Original photo: Matt Shaw. Handmade mixed media collage by B.
Naarm/Melbourne band The Toads’ jittery post-punk hums with both a nervous energy and a groundedness with a mordant sharpness lyrically they dissect the mundanities, grind and absurdity of life. The band features members of The Shifters, The Living Eyes and Parsnip. Gimmie is excited to premiere The Toads’ first single ‘Nationalsville’ from their forthcoming debut album, In The Wilderness (which features many indelible moments). We were excited to learn more about the band, their coming album, new single and its accompanying video, from members Stella Rennex, Elsie Retter, Miles Jansen and Billy Gardner.
We saw The Toads play your first show last year at Jerkfest; how did you feel in the lead up to the show and what do you remember about the show?
STELLA [bass]: I remember that I was wearing a t-shirt that said “Chicken Every Sunday” and we couldn’t find Jake’s snare and cymbals before we played.
BILLY [guitar]: We rocked up super late and were playing first, I was stressed on the drive down but the show went sweet and we all had fun.
ELSIE: [drums] It was my first show ever so I was pretty nervous and had a tequila sunrise to calm my nerves. I remember my friend Bec (Delivery, Blonde Revolver) rocked up in some home made Toads merch, which I think we should replicate and sell.
MILES [vocals]: First shows are always a touch nervy, I think.
We did ok? I had to play twice so I was trying not to drink too much.
I remember the show and the evening being a bit stressful as I was going overseas the next day and I was paranoid about getting Covid. Somehow I avoided it and got to Belgium, all good.
What initially brought The Toads together?
STELLA: Billy and I have played in other bands together and with each other’s bands for a long time. So we jammed a few songs with my dear friend Elsie who wasn’t playing in any other bands and had learned drums earlier in life! We were just having fun with friends really. Then when it sounded good we tried hard to think of the perfect singer. After several options that didn’t quite make sense Billy suggested Miles who is a great friend of ours and was the perfect match! ❤
Photo: Matt Shaw
How did you find your sound?
STELLA: We all have relatively similar taste in music so it’s not difficult to agree on things.
BILLY: We tried a few different ideas at first and discussed which direction to go in. We all agreed that we should make more songs in minor keys, so we did, but recently realised the album is five minor and five major songs – so it ended up an even mix anyway.
Does The Toads have a preferred way to write songs?
STELLA: Mostly Billy makes the tunes and Miles makes the words. And I doodle around on bass and Els plays the drums.
BILLY: The songs are extremely simple even at the finished point but they start off so, so basic. Usually just some chords and a melody that work over each other. Stella plays the melody on bass over my chords for the verse and then I’ll play the melody as a solo or lead over her rhythm as some sort of break. Elsie makes a cool beat and Miles usually has words before the night’s over. It’s a very basic and fun process.
MILES: Chuck-Billy and Stella write the music and I just add my words. It’s cool to see them working stuff out together.
We’re premiering your first single ‘Nationalsville’ for The Toads’ debut album; what’s the song about?
MILES: It’s about a cotton farmer/ National party donor, water farming in the northern sector of the Murray Darling. He removes the water gauge and lies about how much water they are stealing, while diverting a huge amount of it into his catchment. A charming situation.
BILLY: The working title for this one “Country Song”. When we first jammed it, it felt real ’65 era Stones song or something – with some country I guess. Miles’ vocals’ gave it its own vibe.
Album cover art: Ian Teeple
The clip for it is fun! It was made by Leland Buckle. What can you tell us about making it? Where was it filmed? How did the audience seated in the chairs watching the band come into being?
BILLY: We referenced “Stranded” and “What Do I Get?” video clips and then passed the baton over to Leland….
LELAND: The old folks in the chair is a homage to the ‘Underwater Moonlight’ album cover, was listening to that one a fair bit when we started talking about the video.
ELSIE: It was a great day, pretty funny playing in some hall in Preston on a Saturday morning, surrounded by references to catholicism whilst staring down the eyes of Leland’s creepy (but amazing) paper mache people.
How long did the album take to record? Who recorded it? Where did you record? What was the most fun you had during recording?
STELLA: We recorded the album in two batches because we initially were planning on an EP. But once that was too long for a 7” and we made some more songs we decided to make it an album. Recorded it at Billy’s place in Preston. Took two full days, three months apart, with many overdubs after the fact. We had lots of fun and always do.
BILLY: Yeah, what Stella said – initially it was just five songs for a 7”. And then we went for eight songs to be a 12” EP. But along the process we fleshed out two tracks (Two Dozen… and Tale of a Town…) into their own new interlude/reprise things with new words and melodies. I like those ones. Miles’ vocals on The Wandering Soul are terrifying. The funnest part of recording was definitely – and pretty much always is – the overdubs.
