Amyl And The Sniffers’ Gus Romer: “I was losing my mind, I was so nervous. It’s insane. I hadn’t experienced anything like that before”

Original photo Jamie Wdziekonski. Handmade collage by B.

Melbourne pub punk band Amyl and the Sniffers need no introduction. We recently chatted to bassist Gus Romer to find out about the progress on new music, how he came to join the band and about their travels all over the world.

When we were teeing up this chat you mentioned that you’re a late sleeper; have you always been one? Is it because you’ve played so many shows – I think around 250 or so in the last year – that contributes to you keeping late hours?

GUS ROMER: In the past two years we’ve played a lot of shows. I’ve always been like that though, I’ve always cherished a good lie in [laughs].

How did you first discover music?

GR: From a young-ish age my mother always had an emphasis on my brother and I learning an instrument, doing something musical.

Why do you think she pushed you guys towards something creative?

GR: She’s an art teacher, so we’ve always done creative stuff from the start. It’s a good outlet to always have, something to do and something to work on.

You’re originally from Tasmania?

GR: Yep, yep.


What was it like growing up there?

GR: It was great! I love Tassie a lot. Super small. Super beautiful. Pretty cold [laughs].

What kind of stuff were you into as a kid?

GR: Mainly music, bits and bobs, that came in and out of my interest because I spent most of my childhood and teens just skateboarding, I was really into that!

What bands were you listening to?

GR: At the very start when you’re really young it’s just listening to the radio and whatever is around you. I got really into the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Led Zeppelin and Rage Against The Machine. I fell off for a while and got really into hip-hop for a few years in my teens, that’s all I listened to, I wasn’t into too much else at the time. Later on I got back into punk rock.

What hip-hop were you listening to?

GR: I was really into Big L and MF Doom and Wu-Tang.

Did you start off playing bass? Was that the first instrument you learnt?

GR: What got me into playing bass was that in primary school we had a strings program where you could get out of class for an hour a week and this person would come around and teach a few kids how to play. I played the cello. When I finished primary school and went into high school, I obviously couldn’t do that anymore, so I got a bass for my birthday. I joined this band with my friends.

Was that the band Bu$ Money?

GR: No, that was way later. This is when I was younger. I got into playing bass initially from that transition from playing the cello.

Did you have a bunch of other bands before Bu$ Money?

GR: Bu$ Money was when I started listening to more local music and shit around in my scene in Hobart and what inspired me to get back into it and have a crack. Even though I didn’t play bass in Bu$ Money, I played drums.

How did you first get into your local scene?

GR: There’s not a great deal of places to go out and drink in Hobart. The Brisbane Hotel was where me and my friends always went ‘cause there wasn’t a bunch of dickheads there. There was alternative people, more like-minded people. I started going to drink with my friends, I started going to more shows from that and really started getting into it. I thought, this is pretty good! I’m gonna have a crack. I got one of my friends and a guy I worked with and pretty much forced them to start and be in a band with me! [laughs].

What local bands were you listening to and seeing live?

GR: Treehouse were a big one! I’m a big fan! The Dreggs, are a great, great Hobart band. There were a lot of bands that came and gone. Native Cats are a great, great Hobart band!

How did you end up being in Amyl and the Sniffers?

GR: I was already good friends with the band, I met them when Declan’s old band, Jurassic Nark, came to Hobart and Bu$ Money supported them. So that’s how I met him and then I went to Melbourne soon after and hung out with everybody else; I was good friends with them and a big fan of the band. When their old bass player parted ways with the band they called me one day and said, “Move to Melbourne and join the band”. I thought, sweet! I quit my job and moved to Melbourne.

Did you have to give much thought to it?

GR: I’d already been toying with the idea of moving to Melbourne for a while but it would have taken me even longer to do if they hadn’t asked me, it was a nice little push. It got me going and got me moving. I was already such good friends with them and a really big fan of the band so it wasn’t too much of a decision. It was super natural, cool, let’s do it!

In around March 2017, I think, is when you played your first show with them?

GR: I don’t even know ‘ey? [laughs].

Do you remember anything about that first show with them?

GR: Yeah. It was the band’s second tape launch. It was at the Curtin. I was so, so nervous! I couldn’t really play bass that good. At the time I hadn’t played bass in seven years! [laughs]. I got my friend to teach me all the songs. We had one practice. I remember being really nervous and didn’t think I played that well. I was like, oh god! I blew it! I blew! They said, “Nah! That’s great!” No one was looking at me anyway [laughs]. It was a good time. A couple of drinks loosened me up a bit and I just got up and it was fine.

Do you ever get nervous now playing shows?

GR: Not at all. Being filmed makes me really nervous though and feel uncomfortable [laughs], doing an in the studio kind of thing. We played on Jools Holland last year.

I saw that!

GR: I was off it before that, I was losing my mind, I was so nervous. It’s insane. I hadn’t experienced anything like that before.

You guys have got to do all kinds of interesting things. I saw photos from when you did a Gucci campaign and walked in their Fall 2019 show and there was a photo shoot at an Archaeological Park.

GR: It was at these ruins in Sicily. It’s pretty crazy. The first time doing that and going into that it was the first time I’d ever experienced anything like it, the level of the production, the money and effort that goes into that stuff is just mind blowing! The scale is insane. For one campaign there was over 100 staff there, everyone running around doing this, that and everything. It was crazy! It was an hour out of Palermo the capital of Sicily. There were all these old, old buildings, these ruins on the coast.

Is there something else cool that you’ve seen in your travels that sticks out to you?

GR: Too much! There’s always something crazy going on somewhere. Having the opportunity… we’ve played in Russia before, stuff like that sticks out, we were only there a day and a half. Getting to play places like Russia and Istanbul, is pretty mind blowing! I never thought I’d get the opportunity to do anything like that.

What was Istanbul like?

GR: It was so cool! Definitely the coolest place I’ve ever been, we were only there for a day though. We flew in and out. I got to walk around for two hours but it was so cool. Everything was so cool, the vibe, the architecture, it was super, super beautiful.

What was Russia like?

GR: Russia was pretty, pretty crazy. We went to Red Square. It was pretty insane, the drive from the airport to our hotel was an hour, hour and a half, and on the outskirts of the city it seems like there’s really intense poverty, in the city there is so much money! On the outskirts you see massive, massive apartment blocks that look so run down and dilapidated; in the city centre it’s so clean and there’s so much money everywhere, sports cars everywhere!

What was it like playing shows in places like that? Is it similar to here?

GR: The show in Moscow was for a festival, that was the very first show we played in Europe. We played a festival to a relatively small crowd, they were getting it though and a few people even knew all the lyrics! It’s always pretty wild because you go in not expecting much and then you have people singing your lyrics back to you. It’s mind blowing!

Have you got to see many beautiful nature spots in your travels?

GR: Driving through America is always really, really cool, the diversity of the landscape; you drive through the hills of Oregon and then drive through the desert. That stands out in terms of nature to me.

What’s one of the coolest things that you’ve seen in America?

GR: It’s all a blur to be honest [laughs]. There’s a lot, a lot of driving and a lot of drinking!

You’ve been working on a new Sniffers album?

GR: Yep, at the moment we’re trying to get some songs together to become an album at some point.

In December I think you guys mentioned you had around 12 songs?

GR: Yeah, November last year we had a fair long slog of trying to do it, trying to get something going—we got a lot of good stuff. Now we’ve just hired a little unit at a storage place near our house, which has been great. At the start of lock down we were bumming around doing nothing for the first six to eight weeks. We’ve set up in the storage unit and we’ve been hitting that up quite a bit, which has been really good. We’re trying to write new stuff and trying to do stuff that we’re all super happy with.

You all live together?

GR: Yep, yep. It’s cool. Because we’ve toured so solidly for the past two years, we’ve pretty much spent 24-hours a day with each other, we’ve been overseas together for months at a time so, it’s a pretty smooth transition for us. We all know how each other rolls.

Was it weird for you at the start of isolation not being able to tour?

GR: Kind of. It was a nice break though. We were meant to be in the States for a month, not too long after it all started. We’ve been so busy the past few years, this past six months has been the biggest break that we’ve had, the most time we’ve spent in Australia in such a long time. I’ve just been enjoying being home.

With the new stuff you’re writing have you been trying anything different to previous work?

GR: Yeah, there’s a couple of tracks that are heavier and faster, on the other spectrum there is some different stuff. We’re not trying to limit ourselves too much to a particular sound or style, just playing around and seeing what we like. Most of the time either Declan, Bryce or myself will bring a riff and we’ll jam it out. Most of the time we just try to finish it, get something and then talk about it afterwards, see what we like about it and if we keep it or don’t.

When you’re making your own music do you listen to other people’s music much?

GR: Always, I always have something going. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Dick Diver and Low Life, Vertigo—I’ve been pumping all them recently. There’s always good stuff!

Previously, just after the Sniffers debut album came out, you mentioned that you felt a really big sense of relief that the album was done and it was nice to not have to stress and worry about it; what kind of things do you stress and worry about when making an album?

GR: Well, with that, that was in the thick of us touring like crazy… when we recorded it we had come off of four months non-stop touring overseas; we flew to Sheffield in the UK and recorded the album there. We’d been away for too long, we’d work so hard non-stop touring—we just wanted to be home, we were so over it! It was definitely not the greatest time and was really stressful.

What were you tired of?

GR: We were pretty happy with what we had but we were happy to get the album out of the way. A lot of the songs, we’d already been playing for a couple of years, we just wanted to record it and get it out and never think about it or listen to it again.

Do you have a favourite Sniffers song to play?

GR: I’d probably say “Some Mutts (Can’t Be Muzzled)”. That’s my favourite. Usually we play it last. I like the build-up, it’s fun to play.

What was the last band you saw live before lockdown?

GR: Just before everything went to a halt we were in the middle of an Australian tour, we played Sydney and Newcastle, they were the two last times I went out. I got to see Gee Tee and R.M.F.C. supporting us in Sydney, that’s always, always a great time! Concrete Lawn are a Sydney band who we are really good friends with us played in Newcastle. They were the last live shows I got to see before everything stopped.

Do you have plans yet for the rest of the year or is it too hard to plan with all the uncertainty around?

GR: There’s always stuff. We’re hoping to do an Australia tour before the end of the year, it just depends. We’re hoping to get overseas again from the start to the middle of next year. It’s a guessing game though and no one is too sure how it will go.

What have you been doing in isolation to keep sane?

GR: Now that we have the practice space we’ve been utilising that a quite a bit, other than that we haven’t been doing much… bumming around watching dumb shit on the internet and movies. The boys bought an Xbox, so they’re playing a lot of FIFA [laughs].

Last question; what inspired you to get your mullet haircut?

GR: I was really, really into the Cosmic Psychos. I was watching a lot of old footage and the doco Blokes You Can Trust and decided I wanted to look like Ross Knight! [laughs]. It’s pretty funny! I love the Cosmic Psychos.

Please check out: AMYL AND THE SNIFFERS; on bandcamp; on Facebook; on Instagram.

Sydney Punks C.O.F.F.I.N on their new forthcoming LP: “The anguish of having things beyond your control controlling your life… music can be a really powerful therapy”

Original photo by Rhys Bennett. Handmade art by B.

From the Northern Beaches of Sydney come C.O.F.F.I.N with their loud rock n roll punk and wild shows putting the fun, danger and excitement back into punk rock. They’ve been in the studio recording their new record which is getting ready to see the light of day. Gimmie caught up with them for a chat.

How did you first get into music?

BEN (vocals-drums): Hard to tell, it’s been a key component of my life as far back as I can remember. My mum had really good mixtapes an old boyfriend of hers from NY had made. They were always playing in the car. Maybe that. Apparently I got loose from her when I was two at a benefit gig Midnight Oil were playing on Freshwater Beach. She found me side of stage captive and clapping along. So probably a combination of that and watching Video Hits with my old man at his place on the weekend.

ARTY (guitar-vocals): Whole family loves music. But when I was little my parents were still having parties and house shows and my dad was still always playing gigs in his bands (Crazy Legs Vermin, Knucklehead and others). CLV were out there punk with psychedelic and scientific themes and influences. My imagination went nuts every time the ol’ man had a gig. Probably didn’t even understand what gigs were but there was always a wanting of inclusion.

AARON (guitar-vocals): I listened to Big Willie Style by Will Smith.

I know you guys spin records at events/gigs from your personal collections sometimes; what is: the last record you bought? The most treasured record in your collection? A record we’d be surprised you own? A record that never fails to get the party started?

AARON:  Last I bought: All That Glue – Sleaford Mods. Most treasured: My dad’s original Beatles – Revolver. A surprise one: Wrestling Rocks – Real Rock ‘n’ Roll Sung by the World’s Greatest Professional. Party starter: Abijah’s copy of Eddie Murphy’s Party All The Time.

BEN: Last I bought: Greta Now – S/T. Most treasured: OG copy of Motörhead – On Parole. A surprise one: Enoch Light – Big Band Bossa Nova. Party starter: Three 6 Mafia – Mystic Stylez.

C.O.F.F.I.N all grew up together, bonding over a love of music and skateboarding; what initially sparked the idea to start the band?

BEN: We’d always be telling our folks we were staying at each other’s places and then just sneak out and skate, cause a ruckus, and go Shanti Hunting. Shanti Hunting was scoping out well enough covered areas like bin rooms or unit block fire escapes to sleep in for that night.

On the weekends when we did end up staying in we’d just jam anything for hours and talk about rock ‘n’ roll, and usually prank dominoes to con them into delivering free pizza.

