The Prize: “Power pop always has great energy.”

Original photo by Izzie Austin. Handmade collage by B.

Naarm/Melbourne-based band The Prize give us everything good about power pop and rock n roll on their debut EP Wrong Side Of Town. Full of harmonies, hooks and energy, with melody to burn, the infectious 4-track release on Anti Fade will be running through your head all day. We’ve listened to it on repeat, over and over and over. Along with their dynamic live show—The Prize are ones to watch! 

Gimmie caught up with dummer-vocalist Nadine Muller and guitarist-vocalist Carey Paterson to find out all about The Prize.

What was your introduction to music? Nadine, your dad is a member of Cosmic Psychos; did he introduce you to lots of stuff?

NADINE: I was pretty fortunate growing up with my parents’ record collection! Dad has always played in bands and mum used to tour-manage, so they have collectively introduced me to a lot of great stuff!

CAREY: I got into it through the radio and Rage, and then just through my mates. My folks have great taste, but didn’t try and push any music on me, so I discovered it in my own way and at my own pace. Went through a couple of phases but it all clicked into gear at like fifteen when me and my friends got really into CBGBs bands and started trying to cover their songs.

When did you first start playing your instrument? Who or what influenced you?

NADINE: I first started playing around thirteen/fourteen. My dad is a drummer too. I was pretty lucky to always have access to a kit, but I think it really kicked-off when I saw the movie Josie and the Pussycats (which was based on a comic book from the 60s). I really loved the soundtrack to that movie and I brought it on CD and would play along to it in my bedroom. So I guess you could say I was influenced by a fictional drummer, in a cat costume.

CAREY: I wanted to play drums when I was about twelve, but my parents managed to talk me into playing guitar instead. It was a pretty reluctant switch at first but it eventually became the instrument that I got obsessed with. I had all the staple kid heroes like Hendrix, Angus Young and Jimmy Page.

What’s an album that has really helped shape you? What about it was so influential?

NADINE: I watched the Ramones movie Rock’n’roll High School very early on and fell in-love with the Ramones. The soundtrack to that movie really embedded itself in my psyche with artists like;

Alice Cooper, Todd Rundgren, Devo.. And the movie itself really shaped me and set me up for a future, 70s aesthetic. 

CAREY: An album that really shaped my tastes is probably Vampire on Titus by Guided by Voices. This album sounds like it was recorded on an answering machine but the songs are so good. I really like how this band would just hang out and get drunk and wind up recording such interesting music. Their albums are usually pretty inconsistent but you get moments of absolute magic like ‘Unstable Journey’ off this one.

Photo by Jhonny Russell.

Can you tell us a little about your musical journey? Nadine you were in Killerbirds and Wolfy and the Bat Cubs, (and both you and Carey were in) Mr Teenage. Carey I know you’re originally from Canberra and played in some bands there too, like The Fighting League and PTSD.

NADINE: I started Killerbirds while I was still in school and we got to play with some great bands like the Celibate Riffles and Bored! After that band wound-up, I started another band with some friends from Bendigo, called Wolfy and the Bat Cubs, which I played bass in. 

Joe and Carey had played together a handful of times before I’d actually met Carey and then we all ended up in Mr Teenage together, which was unfortunately short-lived but we decided to get something else going after that, which has resulted in The Prize!

CAREY: Fighting League felt like the first proper band I was a part of. I started on drums and got booted on to guitar. After that all started working and became a really fun band to be in. I also played in the live bands for TV Colours and Danger Beach for many years. Got to play some amazing shows and tour Europe. PTSD was something that got started when I was living in NYC in 2016 at the same time as Lachlan Thomas, who releases music as Danger Beach, and James Stuart who was drumming in an incredible punk band called Haram. There’s another tape’s worth of music in the pipeline for that band as soon as I sit down and finish the vocals.

When starting The Prize; what was on playlists of your musical influences?