ELSIE: It was definitely a lot of fun. I think we lost our minds a little at the end of each session but just made the overdubs a lot more fun and out there. I think it took Stella and I a few extra takes to get some harmonies done without cracking up laughing. We are also really lucky that we have Billy in the band who can record everything himself, so it made the whole process seem a lot more comfortable.
MILES: We always have fun together. Lots of beers/seltzer’s and dexies. It was really cold on the first day and I slept all rugged up in my coat while the others were busy laying down the tunes. You gotta respect it.
Which track from the forthcoming album do you like to play live the most? What do you appreciate about it?
STELLA: I like Gimme Little More to play on bass because it feels tough.
BILLY: Probably just Nationalsville or something. Tale of a Town is fun when we hit the quiet part.
ELSIE: Agree with Bill, seeing him rip his solo in Nationalsville is always sick to watch. For me, I like playing in the ‘In The Wilderness’ because the song has grown so much from what it was once. I think it has a lot of quirkiness and sort of goes against the structure of a ‘normal song’, like the extended outro. I also love the bass in this and Miles’s vocals do a few twists and turns which just sound so good.
MILES: I think I like playing “In the Wilderness” I like the end part , it’s a bit Eno / Bryan Ferry or something.
What have you been listening to, watching and/or reading lately?
BILLY: Michael Rother. Fair bit of krautrock in general.
STELLA: Been listening to lots of Rosalia, watching Atlanta and rewatching Extras.
ELSIE: I’ve been listening to this album Fantastic Planet by Lealani which is kinda moody synth pop which is a big vibe. I’ve been watching The Last of Us like the rest of society at the moment. And reading Politics of Public Space.
MILES: I have not been listening or reading much at all lately. I’ve been watching Will Ferrell movies, The Mandalorian and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
What do you get up to when not making music?
BILLY: I’ve been cooking heaps. Lots of salsa verde’s.
STELLA: Going to Tafe and working mostly!
ELSIE: I work full time at a local Council so mostly that, but outside of work, I’ll either be walking my dog, going for a run down the creek or in a Youtube hole. I also have just picked up Spanish classes!
MILES: Work, watch people play Dayz on Twitch, play Total war games, visit the same pub every weekend and hang out with my partner.
What’s the rest of the year look like for The Toads? Also, are members working on any other projects?
BILLY: Just hope to work on some more songs. Also hope to do a split record with Modal Melodies at some stage, but where all members play on all the songs like a collab. There’s a Toadal Melodies joke in there somewhere.
MILES: I have been very lazy with The Shifters, so I would like to get back into that, soon.
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.
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.
Carolyn Hawkins is a musician and visual artist from Melbourne. We love the art she creates! It’s imaginative, fun, whimsical and sentimental. She lovingly crafts album covers, gig posters, zines, videos and more as well as playing in two punk bands we adore, Parsnip and School Damage. Gimmie chatted with Carolyn about all this and more.
CAROLYN HAWKINS: I’ve been stuck in the studio today working on stuff that’s due this week.
What have you been working on?
CH: A stop-motion video. I’m glad we booked the interview for today because I feel like I’m starting to go crazy, I feel like I’m locked in a dungeon trying to get this thing done [laughs]. It’s good to break it up.
You also did a stop-motion animation for the School Damage song “Meeting Halfway”; is this new clip you’re working on similar to that?
CH: Yeah. It’s pretty similar. I’m still using paper cut-outs to do all of the images. I’m using a slightly better program. When I made the “Meeting Halfway” video I was using a $20 program and my computer didn’t have enough memory. I had to save it every time that I captured a frame, it was twelve frames per second. It would kick me out and I’d lose all of my work. I have a much better program now, which I’m glad I was able to save up for and get. It makes stuff a dream. It’s still really time consuming but it’s easier now.
I can relate! With my laptop at the moment I have to have it plugged into the wall all the time because the battery won’t charge and it has a dodgy port and if I just knock it slightly it shuts down and whatever I’m working on I lose. At the moment I’m saving after like every sentence I type!
CH: Oh no! That’s totally what this was like. It’s living on the edge way too much [laughs].
CH: The “Meeting Halfway” video was a lot of fun to make. I don’t really do animation stuff, I didn’t really know what I was doing. My friend Alex gave me heaps of help in figuring it all out, I also borrowed a camera and a tripod off him. I still don’t really know what I’m doing, I guess that’s probably why I’m working in a similar style for this new one. I’m still getting my head around that way of doing things. I started using a green screen which is pretty exciting!
Nice! My husband’s made a few film clips with animation and using a green screen, he just uses a green sheet for the backdrop.
CH: Cool! I have a green bit of paper. It’s really fun! What videos has he made?
He made Regurgitator’s “Sine Wave” clip. What first got you interested in art?