We didn’t have any songs or a proper band name really, we’d always just improvise and start again the next time. This is where one of the really uncanny moments in our story takes place. We got our first gig in year 7 and were compelled to make an actual band because Loz who was in year 12 at the time was putting on a show with the Hard-Ons at our local youth centre (aka KANGA). Arty hearing this and being a major fan of the Hard-Ons lied to Loz and told him we had a punk band and really wanted to play. Loz let us open, and we had to get a set together in a month. Who would have known that a decade later Loz would end up joining the band he sorta spring-boarded into creation. 

Photo: Oisin Demony.

On a sidenote; who’s your favourite skateboarder? Why do they rule?

BEN: Well our favourite “blader” is Robert Grogan. And our favourite skateboarded is Rhys Grogan. They are both excellent shlonkers.

The band name stands for Children of Finland Fighting in Norway; were there any other names that you consider for the band? What made C.O.F.F.I.N the one that stuck?

BEN: Yeah it’s a fucked name. Well, the full version is at least weird, but C.O.F.F.I.N is a bit ordinary. I guess that happens when you’re 11 years old and naming your band.

Me and Arty had sorta played around with a couple other names (Leatherface, Val Halla) but they were kinda other projects going before the three of us (me, Arty, & Abijah) we’re fully jamming together.

We’d often go to these gigs that would happen at a heavier local rehearsal space in Brookvale called ‘Scene Around Sound’ or maybe ‘Rockafella’s’ because it was one of the only places we could see live music while being underage. The way I remember it was that Arty pleaded with one of the dudes running night to let us get up and play! WE HAD NO SONGS! The bloke said ‘sorry but there was no room’, yet he was intrigued by Arty’s forwardness, and that such young kids had a band. He told Arty that we could possibly do so next time and asked what the name of this young boy’s band was.

Arty being put on the spot for name answered ‘Children Of Finland!’ My only guess being because we were listening to lots of Scandinavian metal at the time. He came back to the couch we were squished in and recounted to Abijah & myself what had happened. We all agreed that was a shithouse name but stupidly felt it had to be kept because we announced to this guy that’s what it was. We decided to try and redeem it somewhat by turning it into an acronym and say that Arty hadn’t told him the full band name. C.O.F…COFFIN…’Fighting In Norway’ was the first thing that came out.

And here we are 15 years later still confusing folks and having Jerry Only implore us to trademark.

What was the inspiration behind having three guitarists?

BEN: Arty being stuck in an anarchist squat in Athens with no passport or idea of when he’d be able to return to Australia hahaha. Aaron filled in for the few gigs Arty missed and he ripped. He was already our best mate and at most of the shows. It seemed stupid to stop the fun he added and stifle his input so we told him he should stay. He’s got great taste and it just makes the sound and already odd setup more offensive and unique. In the new stuff it creates a wall of sound, but they’re different interlocking bricks. I really love Cuban music and how skits the layering is.

We’ve tried to make each guitarists’ part different but not so that it’s sounds obnoxious.

It’s sorta like when the Power Rangers make that one big Megazord or whatever it is.

Photo: Oisin Demony.

When C.O.F.F.I.N started out you were all underage and found it hard to get shows because of that fact; can you tell us a little bit about this time? How did you work around the situation?

BEN: We continued on playing countless shows at KANGA (Manly Youth Centre) and got heavily involved in the Manly Youth Council because of that. It kinda allowed you to put on or influence the shows that happened there, and the community projects proved to be pretty great too.

We did lots of creative collaborations with kids that had intellectual disabilities, and environmental awareness festivals. I was even a penguin warden for a while hahah. Basically I had to stop dogs from chomping fairy penguins at the wharf.

We played for free anywhere that would let us. Other youth centres (YOYOs), band comps, parties, rehearsal studio shows. We’d lie and say we had the same focus or theme as some public event just so we could play at that, and at around age 17 we all stared looking old enough to just tell a venue we were 18+ and hope no questions were asked.

As for going to shows we were pretty skilled at sneaking into places and staking out the shadowed corners or sitting under tables.

You have a new album in the works; what’s it called? When will we see it released? How did you challenge yourself while writing and recording it?

BEN: Not sure about a name yet, maybe S/T. Probably end up releasing it when we are able to tour it properly, hahaha sigh.

I think a major difference and intentional challenge for this one was to sorta just have the skeletons of the songs sorted and work the rest out while doing it – keep a bit of the looseness and spontaneity.

I remember once hearing someone say “an album is never finished, it just has a deadline.” We set a deadline.

You recorded vocals through a vintage mic; what difference did it make to the vocals? Did you experiment with any other interesting equipment?

BEN: The old home phone thing right? We actually recorded harmonica through that, it sounds sick! Antique, like an old Maurice Chevalier recording. Usually we do very little to the vocals but do really like messing around with a few uncommon things.

Some of the odd stuff we used that I can think of is: A lap steel guitar I got second hand in Austin that’s from 1947, heaps of hand percussion and random shit I tink ered together, a bullroarer, and as I mentioned before harmonica.

We met and became friendly with Briggs while recording because he was working on demos at a studio in the same building as The Pet Food Factory. We were going to record him thwacking the roller doors out front with this baseball bat we had for this new song called Dead Land. Unfortunately we didn’t end up at there at the same time again. But that would have been boss.

Photo: Grit Van.

During the creation of the new record, when was the point that you started to get really fired up about it?

BEN: About a month before we were booked in at the Pet Food Factory do it. But we are constantly scribbling notes and jamming riffs. It’s more just that the refined editing that becomes whipped into orbit as we get closer to that deadline.

What kinds of things are informing the new record lyrically?

BEN: Frustrations, depression. The stuff that probably keeps me grinding teeth at night. Holding people accountable for shitty behaviour. There are songs about the consequences of mistreating the land, how appalling domestic abuse against women in Australia is, dead shit abusers disguising themselves as artists…..and the pit gets deeper. The anguish of having things beyond your control controlling your life. But music can be a really powerful therapy for such grief and anger. If a song is done well it sorta becomes a timeless ‘fuck you’ or mirror to whatever it is you’re quarrelling with.

Last year C.O.F.F.I.N toured the country with T.S.O.L.; what did you take away from that experience?

ABIJAH (guitar-vocals): touring with a sober band is great because you get their rider.

ARTY: Been a fan since 13-ish, so stoked that they were all proper legends. Really nice, honest, funny blokes who were great to hang out with. They shared a lot of fucked up & insightful stories with us that’ll probably save our lives a few times in the future.

LOZ (bass-vocals): It’s really good hanging out with a band who have been playing together for so long and still loving it, even with a collection of so many fucked up stories as large as they have.

You guys have toured quite a lot; what’s be one of the most memorable places you’ve been? What made it so?

Ben: Hell, there are so many, a lot that probably can’t even be told yet…

LOZ: Let’s go with China, we were at the tail end of a tour that had gone through Japan and South Korea. Ben had a broken foot, Arty had 2 broken hands, and I shat myself on stage after drinking a bad shoe beer.

Language obstacles, sickness, travelling by public transport city to city, it was more charged than anywhere else we have toured. We witnessed some of most astoundingly beautiful scenery and conversely there some really stained sections too. Some gigs were the loosest and psycho shows we’d ever played and at others the police barged in, took over, and locked everyone in until each person had been drug tested. Just really felt like we never had a clue what was going on and that was awesome.

What do you all do outside of music?

ABIJAH: Snorkelling or diving whenever I get the chance and boring work shit in between

LOZ: I dedicate a lot of my time to music but I’ve also been a sign writer for the last 10 years

AARON: Uni and Radio Shack.

BEN: I also play in Research Reactor Corp and White Dog. I make jewellery, do video stuff, work construction, and sometimes assist my mum with her glass artwork. Essentially make money anyway I can so I can make more music and tour.

Photo: James Brickwood.

What’s something really important that C.O.F.F.I.N care about that you’d like everyone to be informed/aware of?

BEN: Inclusivity and equality, to respect those around you who deserve it, don’t waste it on those who don’t.

What’s one of THE best things you’ve experienced lately?

BEN: Recording with Jason Whalley at The Pet Food Factory, bush walks and the beach.

ABIJAH: You can get Ichi Ran Ramen in Australia!

AARON: I’d have to think about it, not much. Getting our US tour with Amyl & The Sniffers cancelled and staying inside for two months fucking sucked.

LOZ: Great K-hole last weekend.

ARTY: First and foremost is seeing my best mates since this big dumb brain freeze.

Please check out: C.O.F.F.I.N. on bandcamp; on Facebook; on Instagram.

Melbourne Punk Band CLAMM: There are countless problems within our political structure… CLAMM for me is sorta like: Everything is fucked! How can I write music about anything else?”

Original photo by Oscar Oshea. Handmade collage by B.

At the beginning of the year Melbourne “plant-based diet rockers” CLAMM released their debut album Beseech Me – a 10-track banger touching on mental health, materialism, anti-violence and tuned in self-aware social commentary. Gimmie interviewed guitarist-vocalist Jack and drummer Miles.

How did you first discover music?

JACK: My first memories music is listening to Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley in my grandfather’s old Peugeot. I was probably about six or something. I couldn’t get over tracks like ‘Pretty Woman’ when old Roy does that snarl thing… and then like ‘Hound Dog’. I remember being really moved by music like that and it made me want to dance. He had an iPod and I think they had only been out for a few years so I remember just flicking through his iPod in wonderment. That or dancing to Daddy Cool or the Eagles at Dad’s place when I would have been around the same age.

What does music mean to you?

JACK: Ah it’s everything I guess (couldn’t think of a less cliché answer). A world without music and art sounds like a horrible, horrible place. Being able to create is something of main importance to me, I don’t really need much else I reckon! I feel lucky to have it as a cathartic experience and one that provides me with an outlet and an interaction with things that are not of the (sometimes) mundane day-to-day life. Music tends to allow me to guide me through and answer questions about existence.

How did music become the vehicle for you to express yourself?

JACK: I was always really into music but couldn’t really play. When we were around maybe 17 and 18 a group of us used to try and sneak in watch Miles’ brother play in this band called Water Bear. Full psychedelic rock! We loved it, it made us all want to start a band and so we did (Dragoons). Most of us couldn’t play our instruments. Miles and our mate Rudi Saniga luckily held it down on bass and drums but Archie (of Floodlights) and I basically just started learning guitar through Dragoons. You can hear it too if you listen, some of it is shocking stuff but it is simultaneously the best thing ever. We just sort of said ‘Fuck it’ and played shows and learnt together. Something about the ‘fuck it’ of Dragoons and me simultaneously maybe getting into punkier stuff made me realise that I didn’t need to be “good” at guitar to be able to express myself and not long after came CLAMM I guess.

What brought CLAMM together?

JACK: Like I said, Miles and I played together in Dragoons. We then joined Gamjee with Miles’ brother and absolutely loved that. I think I’ve played in four bands and Miles has drummed for three of them. Miles and I are soul bound I reckon. We’ve been through two bass players and met Maisie one night at a gig we’d played with her band (The Belair Lib Bombs), she came up to us and told us she really liked it and when our bass player at the time Scotty shipped off to art school in Poland we asked Maisie if she wanted to join.

All photos by Oscar Oshea.

Can you tell us a little something about everyone in CLAMM?

MILES: Jack is “The Driving Force” like a pilot in a pod of Orcas. Maisie… she is like the training wheels on a bike of an over excited child, keeping us on the right path. And I’m the treasurer of CLAMM Industries.

At the beginning of the year you put out your debut LP Beseech Me what was the starting point for creating the album?

JACK: I was playing in a few bands when I sort of realised I was maybe trying to write heavier music that wasn’t really appropriate for the bands. So I just started writing on the side with the thought of one day possibly pursuing it. I think the first few songs were like ‘Dog’ and maybe ‘Sucker Punch’ and I just did shocking demos on my iPhone and then one day brought them to Miles and we started jamming them and possibly thought about a two piece. We got about ten songs down and were playing them live a fair bit. We had worked with Sonic God Nao Anzai before and thought it was the best move.

Themes on the record include anti-violence, materialism and mental health; what inspired you to tackle each of these important subjects?

JACK: I suppose I always found the music really intense and moving like I was trying to get some anger or something out of me. And so I think I had to be honest about it when I was writing the lyrics and sort of ask: What are you trying to get out? What are you angry about? What’s going on? I don’t know I guess the anger sort of carries across into my day- to-day when I think about our society. I think there are countless problems within our political structure and it seems like we have a government (or system) that either have the inability or lack of care to do anything about it. CLAMM for me is sorta like:  Everything is fucked! How can I write music about anything else?

Beseech Me was recorded by Nao Anzai; what attracted you to working with Nao?

MILES: Another project of ours called Dragoons had recorded with him previously and we loved the Nao experience. His approach to recording appealed to us a lot… record it live and try not to try do too many takes on one song. That formula seems to make a potent energy in the room, and we think Nao captures that energy really well.

On an Insta post you mentioned that bassist Maisie has brought positive and calm energy to CLAMM since she joined; what’s her secret to staying positive and calm, especially in a world which can get a bit chaotic?

JACK: Maisie just seems to be calm with who she is as a person. And she is a great person. For a 20-year-old its scary stuff. Her head seems to be just screwed on TIGHT and there’s nothing anybody is going to do about it. Miles is sort of the same. Maisie refused to detail any of her secrets to me or to the public but let it be known I wish I knew.

What’s the story behind Beseech Me’s art? Darcy Berry from Moth did it, right?

