Melbourne-based Indie rockers Dianas talk about new LP Baby Baby: “trying to navigate our way through life and love and defining ourselves as people, the sadness and hope in growing up”

Original photo by Tom Mannion. Handmade collage by B.

Dianas dropped a beautiful, dreamy sophomore album Baby Baby last month, it twists and turns through tracks as polyrhythms unfold, and their melodic interplay and charming vocal harmonies build around them. It’s dream pop, but it’s no nap, it’s a wild and energetic lucid dream. We caught up with them to explore their Perth-based beginnings, their move to Melbourne and the crafting of their new LP.

How did it all begin? How did Dianas get together?

CAITY: Nat moved into my house something like nine years ago and soon after broke up with her partner so we started hanging out a lot. Nat had been playing acoustic guitar for a while and writing songs, and I had stolen my brother’s electric guitar with the intention of learning to play but hadn’t got very far. We kind of just started playing together and tentatively writing songs whilst drinking a lot of cheap wine and generally annoying our neighbours. It’s kind of funny because I remember that as a really good time and Nat remembers it as one of the worst of her life, but either way that cocktail of boredom and heartbreak was essential to get us started because we’d probably have been too shy and awkward otherwise.

NAT: That story pretty much sums it up! It was definitely one of the worst times of my life but also the best, and the absolute best thing in my life has come out of it so it all balances out. Some of my fondest memories are learning how to play Best Coast, The XX and other extremely indie covers on bass and guitar together and just thinking it was the coolest. Also Caitlin taught me how to play bass!

What’s the story behind the name?

CAITY: We don’t have a good story behind the name. I’d love to say it came from the goddess Diana, of hunting and the moon, but actually it came from an op shopped Princess Diana portrait that had been tastelessly defaced for a party and was lying around our lounge room.

NAT: We were literally sitting in our lounge room naming stuff we could see so it was either Dianas or Sofabed. Fun fact we were originally called Undead Dianas but thankfully dropped the Undead before our first show.

What kind of musician would you say you are?

CAITY: A lazy one. I never had enough motivation to learn to play anything properly – despite the fact my mum is a music teacher who tried repeatedly to teach me piano – until Nat and I started playing together and writing songs. So maybe I can say a collaborative or a creative one – I’m never going to be a great guitarist but I love the process of turning ideas into songs especially when the input of other people makes it into something bigger than the sum of its parts.

 NAT: That’s a hard one! I’m all over the shop. I really enjoy trying to fit in with other people and what or how they’re playing, move with them while still trying to fit in whatever it is that I want to do or hear.  I think similarly to Caity I’m not really the kind of musician who gets great joy out of being totally technically proficient, but can take pleasure in playing with others and for others, trying to make something out of nothing.

Dianas are originally from Perth; what prompted the move to Melbourne? Nat wanted to pursue sound engineering, right? Was it a hard/big decision to move the band there?

NAT: I was always staunchly against the idea of moving to Melbourne, cos it just seems like the ‘classic’ Perth thing to do, but I also really wanted to get into sound engineering, and Melbourne was the best place for it. I didn’t really admit to anyone at home for ages that I’d moved out of embarrassment for totally flipping, and I planned to only come for 5 months but still here 5 years later! Caity and I initially did a long distance thing, flying between cities to play shows, but eventually she missed me too much and followed me over here

CAITY: I was staunchly for leaving Perth at some point so yes, I followed Nat here. I guess I figured I’d have at least one friend and something to do even if I couldn’t get a job!

What do you think of Melbourne now you’ve been there for a little? How is it different to Perth?

CAITY: It’s colder – I do miss the sun and the beach. But there’s a bit more going on culturally (sorry Perth) and in terms of the music scene there’s a lot more venues to play at and local festivals and things going on.

NAT: Quite a few winters in and I’m still not used to how goddam cold and dark it is. But I’ve also really loved getting involved in the music scene here, although there’s some similarities, it’s pretty different to Perth I think, obviously way more bands and venues, but there’s also this collective feeling of experimental space. Also being able to explore up the coast and make new friends all over this side has been amazing.

Photo by  Tom Mannion.

You recently released your sophomore album Baby Baby into the world; what do you love most about the record?

