Thao and the Get Down Stay Down: “Temple was the creation of a space in where I can exist as my whole self”

Handmade mixed-media collage by B.

Thao Nguyen is an Oakland-based musician that is about to drop the most honest, beautiful and self-healing record of her life. Temple finds Thao comfortable in her own skin and sees her finding the courage to finally publicly come out as her whole self, confronting the shame, grief, division and silence she has felt in her life, making for a collection of powerful songs. The album is in essence pop but goes beyond that with elements of hip-hop, funk, folk, with punk roots. Temple is a celebration of living life on your own terms!

THAO NGUYEN: I’ve been screen printing in our garage. I took a screen printing class because I had this idea to offer a tea towel as part of our merch bundle – this was pre-pandemic – I would screen print a tea towel for them. It’s reclaiming my name because kids used to call me “Towel” when I was younger and it was really traumatic. I’ve been screen printing all day.

Nice! It’s cool that people will get to have a handmade little piece of you in their kitchen.

TN: Thank you so much for saying that! I hope they turn out OK. I hope it’s just enough that I’m doing it myself. It’s harder than I thought it would be [laughs].

My husband and I do screen printing in our garage, hand-making things is so much more personal and special.

TN: Totally! It’s been so fun. Do you have trouble with the ink drying up sooner than you think it will and then it gets hard to have a clean print?

Yes! Parts of the screen can get clogged a little, we still haven’t worked out how to combat that, we just try to do the prints as quickly as possible.

TN: [Laughs] Yes! I gotta move faster. It’s getting hotter here, that thickens the ink up too.

I noticed that during the song writing period for your new LP Temple you spent a lot of time in the kitchen baking sourdough bread.

TN: [Laughs] I did. Song writing can be so painful and take you to such dark places, also there can be very little return on a lot of effort. It was so nice to do something tactile and to see your work result in something, besides a song that you don’t know whether it’s good.

With bread I think it’s a food that can be really comforting too.

TN: Oh yeah! It’s been remarkable. Luckily I had already stockpiled a lot of flour from the song writing time, rolling into the pandemic we do have enough flour to keep baking.

What does your new album Temple mean to you?

TN: Temple was the creation of a space in where I can exist as my whole self. It’s the culmination of a whole life that I’ve lived in a very divided way. It has a lot to do with claiming my own life and still belonging to my family, and trying to find out how to still belong to my family and culture while being publicly out. I got married in the process! It was a real culmination of life and a celebration of that.

Congratulations on getting married! I can definitely feel that celebratory vibe on the album. There also seems to be a real feeling of freedom on it.

TN: Yeah, there is. It was like a bloodletting! [laughs]. There are moments of heaviness but also lightness and shedding a lot of the past and ghosts.

On your last album A Man Alive you were talking about your father, and on this record the first song, the title track, is celebrating your mother.

TN: Yeah. They have had drastically different influences on my life. My mom has always been so steady and consistent but, she has her own complex life. I wanted the chance to honour that and make her refugee story to be beyond that, to give her a fuller humanity.

Was it scary to put all of these thoughts and feelings out there?

TN: Oh, terrifying! Absolutely! It took years to make this record, it took probably a year and a half just to get the gumption to write the songs that I knew I had to write. Now it feels almost surreal like it was someone else’s turmoil and toil. It took a lot! I said that I didn’t know if I would make another record because it was such a herculean task to me to confront all these things.

I think sometimes listeners don’t quite get how intense it is for some artists to tap into their pain to write a song. Writing things from an honest place you have to confront yourself and what’s happening in your life, it can be scary.

TN: Yeah. It’s the artists own decision to do that, it was mine. There wasn’t another option for me. It’s the type of work I am drawn to. You hope that people will spend some time with it but it connects how it connects and it finds who it needs to find.

Have you always been creative?

TN: I think so. Growing up I didn’t have a lot of resources. When I started playing guitar that’s when I felt I could tap into creativity, I was about twelve. Before then I watched lot of television [laughs].

