nipaluna Punks It Thing: “Nothing wrong with being a weirdo”

Original photo by Max Croswell. Handmade collage by B.

Today It Thing release EP Syrup into the world. Bold, loud, with hook ramming into hook, It Thing deliver 9 tracks that zip by at the speed of light with an inspired cleverness and simplicity. Syrup gives us rebelliousness with a smile, while lyrical tongue firmly planted in cheek. Gimmie caught up with frontwoman, Charlotte Gigi to get the scoop.

Hi Charlotte. How’s your day been? 

CHARLOTTE GIGI: It’s been really relaxed today. I just cooked up a pot of mapo tofu and now I’m in bed doing a drawing, so a pretty good day! 

It Thing are from nipaluna, have you always lived there? how did you first find your local music community? 

CG: I was born & raised mostly in nipaluna (Hobart), lived in Naarm for like 8 years or something then moved back there when I was 17. I just recently relocated back to Naarm again, so a bit all over the place, but nipaluna will always be my home. 

I’ve always loved live music so it just felt like a natural progression to start going to gigs. When I was 18 I started religiously going to the Brisbane Hotel on Fridays and Saturdays to see any bands I could and found a total wealth of great punk music coming out of Hobart’s scene. That was pretty much the most thrilling thing ever. 

What’s one of your favourite albums?

CG: I think whatever comes into my head first is the best answer, so I’m going to say Life’s Too Good by the Sugarcubes. That album changed my whole perception of what makes a good vocalist. The balance between the two vocalists (Björk and Einar Örn) is delightful, one moment it’s dreamy and melodic and the next it’s super goofy and humorous. It’s genius. The guitar riffs and bass lines are so bouncy and delicious, it just makes me smile. 

Who or what first inspired you to make music? 

CG: Chrissy Amphlett from the Divinyls. I must have been 7-years-old when I found a copy of What a Life! in my dad’s CD collection. The album cover alone already had me, probably because Chrissy looks a bit like my mum [laughs]. I put it on my Discman and listened. I just thought, wow! This is the coolest thing ever! She was relatable to me, the songs are tough as—she’s been with me since. 

Have you ever had a moment where you doubted yourself in relation to making music? What helped you move through that? 

CG: Yeah, I have moments like that on and off. I’ve struggled with health problems for pretty much my whole life, so yeah, sometimes I have a crip moment and get discouraged, but then I rise from the ashes ‘cause there’s nothing else i’d rather be doing. Quitting’s for quitters. 

What brought the band together in 2019 in the Brisbane Hotel beer garden? 

CG: The Bris was 100% the gravitational centre of music in Hobart, so we all met there one way or another and had a jam. We wrote a bunch of songs straight away and like two weeks later we were gigging. I can’t believe they used to sell $2 pints, that just seems like a total joke now. I love that place so much. 

What initially influenced It Thing’s sound? Do you feel it’s changed over the course of writing together more? 

CG: Hmm… I guess I can only really speak on the vocals side of things, for me it was the Ramones. I wanted to write short, straight to the point songs, because all my lyrics are based off like, one sentence prompts. I never have a good idea that lasts for more than two minutes. The Ramones do that well, so for me that was a huge inspiration. I don’t really feel like the process has changed on my part, I’m not sick enough of doing it that way to branch out just yet [laughs].

What do you remember about It Thing’s first show? 

CG: Oh man, I was really crook. I had like, walking pneumonia or bronchitis or something. My friend Molly Turner told me to eat a clove of garlic to help clear me up, which I misunderstood as “head of garlic”! Before that gig I was sitting around eating like fourteen cloves of garlic. I will never forget that [laughs]. 

It Thing have a new release. Where did the EP title Syrup come from? 

CG: I just think that the word is super textural, it makes you think of thick, sticky, sugary liquid, which is how the music sounds like to me. 

How long has Syrup been in the works for? What did you love about the process of making it? 

CG: Since mid-2019 it’s been in the works. It was originally just going to be four songs but I guess we feel like we had more to bring out right now. The best part of making it was writing the songs! Nothing beats the feeling of leaving a band practice feeling like you just levelled up. We all write our own parts, so when you all end up on the same wavelength it’s real special. 

Which track was the most fun to write?

CG: I feel like writing ‘Rocket Song’ was particularly fun. I remember not really being in a good mood but then Clab just whipped that riff out and it was like, what the hell was that?! [laughs]. That just brought me up onto his level instantly. That song is so chaotic to me, the recording is funny too because Jmo, our original drummer, had just had a blood test that morning so the ending is just super urgent because his arm felt all wriggly and weak and it influenced us all. It sounds like a car accident, so we went with it. 

What’s the most personal song on the EP? Can you tell us a little about it please? 

CG: Probably ‘Borrowed Time’ or ‘Pet Snakes’. 

‘Borrowed Time’ is about visiting my friend’s home town to go to his funeral. 

