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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo by Scott Bradshaw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Scott Bradshaw

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you love about making music?

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

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

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

Link Meanie of Legendary Melbourne Punk Band The Meanies: “There’s many things that you can get out of being creative but for me, if I didn’t have that I’d probably go insane”

Original photo: Peter Wheeler. Handmade collage by B.

The Meanies are one of Australia’s all-time bands. Forming decades ago, their music is melody-driven, explosive power-pop with lyrical tongue planted firmly in cheek. Their live shows are the stuff of legend, wild and action-packed. 2020 sees them releasing a new studio album Desperate Measures, one of their greatest yet. Gimmie’s editor started going to Meanies all-ages shows as a teen in the ‘90s and was very, very stoked to catch up with guitarist-vocalist, Link, to find out more about the LP and his song-craft.

What do you love most about writing songs?

LINK MEANIE: It’s therapy [laughs], it really is! Honestly there’s many things that you can get out of being creative but for me, if I didn’t have that I’d probably go insane. The actual process of writing in some ways is the most enjoyable part for me, getting into the studio to varying degrees it can be fun but I find it a bit stressful.

Before you started writing songs was there any other ways that you expressed yourself creatively?

LM: Gang fights! [laughs]. No, I didn’t. I’ve always done it since as long as I can remember, from twelve years old I was always being creative with a guitar. It’s always played that therapeutic role in my life.

What got you interested in writing your own songs?

LM: I came from a kind of musical family I guess. My mum went to a pretty high level in piano and my brother played in a school band, he was a bass player and also a better guitarist than me, just being surrounded by that and a family of music lovers. It was inevitable.

I’ve read that you’re the kind of song writer that writes best when you have a deadline to work towards; was this the case for this record?

LM: No, that proves that statement to be an actual lie [laughs]. When I started writing this record there wasn’t any plan to record another album, I just did it because I was bored out of my skull over here in Spain… obviously though, I love being here with my wife and her kids… just not having that creative outlet though, to me it was medicine. I didn’t know if it was going to get recorded or not, it just evolved from there.

How much song writing did you do for it?

LM: The exact amount of songs that we recorded [laughs]. Actually, we recorded one extra which I think is coming out as a single. There wasn’t many throwaways, but I took that much time with it that I was pretty sure of those songs before we went into the studio. Sometimes if you do have a deadline and you write a whole bunch of songs and you get into the studio and for one reason or another a song just doesn’t work; even on paper if it looks good something just doesn’t click. Didn’t have that with this, which is fortunate but it helps spending a lot of time with the structure and demo-ing.

Do you write most of your songs on guitar?

LM: Yeah, or flugelhorn, one or the other. Mostly guitar. I use an online recording service called Soundtrap, I’m not getting money for that, it’s just a basic kind of setup and just demo on there and send them to the guys fairly complete. The songs end up getting a different feel just because of people’s different styles once you get in the studio, which is nice. On this one we have Wally singing the verse to one of the songs [“Cruel To Be Caned”] which has never happened before, which I’m pretty excited about, I can go up and grab a drink while he starts that one. I also co-wrote a song with Jaws which is something I’ve never done. There’s been a couple of firsts on this one.

One thing I have always loved about Meanies songs is the melody; where does your love of melody come from? Where does that knack for doing it come from?

LM: I really don’t know. Having a family that introduced me to good quality song writing, the obvious ones like The Beatles, The Who, my mum listening to Carol King or Burt Bacharach or whatever—growing up with a lot of very melodic stuff. It seeps into the consciousness and it’s just a part of me, man! [laughs].

When you first started The Meanies did you have a vision for it? Out of the gate you had a sound that was your own and even all the art you drew for your releases, it’s very fully formed.

LM: I’m glad you think so [laughs]. To me, I guess it has a certain continuity to it. I don’t know if it was very conscious. To start with, I think the imagery on the early posters was inspired by the Hard-Ons, pseudo-metal satanic imagery that they would do [laughs], then it developed a bit more into our own thing. Things didn’t always pan out the way I’d like it to, I didn’t always have the last say in things like artwork or choice of singles, I kind of like that though because I’m a lazy person—just tell me what to do! [laughs].

How did you first get into punk rock?

LM: Probably the Sex Pistols hearing them, or the Ramones, stuff like that is probably the earliest experiences… apart from Plastic Bertrand “Ca Plane Pour Moi” [laughs], that’s probably one of the earliest “punk rock” songs I ever heard. Also though, define punk; there’s so many different descriptions of what punk is, you could call something like The Romantics “What I Like About You” punk. All the things you hear growing up are part of the formative appreciation for the style.

Yeah. When punk started all the bands sounded different.

LM: Yeah, that’s the thing it wasn’t very homogeneous, there’s such a variety of sound. A bit later on people started narrowing the parameters of what punk was… that’s OK, but I just find it a little bit boring when it’s sort of cookie cutter.