NAT: I just love how ‘us’ it sounds. We’ve put so much of ourselves into every aspect of it, from obviously the writing and playing together, but then the whole recording and mixing process to all the design and videos and releases. I’m not sure how I’ll feel in the future but I’m just honestly really proud of this thing that we made.

Can you tell us a bit about the writing of it; what was inspiring it lyrically? Do you feel there’s an overarching theme? I picked up on love, relationships, self-love and a mood of sadness.

CAITY: I think those are themes that are always present in our music and how they show up just shifts and changes depending on where we’re at personally at the time. The lyrics are usually pretty simple and direct but hopefully capture a specific mood or feeling that other people can relate to. The inspiration is mostly just our own little lives; trying to navigate our way through life and love and defining ourselves as people, the sadness and hope in growing up.

One of my favourite tracks on the LP is closer ‘Learning/Unlearning’; what sparked this song?

CAITY: ‘Learning/Unlearning’ was just me trying to tell myself not to have regrets about the past – a self-help song! I think a lot of women especially can look back and see that the way they thought about themselves and allowed themselves to be treated was ill advised and damaging, and it’s hard sometimes not to see that as wasted time. There’s a lot of bad ideas we internalise that take a lifetime to unlearn, so it’s really about going easy on yourself and allowing for the fact that you have to go through things to learn from them.

I also really love the piano, drums and bass combo in song ‘Jewels’; how did that song get started?

CAITY: ‘Jewels’ started with just the piano and vocals, which Nat and Anetta then added their parts to. We had a song on our last album that was just piano, bass and drums that we really liked so I suppose we were going for something similarly simple, but then we ended up adding lots of different vocal layers to the second part in the recording and it became a bit of a different beast. We really like this song though, possibly because it’s the newest and we’re not sick of it yet. We actually only had a chance to play it live once before all our shows got cancelled!

You recorded the record at Phaedra Studios, Nat recorded it; why did you decided to self-record? Can you tell us about the sessions? What were the best and most frustrating bits?

NAT: It sort of started off from a place of necessity, I’d dipped my toes into half recording us on our last EP, as the result of another tumultuous breakup leaving us without our usual recording engineer halfway through the recording process. I was a bit hesitant at first that I’d be able to do it but Caitlin said I should and I just do what she says. (Caity’s edit: not true)

Having the space in the sessions just by ourselves was really amazing. There was no pressure to try and fit in with anyone else’s views or notions, we could just be ourselves and get down and do it. In the past we’ve maybe struggled with communicating what we want or how we feel, but I think that we’ve learnt and grown a lot over the years and there were only minimal tears this time – a record! I think the hardest part was just trying to keep up the confidence and objectivity that what we’d done sounded good, I guess the flip side to doing it ourselves is we then only had ourselves to look to. I just had a really fun time mixing it too, I learnt a lot and had a lot of space to experiment. I think there was only one thing in the end that we had to compromise on (too many delays in a chorus vs not enough!), and I’m real happy and content with how the album sounds as a whole.

 Dianas harmonies are really cool; how do you approach making them?

CAITY: Usually one of us just starts singing and the other one joins in when they feel like it. We’ll keep going over things until we find something we like, but it’s not really planned out. At this point it’s just kind of assumed that we’ll both sing in one way or another on a song, rather than have a single vocalist. At least I’ll usually make Nat sing along with me because my voice is kind of weak on its own!

How did you first find your voice? Is confidence something that’s come to you over time? Do you really have to work on it? Are you still working on it?

CAITY: I don’t know if I would ever have got up onto a stage if Nat hadn’t encouraged (forced) me to – or even maybe sung at all. I tried to make her be the front person and just sing the songs I wrote herself but she refused, which I’m now thankful for because I really enjoy it. We’ve definitely become a lot more confident on stage than we used to be, which has just come from time and practice, but we are shy people by nature and can tend to be a bit too self-effacing at times. I think we’ve learned to own our voices a bit more and have hopefully stopped with the “what I don’t even know how to play a guitar hahahah” interview style/stage presence. But it is something we are constantly working on yes.

Baby Baby’s cover art is by artist Tamara Marrington; how did you come to her work?

