We chat in-depth with Tessa & Alda from D-beat band Jalang! They’ve released Australia’s best hardcore record this year. We explore the album themes: politics, religion, feminism and queer rights in South East Asia and beyond. A really important chat.
Gareth Liddiard from Tropical Fuck Storm speaks about new album ‘Deep States’, songwriting, creativity, fanboying and collecting weird shit.
R.M.F.C.’s Buz Clatworthy talks, a new album in the works, lockdown being a creativity dampener, finding inspiration in films and friends.
We yarn with Emma Donovan and The Putbacks. New record ‘Under These Streets’ draws on soul, R&B, funk and the protest music of Indigenous Australia—a dynamic portrait of Blak pain and joy in all its complexities.
Amyl and the Sniffers’ Amy Taylor and Bryce Wilson check-in to tell us about their new album’s journey, experiencing depression, keeping busy and the power of music.
French duo Heimat play off-kilter experimental-pop with folklore influence, cinematic-like soundscapes, and vocals in multiple languages. A chat on experimentation.
Old Home vocalist Dylan Sparks gives us a peek into their visceral performance poetry coupled with spontaneous musical composition.
We speak with Louisiana band Spllit just days after a hurricane hit their area. We adore their lo-fi weirdness. Next level music.
70’s acid-folk legend Howard Eynon has had a storied life: appearing in films including Mad Max, supporting Hunter S Thompson’s tour; performing in theatre. Recently, he’s been working on music with Zak Olsen. A brilliant chat.
Julian Teakle of The Native Cats and Rough Skies Records selects some of his favourite tracks for us.
We love Naarm-based feminist bratwave punk band Hearts and Rockets. We first chatted with the inspiring duo when we started Gimmie. Today we’re premiering their super fun clip ‘Square Eyes’ which is the first single off their forthcoming EP TV is Boring, their love letter to TV—one of their favourite things. We chat about making the clip, EP, 80s horror flicks, The X-Files, TV shows, and other creative projects in the works. We wanna have a TV Party tonight! with Hearts and Rockets.
Hearts and Rockets were one of the first bands that we interviewed for Gimmie. We’re excited to have you check-in with us again; what’s life been like lately for you?
KURT ECKARDT: Life is SO weird! Life is always weird, but lockdown #6 hit us in Melbourne in a strange new way. I’m so grateful to have a creative outlet that can be completely self-contained and can be done at home, and so so grateful for our doggo Bonez. She and I have had some pretty heartfelt moments lately, thankfully she’s a very good listener.
KALINDY WILLIAMS: We are really so thrilled to be chatting with you again! Thank you so much for your support. You always feature our favourite bands and artists, we really love all that you do.
Thank you! The love is mutual. You have a new EP TV Is Boring coming out on cassette in November and it’s a collection of songs about TV; what was the initial spark that gave you the idea to write to this theme?
KW: We were writing songs for our next album, and we had so many ideas! While we were writing melodies for them, we found a couple with kind of ‘working’ lyrics that referenced TV, mostly in the chorus. From this we kind of discovered a running theme. We realised that four main songs that we were close to finishing all went really well together and had a loose theme of television, so we decided to separate them out and create a fun EP!
KE: We also both love TV and movies, and we’ve had a few songs on previous releases about both so it’s kind of a continuation of that. It was tempting just to make the whole album about TV to be honest, but that’s pushing it, plus we have other things to sing about – some of which are a little more important.
How long has the EP been in the making for?
KW: We had a show planned for July this year, which was then rescheduled ‘til October, and now is in limbo, where we were going to play a set of entirely new songs that we were working on for our album. It was set to be at The Tramway Hotel which is a lovely small and super intimate venue, and we were really looking forward to kind of trying some things out live to see how they sounded. When lockdown #5 hit and it was postponed, we decided to make sure we didn’t waste that energy and momentum and got to recording a few of the tracks.
KE: Yeah, we pulled those TV tracks out and knuckled down and finished them off, then took our time recording them at home. So, I guess we started the EP officially in August, and had it recorded by the end of that month. In concept only for the past few months, but I think one or two of these song ideas were kicking around for a while leading up to that decision.
I know that you both have fond recollections of staying up late and watching Rage and bad movies; what are some of your favourite bad movies?
KW: We both watch lots of horror movies, mostly 80s horror as well as silly comedies. A few great ones that we have watched recently are Dudes (punks on a roadtrip), Times Square (punk girls making punk music against the status quo), Hell Night (frat party murder house), Once Bitten (silly slightly problematic 80s vampire romance/comedy/horror with Jim Carrey), Earth Girls Are Easy (80s does 50s does 80s alien movie), Aerobi-cide & Death Spa (both ridiculous 80s workout-themed horror movies), Sorority Babesin the Slime Ball Bowl-o-Rama (single location – a bowling alley – horror movie) and anything by John Waters. He’s the king of bad taste, and I think everything he does is iconic.
KE: This is so hard, because while they’re bad, they’re so so good! My faves are The Stuff (actually the best movie ever made), Chopping Mall (security robots go bezerk), Body Melt (this country’s greatest schlock), and Happy Birthday To Me (the first horror movie that I ever watched). Plus Stay Tuned, which is a favourite of ours and was an inspiration for the video clip for ‘Square Eyes’.
Is there anything of note you’ve been watching lately? What sucks you into watching it?
KW: Sexy Beasts. I assumed it was a role play of people being aliens and squirrels. And when I watched it and realised the absurdity of it being a reality show, I couldn’t stop watching it.
And I’m always rewatching Doctor Who. Space travel, time travel, queer undertones… what more could you want?! And in this last lockdown, Buffy has been on rotation.
KE: I’m obsessed with The Golden Girls. It was one of my favourites growing up and when I thought back to that throughout my life I thought it was so weird. Like, ALF – I get why I liked that – but a 7-year-old obsessively watching Golden Girls? I’ve rewatched the whole series recently and I still love it. While it’s not 100% PC, I think it was pretty ahead of its time. I can’t help but need to know how each episode is resolved, no matter how obvious it may seem.
You’re both also avid X-Files fans (us too!); what’s your favourite episode?
KW: Mine is Zero Sum! It’s in season four and starts off with a woman being swarmed by bees in a toilet cubicle. I watched it when I was way too young, but it’s the first one I think of when I think of The X-Files. I also really like the one with Jack Black set in an arcade where that guy gets the power to control electricity – it’s got some amazing visuals in it.
KE: My fave would have to be Squeeze. It’s the first monster of the week episode, and I remember watching it when it first aired and thinking it was so cool. I also love that the monster, Tooms, reappears later in the series. He’s the perfect X-Files character. A notable mention has to go to Flukeman though, my second favourite monster from The X-Files.
My friend Tom and I were so obsessed with The X-Files when it first came out, but I wasn’t allowed to watch it. Thankfully, he was, so I conveniently stayed at his house once a week at least.
Tell us about the title of the EP?
KW: TV Is Boring came from just watching too much TV in lockdown, and realising how many TV shows follow the same formula and get boring so quickly. I like TV, but sometimes you’ve just had enough.
What did you love most about the process of making TV Is Boring?
KW: I found writing the songs and practicing them the best part, because when we found out that we couldn’t play live we just set our own reachable goal and our own reachable deadline and came at it with the attitude of not rushing and not pushing ourselves. So, it was so fun to be able to try new things, speed up and slow down songs, and because we had no time limit it made it fun and took the stress out of it.
