New playlist for October is up now for your listening pleasure! This months features songs from screensaver, Dr. Sure’s Unusual Practice, Laughing Gear, Hearts and Rockets, Ausecuma Beats, Power Supply, Bitumen, Alien Nosejob, Springtime, and more.
At Gimmie HQ we’ve been bumping the new Cong Josie album Cong! hard since it arrived in our inbox. We loved it so much that we ordered the hot pink limited edition vinyl version. The album is officially out Oct 22 on It Records (home of our favs – New War and Atom). It’s a fabulous high energy clash of minimal synth, EBM (Electronic Body Music), rockabilly-ish vocals, punk attitude with a whole lotta throb and thrust, along with some heart tugging surprises.
Today we’re debuting the electrifying song ‘Cong The Singer’ along with its video, a guerrilla D.I.Y. ode to the Naarm/Melbourne suburbs that spawned Cong! We chatted with the man, the myth, the legend himself, Cong Josie alter-ego of musician Nic Oogjes.
In your heat beat ensemble NO ZU you play instruments; now as Cong Josie you’re just singing?
CONG JOSIE: Yeah. It was a really deliberate choice, a really arrogant choice [laughs], that’s kind of what the song ‘Cong The Singer’ is about. Arrogant in that I’ve never been a singer. I love singing; I love singing in the shower. I’ve always loved singing along to Roy Orbison, trying to sing ‘Crying’. Very ambitious targets! All of the “Bobby Movement” like Bobby Darrin; there was a lot of guys called Bobby in the 50’s that did rock n roll ballads. Elvis. All that kind of stuff. It was a deliberate decision not to carry around instruments anymore.
I keep going through these things with each new project. After my first when-I-was-becoming-an-adult-and-start-taking-things-seriously band, I was like, ‘I don’t ever want to have to carry around a drumkit anymore!’ I would be up front playing some rototoms so that I could stand up, and that led into NO ZU. I was only going to carry standup percussion, but then it expanded. It grew to a point where I didn’t want to carry all this stuff around; trumpets, all sorts of stuff. There was lots of clothes for each band member too, I’d carry around to each gig. Our baggage loads on planes were crazy!
I was like, ‘I just want to be a singer!’ Even though I can’t sing. That’s really arrogant, but I have always had the belief that anyone is an artist and anyone can make something interesting if you have the drive and ideas. In fact, most of my favourite singers, that I just mentioned… even Roy Orbison, sings off key, which makes his voice really interesting and intriguing, where he often has to bend into a note. There are a lot of notes that aren’t quite right.
I love singers that are non-singers, I find their voices really interesting. There’s this Greek singer Márkos Vamvakáris, who was one of the biggest rebetiko stars; they call it the Greek Blues, it’s a lot about hash dens and sordid activities. It was real people’s music, real working-class music. His voice is like a chainsaw! It’s not good, but I love it, it has the most edge to it. Obviously, that throughout punk and post-punk as well, it’s like that. It’s from that background that I thought I could at least make something interesting. I can sing these two notes, kind of, if I’m in this register [laughs].
[Laughter]. What else is the song about?
CJ: It’s about playing with that idea of a singer. It’s a fantasy tale about being a hero of the suburbs. I’ve never really understood why everything has to be so city-centred, and why everything has to play into these references of what’s cool and what’s happening now. In my fantasy dreamworld, there would be pockets all throughout the urban sprawl of Melbourne and beyond, where amazing music is happening. And, there’s this one singer that plays around the Eastern suburbs, around the R.S.L. and chicken-parmigiana-pubs, that are actually really creative and great but for whatever reason in our culture (in the 80’s bands would go out and play those places), it’s just not a thing now. It’s about that, because it’s just an impossibility.
The other layer is that actual baring of childhood and real-life things. As I was saying before, it’s amazing to hear yourself in music. I haven’t heard other people mention the Eastern Freeway in a song before! It’s a pretty good road [laughs]. It also expresses that driving was a form of freedom when I was younger. Going to the city, to places for “culture” and discovering different kinds of music was really important to me. So, that road means a lot.
Even my suburb. I’ve actually moved back to my teenage house, that’s where I am now. I bought it off my mum, which was very strange. I remember living here when I was younger, I remember this Australian rapper called Bias B, he talked about the trainline here. Aussie hip-hop around 2000 was the first time I ever heard specific areas mentioned. He talked about the Burra to Eltham train! Growing up here in a leafy suburb having nothing to say, but it’s not true, hearing things like that, I loved it, and that’s probably how it fed into my work.
The video clip we’re premiering for ‘Cong The Singer’is really fun! What do you remember about filming?
CS: We only shot it two weeks ago, so I remember all of it [laughs]. And if anyone wants to know, we did do it Covid safe, I’m even wearing a mask in one part. I was actually saying this to Nick [Mahady] who filmed it with me…
He did your ‘Leather Whip’ clip too!
CJ: Yeah. This is kind of like ‘Leather Whip #2’. The first song was set in Greece because we happend to be there before Covid. Nick is a really great friend and talented artist; he did the portrait artwork for my releases so far and the Cong! cover. He’s an example of someone that is so open and creative and sensitive. We have a really great relationship, since I discovered more about myself and valued that aspect in people even more.
I was saying to Nick, that this video and ‘Leather Whip’ mean so much to me and are so close to me, because we literally went out with a camera and a few sketched ideas. We saw a rabbit, so we filmed a rabbit. We saw a bin chicken… or we decided to go to the river, which felt like minus thirty degrees! It was all very spontaneous over two days. It was nerve-racking also.
The first shot we did was Footscray Amphitheatre. We got there and it was so quiet. It was a Saturday morning, beautiful weather. A couple of people were sitting in their Northface jackets drinking coffee. There were two groups of people looking down at exactly where we were filming. There were people jogging. Being in a cowboy hat, add to this debaucherous music, which we knew was going to be loud for a moment; I had my little Bluetooth speaker to mime to. It was scary! We actually started talking to each other, “Oh maybe we can do this other shot” [laughs]. We started setting up and one of the people there made a joke to me, he said, “Are we going to get an organ performance?” Because he saw my pants underneath my long jacket I was wearing and that broke the ice. I was like, ‘Ok, this is alright’ [breaths a sigh of relief], and then I started performing. I was like, ‘This is the best grassroots campaign ever, I just made three fans!’ It was me and Nick, and Johnny Cayn(Cayn Borthwick) was there.
The clip is very direct and real. It’s very D.I.Y. This is going to sound really bad, but I can’t stop watching it. My band The Crimes that are in it, can’t stop watching it either. There’s so many funny bits. They’re like, “Why are you presenting the Westgate Bridge?” [laughs]. I’m like, ‘I don’t know?!’
Do you have a favourite moment from the video?
CJ: In one of the first musical breakdowns, I’m on the Coburg Lake stage and there’s people having picnics, bemused by what we were doing – I’m either clicking my fingers or combing my hair – and there’s a rollerskater behind me twirling. That was a guy we met while we were packing up. Initially there were two boxers on stage. They said they were happy to be in the video and they had the music cranked, they were big beefy guys; then they told us they didn’t want to be in it. As we were packing up one of the boxers were like, “Hey, get Tony! Tony is amazing. Get him in it.” We introduced ourselves and asked if he wanted to be in it. He said, “Ok.” Then he started doing spins and we pretended music was going on. It’s one of the most beautiful shots, because he’s really great. It’s a great juxtaposition.
That’s one of my favourite shots too! His leg movements are perfect, such finesse. It works so beautifully.
CJ: There’s another one second shot of us with a beautiful white dog.
That’s my other favourite shot!
CJ: There was a mum and daughter walking their dog. I was doing the shot where I comb my hair near the car, obviously people were looking at us a bit strange. I said ‘hi’ as they walked past and thought maybe I should ask them if we can get a shot with that big gorgeous dog. They were really happy to, and they gave me treats to keep the dog in the vicinity. You don’t get shots like that otherwise. I wanna keep doing it. Maybe it’s a great way to build my fan base [laughs], very slow and labour intensive.
[Laughter]. We’re so happy to be premiering the song and video, it’s right up our alley. We really love your whole album Cong! It fuses so many things we love together – it has a kind of rockabilly vocal and then it’s got an EBM feel and a punk spirit.
CJ: Yeah, cool! It has all of those things. I really dug into a world of the Norton Records label, they do some really great outsider rockabilly like Hasil Adkins. Those wild rockabilly/rock’n’roll/country fellas: Jack Starr, Stud Cole, Legendary Stardust Cowboy, Terry Allen are some of the sleezy cats that have been an influence. Also, a lot of the artists that The Cramps were inspired by, they called them wild men, and apparently some of them really were—that’s a big influence on who Cong is. Cong is the wild rockabilly artist but in a suburban Australian setting, so he’s also gonna be a bit different.
In terms of the electronics, I was never able to focus on the throb, as I call it, the throbbing rhythm. In NO ZU everything was still mechanical and awkward funk, a bit more danceable in a different way. It’s a big clash of those things.
I love Johnny Cayn’s guitar on the track. It’s probably the most slide-y, rockabilly thing on the record. It’s just wild and out of control.
Yes! It’s very cool.
CJ: I really love Simone aka Mona Reeves’ voice with the “Saturday night” part on there too, which is inspired by the Elton John ‘Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting’ track. Just that idea of being really excited by a Saturday or Friday night is a musical trope that was really fun to explore!