MILES: Correct! Our friend showed us a picture that had something to do with a poem about a walrus and a carpenter and Alice in Wonderland. Not much behind it, think we weren’t sure what to use and that had clams on it and that’s all it took to have some appeal. Darcy played around with it a bit and put his own spin on it, and it came out quite nice.

What influenced your decision to release your LP on cassette tape?

MILES: A mixture of not a lot of money and not a lot of interest from someone else to release it, out of necessity I suppose. Cheap and easy to do.

Can you tell us about your favourite show CLAMM has played to date? What made it so?

JACK: We got asked to play a Bass Drum of Death gig after our second bass player left. ‘Fuck’ Miles and I probably thought. We had a few bass players in mind, and when we went on Bass Drum of Death’s Facebook event we saw that Maisie had pressed interested. She learnt the songs in two sessions and we played the following weekend and it was sorta like, ‘fuck we are back and Maisie is sick!!!!!!!’ hard to go past that one I reckon. Our tape launch at The Tote was pretty special too I don’t think I’ll forget that one.

What’s next for CLAMM?

MILES: Tough to say at the minute with all that is going on of course, but we have recorded and are now in the midst of mixing a new album. Other than that, CLAMM spends there days sitting at home and pondering what could have been… we had some very cool gigs lined up that have been postponed, so hopefully they happen sometime in the future. CLAMM will look after each other and see everyone on the other side at the many gigs to come, sooner rather than later we hope!

Please check out CLAMM. CLAMM on Facebook. CLAMM on Instagram.

Maki of Osaka Punk Band Foodie: “The first time I listened to The Raincoats, I thought I want to make my original music…”

Original photo courtesy of Foodie. Handmade collage by B.

Foodie play bouncy, melody-laden, catchy, poppy-punk. Hailing from Osaka, Japan they’ve been on our radar for the last few years with their super fun, energetic songs. We interviewed guitarist-vocalist Maki to learn more about Foodie. Maki has also started her own label and promotions/touring venture, TOGE; before the worldwide pandemic and lockdown she was in the works to tour another Gimmie favourite, Crack Cloud!

Foodie are from Osaka, Japan; what is it like where you live?

MAKI: Osaka is the second big city in Japan. There are many cool record stores, used clothing stores, restaurants and music venues. People speak Osaka dialect.

What were you like growing up? How did you first discover music?

MAKI: When I was a high school student I met punk like everybody else. I am very influenced by their music and fashion.

Who or what made you want to start playing music?

MAKI: The first time I listened to The Raincoats, I thought I want to make my original music like them.

Photo courtesy of Foodie.

How did you start the band?

MAKI: When I started to try making songs, I found the cool guitar at the same time. It’s my first guitar and still playing it. Then I invited some friends, girls only, to make my own band. 

Why did you call your band, Foodie?

MAKI: Not so meaningful…we just love delicious foods!

Being a “Foodie”; what are your favourite things to eat?

MAKI: Sushi, Gyoza, Yakitori and Tacos.

Can you tell us something about each member of Foodie?

MAKI: Bass player is Masaki. He is also a vocalist of the band called BRONxxx. Drum player is Haruro. He is also a vocalist and a guitarist of the band called manchester school≡.

You recently released cassette Storks Talk; can you tell us a little bit about it?

MAKI: New member Masaki joined us and we totally changed our style. (We used to play with switching instruments.) We stopped playing old songs, and make new songs with him. Storks Talk is the 1st recordings of new Foodie.

One of our favourite songs on the EP is ‘Do My Best’; what inspired that song?

MAKI: I think many people interfere in other people too much. I wanted to say leave me alone.

The last song on the EP ‘星屑’; what is it about?

MAKI: 星屑 is stardust in English. It’s a song about nameless great artists.

What bands have you been listening to lately?

MAKI: The World, Table Sugar, Crack Cloud and The Goon Sax.

Can you tell us about one of the most fun shows Foodie has ever played?

MAKI: We had 5 shows in Southern California in 2016. Honestly bad thing happened too, but it was a great experience. Every bands we played with were so cool. We met many lovely people. We miss them.

What do you do when not making music? What’s your day job?

MAKI: I’m working at my friends’ restaurant. (He is from US.) Serving foods and helping him making bagels. I also started my own label / promoter named TOGE.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about Foodie?

MAKI: We planned to go to US and have some shows in May, but we couldn’t. I think every music venues are in difficult situation now. We want to save them. We wish we will be able to have shows not only in Japan but also other countries soon. We are making new songs for next time we can see you.

Please check out: FOODIE. Foodie Tumblr. Maki Foodie on Instagram.

Montreal Post-Punks Red Mass: “Red Mass has a very positive outlook—it’s very much about the love and creativity”

Original image courtesy of Red Mass. Handmade collage by B.

At the heart of Canadian punk band Red Mass is Roy Vucino and Hannah Lewis, though since its inception the band has welcomed over 100 artists and musicians into its unconventional fold forming an ever evolving creative collective. Red Mass’ creation process is inspired by automatic creation techniques and Chaos Magic, openness to pure potentiality and limitless possibility—a desire to create art for art’s sake. Their latest album A Hopeless Noise is an ambitious concept album crafted as a loose modern day retelling of the literature classic Don Quixote but with a female lead, in character Diamond Girl. The LP features Mike Watt, King Khan, Mac DeMarco, Rick Froberg, members of Black Lips, God Speed You! Black Emperor and more. Gimmie spoke to Roy and Hannah to find out more after they had to cut the album’s European tour short due to the recent pandemic.

Why is music important for you?

ROY VUCINO: For years I had a darker time, it helped me get my life in order. I dropped a lot of bad habits and I really concentrated on music, not only as an escape but basically as a way to channel all of my energy and creativity into something that was more positive.

HANNAH LEWIS: I moved a lot when I was a kid. My dad’s a professor, he’s actually a theologian, and we ended up moving all over the world when I was younger. I really, really, really had an affinity for music at a young age, I really explored that, especially because a lot of the places that we ended up moving were pretty remote. We lived in Cape Breton which is a small island off Nova Scotia and Iqaluit which is in the Artic, I was there for my high school; in these places I was able to explore my mind and I think music really helped me do that and was a way for me to express that exploration.

When did you each start making your own music?

HL: I started quite young. When I was very, very young I used to just walk around and sing for hours, whatever came into my head, in the countryside or in the tundra. When I consciously started writing music I was probably thirteen or fourteen.

RV: I started music really young too. I used to play in restaurants and stuff like that. I did classical training. I started writing when I hit mid-teens. The first band I did was more of a dancehall reggae band, after that I started playing in punk bands, initially more garage-based, the rawness of it appealed to me. Skill-wise with the punk stuff it was so easy to record, I could do it with my friends in our basement on a 4-track, that was a big part of the appeal. That’s when I started recording and writing my own music.

Together you’re a really amazing creative team; how did you first meet?

HL: Though friends of friends. I’d moved down to Montreal for school to go to university. I went to see a couple of Roy’s bands before I met him. I started my own punk band and we ended up dating… we were doing Red Mass…

RV: We’re married now. I went to the Arctic to see if I could live there and open a little studio there, it was way too much The Shining for me, too isolated, so she came to Montreal and stayed here. At the beginning we weren’t doing music together, we had our bands; I had Pypy and CPC Gangbang which are more psych bands, and she had Hiroshima Shadows. I played for her band first, filling in on bass and when that broke up she pretty much came into Red Mass.

Photo by Marie-Claude Guay.

What’s something important you’ve both learnt from punk?

RV: When I was younger I’d think of it as more rock n roll based punk that had more of a party vibe that would tie into bands that had more of a nihilistic outlook like the ‘70s L.A. punk. When I got older my taste started varying, I’ve always liked all sorts of music, I really found post-punk opened up that door for me and I started exploring all the genres in that subgenre, that was really what got me! In essence the idea of punk comes from art movements like Dada, which was more of a rebellious and innovative form of creation—that’s what drew me to punk, the innovative side. I still love the wild rock n roll bands though!

I grew up in the suburbs and I listened to a lot of experimental music because of a radio show called Brave New Waves with Patti Schmidt. She would play garage to avant-garde music, you would hear from Derek Bailey to Thee Headcoats, which really blew my mind! When I got into punk, the bands that I really appreciated would be the ones that I considered were trying to innovate in the genre.

HL: For me, punk really opened up the world of music and connections with so many different people. When I started getting into the punk scene, especially in Montreal when I moved down here, it was so varied. You’d go to a show and there would be a noise band, a country-flavoured punk outfit and so many genres crossing and communicating with each other through shows and art. It was really incredible. It taught me not to limit art to any one thing and to accept anything to be art if it’s presented so by whoever is presenting it and to not just go with the concept in mind of what that’s supposed to be.

RV: Montreal was also a really fun city for punk, because there were different scenes. Bands from here achieved a certain amount of international recognition like, Godspeed You! Black Emperor; they’re all punks, they started to work with Constellation Record, and you have this whole avant-garde scene based on Americana, bands that were really influenced by that, the cinematic sound. Then you had bands like The Sainte Catherines, buddies of ours that signed to Fat Wreck Chords, so there was that skate-punk scene. We were playing more garage-punk. All these different bands co-existed and that was really great. Then there’s bands like AIDS Wolf and the noise scene. It was fun because we all had the same sentiment but we didn’t get bored because things were so varied. Someone would be on a bill doing power-electronic and someone from the country scene doing something…

HL: There would be no rules!

That’s the punk I like the best too, real varied stuff. I think genres are pretty flaky and now everything’s so blurred anyway, if you’re just playing and stuck in one style it’s so boring, to me at least. In the beginnings of punk everyone sounded different.

HL: Exactly!

I’ve read that Red Mass incorporate automatic creation techniques into your creative process. Is that like automatic writing?

RV: Yes. It’s based on a lot of ideas put forward by Grant Morrison the comic book writer as well as Austin Osman Spare; he was the first occultist, spiritualist, to bring forth notions of automatic writing and letting your intuition and subconsciousness take over, which also the Surrealists did. We use a lot of sigils and elements of Chaos Magic in our art and in our music but also in our lives, we tie it all in together. A lot of our [album] covers have sigils. We really make music and art for art’s sake. We’ve done a lot of improvisational releases and shows. I find it interesting and important to be able to communicate with people through improvisation, it’s something we try to bring into a project.

How did you first come to Austin Osman Spare’s work?

RV: I’ve read quite a few books on Chaos Magic, I’ve read Phil Hines and Grant Morrison, and some of the more recent authors, so through there I would have discovered Spare. I used to read a lot of [Aleister] Crowley, then I gravitated more to the Chaos magicians, and Austin Osman Spare is one of the originators of these techniques.

Chaos Magic is often misunderstood, from my perspective I feel it’s more of a DIY approach to spirituality and focusing on channelling your own thoughts and energies; what do you think?

RV: It’s exactly that. What you just said is exactly what it is. It’s a DIY approach to spirituality and you create your own belief system around your own iconography and your own symbolism.

I think that’s pretty cool. In a lot of religious texts, for example the Bible, it says that the kingdom of heaven is within you and everything you need is within yourself, it’s all just about tapping into that—living in your truth and trusting yourself.

RV: Yes. There’s elements of all religions and beliefs that tie into that. A lot of these beliefs systems have similar plots, if you want to call them that. Everything with Chaos Magic basically makes it so you don’t have to abide by a specific type of ritual and belief and you can morph it to your own needs.

What are some of your rituals you use to tap into your creativity?

RV: I really like sigil magic so I use a lot of that in the music. I use rituals in the bands, we’ve done performances with rituals, we use them more in our day-to-day life though. It comes and goes, they’ll be points in my life where I really delve into it but then there’s times I’ll have other creative outlets. It basically runs side by side with my artistic development.

Photo by Alex Pallion.

What does spirituality mean to you?

HL: I really connect to nature heavily. With my father being a Theologian, I grew up with him teaching at university, it really knocked down thinking of spirituality as any kind of institution of any sort that’s for sure. Spirituality is connecting with yourself and surroundings and other humans and really finding joy and peace with who you are and what you’re putting out into the world and how you’re affecting it or not, or finding whatever you are looking for in the world.

RV: Spirituality is something that’s a way to tap into the oneness of life and the greater force at work. I used to dabble more in elements of dark arts, occultism but with time I definitely prefer a more positive kind of energy, Chaos Magic gave me that. My spirituality is really open. I think every religion has its truth in it, spirituality is more expressed to oneself how we can cope and situate ourselves in that, that sometimes overwhelming sense of confusion which we may have in front of that, the interconnectedness of everything. Spirituality is a way to give oneself answers or to explain to oneself things that aren’t clearly explainable, maybe more on a metaphysical level.

Previously you’ve mentioned that playing music is a way that you can connect with people and that it’s part of the reason why you do…

RV: Totally! We’ve never approached the band as a regular recording project, we’re talking about being free in our creativity and we’ve always wanted to push our own boundaries and innovate. We decided to approach it differently than you would an art project, we choose not to have a fixed line-up, not to have a fixed genre, to throw it all out the window. What we consider was something fresh for us, was to innovate in the format of the creativity and the bands structure. Instead of innovating with a certain type of music signature or instrumentation, we thought the way for us to move forward was to throw all that out and have a very open project that in itself was…

HL: The only restrictions we had were making music that was it. Every song we were doing was approached as its own thing. We were working on a project but we weren’t restricting ourselves to sound, we really wanted to make it as open and fluid as possible by principal and see where it went.

Your latest album A Hopeless Noise is in a way a modern day retelling of the story of Don Quixote, right?

RV: Yeah, it started like that.

What sparked the idea for it? Were you reading Don Quixote at the time?