KE: Yes totally! The beauty of self-releasing music! There’s almost always a deadline, and that’s great to make sure you get what you need to get done done, but the two of us just playing fun songs for fun and for ourselves made this such an enjoyable experience. My highlight of this year was spending time on these songs – adding more and stripping back, spending time just playing around and having fun with them. We’d hoped to be able to do that in a live scenario, but we were so lucky to be able to do that throughout the recording process.
We love how Hearts and Rockets are very D.I.Y. in all aspects of what you do. What was the best part about producing your musicyourself?
KW: Being able to record in our tiny spare room is one of the biggest benefits. If you are trying to record a guitar part and it just isn’t working that day, you can just try again tomorrow. It’s a huge benefit for us, because we don’t have to book in a studio or have those time constraints.
If we had the money to do it that way, we would! But we’re broke, plus the DIY bedroom set up works well for the type of music we make.
KE: While being DIY is a necessity for us at this point, it’s also silly not to think of it as an aesthetic decision. We could borrow stuff or call-in favours or get a grant to do something more ‘pro’, but instead we shove a SM-57 microphone in front of our amps and turn it up really loud.
While we totally respect the craft of studio engineering, we’d also say that if you’re reading this and you can’t afford to pay someone to record your stuff – just do it yourself. The best thing an old band of mine did was record using headphones as microphones. We broke a pair of over-ear headphones, gaffer taped one side to the guitar amp and one to the bass amp and ran them as inputs through a mixer. It was awesome and all it cost us was a pair of shitty headphones, a borrowed mixer, and a free audio app on a laptop.
You do what you can with what you have. If you have a lot, go for it. If you don’t, don’t let that restrict your output. The music is all that matters.
Which track from the new EP are you most excited to perform when shows can happen again?
KW: The opener, ‘On/Off’. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always thought of this song as a cowboy song. I think it will be fun to play because it will be hard to play. I have to play this slidey rhythmic guitar part and sing at the same time. But I love failing on stage. Also, yee-haw.
KE: For me it’s ‘TV is Boring’. It’s just so long. In the past, if a song has approached three minutes long, I’ve insisted on cutting entire verses and choruses out. Some I’ve let go, but not easily. But as soon as Kalindy and I wrote the basic bones of ‘TV Is Boring’, we both knew it had to be a long song. Then she went wild with the synth at the end – it ended up being 13 minutes long! I genuinely can’t wait for people who expect two-minute bangers from us to hear this song. It might be my favourite Hearts and Rockets song ever. Kalindy is just so boss in the recording, it’s amazing.
We’re premiering the clip for the lead single ‘Square Eyes’. The video features lots of fun scenes like a TV news reader/“weather girl” combo, a 50s sitcom witch show, a vampire movie, a zombie apocalypse, a cowgirl flick, an adventure film, a workout video (which is a little nod to a previous single ‘Workout’). What’s your favourite scene? Can you tell us a little about creating it?
KW: We spent a total of I think 5 days filming different scenes for it over about 3 weeks. We moved entire rooms in our house to create the sets with just stuff we already owned. I’m a huge vintage collector – clothing, trinkets, homewares – I love all things vintage, so it was fun to plan out and put together props and clothing for the clip.
I think my favourite scene is the witchy / sitcom one. I really love camp special effects from the 50s/ 60s/70s (like Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie), and it was pretty fun to try and recreate some of them for ‘Square Eyes’. We also spent so long making food props for that scene and you only really see them for about 3 seconds. They were really delicious though.
KE: I liked making cucumber sandwiches and eating them. Why do they actually taste good? They absolutely shouldn’t, and kind of don’t, but I couldn’t stop eating them. We also used a vegan ‘duck’ in the spread, and we toyed with the idea of getting a real roast chook, but somehow the vegan duck from our freezer was completely fitting. It looks so gross.
I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun making anything in my life, every scene was so much fun to shoot.
There’s also clips of “Ramones” and “Siouxsie Sioux” in the clip; how did you first discover those artists and what do you appreciate about them?
KW: Ramones was the first punk band I discovered and Siouxsie Sioux was the first goth femme person in music I was ever aware of and she is an icon. She’s so effortlessly cool and she and the Banshees had such a unique sound that I was craving when I was a teenager. I think I’ve just always wanted to be her.
KE: I think Kalindy and my first common ground when meeting was Ramones. I will never tire of that first album. I had a step-brother, Dean, who I never got to meet. He lived in Toronto, but for much of my formative years he’d send me mix tapes. My favourite was called ‘Smells Like DEAN’S Spirit’. In the late 80s and early 90s he’d send me tapes with bands that I’d never heard of – I was like 7, 8 years old when he started – and it was bands like Ramones, Siouxsie, TSOL, Angry Samoans, Slayer, Pixies, The Stupids… like really cool punk stuff that I don’t think I would have heard otherwise, at least not at the time.
Blitzkrieg Bop started one of these tapes and I swear he put it there like a gateway to the rest of the tape… but it got me hooked, and I’ve loved Ramones ever since. Siouxsie and the Banshees were on that same compilation, it was ‘Love In A Void’, and I was so obsessed with it. One of the first records that I ever bought was their Peel Sessions EP and I treasure it to this day – their live to air version of ‘Love In A Void’ rules
You’ve been together for around four or so years now. What has been your proudest moment during this time?
KW: My teenage self would be so proud of us being on Rage! And every time we play a gig and people yell our lyrics back at us, that makes me so happy that we have made a connection with so many people through our music.
KE: OMG yes Rage, I still can’t believe we’ve had a few of our clips played on Rage. And yeah same. The first time we ever played our song Drama Club live, we had just written it and hadn’t learnt the lyrics yet, and Billiam from Disco Junk was there and held up our notebook for Kalindy so that she could sing it. There’s only one live moment that beats that, and it’s when we played it a few months later and BIlly was there again, in the front row, singing along.
Music-wise what bands, albums or songs have you been enjoying of late?
KW: Our label mates Zig Zag have just released their single ‘I Care About You’, and it’s so catchy, I am constantly singing it around the house, their joy and energy is infectious and they really do care about you! I love it!
KE: Wow, where to start?! I’m loving all of the Dr Sure’s Unusual Practice singles that have been coming out, they’re such a good band. Other newish releases that I can’t get enough of are K5’s album, Eat-Man’s record, Sweeping Promises’ Hunger For A Way Out and I haven’t been able to move past Blake Scott’s album from last year. Oh and Gordon Koang! Such pure and positive music, it’s impossible not to enjoy a Gordon Koang track.
You’re currently working on album number three, which is due out mid-2022; what can you tell us about it at this point?
KW: We still have a lot of work to do on it but at the moment we already have one really good song about a being a clown and at least one song about bugs – so I’m pretty excited about that.
KE: Album number three is so exciting to think about. I have genuinely liked each of our releases more than the last, and I can’t ask for more than that. Our goal is to constantly change what we’re doing, challenge ourselves, and keep making the music that we want to hear. This EP and our next album is all of that for me. Also, geez Kalindy just writes so many good songs… We could make a thousand OK albums, but we want to make a few really good ones.
What else have each of you been working on?