I know that some of your favourite writers inspire your lyrics, this time around it was James Baldwin, Octavia Butler and Yiyun Li; what was it about each?

TN: James Baldwin, his language and his eloquence and succinct manner is so remarkable. He’s such an incredible, incisive writer, whenever I reference him it’s the present tense, he is such a presence for so many people. The way he wrote about injustice and abuse of power and systemic inequality, the way he wrote about race, about being queer—it was all inspiring. A real source of courage for me.

Octavia Butler, the way she imagines and created these dystopic realties; this near future dystopia that we have actually been living in now. That was before all of this was happening though, there was already so much to work with as far as the corruption in the world and destruction of the environment and society. She’s a luminary, a prophet.

Yiyun Li, the way she has an incredibly powerful, very potent style of writing that isn’t dramatic at all but it’s devastating to me. The way she writes about families and familial relationships. She writes about Chinese families. I found a lot of similarities and commonalities that resonated with me and my Vietnamese family.

I’ve always liked how in Octavia’s stories she always has fascinating, strong female characters.

TN: Yes. ‘Phenom’ the song that draws the most from Octavia, the narrator of that is the voice that I imagine as one of her strong characters that leads the army of the scorched Earth to come back and bring to bear.

Have there been any books that have had a profound impact on you?

TN: So many, yeah. I love panoramic, cross-generational, sweeping narratives. The first one that I read like that was The Grapes Of Wrath or East Of Eden. More recently, Grace Paley, all of her short stories. I discovered her in college through my roommate; she influenced my song writing a great deal when I was starting to song write more seriously. Her economy with words is something that I have always admired. She’s a general influence.

For the last record, Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, oh man there’s one passage in it where the son is getting on the bus and leaving… that influenced the creation of A Man Alive. There were a few sentences within that that just broke me. From there I could access the emotions that I needed to write the record.

Sonically when you started out writing this record, did you have a vision for it?

TN: Not so much. I knew that I would produce it, and produce it with my bandmate Adam [Thompson]. Whatever happened sonically it would be represented in a more truthful was, a more accurate way than any other, because we were doing it. I wanted to be creating more beats. I knew that there would be a strong rhythm and prominent groove and beats. I wanted a lusher soundscape.

I really love the song ‘Marrow’ on the LP; can you tell us a little about it?

TN: ‘Marrow’ I wrote leading up to marrying my partner. The songs aren’t necessarily chronological but they do follow things that lined up with what was happening in my life at the time. ‘Marrow’ is about saying: here I am, you know all these things about me and you accept me still [*gets teary*].

There’s a couple of songs on the album that make me cry every time, one is ‘Marrow’ and the other is ‘I’ve Got Something’. I like ‘Marauders’ too because it’s the most sincere, whole-hearted love song I’ve ever written.

Were those songs hard for you to write?

TN: They were! Especially ‘I’ve Got Something’ it deals with basically getting to a place where I had to be willing to no longer be a part of my family in order to have my own. There are a lot of scenarios that can end up in estrangement, fortunately that wasn’t mine. It’s really hard! How do you belong to where you come from? How do you belong to yourself? And, what are you willing to risk? How much can you deny of your own life?

Last question; what are some things that make you really, really happy?

TN: I love that question! I really love cooking. I love baking bread. I’ve been really into growing vegetables, I know that probably sounds really, really cliché at this point. The only solace I’ve been able to find is really getting into growing our own food. I spend most of my day trying to figure out how to keep the seedlings alive [laughs] and trying to figure out how to make compost. Just this morning the mint had this rust kind of fungus thing, I have to figure that out. It’s a whole other world of being in tune with the food we grow and eat. It’s so awesome! It’s something that I always wanted to do but I’ve always been so busy with tour. Even if I tried I wouldn’t be fully focused on it and I’d come back from tour and it would be dead.