RV: Literally I was reading Don Quixote. It is an amazing novel. I wanted to touch on the idea of illusions of grandeur. We had been writing songs around a Diamond Girl character who falls from grace and we thought it will tie in. We were also into Bret Easton Ellis’ work at the time so we added these elements of decadent glamour. We threw it all in a pot and it basically gave the flavour of A Hopeless Noise.

Where did the character Diamond Girl come from?

RV: It’s so old I honestly don’t remember…

HL: [Laughs].

RV: It’s actually one of the first tracks that we recorded. One of our friends Sebastien Perry used us as his final project for school and we needed a song. I had the song ‘Diamond Girl’ that I had written around ten years ago and we just sat on it, the idea not the character [laughs]. We decided to revisit the character and had been writing a few songs like ‘Sharp’ that’s on the record and ‘Howl’. One thing that I thought was interesting is that Bret Easton Ellis had a crew of writers with him when he really exploded, all of the stories and the plots were in the same universe, different writers would be writing around the same fictional school. I always thought that was pretty neat. Their art lived and went on these adventures and pop up in somebody else’s art. It blew me away!

HL: The fictional world is from many people’s world not just one mind.

I read it took five years to make the album, but from what you’re telling me it’s been an idea and in parts for much longer.

HL: It took us a while because we were writing songs and we thought, we should do the guitar like this… eventually we thought if we want to have a bass line sound like Mike Watt or something… Roy was like, ‘I’m going to write Mike Watt and see if he’ll do it’. Mike Watt wrote us back and sent us a bass line the very next day. We thought; why don’t we approach things like that? If we think of people who would fit the part of the song best, let’s ask them! The only thing was that it took a while to get some tracks back from people.

RV: I’d say it took maybe ten years if anything. We didn’t want to rush it. It was a weird one. We’ve had a slew of labels interested at different times and some of them dropped the album because it was taking too long, some of them ended up not understanding it, but we never gave up on it! This record is also something that we have been working on in our relationship, basically we started seeing each other and then we started writing on this. It’s really mirrored our lives because we’ve been working on it so long. We ended up having to go back and work on some of the earlier tracks because we weren’t as happy with some of them as we were with the later tracks, it was a little bit of an endless circle for a while, but after a while it came together. Initially it was meant to be a double album. We ended up going back and taking out songs that had spread a little far from the theme of the record and the concept and story behind it. Once we cut down everything that was superfluous we got what we think is something solid and that we’re proud of.

HL: One of us always had a problem with it and then at one point we were both like—this is it! We left it on the table and didn’t touch it after a certain point. It’s pretty crazy that it’s out! It came out when we were in Austria recently. We were going into the studio from 9 to 1AM every night for years… any idea we had we tried. It taught us so much in the studio and so much about creativity and how we work together and separately.

RV: We really indulged. It’s really important to indulge sometimes, I often see it mentioned and it’s seen as a negative thing but I think it’s fun to be able to enjoy yourself working on something. We gave ourselves zero deadlines. I took a few months to back away from it and get a little bit of perspective and when we came back for a few months, we listened to the whole thing and knew that is was done.

HL: We were also working on other projects at the time. It was interesting how it affected how we both worked with other people and how we were expanding our skill sets.

What was something that sticks out from all the things that you learnt during this process?

RV: To work with people. Often we’d push musicians we worked with out of their comfort zones and have them do different things from what they were used to. It worked sometimes but sometimes it backfired.

HL: Because we were spending so much time in the studio we were also able to push ourselves out of our comfort zone pretty heavily. We made a concerted effort to see how far we could go with things. It was interesting to see and work with another person when they were out of their comfort zone and make them feel comfortable with you and navigate that and trust in yourself and whoever is in the room with you. Eventually we were able to access that with people we worked with because we worked with so many and had been doing it for ourselves too. It’s super fun!

RV: Most things worked well but sometimes things flop, but that’s ok because it’s part of the process. We have a follow up record coming where we’re exploring a new idea it’s, 111 Songs, which is an angel number, a magic number… songs are divided into eleven chapters, each chapter representing a type of personality. As the Diamond Gilr’s psychological state deteriorates because of her multiple personalities, we explored the idea – which is something that comic book writer Grant Morrison put forward – that we should live with a multiple personality complex. If the Diamond Girl would let all her multiple personalities co-exist, sometimes you can avoid a psychosis like that; you can also apply that on a societal level. We used some of the songs that didn’t work for the specific record of A Hopeless Noise and attached them to certain personality traits of the character. The idea is, if you let the personalities co-exist in you, you find a certain harmony.

So you’re still working on 111 Songs?

HL: Yeah, we’ve been doing it since just after we finished A Hopeless Noise. We were living in such a great apartment where we had such a great setup and were recording every single day for two years. Roy came up with the concept pretty early into working on that.

RV: We’re 90% done.

Nice! I can’t wait to hear it. It sounds really interesting and exciting!

HL: It’s certainly weird hearing my twenty-year-old voice [laughs].

RV: Yeah, some of the material is so old. We really hear ourselves’ age on some of it.

Are you working on anything else?

HL: We’re working on another project…

RV: It’s called Birds Of Paradise. It’s a little classic rock and there’s some country material. We’re working on a kid’s book. I’m writing a short novel. I’m also working with Pypy, which I do with musicians from Duchess Says. I do FUBAR… I have a band called Nightseeker, which is basically the Canadian Spinal Tap, we actually did a TV show for Vice; we play exaggerated metal versions of ourselves [laughs].

HL: FUBAR is like a mockumentary.

RV: It’s a mockumentary that turned fantasy into reality though, we go out and we play real shows. Hannah’s worked on a few documentaries too.

What’s the best thing about working with each other?

HL: We definitely have worked on working with each other [laughs], it was kind of difficult at different periods of our relationship because we’re living together too. We’ve found a really good groove with one another and we’ve been able to sit down and produce a lot together. It’s nice to have someone around that every single day you can put your heads together and get stuff done. You’re constantly really in a good work vibe and productive.

RV: For me travelling together is number one. We’ve been all across the US and Europe. That’s a big plus being a married couple and playing music and making art together.

HL: Yeah, you don’t get lonely on the road.

RV: I’d like to think we really get along, I think that’s the magic, I really love it! We definitely have similar tastes, I remember one of the first times we met. I went to her house, she was way younger than me….

HL: I’m still way younger! [laughs].

RV: [Laughs] Well not way younger but younger, she was ten years younger than me, she was in her early twenties and me in my thirties already. I came in and she was listening to Captain Beefheart and that blew my mind! I was like, oh my god! Oh my god! Who is this person?!

HL: [Laughs].

RV: She came to see me to do a little weird bluse-y set at some random place…

HL: It was a place called The Cop Shop.

RV: Yeah. After that I went to her house and she was watching Planet Earth and listening to Captain Beefheart I was like, oh my god! I need to marry this person… and we did! Our tastes are very alike in certain ways, I listen to cornier pop stuff though. I think I’m a bit more…. [*pauses to think*]

HL: Ohhhh, careful now [laughs].

RV: …I have more of a tolerance for stuff that might be a bit cornier. We listen to all kinds of stuff, we find a similar ground in the music that we like.

HL: It’s really great to be able to introduce each other to different art constantly! It would be really difficult to live with someone that you couldn’t do that with.

RV: We both know the other and we listen to anything. We both gravitated towards punk because…

HL: The ethics!

RV: Yeah, the ethics and the creative process behind it, that’s what led us to do this band. Punk’s been done for forty years now, we thought; how do we do something different? We just decided to do what we want, when we want and just indulge and have fun—only for the love of art and music. For me it’s totally been a life saver!

HL: It’s cool to be in a place where people come and contribute what they want to contribute and not feel intimated…

RV: Or obliged…

HL: There’s never an intent or expectation of anyone during it. We keep ourselves open to keep it going.

Is there anything you guys are doing in isolation to keep on top of your wellbeing?

RV: I learnt how to cook!

HL: [Laughs] He was terrible at cooking.

RV: I’ve become a just above average cook, before this you could consider me as someone that would make everything into dog food [laughs]. I had no patience and no love for it, I didn’t understand… like food was very functional for me. I’d eat standing up in my kitchen just shoving in whatever, now I cook!

HL: I used to work in kitchens. When I was really young I really wanted to be a chef. It used to be appalling watching him in the kitchen, up until very recently [laughs].

RV: We share the chores so I was always cooking and she would just be very polite and eat it. Now it’s good! I can sit down and actually enjoy a meal, so that’s been one of the big changes for me. I’ve been working a bit on my novel. We’re going to do some videos. We’re working on our country record…

HL: Yeah, we’re really starting to look at doing a country record so it’s fun looking through all the old country music and trying to figure out how that side of things work in music. I’ve been looking at different vocal styles, stuff like that. I started exercising, so that’s… interesting! [laughs]. I’m very out of shape!

RV: For the first whole month of this virus pandemic, she was also not here, she was in another province, Ontario, about an hour and a half away from here. So I spent that first month of this thing alone… I really feel for people that are alone because you kind of get loopy a little bit. I was starting to go dark and get depressed but she came… playing music also helps, you can only watch so much and read so much. We have all our guitars and amplifiers here so we have a good little setup and make music, which has been a bit of a life saver for me.

That’s the same with my husband and I, we both make art and do music, we’ve been together over eleven years. It’s nice to create together and just be around each other and like you were mentioning before, you can show each other new art and music. I think that’s really inspiring and special.

RV: That’s awesome! Yes, when it works! [laughs]. I’ve seen bands with couples and I’m like mmmmhmmm, I don’t wanna be in that band!

Last question; have you ever had a really life changing moment?

RV: I had to really flip my life around, I had two heart attacks, I was doing a lot of hard drugs when I was younger. I had to have an epiphany. The first version of my epiphany was me becoming a “Born Again” for like a minute, that faded and I found myself more in Chaos Magic, that spirituality. I definitely had a moment where I had to make a rift with my previous life and start from scratch. It really coincided with the beginning of this project. Before that I was playing in more nihilistic punk bands, whereas Red Mass has a very positive outlook—it’s very much about the love and creativity. What about you Hannah?

HL: My dad was drinking a lot and I had to go pick him up at one point and he was really ill, that was a real game changer for me, in the way that I attack life… kind of breaking away from feeling responsible for things that I am not in control of and accepting that—that has been a completely freeing experience for me. To know that I am able to love and care but also not be in control of something. That was a year or two ago, but that was a really big game changer for me.

I love hearing stories of growth and how people deal with experiences in their life and come out the other side. Life can be so rough sometimes and challenging. Sharing experiences can help others who might be reading or hearing it realise that they’re not as alone as they may have thought.

RV: It really allows you to get more perspective and have more empathy. For me, that’s a little bit of why I’ve liked to work in the manner that we have because it allows us to meet people on their terms. To try to relate to someone on a different level and to try to understand their passion and what makes them tick, is really cool. We’re all more similar than we think, we just have little variations. The communicative aspect of collaborating and working with people and the learning is really a driving force for us.

HL: It’s interesting to see how you can musically get along with someone that’s coming from a completely different thought, but then you can play with someone who has practically the same taste and it just doesn’t gel.

RV: It’s the alchemy of art! Sometimes it’s still fun when it doesn’t work, because it is just for fun. If you’re not putting an expectation or an end goal on it, it’s the experience of creating the art itself, the process, that’s enough to be fulfilling.

Please check out: RED MASS. Red Mass on Facebook. Red Mass on Instagram. A Hopeless Noise out on Mothland.

Melbourne-based Indie rockers Dianas talk about new LP Baby Baby: “trying to navigate our way through life and love and defining ourselves as people, the sadness and hope in growing up”

Original photo by Tom Mannion. Handmade collage by B.

Dianas dropped a beautiful, dreamy sophomore album Baby Baby last month, it twists and turns through tracks as polyrhythms unfold, and their melodic interplay and charming vocal harmonies build around them. It’s dream pop, but it’s no nap, it’s a wild and energetic lucid dream. We caught up with them to explore their Perth-based beginnings, their move to Melbourne and the crafting of their new LP.

How did it all begin? How did Dianas get together?

CAITY: Nat moved into my house something like nine years ago and soon after broke up with her partner so we started hanging out a lot. Nat had been playing acoustic guitar for a while and writing songs, and I had stolen my brother’s electric guitar with the intention of learning to play but hadn’t got very far. We kind of just started playing together and tentatively writing songs whilst drinking a lot of cheap wine and generally annoying our neighbours. It’s kind of funny because I remember that as a really good time and Nat remembers it as one of the worst of her life, but either way that cocktail of boredom and heartbreak was essential to get us started because we’d probably have been too shy and awkward otherwise.

NAT: That story pretty much sums it up! It was definitely one of the worst times of my life but also the best, and the absolute best thing in my life has come out of it so it all balances out. Some of my fondest memories are learning how to play Best Coast, The XX and other extremely indie covers on bass and guitar together and just thinking it was the coolest. Also Caitlin taught me how to play bass!

What’s the story behind the name?

CAITY: We don’t have a good story behind the name. I’d love to say it came from the goddess Diana, of hunting and the moon, but actually it came from an op shopped Princess Diana portrait that had been tastelessly defaced for a party and was lying around our lounge room.

NAT: We were literally sitting in our lounge room naming stuff we could see so it was either Dianas or Sofabed. Fun fact we were originally called Undead Dianas but thankfully dropped the Undead before our first show.

What kind of musician would you say you are?

CAITY: A lazy one. I never had enough motivation to learn to play anything properly – despite the fact my mum is a music teacher who tried repeatedly to teach me piano – until Nat and I started playing together and writing songs. So maybe I can say a collaborative or a creative one – I’m never going to be a great guitarist but I love the process of turning ideas into songs especially when the input of other people makes it into something bigger than the sum of its parts.