KW: I started a daily art project in lockdown in May 2020, it was going to be a 100-day project where I would make an art postcard everyday with whatever I already owned (lockdowns meant art supplies were scarce). But lockdowns kept going so I just kept making them. There are collages, illustrations, cut paper pieces, paintings, embroidery and anything else you can think of, they have been some of the best and some of the worst pieces of art I have made (hahaha) and I think some of them will be really good record covers or band posters. We actually used two of them for the covers of our last record and one for a poster last year. I’m currently at about 530-ish different postcards, which is wild!!!! And right now, I’m preparing for an online art show in mid-November to showcase the first 500 art postcards on my website http://www.orbitarcade.com.au.
I’m also planning to make a new photo zine in the next couple of months and work on some new music videos!
KE: I spend lots of my time preparing for a radio show that I co-host with Maddy Mac on PBS FM. We play music from so-called Australia and our closest neighbours, and I spend loads of my time in front of a computer screen listening to new music! I’m also tinkering away on some new solo music, but I don’t have any plans to share it just yet. Lots of my work revolves around live music events, too, so once lockdown lifts, I will have so many fun projects to announce!
With raw expression and attitude Naarm/Melbourne punk band SHOVE are about to drop their debut EP 7” on the world. Maq of The Faculty gave us a heads up on them last year singing their praises: “I’m gagged for that new band Shove I think they are formidable.” Indeed, they are; they’re here to obliterate us. SHOVE’s Ham, James and Bella tell us about the release.
How did you first get into punk?
HAM: I grew up in a small-ish town in regional NSW (the country music capital!), and was a snotty teenager who was pretty pissed off. Having some sort of outsider complex coupled with access to the internet meant I ended up listening to bands like Rudimentary Peni and The Locust. All the dudes I used to hang out with back then were more into metal, which I thought was too slow “where’s the speeeeed man!” (Although now in my older age I have more appreciation for it).
JAMES: I wasn’t really into punk when I was younger. Then about a decade ago I saw this band called Battle Club. Their shows were so dirty, and intense, I just wanted to be around that all the time. And now finally I have fulfilled my destiny, as Hamish (the bass player from Battle Club) plays drums in SHOVE!
What’s one of your all-time favourite albums and what do you appreciate about it?
HAM: Ooof, hard question – there are too many to count. Although it’s not an album, I’d have to go with The Shitlickers self-titled EP. I mean, it’s 8 songs so it nearly counts as an album. The whole thing is so sonically extreme and ridiculous it’s hard not to chuckle when listening to it. The riffs are absolutely shredded and the drums are simple but absolutely brutal and full of frothy spit and energy. Rumour has it that to get a sound that fried, they resorted to stabbing their amp speaker cones with needles. On top of this churning mess, the lyrical content is full of far-left despair and the sentiment of capitalism being shiiit, which is something I think most people can get behind in 2021.
How did you discover your local music community?
HAM: When I moved to Naarm I ended up living in sharehouses with people who played in the local music scene. It kind of snow-balled from there, where the majority of my friends and everyone I hang out with either plays in bands or I regularly hang out with them at gigs. I was always pretty into music zines when I could find them too so it was a pretty natural progression from reading them to wanting to get more involved.
Bella, I know this is your first band, and that you’ve “spent too much time on the other end of the industry to know how corrupt and generally useless it is”; can you share with us a little bit about your experience with the industry?
BELLA: As far as cliches go, the one about big egos in the music industry isn’t an unfounded one. Local community stuff is great but once you move into a national stage things become more about how much money you can make off some group of young white cis males from Byron who are probably writing some catchy form of indie pop that’ll take them to the top of a meaningless annual countdown, help them sell out a few shows and the next year never be heard of again. Not to mention the high levels of patriarchal sexism, misogyny and multitude of other -isms that are prevalent the whole way throughout.
SHOVE’s been around since 2019, but members of SHOVE are from bands Shit Sex, Eat-Man and Burger Chef, collectively you’ve been involved in music for a while now; what’s something that you’ve learned doing what you do that you wish someone would have told you earlier on that would have made things a little easier for you?
HAM: Most of the learnings I would tell my younger self are still things that I’m still not good at today, and still trying to improve. Things like ‘Get better at relaxing and talking to people you don’t know so well’. Or ‘Record and release things sooner and then move on, don’t just sit on material or ideas for years then get depressed that no-one has seen/heard your stuff’.
What brought SHOVE together?
BELLA: Well, the boys were already jamming and I was working in an ice cream shop when I realised that punk rock was my true calling
You’re first show was Best Fest 3 back in 2019; what are your recollections from the show?
HAM: I was at this show as a punter. I remember seeing Shove playing and thinking “How the fuck is this Bella’s first gig!? She’s so good!”
You’re releasing your debut self-titled EP 7 inch, which you recorded with Alicia Saye. What was the recording process like for you? (I know your earlier single releases were recorded separately in your own homes). What did you love most about the process?
JAMES: I’ve had the good fortune of having Alicia as our sound engineer at a bunch of shows in a few bands over the years. You always know you’re in good hands when she’s behind the desk. So, we were stoked when Alicia said she’d record us, we knew the technical side of things was covered. What I loved the most about the process was probably getting to hang out with that legend for a couple days, she tells ripper stories. Definitely spent more time eating chips and talking shit than we did making music, which keeps everything feeling chill when you do go to record.
HAM: Yeah, Alicia is a complete gun. We recorded It over a weekend. It was really nice having someone pulling the levers who knows what ball-park you’re aiming for and who can also set you back on track when you’re off your game and losing your shit a bit.
What’s your approach to songwriting?
JAMES: We’ve gotta keep it simple. One of us usually has a sound that’s been stuck in their head for a week, the other instruments join in, and Bella tells us if it’s a number-one hit. Bella will do her self-proclaimed muppet singing along with it, but then she takes the phone recording home and does the lyric writing in bed with an ice cream.
HAM: What James said. It has always been pretty collaborative. Generally, someone will have a riff and we build from there. Everything is up for discussion and no idea too stupid to try, but also nothing is too precious for the bin if it doesn’t work. Thankfully we all tend to be on the same or at least very similar pages when songwriting so it’s fun.
The song ‘Power’ from your EP also features on the Blow Blood Record compilation A Long Time Alone 3 (you had a track ‘Non-essential Citizen’ on the ALTA 1 comp too); what sparked it’s writing?
HAM: Someone brought in a riff which sounded really good when paired with a d-beat underneath it. When Bella added some vocals, we got really excited because it brought it all together and added the necessary punch.
We really love the song ‘Control’; how did it come together?
JAMES: I started this one off. I again forgot that I was playing a bass guitar and just starting frantically trem picking. It doesn’t help that I learned guitar from playing Guitar Hero… But the others were supportive as always, and ran with it. I think a defining feature a good band, of bands that’ve worked well for me, is that when you’re in a room and you play something that sounds a bit rough, a bit stupid, everyone just stands back and goes “hmm, maybe that could work” instead of dismissing it.
What made you decide to close the EP with song ‘Maggot’? How much thought goes into your track sequencing?
HAM: A reasonable amount of thought goes into the track sequencing but the final decision mainly comes down to gut feeling. Adrian suggested several different track sequences based off a few different paths the EP would take the listener on. The ultimate decision always seems to come down to if it does ‘the thing’ for your reptile brain.
What do you get up to when not making music?