Please check out: THAO & THE GET DOWN STAY DOWN. Get album Temple on Ribbon Music. Thao on Instagram.

G2G: “G2G is a happy band! We are celebratory humans and we like to sing about that”

Handmade collage by B.

Sydney’s G2G sound somewhere between the Raincoats and Kleenex. They’re an inviting listen of freewheeling riotous music inspired by their “mums” and “Dolly Parton”. Despite currently living in different parts of Australia they’re still keeping in touch and working on new ideas which, if we’re lucky will materialize into their first LP.

How did G2G come together?

GEORGIA: Well it happened pretty quickly. I had lots of – I wouldn’t call them demos – but phone recordings of strange melodies, and Greta had lots of ideas too so we spent a couple of afternoons in her studio fleshing these parts out. It was obvious that we needed to get Australia’s’ best bass player (Gel) involved to make the songs truly work… We probably had one rehearsal together before our first show, which was Paradise Daily’s Fourth Birthday Party.

GRETA: Georgia and I met at a Body Type show and Gel and I met randomly through a mutual friend. Neither were particularly memorable occasions, I think only brief introductions, but we all slowly grew on each other. That’s the way I think real best friendships happen.

GEL: Greta showed me some demos in the car once of two songs that her and Georgia had written and I loved them so much! Our first show we played for about 10 minutes and it was a very fun 10 minutes- we all got together lots after that and kept writing. And yeah I think so too Greta!

What is the band’s biggest inspiration?

GEL: Dolly Parton, Nicholas Cage, our mums!

GEORGIA: I think we all have a similar sense of humor, and I think we are a curious group… We have an A3 sheet that lives above Greta’s bed with all of the things we love. Dolly, Nicholas and “our mums” are definitely on that, also on that list: Dixie Chicks, Brian Eno, Leah Sales, Terry…

GEL: Yeah I think curious is a good word for us! Curiosity is a big driver I think for us all.

GRETA: I’m currently in isolation in Melbourne but if I had a photo of that piece of paper it would show you… our kindergarten teachers are on there too. Our pets. I think our biggest inspirations are the people (and animals) that made the biggest positive marks on our lives. G2G is a happy band! We are celebratory humans and we like to sing about that.

We found it!

FIG A: THE G2G BIBLE WITH A TOUCH OF GRETA NOW WIG.

Growing up, how did you discover music?

GEORGIA: Family. Perth’s’ 1080 radio station had a fair bit to do with what I discovered.

GEL: Also family. In primary school I played in a two person Delta “Goodrum” cover band with my friend Claudia. We played exclusively Delta [Goodrem]. I think maybe being given a Destiny’s Child CD for my birthday one year provided a gentle push toward discovering other music!

GRETA: The first CD I ever owned myself was Ali G’s single “Julie” which I used to spin the shit out of on my walkman. I think my godparents gave it to me. The first way I liked to discover music was by going to HMV in Hurstville and picking a random CD from the top 10 section. I was pretty gutted when it shut down.

When did you first realise you wanted to play music?

GEORGIA: I won a guitar from the local video shop at the age of eight after writing a paragraph on why I loved Josie and the Pussycats. That was the instigating event but I didn’t realise I wanted to make music until I was in my twenties.

GRETA: I always wanted to play music, I can’t really remember when I realised! I used to love playing my dad’s bass when I was small and then he bought me a little Casio keyboard and I would just press play on the demo songs and make my own words and dances up to them so probably then.

GEL: My Mum played in a few bands when I was young. I liked that there were often people over playing and it was normal for it to be noisy and lots of kids running around and it felt fun! I think I have always liked the idea of having music as a part of day to day life in a similar way.

G2G are from Sydney; what’s it like where you live?

GEORGIA: G2G was born in Sydney but at the moment I’m in Perth, Gel is in Wombarra and Greta is in Melbourne. So we are living all over. The sun sets over the ocean where I live.

GEL: Where I am it’s nice, extra isolated during this shutdown but there’s a very empty beach and lots of nice places to walk.