NAT: We’ve known Tammy for a while (I guess since Perth days!) she’s one of those artists who just elicits a complete emotional response from me, I don’t think there’s been an exhibition of hers I’ve been to where I haven’t had tears streaming down my face. She was very patient working with us and our often indecisive natures, and we’re just so happy with how the record looks

You’ve made videos for the tracks off your LP (people can watch them all over at Baby TV) ‘Weather Girl’ is a favourite; what was the thought behind that one? I really love the fullness and chaotic-ness of this track!

CAITY: I just wanted to make a video about witches, but the kind of less cool TV witches of my childhood from shows like Charmed or Sabrina. The track was always pretty chaotic and only got more so when we recorded it so it seemed like a good fit for a narrative music video involving love potions and a stabbing (sorry spoilers).

 As well as doing Dianas Nat does Blossom Rot Records; what’s one of the coolest and hardest things about doing your own label?

NAT: It’s been really cool to just do things on our own terms, in our own way, and on our own time – not having to stick to anyone else’s schedule or run anything by anyone. I think the hardest thing has just sorta been having to write about my own band and trying not to sound too wanky. Definitely looking forward to working on some other releases! It’s also great working with Sophie, I feel like we balance each other out perfectly, she’s the boot to my scoot.

What’s next for Dianas?

NAT: I’m not sure about the others but it’s actually been a bit of a relief for me to be able to slow down, and not get too wrapped up in the constant next step motion. Having said that it will be really really nice when we’re able to play again, we’d love to reschedule the tour we had booked at some point but I’m not in a massive rush to do so until its super safe and would be enjoyable. I think for now I’d love to get back to our roots and sit at home together with some cheap wine and write some more songs 🙂

CAITY: Personally I have not found this time to be a relief at all, and I’m definitely looking forward to that tour. Looks like we’ll be waiting out the winter though so revisiting our roots sounds good – I think I’ll splurge on some nicer wine this time around though.

Please check out: DIANAS. Dianas on Facebook. Dianas on Instagram. Blossom Rot Records.

French Sci-Fi Psych Rockers SLIFT on New LP Ummon: “It is mainly inspired by Homer’s Odyssey”

Handmade collage by B.

SLIFT’s music takes you on an epic journey to the far reaches of the Universe and back! Their latest slice of heavy sci-fi psych-rock album Ummon is excitingly one part Homer’s Odyssey and one part sci-fi trip. We interviewed guitarist-vocalist, Jean F. to find out more.

SLIFT are from Toulouse, France; what’s it like there? Can you tell us about your neighbourhood?

JEAN: Toulouse is a beautiful city made of red brick, and there are a lot of musicians here. Many very good bands, one of my favorite is Edredon Sensible, they are two percussionist and two saxophonist, They play a groovy and heavy trance, with free jazz elements. I think they will release their first album this year. There’s also BRUIT, evocative post-rock, and Hubris, krautrock warriors. We have a bar (Le Ravelin) where psych and punk bands from all over the world come to play. It’s the last bar in the city to regularly book great bands that play loud and fast. Many venues have closed, the city’s politics sucks and prefers to set up hotels in the centre of town rather than clubs and venues. But I hope things will change in the near future.

What have you been doing today?

JEAN: Today, we are going to pack vinyl to send them as quickly as possible despite the health crisis. Post offices are idling right now and that makes things more difficult. And then, as we are out of town at the moment, we are going to walk in the hills. We play a lot of music as well.

Two of you are brothers (Rémi and Jean), you met Canek in high school; what kind of music and bands were you listening to growing up?

JEAN: When we were kids, our parents listened to the Beatles, and a lot of blues, like John Lee Hooker and BB King. We’ve always loved the blues. Personally, I like the idea that we are still playing the blues with SLIFT. A different blues, but a blues anyway. In high school we listened to a lot of punk stuff, Rancid, Minor Threat, then Fugazi, No Means No and Melvins. In the van on the way to the rehearsal room, Canek’s father introduce us to South American music, psych stuff and jam bands. And of course we are extremely fans of Jimi Hendrix.

When did you first start making music yourself? You played in punk bands?

JEAN: We started playing together in high school. Rémi was still in college, we played punk in Green Day mode at the very beginning. It’s all good memories! We quickly started to add instrumental phases in the compositions. Then we played in different bands before meeting again and forming SLIFT.

Who are your biggest music influences?