CH: I’ve always enjoyed drawing and making things from as far back as I can remember. One thing that really stands out – I really don’t think that I probably would be into making things in quite the same way if I didn’t watch it – is watching Art Attack! When I was a kid I used to love that show so much! My mum used to tape it off the T.V. and I’d watch it on the school holidays. Someone gave me all the VHS tapes of that recently too. It’s just the most random projects and using all kinds of materials, just stuff you have around the house. It kept me entertained for so long. I’ve always enjoyed making things and using the materials that I have generally. It’s satisfying to start with nothing and then by the end of the day you’ve made this new thing. That was always just fun stuff. I don’t know what made me decide to go to art school and pursue it beyond doing art at school or in my own time. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else basically, there’s nothing else that I want to do more. It’s just a very satisfying thing to do to work with your hands.
It really can be the best fun that you can possibly have.
CH: Yeah, exactly. There’s so many surprises! When I left school I studied print making and a lot of that is about these unexpected things that can happen. When something doesn’t go right and you get these happy accidents, I think that’s probably the most exciting thing that can happen when you’re making anything whether it’s a song or a drawing or a print, something you’re working on. For me that is the most exciting thing about making anything.
Me too! I love when you’re making a song and you might play a “wrong” note or something but then it works, there’s a beauty in imperfection and making things work, that’s what makes stuff more interesting to me.
CH: Yeah, totally! I agree. With punk music it’s all about imperfections. When you’re recording something and it’s not a perfect take, I would probably prefer to use those ones. There’s no point in trying to control something so much that it squeezes the life out of it. You have to allow and encourage all of those things. It’s all part of the process.
Totally! When I spoke to Jake [of Alien Nosejob] he told me that he was teaching you to play guitar in iso; how’s that going?
CH: Oh yeah! [laughs]. Good. I’m still going with it. I practice almost every day and it’s been really good because, I think over the last little while I have found it harder to write songs. I’ve just gone through this period where… I’m not really sure what it is but I haven’t been writing as many songs but I’m still dong musical things.
It’s been really awesome to learn an instrument. I haven’t played anything like the guitar before, the last time I learnt an instrument would have been when I was getting drum lessons when I was a teenager or learning piano. It makes you realise that when you are an adult, as you get older you know what you like and you stick to the things that you know and that you’re good at and you keep doing those; the things that you’re not good at you don’t have to do anymore.
As a kid your parents encourage you to learn these things, play this sport, go to swimming lesson, stuff like that… you might not enjoy them but you just do them because that’s what being kid is about—people want you to try new things. It’s refreshing to push myself to do this thing that might be uncomfortable and have the satisfaction of seeing yourself get better at something. It’s been really fun.
It’s nice to play songs that I think are cool. If I learnt guitar as a kid I’d probably just be playing something like “Smoke On The Water” [laughs]. Maybe “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica or something like that! I’m so impatient with learning the guitar though, it’s like; when am I going to get better?! It reminds you that if you practice something you’re going to get better. If you put work into something you’ll get there. Fingers crossed I keep going with it.
I’ve read that in Parsnip you play the same drum kit you’ve had since you were a teenager.
CH: Yeah, I do. I’ve only ever had the one drum kit. I remember when I got it from this drum place that is still there in Richmond on Victoria Street. It’s served me really well and unless something bad happened to it or it broke in a way that it couldn’t be repaired… I never get new things, especially if I’m used to something. I’ll just keep using it until I can’t.
CH: Jake loves getting new things, I don’t really like getting new things [laughs]. I stay with my old stuff and I like repairing things until I can’t anymore and they just die. I’m really fond of my drum kit, it’s like my bike… I’m so comfy with them, they’re like old friends. I can’t let go of them!
Previously when talking about the gear you’ve used, you’ve mentioned that you feel like your sound more comes from how you play and not what gear you play; how would you say you play?
CH: That’s a good point, because a lot of the time I don’t even play my drum kit. It’s not like being a guitarist and having your own gear, often when you’re a drummer you just use what kit is there, which is fine, it means I don’t have to bring one.
For a long time I never really thought the way I played was particularly unique or anything, the way I play I always have the philosophy that less is more. Strip it back as much as you can to the core elements. I think it probably came from being in high school, I never played drums in a band because it was totally dominated by dudes, who honesty couldn’t play that well but were just really loud and they could do all these drum fills and stuff. I was too nervous to do that. It made me be really put off by these really over the top way of playing.
When I was a teenager I loved The Who and loved Led Zeppelin, I still really like those bands and that crazy drumming but, it’s not for me. I’d much rather play like Peggy from The Gories or Meg from The White Stripes, she basically made me want to be a drummer. I take from that school of thought, you don’t need to be over the top to have something that sounds cool and has personality, and is catchy and still has a good feel to it. People often come up to me and say they like how I drum and everyone always says that I play “really in the pocket” and I have never really understood what that means… apparently that’s what I do [laughs].