Ed’s note: We spoke with Cong Josie for over a hour, this is a small extract from a more in-depth chat exploring the entire album, growing up in Melbourne, toxic masculinity, Nicolaas Oogjes musical evolution, creativity, getting through life’s challenges, and creating your own world to heal and grow. Read it in our next print issue (#5) we’re currently working on.
One of our favourite creators, Jake Robertson (you might know him from Ausmuteants, Hierophants, School Damage, Swab, Drug Sweat, SMARTS and more) is back with a new album for his solo alter-ego project Alien Nosejob. Paint It Clear is ANJ’s fourth full-length. 11 brilliant tracks mixing post-punk with 80’s new wave and even a little disco. Recorded by Mikey Young, the record has ANJ sounding more dynamic and brighter than ever. Gimmie loves Jake’s quirky, humorous and wry observational lyrics and skilful songcraft. We’re excited to share with you, the first track released from the ANJ camp in thirteen months ‘Leather Gunn’ along with our chat with Jake, a sneak peek insight into the forthcoming album.
JAKE ROBERTSON: I’ve been working a lot, it’s taken a toll, I’m basically always tired. I still have a job, which half of my friends don’t since Covid, so I’m pretty lucky in that respect. It’s hard to come home and be motivated to do anything.
When we spoke the other day, you mentioned that you’ve been having a little bit of a break creatively, and that you’ve spent most of your spare time just chilling watching TV and reading.
JR: Yeah. I’ve been reading a bunch, and watching heaps of TV. Kerry my housemate, when he moved in, he brought a giant TV with him; we’ve been going to town on it. It’s the first time that I’ve had a television in ten years—I’m lovin’ it! [laughs]. It’s so good. I’m still writing heaps; I’m constantly writing in-between watching The Righteous Gemstones or whatever.
I feel like maybe a year ago, when I was working a little bit less, I’d finish work, come home and do music for a bit, then go see some mates. Since lockdown has happened, I can’t really see friends, and sometimes can’t be bothered doing music. It’s weird, like I’ve kind of got extra time, but I don’t [laughs].
I feel like you’ve been pretty prolific and released a lot over the last few years though.
JR: Yeah, I have. But everything I’ve released, even the album you’re interviewing me about, most of that was written a while ago. I probably would have recorded it around the time the last Gimmie interview happened.
Yeah, it was around November 2020.
JR: Yeah, that was when I recorded it, but some of the songs were written around 2015, at least the embryonic versions. I’ve just touched them up a little bit.
Having a bunch of songs you’ve written over a long period of time, how did you decide which ones to use for this record Paint It Clear?
JR: The majority of the stuff that I do under the Alien Nosejob name was written with other bands in mind. One or two of them were potentially going to be an Ausmuteants song back in the day. One of them was going to be a Leather Towel song. I have a little log of all my half-finished demos that is written up and pasted on my wall. Every now and then I’ll listen back to something and go, yeah, I could do something with this.
It’s interesting that you said a few of the songs were written with other projects in mind, I had wonder that, because I got that feeling from listening to the album. Jhonny and I were talking about how it doesn’t have one particular sound like other Nosejob releases. I commented that tracks sounded like a Ausmuteants track or even Hierophants or even reminded me of the Nosejob Italo-disco album. The album feels a little like an amalgamation of all the stuff you’ve done.
JR: Yeah, kind of. When I was putting it together, I was trying to be conscious of not making it sound like it’s being too influenced by something else, even though there’s definitely a couple of songs where I’m like, ‘Oh, I was listening to a lot of The Cure’ [laughs]. I haven’t listened to it since I got the test pressing in February. It’s like The Cure with a crappy singer, not Robbie Smith [laughs]. Those two songs are ‘Clear As Paint’ and ‘Duplicating Satan’, which is the Italo-disco-sounding one you were talking about; I remember trying to make it sound like ‘The Walk’ by The Cure, one of their singles from 1983-ish. Hopefully it doesn’t actually sound like it, but I was definitely going for it.
I can totally hear the in there. What can you tell us about the album’s title Paint It Clear?
JR: [Laughs] I literally just jumbled the words of the song ‘Clear As Paint’ around. That song and the title, it was an amateur attempt of a contranym, like painting something clear. If you painted something clear it could be see-through, like glass.
Nice. You mentioned you’ve been watching a lot of TV and films. I love movies, I have since I was a kid. I’d go to the video shop with my mum and we’d get out twenty VHS is $20 for the week. What have you been watching?
JR: We had a very similar upbringing, Bianca. We’d get seven weeklies for $7; you’d pick them up on a Thursday, spend the week watching them and then pick up another seven when you brought those back the following week. I did that from when I was about eight until I was eighteen. It would be a weird week if I didn’t get out at least three videos.
Rad! Whenever I look at those 1001 movies you have to see before you die or 100 best movies of the 80’s and 90’s lists, I’ve seen most of them except for a small handful of titles.
JR: In that 1001 movie list there’s probably another 800 I’d need to see! [laughs]. I’d watch and lot but also rewatch a lot.
What are some of your favourite movies?
JR: One of my favourite movies lately, because I’ve just rewatched it is, Blue Murder, the mini-series. I created a Letterboxd account the other day, so I was actually thinking about this. I really like the movie The Vanishing, it’s a Dutch one. It’s good if you’re a fan of eerie-ish horror movies. It’s so good. Not the remake with Kiefer Sutherland, but the original. I watched Blood Simple with my housemate, it was awesome, I’ve never seen it before. Movies! Woo! [laughs]. I love Mean Girls and stuff like that as well.
We were talking about comic books before too; I was a really big fan of Ghost World growing up and still am now.
I love Ghost World too, and the Mean Girls movie is a classic!
JR: You have to mix up the arty ones with the blockbusters.
For sure. I can’t watch too much of anything at once, mixing things up is essential. For example, if I’ve watched a run of horror movies or true crime, I have to watch something nice and fun and not dark and brutal.
JR: Yeah, it’s time for a Pixar movie! [laughs]. Pixar know how to rip your heart out more than anything else. I feel like the only time that I shed a tear is when I’m watching a Pixar movie [laughs]. The last time I got on a plane, which seems like a long time ago now, I thought it would be a good time to watch the Pixar movie Up. I feel very sorry for the person that was sitting next to me because I was crying, slobbering all over them [laughs].
Awww [laughter]. So, the first single for your album will be ‘Leather Gunn’…
JR: Yeah, it is. When Billy [Anti Fade], Sam [Feel It Records] and I were thinking of what the first single off the album should be, we were like, we’ll each say our top three. That wasn’t in mine, but they both had it in theirs, they have the outsider perspective. To me, all of the songs, I just shit them out and I’m done with it [laughs], I don’t think about them anymore. They both had that song first, so I was like, ok, let’s do that one first.
What was happening when you wrote it?
JR: John Douglas who plays in Leather Towel with me, he was moving back to Australia from New Zealand and we were talking about doing a new Leather Towel album. I was trying to come up with something that sounded different to the first album; that was the only song that I wrote for it. We played two or three gigs, then Covid happened and he went back to New Zealand. We didn’t even get to try that song as a band. It seemed at the point where it probably wouldn’t happened, so I made it a Nosejob song. I kept the ‘Leather’ in there as a nod to that, and the ‘Gunn’ was because the original demo of it, the guitar was single note surfy, like a Peter Gunn da na da na da na na na. Lyrically, it’s about people not doing what they’re told no matter how minuscule and pointless or petty the thing they’re not doing is.
What are the songs the you really love on the album?
JR: I really like ‘Duplicating Satan’.
Was that one of the songs on you top three list?
JR: My list was ‘Duplicating Satan’ and ‘King’s Gambit’ (which will be the second one released, I wrote it in 2015 but never put lyrics to it) that was probably my best written song on the album, it took me ages to write it. The other song is the last one ‘Bite My Tongue’. I get why that wouldn’t be a not-released-before-the-album-comes-out one. That’s another one that took me ages to write. It took me ages to learn how to play it too. ‘Bite My Tongue’ and a few songs that I have, are about… you know when you have a thought or a way of feeling about a certain situation but you can’t find the words to get it out. It’s almost like a block and you just can’t say your mind. It’s a feeling I have sometimes, I can’t even tell myself what it is. Basically, it’s about a mental block and not being able to get your words out properly.
I get that, it makes sense.
JR: Kind of, I think I was trying to make sense of it in the song. Hopefully it will mean something to somebody.
I really love the song ‘Jetlagging’ on the album.
JR: That one was originally written with Ausmuteants in mind, I wrote the lyrics on an Ausmuteants tour, travelling 400kms a day and just eating the same meal over and over again. It’s a very my-first-tour, Tours’R’Us or Tours For Dummies lyrics! [laughs]. I really love that song too.
Also, I love ‘The Butcher’ which is before ‘Jetlagging’ in the album sequencing.
JR: A couple of years ago, I was getting obsessed with Terry Hall and Fun Boy Three. I was trying to write something a little bit from that camp, and The Zombies’ song called ‘The Butcher’ as well; it was definitely an influence on it, but I didn’t mean to call it the same song [laughs]… I’m kind of noticing that now.
I got Mikey [Young] to record the drums; he recorded the drums, bass and guitar for the album. Except for ‘Duplicating Satan’ which I recorded at home, and ‘The Butcher’. I couldn’t work out what I had played in the demo, I had to drag the demo out and stretch it over the drums that I played. I don’t think anyone else will notice this, but if you listen closely the drums and the rest of the music keeps on going out of time because of that. I tried to relearn how to play it, but after a while I was like, I can’t be bothered! [laughs].