HAM: Mainly trying to make weird little animations, and I’ve recently been trying to learn how to make my own fucked up ‘walking simulator’ video game.
What’s making you happy right now?
JAMES: Without a doubt, it’s that we have the amazing support of our new label Rack Off! We seriously feel like the luckiest band in the world. At this level, I don’t expect to get more than a logo and few records on shelves, but Grace and Iso have done so much for us. It’d be a bloody shambles if we attempted to do a tenth of what they have done for the band. And well, we were already stoked to be playing shows and hanging out with our fave bands Blonde Revolver and Future Suck, so being label mates is a dream. Can’t wait to get out soon and play more shows together, and get this EP into some more ear holes.
HAM: Not too much at the moment haha. Lately I’ve been really enjoying having hot baths while listening to some dub or reggae and smoking a big joint. It’s the simple things. But also, what James said! RACK OFF RULE!
SHOVE’s self-titled EP 7” is out tomorrow (Oct 15) on Rack Off Records, a label that focuses on female-identifying and gender diverse releases.
Dr Sure’s Unusual Practice are Gimmie favs (they were one of the first bands we chatted with when we started Gimmie). We’re thrilled to announce the new wave art-punks’ forthcoming full-length album Remember The Future?, which will be out on Marthouse and Erste Theke Tonträger, as well as premiering the entertaining video for song ‘Infinite Growth’. We love their blend of clever social commentary and politics with catchy well-written compositions and fun visuals. Gimmie spoke with guitarist-vocalist Dougal Shaw to find out more.
How have you been feeling? I know a lot has happened this past week in Naarm/so-called Melbourne with lockdowns still in place, protests and an earthquake!
DOUGAL SHAW: I’m actually surprisingly pretty good at the moment. The pendulum has swung back around to the positive end [laughs]. It’s been swinging back and forth pretty consistently. Today I’m feeling good. Yesterday I had one of those days where I was just, what’s the point? Why? [laughs]. Trying to find some motivation to keep pushing forward. In general, in the last month, I’ve been feeling pretty positive.
Good to hear. On the “why?” days like yesterday, do you just allow yourself that space and know that what you’re feeling will pass?
DS: Yeah. The last couple of years if it’s taught me anything, it’s taught me to listen to your body and mind if you’re having those down times. Maybe in the past I would have tried to push through those times and keep working on projects. I’ve realised now that, if I do try to work through those times it’s pretty shit work; you go back to it and it’s got this weight to it, you’re putting all this stuff onto it. I’ve learnt to give myself days off, which I’ve never really been good at giving myself days off—what’s the next project?
Same! Jhonny and I are like that too. This next print issue of Gimmie has taken longer to get together because we both deal with (as many people do) bouts of depression, anxiety, stress, heath problems and things of that nature. Even though it’s something you absolutely love doing and it’s fun, some days you still find it hard.
DS: Exactly. I feel like it can work both ways. In the past I have used my creative practice as a way of processing a lot of what’s going on in my world and the world around me. Potentially in those down times would be when I was more inclined to get in the studio and write music. Now maybe being removed from all of the good times, and being able to have that separation where you’re out in the world doing things and having a good time, obviously you’re not going to be doing creative things and writing in those moments, so when you have that quiet moment to yourself and you’re feeling introspective, those might be the times that I’ll go and create. Now being removed from the outside world and being stuck in my own little world, it’s made me a bit more conscious of those kinds of things. A bit more conscious of your emotional state and more intuitive when it comes to what I need for myself in each moment. Sometimes it will be that I’m not doing anything today, I’m just going for a really long walk and I’m going to try and clear these cobwebs out. The one positive, I guess, is that I have a lot more tools now to manage those things, in the past I may have found those bouts of anxiety and depression to be really overwhelming and not know how to deal with them; going out and partying used to mask those things. Without those vices to lean on, you’re faced with yourself and your like, ‘Fuck this is a lot!’ Being human is a lot to fucking handle [laughs].
There’s been a period where you haven’t been writing too many songs, especially not as many political songs, but writing more fun songs when you do write.
DS: Yeah. For a long time, I thought of my music as a vessel for change, to use my voice and privilege to start conversations. At the same time, I’ve always just written silly songs as well. I pretty much didn’t write anything for a year. I was working on other projects. I didn’t feel like I had anything to say.
I feel like you did say a lot before that, you had this run where you put out a lot, and everything was such a high quality.
DS: Thank you. Maybe that was part of it, feeling a bit empty. Being isolated from the community and from actually being able to engage with the world, I found it really hard to think about what I had to say, or I found what I had to say wasn’t worth documenting. Deciding to put this album out this year… it was floating around for a while, we finished it a couple of months ago and we didn’t feel like there was any rush, because we aren’t able to play shows for it.
By this album do you mean, Remember the Future Vol. 1 & 2 together?
DS: Yeah, that’s this one. It was a really drawn-out thing because of Covid that really felt like it was hanging over my head for ages. That was this big black cloud in my head as well. We recorded half of it at the start of last year and we were booked in to do another session in April, two weeks after we first went into lockdown. The whole idea with the record was that it was going to be the first full band recording, so I was kind of stuck on that for ages. Rather than moving on, finishing and getting it out, it was like, no, we gotta do this with the band. We finally finished it in May this year. It’s finally come together! It feels like a really weird one, because of the Covid stuff we decided to put out the first half last year. Our European label Erste Theke Tonträger, hit me up to do a record, he really liked Remember the Future Vol. 1, he wanted to do a full-length with that and then another of our EPs on the other side. I was like, well, this is half of a full record. That was the push to finish this record.
You recently had a song ‘Live Laugh Love’ on the Blow Blood Records compilation, A Long Time Alone.
DS: That was the first song I’ve written after this huge gap of not writing. The compilation was the kick I needed. I’d seen that Christina had been advertising for contributions for ages, and I thought, ‘I have to do a song for this.’ The deadline had come and I hadn’t done it, which was a Friday, so the next day, Saturday, I plugged everything in for the first time in ages and made this really dumb song.
Did it feel weird plugging everything in again after so long?
DS: Kind of. The song is funny in itself, I’m glad it has a home on the ALTA compilation, because otherwise it would have been another one on a dusty hard drive. It feels like a song after not having written a song in ages, it’s a silly song.
It has a fun title!
DS: [Laughs] I know! The concept came before the song. It’s about forgetting about how to live, laugh, love. I saw one of those inspirational infographic things that someone had posted. I’m glad it’s getting a home. I wrote that song, then in the week following it, I wrote one or two songs in a day, ten songs in a week. A week later I sent Christina a different song, and was like, ‘I actually made some decent songs now. Do you want to put one of these on?’ She was like, “It’s too late, I’ve already sent it off.”
A couple of days ago you released the song ‘Ghost Ship’ too.
DS: Yeah, that was another compilation [on Critter Records]. I wrote that one at the very start of the lockdown. It was inspired by… they were coming out with all these bail out packages, but they were going to big corporations and multi-million dollar companies [laughs]. It was a funny concept.
It’s crazy how all of these big companies received bail outs and then ended up making a profit and doing better than ever!
DS: Exactly! They didn’t actually lose any revenue; they gained all this government funding that was designed to help struggling people. That’s capitalism!
We’re premiering Dr Sure’s new clip for the song ‘Infinite Growth’. It’s a fun clip. What sparked the idea?