JEAN: The Electric Church of Sir Jimi Hendrix.

Photo by RABO.

What made you start SLIFT?

JEAN: We came from punk, and after discovering Hendrix, we started to lengthen our songs, to stretch the structures and especially to jam. It was 4 years ago, we wanted to start a band and play these new songs. We did not know at all the modern psych scene, when we had the chance to attend at the last minute a Moon Duo concert in a museum in Toulouse (we grabbed the last tickets by begging the porter to let us in). This concert was an important event, it was just after leaving the museum that we decided that we were going to record and tour. After that we have of course dug up the modern psych scene, there are so many great bands! People often associate us with this scene, and it’s very cool, but to be honest, today we don’t listen to bands like King Gizzard or Oh Sees anymore. We are more on the groups which, I think, influenced them. Like Amon Dull, Can, Hawkwind, all the 70’s German scene, 70’s Miles Davis, electronic and prog stuff. Among the current groups, we really like the Doom scene, and we particularly love a trio of English bands: Gnod, Hey Colossus and Part Chimp. We listen to a lot of film music. I would love so much that one day we have the opportunity to make one!

What does the band name SLIFT mean?

JEAN: SLIFT is the name of a character from a novel, La Zone du Dehors by Alain Damasio. Read it, you wouldn’t regret it. This author also wrote a masterpiece, La Horde du Contrevent. Probably my best reading experience.

How do you think SLIFT’s sound has changed over time?

JEAN: At first we just wanted to play a lot live, so we recorded quickly, and we composed quickly. Today and for the first time on Ummon, we took our time. The composition method has also changed. On our first two recordings, we all composed together in the rehearsal room. Now I mainly compose on my side, which allows me to go to the end of the ideas and to have a precise vision for the album. Then we test the songs in rehearsal and in concert, we jam the songs, and we talk a lot about where we want to go, what sound, what we are talking about. Personally, it is for me a more accomplished and coherent record, because I have the feeling that we have put a lot of personal and honest things in it, whether in the music or in the concept and the conception of the album. And in terms of sound, we often listen to new things, so it’s always enriching the way we play music I guess. Maybe in two years we will make an album with only percussion (… still with fuzz haha).

You are influenced by cinema and books, especially science fiction stuff; what are some of your favourite books and films?

JEAN: La Nuit des Temps – Barjavel, Rick and Morty, Hyperion cycle – Dan Simmons, Le Dechronologue – Stephane Beauverger, La Horde du Contrevent / La zone du Dehors – Alain Damasio Alien / Prométheus.

Your album Ummon is s real journey for the listener; what inspired the songs themes? It tells a story? It’s a concept album?

JEAN: It is mainly inspired by Homer’s Odyssey and science-fiction trip. The first part tells of the titans’ ascent from the centre to the earth’s surface. The construction of their Citadel on a drifting asteroid, then their departure towards the stars in search of their creators, a journey which will last forever. The second part talks about Hyperion (a Titan born in a Nebula during the endless drift through space) and his exile from the Citadel. After wandering for millions of years, he will return on Earth, alone, then dig the Son Dong’s cave with his bare hand. Hyperion rests at the far end of the cave, and its body will be the breeding ground for life which will soon climb out of the abyss and cover the Earth.

Where does your fascination from space come from?

JEAN: When you are a child, space is synonymous with adventure and wonder. Growing up, what I find cool is that it’s probably endless.

Can you tell us a little bit about recording it? It was recorded at Studio Condorcet by Olivier Cussac, right?

JEAN: You’re right, it was Olivier Cussac who recorded it, and we both mixed and mastered it, we wanted to have as much control as possible over the sound of the record. Olivier is a very talented musician, he play a lot of instruments, and he’s a very good arranger. He mainly composes film music. He has a fascination with vintage stuff, so his studio is a real museum. It is a dream to be in a place like this. He liked the album project a lot, so we took a full month to do it. The atmosphere was super chill, we had the best time!

What is your favourite thing about Ummon?

JEAN:  It is a team effort. We feel fortunate to work with very talented people who passionately love doing what they do. Guthio (who designs the clips and makes the video live), Olivier, Philippe Caza (who designed the artwork), Clémence (who came to sing), the fearless Vicious Circle Records and Stolen Body Records. Hélène, who made so that everything goes well and that ensures that we never sleep on the floor after the shows. And the coolest thing is that these people become a friends.