GRETA: I am from Hurstville, St George. It’s a quiet, suburban place. I live there with my mum, dad and my grandmother. We are a super close family and St George has many things to offer us. Paul’s has the best burgers, Tom Ugly’s bridge is the best fishing spot and Mr Chow’s is the best BBQ Pork.

You released your first song “No Kid No Angel” in June last year; what’s the song about? Was it the first song you wrote?

GEORGIA: Um, the anxiety and repetition of loss. How about that.      

GRETA: Yeah, that sounds about right G.

In January this year you released your first EP as a 7”; what’s your favourite song on it?

GEL: I think my favourite song on the EP is “Animated Satisfaction”. I like that it’s freewheeling and frantic but also kind of condensed.

GRETA: That’s so hard… Obviously I love all of the songs but I really love playing and listening to “Animated Satisfaction” too Gel. We sound tuff in the recording and it brings back really funny memories.

Are you currently working on anything?

GEORGIA: We are working on making a movie together, which is proving a little difficult as we are all in different states and self-isolating, but we are figuring it out. We also have a few songs we want to record so hopefully an album will happen when we are next together.

GEL: Sending each other phone recordings and lyrics and song ideas is something we’ve always done, so even though we’re in different places we’ve kept this up. There’s definitely an album there in our combined voice memos. 

GRETA: In conclusion, we’re working on staying in touch with each other, making sure we call, check in, Facetime where we can. We miss each other A LOT!

What’s the most interesting thing someone’s said to you about your music?

GEL: Someone once described G2G as “like a chainsaw to the face, if that chainsaw was made of nails and sharks.” I definitely appreciated the creativity of this depiction of us… haha!

What do you love most about making music?

GEORGIA: I love making music with Greta and Gel because it’s quite chaotic and intuitive and filled with feelings that I like being inside of and communicating.

GEL: Yeah, me too. Georgia and Greta are the best to make music with. I like the way we build on and run with each other’s ideas. Writing songs together is supportive and fun and honest, and that feels good.

GRETA: I love making music with Gel and Georgia because we laugh SO MUCH. And there’s an amazing sense of freedom that comes with writing with these two. Ideas are never shunned because nothing is lame or repetitive or shit. We embrace all of each other’s ideas and we just work really well together.

What are the bands, songs or albums you’re listening to right now?

GEORGIA: Solo Career and Greta now. The song “This Kiss” by Faith Hill and the song “This Is Not A Dream” by Dadamah. The Lydia Lunch podcast.

GRETA: Creedence Clearwater Revival, Burial, Brian Eno, The soundtrack to Animal Crossing.

GEL: I’ve been listening to More Fun In The New World by X heaps, somehow it sets the right kind of mood during this weird time of shutdown/ isolation! Also the song “No Romance” by The Fates, the new Primo! song “Machine”. And band Girls at Our Best! and my friend Mardi’s Country Christmas album.

Where are you happiest?

GEL: In the bath.

GEORGIA: In the bath with Gel and Greta.

GRETA: In the bath with Gel and Greta and Georgia.

Please check out: G2G bandcamp. G2G on Instagram.

Mystery Guest: “Inspired by Sun Ra and the musical output of cults like The Source Family in the 70s”

Original photo by Louis Roach. Handmade collage by B.

Retro-futurist pop duo Mystery Guest from Melbourne have just released their first album – Octagon City – on Tenth Court Records. The album is an interesting electronic, minimal-synth record, born out of a genuine curiosity to explore sounds in the studio. Throughout the record we are given heavy doses of a Bene Gesserit, ADN’ Ckrystall, SSQ type 80’s vibe (with the monologue on the album’s opener and title track reminding us of Algebra Suicide), though updated with their own style, clearly informed by post-80’s club culture. We interviewed Mystery Guests’ Patrick Telfer and Caitlyn Lesiuk to learn more about their LP and creative journey.

Can you tell us about your creative journey; how did you first come to playing music?