NADINE: I had just been introduced to The Toms and I think we were all playing that first album on repeat for a few months! Also a power-pop band from the UK called ‘The Incredible Kidda Band’ we discovered in a deep YouTube hole and loved them so much that we covered their track ‘Fighting My Way Back’ which is on our debut release.

CAREY: Bands like the Toms, the Shivvers, Incredible Kidda Band and the Nerves. Also a lot of Badfinger, Cheap Trick and Thin Lizzy. I think the sound was born out of combining the poppier and rockier ends of that spectrum of bands.

Photo by Jhonny Russell.

Why the name The Prize?

NADINE: I wish there was a better answer for this question! We had booked in our first show, which was with Civic at the Croxton and they were holding off making the poster until we’d settled on a name. So there was a bit of pressure to come up with something asap… 

We just wanted it to be something straight up and simple. ‘Blondie’ was obviously already taken and Brownie just doesn’t quite have same ring to it.. Anything with a Z is a bonus for logos and designs… We were all sitting in my dad’s shed one night, which is full of vintage bits and bobs and ‘THE PRIZE’ was written on an old sign hanging up on the wall and we went, “that’ll do”.

The Prize came together in 2021, during the pandemic; how did you jam and write songs during this period?

NADINE: I was living with our bass player, Jack at the time and we had a jam room and some recording gear so we would muck around with riffs here and there and send them back and forth. 

Between lockdowns we would all get together, to try and work on songs but it felt like a pretty 

difficult and slow process during that time. Once restrictions were eased, we stared rehearsing pretty intensely as we had a bunch of half-cooked songs and a first gig already booked in.

What’s one of the biggest things you’ve learnt about songwriting or your process while writing your debut 4-song EP Wrong Side of Town?

NADINE: Probably to not overthink it. It’s important to get the structure right and spend time on each song but also knowing when to leave it be, is something that took me some time.

Artwork by Sammy Clark.

What attracts you to the power pop sound?

NADINE: I love a good hook and melody!!! Power pop always has great energy and its something that’s fun to dance and sing-along to. Its a real, feel-good genre!

What’s title track ‘Wrong Side Of Town’ about?

NADINE: Joe had written the guitar lead-line a few years ago and it’s such a great riff! When we were trying to craft the song around that I  really wanted to do it justice with the melody and the lyrics.

The lyrics were written during one of our later lockdowns and it was definitely getting to breaking point for a lot of people.. Myself included.

A lot of people were packing up and moving home or back to the country and it’s about wanting to get away and start again but really just ending up, right back where you started.

How did ‘Easy Way Out’ come together?

NADINE: Easy Way Out was actually the first song that we wrote and was also one of the first songs I had really ever written lyrics for. It’s about feeling burnt or letdown by someone.

What did you have on your mind when you wrote ‘Don’t Know You’?

NADINE: Joe and I really pulled that one out of nowhere! I’d been humming a melody for a few weeks and when he and I caught up one day, he showed me a new riff he’d written and the melody worked perfectly over the top. I think we had that song written and demoed in about two hours!

It’s about being close to someone and sharing experiences together and then, for whatever reason they are no longer a part of your life. You still see their face around but you feel like they’re a familiar stranger. 

On your 7” you do a cover of ‘Fighting My Way Back’ by The Incredible Kidda Band; what inspired you to pick this track? 

NADINE: Its such a great song! We actually found it while trawling the Internet for power-pop bands and when that song came on we were all like how have we never heard this band before?? 

It was unanimous to add that to our set. We reached out to TIKB ahead of our release and sent them a copy of the track and luckily, they seemed to really like it! 

Photo by Jhonny Russell.

What was the most fun part of recording?

NADINE: Collaborating and working with your friends to make something is always fun, although at times, kind of stressful! but listening to the finished product is alway the most fun part for me.

CAREY: I find recording stressful so probably realising we’d finished it

Nadine, as well as playing drums and singing in The Prize, you’re also a makeup artist and hairstylist working with Ed Sheeran, Charli XCX, Amy Shark, Meg Mac, Thelma Plum, Nick Cave, Amy Taylor and Harry Styles band; how did you get into that line of work? Who has been one of the biggest surprises to work with?