Totally! With the new album Desperate Measures; what kind of emotion or place where you writing from?

LM: The same—a miserable bastard basically [laughs].

Photo: Peter Wheeler.

You seem pretty happy to me.

LM: This is all a façade! [laughs]. Inside I’m an emo. Most of the songs are pretty negative or analytical, a lot of them are about myself and then there’s more external songs like “Monsters” and “All the Bought Men” which are a bit more political.

When you write songs do you find it helps you learn stuff about yourself?

LM: Oh yeah, for sure. It’s always therapeutic to me because you are confronting parts of yourself that you might not otherwise do unless you were writing it down on paper, even if it is a little bit abstract—that’s probably a part of me not wanting to face it! [laughs].

When you write your lyrics do you do much revising?

LM: My lyrics? Not a great deal. Occasionally you’ll go back and find a line that’s a bit naff! You’re being lazy and you just wanted to move on and you go back and you’ve got a line like: I was walking down the street just the other day [laughs]. It’s like, c’mon! That’s what you wrote when you were fourteen. There’s a lot more consistency and quality with the lyrics now, a little less clumsy metaphor than I used to use when I was younger.

Is there a song you’ve written hat you’re really proud of?

LM: On this record?

Yeah.

LM: I’m really proud of the whole thing. It has a cohesion which isn’t always there in terms of how I view the record; maybe it always seems cohesive to people but, to me… I think because it was written when I’m older and also written in a similar time period. I think “Sousa” is one for me, it’s probably the least punk one on the record. I really love the melody, I think it’s a really sweet melody.

That’s one of my favourites on the album too and I also really love “Drowning Tower” as well.

LM: Ah, good! That’s the one I co-wrote with Jaws, he’ll be happy to hear that.

What’s that one about?

LM: That’s another sooky song about me [laughs]. You know man, like, I’m the tower! [laughs].

You make Meanies film clips too. You’ve made a couple so far for new songs “Cruel To Be Caned” and “Jekyll & Hide”.

LM: Yeah, really lo-fi clips that you probably couldn’t show on television because they’re too dodgy. We just figured we can get them done cheaper if I make them; how many times are they going to get played on television anyway? It’s mainly for YouTube and social media.

I still think they’re really fun! I love the clip with the dog!

LM: [Laughs] Aww thank you! Roveo! It’s so fucking daft! [laughs]. I’m really happy with them. It’d be nice if I had more technical know-hows and I could make them of a higher quality. I’m using a really old version of Movie Maker, it crashes every couple of frames. The clip I’m doing now, I’m up to about 500 frames and I’m halfway through, it takes a long time.

What are you making the clip for now?

LM: I’m doing one for the next single which is “Monsters”.

Nice! That’ll be a fun one.

LM: There’s a lot of scope for animation with a title of “Monsters”.

In the song, what kind of monsters are you speaking about?

LM: I’m speaking about the demonization of cultures, religions, anything you know… not that I really agree with religion, I think it’s had a lot of negative affect in the world; not so much religion but organised religion. By nature it becomes corrupted, when they become to big obviously you’re going to get someone at the top controlling things and they’re going to have their own vested interests, which corrupts any sort of message, positive message that a religion has. I’m not religious myself at all. I think it’s everyone’s right to believe what they want to believe, no matter how stupid [coughs]. We’re just seeing it more and more with the rise of the right-wing around the world and it’s really worrying. There’s this fucking insane clown running America, not to mention Australia! It’s scary and weirdly exciting because these sort of moments, no matter how fucked up they are, there’s great scope for change, possibly for the better. We’ll see.

What are the things that you believe in?

LM: Not a lot. I’m a bit of a cynic and a nihilist. I believe in friends actually. I believe in trying not to be an arsehole, which I manage to do sometimes. Just trying to treat people with respect, which I don’t do sometimes. Not judging, trying not to judge people with generalisations and not listening to people in power, they’ve all got their own interests—I don’t trust them at all!

Same! I’ve been like that since I was a kid. My parents always taught me not to trust authority figures and those in power.

LM: Yeah, same! [laughs].

Life can be so tough; what helps you get through?

LM: Love and music!

What’s life like for you in Spain?

LM: I love the vibe here, it’s a really nice culture, really relaxed attitude. Lots of just sitting in cafes drinking and soaking up the sun, I love it! I do miss Australia… well I miss my family and friends in Australia a lot. I should be coming back soon. Hopefully we can start doing gigs!

What do you get from playing live?

LM: Money! [laughs]. No, I don’t. Just enjoyment, it’s just fun! It’s a different kind of therapy than the actual creative side of it. I just loved catching up with old friends, it’s really great when you’re playing with a band you’ve known for 30 years, like Tumbleweed or Spiderbait, any of those sort of bands like that. It’s really some of my happiest times, just catching up with some of those people.

Please check out: THE MEANIES; on Facebook; on Instagram; Desperate Measures out now on Cheersquad Records and Tapes.