 NAT: That’s a hard one! I’m all over the shop. I really enjoy trying to fit in with other people and what or how they’re playing, move with them while still trying to fit in whatever it is that I want to do or hear.  I think similarly to Caity I’m not really the kind of musician who gets great joy out of being totally technically proficient, but can take pleasure in playing with others and for others, trying to make something out of nothing.

Dianas are originally from Perth; what prompted the move to Melbourne? Nat wanted to pursue sound engineering, right? Was it a hard/big decision to move the band there?

NAT: I was always staunchly against the idea of moving to Melbourne, cos it just seems like the ‘classic’ Perth thing to do, but I also really wanted to get into sound engineering, and Melbourne was the best place for it. I didn’t really admit to anyone at home for ages that I’d moved out of embarrassment for totally flipping, and I planned to only come for 5 months but still here 5 years later! Caity and I initially did a long distance thing, flying between cities to play shows, but eventually she missed me too much and followed me over here

CAITY: I was staunchly for leaving Perth at some point so yes, I followed Nat here. I guess I figured I’d have at least one friend and something to do even if I couldn’t get a job!

What do you think of Melbourne now you’ve been there for a little? How is it different to Perth?

CAITY: It’s colder – I do miss the sun and the beach. But there’s a bit more going on culturally (sorry Perth) and in terms of the music scene there’s a lot more venues to play at and local festivals and things going on.

NAT: Quite a few winters in and I’m still not used to how goddam cold and dark it is. But I’ve also really loved getting involved in the music scene here, although there’s some similarities, it’s pretty different to Perth I think, obviously way more bands and venues, but there’s also this collective feeling of experimental space. Also being able to explore up the coast and make new friends all over this side has been amazing.

Photo by  Tom Mannion.

You recently released your sophomore album Baby Baby into the world; what do you love most about the record?

NAT: I just love how ‘us’ it sounds. We’ve put so much of ourselves into every aspect of it, from obviously the writing and playing together, but then the whole recording and mixing process to all the design and videos and releases. I’m not sure how I’ll feel in the future but I’m just honestly really proud of this thing that we made.

Can you tell us a bit about the writing of it; what was inspiring it lyrically? Do you feel there’s an overarching theme? I picked up on love, relationships, self-love and a mood of sadness.

CAITY: I think those are themes that are always present in our music and how they show up just shifts and changes depending on where we’re at personally at the time. The lyrics are usually pretty simple and direct but hopefully capture a specific mood or feeling that other people can relate to. The inspiration is mostly just our own little lives; trying to navigate our way through life and love and defining ourselves as people, the sadness and hope in growing up.

One of my favourite tracks on the LP is closer ‘Learning/Unlearning’; what sparked this song?

CAITY: ‘Learning/Unlearning’ was just me trying to tell myself not to have regrets about the past – a self-help song! I think a lot of women especially can look back and see that the way they thought about themselves and allowed themselves to be treated was ill advised and damaging, and it’s hard sometimes not to see that as wasted time. There’s a lot of bad ideas we internalise that take a lifetime to unlearn, so it’s really about going easy on yourself and allowing for the fact that you have to go through things to learn from them.

I also really love the piano, drums and bass combo in song ‘Jewels’; how did that song get started?

CAITY: ‘Jewels’ started with just the piano and vocals, which Nat and Anetta then added their parts to. We had a song on our last album that was just piano, bass and drums that we really liked so I suppose we were going for something similarly simple, but then we ended up adding lots of different vocal layers to the second part in the recording and it became a bit of a different beast. We really like this song though, possibly because it’s the newest and we’re not sick of it yet. We actually only had a chance to play it live once before all our shows got cancelled!

You recorded the record at Phaedra Studios, Nat recorded it; why did you decided to self-record? Can you tell us about the sessions? What were the best and most frustrating bits?

NAT: It sort of started off from a place of necessity, I’d dipped my toes into half recording us on our last EP, as the result of another tumultuous breakup leaving us without our usual recording engineer halfway through the recording process. I was a bit hesitant at first that I’d be able to do it but Caitlin said I should and I just do what she says. (Caity’s edit: not true)

Having the space in the sessions just by ourselves was really amazing. There was no pressure to try and fit in with anyone else’s views or notions, we could just be ourselves and get down and do it. In the past we’ve maybe struggled with communicating what we want or how we feel, but I think that we’ve learnt and grown a lot over the years and there were only minimal tears this time – a record! I think the hardest part was just trying to keep up the confidence and objectivity that what we’d done sounded good, I guess the flip side to doing it ourselves is we then only had ourselves to look to. I just had a really fun time mixing it too, I learnt a lot and had a lot of space to experiment. I think there was only one thing in the end that we had to compromise on (too many delays in a chorus vs not enough!), and I’m real happy and content with how the album sounds as a whole.

 Dianas harmonies are really cool; how do you approach making them?

CAITY: Usually one of us just starts singing and the other one joins in when they feel like it. We’ll keep going over things until we find something we like, but it’s not really planned out. At this point it’s just kind of assumed that we’ll both sing in one way or another on a song, rather than have a single vocalist. At least I’ll usually make Nat sing along with me because my voice is kind of weak on its own!

How did you first find your voice? Is confidence something that’s come to you over time? Do you really have to work on it? Are you still working on it?

CAITY: I don’t know if I would ever have got up onto a stage if Nat hadn’t encouraged (forced) me to – or even maybe sung at all. I tried to make her be the front person and just sing the songs I wrote herself but she refused, which I’m now thankful for because I really enjoy it. We’ve definitely become a lot more confident on stage than we used to be, which has just come from time and practice, but we are shy people by nature and can tend to be a bit too self-effacing at times. I think we’ve learned to own our voices a bit more and have hopefully stopped with the “what I don’t even know how to play a guitar hahahah” interview style/stage presence. But it is something we are constantly working on yes.

Baby Baby’s cover art is by artist Tamara Marrington; how did you come to her work?

NAT: We’ve known Tammy for a while (I guess since Perth days!) she’s one of those artists who just elicits a complete emotional response from me, I don’t think there’s been an exhibition of hers I’ve been to where I haven’t had tears streaming down my face. She was very patient working with us and our often indecisive natures, and we’re just so happy with how the record looks

You’ve made videos for the tracks off your LP (people can watch them all over at Baby TV) ‘Weather Girl’ is a favourite; what was the thought behind that one? I really love the fullness and chaotic-ness of this track!

CAITY: I just wanted to make a video about witches, but the kind of less cool TV witches of my childhood from shows like Charmed or Sabrina. The track was always pretty chaotic and only got more so when we recorded it so it seemed like a good fit for a narrative music video involving love potions and a stabbing (sorry spoilers).

 As well as doing Dianas Nat does Blossom Rot Records; what’s one of the coolest and hardest things about doing your own label?

NAT: It’s been really cool to just do things on our own terms, in our own way, and on our own time – not having to stick to anyone else’s schedule or run anything by anyone. I think the hardest thing has just sorta been having to write about my own band and trying not to sound too wanky. Definitely looking forward to working on some other releases! It’s also great working with Sophie, I feel like we balance each other out perfectly, she’s the boot to my scoot.

What’s next for Dianas?

NAT: I’m not sure about the others but it’s actually been a bit of a relief for me to be able to slow down, and not get too wrapped up in the constant next step motion. Having said that it will be really really nice when we’re able to play again, we’d love to reschedule the tour we had booked at some point but I’m not in a massive rush to do so until its super safe and would be enjoyable. I think for now I’d love to get back to our roots and sit at home together with some cheap wine and write some more songs 🙂

CAITY: Personally I have not found this time to be a relief at all, and I’m definitely looking forward to that tour. Looks like we’ll be waiting out the winter though so revisiting our roots sounds good – I think I’ll splurge on some nicer wine this time around though.

Please check out: DIANAS. Dianas on Facebook. Dianas on Instagram. Blossom Rot Records.

Cal from Post-Punk band Liquid Face: “Playing music is a good way to let the devil out”

Original photo by Dougal Gorman, courtesy of Liquid Face. Handmade collage by B.

Northern New South Wales band Liquid Face’s sets are hectic, chaotically energetic and in your face; if anger is an energy, guitarist-vocalist Cal’s performance may have enough to power the entire world! Their recordings are gut-wrenchingly emotional yet at times defensively apathetic. Aggressive and abrasive yet melodic with quirky synth lines and unnatural bleeps, bloops and effects taking the band beyond your traditional thrashy punk band into a futuristic slipstream where they’re riding their own wave; their wall of noise is impressive, you can’t help but feel compelled to climb, taking it in. We interviewed Cal to get an insight into Liquid Face.

CAL: Playing music is a good way to let the devil out [laughs].

I noticed when I was dialling your number that you have 666 in it!

CAL: [Laughs] Yeah, I guess it’s meant to be!

What have you been listening to lately?

CAL: A lot of Billy Childish stuff. I just came out of a late set Slayer phase after going to their show at the end of last year which was pretty inspiring haha.

In what way?

CAL: The fucking power of the riffs, the fucking huge energy haha! In a way It’s sort of what I try to channel in Liquid Face, just being as expressive as you can and letting as much out as you can in playing.

When we’ve seen you play, we totally felt that! What else have you been listening to?

CAL: Still a lot of Lumpy & The Dumpers. Still on The Coneheads as well, that really kicked off the Liquid Face stuff for me. Still all the classics too like Gary Numan and Devo. A bit of the Radiators.

Do you have any particular songs that you listen to when you want to cheer yourself up?

CAL: [Laughs] Cheer myself up, ‘ey? I’m not too good at that [laughs]. Usually I just channel it into a riff or something.

Is there a band that you listen to when you want to indulge your bad mood?

CAL: Warthog is a good one, it really brings that out [laughs]… more Lumpy! Stuff like Sonic Youth, the real early stuff where it’s not afraid to be a super ugly recording.

Photo by Nat Collins, courtesy of Liquid Face.

Who or what was one of your first musical influences?

CAL: Probably seeing Unknown Pleasures [by Joy Division] in my dad’s CD collection; my dad introduced me to that and Warsaw. That was my first introduction into something really cool with a lot happening.

What attracted you to making music yourself?

CAL: I guess, just wanting to play and having a way to express yourself creatively. It’s pretty tempting. And I’m pretty much a recluse and an isolationist! So it’s a good way to fill your time. [laughs]. I like figuring shit out myself. When I was a kid I used to plug out of the back of my guitar amp and plug that into the headphone jack of the computer and make some fuck up recordings. That progressed into getting a bit of a set-up and trying to actually write songs.

How did you come up with the idea for Liquid Face?

CAL: I was playing in the bands DRAGGS and Gee Tee for a bit, there was a lot of music happening in the house I was living in at the time, so it just kinda happened naturally. I was going through a bit of a fucked up phase in my life and I had a lot of shit to get out! [laughs]. Had my drum kit n’ amps in my room and that turned into Liquid Face.

Drums would be a good instrument to get lots of stuff out on!

CAL: Yeah, it’s my favourite instrument for that. There’s nothing like the feeling of beating on the tubs! My parents bought me a drum kit when I was a kid, they got rid of it soon after getting it [laughs], that really sparked my interest in making music though. I got a guitar a bit after that.

When you started Liquid Face I know you did demos yourself and you started doing it using voice memos on your phone…

CAL: Yeah, I did. Then it went into Garageband from that. I tried to do the first recording on tape and I put it in a tape recorder and it just spat the thing out everywhere, then I was kind of done with that format for a bit [laughs]. I’ve been living in the digital age now.

When you started it was just you by yourself, then you had a line-up with two drummers, when I saw you play you had one drummer and now you’re back to recording by yourself again, right?

CAL: Yeah, we’ve had a bit of roller coaster ride of members in Liquid Face. It’s been a pleasure with everyone but it changes quite a bit and now I’m living out in Mullumbimby where I haven’t found people play a similar kind of music, so I’m just going to do it all myself for now.

Nice! That’s kind of cool though because you can do absolutely anything you want.

CAL: Absolutely! We were meant to start jamming for new recordings with our drummer Lachie but then all of this [Coronavirus] shit happened and we can’t get through the borders, so it’s just me again.

You recently just dropped a new song ‘Animosity’; what was inspiring that?

CAL: A lot of bad feelings [laughs]. Sometimes I use making music as a way to not have to think about stuff, I guess. It’s a bit of a mix of everything really, disillusionment, I don’t know what the fuck is going on with anything in my life really. I just got fucking fired, all the good stuff. It’s pretty much record how I’m feeling or a life of crime! [laughs].

You also released the track ‘Teen Man’ recently too.

CAL: Similar stuff inspired that one but it’s almost like a self-review, aging but without the maturity and never feeling satisfied with anything that you do. I’d like to be a lot more mature and have my shit under control but, that’s not really the way things are going.

How did you record those songs?

CAL: I’m just recording them all at my house right now, just going into the old laptop. I put down a bass guide first then put drums over the top and then layer everything else over that. Vocals are done last.

One thing I’ve always loved about Liquid Face is your guitar tone, it just cuts through everything.

CAL: It’s a good representation of the feelings we’re trying to convey that it just kind of stabs ya! [laughs]. I’m really obsessed with gear, I’m a bit of a gear hoarder. The kind of gear that I was using, really bright guitars and amp, Jazzmasters, Music Man Amps, just trying to tap into that really fucking harsh sound—reminiscent of Sonic Youth and Roland S. Howard I guess.