Is it weird sometimes listening back to your songs and being able to remember what was happening in your life or what you were doing at the time of writing or recording it? Kind of like having a sonic diary.
JR: Yeah, it is. I might think something is not about something, but it will be. I’ll generally listen to an album that I’ve done when I get it on record, and that’s it. I actually listened to an Ausmuteants album, Amusements, the other day, it was the first time since we recorded it. It was a nice feeling; I definitely like it more than I thought I would. It was good to have an eight-year distance of not hearing it, it was recorded in 2012 or 2013. I won’t rush to listen to it again [laughs], but I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I did.
Who did the album art for Paint It Clear?
JR: How good is it?!
Really, really good! That’s why I was asking, it’s very cool.
JR: It was done by Nicky Minus. They grew up in Hornsby in New South Wales, but they’re living in Melbourne now, and does a lot of work for the Worker’s Art Collective doing a lot of work for Union. I got onto them by following Sam Wallman who is a comic book artist/cartoonist.
Is that the same Sam who has done artwork for you before?
JR: Yeah, he did the first Ausmuteants 7 inch in 2010. I’ve been following his stuff before then, he’s besties with Nicky, I saw their stuff through that and was blown away by it. I just bought some of their art for my wall, and because I look at it every day, I was like, it could suit this album. They were into it, they wanted to make something from scratch. I’m glad they did and am super happy with the way it turned out.
What else have you been up to of late?
JR: I’ve been doing some home-recording with Vio [Violetta DelConte Race] from Primo! I’ve loved her songwriting for ages, she has a good idea of space, if it doesn’t need to be played, she won’t; the way I play is the opposite of that [laughs]. It’s kind of inspired by Michael Rother, and sounds basically like School Damage and Primo! If I could sound half as good as Primo! I’d be happy. It’s called Modal Melodies. The only rule of the project is that we’re not allowed to play live, it’s just a recording thing.
Cool! I can’t wait to hear that. I love Primo! too. They’re all such incredible songwriters.
JR: There’s a new Swab album around the corner too coming out on the label Hardcore Victim in around January or February. And, I’m playing drums on the new Ill Globo album!
Dr Sure’s Unusual Practice are Gimmie favs (they were one of the first bands we chatted with when we started Gimmie). We’re thrilled to announce the new wave art-punks’ forthcoming full-length album Remember The Future?, which will be out on Marthouse and Erste Theke Tonträger, as well as premiering the entertaining video for song ‘Infinite Growth’. We love their blend of clever social commentary and politics with catchy well-written compositions and fun visuals. Gimmie spoke with guitarist-vocalist Dougal Shaw to find out more.
How have you been feeling? I know a lot has happened this past week in Naarm/so-called Melbourne with lockdowns still in place, protests and an earthquake!
DOUGAL SHAW: I’m actually surprisingly pretty good at the moment. The pendulum has swung back around to the positive end [laughs]. It’s been swinging back and forth pretty consistently. Today I’m feeling good. Yesterday I had one of those days where I was just, what’s the point? Why? [laughs]. Trying to find some motivation to keep pushing forward. In general, in the last month, I’ve been feeling pretty positive.
Good to hear. On the “why?” days like yesterday, do you just allow yourself that space and know that what you’re feeling will pass?
DS: Yeah. The last couple of years if it’s taught me anything, it’s taught me to listen to your body and mind if you’re having those down times. Maybe in the past I would have tried to push through those times and keep working on projects. I’ve realised now that, if I do try to work through those times it’s pretty shit work; you go back to it and it’s got this weight to it, you’re putting all this stuff onto it. I’ve learnt to give myself days off, which I’ve never really been good at giving myself days off—what’s the next project?
Same! Jhonny and I are like that too. This next print issue of Gimmie has taken longer to get together because we both deal with (as many people do) bouts of depression, anxiety, stress, heath problems and things of that nature. Even though it’s something you absolutely love doing and it’s fun, some days you still find it hard.
DS: Exactly. I feel like it can work both ways. In the past I have used my creative practice as a way of processing a lot of what’s going on in my world and the world around me. Potentially in those down times would be when I was more inclined to get in the studio and write music. Now maybe being removed from all of the good times, and being able to have that separation where you’re out in the world doing things and having a good time, obviously you’re not going to be doing creative things and writing in those moments, so when you have that quiet moment to yourself and you’re feeling introspective, those might be the times that I’ll go and create. Now being removed from the outside world and being stuck in my own little world, it’s made me a bit more conscious of those kinds of things. A bit more conscious of your emotional state and more intuitive when it comes to what I need for myself in each moment. Sometimes it will be that I’m not doing anything today, I’m just going for a really long walk and I’m going to try and clear these cobwebs out. The one positive, I guess, is that I have a lot more tools now to manage those things, in the past I may have found those bouts of anxiety and depression to be really overwhelming and not know how to deal with them; going out and partying used to mask those things. Without those vices to lean on, you’re faced with yourself and your like, ‘Fuck this is a lot!’ Being human is a lot to fucking handle [laughs].
There’s been a period where you haven’t been writing too many songs, especially not as many political songs, but writing more fun songs when you do write.
DS: Yeah. For a long time, I thought of my music as a vessel for change, to use my voice and privilege to start conversations. At the same time, I’ve always just written silly songs as well. I pretty much didn’t write anything for a year. I was working on other projects. I didn’t feel like I had anything to say.
I feel like you did say a lot before that, you had this run where you put out a lot, and everything was such a high quality.
DS: Thank you. Maybe that was part of it, feeling a bit empty. Being isolated from the community and from actually being able to engage with the world, I found it really hard to think about what I had to say, or I found what I had to say wasn’t worth documenting. Deciding to put this album out this year… it was floating around for a while, we finished it a couple of months ago and we didn’t feel like there was any rush, because we aren’t able to play shows for it.
By this album do you mean, Remember the Future Vol. 1 & 2 together?
DS: Yeah, that’s this one. It was a really drawn-out thing because of Covid that really felt like it was hanging over my head for ages. That was this big black cloud in my head as well. We recorded half of it at the start of last year and we were booked in to do another session in April, two weeks after we first went into lockdown. The whole idea with the record was that it was going to be the first full band recording, so I was kind of stuck on that for ages. Rather than moving on, finishing and getting it out, it was like, no, we gotta do this with the band. We finally finished it in May this year. It’s finally come together! It feels like a really weird one, because of the Covid stuff we decided to put out the first half last year. Our European label Erste Theke Tonträger, hit me up to do a record, he really liked Remember the Future Vol. 1, he wanted to do a full-length with that and then another of our EPs on the other side. I was like, well, this is half of a full record. That was the push to finish this record.
You recently had a song ‘Live Laugh Love’ on the Blow Blood Records compilation, A Long Time Alone.
DS: That was the first song I’ve written after this huge gap of not writing. The compilation was the kick I needed. I’d seen that Christina had been advertising for contributions for ages, and I thought, ‘I have to do a song for this.’ The deadline had come and I hadn’t done it, which was a Friday, so the next day, Saturday, I plugged everything in for the first time in ages and made this really dumb song.
Did it feel weird plugging everything in again after so long?
DS: Kind of. The song is funny in itself, I’m glad it has a home on the ALTA compilation, because otherwise it would have been another one on a dusty hard drive. It feels like a song after not having written a song in ages, it’s a silly song.
It has a fun title!
DS: [Laughs] I know! The concept came before the song. It’s about forgetting about how to live, laugh, love. I saw one of those inspirational infographic things that someone had posted. I’m glad it’s getting a home. I wrote that song, then in the week following it, I wrote one or two songs in a day, ten songs in a week. A week later I sent Christina a different song, and was like, ‘I actually made some decent songs now. Do you want to put one of these on?’ She was like, “It’s too late, I’ve already sent it off.”
A couple of days ago you released the song ‘Ghost Ship’ too.
DS: Yeah, that was another compilation [on Critter Records]. I wrote that one at the very start of the lockdown. It was inspired by… they were coming out with all these bail out packages, but they were going to big corporations and multi-million dollar companies [laughs]. It was a funny concept.
It’s crazy how all of these big companies received bail outs and then ended up making a profit and doing better than ever!
DS: Exactly! They didn’t actually lose any revenue; they gained all this government funding that was designed to help struggling people. That’s capitalism!
We’re premiering Dr Sure’s new clip for the song ‘Infinite Growth’. It’s a fun clip. What sparked the idea?
DS: A lot of the time when I’m doing visual stuff, I want it to be fun and playful, because a lot of the time I find the lyrical content to be pretty heavy. I liked to offset it with something a little more accessible. Potentially if you were to follow the narrative of the song then the clip would be pretty heavy—talking about mining, the destruction of the ecosystems. By taking a representation of these things, of people in suits, business men, which is a reoccurring motif in a lot of our visual stuff, and thinking about the result of their actions. For this one, they’re still pedalling their narrative of infinite growth, while the climate has heated up so much that their faces as literally dripping from their body.
Love the special effects!
DS: Yeah, really top of the line. We got the hair and makeup team… professional prosthetics! Nah. I looked up how to make prosthetics and the easiest solution that I came across was to just mix Vaseline and flour, then use coco to create different tones of it. It was pretty gross stuff to put all over your face, but it was worth it.