When Parsnip started you all had other bands; what was it like when you all started playing together?
CH: Honestly it just felt really natural. Me and Paris and Stella had spoken about it, we were at one of the Jerkfests and we were like, let’s make a band! The other two had been talking about it and they asked me if I wanted to be part of it. I messaged them the next day and I was like, I know we were all pretty drunk and getting excited about this but, I really, really want to do it!
When we finally did get together…. whenever you start a band I think it’s a bit awkward because you know each other as friends but you’re trying to suss out how everyone works when you jam, being in that band environment. Every band is so different. I feel like we figured it out really quickly, I feel like we just got our shit together!
We all had played in bands for so long… we probably all had the same experience playing in bands… I’d never played in an all girl before. We all had the same frustrations of being in this male dominated environment, it’s not like we talked about that though. The dynamic just worked instantly. It was fun. It’s just hanging out with your friends. It sounds corny but that’s how it really was. With our rehearsals still, almost 50% of it is just hanging out and chatting [laughs]. Which isn’t great if you’re paying for a rehearsal room. It’s good though, a lot of it is mucking around and catching up. It’s important to hang out outside of band things too, I think sometimes in bands friendships can suffer. We all hang out as buddies not just band stuff, which is really nice.
What inspired you and Jake to start School Damage?
CH: Me and Jake did a tape. Jake typically said something like – this was when we first started going out – “We’re gonna spend so much time together, we may as well start a band” [laughs]. Which was cool, I didn’t mind. I had never written a song before and he was really encouraging of that, which was good because it is pretty scary to do that. We recorded a tape at home. Jake was hanging out with Jeff at this record store, Title, that used to exist on Gertrude Street. Jeff joined on drums and then I’d known Dani since I was at RMIT – she was doing photography and I was doing print making. We were all just friends. Dani played guitar and I asked her if she could play bass and she turned out to be the best bass player I have ever heard, so incredible.
You mentioned that when you started writing songs, it was scary; what’s scary about it?
CH: I guess ‘cause I thought I couldn’t do it. It was nice being around Jake because I can kind of see how he writes songs, it demystified the whole process. I was still relativity new even to just having friends that played music. The whole idea of creating songs… I was playing with Chook Race and we just jammed, at the start we didn’t really write songs. I was always like; how does it happen?
I knew how to play piano and I had a keyboard so I just recorded stuff on my phone and Garage Band, not really knowing what I was doing; I still don’t know what I’m doing! It was a scary idea. You have to make yourself quite vulnerable. The thing that always freaks me out is; what am I going to write a song about? Everything sounds pathetic when I write, but you just have to get past that. If I was going to give in to that part of myself, which is: no one cares about that; no one wants to hear about your stupid romance troubles… I don’t even know. Why do you want to write a song about dumb online shopping? Who gives a shit?
I give a shit! I really love your song “Online Shopping”.
CH: That’s the one song that I am the most proud of! [laughs]. I really love that song, I don’t care that I wrote it… I really love it. It’s actually really relevant right now… anyway, whatever! You just have to tell that voice that doubts yourself to shut up! You know this. It’s not going to help you at all do anything. Maybe that’s why I haven’t written for ages? Because every time I go to write something I think it’s stupid.
Something that helps me when writing is that I think, well, maybe if I think this maybe someone else out there will. I just do it and have fun with it. Hopefully it connects with someone somewhere, and if it doesn’t I still had a really fun time making it.
CH: You’re 100 % right. It’s like maybe we’re just hardwired to doubt ourselves. You do have to get past it. You’re right, someone somewhere will resonate with it and if they don’t; what’s the worst that could happen?!
On the new Parsnip 7” Adding Up you wrote the song “Repeater”?
CH: Yes, I did. I wrote it really quickly because I was like, oh no, I have to try and write something for this! [laughs]. It was very quickly put together. This is what happens when you play in a band, you write some little demo with a little information in it and the rest of the members make it a hundred more times amazing! I wrote that and we ended up making it heaps like “I Can’t Explain” by The Who, obviously [laughs]. I didn’t realise until after that I’d totally ripped off a part in “Proud Mary” by Creedence [Clearwater Revival], but whatever! It ended up working though because the song is about patterns repeating themselves throughout your life, relationships and things. Maybe it doesn’t matter that those songs are repeating themselves in my song. At least I can justify it that way! [laughs].
Parsnip do a cover on the 7” too of “Treacle Toffee World”.
CH: I think it was Stella’s suggestion, I didn’t know the song beforehand. It’s off one of these ‘60s comps of garage music. The song is by a band called Fire. It’s such a good song. It’s so much fun to play. It’s fun to sing a song about sort of nothing. I really like the lyrics in it.