DS: A lot of the time when I’m doing visual stuff, I want it to be fun and playful, because a lot of the time I find the lyrical content to be pretty heavy. I liked to offset it with something a little more accessible. Potentially if you were to follow the narrative of the song then the clip would be pretty heavy—talking about mining, the destruction of the ecosystems. By taking a representation of these things, of people in suits, business men, which is a reoccurring motif in a lot of our visual stuff, and thinking about the result of their actions. For this one, they’re still pedalling their narrative of infinite growth, while the climate has heated up so much that their faces as literally dripping from their body.
Love the special effects!
DS: Yeah, really top of the line. We got the hair and makeup team… professional prosthetics! Nah. I looked up how to make prosthetics and the easiest solution that I came across was to just mix Vaseline and flour, then use coco to create different tones of it. It was pretty gross stuff to put all over your face, but it was worth it.
You wrote the song around the time that our government were talking about destroying sacred Indigenous sites.
DS: Yes, exactly. It was Djab wurrung Country. They decided to build a new highway that was going to take off two-minutes of drive time for people commuting into the city. To do so, they had to destroy these hundred-year-old sacred birthing trees. That was the spark, but at the same time, it felt like a real time of solidarity for people coming together to stand against those things. That’s where the duality in that song is trying to reframe this capitalist terminology talking about infinite growth and kind of reclaim it for the people and the ecology.
Nice. What else have you been up to?
DS: I’ve been collaborating with my partner Liv on some things, which is really nice. She’s an artist and really good photographer. We’ve worked on stuff before, a lot of the time our practices have been off in different directions. Having a lot of time together and being isolated from anyone else, we’ve been working on stuff. I spent this week making a zine to go out with the record. It’s a collaboration with Liv, she took all the photographs. It’s a zine of lyrics, photos, my art and poetry, all mashed up. She took a series of photos based around the concepts of the record and I mashed them up with my brain spew! [laughs]. We’ve been thinking about creative ways to put out this record.
Liv and I have been making some songs too. She’s been learning the guitar for the last couple of years. We’ve been putting down some of her ideas. With Liv’s limited knowledge of playing, it’s been good for me to teach her that a song can be really simple; it’s made me reassess my approach to songs. When you make a song that’s only two chords, you can leave all of this space for layering and making it interesting in other ways. It doesn’t have to have all of these chord changes for it to be engaging.
When Jhonny and I make music, I like to go for how does this feel, and keep trying things until eventually something fits and feels good to me and us. That’s when you come up with something that is unique to you, because you come with all of your experience or lack of, and that all comes out in those moments.
DS: Exactly. I feel like I’ve always approached music in a really similar way. I’ve purposely avoided learning too much. Sometimes I question if that has been the right approach? Most of the time, I stick by that approach, it’s more about feeling and how you react to it. To me, it’s always been about how you react to whatever it is you’re recording. Picking up the next instrument is a reaction to the last instrument. It’s about what feels interesting.
Forming just over a year ago, nipaluna/Hobart-based band RABBIT are releasing their debut 7 inch on Rough Skies Records (home of bands we love: Slag Queens, All The Weather, 208L Containers and The Native Cats) today. The quartet give us three high energy, power-pop gems. Overdriven guitars, catchy riffs, solid driving rhythms, and melodic vocals singing songs of love and heartbreak. Songwriter and guitarist, Bobby K, tells us about the band’s formation, recording the EP, and their inspirations.
RABBIT is inspired by forgotten power-pop groups and new wave punks; who are some of these inspirations and what is it that you appreciate about them?
BOBBY K: There’s a demo by Peter Case’s band The Nerves that I come back to a lot. I stumbled on a lot of these old power-pop songs because they were made popular by other artists. The first Cyndi Lauper record has a couple; Robert Hazard wrote Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, The Brains wrote Money Changes Everything. The Nerves wrote Hanging on the Telephone which I only knew as a Blondie song until I started sniffing around its roots like a truffle pig. There’s so many truffles underfoot hey, The Flamin’ Groovies, The Records, Vibrators, The Soft Boys, The Only Ones, Television Personalities, Buzzcocks, The Motels… plus all the Oz punk stuff like Celibate Rifles and Birdman and Saints. What ties the truffles together for me is sharp, simple songwriting – I’m always a lovesick fool for a pop song but rough it up a bit with overdriven guitars and demo-quality recording and you get me all buttery. Recently I got hooked on the Buffalo Springfield song Burned – prime example of perfect guitar pop, and coincidentally almost the same title as a RABBIT tune from the 7”.
You wrote and recorded the demos for the three songs on the Gone 7” yourself on a Tascam 4-track tape before forming the band. Who or what first got you into music?
BK: My Aunt Lou played me a tape of a Welsh choir when I was about 6 and I guess it got in there pretty deep, pretty powerful music. Neil Young taught me guitar, Bill Ward taught me drumming. I studied classical music at uni too, but it wasn’t much chop and crushed me into a tonal box from which I’m still trying to escape. Nahhh, I like tonality, it’s comforting. Anyway I’ve been in heaps of gross punk bands since I was 13, and one that was pretty good, and now I’m in RABBIT.
On your Instagram there was a vid of you playing guitar with the caption: upstrokes are for arseholes. Where does your love of the downstroke come from?
BK: It’s a worthy commitment! I got it from Dave Gibson (Funeral Moon/Spacebong/Ratcatcher). Dunno where he got it from but probably The Misfits or The Ramones or The Slayer [sic]. Have a look and a listen next time you watch a guitar band, upstrokes are so floppy and limp. There’s nothing worse than listening to limp floppy upstrokes, nothing, except like if you’re running back to your car because you’re two minutes overparked but as you get back the inspector is taking a photo and the ticket is there on your windscreen and you were too late, and you try to protest but the inspector just simpers at you, and then later you’re at the pub and there’s a band playing and IT’S HIM, THE INSPECTOR, and he’s playing third wave ska! That’s worse! But it’s the same thing! Also, the tone and attack of downstrokes rips.
How did the band come to be? How did you meet each band member: Maggie Edwards (vocals), Sean Wyers (drums) and Claire Johnston (bass)?
BK: I was living in a sharehouse with Magz around the time I was recording the demo. My singing voice sounds like Leo Kottke’s farts on a muggy day, so I asked Magz to sing on it. Even her retching is sonorous. I think I met Clairey at the Brisbane Hotel one night and she put her name in my phone as ‘CLAIREY MEGABABE’. She’d heard the demo and was super keen, so we tried to get a band together with her on drums. I went overseas for work and it fizzed, and then she kicked it back into life last year, she put the word out and pulled it together with Sean on the kit. I’d met him a year before when I showed up at a rehearsal space for a weekly blast beat practice and his metal band had muscled in on my slot. They went to the pub for an hour while I sweated it out over his snare, and eventually I moved into his spare room. That’s how Hobart works. Clairey is still MEGABABE.
Each of the songs on Gone speak to various aspects of love and/or relationships. Can you tell us about the writing of ‘Gone Gone Gone’? What sparked it?
