constantly doing his own stuff, if it wasn’t for Frank Zappa exposing him to heaps more people, he probably would have still just been doing his own weirdo stuff in his garage. People like him are so amazing and influential.

That’s my favourite kind of people, the true originals that create art for art’s sake, because they have to, it’s like breathing for them.

AM: It’s important that if you get an idea that you should just go with it and not think too much about it.

Is there anything that you do to stretch the resources that you have to make something look better than what’s available to you?

AM: Everything I do is on a budget, a pretty shoe stringy budget. I think that’s why I like the collage style, it’s so easy to get magazines or go to op shops and get old books and use images from those—it’s cheap, visually effective and interesting. It can be fun to do more animation with my hand drawn cartoons, but I feel like it’s not necessarily my strong point. Using found images is a way around that to create something visually strong and easy. There was a weird magazine that I found in an op shop, a World’s Fair magazine from the early-90s, it had what they thought at the time futuristic-looking things; a lot of that stuff made it into the Gizzard clip. That mag cost me 80 cents and I turned it into this whole other thing.

There’s a real art in doing that. College art has become quite popular, I find a lot of collage artists cut things out and slap them together. The artists I enjoy make something new, make a statement, have a lot of thought behind what they’re doing, there’s layers of meaning.

AM: Yeah. It’s fun to take that stuff and mix it with footage of the bands. You can completely create a new world or fantasy worlds, which I think is really interesting just the juxtaposition between images, maybe something from the 50s against future technologies or really banal stuff. I like working like that. You move the images around and as you see things beside other things, you’ll see new things or a connection between things that you wouldn’t have ever thought of otherwise; that can form other ideas in the video. It’s a fun, open way of working; it keeps it loose and interesting.

Are you inspired by the Dada artists?

AM: I haven’t really delved into the Dada movement much; I have been meaning to. I went and saw an exhibition at NVG [National Gallery of Victoria] a few years ago and there was a small section of the Dada movement and I was really interested in the stuff they were creating, it resonated with me. I feel like I’ll definitely get a lot of inspiration from it.

What’s a video you really enjoyed working on or that was challenging for you?

AM: I feel like they’re all challenging in different ways. Every time I finish filming a video, I feel like I don’t have anything else to give, in terms of that being everything I was interested in at the time and I can’t even imagine what I would do for another video. Getting excited about something will be all the spark I need to get started on the next thing though.

I really loved the Parsnip ‘Rip It Off’ clip you made.

AM: Oh yeah? Cool.

It’s pretty magical!

AM: That was fun! It was the quickest video I’ve made in terms of turn around. We shot in a day pretty much. I went to Geelong and they had some spots, we went first thing in the morning. It was so nice to shoot live action with natural light. When I finished doing it I thought, I need to do more videos like that. It’s almost like making skate videos back in the day where you can film some tricks and it’s ready to go as soon as you edit it.

The U-Bahn ‘Beta Boyz’ film clip is really fun too.

AM: Yeah. I kind of forget all the clips I do [laughs], especially with the last year being so weird with lockdown. I really like the last ORB video; ‘I Want What I Want’ was fun to make.

How amazing is that song?!

AM: Yeah. They wanted me to do a different song before that one, then they released the song and I feel like it’s not as fun to do a clip for a song that’s already released. It’s more exciting for me if people see the song with the video; it gives it more punch. Everything is usually fun and stressful at the same time.

The new Gizzard clip [O.N.E.], being locked down at the time, it felt stressful but I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. It’s got a big audience, so it’s nice that people get to see stuff.

What did you stress over?

AM: If it’s going to look good! [Laughs]. Is it going to work? Will the band think it’s good? There’s always that concern that they might think it just sucks! Because the process is working in slow motion, your brain has so much time to think, oh, this is good or this is so shit; how am I going to make this work? It’s a blessing working at such a slow process in terms of stop motion that if something doesn’t feel like it’s going right it might be a 24th of a second and then by the end of that second, you’ve corrected something that you didn’t really like and no one will ever notice; that’s a nice thing about stop motion, you can change something that isn’t going the way you like it.

How long did the new Gizzard clip take you?

AM: [Laughs]. A few months during lockdown, I definitely spent full days working on it.

Do you move on from things quickly that aren’t working out in the creative process?

AM: I usually get hung up on it. Most of the time because I spent so much time on it, I find a way to rescue it or still use it but recycle it and use it in a different way; I’ll cover it up a bit or use it with something else, layering it. Nothing kind of ever gets disregarded. Pretty much every mistake has made it in. I mask or change it, make it sit a different way or in a different part of the clip. If it was terrible though, I’d just face it and bin it.

What are you working on at the moment?

AM: I’m finishing up a Murlocs video in the next couple of days. It’s live action-based with a tiny bit of animation. Maybe a Pipe-Eye video. I’ve just started talking to him [Cook Craig] about it. I really like his stuff, it’s strange and interesting and lends itself to interesting visuals. He sent me the album the other week. He was like, “Any ideas?” There’s one song I really love and I sent him back a few ideas and he said he was thinking along the same lines too. Working with people like that and being on the same page makes it super exciting! I have to see what happens schedule-wise. After last year I wanted to hang out with people more and be more social again now that we can… but then you get ideas and you’re like, I really want to do this! Then you start doing stuff and you can’t go see anyone, you get obsessed with making it as good as you can. You want to get it to a standard where you can put it out into the world and not be embarrassed by it.

Last year was definitely a time to revaluate and think about how you can use that time. If anything, it gave me more time just to do what I was doing anyway, but not having to go to the office and do my more commercial stuff. Working in that commercial side of things, I think my video clip work is a reaction to that side of things; I want to get as far away from that world as I can. It’s nice after doing something boring and corporate at work to come home and do something that’s totally opposite; to take the banality of that work and add humour into my own work, to process and channel it and make it interesting. Does that make sense?