You wrote the song around the time that our government were talking about destroying sacred Indigenous sites.
DS: Yes, exactly. It was Djab wurrung Country. They decided to build a new highway that was going to take off two-minutes of drive time for people commuting into the city. To do so, they had to destroy these hundred-year-old sacred birthing trees. That was the spark, but at the same time, it felt like a real time of solidarity for people coming together to stand against those things. That’s where the duality in that song is trying to reframe this capitalist terminology talking about infinite growth and kind of reclaim it for the people and the ecology.
Nice. What else have you been up to?
DS: I’ve been collaborating with my partner Liv on some things, which is really nice. She’s an artist and really good photographer. We’ve worked on stuff before, a lot of the time our practices have been off in different directions. Having a lot of time together and being isolated from anyone else, we’ve been working on stuff. I spent this week making a zine to go out with the record. It’s a collaboration with Liv, she took all the photographs. It’s a zine of lyrics, photos, my art and poetry, all mashed up. She took a series of photos based around the concepts of the record and I mashed them up with my brain spew! [laughs]. We’ve been thinking about creative ways to put out this record.
Liv and I have been making some songs too. She’s been learning the guitar for the last couple of years. We’ve been putting down some of her ideas. With Liv’s limited knowledge of playing, it’s been good for me to teach her that a song can be really simple; it’s made me reassess my approach to songs. When you make a song that’s only two chords, you can leave all of this space for layering and making it interesting in other ways. It doesn’t have to have all of these chord changes for it to be engaging.
When Jhonny and I make music, I like to go for how does this feel, and keep trying things until eventually something fits and feels good to me and us. That’s when you come up with something that is unique to you, because you come with all of your experience or lack of, and that all comes out in those moments.
DS: Exactly. I feel like I’ve always approached music in a really similar way. I’ve purposely avoided learning too much. Sometimes I question if that has been the right approach? Most of the time, I stick by that approach, it’s more about feeling and how you react to it. To me, it’s always been about how you react to whatever it is you’re recording. Picking up the next instrument is a reaction to the last instrument. It’s about what feels interesting.
Gimmie have loved Naarm/Melbourne trio MOD CON since we first heard their debut release in 2017, the MOD CON/Fair Maiden split 7”. In July we featured guitarist-vocalist Erica Dunn on the cover of our first print edition, and now we’re incredibly excited to premiere the film clip for song ‘Ammo’, the first single off upcoming sophomore album, Modern Condition. We chatted with Erica about the song and clip, and of finally playing live shows again, plus we get a sneak peek into the new record, due out October 1 on Poison City Records.
ERICA DUNN: I’m walking my dog, Poncho. We’re just strolling around in soggy-arsed creek-land.
Nice! How have things been since we last spoke a couple of months ago?
ED: Things have been busy. Sometimes I’m like, it’s a rat race in my mind! [laughs]. There always seems to be a lot to juggle. I feel like it’s a strange new era where, because we’ve been locked down, you have to clear your mental expectations if your mental health is going to be ok; you have to get really present. When the lockdown is lifted it’s fucking crazy the adrenaline kicks in, you feel like everything is on, and you have to make the most of it! There’s also a new gratitude for when you are able to work and do stuff. It’s just, let’s fucking go! [laughs].
You’ve finally got to play some live shows again.
ED: We [Tropical Fuck Storm] were pinching ourselves thinking that the gigs with King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard happened! We played every capital city without a hitch. It was incredible, it felt like normal life. We’re playing a MOD CON show on Sunday and the capacity is forty people, you just have to roll with it. We’re supporting Exek on Saturday night too, they just released one of the best records I’ve heard in ages! There’s only 100 people able to attend, it’s like a parallel universe.
We love that Exek album too!
ED: Shows have been varying degrees of normal. It’s always great to play though. Playing a show to forty people a year ago, might not have seemed worth it, but now I’m like, fuck it! The venue can sell beer and we can party—do it while we can! We have to take it as it comes. It’s hard to know where boundaries are when booking things because it can change so quickly, it’s all go, then stop, then go again. We’re about to release an album into a very different world than when we have previously.
[Erica talks to Poncho: “come on, up you get, in the car!”]
What kind of dog is Poncho?
ED: A mystery boy! [laughs]. He’s probably a Ridgeback mixed with a Staffy. He’s getting on to be thirteen now. He needs help getting into the car, but still loves to cavort around every day. We did our loop of the Darebin Parklands, which is so beautiful.
That’s a lovely way to decompress after rushing around doing things all day.
ED: For sure. There are times when I’m so busy or it’s freezing or raining and I’m like, fuck this! But then I always feel better afterwards.
Yeah, I get that too. Especially if it’s wet or cold, you kind of feel like you really accomplished something. I find that when you push yourself to do something and you do it, then that filters out into other parts of your life and you can start to achieve more and more.
ED: Yeah, that’s a great way to look at it. I’m going off to boxing class later, that’s the real decompression! [laughs].
We’re premiering the clip for your new album Modern Condition’s first single ‘Ammo’; can you remember writing the song?
ED: I was talking to the girls yesterday about it when we were having a practice. It was actually the last song written for the album, which is funny because it’s the first song out. It was the wild card song. It was the last one to get lyrics, I wrote them on the second last day of recording with John [Lee]. I just moved house and it was in the same week I spoke to you last; we just finished recording the record.
The song is not exactly how I have gone about things in the past. We had the riff, structure, tension and trajectory of the song sorted, and in the jams, I was yelling mystery words. In that coming together, we all recognised there was a vibe, an angle, to the song and the stuff I was spontaneously yelling. I had recordings of those jams and captured a couple of the bits of imagery that I was on about. The genesis is, that it was a bit of a mad, haphazard one [laughs].
One of the things we especially love on ‘Ammo’ is the drums!
ED: Raquel [Solier]! Fuck yeah! We were really running on a mad schedule and a couple of things interrupted the recording, [bass player] Sara [Retallick] got real sick and couldn’t make it, and there was a snap lockdown just before we were to start recording, which was meant to be our final pre-production-type thing.
There was a couple of days that Raquel and I did that was a guitar and drums day trying to nut out mystery question marks about a few songs. She came up with this crazy fucking rhythm for this song. It’s so sick! The subtext right there, is that it sounds kind of military-esque, it’s very explosive. She’s a wizard! She’s complicated and it’s fantastic [laughs]. We have a lot of back and forth, she often writes rhythms based on the lengths of my lyrics or parts of phrases. She’s much more adept at musical knowledge and language than I am. I get too fucking muddled and am like; where’s the one?! [laughs].
[Laughter]. I’m excited to hear the full album. How amazing is that remix that Ela Stiles did for ‘Ammo’?
ED: It was something that we did on the last record too, we approached Jacky Winter to do a remix for us. I don’t know if other artists get this certain hang up, but if you record something it’s strange, it’s like, is that it? It’s very finite in a way and then it’s out in the world. I’m interested in melodies and melody writing and playing around with ways of doing things, it makes sense to chuck out a remix and have a different perspective; another layer on all the ideas that are in there. You can see people’s reactions to it as well, for some people it’s another way into the band. Remixes freak some people out and others think it’s bangin’! It’s another way to explore the world of the song.
We’re definitely on the it’s-bangin’ side of things!
It’s always cool to hear a song in a new context.
ED: And, it’s fun! Ela is another musician, composer, producer that has such mad chops! I have a lot of respect for her. It’s so cool to see how your song comes back at you and you can see things that someone else picked up, and what they have as the backbone, how they put a whole new spin on it. When I first heard it, I was driving in the car and I was like, far out! It raises your heartrate for sure! It’s anxiety inducing in a good way, especially how she pulled out the melodies.
Let’s talk about the ‘Ammo’ film clip. It was Oscar O’Shea that filmed it?
ED: Yeah, Oscar is someone that is so positive and excitable. He’s a can-do problem solver, up for anything. The clip, artwork and all the things that come beside releasing a song and album, are the stepping stones in which to explore and springboard some of the ideas at play in it. The clip is a play on sitting in a society that is always throwing shit at each other and navigating that, hoping it doesn’t stick, hoping that it doesn’t fly up in your face. It was a couple of packets of Golden Circle pancakes and crumpets, and a few friends on the side chucking them in our faces. It was a challenge trying to eyeball the camera, get the lyrics out and seem unphased [laughs]. It’s an analogy, sometimes I feel like that in life. It was a fun way to build on what I’m ranting about in the track.
It looks cool visually. Did you cop any crumpets to the head?
ED: We got a couple! [laughs]. I definitely got a couple in the face; I could definitely do a blooper reel! Raquel is Kung fu trained and did a couple of badarse, sick moves at the end. She grabs one out of the air without even paying much attention to it, it’s super cool!
I noticed in the clip she was reading The Tao Of Pooh [by Benjamin Hoff].
ED: Yeah, how good! I wanted her to bring along a prop. She was reading it at the time. She’d come over for a cup of tea and she brought up that she had been re-reading that and finding pearls of wisdom in it. I was like, fucking bring that to the clip, it’ll be perfect! That was legit on her bedside table at the time we made the clip. It sat perfectly in this world of trying to be present while everything is exploding overhead. Then we were playing around with the flour and the milk, it was evoking smoke and explosions, which was cool fun to experiment with.
There was a bit of a collab on the clip too. Carolyn Hawkins from Parsnip and School Damage did a bunch of the stop motion.
When we first saw the clip, we totally thought it was reminiscent of her style, that’s so cool it actually is her work!