BK: The songs on the demo came out of a singularly painful and traumatic breakup, sort of diversionary processing tactic or something, dunno what was going on upstairs but I chucked it all into writing loud pop songs. Somebody in France was very kind to me when I was low, dusted me off as I was passing through so I stayed with them for a few weeks and eventually got a flight to Dublin and drank a million pints with my Da and then BANG, wrote a song about it. It’s in G major and it’s got a bunch of suspended 4ths which try to convey the feeling of vomiting in the rain in the front yard of a BnB while your Da takes photos of you from the rental car. Berlioz for the 21st century or whatever. Actually, the lyric in the chorus came out of a dream I had many years ago and I never knew what it meant but now I sort of do.
You made a film clip for ‘Gone Gone Gone’ directed by Joseph Shrimpton; what do you remember most from filming it?
BK: Shouting SHRIMPTON a bunch. I’d just met Jo that day and was pretty excited. They’re really nice! It was an easy film shoot – mostly I just lay on a mattress and read a book about chess while Clairey had a bath. Magz and Sean had an argument about a lamp. SHRIMPTON!
The songs were recorded with Zac Blain (A. Swayze and the Ghosts) in a sharehouse on Muwinina Country. How did the collaboration come about?
BK: We just asked the guy because he’s a ripper. We more or less all knew one another, so it was an easy thing to organise. Sean and I were living in the old sharehouse on Warwick Street (where the video was filmed), the neighbour screeched at us like a bat, Zac was an absolute pleasure and he gets where RABBIT comes from. He’s got cool spectacles.
Can you share with us some details of the recording of ‘Burnt’?
BK: More room mic and less close mic in the drum mix, Bonham style for Seans. Two almost identical guitar tracks panned L/R – one through a Fender Bassman and one through an Orange Rockerverb II, same set up for every song on the 7”. Clairey’s bass guitar signal attended the Zac Blain School of Wonderful Works and graduated with a Certificate III, and Maggie just sings everything perfectly, every time. That’s what she does.
How did the song ‘Love Bites’ change from the original demo version to the final recording version we hear? We especially love the dual vocals!
BK: Well, Love Bites wasn’t on the demo that went up on bandcamp, it was a later song that I demo’d after we’d started rehearsing. I recorded it really rough for the band to hear and Maggie filled in a missing verse. It still changed quite a bit from my demo to the band recording… the dual vocals are more contrapuntal on the 7”, I think on the demo it was more of a straight harmony. Clairey reworked the bass part and made it more harmonically colourful. Sean and I are very different drummers, so the drums were bound to feel different. I’m an absolute slop-fest octopus while Sean is much more precise with his fills. The brief I gave to Sean for Love Bites was “play it like Mitch Mitchell, y’know, like just put shit everywhere”, but Sean hits ’em harder and more solid than Mitchell, so there ya have it!
Rabbit are nipaluna/Hobart-based; what’s the best and worst bits about living where you are?
BK: Worst bit is how the gaming industry dominates pubs all around the state and there’s relatively few venues to support live music and there’s not much we can do about it.
The best bit is how everyone drives 10ks under the limit and the sky always looks like an ice-cream cake.
What’s one of the most memorable local shows you’ve attended or played and what made it so?
BK: We recently played at Junction Arts Festival in Launceston and after our gig we went and watched a friend’s band Broken Girl’s Club, and I was standing on the grass in the dark with Sean and he taps me on the shoulder and shouts over the music ‘OI, BOBBY LOOK AT THIS’ and I look down and he’s holding a handful of wriggling worms.
Ohhhh, also there was one at Altar where the sewage backed up and flooded out onto the dance floor and The Bonus didn’t get to play because it was a public health emergency.
What do you love about making music?
BK: It’s the only thing in the world that I ever want to do, and I GET TO DO IT.
What else should we know about you? BK: I used to go for the dim sim but now I go straight for the corn jack.
Original photo by Mateus Mondini. Mixed media art by B.
Futuro are a punk band from Brazil, who got the inspiration for their name from the thought that “conservatives are obsessed with the past, while revolutionaries and progressives are obsessed with the future.” At the end of last year, they released their dynamic and frenetic album Os Segredos Do Espaço e Tempo (The Secrets of Space and Time). Gimmie dropped a line to vocalist Camila Leão and guitarist-vocalist Pedro Carvalho to find out more about them, their music and life in São Paulo. Futuro are also big fans of our country’s music, expressing, “Australia has some of the best bands in the world right now.” Agreed!
Futuro are from São Paulo, Brazil; what’s it like where you live?
MILA: It’s a gigantic, grey, neurotic megalopolis. The metro area has about 20 million people. It can drive you crazy. But it’s also an interesting hub where lots of things happen. I think the city is a very big component of what the band is about. Our music and lyrics translate a feeling of anxiety that has everything to do with São Paulo. The band is actually all spread out now. Pedro and Flávio live in São Paulo, Xopô lives in Belo Horizonte and I live in Baltimore.
Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
PEDRO: I don’t know what to say about myself, but I’ll try. My whole life revolves around music, both at work and in my free time. I’m not very good at anything else, really. I’m lazy. But also, very determined and rarely give up on things. I’m not very good at anything else, really. I read a lot and think a lot about politics, philosophy, psychology and things like that. Not that I do much about it, but I feel like I need to understand the world and people around me.
MILA: I like to put my mind in creative projects that allow myself to experiment. I’m a graphic designer and illustrator and I really like to make things with my own hands. I like to learn about different cultures and its philosophies, and I love to be around nature and animals. I’m fascinated with natural sounds, textures and colors.
How did you first find music?
PEDRO: My mom was a massive music fan and had a record collection which was always around. She taught me how to play records when I was about four or five years old. I used to wake up at 4 or 5 in the morning and spend hours by myself listening to records and looking at them. We’re basically sponges at this age, so I think music just became part of my DNA.
It’s funny that I still like most of the same records from my mom’s collection I liked as a child, stuff by the Beatles, The Stones, (Brazilian band) Os Mutantes and things like that. My mother had all sorts of records, but for some reason it was 60’s rock that spoke to me.
MILA: I remember traveling to visit my grandparents in the country and my dad had tons of Brazilian rock tapes in his car. When I was six I knew how to sing most of the songs from bands and artists like Legião Urbana, Raul Seixas and Titãs. I think that’s how I started to enjoy rock music, it was fun and energetic.
When I was older, I think MTV helped me to discover other bands and refined my rock and metal music taste a little bit more. But it was only when I was eleven or twelve that I started to buy my own hardcore punk CD’s. I used to go to a store on my way home after school – this is a specific kind of store that is very common in Brazil, they sell used books and used CD’s/ LP’s – to check out whatever had edgy artwork and were in the punk section haha.
Photo by Mateu Mondini
Who or what inspired you to start making music yourself?
PEDRO: I saw Kiss on TV when I was about four or five. They came to Brazil and it was all over the news. I decided there and then that I was going to play music. The image of them and the sound of distorted guitars coming out of instruments that looked like weapons was so powerful… I informed my two best friends that we were going to have a band when we grew up.
As I said I rarely give up on things, so when we were about eleven, I bugged them until they got instruments and we did start a band. By then I had read about early punk and the whole “this is a chord, this is another chord, now go out and start a band” thing and felt encouraged to play even though I still didn’t know how. So, we began doing covers of simple 50’s songs by Buddy Holly, Bo Diddley (some of his songs had one chord) and people like that and eventually began writing our own songs and playing slightly more complicated stuff. That was my first band. But my friends got too much into being musicians while I got more into punk rock, so we drifted apart. They went on playing “good” music while I started playing in punk bands.