The film clip is really fun!
CH: That was obviously done in isolation. We were talking about what we wanted to do for a clip and then the pandemic happened. It’s done in iMovie and is pretty lo-fi. We all filmed ourselves at our own homes being idiots dancing to the song. Bec put it together in a day. It was nice to be silly with it. You’re not spending lots of money on it so there’s no pressure to make it perfect. It was nice to do something together even though we were apart from each other and isolating. Just talking to each other about band stuff and getting things done was nice.
I was so sad for you when the Parsnip Japan tour got cancelled.
CH: I know, it sucks. I’m sad about it as well. Everyone has had so many things get cancelled this year. Ordinarily, if I told myself at the start of this year that everything that was going to happen was going to happen, I’d be so devastated but I think as things got cancelled, the whole scale of this thing has put so many parts of my life into perspective. I had another trip that got cancelled to and I kind of didn’t mind ‘cause I was so freaked out about so many other things, I didn’t even want to go. I was fine to just stay here and be stuff. It would be really cool to go to Japan with Parsnip, it will happen. I’m staying optimistic.
In September/October last year Parsnip when to America, right?
CH: It was for three weeks.
You got to go hiking and swimming and explore some places; what was your favourite place you saw?
CH: Oh my gosh, we were so lucky! We got a bit of time to check out the local area and to do non-music related things which was so nice. The bush walk you were talking about was somewhere in Upstate New York. We went swimming in Richmond, North Carolina. The guys from Cement Shoes took us swimming in this wide river, I’ve never seen anything like it. We went to some really cool art projects in Detroit, they were outdoor art installations which were really cool. Despite Japan being cancelled I feel really lucky that we got to go to America when we did. Who knows when we’ll ever be able to go back there? It was the best tour ever! Tours can be such intense experiences. You can think it will be amazing and sometimes it’s not.
I wanted to ask you about one of your art pieces that I really love, it’s the Anti-Fade Records compilation New Centre Of The Universe Vol. 3. It’s really beautiful.
CH: Thank you! That front cover is really special to me. I was so stoked when Billy asked me to do it. It’s a gauche painting I did. I took a long time to finish. It’s from a photo I took four years ago on New Year’s Eve at a spot in Queen’s Park on the Barwon River. All the little people in the boats… one is Paris, the one with the two oars sticking out; one is Zak [Olsen] and some other Geelong friends. We used to go down to the Barwon river and swim, we’d go to K-Mart and get blow up dinghies for $20 and hang out there until it’s dark then go to someone’s house. When Billy asked me to do it I wanted to pick an image that summed up for me, Anti-Fade… when I think of Anti-Fade I think of Geelong and having fun with my friends. I know it’s branched out now and Anti-Fade is a lot bigger but I just wanted to pick something that was special to that scene. I think maybe Billy wanted something more about Melbourne than Geelong and I tried to just paint a pretty picture but it didn’t really work out. I don’t think I can just paint a pretty picture, it has to have some special meaning or concept otherwise it’s too boring to work on.
I had a feeling it was of Queen’s Park. I always remember the really beautiful trees they have there and that peaceful feeling you get, your cover reminded me of that and made me feel that.
CH: It’s a really beautiful spot. It sums up for me what I like about Geelong. It’s just a bunch of people getting drunk and having a swim in Queen’s Park [laughs].
Being a music and art lover; what’s some of your favourite album covers? What do you appreciate about it?
CH: I was talking to Billy [Gardner] about this recently, I love all The Fall 7” art, the illustrations and collages. I really love The Fall Totally Wired cover with the face on it with gritted teeth. Definitely EVOL by Sonic Youth, the cover looks exactly just the way the album sounds. I usually look through heaps of covers when I’m getting inspired to do my own work. I also get really inspired by artist David Hockney.
In February this year a book came out called Urban Australian and Post-Punk which you wrote a piece for.
CH: Yeah, I did. That was basically about a venue that used to exist here in Melbourne that was a house venue. It was run out of a terrace house and had really good shows, it had a limited capacity and the community that would attend those shows were really lovely. It was a really good set up, the sound was always good. The people running it were the most gorgeous angels ever! It held a special spot in my heart and I ended up writing this particular thing about it because I was doing a subject in Urban Planning at Melbourne uni… it was about how every week we’d watch a different movie and it would look at underground subcultures and how that subculture interacted with the urban environment. One week we watched Dogs In Space which is one of my all-time favourite movies and I ended up writing an essay for my final assessment comparing the house party experience and share house environment and how that could be compared to things that were or had happened in Melbourne. My lecturer David Nicholas, who used to play drums in Cannanes and lots of interesting bands, asked if I wanted to contribute my essay to this book. It’s totally exciting! And nerve-racking! I’m in good company to say the very least. I felt weird having it out there because it’s weird to comment on culture. When you see something in a book bound up like that it’s giving my voice so kind of authority, I don’t know if I should have that. It’s just my perceptions of the whole thing.