NADINE: I started out doing a hairdressing apprenticeship while I was still at VCE and living in Bendigo and then when I moved to Melbourne, I would help out friends bands for music videos and photoshoots and it just really snowballed from there! 

I did a short course in makeup and then started getting booked for some really fun jobs! 

The biggest surprise was working with Ringo Starr’s all Star band. I got to meet a Beatle! Which was very special and pretty surreal!

What’s been your favourite show The Prize has played yet? What made it so?

NADINE: Our first show was in November last year with CIVIC at the Croxton and I think that’s still my favourite to date. I had never done lead vocals before and to get to the stage where I was able to play drums and singing at the same time, took a bit of work for me- I nearly threw in the towel a few times! 

To finally get to the point where we could pull it all off live and play our first show, felt like a triumph in-itself and the added fact that it was the first show in 18 months of lockdowns (that any of us had played, let alone been to..!) The energy in the room was something I wont forget.

CAREY: I’ve really enjoyed playing at the Curtin this year but I reckon the arvo show at the Tramway in May this year was the funnest. Something about a good Sunday arvo show that hits different.

Who are some of your favourite performers to watch?

NADINE: There are so many good ones! But just to name a few; Grace Cummings, CIVIC, The Murlocs, RMFC, ROT TV and of course, Amyl and the Sniffers always put on a great show.

CAREY: As far as local bands go, I’ll go and see Civic and EXEK any time I can. Faceless Burial always blow my mind. I saw the Blinds play recently after a long hiatus and that was one of the best shows I’ve seen in ages.

Your debut is coming out on Anti Fade Records; what’s one of your favourite AF releases? Why should we check it out?

NADINE: I think I listened to CIVIC’s record New Vietnam an absurd amount of times when that was released on Anti Fade in 2018—every song is a banger! More recently, RMFC and Modal Melodies is great!

CAREY: I would probably have to split the honours between the Reader 7″ by RMFC and Civic’s New Vietnam. Buzz from RMFC is one of the best young talents making music in Australia today. New Vietnam is one of the best debut releases in recent memory.

What’s the rest of the year look like for The Prize?

NADINE: We have our first 7” coming out in September and the first single will be available this week (today I believe, when this interview comes out)!

We have a tour with The Chats and Mean Jeans starting in September, plus our launch show on October 1st (which I’m not sure if I’m supposed to announce yet butttt we have a very exciting lineup for that)!

The Prize Wrong Side of Town EP available via pre-order at Anti Fade Records. Out September 2.

Check out: facebook.com/theprizemelbourne + @theprize___ + @antifaderecords

Program’s Jonno Ross-Brewin: “We’re all about jamming in as many riffs and melody as possible”

Handmade mixed-media collage by B.

Melbourne’s Program play catchy as fuck power pop. The songs off their debut album Show Me get stuck in your head, so much so that later in your day after listening to them you’ll find yourself humming the melodies to yourself. We spoke to Program co-founder Jonno Ross-Brewin.

Program released their debut album Show Me in October last year; have you been working on anything new?

JR-B: Rory [Heane] and I have been working on stuff for quite a while now. We’re constantly working on stuff. We’re working on the next album, we’re in the early stages.

How long were you working on Show Me for? It took a while, right?

JR-B: It was because it was the first record for the band, we didn’t really mess around with demos or anything. You could say Rory and I were writing songs for a couple of years before it came out. We were in another band before this one for years, we were kind of a mathy-punk-emo-jam band. For a couple of years we started playing guitar, because neither of us played guitar that much. It probably took a year from when we formed the group.

What inspired you towards the sound you have now?