ED: Yeah, it’s got her all over it. She’s another person that we thought of working with because she’s got the mad prowess, great vision and she understood what we wanted straight away. I sent her an old clip of the Sesame Street [sings] “one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten…” old school thing. I was thinking about “ammo” and thinking about it in all these different contexts, weaponry, and objects in our lives gaining agency. She nailed the undertones of aggressiveness and the sinister aspect that simple objects can have, especially en masse. It’s not overdone or in your face. That’s how I feel at least when I watch it. Part of me is like, woo hoo! Look at those little forks fly! Oh my god they’re getting power! They’re growing and stockpiling and conspiring with each other! [laughs]. There’s an edge to it. Props to my housemates too, that are still wondering when they’re getting their bottle opener back, and our forks!
I love that you’re all such nerds and there’s so much thought that goes into everything you do.
ED: Yeah, it’s true! I feel like there’s two ways of looking at things. In the past, album releases like this have a big emotional weight for me, they can be fucking stressful. You can think, argh! I’ve already put all of my spirit into making the record and now there’s all these other strange hats you have to wear as a musician.
The other thing is, you can see it as extra opportunities of getting to collaborate with people that you want to work with and make it really fun! This experience has been completely fun. I am completely enamoured with what Caz has done, and all of the mad ideas with Oscar; same with Ela. It’s all fun new ways to see the song. A new dimension.
I love that there’s a light-heartedness to it too. The things you’re singing about can be serious, but then the clip give them a levity.
ED: It’s definitely crossed my mind that the song is not prescriptive, I’m not saying there’s a better way or that I have an answer, these are things that are going around in my mind and this is an avenue in which I can explore them. Having a light-hearted aspect is part of my personality, there’s a tongue-in-cheek-ness. Often, I realise retrospectively that I’m asking questions in my lyrics. It’s definitely an exploration.
It’s also a double-sided coin, the band is really serious and aggressive, we play live shows and there’s not much mucking around, the things that the three of us bring to a live show can be pretty staunch! However, the flip is that we’re in love with each other and when we’re playing, we’re having a really good time, it’s just the best for our mental health and for our relationships, it’s what the band is built on, and we’re always laughing. That gets represented in the music and all we put out, in some way.
I’ve always loved the quote from Gareth [Liddiard] where he said: MOD CON is like a cross between The Bangles and Black Flag. I thought that’s pretty on the money, because you have that aggression but then also pop sensibilities.
ED: [Laughs] Yeah! I think he was chuffed about that quote being pulled out about our last record. Maybe it’s just the two bands Gaz knows?! [laughs] Only kidding! I do think there is a crossing of a couple of worlds.
With the new album being called Modern Condition is the title a reflection of the album’s themes?
ED: Yeah. We had a long car trip together recently, we played a show three hours outside of Melbourne, and we were sussing out what the album should be called. We wanted it to be another MOD CON-ism, keeping Mod in the title. I think this is going to be two of three, there’s probably going to a trilogy. This section “Modern Condition” is a bow that can be tied between all of the songs, it’s really exploring human sensibilities. People talk about the human condition, but this is what humans are up to in these kinds of circumstances. If I was going to pull out some overarching themes of this album—it’s mostly a plea for honesty and a real searching for truth in these sorts of times.
“Ammo” is the first cab off the rank to represent that. It’s having a little investigation and inspection of the human condition in modern times. I feel like the backdrop of big scale and small-scale weaponry is the first investigation, without wanting to sound mega highbrow or whatever the fuck! [laughs]. I’m still trying to work it out for myself. It’s investigating myself too; what are my default positions? What am I defensive about? Doing that I’m also trying to investigate how to be open and how not to always be on the default and being defensive and collecting ammo, shit to chuck at another person.
I feel that finding your truth and actually living it can be a very hard thing. I’ve been going through that the last few years of my life, but I can definitely say since I found it and have been living it, nothing but great things have happened.
ED: You’re absolutely right, it’s a life journey! It can be totally confronting. But, once you have realisations about some things in your life, you can’t go back.
Delivery is an effortlessly cool garage-rock, post-punk combo with programmed beats from Naarm/Melbourne. Today Gimmie are premiering their debut EP Yes We Do in full. Delivery’s Bec Allan and James Lynch were kind enough to fill us in on the energetic release and give us a glimpse into the band.
What do you love about making music?
BEC ALLAN: Really just hanging out with likeminded people and friends, doing a creative thing that we’re all passionate about, nothing funner than that!
JAMES LYNCH: Yeah, just a good excuse to hang out with friends really! Also, quite cool how quick the process can be between making something up and having it out in the world.
How did you both first meet? And, when did you realise you wanted to make music with each other?
BA: We first met at this music festival Boogie in 2017 and have been going out for about four years now… haha. We never really planned to make music together per sé but I guess since we were both doing it separately and share similar musical interests it was bound to happen at one point or another. Also being locked in a room together for a few months helped push that along pretty quickly.
JL: I think we’ve also been big fans of each other’s bands for as long as we’ve known each other, so it was pretty easy to trust we’d be able to make something sorta cool together, even if it was just to pass the time.
Delivery formed in lockdown. You’re both in various other bands – Gutter Girls, Blonde Revolver, The Vacant Smiles & Kosmetika; what did you want to do differently with this new band? I know you started out just making songs up for fun.
BA: We were actually trying to figure out how and why we even started doing this project the other day, but neither of us can really remember haha. I think this band is cool because we both play pretty different music in other bands and it’s kind of a cross over between both our styles. Someone said when we first started that it’s probably the most punk band James has played in and the least punk I have. I think for me, it’s also been really cool to write lyrics for the first time and have a way bigger songwriting input than in other bands.
JL: I guess it was also a nice opportunity to play with someone else who had a pretty different musical background/set of experiences so there wasn’t really an obvious intention to begin with, we just wanted to see what might happen – I don’t think we had any specific goals other than to have some fun with it. It’s definitely forced us both to think about what our usual musical tendencies are, but to also come up with something that suits the group dynamic, which is a good challenge, and I think so far we’ve been able to meet somewhere in the middle nicely.
I love the synthesisers and programmed beats in Delivery’s music; where did your love of these stem from?
JL: To be honest, I don’t think either of us have a proper love for synth heavy or drum machine music haha, this band is my first time ever using drum machines and I know almost nothing about synthesizers. I suppose it was more a necessity to be able to make something interesting from within a bedroom, when you don’t have too many tools are your disposal and can’t really go too loud. That said, I think it’s maybe shifted my brain a bit to be a bit more curious about how bands that I like do use synths and drum machines in cool ways, there’s so many good bands doing this kind of stuff and using those instruments to mess with whatever feels like a ‘normal’ rock band setting. It’s nice to throw yourself in the deep end a bit sometimes too.
Personally, who are your biggest creative inspirations?
BA: Well, I’ve always been really into the 70’s New York punk scene but have definitely been expanding my music taste way more in last few years and that’s probably where more influences for this band came from – recently a lot of garage rock and post punk bands like Parquet Courts / The Clean / ESG / Raincoats and others have been on pretty high rotation so I use them as inspo for sure. Also, just the Melbourne music scene in general is super inspiring and being part of it always keeps me motivated, listening to new stuff coming out constantly and seeing so many sick bands all the time is so cool, so I guess to be able to work on my own things is exciting to be part of it.
J: When we started Delivery, a big reference point was The Intelligence – they’re such a good band and I think a lot of the music coming out of Melb shares a lot of qualities with their stuff but no one really talks about them! Just generally though, I think the biggest inspiration I get is from local bands and friends though, it’s so exciting being in Melbourne and being able to see an amazing band one night and then using that to prompt something in your own music, feels a bit less like you’re ripping off a band if you know them haha.
What puts you in the mood to create?
BA: Literally having any spare time haha… playing in so many bands plus work and uni keeps me busy for sure so getting a sec to relax and just fiddle around on the bass is a bit of a luxury that I try make the most out of when it comes around! And when I can come up with something cool or interesting (to me at least) I pretty much charge with it cause it’s always pretty exciting having something new to bring to the band and work on.
JL: I don’t know if I really need a mood to create either. I think I almost like the idea of having lots of songs more than I like the creative process, so actually making up songs is just a means to an end. I think I’m fairly lucky that I can just force myself to make up ideas if I really want to, so if I do get an idea, I like I’ll run with it regardless of my mood because it’s kinda nice to have another song at the end of the day.
We first heard you on the Blow Blood Records ALTA comp with song ‘Poor-to-middling Moneymaking’; how do you feel your sound has grown since that first song?
JL: A couple of the songs on Yes We Do were written at the exact same time as ‘Poor to Middling’, so that’s a bit of a hard question to answer. I guess both the 7” and that song catches us while we’re trying out different ideas of what Delivery could sound like and maybe testing out a few of our tricks all at once – although maybe the final version of the 7” songs were given a little more focus. We play that song live at the moment though and I’m really excited to do a full band version of that song, maybe once we do that it’ll be easier to compare and see how Delivery has developed. The full band help it rock a little harder I reckon.
Bec, you’ve previously said that writing lyrics is always pretty intimidating; what intimidates you about it and what helps you push through that?