Yeah, but you were there and you experienced it and your perceptive is just as valid as anyone else’s that was there.
CH: Yeah, I guess that’s true. I just feel it’s really important and these spaces deserve to be documented in some way otherwise they’re these ephemeral things, but that’s what makes them so beautiful, they come and go. I wanted to write it down, I got some good interviews with people. I’m glad that it’s out there. I hope when I read back over it when I’m older it will be a good thing to prompt my memory. It was really special to be able to do that.
Recently we spoke with Parsnip and Hierophants’ Paris Rebel Richens, a Melbourne-based musician and visual artist. In the Gimmie office we collectively voted her our favourite song writer of 2019! In the past year Parsnip released poetic, playful punk album, When The Tree Bears Fruit; Hierophants released their “true wave” LP, Spitting Out Moonlight; and if that wasn’t enough, Paris also released a solo tape P.P Is…Peeping Piebald Past The Night! under the moniker P.P.Rebel—all on Anti Fade Records. We love her art too, she created some of our favourite local record covers including: The Living Eyes’ Modern Living, ORB’s Naturality and of course her bands’ art.
The following interview is an extract from a larger in-depth chat with Paris for a forthcoming book our editor’s been working on, which includes conversations on creativity and the deeper aspects of life with musicians like Gerry Casale from DEVO, Minor Threat and Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye, Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna, Henry Rollins & many more.
You went bird watching yesterday, how was it?
PARIS RICHENS: It was fantastic. I’ve always appreciated birds. It was only about a year and a half ago that I started bird watching, I bought myself a pair of binoculars for my birthday. Yesterday was the third time I’ve been out with a group of people, I’m learning so much through other people, all the different species and different markings, so many look similar. I was the youngest person there, everyone else was about sixty years old [laughs]. It was really cool. I find “birdos” are just really lovely people, all really peaceful.
Do you like being out in nature?
PR: Yeah. I guess I feel like it’s essential for everyone’s wellbeing. Sometimes if you’re hard at work just sitting in front of computers when it comes to making music and stuff like that, you can just end up listening to loops of things over and over again, it can really clutter the mind and it feels like it’s essential just to be near a tree or something that might emanate some peace and remind you to slow down or clear the mind.
I get that, I swim in the ocean most days. Why is music important to you?
PR: It has a lot to do with my upbringing. My mum is a dress maker, she’s also quite talented at illustrating and art. My father has a massive appreciation for music. We were just raised to be creative. My older sister was a jeweller and is an artist now that works with beads and different mediums. There’s four of us, sisters, my next sister does art and helps with different collections at Melbourne University. My little sister is also a stylist. I grew up doing drawing a painting, music is probably the one that feels like the most direct expression, or maybe the expression that I’ve tried to achieve for my life.
How did you come to playing music?
PR: It started through Hierophants. At the time Jake [Roberts] and Zak [Olsen] just asked if I wanted to play keyboard. I had no experience really [laughs]. I still don’t know music theory or anything like that. I just learnt by being in the band. It was terrifying but it was also a great learning curb for me. I learnt through Hierophants how to write strange songs [laughs]. I felt like putting that towards other projects as well, it evolved from there.
I love when people are self-taught. I feel that way there’s no rules and there can be more of a freer mindset. Knowing theory etc. could have its pluses too I guess. I feel like being self-taught you’d have a different perspective.
PR: I have met people who can read music and are classically trained but then they’re not capable of writing their own music. They can play other people’s music basically but no their own. For me on the flipside, sometimes I wish I knew more than I do but at the same time I guess my song writing has a lot to do with what just feels good to me. Sometimes it might sound a bit strange to others but whatever I feel is right in that moment I’ll just go with it [laughs].
I find the Parsnip songs you write are very joyous and positive, but then you’re also very honest about difficulties in life.
PR: Yeah. It is kind of funny because some people just listen to our music and think we’re kids or something but, maybe some of the messages are coming across in the music… I’ve learnt through song writing how great it is to just create expression or emotion, so it seems like a nice thing to create happiness if you can or create joy or hope and be able to lift other people up at the same time. It’s special, it’s just a nice thing to share with other people.
Was there anything that was happening in your life that made you write to make music that does up lift people?
PR: Yeah, absolutely. A few years ago I got to a point where I just had to make some changes in my life when it was very challenging. Maybe some of that comes across in the Parsnip album. I was maybe a bit lost and just seeking, ultimately happiness. I guess I got to a point where I didn’t really feel like making music that might generate more pain. I think another thing is when I was going to a meditation centre, we’d sing all these songs about just bringing light and singing within the soul and singing about the heart—that was really uplifting. I thought that it was quite powerful, I’ve just taken that and put that into my creations, my song writing…
On your P.P. Rebel solo tape you have a song called “Die Before You Die”.