‘Pet Snakes’ is about how alienated I felt when I was a kid. It’s about having no autonomy, getting in trouble a lot and nothing good happening—just grim 2000s low-income suburban realness. Booo. 

We really enjoy the tongue-in-cheek qualities in your lyrics; who are the lyricists that you enjoy? 

CG: [Laughs] Thank you! I think Scott Walker, David Byrne, HR from Bad Brains and Beastie Boys are all pretty crackers. I love witty lyrics and I love lyrics that don’t always literally make sense, just abstract ones that somehow make a point. 

Where did the lyric ‘I lost my cool / I’m so uncool’ come from? (It’s one of my favs on the EP). 

CG: I dunno, just keeping it real to be honest [laughs]. Nothing wrong with being a weirdo or feeling like one. 

We love the cover art which is hand-sewn patchwork by Molly Turner (you mentioned her earlier) representing each of the nine tracks on the EP; what drew you to Molly’s work? Which is your personal favourite patch? 

CG: Molly is like, the realest person out there and her art is purely unpretentious, and that’s the most special thing ever. Her art is sophisticated, warm and nostalgic but still very playful and colourful. I couldn’t be more stoked with having her art on the cover. I think my favourite patch is the leopard, I think it looks like Clab [laughs]. 

Last question, what’s the best part about being a creative? 

CG: If the world had a net-happiness percentage, being an artist would be adding happiness points into circulation instead of like, being a real estate agent. 

It Thing band’s EP Syrup is out today on Marthouse Records. Please check out @itthingband.

RABBIT’s Bobby K: “I’m always a lovesick fool for a pop song…”

Original photo by Scott Bradshaw. Handmade mixed-media by B.

Forming just over a year ago, nipaluna/Hobart-based band RABBIT are releasing their debut 7 inch on Rough Skies Records (home of bands we love: Slag Queens, All The Weather, 208L Containers and The Native Cats) today. The quartet give us three high energy, power-pop gems. Overdriven guitars, catchy riffs, solid driving rhythms, and melodic vocals singing songs of love and heartbreak. Songwriter and guitarist, Bobby K, tells us about the band’s formation, recording the EP, and their inspirations.

RABBIT is inspired by forgotten power-pop groups and new wave punks; who are some of these inspirations and what is it that you appreciate about them?

BOBBY K: There’s a demo by Peter Case’s band The Nerves that I come back to a lot. I stumbled on a lot of these old power-pop songs because they were made popular by other artists. The first Cyndi Lauper record has a couple; Robert Hazard wrote Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, The Brains wrote Money Changes Everything. The Nerves wrote Hanging on the Telephone which I only knew as a Blondie song until I started sniffing around its roots like a truffle pig. There’s so many truffles underfoot hey, The Flamin’ Groovies, The Records, Vibrators, The Soft Boys, The Only Ones, Television Personalities, Buzzcocks, The Motels… plus all the Oz punk stuff like Celibate Rifles and Birdman and Saints. What ties the truffles together for me is sharp, simple songwriting – I’m always a lovesick fool for a pop song but rough it up a bit with overdriven guitars and demo-quality recording and you get me all buttery. Recently I got hooked on the Buffalo Springfield song Burned – prime example of perfect guitar pop, and coincidentally almost the same title as a RABBIT tune from the 7”.

You wrote and recorded the demos for the three songs on the Gone 7” yourself on a Tascam 4-track tape before forming the band. Who or what first got you into music?

BK: My Aunt Lou played me a tape of a Welsh choir when I was about 6 and I guess it got in there pretty deep, pretty powerful music. Neil Young taught me guitar, Bill Ward taught me drumming. I studied classical music at uni too, but it wasn’t much chop and crushed me into a tonal box from which I’m still trying to escape. Nahhh, I like tonality, it’s comforting. Anyway I’ve been in heaps of gross punk bands since I was 13, and one that was pretty good, and now I’m in RABBIT.

On your Instagram there was a vid of you playing guitar with the caption: upstrokes are for arseholes. Where does your love of the downstroke come from?

BK: It’s a worthy commitment! I got it from Dave Gibson (Funeral Moon/Spacebong/Ratcatcher). Dunno where he got it from but probably The Misfits or The Ramones or The Slayer [sic]. Have a look and a listen next time you watch a guitar band, upstrokes are so floppy and limp. There’s nothing worse than listening to limp floppy upstrokes, nothing, except like if you’re running back to your car because you’re two minutes overparked but as you get back the inspector is taking a photo and the ticket is there on your windscreen and you were too late, and you try to protest but the inspector just simpers at you, and then later you’re at the pub and there’s a band playing and IT’S HIM, THE INSPECTOR, and he’s playing third wave ska! That’s worse! But it’s the same thing! Also, the tone and attack of downstrokes rips.

photo by Scott Bradshaw

How did the band come to be? How did you meet each band member: Maggie Edwards (vocals), Sean Wyers (drums) and Claire Johnston (bass)?