BA: I guess the most intimidating thing is that people will hear what you’re saying and think about it then think it’s lame or bad haha but over time I’ve come to realise people don’t really read into lyrics that much or if you don’t want to give too much away you don’t really have too. Definitely working with our guitarist and my housemate Lisa has made me feel way more comfortable rolling with ideas or even lines of songs. We are both kind of each other’s hype person when it comes to that so it makes it a really fun positive experience and makes me feel way more confident as we go!
What’s something you love about your debut EP Yes We Do?
BA: I love the artwork by Mac Int., massive legend and she hit the nail on the head with it. Feels a bit weird saying what I like about my songs but I will say I love Delivery and everyone in it!
J: I like the drum sound. I also like that Bec and Lisa’s deadpan singing makes us sound a bit more badass than we maybe are.
Was there anything that surprised you about writing or recording this release?
BA: How quickly writing and recording 7” can be done if you want it to be haha – think we decided in April we actually wanted to do this so it all came together pretty quickly.
JL: When we started Delivery, I thought we’d be writing these wild punk songs and then when they were finished it sorta turned out that my most punk still is kinda not super punk whoops. Sam from Spoilsport actually said a nice thing along those lines, that even though we sorta do post-punk there’s still a fair bit of garage and pop smarts about it that maybe helps us stand out a bit from the real punks. If you can’t join them, beat them.
Can you give us a little insight into each song on the EP? ‘Floored’, ‘The Explainer’, ‘Rubber’ & ‘Brickwork’.
BA: ‘Floored’ literally about a stain on my carpet (Lisa and I are pretty precious about our carpet so we were devastated to find it) but also maybe it’s about some other things in life that are stuck and hard to get rid of or move on from. I dunno haha maybe just trying to place some meaning that isn’t there or maybe it is??? You can make what you want of that.
JL: ‘Explainer’ is a song about how you don’t need to hear the end of every story. I’m a sucker for wanting to know what happens next in every irrelevant anecdote, and this is a reminder that you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.
BA: I wrote ‘Rubber’ after a kinda shitty experience buying some things from a music store near me and I guess it’s a little diss track to some people that work at some music stores that don’t always take non-male identifying people seriously, not all stores are like this but it still gets you every now and then.
JL: ‘Brickwork’ is about how anyone who does anything good or shitty is ultimately either as celebrated or held as accountable as the people who back them up. Good to double check the people you hold up deserve your support, I guess.
Sound-wise, why was it important for you to keep some of the spirit of the sound of your early home recordings rather than really polish things up too much?
JL: Playing with the band is so good that it was very tempting to just ditch all the home recordings and make an album like we sound live. But there was lots of charm to our original production style that I thought would’ve been a shame not to share, so I guess it seemed nice to do the 7” as a little stepping stone.
After starting as a two-piece Delivery have now expanded into a five-piece; how have the songs evolved with the additions to the band and finally getting to play them live?
JL: It’s been fun making the songs sound a bit bigger, and it’s nice having a few more perspectives in the band to throw in the mix. The 7” definitely wouldn’t have come out as it did if we didn’t have the full band helping to steer the ship. All five of us are real good friends too, so it’s just a blast to play rock songs with more of your buds.
Your release is coming out on Spoilsport; what’s one release you’re loving from a fellow Spoilsport band we should check out?
BA: EGGGYYY!! My favs and besties! Bravo is just excellent but also so many friends and great music on the label… Quality Used Cars, Carpet Burn, Hooper Crescent etc. just go on the bandcamp and pick anything and there will be no disappointment.
JL: Spoilsport are the best in the biz and I love every album they’ve put out. A particularly cool one for me is Quality Used Cars album, Francis is one of my longest friends and the two of us helped each other get into making music when we were about 14, so there’s something special in coming full circle and putting out music in different bands but on the same label 13 years later.
Gimmie recently spoke with Anton Pearson and Louis Borlase, both guitarists and vocalists for UK post-punk band Squid. We’ve been following them since we first heard their debut EP in 2019 on producer Dan Carey’s label, Speedy Wunderground. Today they release their debut LP Bright Green Field, an imaginative original work of twists and turns stacked with art-punk grooves, noise rock vitriol, jazz leanings and experimentation. Playful with an emotional depth, a real triumph.
ANTON PEARSON: We have a day of writing in our new studio today.
Is that for the next album?
LOUIS BORLASE: Maybe. We tried to move in yesterday and their handyman was with a drill and every time we were like, “Can we come in now?” He said, “It’s going to be twenty minutes.” He kept doing that all day to the point of, we had to go home. We had a little jam there last night.
Squid have previously mentioned that with your new record Bright Green Field you could have gone down the path of writing something that’s digestible and easy to listen to but you decided to make a “really fucking weird”: album; what sparked the choice to go that route?
LB: It wasn’t as really explicit as that, to be honest. We made a decision that was unanimous, yet relatively subconscious, decision to just continue writing songs in the vein of what we were currently enjoying, which at the time they happened to be quite texturally heavy pieces of music. That was a thread that continued across the writing process. We were enjoying writing really groove-based stuff as well and stuff that was very rhythmic. We didn’t really get to the point where we actively said, we’re not going to try and write a pop song or a funk tune here, it was just that it was very much a feeding in of how we were all feeling at the time. It’s just how it turned out.
Thinking back to that time, how were you feeling?
LB: With us the other thing is that the songs on the album are kind of coming from different times, maybe that is a point in itself because there are tracks that are older, and tracks that are brand new, tracks that we’ve never played before and tracks that have always been a staple of our live set. We’ve been feeling very different at different times over quite a long duration. There’s a real trajectory of different energies and moods, which I consider to be natural. There’s five of us and there’s songs from over the course of two or three years.
Did you find that the lockdown [due to the pandemic] effected your creativity?
AP: Yeah, absolutely. It was the first time that we hadn’t spent every day together for years. We had a few months completely separate in different parts of the country. It absolutely affected how we went about things. We had to do a lot of sharing stuff online and having conversations in the online sphere instead of in person. We managed to have four weeks together until we started doing our album… it was an interesting and different process to what we’ve had.
Your new record was recorded in an old barn?
AP: Yeah. There’s a small town nearby Bristol where a couple of us are now and where Ollie [Judge – vocals-drums] grew up. It’s a very small market town community and his family are friends with the family that run the pub there. They have a venue that was closed down due to the pandemic, so it was a bit of a sitting duck waiting for someone to come along and use to creatively during lockdown. We got to the point where we were legally allowed to see each other again and as soon as we could we started going there every day and doing long days.
At first it was a bit weird because we hadn’t seen each other for a long time, the music I feel that came out of the first few sessions was this explosion and release of what we’d all been sitting on. The Old Road Tavern and barn in Chippenham deserves a very big shout out.
What’s one of your fondest memories from recording?
AP: That’s where we did the last bit of writing… [Anton’s Zoom connection breaks up]
LB: What Anton was saying is that we were writing in the band and then that led us right up to the point of where we were able to go to London to record with our friend Dan [Carey; Speedy Wunderground] who we had worked with before. We had a three and a half week recording process where we hired out a flat, on the other side of the park next to his house. We would walk to his every day, eat with him and it was a very familial experience because he lives above the studio where he does the majority of his recordings. It was just Dan and his little dog Feta and some of his family were there for a bit of the time as well. For the main part we were just there with him and due to it being a very intense time for all the issues that surrounded Coronavirus, we really had to become a bubble, a family. We all had to be quite explicit with what our values were, make sure we were keeping each other safe and healthy at all times. There was a lot of communication which I think was quite conducive to us making, in our opinion, quite focused album.
What kind of experimentation did you try on this record?
LB: One element of it that’s really nice to talk about is an idea that Arthur [Leadbetter – keys-strings-percussion] had. In light of us not being able to see our friends and family for a long time, he put together this series of questions to ask friends and family members about how they’re feeing and what they’ve been up to, just vague stuff, but allowing them to send back these voice notes in their own words. We compiled them – it was about 30 people – into these recordings and at times you can make out a certain friend saying what they’ve been up to and at times it’s almost his nonsensical human chattering; that became a really nice thread that gives this illusion of citizens talking in the city.
There’s also field recordings that we did because we spent a lot of time alone, as you can imagine. We hadn’t seen many people so we went around making iPhone recordings. Anton had a family of bees living in his wall back at home, he recorded those making this nice kind of tooting, humming noise. I recorded these bells that I hear from across the park in my flat. These recordings pepper the album with experiences that we’ve been having on a very individual level, considering the music was very collective. It’s a nice touch.
That’s really cool. What’s one of your favourite moments on the record?
LB: One of my favourite moments, there’s a track called ‘The Flyover’ which was originally written to be an introduction to the song ‘Documentary Filmmaker’ it features those voices that I was just talking about and it also focuses on brass instrumentation. I think it’s a real reflective breather, it’s quite a transitional moment in the album, just before the song that starts after it [‘Peel St’] which is a bit more sinister, a bit more menacing.
I really love that piece too. I was going to ask you about it. The album can get quite chaotic-sounding at times with lots of crescendos which almost make you hold your breath as it builds and then ‘The Flyover’ gives you a moment to breath. The brass gives it a really warm feeling too.
LB: It is quite ceremonial. Upon listening back to the album a few times, I think we all get surprised about the detail within the album that we weren’t all aware of at the time. It’s only merited on with repeat listening, one of those is this weird coincidental feeling of ceremonious events that you can hear, like these bells ringing and chattering of people—it feels quite alive. That’s only something we’ve noticed recently; I wonder what else we’ll notice.