Live I’ve seen you use a circuit bent baby doll thing! I’d never see anything like that before.

CAL: Yeah, it’s pretty cool, huh?!  Baby’s Gone to Sleep For Now. So im just using little Korg things to make some fucked up noise.

I love the weird, interesting sound you layer over the top of the guitars.

CAL: It’s hard for me to keep things simple and really not clutter I all because it’s me just writing it and I’ve never been really very good at denying myself any little pleasures. Any little bleep bloops and shit I can put on their on do!

What’s one of the most fun pieces of equipment you use?

CAL: Still the Jazzmasters, I’m really enjoying them. The trem on them! Dipping into notes and shit like that and going fucking ham on it! Good Gats. But just converted my Mustang to a 12 string. That’s pretty fun. [laughs].

Photo by Nat Collins, courtesy of Liquid Face.

Last year you release your debut LP; can you tell us a little bit about it?

CAL: It was the amalgamation, we wrote the songs two years before we put them out. We hesitated on it hell hard. We weren’t sure about the recorded sound but just though, fuck it! It is what it is, a D.I.Y. thing. We recorded at our old drummer’s jam space, I mixed it myself. Sat on it for a bit and finally put it out.

How do you feel about the LP having it out in the world for about a year now?

CAL: I’m happy with it as a statement. It was a real learning curve because it was the first full length release I’ve mixed myself. It could have been done better but it’s the intent of the sound that matters most.

Did you teach yourself to mix?

CAL: I went to Griffith Uni and TAFE in Brisbane but just dropped out of both when I learnt all that I needed it know.

So many people I know that have done courses like that usually end up dropping out, hating making music or when they do make it they just compress the fuck out of it until all the soul and fire and feeling is gone.

CAL: Yeah. All the industry shit is so twisted! It feels really dirty.

Totally! It’s so gross how the music industry operates a lot of the time. The most interesting music to me is always usually outside of the industry on the fringes.

CAL: I totally agree.

We’re big fans of your song ‘Isolate’; can tell us about making it?

CAL: Again It was inspired by the gear. I was using bass strings on a fucked up guitar with a weird tuning for writing that song. It was just about that recluse life [laughs]. The sound and the beat is what got it started; the drum beat, just getting pumped up off of that!

You do Liquid Face’s art as well?

CAL: Yeah all apart from apart from the cover of S/T. Sarah our keyboardist did that.

Did you study art or do you just like to draw?

CAL: I was really into it before I got my hands on a guitar, I filled up my time with drawing. I stopped all of that when music came along. Now I’ve started it up again so I have some thing to put on covers.

Do you have any favourite artists?

CAL: not really, I like Raymond Pettibon. Monochrome shit. album art work, that probably inspires me more than anything.

You screen print all your own merch too? Is that self-taught?

CAL: Yeah I do. My parents actually taught me to do it, they’ve been doing a little side hustle for years. keepin shit D.I.Y [laughs].. It just feels right to be doing everything yourself, especially for the music we play.

Is there anything else creative that you haven’t tried yet but would love to?

CAL: Maybe doing a bit more creative writing with other people in the future would be cool, but I’m too much of a control freak right now to give it up [laughs].

What are you working on right now?

CAL: This morning I’ve been working on the next song we’re going to release. We’re sitting on a bit of a stockpile of demos right now! The plan is with all this isolation shit is to just keep locked indoors and keep recording. I’d love to put them all together into a physical release, the plan is just to keep sprinkling them out there for the time being, give people time to digest them and think about them.

Is it the same kinds of themes you’ve been writing about it the past that’s been shaping the new songs?

CAL: Yeah pretty much, indulgence, anger, impending doom, confusion, finding your place in the world. I’ve pretty much done all of the instrumentation for the next batch and now I’ve painted myself into a corner where I have to figure out lyrics for them now.

Why is music important to you?

CAL: Music gives you a feeling like nothing else. It makes me excited when nothing else does. It’s something that I can always get stoked about!

Please check out: LIQUID FACE. Liquid Face on Instagram. LF’s song ‘Animosity’ features in cassette compilation A Long Time Alone out on Blow Blood Records – get it here.

Bench Press’ vocalist Jack Stavrakis: “Bench Press has helped me come to grips with who I am”

Handmade collage by B.

Melbourne post-punk band Bench Press released an album to shout about last year, their sophomore LP, Not the Past, Can’t Be The Future was motivational, thoughtful and witty power-punk. As vocalist Jack Stavrakis was working on himself, the band was working on the album, the transition and transformation that came in ‘Baby Steps’ sounds good on the band, they’re still angry but that energy is more focused. Jack spoke to Gimmie about all this as well as dealing with anxiety, how Bench Press came into being, songwriting, doing better and working in “the industry”.

What have you been up to today?

JACK STAVRAKIS: I watched the final episode of Better Call Saul for the season, then I exercised.

Keeping fit in iso!

JS: Not so much keeping fit but getting fit for the first time in a long time ‘cause I got nothing else to do.

How did you end up being the vocalist for Bench Press?

JS: Originally Bench Press formed from two bands. Me and the original drummer used to be in band called Bowel Movement, which I sung for, and then the bassist and guitarist used to be in the band, Luna Deville—they were both crappy pop bands really. Pretty shit stuff. We played a couple of shows together. Bowel Movement broke up first then Luna Deville broke up pretty soon after. For their final show they were doing a B-52’s cover and they had a female singer and they wanted someone to do the male part because none of them could sing. We didn’t really know each other all that well, but they asked me to do it and it went really well. It was a lot of fun! After the show Morgan and Lewis awkwardly asked me, “so, we’re looking to start a new band, it will sound nothing like this. We like Shellac and Jesus Lizard”. I wasn’t sure if they were asking me to sing or not? I was really drunk and I left the conversation and went home. I asked my girlfriend; were they asking me to join the band? She’s like, “I don’t know just ask them! If they say ‘no’ and they’re not interested then you never have to see them again anyway!” I asked them and they were interested, we trialled one other drummer and I was like; what about Jordan from Bowel Movement? He came on-board and I guess that’s how all of that happened.

What do you get from singing?

JS: I can’t play an instrument and I love, love music! I started singing because I couldn’t play an instrument well enough and I really wanted to play in a band; no one I knew could play, I figured if I could rope some people in who could play, I could just figure out singing. At first it was a way for me to play music without having to practice anything, that’s how I used to see it. As time has gone on and I’ve taken it a lot more seriously, the big thing for me is that it’s a way to get my opinion and my views of things across, it’s also a bit of a cathartic release. I guess a lot of people that would yell like I do would say that. I’m a fairly anxious and awkward guy and being able to talk about that and hopefully help some people that feel the same way understand it better.

I’ve seen you play live and you would never tell that you’re awkward or anxious.

JS: No, not on stage, I suppose not. The pacing is me feeling anxious and an extension of that, and me just feeling really self-conscious. It’s the only thing I know to do! I guess it’s not so obvious when I’m on stage. People who know me say that when I’m on stage it’s a different version of me, it’s still me but an extroverted version of myself, more out there and a little more in your face.

Have you always been an anxious kind of person?

JS: I’ve always tried to figure that out and look back on how I used to be as a kid and figure out if I was. I’m not sure that I have always been. I think it’s important to say, I don’t think I’m the most anxious and awkward guy in the world, I think what I go through is fairly mild compare to lots of people I know that go through something far more serious. It still feels real to me though.

Photo courtesy of Bench Press bandcamp.

Totally! It doesn’t matter what degree others see it as, because to the person that’s experiencing it, it can be so debilitating and the worst thing in the world when you’re in it; at least that’s how I’ve felt suffering severe depression and anxiety at times in my life.

JS: Exactly! That’s why I want to normalise that more mild thing, because I think it’s something that does affect a lot of people. People can be a little afraid to talk about stuff. We all have friends that have friends who suffer from various sorts of mental illness and there’s no point comparing yourself to what others are going through, it’s all very valid and it’s important for people to understand those things and feel normal about them in order to feel better and to start improving. Bench Press has helped me come to grips with who I am and what I’m like and how I deal with situations, how I react to certain things.

The second album the title Not the Past, Can’t Be the Future was a reference to the fact that I don’t always think I was like this, I wasn’t always anxious about things. The title of the album and the album itself was trying to bookend certain feelings that I have about myself; I wasn’t always like this in the past and I want to move past this and not be like that in future, how I am now.

I wanted to ask you about the title, the way I interpret it is, it’s not the past or the future that matter or define us but it’s right now, the present, because that’s when we’re truly alive and it’s the only moment in which we can really work on ourselves and take action!

JS: Yep, yep! For sure! That’s a perfectly good application of the title as well. Everyone has their own ideas about it, anyone who talks to me about it has pretty much been in the same ball park. I’ve never seen the singer or the person who is trying to get the message across as necessarily the holder of the truth of it. Whoever looks at it and takes something from it, that’s how they interpret it and how it’s meant to be taken. Art is up for interpretation. It’s really cool that everyone has different ideas and gets different meanings from what I am saying—that’s the great thing about art and music in general.

Where does the song ‘Old. Self. Doubt.’ come from?

JS: The gang vocals are meant to be me saying, I’m so unsure about these things and saying, no, that’s actually not what’s happening… work is where I get most anxious and I second-guess myself all of the time. I really struggle with various aspects of my job and how I feel about myself. It’s sort of meant to be me telling myself that everything I’m thinking in those times is not the reason these things are happening. It’s a reference to a particular job that I had in the past where I used to just put everything on myself, like everything was my fault if things were going terribly, when it wasn’t necessarily the case. I took a bit of distance from there and my friends were looking at it going “no, that’s not the case, it isn’t your fault! These things can’t be controlled”. I guess it’s a play on how I felt in the moment at the time and a more realistic, objective way of looking at it, which came from my friends and the people around me and the distance.

What kind of work do you do?

JS: I work in the music industry. I’m a venue booker.

Ah, ok. I could see how that could be stressful. I’ve always loved music my whole life, since I was a kid I always thought I might work in the music industry so I could work around the thing I love the most all day, music. I wanted to be a part of it so bad, when I finally got there – I saw the workings of major labels, touring companies, mainstream press, PR companies etc. – I found out the reality of the music industry and I hated it!

JS: Yep, yep! It was exactly the same for me. The way I got into it, my dad was always involved in the music industry and he ran a publicity company and that company booked a venue. One of the bookers of the venue left my dad’s business and he didn’t want to re-hire someone to book the venue—I was twenty and begging him to let me do it! There was no way I should have gotten the job at the time, I was not remotely ready. I begged him every single day, eventually he said “yes, but it was my funeral!” Nine years on and I’m still doing it. I guess I did a good job, which is why I’m comfortable telling that story; originally, I thought everyone would judge me for it but, I feel better about my role now and that I deserve it. It definitely isn’t the idealised dream that you have as a kid. You think that you’ll book all the most amazing bands and you’ll see the most amazing stuff ever and that you’ll do this and that! It’s not quite like that. I still love it though, I do get to sit around and listen to music a lot, that is the best thing in the world to me. There are definitely negative aspects of the industry that are there and strong.

I have met some very good people in the industry though, that are doing great things. Having them and someone like you in the position that you are there is opportunity to change the negative things and how things have always been done.

JS: 100%! The longer that I’ve been in it, the more great people I have found. You choose who you have around you, you can choose who you like, respect and work with. I’ve stumbled into incredible, incredible musicians and people. You distance yourself from the aspects you don’t like, that’s the key.

I think the majority of people get into it because they truly do love music but then because of the industry and having to treat art as a product—the bottom line being money—can make people lose sight of why they loved it and got into it in the first place. Then it just becomes a job as opposed to a passion.

JS: 100%! It can be hard as a venue booker, at least when the venues are running. I book nine shows a week, it’s my full-time job. There’s no way you’re going to like all the bands on the shows, three bands per shows, that’s twenty-seven bands through the venue each week. I used to find that a lot harder to deal with but it’s also allowed me to find a lot more good music. I like applying that to Bench Press, Bench Press is my excuse to book every single band that I love. Every show we play has bands that are a reflection of what we like as a band, that’s the fun part! I love booking my favourite bands and helping people get a leg up.

It was so cool how you came up here and toured with Dr Sure’s Unusual Practice!

JS: It was so lucky and the best experience ever ‘cause that band is truly, truly mind-blowing and special!

Absolutely! Dougal from Dr Sure’s is one of my favourite Australian songwriters. Your album Not The Past, Can’t Be the Future to me is almost like a notes-to-self kind of record.

JS: 100%! It’s a reminder. The album is going to exist as a reminder of how I can be and how I should try to be.

The songs on the record ‘Baby Steps’, ‘Take It Slow’, ‘Better Mirror’, ‘Good Guy’ and ‘Enough’; there seems to be a bit of a theme there.

JS: Yes! That’s how I wanted it to be: what I am? What I could be? How I should be? I wanted to touch on all of those things. I hope I did it?

Totally! It’s really inspiring, especially the song ‘Baby Steps’: exhale, stand up!

JS: I’d just seen a psych for the first time and they were like “take a deep breath, all the stuff is so obvious and it doesn’t always work but these are the things you have to do”.

What about the song ‘Take It Slow’?

JS: ‘Take It Slow’ is about… you know when you’re in high school and they’re like you have to do this and you have to do it well and you gotta go to Uni and do this and that… they make you feel rushed. Even now I look around at some of my friends – we’re all in our late 20s now – people still feel that; I feel it stays with everyone. I don’t think necessarily moving so quickly and panicking into things is the right way to do it. It’s a reminder to be slow and that if I carefully do everything, then I or anyone can achieve what they want to. Sometimes I think the idea of taking things slow is a little bit privileged, I have the ability to take things slow and ease my way into things to make sure everything is right but not everybody has that opportunity.