MILA: I was a very shy kid and I never really saw myself in bands. I grew up seeing women in bands/groups on TV and even though I wasn’t very passionate about the kind of music that some of them were playing, I always thought they looked cool and powerful and that always caused me some fascination.
When I started to go to hardcore punk shows and I realized that people like me were making music and creating meaningful things, I felt like I wanted to contribute too. My main inspiration to make music was to see the local punk youth putting their hearts into their music, to build some sort of community. It wasn’t just about music, they were raising their voices and sharing their views. When you’re a teenager there’s so much to say and I felt like singing in a band would be the perfect place for me to share my thoughts.
After singing in bands for a while, I felt the desire to evade more creativity. I wanted to be able to play instruments and to start my own music.
What album or band has had a big impact on you?
PEDRO: Early on the Beatles and The Ramones were the bands that really influenced me in all sorts of ways. In a way I feel they’re the two bands that impacted me the most and formed the basis for everything I ever did musically.
The Beatles showed me that you can be adventurous and change from project to project while retaining an identity of your own and that there’s no limits to what can be done. The Ramones showed that anyone can do it as long as they have the focus and the concept in their minds. And also, that music can and should be really exciting all the time. Both bands had really good songs and I always thought the song was the main vehicle for ideas and should be memorable and well thought out. Also, great guitar tones. This is non-negotiable for me.
Later on, there were many other bands and albums that did the same in different ways, but these two were the ones that started it all for me, probably.
MILA: It’s hard to pick only one band or album because I am always changing my main references from time to time, but I think Depeche Mode was the most solid one throughout my life. Musically, it embraces excitement and sadness at the same time. The lyrics take you to a different reality and the voice melodies have a life of its own. I like how some electronic elements can sound odd alone but, in the song, it adds personality. Of course, another solid reference is The Ramones. I appreciate their technical simplicity, creativity, and energy.
What inspired Futuro to start? You’ve been around since 2010, right?
PEDRO: Me and the bass player, Bá, were in a band called B.U.S.H. that had existed since 2003. We never really like the name of the band and by 2009 or so the whole concept of the band had changed a little. We were writing songs that were more serious and had a different general vibe, even though the style wasn’t radically different. So, we decided to change the name of the band to Futuro.
So basically, Futuro was B.U.S.H. under a different name. We recorded the first album MMX and right after it came out the original singer left and Mila joined. When she joined, she began participating in the writing process and bringing her own vision to it, so we started to get rid of the older songs and became an entirely new band. Basically Futuro didn’t start out of nowhere as much as it slowly morphed into what it is now.
What draws you to playing punk music?
PEDRO: Well, I think punk is the best modus-operandi for producing music and art in general. Like, a radical vision of amateurism, being a dilettante on purpose and with a purpose while using this method to criticise the very idea of “professionalism”.
Also, it’s the coolest, most exciting music there is. Of course, punk is incredibly diverse. It’s a huge umbrella for a lot of different forms of music. But from garage punk and post-punk to the most extreme forms of hardcore, I think it is and will always be the coolest music universe to be in. Also, it’s permeable to other musical forms as long as you rid them of the boring aspects. I mean, I could do acoustic folk music or free jazz and it would be done in a punk way, it’s just part of who I am.
MILA: Yeah, I share the same vision as Pedro. I think inside punk you have the autonomy to manifest your creativity and be free to do whatever you want. You don’t have to stick with a formula, you can incorporate different styles and ideas to it and still make it sound punk and original.
Punk music is plural, and it also embraces other aspects such as visual arts, politics, ethics and so on. It’s a whole universe, involving cultural angles and communities and I enjoy all of it.
Photo by Alejandro Reyes-Morales.
This year has been a challenging time for bands. How have you been dealing with it?
PEDRO: Well, a big part of it for us was finishing our record. We took our time. We began recording in 2018, finished it in 2019 and mixed it in 2020. The mixing process and the great reception it had when we put it out basically inject the band with what we needed to keep going despite not being able to play live or even see each other in person (right now we have one member in a different state and another in a different continent). I really miss practicing and traveling to gigs with them, but I think this whole thing only made us appreciate more what we had before. I can’t wait to start playing around again.
You recently released album Os Segredos Do Espaço e Tempo (which translates to The Secrets of Space and Time); where did the title come from?
PEDRO: It’s a line in the song The Third Eye, which we covered. It says: No wings for my flight/ I drift through the night/ Understanding the secrets of space and time. Our bass player Bá used it on the artwork just as a test to see what it looked like and at first there was some resistance. I thought it could be misinterpreted as something pretentious, but then I changed my mind because who gives a shit, right? It’s cool and kind of funny/trippy at the same time. And it goes well with the music and artwork.
MILA: Once Bá put it in the artwork and showed us I loved it right away. I think this one piece of lyrics from The Dovers can be interpreted with a vast range of perspectives. Whoever is reading/listening can relate to it in a different way and even though the rest of the The Dovers lyrics doesn’t speak for the rest of the album, I still can relate this part to my style of writing. And there’s also the fact that we were in the middle of the pandemic, which felt like an event disconnected from our reality and time, so it made perfect sense.
What influences your music the most?
PEDRO: Everything from 60’s garage and psych to early 80’s hardcore, 70’s punk and post-punk. I think we have a very wide range of influences but at the same time it all fits together somehow.
Apart from the more obvious punk references – bands like The Damned, The Saints, X, The Avengers and so on – I steal a lot from Brazilian 60’s rock and tropicalia music – especially the outrageous fuzz guitar tones, as well as other 60’s stuff in the way I play guitar. I like how they used open chords, droning strings and things like that. All mixed with heavy downpicking power chords as well.
I think it’s cool how 60’s psych and early Brazilian hardcore both have these fuzzy guitars that sound like a cloud of wasps attacking you – probably by accident, because they didn’t know how to record it right and/or had limited gear options – so we try to build a bridge between these two universes.
It was interesting that this record has been called hardcore, punk rock, post-punk, psych-punk, noise rock and so on. I think it means we absorb all these influences and turn them into our own thing, which is important. We always felt strong about not following any specific trends or subgenres. I always loved how the early punk and hardcore bands were all influenced by other styles and therefore sounded different from each other while having a similar energy. And this energy is what turns it all into “punk” or “hardcore” as far as I’m concerned.
MILA: As far as vocals, I like to mix the melodies of post-punk with the intensity of hardcore. Something like Siouxsie and the Banshees meets Bad Brains LOL.
Late 70’s and 80’s bands like 45 Grave, The Bags, Sadonation, Destroy all Monsters, and Legal Weapon are a huge influence to me. I love how these women sound so powerful, it’s like they turned a little distortion switch on their voices!
Where did you write and record your album? Can you tell us about your song-writing process?
PEDRO: We basically wrote the whole thing in the practice room. Most of the songs begin as jams when we’re setting up the amps before we start practicing our set. There are songs that came out about 90% ready on the spot. Xopô starts playing a beat, I create a riff, Bá improvises a bass line and Mila starts humming a vocal line and bingo, we have a song. Then we just polish it, Mila (usually) works on the lyrics, we decide how many times we play each part, add an intro, a solo or whatever and there it is.
Other songs are based on ideas we create at home or concepts we have in our minds. But we rarely write entire songs on our own, they usually appear almost from scratch during our practices.