PATRICK TELFER: I was always interested in the process of music making, but only started doing this after school: I got hold of a Roland hard disk recorder—a VS880—which was really,really cool. I would make silly music with friends as a form of entertaining ourselves, call it “experimental music” and never show it to anyone.

CAITLYN LESIUK: I had piano lessons as a kid, but really started getting excited about music when I got my first guitar. There was something fascinating about not knowing what the “notes” were in the traditional sense: I loved learning shapes and experimenting with them.

Did you have any favourite bands or musicians growing up?

PT: The Beatles is the one that I always come back to! Also Wu-Tang Clan.

CL: My most enduring musical obsession has been with ABBA.

How did Mystery Guest come to be?

PT: It was a project based entirely on a curiosity about the potential of using a studio – it was our first experience of a proper commercial recording studio and we had a lot of fun playing with different sounds and methods of production.

CL: We had played in bands together before, and were both interested in creating music outside the traditional “bass/drums/guitar” format.

Photo: Louis Roach.

What kind of headspace were you in writing and recording your new record, Octagon City?

PT: It was just pure clarity and bliss.

CL: I was somewhat trepidatious because I’d never recorded my own songs before, but it was an overwhelmingly positive experience.

What was the vision you had for the record?

PL: The vision I had for the record was completely surpassed by my incredible collaborators. There’s so much talent in everyone and I feel really lucky to have collected this much of it around me for enough time to make music out of it.

CL: I wanted to explore the idea of making a “musical manifesto”  in the vein of albums like Tropicália: ou Panis et Circencis. I felt inspired by Sun Ra and the musical output of cults like The Source Family in the ’70s.

You’re a duo; can you tell me about your dynamic and how you work together? What’s your songwriting process?

PT: A lot of the time I think of a song I like and say ‘let’s make that’. I’ve always had this idea that even if you set out to directly replicate something, the end product will be far enough away from the original that you can truly say it’s a new thing. It’s an interesting way to work – there’s nothing new!

CL: Aside from “The Day Lou Died” and “Moon Moon”, Pat would send me a beat and I’d take that away and start thinking about lyrics and melodies, and the song would start to take shape as we passed it back and forth. I hadn’t ever written songs like that before (or since), but it was an interesting process.

When do you feel most creative?

PT: When I’m happy. I find that my mental health is a little too linked to the quality—as I perceive it—of my current work.

CL: I’m only creative when I have to be, when there’s a deadline… whether that’s self-imposed or coming from somewhere else. I guess I’m still waiting to be touched by the muse.

Photo: Kurt Eckardt.

I love all the electronic sounds in your music; what’s one of your favourite sounds?

PT: White noise has it all! Every frequency is represented. I have a friend who taught me the healing qualities of white noise when it is filtered to sound like the ocean.. like a perfectly symmetrical ocean.

CL: The Mellotron (an early 70s version of a synth made using tape). It’s such an amazing hybrid of old and cutting edge technology of the time.

Do lyrics come easy for you or do you have to work at it?

PT: I don’t ever even try any more!

CL: I try not to get too hung up on lyrics: if I can’t think of anything, I’ll look for an interesting reference in a book or image, and write about that. I wouldn’t say they come easy, but I’m mindful of spending too much time slaving over them.

What inspired the song “The Day Lou Died”?

CL: The Day Lou Died is riffing on a poem by Frank O’Hara about Billie Holiday called “The Day Lady Died”. The lyrics—taken literally—are quite dramatic I suppose: they’re about killing pop stars because it provides the opportunity to reminisce with an old love on the music that you shared. I was also trying to emulate the form and melodrama of songs by The Shangri-Las.

How did you feel when in the middle of creating the record? Were there any challenges?

PT: Knowing when to stop is a challenge! There’s always one more thing you could add… 

CL: Because we’d never played the songs live, and were writing a fair few of them in the studio

What’s the most unexpected thing that’s happened on your music-making adventures so far?