JR-B: How we were feeling about everything. I used to write much more angsty stuff when I was younger because that’s how I felt. Now that I’m older – I’m not sure if it comes across in the music though – there’s a resignation and acceptance and maybe even a slight comedy about stuff. I’m seeing things in a lighter way, I’m being a bit lighter about things. I still feel the same ways I did then but, I’m just better at dealing with stuff. I know what is useful and what to act on and what you can’t really change.

Lyrically Show Me is quite personal.

JR-B: Especially for me. The tracks that I wrote were pretty personal. There’s definitely a mix in writing but the ones that I sung on were ‘Tailwind Blues’, ‘Program’, ‘Unexpected Plans’ and ‘They Know’.

Was there anything in particular that you were going through in your life when you wrote them?

JR-B: Yeah. ‘Unexpected Plans’ and ‘Tailwind Blues’ are basically based on a failed romantic endeavour, where I flew over to the USA for somebody.

Awww man, that sucks, I’m sorry. Why did you decide to kick the record off with ‘Another Day’?

JR-B: That’s what we’re feeling at the moment, there’s elements of repetition and boredom of our lives, that kind of stuff.

I noticed the album has really bright sounding jangly guitars all over it.

JR-B: A lot of that is just from the guitar that I started learning to play guitar on, it’s an old Japanese Fender imitation thing. The stuff that we’ve been writing is definitely inspired by Big Star and more poppy kind of stuff like The Kinks, a lot of Replacements—a lot of heartfelt power pop.

What did you listen to growing up?

JR-B: Neither of us really came from musical families at all. Our parents are the kind of people that would just listen to The Eagles or Bob Marley. When we were kids Rory and I listened to a lot of stuff that I’m probably a bit too embarrassed to mention [laughs]. I was a massive Red Hot Chilli Peppers fan when I was a kid, and that’s what got me into music. Later on there was stuff like The Strokes, stuff like that has massively influenced us.

I’ve seen Red Hot Chilli Peppers live five times and every time they’ve totally sucked. I was so disappointed, because growing up I’d listen to them too.

JR-B: Yeah, I feel exactly the same way too. I only saw them once, when I was eighteen, and that was the last time I listened to them in a non-ironic haha sort of way. They came out for album Stadium Arcadium when they were well after their prime, I was very disappointed. I thought that I was watching little robot ants from a distance.

Pretty much everyone I talk to that’s seen them says they are boring live. You hear them recorded, see their videos and live footage of them overseas and I think, they might be great to see live, then you do and it’s boring! I actually fell asleep at one of their shows.

JR-B: Where was it?

At an Entertainment Centre like a big arena.

JR-B: That’s probably why, because the place was too big. I don’t really rate big venues. All my favourite moments of live music have always been pretty intimate, in bars and smaller settings… except The Pixies, they’re always amazing no matter where they are. I saw them at Golden Plains recently and I saw them ten years ago at Festival Hall, both times amazing!

What’s been one of your favourite musical moments in an intimate setting?

JR-B: Probably my favourite band, who we’re all mates with too, is Possible Humans—I LOVE seeing those guys. We played their launch at The Tote. Every time I see them I love it. They’re really lovely dudes, amazingly lovely dudes!

You and Rory started Program around 2016 but have known each other since the first week of primary school…

JR-B: Yeah, since we were five!

That’s pretty amazing to have a friendship for that long.

JR-B: It’s wild! We live together as well. It helps us make music, we understand what each other wants.

Can you tell us a little bit about the recording of Show Me?

JR-B: We recorded most of it live except the vocals and a few overdubs. We did that in a day down in Geelong, in Billy [Gardner]’s warehouse. Billy from Anti Fade has this little rehearsal studio down in these old army barracks in Geelong. We drove down to Geelong for the day.

What made you want to do it live?

JR-B: We just heard his Civic recordings and we thought that sounded amazing! I’m pretty sure they did most of it live as well, so we were really happy for him to do it. There wasn’t too much thought actually, we were like, let’s just do this! We weren’t even sure about it all to be honest until we heard it.