PR: I came across that idea through Eckhart Tolle, of shedding yourself, the ego or whatever, the things you identify with that make you up, as opposed to maybe just being present and knowing yourself as the soul, the inner essence of yourself rather than all the external associations—being who you, what’s in the heart.
Billy has put out some of the Gimmie Team’s favourite Australian underground releases of the past several years on his label Anti Fade Records (you can check out some of AF’s catalogue HERE). AF is one of only a handful of independent Australian labels that avid record collector and music aficionado Henry Rollins buys anything from—“I like what they do,” Rollins’ has said. Us too! Billy plays in Ausmuteants, The Living Eyes, Cereal Killer and Smarts. We thought Billy was the perfect person to chat to, kicking off our chats with Australian artists who we think should be celebrated!
We love Anti-Fade Records, a lot of our favourite releases of 2019 have come out on your label.
BILLY: Awww sick! Thank you so much for getting in touch. I feel very blessed, I have a lot of close friends making music.
Right now we think Australia has some of the best music in the world, most diverse too, all the bands on your roster have their own thing happening.
BILLY: There’s a bunch of different things, the new Program record I’m putting out is a little different.
How did you first discover music?
BILLY: I have knowledgeable parents, they were always playing me music from a young age. Particularly my dad, he played in bands when he was my age. Both mum and dad taught me heaps about music, so I guess there.
What was the first stuff that you started to discover for yourself?
BILLY: In high school I got heaps into ‘60s garage through The Frowning Clouds guys, we went to the same school as them. They were into ‘60s garage stuff and I picked up on all of this.
Your band, The Living Eyes, that’s a reference from the ‘60s garage band, The 13th Floor Elevators, right?
BILLY: Yeah, everyone thinks it’s a Radio Birdman reference but deep down it’s 13th Floor Elevators [laughs].
I love that band.
BILLY: They’re the best!
Did you start playing drums first?
BILLY: Yeah, I started playing drums really early, I think in grade 6. I gave it up for ages and came back to it in Grade 11 or 12. I kind of picked it up again properly when Ausmuteants stared in 2011. Drums were the first instrument for me but they got neglected for a few years.
What started you off playing them again?
BILLY: Me and Jake from Ausmuteants started the band as a two-piece that we would just do in the bedroom. We’d swap between playing keyboard and guitar and the other person playing drums. Once it came to doing the live band we decided we had to pick instruments. I volunteered to play drums, because I felt Jake was writing most of the songs anyway; as it went on it just way more sense like that.
You’ve been doing Anti-Fade since 2011-2012?
BILLY: Yeah right at the end of 2011 I first started, I made plans for it, two days before Christmas I put out one cassette. In 2012 was when it really started rolling, there was actual record releases.
Why did you start the label?
BILLY: New Centre Of The Universe, I had the idea to do a compilation before I had the idea to do a label. I remember getting the idea for it one night, I spent so long thinking about it and the possibilities—I got really excited about it! I started talking about the label idea and I put out four cassettes of friends’ bands – Ausmuteants were one of them. Centre Of The Universe came out in 2012. The first eight months or so were just getting things together.
When you first starting out did you find it hard to deal with people because you were so new?
BILLY: I suppose so. I was asking a lot of people that I knew that did labels for their advice and tips. I have three handy friends that helped me out with all of that stuff at the time, which made things way easier.
What was a tip that you got that was super helpful?
BILLY: At first my idea was to press this many records but then my friend talked me down to only press 300 instead of 500 because this market isn’t as big as it might seem. That was pretty good advice, I’m glad I didn’t press 500 of the first bunch of releases.
I understand it took you months to get the latest New Centre Of The Universe track list done?
BILLY: Yeah it took ages! The whole process of the comp took at least a year. I did spend quite a while with that track list. Track lists are getting more and more important to me as I get older [laughs]. I was happy with the end result. I kept changing my mind about track two on each side.
What makes track lists more important to you now?
BILLY: I’ve just been noticing things a bit more. I think it can add a lot to a record, choosing a really good order as opposed to a bad one—it has to flow.
I get that, I make a lot of mix tapes for friends and there’s different moods and peaks etc. to consider.
BILLY: You know how important it is then.
Yes. Now Anti-Fade is sixty-one releases in?
BILLY: Yeah, jesus! It sounds crazy when you say it. I feel like the last two years have been really good and I’m stoked with how it is going. I feel very blessed that all of my talented friends let me release their stuff. Pretty much everyone on the label is a close friend, there’s not really any strangers or people that approach me out of the blue.