PT: Caitlyn Leisuk.

CL: For want of anything else to do, I often walk around off stage when performing with a double mic lead. I never anticipated I’d perform in such an ostentatious way.  

As well as doing Mystery Guest you also both created, Little Music Lab, a program for children 4 – 12 years old with a focus on learning and play through music technology; what inspired this?

PT: I’ve always worked with kids, for a long time in childcares and kindergartens. I find it to be so rewarding to engage with really young people. There are so many interesting perspectives and ideas that emerge when you enter into a conversation with a child with a really open mindedly. They can be so creative and weird and crazy.. I’ve always got along well with them and music is such a powerful language to communicate with.

Electronic, technological music opens up even more interesting avenues as this can level the playing field in terms of creating music without the need for years of disciplined rehearsal of theory and technique.

CL: I was interested in giving the kids instruments that were thoughtfully (diatonically) tuned, to avoid the kind of cacophony you get when you have a whole class haphazardly playing xylophones and ukuleles in regular tuning. If you set them up for success, even the youngest, least dexterous humans among us can make cool music.

Photo: Louis Roach.

What’s your best non-musical skill?

PT: Cooking.

CL: Philosophising.

Why is music important to you?

PT: Music is important because it opens up new ways to communicate with people. It’s a really good vessel for expression – and it’s so suppressed in our culture – we’re all dying to sing but we almost never do. I mean aren’t we? Or is that just me?

CL: Because it creates community. That was one interesting aspect of exploring a fictional cult: in the absence of organised religion, music is a forum for bringing people together in a shared experience.

Please check out: MYSTERY GUEST. Get Octagon City on TENTH COURT Records. MG on Facebook. MG on Instagram.

Zoë Fox And The Rocket Clocks: “I’ve been writing about this relationship between humans and technology”

Handmade mixed-media collage by B.

Melbourne-based singer and multi-instrumental Zoë Fox has released her debut album Clockwerks, an out of this world collection of intergalactic pop! It’s exciting, it’s fun, and it’ll make you dance. Zoë’s album launch was postponed due to the global pandemic we’re all living in right now, she took her music to live streaming via her Instagram stories and totally killed it!—she does live stream like no one else does. We chatted this week to get the lowdown on her LP and found Zoë to be warm and charming, funny and a fellow book lover! Maybe Zoë’s next project should be an online book club! We’d sign up for that!

How did you first get into music?

ZF: We always had a music room in our house when we were growing up, we were so lucky. My mum was in a bunch of different bands, so I was surrounded by it from a very early age. All of my favourite children’s entertainers when I was a kid were my biggest influences. I started writing songs and poems as experiments, it just evolved. I was never really a good singer when I was growing up, but did it anyway because I enjoyed it.

Do you think you can sing now?

ZF: I don’t really care anymore [laughs].

When did you first start playing guitar?

ZF: I started playing guitar when my mum gave me a few lessons when I twelve. When I was fourteen I had a friend in high school that could play and we got back into it together. I started playing songs from The Sound Of Music in her bedroom [laughs].

You originally started out doing covers; what put you on the path to writing your own songs?

ZF: I guess I always wrote my own stuff, even when doing covers. I thought people just wanted to hear songs that they already knew [laughs]. I thought no one wanted to hear the songs I was making up. When I started doing gigs I thought, maybe I can just slip a couple of originals into here.

Your debut LP Clockwerks came out last week; how are you feeling now it’s finally been released into the world?

ZF: It’s a relief! I feel like it’s not only released into the world but it’s released out of my body and my entire system, which is so good because often projects just build up inside you. Releasing it is releasing it from you and actually clearing space for new creative ideas to flow in. It’s bizarre circumstances to release your debut album in right now in the middle of a global pandemic [laughs]; selling it on bandcamp for the price of a brunch! I’m so relieved it’s out. I feel like I can cross that off my list: make an album, done!

How long were you working on it for?