I think what you listen to the album on makes a difference to what you can hear and pick up too. It sounds different when I’m listening to it on my laptop speakers, on my home stereo, on my car stereo; on my phone through headphones, which kind of allows you to be enveloped in that world you’ve created.
LB: You kind of become a little bit of character, don’t you? Walking along with your headphones you can feel like a character in a film.
What have you been listening to lately?
LB to AP: Are you here Anton? Are you back in the room?
AP: I’m here.
LB to AP: You sound a bit like a robot talking underwater.
AP: [Laughs]. Maybe that’s what we listen to.
LB: Yeah, we listen to robots talking under water. We’ve all been listening to quite a lot of different stuff. The only time we really listen to music together and talk about it is when we’re seeing people play live or we’re driving along in the van. We haven’t been driving along in the van lately because there’s no gigs. I’ve been listening to a lot of Suzanne Ciani, who is one of my favourite improvisers. She plays on her special synthesizer, a very archaic synthesizer called the Buchla, which is very modular, lots of wires. The album I bought recently is called A Sonic Womb. It’s a live recording from shows she’s done in Spain. It’s a dialogue, she’s having conversations with herself. It’s very free and very focused on rhythm, which is something very important to us as a band. Not a whole lot of music together really because when we see each other we’re working on our own stuff.
You mention earlier you had a jam last night; what was it sounding like?
LB: It was sounding a little bit clunky because we haven’t worked out where to put everything in the room yet. It was nice to do that. It was sounding very loose, there were rapidly changing time signatures and lots of fuzzy guitars and synths. It was very much not like Squid because the whole five of us weren’t there. Today will be the day that we get a bit more Squid in.
Last question, why is music important to you?
LB: Music is one of the fundaments of life for all of us. We’ve always been exposed to it, when we were younger, growing up in very different musical backgrounds. We have things we agree on and things we disagree on and it becomes very much about conversation and points of view. The fact that we all came and formed this band at this uniformed point in our lives but when we were all thinking different things of what it means to play music is pretty important. For us as a band, Squid is a means of where we can have a collective identity through sound and come together.
What’s something you disagree on?
LB: [Laughs]. We disagree on what should feature in a recording, which I think is a good thing because we get carried away with putting the recording down and we tend to track everything live… on the album everything was recorded in live takes and usually we try to get the earliest take as possible, first, second or third take. When it comes to having those live tracks laid down, we go through a meticulous series of overdubs to add instrumentation and then we approach electronic elements. Sometimes there’s things that one of us had played and feel it’s in the perfect position but sometimes we don’t always agree that it should be there. Nine times out of ten we’ll forget about those parts but sometimes they stay and it turns into a nice disagreement because if it didn’t end up on the recording it’s able to be brought back in the live performance.
What’s something you do agree on?
LB: We do agree on what is the most conducive way of writing, which is letting ideas have the space and that there’s never a magic formula for an idea. It’s very embryonic to become something that is very fine-tuned within the space of a day or two.
Anything else you want to tell me about Bright Green Fields?
AP: [The line is still crackly] From robot [laughs]… we had a lot of fun making it. It’s the most important project of our lives. Obviously though, because I’m a robot, I’ll live forever.
One of Gimmie’s favourite bands Naarm/Melbourne-based EXEK have a new single and clip out today—‘Several Souvenirs’ from upcoming LP Good Thing They Ripped Up The Carpet out soon on Lulu’s Sonic Disc Club. Gimmie had a quick chat with vocalist-guitarist, Albert Wolski.
What’s life been like lately for you, Albert?
ALBERT WOLSKI: Pretty normal. I work full-time with Billy [Gardner] and Jake [Robertson] from Ausmuteants. We worked all throughout Covid, it was business as usual; actually, work was as turbo as it could possibly get, a bit too turbo. It was fine though. We had to work when a lot of people were able to have time off and could do their creative stuff, and just read, chill and hang.
We’re really excited EXEK has a new album coming out! I’ve been listening to it a lot since Lulu’s Sonic Disc Club sent it through to us. It’s so awesome!
AW: Thank you! Rad!
Last we interviewed you (March 2020), EXEK had just released Some Beautiful Species Left. You mentioned “We’re currently working on the next album. I wrote all these lyrics for it ages ago, most of them were written whilst I was on holiday in Europe in 2017.” Is Good Thing They Ripped Up The Carpet that album you were talking about then?
AW: That is actually the next album, that was done before this new one. It’s all kind of confusing and everything overlaps, there’s a bit of a tapestry now. Things aren’t too linear half the time. Good Thing They Ripped Up The Carpet comes out the 4th of June. We’re working on stuff for next year as well, just trying to stay busy.
Lots of EXEK in our future, lucky us! I noticed a few songs on Good Thing… have been on other releases, split 7-inches and compilations overseas; the first six tracks are newer ones?
AW: Yeah. It’s split between the A-side and the B-side. The A-side is new and the B-side is older stuff. One of the songs feels like it’s new because it hasn’t come out yet, there’s been a delay in a compilation it’s on, that a French label SDZ is putting out, they put out Some Beautiful Species Left. They were celebrating their 20th year anniversary last year, but it all got delayed. It’s the song ‘Four Stomachs’.
The title of the album Good Thing They Ripped Up The Carpet is a lyric from the first song ‘Palazzo Di Propaganda Fide’. Being the nerd I am, I was looking up what the song title was in reference to and found a palace located in Rome has that name.
AW: Yeah. It’s known for its architecture [designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, then Francesco Borromini]. I wanted to loosely connect that building and almost pretend that the cover of Biased Advice, which just got reissued [on Castle Face] … I wanted to refer back to that record. There’s a lyric that goes: someone turned the lights on, and it looks like the sweatshop from the first album. Now it’s full colour, so it’s almost like someone did turn the lights on and its loosely painting a narrative that the sweatshop is in that building, but obviously it isn’t. It’s all very nonsensical really.
I love how in EXEK albums there’s always so many layers, from the music to lyrics and to art and videos. It’s cool how things connect over releases.
AW: Yeah, I definitely like to make a little universe and for that universe to exist and try and make sense out of it; it is its own universe so it doesn’t have to make sense in comparison to this universe. [Laughs].
The song we’re premiering along with its video is ‘Several Souvenirs’.
AW: I guess that one is related to Covid, just after the lockdown in Melbourne, everyone was really stinging to go out and be social again; maybe not everyone, but at least I did and my friends. We really felt like connecting with people and having some fun. I was writing that song when I was going out and partying a lot, a lot! Definitely during Covid there was none of that, I gave up alcohol for three or four months during the first lockdown. After the second one I just felt like partying again. ‘Several Souvenirs’ is kind of the EXEK party song, it’s definitely not a party song but it does have the romanticism of creating the perfect evening and the perfect memory of the perfect evening. It’s a little bit new wave-y, a little bit romantic, and probably the most poppy that we get.
I got that romanticising feeling from the film clip. It creates that mood, with the shots, lighting and even the ballerina character. Where was it shot?
AW: Yeah. It was shot at a pub [Stingrays Upstairs at the Bodriggy Brewery], not our next show but the one after we’ll be playing there with Body Maintenance. The place is named after a friend of mine. The narrative is that Carol is about to start her shift at the bar, a song comes on and she just goes into her fantasy world and it gets more and more extravagant. The dresses get crazier, the lighting gets crazier, there’s wind and smoke. Then she snaps out of it. We managed to get the place for free to do the clip, on the one condition that we play there. I was like, “Of course, it’ll be fun.”
It seems like a really amazing venue.
AW: I don’t think anyone has played there yet. It should be interesting because there is a mezzanine level, which is six or seven steps high – we’re going to playing at that height – which is really, really high. My ideal stage is one to two steps. It’s a brand-new place that opened right after Covid, not many people know about it.
Where did you find the ballerina for your clip?
AW: She’s a friend of a friend; a friend of my wife and I – Kasey – she runs this fashion label and store. Carol (the ballerina) loves Kasey’s fashion. She’s a professional dancer and model, we thought she’d be great for the clip so we asked her if she’d be keen. She was. Then it was all happening.
Were you there on set when it was being filmed?
AW: Yeah, yeah, yeah. There was a big crew of us all behind the scenes, letting her hog the spotlight really [laughs].
Who shot the clip?
AW: Robyn my wife and her close friend Hannah. They’re both photographers. Hannah is also a videographer. Also, Alex McLaren who you just interview was there too; he was helping us out behind the scenes with some tech stuff and we were fortunate enough to borrow his equipment. It turned out good.
One of the tracks on the LP’s B-side is the theme from Judge Judy (that originally appeared on your split 7-inch with Spray Paint); how did you come to choosing to cover that?
AW: I really love that bassline. You know when you were back in the day and you’d stay home from school and Judge Judy would come on? I thought, damn, I love that bassline. I thought it would be good to cover because EXEK basslines are kind of like that, it would kind of lend itself to what we do. We just fleshed it out and it was really easy to do, really fun to record.
Anything else to tell us about the album?
AW: The songs on the B-side of the album have been retweaked. I just can’t help myself. The mixing process never ends with us. I always thought that when I got a chance, I’d retweak a few things. Even the last track [‘Too Step A Hill To Climb’] I redid the whole vocals for that. I wasn’t too keen on the originals. All the songs on that side have been modified to freshen them up.
On a side note, I know you love watching films, and I’m always up for great film recommendations; what have you been watching lately?