BK: I was living in a sharehouse with Magz around the time I was recording the demo. My singing voice sounds like Leo Kottke’s farts on a muggy day, so I asked Magz to sing on it. Even her retching is sonorous. I think I met Clairey at the Brisbane Hotel one night and she put her name in my phone as ‘CLAIREY MEGABABE’. She’d heard the demo and was super keen, so we tried to get a band together with her on drums. I went overseas for work and it fizzed, and then she kicked it back into life last year, she put the word out and pulled it together with Sean on the kit. I’d met him a year before when I showed up at a rehearsal space for a weekly blast beat practice and his metal band had muscled in on my slot. They went to the pub for an hour while I sweated it out over his snare, and eventually I moved into his spare room. That’s how Hobart works. Clairey is still MEGABABE.

Each of the songs on Gone speak to various aspects of love and/or relationships. Can you tell us about the writing of ‘Gone Gone Gone’? What sparked it?

BK: The songs on the demo came out of a singularly painful and traumatic breakup, sort of diversionary processing tactic or something, dunno what was going on upstairs but I chucked it all into writing loud pop songs. Somebody in France was very kind to me when I was low, dusted me off as I was passing through so I stayed with them for a few weeks and eventually got a flight to Dublin and drank a million pints with my Da and then BANG, wrote a song about it. It’s in G major and it’s got a bunch of suspended 4ths which try to convey the feeling of vomiting in the rain in the front yard of a BnB while your Da takes photos of you from the rental car. Berlioz for the 21st century or whatever. Actually, the lyric in the chorus came out of a dream I had many years ago and I never knew what it meant but now I sort of do.

You made a film clip for ‘Gone Gone Gone’ directed by Joseph Shrimpton; what do you remember most from filming it?

BK: Shouting SHRIMPTON a bunch. I’d just met Jo that day and was pretty excited. They’re really nice! It was an easy film shoot – mostly I just lay on a mattress and read a book about chess while Clairey had a bath. Magz and Sean had an argument about a lamp. SHRIMPTON!

The songs were recorded with Zac Blain (A. Swayze and the Ghosts) in a sharehouse on Muwinina Country. How did the collaboration come about?

BK: We just asked the guy because he’s a ripper. We more or less all knew one another, so it was an easy thing to organise. Sean and I were living in the old sharehouse on Warwick Street (where the video was filmed), the neighbour screeched at us like a bat, Zac was an absolute pleasure and he gets where RABBIT comes from. He’s got cool spectacles.

Can you share with us some details of the recording of ‘Burnt’?

BK: More room mic and less close mic in the drum mix, Bonham style for Seans. Two almost identical guitar tracks panned L/R – one through a Fender Bassman and one through an Orange Rockerverb II, same set up for every song on the 7”. Clairey’s bass guitar signal attended the Zac Blain School of Wonderful Works and graduated with a Certificate III, and Maggie just sings everything perfectly, every time. That’s what she does.

How did the song ‘Love Bites’ change from the original demo version to the final recording version we hear? We especially love the dual vocals!

BK: Well, Love Bites wasn’t on the demo that went up on bandcamp, it was a later song that I demo’d after we’d started rehearsing. I recorded it really rough for the band to hear and Maggie filled in a missing verse. It still changed quite a bit from my demo to the band recording… the dual vocals are more contrapuntal on the 7”, I think on the demo it was more of a straight harmony. Clairey reworked the bass part and made it more harmonically colourful. Sean and I are very different drummers, so the drums were bound to feel different. I’m an absolute slop-fest octopus while Sean is much more precise with his fills. The brief I gave to Sean for Love Bites was “play it like Mitch Mitchell, y’know, like just put shit everywhere”, but Sean hits ’em harder and more solid than Mitchell, so there ya have it!

Photo by Scott Bradshaw

Rabbit are nipaluna/Hobart-based; what’s the best and worst bits about living where you are?

BK: Worst bit is how the gaming industry dominates pubs all around the state and there’s relatively few venues to support live music and there’s not much we can do about it.

The best bit is how everyone drives 10ks under the limit and the sky always looks like an ice-cream cake.

What’s one of the most memorable local shows you’ve attended or played and what made it so?

BK: We recently played at Junction Arts Festival in Launceston and after our gig we went and watched a friend’s band Broken Girl’s Club, and I was standing on the grass in the dark with Sean and he taps me on the shoulder and shouts over the music ‘OI, BOBBY LOOK AT THIS’ and I look down and he’s holding a handful of wriggling worms.

Ohhhh, also there was one at Altar where the sewage backed up and flooded out onto the dance floor and The Bonus didn’t get to play because it was a public health emergency.

What do you love about making music?

BK: It’s the only thing in the world that I ever want to do, and I GET TO DO IT.

What else should we know about you?
BK: I used to go for the dim sim but now I go straight for the corn jack.

RABBIT ‘Gone‘ 7 inch is available to order through Rough Skies Records.