ZF: I’ve been writing those songs for years. “Perfume” I probably wrote that maybe six years ago. I was just writing songs and I didn’t know that they were going to be an album until very recently and it all fell together really quickly. It was all recorded in the space of two weeks.

What was it that made you think, I have an album now?

ZF: I don’t know actually. I guess when I was recording it and I was choosing songs I just picked ones with a similar theme. I realised the whole time I’ve been writing about this relationship between humans and technology. I pulled songs that I thought would be a good family together, out of their little pockets and put them into one nest together and went, yeah, that’s an album!

What’s the significance between the album title Clockwerks?

ZF: It’s got so many meanings, so many things have lots of meanings. Initially when I first decided I wanted to call it Clockwerks I was reading Even Cowgirls Get The Blues by Tom Robbins.

I know that book!

ZF: Yeah! Well, you know how he talks about the clockworks all the time?

Yes.

ZF: Throughout the whole book he is just harping on and on about the clockworks. My interpretation of it was… you know how there’s all those caves that go into the middle of the Earth and the clock people maintain the clockworks and the Earth time is different from our constructive time, it was measuring a countdown until the end of man. I’ve been fascinated by time and space forever, it’s just so wild! I was reading that book and I thought the clockworks were perfect… it’s all about time and space and this notion that there might be something bigger going on.

I interviewed my grandad for the “Earthling Interludes” and he’s a massive clock collector, he’s like the clock master in a way; my grandparents’ house was like a clockworks of their own [laughs]. They had clocks all over the walls and every hour the whole entire house would ring and chime and tick and tock and cuckoo and ding and dong! It was the most magical thing in the whole world. All of that combined created the name Clockwerks.

Could you give us a little insight into one of our favourite songs on your LP “Tiny Little Robots”?

ZF: It got started, I picked up this tiny little robot earrings from a garage sale for $2 or $1. Every time I went over my friend’s house I’d take off my jewellery and put it on the table. I’d always forget them and I’d lose those earrings everywhere. I got a text from my friend and it said: you’ve left your tiny robots here again and they’re taking over the world! [laughs]. We started a text war in the style of Graeme Base’s Animalia. Like, “Someone needs to stop these mindless metal-heads from making such a mess!” He’d send me little pictures of them doing really naughty things like smoking a cigarette. He said they were being too naughty and they had to put them to bed, he put them to bed in a little matchbox with cotton wool. I took some of our alliteration text history and combined it with the mental image I had of all these tiny little robots in tiny little rowboats coming over to take over the city and with their technological ways making their ways into the minds of everyone and taking over from the inside.

That’s so fun! That’s one thing I love about your music—it’s so much fun!

ZF: I have a lot of fun writing it and playing it!

What about the song “Mr Gravity”?

ZF: Ohhhhhhh [laughs]. That was inspired by a relationship gone wrong, I found myself getting completely worn down. I don’t know why I always seem to date men like robots? [laugh]s. Maybe that’s something I need to look into! I was just frustrated. I created this thing where he was like “Mr Gravity” bringing me down like gravity, keeping everything down. I want people to interpret it the way they want to. I had someone go “I thought it was about being brought down to Earth and it was really grounding!” I was like, that’s great! It’s good it can be different things for different people. I was frustrated with boys that were judgemental, that would make comments about my appearance. In one of the verses – I was also learning about the war on waste at the time as well, so it was all paired in – I say: ‘you’re like a supermarket with high standards for cosmetics / disregarding nature’s fruits and all their imperfect genetics / I am a crooked house complete with feelings, thoughts and fears / three eyes, two hearts, too many ears for hearing.’ I was just saying, hey, stop bringing me down! Don’t judge me on how I look or how I am. I ended up getting out of that relationship and breaking up with him, and said: my mechanical friend I’m sure our times come to an end [laughs].

I’m sure a lot of people could relate to that! I know I do, I once dated a guy that was always complaining about how frizzy my curly hair was, it’s like, dude, it’s humid, my hair curls, hair gets frizzy, deal with it!