AW: I’ve been watching all these silly blockbusters lately. I feel like watching the world blow up, I think I see it as cathartic when things aren’t really going too well outside, that visual chaos. It’s really chaos right now in the world. One film that I saw a couple of years ago that I’m keen to rewatch is Under The Silverlake, which I think slipped by a lot of people.
I love that movie.
AW: Yeah, I think I might watch it again tonight. It’s so good.
Did you find that the lockdown affected your creativity?
AW: To an extent, I didn’t want to write about what was going on, so that made it a little bit harder. I didn’t want to write about Covid, even though I like to write about hard science stuff and which I do anyway. My writing process is really hard to shift gears away from hard science, pathogens and diseases and science-fiction dystopias [laughs].
Meanjin/Brisbane trio Adele & The Chandeliers play jubilant pop with post-punk energy, full of charm, playfulness and sparkle. Before forming the group, vocalist-bassist Adele Pickvance was a member of The Go-Betweens plus solo work with Robert Forster & Grant McLennan, and did multiple albums with The Dave Graney Show. Gimmie interviewed Adele about moving to Brisbane from the UK as a teen, beginnings as a musician, a love of Pete Shelley, the band’s debut LP First Date and of what the future holds.
You first moved to Brisbane from Bury in Lancashire as a teenager; what were your first impressions of Brisbane? What was the music scene like? Was it an exciting time for you?
ADELE PICKVANCE: I was 15. The smells of Brisbane’s flora and the bugs and creatures… and the heat and humidity really threw me. There were a lot of changes to get used to. My school uniform for one… suddenly I could, and everyone else could, see my white hairy legs. They seemed to glow in the sunlight. My parents promised me a pony in our back garden so I could ride to school, but it ended up being a bicycle to ride to Sandgate High and that was bloody hard work as we lived at the top of a hill.
I think we all watched too much Skippy The Bush Kangaroo as prep for immigration.
In England, I was listening to music by Depeche Mode, Visage Fun Boy 3, etc and anything on Top Of The Pops and sometimes The Old Grey Whistle Test if I stayed up late enough. My world was BBC radio and TV. The only experience of Aussie music I had was Men At Work. At the time, I had heard of The Go Betweens, but I thought they were a punk band from Germany, not Australia, probably because they were spending a lot of time touring there.
When we landed in Brisbane, it was Radio 10 and commercial radio again. Cold Chisel, etc… I didn’t quite get it… so I was happy to continue to listen to my old mix cassette tapes.
I know that you come from a musical family, both your father and grandfather were musicians. Early on you played violin, who or what inspired you to switch to playing bass guitar?
AP: My dad used to play in the clubs in England as organist and generally with a 3-piece band. One morning I woke up and found a Vox bass guitar on my bed, he told me it fell off the back of a truck! Bass guitar has 4 strings, like the violin, but the other way round, so I jumped onto it quickly. When we arrived in Brisbane, I had left behind my violin teacher, the youth orchestra and my grandad, who I adored, as we would play violin duets together. There was no music at Sandgate High so the violin stayed in the case and my bass guitar became my instrument.
Can you please share with us an album that has had a really big impact on you? How did it effect you?
AP: At the time, I was soaking bass lines and had a nice set up in the Granny flat underneath the house in Brisbane with the record player and bass amp. Kissing To Be Clever by Culture Club hit me. At the time I didn’t understand my attraction to the album, I just loved it and learnt the bass parts. I’d come home from school, switch on the record player and turn on my amp and play along to it on repeat. Now on reflection, it was the gathering of different types of styles like soul, reggae, pop and calypso. Each song had the magical taste of Soho, London, which was something I was being drawn to. And of course, Boy George and his gender bending was appealing to me.
You’ve had long stints as a member of The Go-Betweens plus solo work with Robert Forster & Grant McLennan, and four albums with The Dave Graney Show; why was it finally time for you to do your own thing with your band Adele & The Chandeliers?
AP: I moved to Sydney in 2010, after playing with recording and touring Robert’s The Evangelist album, and made a record with Glenn Thompson called Carrington Street of which the two of us toured, and I suddenly then realised I wasn’t getting offered the gigs as a bass player that I used to get so frequently and easily. I moved back to Brisbane in 2017 and still the phone didn’t ring, and so thought if I wanted to continue making music and performing music, I would have to form my own band and do it myself.
How does it feel to be the person up the front singing the songs now? Is it ever scary for you? What feeling do you get from playing live?
AP: I might be in denial, but I still feel like I’m not the centre of attention. And there’s something about being a wee older and wiser. It’s never been scary… more exciting and a wee bit nervous which helps me play better. My bass guitar gives me superpowers too! It is a different headspace and I’ve had to come to terms with being the one who is responsible for the maintenance of the band/ keeping it going/ planning, etc… That’s all new to me. I love playing live, I’ve gigged since I was 17. My comfort zone is plugging the jack in to the bass, switching the amp on, testing the microphone and being on stage. It’s not the glory of being on stage, it’s the making of music that’s the thrill for me. I think the audience picks up on the energy and excitement.
One of the first things your band released was recorded during one of the group’s first ever sessions in the studio, the Buzzcocks’ song ‘Love You More’; has this song got a special significance to you? What do you appreciate about Pete Shelley’s songwriting?
AP: I was in a cover band when I was 21 called Torn Sweaters, three girls, guitar, bass and drums, and we did a version of that song. It’s a song that’s always stuck with me, it’s such a great song to play and you have to be a bit brave to sing it, you almost shout it out. When Pete Shelley had passed away, I did a really big deep dive back into Buzzcocks.
The Chandeliers’ original drummer, Ash Shanahan loved to play fast and I believe we ended up recording the song quicker than the Buzzcocks version, which I was shocked about… as that feels really quick.
The connection I have with Buzzcocks is of course Pete Shelley. I think of him as a queer guy in a 70’s/80’s DIY punk band singing love songs that aren’t about specific genders and I really like and admire that. I like to think my songs are similar… And of course, he’s from around Manchester.
At the end of last year Adele & The Chandeliers released your debut LP First Date; where did the album title come from?
AP: Our album name comes from a band discussion with Scott Mercer and Ash Shannahan when we first started. We felt like we were on a first date of sorts with all those similar questions of: do we want to hang out together? Do you want to commit to turning up to rehearsals? Do we have a connection? And of course, when considering touring: does anyone snore?
The album’s cover photo features your parents, Bill and Alma, at Manchester United Supporters Club, Deansgate, England 1965; was this their first date? Is this why you chose it as the cover image?
AP: The older I get the more I see the nostalgia and hip coolness caught in their black and white photos. They were bohemian types. The First Date cover photo was the first photo of them together. Dad had just finished his gig with his jazz band and mum brought her girlfriend with her as she knew she wanted to chat up the pianist as she had seen him and his band play before. I love this moment where everyone is having a good time sitting on the edge of the stage, you can see there’s a sparkle happening.
How did First Date get started? Tell us a little bit about writing the record. Were many of the songs in your notebooks for a while beforehand?
AP: Two of the songs are from an early solo EP recorded at home in Sydney called My White Rabbit. I released that around 2017. The other Chandeliers’ songs were formed from riffs or chords on the guitar that I record onto my phone, and I make sure I write in my notebook any line or idea I have…. then the two meet. I record roughly into my home studio then send off to the band for us to have a crack at the next rehearsal. We then record the songs at band rehearsal, then listen back and try again next week. When I write, I try to make the songs come quickly. II don’t like to spend a lot of time overworking the words and the music. I try to maintain the initial spontaneity and the guts and vibe of a song in the final result. There’s a chance to think about keyboards and extra guitar parts after the sessions in the studio, when we get the songs home.
How does a song most often come to you?
AP: I generally start with a predicament or a thought and I write notes in my book. I come up with catchy riffs and I play them on my bass and record into my phone and then try to get the two to meet. Generally, in my bedroom. That’s where the good songs come from.
There’s a universal theme of love that runs through each track on the LP; what inspired you to write about love in its many different forms?
AP: Writing about love isn’t intentional. I used to write a lot of miserable love songs with the acoustic guitar in my 20’s and 30’s. I wasn’t miserable, it’s just what I did. As I’ve aged, I’ve turned it around with the Chandeliers to be up and pop… bright, and I guess that’s where the Chandeliers come from – light and bright. Nothing miserable there, up and fun, but I’m still thinking about the curly things about love and the wayward adventures I get myself into. I like to play with it.
Cam Smith at Incremental Records record First Date; what was one of your favourite moments from recording?
AP: Cam creates a relaxed environment in his studio and nothing is too difficult, which encourages everyone. I like to work fast. My favourite moment was when we invited Karin Bäumler to sing her response to the song German On My Mind in her native tongue of Bavarian. Ive known Karin for many years, since 1995 and it was the first time we had sang together. We planted the microphone in the middle of the room so we could both sing into it, face to face. I had no idea what Karin was responding/saying… but it sounded great and we had a ball!
What’s next for you?
AP: I’m writing in my notebook, sitting on my bed, there’s new songs in the pipeline for Adele & The Chandeliers. We’ve been gigging a little, and we’re always looking for shows. We don’t mind if it’s in a back garden.
We’ve had a change of drummer. My brother Jonny Pickvance has joined us and he’s bringing a new energy to our songs. I feel like we’re going to make some great new work because of the familiarity Jonny and I have, even though we come from different styles of music… Scott, myself and Jonny all have a playful sense of humour. I have a feeling the next record will be even more playful, with a little more splash of old rock’n’roll.