Paris Richens: “create happiness if you can or create joy or hope and be able to lift other people up…”

Original photo by Charlotte Tobin; handmade collage by B.

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.

Hierophants – Spitting out Moonlight.

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.

Parsnip – When The Tree Bears Fruit.

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.

Please check out: Parsnip. Hierophants. P.P. Rebel.

Billy Gardner of Anti Fade Records: “I feel very blessed that all of my talented friends let me release their stuff.”

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].

Artwork by Paris Richens.

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.

Artwork by Carolyn Hawkins.

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.

Art by Paris Richens.

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.

Cover art by Eve Dadd. Layout by David Forcier.

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!

Artwork by Per Bystrom.

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’s been 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.

Cover photo by Robyn Daly. Layout by Ying-Li Hooi.

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].

Find ANTI FADE RECORDS here. IG: @antifaderecords. FB: ANTI FADE records.