I really love your lyrics, I feel like they’re really thoughtful.

JS: Thank you. I try really hard to write about something that I care about, everything has to be about something I care deeply about. I can’t bring myself to write a song that doesn’t mean anything to me or potentially someone else. I can’t write silly, I’m not going to sit around and write about chugging on beers and smashing bongs! I love drinking beer but I don’t think it’s something important that I have to sing about; I’d feel frivolous like I am wasting an opportunity.

Every song is a chance to get a point of view across and hopefully trying to impact someone. They all impact me and change me in a certain way and gets me thinking about different things more, but it’s all about trying to help someone else and to try and help them change in some positive way—that’s one of the most rewarding aspects of Bench Press. I occasionally will get someone come up to me and say “Thank you so much, your song helped me” and inside I’m like, what the fuck?! That’s so crazy I could help them. I think it’s the most important thing that a lyricist can do. I don’t want to waste my time writing frivolous songs.

When writing and making the record; what was one of the biggest changes that you saw within yourself?

JS: It was a real moment of transition for me from the beginning of the album. The previous album was angry, it was me feeling upset about various things. When we started writing for the new album, the first song we wrote was ‘Respite’ and that was turning point for me because I was actually starting to get help and I was actually starting to open up to my friends. People in my circle started opening up about all these things, it was a moment of transition of looking and seeing a problem and trying to find a solution; the first album was seeing problems and the second was trying to find solutions to problems.

It started with ‘Respite’ then one of the last songs would have been something like ‘Old. Self. Doubt.’ Which were the last lyrics I finished. I could see the problems and tell myself that that’s not the way things are and that things can be better—that I can change them!

It’s a really cool thing when you finally realise your own power, your strength and resilience and your ability to change things!

JS: Totally!

Was there anything that happened in your life that sparked the changes?

JS: [*Takes a big breath*] Yeah. My work life was improving, that was one thing, but to be honest the big thing was me and my partner was approaching ten years together and I was having problems. Problems which stemmed from my own problems; I saw myself as the problem and that I had to fix it because otherwise I was going to lose the most important person in the world to me. That was a really big catalyst, to start realising that I needed to work on myself and to not just be upset and angry all the time.

I totally understand. My husband and I, we’ve been together over 11 years – how cool is it when you find that forever person?! – and there’s been a lot of things that I’ve had to work on within myself too. Sometimes you don’t see how your behaviour is hurting the one you love most, facing those truths are hard. 

JS: Congratulations! It’s incredible, and realising that if things are going to work it has to come from changes that I make or in your case, that you make. These things were all happening round the time of our album. ‘Home’ is about my life with my partner, Bianca.

Good name!

JS: [Laughs] Yes, exactly.

Where do you think your writing will go now? Have you started working on anything?

JS: Yeah, we’ve started working on new songs. We’ve got one finished that we’ve played a couple of times. We have a whole bunch of ideas on the go, it’s been a bit hard without prac[tice]. I’ve always liked the idea of writing something political, but I’m always really scared about writing political because so often it can be cliché and obvious. I wanna start moving down that road, I don’t know how well it’s going though. It’s more political but still to do with identity and self-help, exploring it in a bigger way is what I’d like to do.

Cool! Whenever I listen to your last album I feel like I have my own personal cheer squad!

JS: [Laughs] Excellent! That’s awesome!

What kind of things would we find in your music collection?

JS: Oh heaps of stuff! I’m a massive, massive nerd when it comes to music! I’m a hoarder and I’m a digger!

Same!

JS: I saw the interview you did with Matt from Shepparton Airplane and he talked about Fugazi a whole bunch—Fugazi are my all-time favourite band! Anything to do with that scene, Rites Of Spring, Happy Go Licky, Bad Brains and Teen Idles, all that stuff are at the heart of my collection. I really love this Japanese band called CHAI that toured here last year…

I love CHAI! [*sings*] You are so cute, nice face, c’mon yeah!

JS: [Laughs] Yes! They’re just the best. They are the happiest thing ever, so I play a lot of that! I listened to Melt Banana this morning, which is great while I exercised.

Have you seen how Henry Rollins does his exercise?

JS: No, how?

Well, you know how much he is fanatical about music? Well, he’ll play a 7” and while the side’s playing he’ll see how many push-ups or whatever exercise he’s doing he can do, then when that side is finished he gets up and flips the record then does another exercise. That’s the best interval training circuit idea I’ve ever heard of!

JS: That’s so great! [laughs]. A couple of years ago we found out that a friend of my dad’s has a record store, I think it’s in Newcastle, and Henry Rollins came in to buy records – right after our first album came out – apparently Henry was asking for recommendations. The guy pulled out our record and Henry asked, what it sounded like? He said “sort of like Fugazi” and Henry was like, “nope, not interested” [laughs]. I just love that. Apparently since then he has listened to the record.

I was a late bloomer with music, I was around seventeen when I started figuring it all out and stopped listening to crap. I was listening to The Saints and the Sex Pistols, really obvious things like that and my dad gave me Fugazi’s In On the Kill Taker. I remember watching a YouTube clip of ‘Last Chance For A Slow Dance’ and just seeing Ian and Guy play with so much passion, that was one catalyst for getting me into music.

The other one was, I’m a massive Pavement fan as well, I read an interview with Stephen Malkmus and he said: I think anyone can sing as long as they can fit a tune to a song and that they’ll make it work no matter how terrible their voice is essentially. I was like—I can do that! Ian and Guy made me want to be in a band. Steven Malkmus made me realise I can sing, badly! [laughs].

 Have you ever had a real life changing moment?

JS: I don’t necessarily think of things like that, I think of things as tiny incremental changes over a long period of time.

‘Baby Steps’?

JS: [Laughs] Exactly! That’s just it and how I’ve always seen change in myself. When I was in high school people always said that they couldn’t live without music and I hated that and thought, you fucking idiot, of course you can live without music! Thinking that then, I feel hypocritical in saying it now but, music as a whole has been the thing that has impacted my life the most. It’s been where I’ve spent the last ten years of my life, working. I’ve been playing music since I was seventeen. These are the things that I base my life around and these are the things where I’ve met everyone that I know and love, it’s also influenced everything… stuff like Fugazi doing cheap shows and benefits, had me thinking about those things when I was younger. I guess music over time, in incremental ways has helped shape me rather than one big moment.

What’s something that you’re working towards changing now?

JS: I started this year with different goals to what I have now, I’ve been planning on going back to Uni and doing counselling or social work. It was going to be a big year for the pub I book, the first three months were incredible. Now that that is gone for the foreseeable future, I’m just trying to relax, I’m trying to feel calmer and lose the panic that I get when I’m in a situation I don’t’ want to be in. I’m trying to improve my overall health, physically and mentally. Figuring out what I want to be.

What are some things that help you relax?

JS: There’s the good and bad thing of pot [laughs], that helps me relax or sometimes it does the total opposite! Exercise. I’m trying to see isolation as having this time to completely relax and decompress and make sure that when I do get back to work that I will be in the best mental shape of my life. I’m trying not to do too much and not freak out about things. I’ve been playing a lot of video games. I’ve been trying to read. Just really, small, basic things. I just want to be the best that I can be.

That’s so great. Thanks so much to speaking to us.

JS: Thank you for including us and interviewing me.

It was wonderful to finally get to chat with you. As a fan of Bench Press I’ve read a couple of other interviews with you and the things you get asked always annoys me; you write such great songs and music I’ve always wanted to know more about that… not an answer to some novelty question you’re being asked so the writer gets to feel clever about how funny they can be!

JS: I think part of that is having a publicist hit someone up to do something on your band and the publication may not necessary know us or really give the album a listen beyond once if that and do it as a job and not a passion.

I’ve had bands tell me that they wanted to get press in different Australian music magazines and street press and they were told it would be $200 for a review and $400 for an interview in one particular publication! Having interviewed Creatives and written for all kinds of publications and making my own zines for the past 25 years, I found this absolutely crazy! It’s a terrible practice, very dishonest to your readers accepting money for a feature and not telling them it’s been paid for.

JS: Yep.

At least now I know why there is rarely anything good in those publications!

JS: Yes, it’s one of the most upsetting things to me. We got hit up by a publication and they said they would love to interview us. I thought that was cool and said we’d love to do that. Then they sent us their rates! Like c’mon! Why would anyone do that? Not everyone knows that happens and is privy to the fact that bands have paid for this stuff. Once you know you can’t unsee it, and when you read interviews in the publication you know someone paid for it—where’s the care? Where’s the love?!

Exactly! I can’t believe people pay for that shit. Just like that that bullshit pay to play or in some cases pay for the possible chance to play on shows scam! And application fees for bands for an “opportunity” to play showcases that are already getting money from sponsors and grants. It’s sad that it’s often younger, upcoming bands that do this because they think that’s what you do! This is where I see the industry exploiting bands. I may be old school and an interview purist but shouldn’t you interview a band because you like them? You’re a fan? Don’t you simply want to share ideas and get an insight into what they do? Put that out into the world to document culture now? Inspire others?

JS: Anyone asking you to pay money to interview you is taking advantage of you. I find it really ill. I’ve actually thought about writing a song about this!

Do it!

JS: Every time I try, it comes out too obvious, like how earlier I was telling you that happens when I try to write political stuff. I want to wait ‘til I have that perfect ammunition, that perfect phrase—it will be easy then and all the annoyance will fall out of me! [laughs].

And like I was saying before, paying to support bands is wrong too. They should be paying you to play! And paying you a reasonable amount too, especially if it’s a bigger band/show/tour. I understand people really wanting to support bands they love and get in front of bigger crowds, but at what price to everything else? It sets a bad standard.

JS: We got offered a fairly big support slot late last year, they’re one of my all-time favourite bands. The money that was offered meant that we would have lost money to do the show! In my mind they were one of the bands that helped bring punk to the fore, I couldn’t understand it, so we said ‘no’ to the show. That’s actually what our new song is about! [laughs]. We were asked to play and we would have lost money, I just can’t wrap my head around that. Maybe the band had no idea how much we were being offered? It made me ill. It’s taking advantage of people and it’s totally, totally unfair.

It’s very, very un-punk rock!

JS: It’s the most un-punk rock! [laughs].

Please check out: BENCH PRESS. Bench Press on Facebook. Bench Press on Instagram. Bench Press records out via Poison City.

Alli Logout of NOLA punk band Special Interest on their forthcoming LP The Passion Of…: “Moving forward with love is what the album is all about”

Original photo by Alex Kress. Handmade collage by B.

Punk rock is something that is always evolving, it’s exciting and foundation shaking, and its next evolution is here now, in the form of band Special Interest. Combining elements of no-wave, glam and industrial their forthcoming sophomore record The Passion Of… is electrifying! Vocalist Alli Logout is on fire, delivering an impassioned and at times vulnerable performance; when Alli sings and screams, vocally struts and huh huhs—you believe it! The sentiments and attitude hit straight to the heart. You can’t help but want to shimmy and shake to the angular yet danceable tracks, the band is sounding as focused and tight as ever. We spoke to Alli to find out more.

How are you feeling today?

ALLI: [Laughs] I’m feeling all sorts of things today. I’m currently in the woods. We were in the UK whenever the border closures were happening so we had to get out of there. We flew into New York and New York was closing, somebody was in my room in New Orleans so I decided to go to a land project in Tennessee and I’ve been stuck here with my tour bag; it’s the best place that I could be. I’m doing fine. I had to go to Walmart today and buy an extra pair of panties and socks [laughs].

Nice!

ALLI: My tour bag just has clothes in it, leather and latex and plastic. I’m literally in the woods now [laughs] and can’t go home, it’s funny.

How did you first come to performance?

ALLI: I had a little friend in high school, his name is Patrick, I loved him; he got me into punk. He was trying to start bands, he wanted to front bands and was really bad. One day I would watch them practice, whenever he went to the bathroom I would play. I did the thing and they were like, “Whoa!” I was like, ‘Yeah, I want to do this! I need to beat Patrick at something’ [laughs].

I saw a kid with a Bad Brains t-shirt at a Waffle House and said ‘I want to be in a band!’ He was like “I have boys that want to be in a band”. I was like, cool, then I bragged to Patrick that I had a band now and he was like, “Fine. I have a show for you in a week”. I started my first band and we played that show in Austin, Texas; it was really funny.

How did you discover your voice? When did you start singing?

ALLI: I grew up really religious. I grew up in a religion that only believes in using your voice to glorify the Lord. The ceremonies were very vocally influenced, church hymns. I liked signing in church, so I guess that’s where I started singing. I like a lot of gospel hymns. I like the way they’re composed and the vocal structures of them. That’s where I first started singing.

What helped you develop your confidence?

ALLI: I’m just kind of a bitch. Especially when I was younger, I just thought everybody was stupid all the time because I was around really stupid white punks all the time. They were stupid and I was like, I’m just better at everything! [laughs]. I know it’s awful but, I was just around really awful white teen punk boys for a very long time. I spent a good majority of my life really wanting to fit in and finally I just came to a point that, there’s nothing I can do ‘cause y’all are trash. That’s pretty much how all of my musical projects started [laughs].

What was it like for you growing up as a POC in Texas? I ask because for me growing up here in Australia, I also felt that no matter what I was involved in, or even just school, I was pretty much the only brown person, which was really hard; racism, not seeing yourself represented anywhere, being treated differently to the white kids, stuff like that.