ZF: Yeah, or having hairy armpits. It’s like, come on dude, take me as I am. Sometimes you might be so deep in it that you don’t see that it’s happening. That was me breaking free of that! It’s a powerful song for me, I don’t feel run down by it, I feel empowered by it now. That song was my empowering breakthrough, where I rose from the ashes as a phoenix.

Was there any song that you wrote on the album that surprised you?

ZF: Probably the way the “Shiny Car” and “Tin Can Man” ended up sounding. They weren’t finished songs when I started recording but I went, nah, these are going on the album. I sat down with the producer and we used as many descriptive words as possible. I had written the main song but I didn’t know how it was going to sound, what style it was going to be. We worked on it so much and it really surprised me how it came together. I was so pleased.

I know you love to use descriptive words in your lyrics; do you have any favourites?

ZF: It’s one of those things that you can’t think of it until you’re saying it.

I was asking ‘cause I’ve worked in libraries my whole life and I’m a big book and word nerd, being a writer my whole life too, I’m just in love with words and sentences and how things go together, how things sound. I love fashion magazines because of the descriptive words they use, they can be describing an item of clothing, something that’s just made out of fabric and stitches and they make it sound like this magical thing! It can be so poetic. Words are the best.

ZF: Incredible! Yes! They are the best. I studied English Literature at uni actually, I majored in it; I write children’s books on the side.

That’s so cool!

ZF: So I’m so on-board with what you’re saying, I love it. I love when people describe the world in a different way…. Like I received a letter from my friend Archibald the other day, I was sitting in the garden and I noticed that it had been pegged to the clothes line, there was an envelope with my name on it – I guess my housemates were trying to disinfect it because of what’s going on in the world right now. He wrote: Dear Lady Fox, in my isolation I’ve been writing letters and I just wanted to write to you and pick your brain. Here’s a letter “Z”… it’s not my best but it will do. He had just written the letter “Z” and I love it when people talk about words in that way, like saying “here’s a letter” and then writing a big letter “Z”! [laughs]. It was so genius.

Have you read the The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster?

I have!

ZF: That is my favourite book of all-time! The way they talk about words, like you can taste a letter “A” in your mouth and see how it feels on your tongue! Or you can spill over a bucket of words and then your sentences become jumbled! I love that. It’s so genius. I think I read it like every year.

Nice! You wear really fun costumes when you play; did you see someone growing up wearing an amazing costume and were just so in awe of it?

ZF: Bands who I grew up with that had a common theme, I guess the Beatles did and Devo did it, they just had a look. That’s how I want to see bands. I thought what would I want to see? I want to see a show, I don’t’ want people to just stand there and play their instruments! I want costumes and dancing! Another band that does it that I saw that I love is, Sugar Fed Leopards. That’s Steph Brett, she’s in Empat Lima.

I love Empat Lima!

ZF: They had fluffy pink costumes and I thought, that’s another band that’s doing what I want to be doing!

Do you have a favourite track on the album yourself?

ZF: It changes every day. “Perfume” the first track, it’s the oldest track… I wrote that one years before the others. I’d just been reading the book Perfume: The Story of a Murderer I went into that world, I won’t’ explain it too much because I don’t’ want to spoil it if anyone’s reading it. I was reflecting on humans’ search for happiness in that song. I was feeling sad when I wrote that song…

Vid by Sofar Sounds.

Lastly, why is music important to you?

ZF: It is the way that I process all this information that is coming in from the world. Without it I would just overflow like a bath full of information and colours and ideas and sensations—music is me pulling the plug on that bath and letting it out! Letting it flow out in any way it wants to!

Awww that’s lovely! Thanks for doing what you do!

ZF: That you for what you do too! Writing is so important.

Directed by Sean Sully.

Please check out: ZOE FOX & THE ROCKET CLOCKS (get Clockwerks here also). Zoë Fox on Facebook.