What do you strive for when playing live?

JEAN: We try to never do the same concert twice. Some pieces are lengthened. We don’t want to recreate the record on stage, its two totally different listening experiences. The record, you can listen to it at home with headphones, it’s an intimate and personal experience. Concerts are an experience of the body, it’s about feeling the volume and the vibrations and seeing humans playing live music.

What do you do outside of music?

JEAN: We do Bonsai!

Please check out: SLIFT. SLIFT on Facebook. Ummon is out on Vicious Circle and Stolen Body Records.

Los Angeles band P22 make “Protest tunes sung in punk’s tomb”

Mixed media collage by B.

Californian band P22’s latest release Human Snake is an exciting, offbeat, underground post-punk offering, a collection of songs written between 2017 and 2019. The band – Sofia Arreguin, drums; Nicole-Antonia Spagnola, vocals; Justin Tenney, guitar and Taylor Thompson, bass – collectively answered our questions in isolation.

P22 are from Los Angeles; tell us about where you live? Did you grow up there?

P22: We all grew up scattered across Los Angeles County. Now we each live at the foot of different mountains around the city, Glassell Park, Hollywood, and Mt. Washington.

How did you first come to punk rock?

P22: As adolescents. We’re all around the same age but occupied different spaces in different scenes prior to this band, so there’s a real mix of histories that are somewhat unique to LA—the power-violence contingency of the early to late 00’s, the Smell, bands at Calarts, East 7th, etc.

Why is it important for you to create?

P22: Everyone’s always making things in one way or another. This project is probably more invested in thinking about how things are created or how certain methods, like punk, can be worked through differently.

Who or what inspired you to make music?

P22: We are united by an interest in creative practices that operate communally. The band’s namesake is a mountain lion that gained notoriety for his dispersal across the major freeways of LA. He survived a bad bout of mange and is always ending up in inopportune places. Animal liberation remains the main underlying incentive.

How did P22 come together? You started in 2015, right?

P22: We (Justin and Nikki) started the band as a recording project in 2015, during some sweltering months in a garage in Val Verde. At that point, we were still working up the courage to ask Sofia if she wanted to play drums. Sofia introduced us to Taylor, who had just moved back to LA, and we commenced in a practice space in Vernon, next to the infamous Farmer Johns slaughterhouse. The pungent odour helped drive the song-writing sentiments. We played our first show as P22 in 2016.

What inspired you to call your latest release Human Snake?

The title was lifted from a painting titled Human Snake, by the German artist Sigmar Polke.

How would you describe it?

P22: Protest tunes sung in punk’s tomb.

The EP is a compilation of materials written between 2017 and 2019; can you tell us a bit about what was inspiring your writing for this collection of songs?

P22: We often work at a glacial pace because there’s not one person guiding the writing. There are instances where it takes months for a song to come together, even though it’s like 80 seconds long. There are some songs that yield more hastily. We really adore each other’s company which feels integral to the songwriting structure. This collection of songs wasn’t produced with any overarching thematics in mind; it was more of an opportunity to assemble something with sensitivity to each of our different perspectives while playing with the limits of a genre.

What do you feel was one of the most experimental things you tried musically while recording the EP?

P22: Sofia and Taylor’s harmony at the end of the EP.

The artwork for Human Snake reminds me of when I was a kid and I’d find interesting coins or embossed things and I’d take a piece of paper and rub a crayon or pencil over it to replicate the pattern/image/object on the paper; what’s the story behind the art?

P22: Exactly, it’s a rubbing of an etched block. Justin made the album art, the rubbing on the front, and the drawings on the back. The design riffs on the sanctity of different punk emblems and their homespun means of distribution.

Who are your creative heroes?

P22: Japanese pufferfish. Unfortunately, they are also a delicacy.

What are you working on now?

TAYLOR: Writing new music with a different project, sitting on an unmixed album, and working on my new bicycle.

NICOLE: A dissertation, making some videos, and spending more time with inter-species companions.

JUSTIN: Making cyanotypes in the garden.

SOFIA: My physical health.

Please check out: P22. Human Snake is available from Post Present Medium.