That’s nice that it’s all friends.
BILLY: I’m really lucky!
Has there been a release on Anti-Fade that’s been really significant for you?
BILLY: The Parsnip album [When The Tree Bears Fruit] that has just come out is a big one! It’s something that has been in the works for a few years. I wasn’t expecting the opportunity to release it. I was over the moon when they asked me to do that. I also feel like the debut Civic record was pretty important. Both of those bands have been the two main ones revolving around the label for the last two years, both kicking goals big time.
What do you have in the works that you can tell me about?
BILLY: There’s a few things next year, a lot of split releases, another label will be doing it in Europe or America and I’ll be doing it in Australia. There’s lots of good albums coming, I’ll leave it at that [laughs].
I totally trust your taste in bands, we’ve bought most of the releases on your label, except for the early stuff we missed out on.
BILLY: Nice! Thank you.
Are there any local songwriters that inspire you?
BILLY: There’s a bunch. The people that I play in bands with, Jake Robertson [Ausmuteants/School Damage/Alien Nosejob/Hierophants/Aarght Records] is one. A long term friend – who I don’t play in a band with – Zak Olsen [Orb/Traffik Island/Hierophants]. These are people that I’ve grown up with. Also, Paris Richens [Parsnip/Hierophants/ PP Rebel] always blows me away with her songs. That’s just three, there’s more out there.
I’d pick the same! As well Albert Wolski of EKEK—that new record is incredible. I also super love The Snakes. I love Hierophants, their record, Spitting Out Moonlight, is mega!And I love New War’s records.
BILLY: That’s awesome! I just made this connection, all of the people I mentioned are in Hierophants! [laughs]. There you go! They’re a meeting of the minds.
Songs on that record are so clever. I listen to the songs and I’m like, how did you even write that?!
BILLY: [Laughs] Yeah I know! So many great ones.
Another album I really love from this year is your band Ausmusteants’ …Present The World In Handcuffs.
BILLY: Oh, sweet!
A funny thing is, that when me and my husband see cops when we’re out and about, we get some of the lyrics in our head!
BILLY: [Laughs] That’s funny as!
You know like [singing]: My dad was a cop!
Billy: [Laughs] That’s hilarious!
It’s funny how your brain can just connect stuff to songs. I think I’m such a music nerd my mind can connect most things to song.
BILLY: I’m gonna tell Shawn [Connor] the guy that wrote the record, he’ll love it!
When he brought that concept – a concept album that explores a piss-take look on life from the perspective of a police officer – for the songs to you guys; what was your first impression?
BILLY: He came with a set of lyrics to the song “We’re Cops” which is from 2015. He wrote the lyrics and the riff to that, a year or so later he toyed with the idea of writing a part two to it. He wrote a part two and then three and then a whole new album. It took him a while, he was chipping away at that as Jake was writing other songs for the band. So it started in 2015 and we finally put it out this year.
What’sbeen one of your favourite songs to come out this year?
BILLY: Holy moly! That’s a tough one…
Or something you’ve been obsessed with listening to recently?
BILLY: I discovered, New Values, by Iggy Pop. I’m having a blank here though… I can’t even think right now.
Henry Rollins often plays a lot of Anti-Fade bands on his radio show…
BILLY: Yeah he played three on his most recent one!
He really has his finger on the pulse when it comes to great new music, especially Australian stuff.
BILLY: He’s totally on to it. I have never met him but I’ve emailed with him a few times, he’s a cool guy.
He is. I’ve interviewed him several times over the years. He’s always lovely. The one thing that has always stuck with me about him is that he is the biggest fan of music!
BILLY: He came to an Ausmuteants show once actually. I was standing next to him, everyone was going up to him and hassling him but I didn’t want to do that. It was cool that he came!
You should totally talk to him next time, ‘cause he is such a fan boy of music and bands himself, he totally understands that.
BILLY: When I talked to him on email he said that too.
What’s the best live show you’ve seen lately?
BILLY: The launch for the new Parsnip record.
Man, I would have loved to have seen that! Now they’re in the US, right?
BILLY: Yeah. I found out this morning that they’re all safely there.
Do you ever get stressed when bands on your label tour overseas?
BILLY: Yeah. There’s been a couple of little scares…
Like the EXEK van rolling in Europe?!
BILLY: Yeah, that was wild. I still don’t know exactly what happen there. They’re back on the road again now, I look forward to speaking to them about it when they get back, I’ve only heard dribs and drabs about it.
Last question, what do you want people to know about Anti-Fade in general?
BILLY: It’s a small little thing that I run out of my bedroom, all the bands involved are my friends.
Do you have lots of stock boxes crammed in your room?
BILLY: Yeah, under my bed, beside my bed… there’s a lot! [laughs].