We would have officially formed the band in 2018, Rory and I had songs we were doing but we hadn’t officially got anyone together. We were probably just jamming for about a year because we didn’t even know what we were going to sound like and it took a while. We started playing a few shows, mainly house parties. Not long after that Rory bumped into Billy at a party and Billy said “I’d like to record you guys”. We were lucky. When Billy was mixing it, he got an idea of it and just asked if he could put it out. He seemed to really like it. Things just really worked out.

I love that there’s so much melody on the album.

JR-B: There’s a lot of that. We’re all about jamming in as many riffs and melody as possible.

What was the thought behind the album art?

JR-B: The idea was Rory’s but it was a group effort. We went through a lot of ideas of me trying to draw up stuff and it was getting close to the release date and Rory was like “What about kids playing Four Square?” I found a cool image of it and the album is called Show Me and the vibe is the idea of having a young view of the world, not knowing what to do. I did the little squiggly bits then our bassist James Kane came in – he does a lot of posters and stuff so he’s really good on the design perspective – we put it together. I did the drawings and James put it together on Photoshop and did the font.

It sounds like everything just happens really organically for you guys?

JR-B: Yeah, I think it’s because we’re all really old friends. Jessie [Fernandez] and the two James’ we’ve all known each other for ten years. It was all very low-key, let’s just get these dudes because we like them. Jessie saw our first show and told us she’d been playing keys and asked if she could play keys for us, and after six months we said, let’s do it! She’s not on the album because we recorded it before she joined. Hopefully keys are going to be really prominent on the next recording.

What kind of direction are you headed in now sound-wise?

JR-B: With the songs we’ve done we’ve set it up so there’s kind of different genres in each song – some songs are more punky, others are more poppy, some are even folky – I think we’re going to still run with that for a bit. We’ll keep doing this until it sounds shit and then we’ll probably try something else.

What’s the part of songwriting you find challenging?

JR-B: I find the details challenging [laughs]. I’m better at coming up with chords and a vocal melody. Rory is a much better musician than I am, he’s really good at all the technical stuff and riffs.

My lyrics are very direct and personal. I don’t like them to be too overthought. I like them being accessible and easy to hear but upon more analysis they mean more. I try to do that, I don’t know if that actually happens though [laughs].

I really like the track ‘Memory’ on the record I think it’s a good blend of Rory and I as writers. There’s not much effort put into it but I really like the result, it sees effortless.

Do you edit yourself much?

JR-B: Definitely. Usually I’ll write on my phone and then go over it and fine tune it over a period of months. It never ends up being anywhere near what I initially write. I always reduce it to all that’s needed. We definitely spend a lot of time on the tracks.

Who are the songwriters you admire?

JR-B: My gods are David Bowie and Neil Young. I like how epic Bowie is and how heartfelt Young is. There’s a lot I like though. Maybe Ray Davies as well, I like his tongue-in-cheek and catchiness.

What’s been influencing the songs you’ve been writing lately?

JR-B: The same everyday stuff and personal things.

What do you do outside of music?

JR-B: I work full-time as an Operating Theatre Technician. I set up for surgery. Most of my music just takes up everything around that.

What an interesting job.

JR-B: It is at the start. I work in a smallish hospital with the same surgeons, so you get to know each surgeon and what they’re like then it becomes pretty repetitive and dull. But in some ways it’s good because I’ll be sitting there and in my head can be coming up with lyrics. Rory does the same thing, we both work in the same place.

Wow! You guys are so linked.

JR-B: Yep, that’s it!

It’s pretty special to share so many things in life with someone.

JR-B: Yeah, I’m pretty grateful. It’s pretty amazing!

Anything else you want to tell me?

JR-B: I think at the end of all this isolation period there’s going to be so many people coming out with stuff. Rory and I are working on demos. We’re just trying to make good songs, nice songs. We’re on to the next one and excited about that!

Please check out: PROGRAM. Show Me out on Anti Fade Records. Program on Facebook. Program on Instagram.