ALLI: Yeah. Also being Aboriginal in Australia, that has such a wild history! Growing up in Texas was really hard, very, very racist, very blatant racism everywhere, constantly rebel flags everywhere, getting moved to places in a restaurant where people can’t see you. I had a white mother, she’s half-Indigenous, we found that out all recently ‘cause she was adopted. It was really, really rough. Things were still pretty segregated, all the places I grew up, because they were just small Texas towns. It was really rough, very deeply segregated. I went to a mixture of predominately black schools and predominately white schools. I’ve always been pretty bad at reading and spelling. I was thinking about the very first time that someone called me ignorant and it was a white teacher that called me ignorant, I was the only black kid in that class. I don’t remember what it was for but, I just remember crying and being like; what does that mean? School was always hard for me, especially because of racial segregation stuff. It’s funny because reading was so hard for me they put me in an English as a second language class, there was a lot of kids from Mexico.

Wow!

ALLI: Yeah. It’s so cuckoo, my whole education experience was miserable and teachers consistently called me stupid. It just made me so insecure with myself constantly, that’s still something that I very much carry, it’s still playing out today; it’s been on my mind a lot lately. White authority figures are always really, really miserable to me, and every black kid and every Hispanic kid in our school. It was really, really awful. I’ll leave it at—awful! [laughs].

In my experience I was always not black enough to hang out with the black kids and not white enough to hang out with the white kids – my mother is white and part Chinese, she was adopted too – so I’m kind of caught in the middle of everything.

ALLI: Yeah, that’s an evil mixed-kid nuances that we float in and it’s a really weird place to be ‘cause – I think that is an experience of anyone that’s mixed race – you don’t really fit in anywhere. That definitely was a big part of my life, of definitely feeling like I don’t fit in anywhere, specifically the white side, it was so violent and miserable what they did to kids. It was really awful.

Through doing creative things and through creativity, do you kind of in a way then get to make yourself, to be whoever you are or want to be? You create your own world.

ALLI: I guess so. I feel like the way that my creativity works is, I’ve been very influenced a lot of my life because of my awful life experiences and experiences in school. I’ve been very influenced by spite, wanting to prove people wrong, that has worked out in really good ways but also in really bad ways. Like, the only reason that I went to school was to prove people wrong, everybody I know came from shit and I always knew that I was going to be shit! That’s the same way that I got into punk, wanting to prove my friend wrong, that I could be better at it than him [laughs]. I create because I literally have to, because the world that I live in is not a world that I want to live in. I tried to create so that we can all figure out how to be together. And… to just have fun!

Special Interest have a new album coming out?

ALLI: Mhhmm. We just literally had a meeting on Houseparty and figured out the date we’re going to release it, so that’s exciting!

Yaaaayyyyyy!!

ALLI: Yeah! I’m really, really excited about it. I think it’s my personal best work in music thus far in my life. We put a lot of time and effort into this album. It’s been almost two years since our last album [Spiraling] came out. We all just have really ridiculous lives and everybody works a bunch, but whenever we come together to create, it’s unlike any musical collaboration that I have ever had in my life—that’s why I love the band so much. It’s so much fun and it’s so easy, that’s what’s great about us, it’s so easy for us to be together and make stuff, it comes out really well.

The first album was kind of predominately improv in the studio with a lot of my lyrics. ‘Young, Gifted…’ was improv’d, I wrote some other things that day of. I only did this once with the new album but, I spent a lot of time writing the lyrics and thinking about them and describing what was going on around me and how I’m feeling. It was very cathartic. I’m very happy that it’s going to come out soon too.

I can’t wait! I’m so excited. What kind of moods and emotions were you writing from?

ALLI: Oh my god! I have so many moods and emotions [laughs]. A lot of this album is very much based on the nuances, in the in-betweens, of feeling and knowing that we need to be better but also being consumed by queer party culture [laughs]. A lot of my lyrics are kind of satirical but not as much this album, they’re a lot more straight forward. I wanted this album to be urgent and to be towards something, to be something that can propel us forward in a way that makes us seen and heard. But, also fun and also knowing that we want everything to blow up in the process and know that our people are being taken care of. I wrote a lot from that place, from the fun times to the intense times, to questioning everything around me in my own reality that consistently plays tricks on me. Also, the relationships I’ve been in and the ways that I learning about myself and my own obsessive behaviour. Writing about co-dependency and how consuming it is; how much it hurts to be in those patterns consistently. I wanted the album to have that emotion to it but, also moving us forward. Moving forward with love is what the album is all about.

Was there a song on the new record that was hard for you to write?

ALLI: Oh my god! Two of them… a few of them… actually they all were! The very last song called ‘With Love’ it took me weeks to write. I went my friend’s house and there’s people coming in and out of there all day, they’re all the people that I love and that are consistently inspiring me. I worked in a room in my friend’s house while everybody was hanging out. I’d drink a lot of matcha and write what was coming to me, it ended up being really beautiful, but it’s very wordy, very much a poem. Whenever I hear that song, I look back and feel what I was feeling, that feeling of being around people that you love.

‘All Tomorrow’s Carry’ was… easy to write.

‘A Depravity Such As This’ was the only one I wrote in the studio with Maria [Elena Delgado; bassist]. Maria was like, “what’s this song about?” I’m like, a girl. And she’s like “uhh… they’re always about a girl!” [laughs]. She’s like, “we don’t have a song about the city” and I’m like; what if I write a song about the city that sounds like it’s about a girl? [laughs]. That was improv’d in the studio and it’s one of my favourite on the album.

‘Street Pulse Beat’ was the last one I wrote and I couldn’t figure out a vocal pattern for it, it was really hard, but we needed another song on the album. We were like, this one is slow and really glam but, I couldn’t think of anything. I went in and did a take and it was just awful! It was so embarrassing, what I was trying to do. I told the band from the second that we jammed it out that I feel like I need to sing on this track, use my voice and not scream. They were like “no, no, no, don’t sing, maybe try a slow wordy thing”. It was just bad. I went in there one day without everybody else and did a take like, ok, I’m going to try to sing this. I put some time and intention into the lyrics, it was really hard to write because I was in the middle of a breakup, that didn’t need to go as bad as it did; it was just me holding on to something that I shouldn’t. Also, being deeply incompatible with somebody but loving them regardless.

Sometimes the way that I have learned to love has been out of a really awful need of survival and it’s really bad whenever those things play out in a way that ends up hurting you and the other person. I finally figured out what I wanted to write and went in and sung it and they were like “we love it!” I said, I told y’all I need to sing it from the jump! That one was hard and it’s really hard to listen to for me. It’s really glam ad cheesy and fun. I hope that it translates to folks; who knows? That’s just all of my feelings [laughs].

What’s the album going to be called?

ALLI: The Passion Of…

Where’s that come from?

ALLI: I don’t know? We were just like “The Passion Of…” and it just kind of stuck [laughs]. We were having a hard time naming it for a moment but The Passion Of… just stuck. It’s really simple.

As well as making music you also make film?

ALLI: Mhhmm, I do.

Where did your interest in that spark from?

ALLI: I’ve always been really interested in film making. I remember from being very, very little realising the power of being visually moved by something and just knowing that it’s something that has been used from evil that could be used for good; that can really affirm who you are. Cinema changes lives! I’ve always been interested in making films, I’ve always had a lust for life whenever I’m on the upside of a manic episode. I’ve loved to record videos with my friends since I was younger. I realised how much it meant to me to be able to identify with the characters. I wanted to start making my own to show the beautiful world of folks I am around all the time—there’s so many different ways to live. Cinema is what got me around to being a punk and being gay.

You were saying that cinema changes lives; was there a particular thing you saw that changed yours?

ALLI: Yeah. The only thing I really remember from being a kid – I was five – where I watched something that hit me… I watched Schindler’s List.

Wow!

ALLI: Yes, wow! It really obviously set up my perspective of the world really quickly. I didn’t really understand the genocide that happened via slavery and via colonialisation; I didn’t have any context to how that was in my blood as well. I remember being wow! This is how the world works. They want to kill us all for no reason!

There are so many things that have inspired me. One of my favourite films is Amarcord by [Federico] Fellini. The way that he satirises his town of people is something I have always wanted to do about rednecks and the place where I grew up [laughs]. I really loved a lot of the Rocky films when I was younger. I think Nowhere in the Teen Apocalypse Trilogy introduced me to polyamory and also, I knew the concept of being bi, but everyone is very fluid sexually, or dating each other. I was like, oh my god! That’s what I want to be doing. I always struggle when I’m on the spot with this question, I need to write about it more, that’s one of my plans over this quarantine.

Do you do any other types of writing?

ALLI: Just film stuff. I was just inspired by someone that I love recently to start writing, she really encouraged me to start doing poetry. I’ve written a million poems but I have never thought of them as that, or thought of myself as a poet or anything. I did a reading and wrote all these poems specifically for this reading, I chose a thing out of my phone and wrote up what that meant to me. It’s been a really wild and healing process. It’s been a way of processing lots of life events, that’s what I’m using writing for now. It feels really good. I’ve been writing a lot of poetry recently. I started a Signal group of friends because I wanted to read other people’s and get feedback on mine. It’s a really fun group and once a week we submit a poem, that’s trying to keep us a bit creative during the crisis… one of many.

It’s cool how far you’ve come with words, at the beginning of this chat you told me you used to have trouble reading as a kid and now you’re writing all these different things!

ALLI: Yeah. It really does just take your friends to love and encourage you to start doing a thing. That person that helped encouraged me with poetry also encouraged me to start working on parts of myself that I’ve been too afraid to confront. Also, gave me that gift of being like “you should write, you’re good at this and… la, la, la” it’s something that I’ve realised is something that is important for me. I have come a long way, I need to start giving myself credit for that shit! I’m constantly in a self-deprecating spiral but, I’m really trying not to be that person anymore.

The world can be such a negative, hard, tough place; what things do you do to stay positive or hopeful?

ALLI: You have caught me in one of the most depressed periods of my life. I’m depressed because I’m working on things, on character flaws, that need to be confronted; shit that has needed to be processed and it’s really hard to do that work and bring up all the ways that you have been hurt and abused. To talk about how you have normalised really awful things. I’m in that weird point in my life where I feel I am on the cusp of where I’m about to breakthrough into something healing and feel more deep and ok in myself. I’m extremely depressed, everything just feels so intense. I’m constantly watching my friends get hurt and constantly not being able to pay for things, it’s hard but the things that do keep me positive are the people in my life ‘cause we just have fun! We’re really funny. That’s what keeps me going, being able to talk in here and listen to people and their experiences and what they’re thinking and freaking out about and what they think is funny and how they think about this situation to get through. How you live and take care of each other is by listening, that’s a big lesson that I am learning in my life right now. I need to listen a lot more and think of everybody as a teacher. Hanging out with friends is something that I’m doing to stay positive.

I just started picking up boxing and that’s been really nice. I haven’t been able to do it much in the crisis. I stay positive because I do have a lot of great people in my life who have really brilliant and talented minds. I feel so honoured to know so many people that I do know. Everybody in my life are brilliant and revolutionaries! It’s cool to be in such proximity to people that brilliant.

I feel that way about the people around me too. It’s been said that the people you hang out with are a reflection of yourself so that means you’re pretty brilliant and revolutionary too!

ALLI: [Laughs]. I’m not going to self-deprecat. I’m going to say, yeah, you’re right!

I’ve been through a lot myself in the last year and I’ve had to deal with my own flaws and mental illness and different things, normalising different behaviours and things like what you were talking about earlier, I can really identify with where you’re at. I can say that since I faced everything… the truth of things, which is not always pretty…

ALLI: It is never pretty!

It really sucks! But, when you really do it, it is a breakthrough and my whole life has been changed because of that… sorry I’m getting all teary.

ALLI: Yeah, I’m literally surprised that I haven’t cried this whole time [laughs]. I was crying actually before you called. It’s really painful to be truthful with yourself. It’s hard, I’ve told myself so many lies and normalised so many things because they have been things that have happened to me. It’s really not ok, I have been in such an awful… I feel like I’m about to come to the place where I can accept these things that have happened and try to figure out how to live a life I want to live and to be more honest and to apologise, to not be selfish. It’s really hard to do all of these things. It’s really hard work. I’m trying my best to try to attempt to do that right now.

If I have learned any lesson, it’s that we absolutely need every single one of us here, we actually do, because we’re not going to get through what is happening in his world if we don’t have each other because it’s so small and things are so fucked! We’re constantly in fear of our lives. There was just a really bad drive-by outside of my house a few weeks ago. I watched my neighbour get killed, it was intense. I had been in a spiral but then it sent me into a whole other spiral because I’m just like, this is crazy that I have normalised gun violence! I didn’t think I was affected until I had friends that were like “no, you’re affected” and I was like oh my god, I’m freaking out, I am! This has been my whole life, that was a lesson that I learned very early on, I learned to stay below the widows. That’s something I was taught as a little kid, it’s been normal my whole life. We need all of us! Even the people that I can’t stand, I need them too. We really do need all of us. We have to figure out a way to survive—that’s my main mission right now. A lot of my feelings have been going into the music lately. I’m a ball of emotions right now.

I’m always a ball of emotions! I’m a very sensitive person.

ALL: Yeah dude, me too! [laughs].

Please check out: SPECIAL INTEREST. Alli Logout on Instagram. SIQ FLICKS NOLA – Punk cinema and discussion series uplifting marginalized voices. studiolalalanola – A Black and Trans production studio in New Orleans LA that aims to create space for those who don’t have space. The Passion Of will be out on Thrilling Living and Night School.