Yeah, for sure. My whole life I’ve pretty much had a day job and then done all the creative stuff for love in my own time. There are times when I have done creative stuff, like writing, as a job and I ended up hating it, it wasn’t fun anymore.

AM: It’s a funny thing trying to find the balance between worlds. It can keep you on your toes. Having that job that’s a drag can push you to pursue what you want in your own time and be more creative.

I always find myself at my day job thinking about what I’m going to make when I get home. At work my brain goes on autopilot sometimes and my creative mind is constantly going. When I get home, I’ll work late into the night or get up super early before work and do stuff because I’m so excited.

AM: Oh yeah! Totally. The only thing is hoping that your body doesn’t get too weary in the day that it can keep up with your brain’s excitement.

I get that!

AM: Yeah, it’s hard. Sometimes when I get home it’s like, I’m just going to chill out for five minutes and when I do that my body is like, this is good and you just take it easy. You have to keep chugging along and making it work.

Is there anyone you’d like to make a clip with?

AM: Yeah! It’d be cool to work with Cate Le Bon, Total Control, or Weyes Blood. I was excited to work with my friend Sean on a White Fence clip a couple of years ago, because White Fence, and Tim Presley as an artist, is a favourite. I’d love to keep branching out into different scenes and different genres. As long as it keeps feeling new and gives me a chance to try out different styles. It’s cool to work with new people.

Please check out @alex__mclaren

Iso Guitarist-Vocalist for Melbourne Punks Gutter Girls: “Seeing more and more female-identifying people front bands really inspired us”

Handmade collage by B.

Naarm/Melbourne-based femme 4-piece Gutter Girls began in a sharehouse. They had no musical background but saw many of their friends playing in local bands and decided to start a band and join the fun! Gimmie interviewed guitarist-vocalist Iso about their most recent single ‘Skin 2 Sin’ which was mixed and mastered by Iso’s housemate Michael Ellis from Kosmetika.

What’s an average day look like for you right now?

ISO: The Gutter Girls are all still working from home, listening to our friends and idols host or play on community radio and daydreaming about what’s for dinner.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Do you have any hobbies?

I: We collectively love to watch trash TV, spend more time at band practise eating than rocking and finding fun places to swim!

How did you first get into punk rock?

I: Thanks to my oldies for playing the gold hits like Skyhooks, Susie Q, AC/DC and Divinyls. Then sprinkle a little teenage angst into the mix with some Green Day, No Doubt and Nirvana and a big thanks to The O.C. soundtracks from 2003-2007-ish—best punk rock era ever.

What was the first local show you went to?

I: I can’t remember the first one ever, but an early iconic show was when Crepes played at the Tote and covered Mental As Anything’s ‘Nips are Getting Bigger’. Afterwards my now-great-friend-but-then-acquaintance and I played pool with strangers, who were annihilating us until we made the return of the century and came out on top. It was all very worth getting locked out of my house in my pyjamas at 3PM the next day for leaving my hangover nest to get Maccas.

Who or what first inspired you to make your own music?

I: Lots of our friends were playing and we wanted to join the fun! We’d go to local shows regularly and always wanted to be in a band but didn’t think we could without any knowledge of how to play instruments. Seeing more and more female identifying people front bands really inspired us and gave us the confidence to give it a go ourselves. Turns out YouTube and practising helps a lot!!

What inspired Gutter Girls to get together?

I: We were all on the same page of being excited and motivated to start a band and learn how to play from scratch all together. We didn’t know each other well in the beginning, but we were attending all the same shows and shared the same love for music which made it pretty easy to get things moving. Our first few practices were spent learning Joan Jett covers and it wasn’t much longer before we had our first gig locked in.

Last year Gutter Girls released songs ‘The Bullet’ and ‘Skin 2 Sin’ and the previous year before an EP and back in 2018 your demo; will we be seeing a full-length this year? What’s been influencing your songwriting lately?

I: We are easing back into Gutter Girls post-lockdown quite slowly, with all members in other local Melbourne bands now as well (such as Carpet Burn, Dragnet, Blonde Revolver). We definitely plan to write and release throughout the year but haven’t decided what the final product will look like at this stage. After being apart for so much of 2020 we’re mostly excited for the writing and developing process which we always have a lot of fun with.

What’s one of your all-time favourite songs written by someone else?

I: ‘Live it Up’ by Mental as Anything—cos life is a dancefloor and we should live it up.

A lot of time was spent in lockdown last year; what’s something you’ve discover about the neighbourhood where you live since you’ve been back out and about in the world?

I: I’m very lucky to be living in walking distance to lots of Melbourne’s beautiful parks, a few favourites being Murchison Square in Carlton and Methven Park in Brunswick East. I hadn’t spent much time in either parks prior to lockdown so it was nice having the opportunity to discover those local gems.

You played your first show of the year in January with Eggy; do you have any pre or after show rituals?

I: Nervously drink vodka sodas before we play and then happily drink vodka sodas after we play. The rush after playing is always worth it though, and it’s a nice reminder you’re alive when you’re a bit nervy before something.

How do you feel when performing?

I: I don’t think I could tell you honestly because all that is going through my head is ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR or trying to remember silly lyrics from a few years ago. It’s a lot of fun though, especially glancing around to a familiar face in the crowd or one of the Gutter Girls’ giving off a big grin.

What are you most looking forward to this year both band-related and personally?

I: Making up for a lot of lost-to-2020 time with the Gutter Girls and friends whether that’s making new music, dancing to other people’s or watching Coyote Ugly on repeat.

Please check out: Gutter Girls on bandcamp; on Instagram; on Facebook.