In this particular record, some of the songs were finished remotely, because Mila had already moved to the United States, so we’d record the instrumental parts and send it to her. She would work on the vocals and we finished the whole thing when she came back to record them.
Photo by Alejandro Reyes-Morales.
On the album you do a cover of The Dovers’ ‘The Third Eye’; why did you choose this song?
PEDRO: We always record a cover on our albums. I think it’s fun to take a song and make it ours, reinterpret it our way. And I always thought The Third Eye would be an amazing song to record. It’s so trippy, but also pretty hard, kind of punky, with that fast rave up solo part in the middle. I love what Hüsker Dü did to the Byrds’ Eight Miles High, what Agent Orange did to Somebody to Love by The Jefferson Airplane and so on. These 60’s songs are always cool to redo in a punk vein. We also like to explore the freaky, kind of mystical aspect it has and combine it with the down to earth, realistic element of punk.
What do you hope people take away from your music?
PEDRO: If they’re able to capture and feel one tenth of the emotion we try to express through it, I think we’ve succeeded. Also, I like it when people really pay attention and listen to the music for what it is, regardless of trends and labels that come and go. If it speaks to them, I’m happy.
MILA: Exactly what Pedro said. Same way in the lyrics aspect.
What do you like to do when not playing music?
PEDRO: I like to go out to eat and have real conversations with people. I think people are becoming less and less capable of having actual conversations as opposed to just talking, so I value real communication. Especially while eating together.
MILA: I like to work on art-related projects. Lately I’ve been drawing and painting a lot, but I also love to hike with my dog and to grow vegetables.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about and share with us?
PEDRO: Australia has some of the best bands in the world right now. I’d love to go play there when/if the pandemic is over. It’s an amazing country.
MILA: Thanks for the talk, Bianca! I am also an Australian punk fan and I hope to visit this gorgeous country someday!!
Debt Cult play high energy punk! Their live sets are always riotous and fun. Guitarist-vocalist Jorge Tichbon visited Gimmie HQ to have a chat about the band, their debut EP dropping this week, as well as his time living in Texas, skateboarding, Aussie larrikinism and art.
You’re originally from the Gold Coast?
JORGE TICHBON: Yeah. I was living on the Gold Coast until I was seventeen.
How did you first discover music? You have an older brother that was into it, right?
JT: Yeah, I have an older brother who was playing guitar when I was growing up. I wanted to do anything that he was into. I started off listening to old metal bands like Slayer and Metallica, thrash metal brought me into punk rock.
Same with me. I had a big brother that I thought was the coolest person ever, who was into music too and he got me into Dead Kennedys, Circle Jerks, Suicidal Tendencies, D.R.I., stuff like that. I wanted to be like my big brother as well. He got me into punk, hip-hop and skateboarding. Other than your brother; who what inspired you to want to make your own music?
JT: It was just lack of interest in learning other people’s songs once I learned to get around a guitar, I lost interest in playing covers. It was easier to write my own music. I’ve been playing since I was thirteen.
I heard that you tried starting a punk band when you were thirteen?
JT: No, not really. My first bands I started playing in, I was eighteen or nineteen, that was in South Texas in McAllen. I left the Gold Coast when I was seventeen to go live with my mum in Texas. I started playing music with people there. I was playing bass in a band and I realised then that I wanted to write my own music and start a punk band.
The Texas bands – Hevy Majic and Wax Pink – that you were in, were psychedelic surf-punk kind of bands?
JT: Hevy Majic was the first band I was in, in South Texas, with Eric Echo. I was hanging around Ramiro Verdooren of The Rotten Mangos, who is one of the most talented people I’ve ever met. We would go up from the South Texas town to Austin Texas, which is the music hub.
Yeah, home of SXSW (South by Southwest) music conference.
JT: Yeah. Those boys showed me around and I ended up staying there for a bit. I started a new band called, Credit Card. Debt Cult is kind of a run off of Credit Card, that style of music. I chose to leave Texas when Corona virus hit.
Ah, so that’s how you ended up back here.
JT: Yeah. South by… was cancelled for the first time in fifteen years. I was like, alright this is getting serious! I have an opportunity to go home. So, I did. I was looking for a reason to move home for a really long time though.
Why is that?
JT: Leaving at seventeen I never really got to grow into an adult in Australian culture. I left at the end of being a teenager. I romanticised larrikinism, being from Queensland; I had this idea of what it was to live in Australia as an adult and wanted to use that in my music, but I couldn’t because I didn’t have a grasp on it, because I was so young. Coming back and doing this band, we have songs about Loganlea and Southport—I wanted it to sound real bogan and straightforward.
What was it like growing up in the America?
JT: I got the culture shock when I came back because I realised how different it was. Growing up over there, I think I was a little bit disappointed that I had to wait another few years to drink at a bar. I spent my eighteenth birthday crying on the floor listening to the Velvet Underground thinking, why am I here? Now that I think about it, it’s a really good way to spend an eighteenth birthday! [laughs].
I remember on my 21st birthday I was in Las Vegas. It was the day before and I went to go to a punk show and I showed the bouncer my ID and he said, “Your birthday isn’t until tomorrow so you’re not 21 yet, I can’t let you in.” and I told him that I was born in Australia and it was my birthday there already so technically I’m already 21! He laughed, told me that was a good one and let me in. You spent a lot of time skateboarding in the US as well?
JT: Yeah. In the little town where my mum was working there was nothing going on, so people got really good at music, art and things like skateboarding. There was a really small skatepark and there was this insane amount of talent with the skaters; there was Majer Crew. They ended up taking me around the country for a couple of years, they were probably the reason I stayed in America. I jumped in the van and they took me up and down both coasts a couple of times, I had a blast with those boys. Unfortunately, that group ended though and I moved to Austin to start doing the music. It was a great time.
Previously, you’ve mentioned that skateboarding pretty much saves your life every day; in what way?
JT: It’s such a release. It’s so tied to music too. I can just chuck my headphones in and not talk to anyone for a couple of hours and get some exercise and get those endorphins going. It’s a creative outlet too, I get to do what I want to do. It’s so interwoven into my personality, who I identify with. Skating and music grounds me when I don’t feel great. I won’t feel good if I haven’t skated for a couple of days. It’s definitely pulled me out of the sludge, which I’m really grateful for.
You started recording yourself while still at school?
JT: When I started recording my own music, was when I first moved to Texas. I would be in my room and I couldn’t really go out anywhere and I was in a new country, I’d be trying to teach myself to record and write songs. Those couple of years there, was when I got a grasp of it. When I was in high school, I wasn’t really recording much, it was more about just learning to hold a guitar.
Who are the songwriters that you enjoy?
JT: A notable one would be Devendra Banhart. I don’t play music like him, but I enjoy listening to his stuff. It’s always been more what my friends were playing in their bands. Right now, I listen to a lot of Gee Tee and Research Reactor Corp. I listen to the local bands that play at Vinnie’s, just my friends’ bands.
You started Debt Cult at the end of last year?
JT: Yeah. I met Lindsay who plays bass, I was like, let’s start a band! I met Michelle at the skatepark, she roller skates; I saw her play the piano at Vinnie’s one night, again I was, let’s start a band! It took off from there. Ryan was our first drummer; he grew into an adult and is a bit too busy to be in a band [laughs], he comes and plays tambourine sometimes when he feels like it. Eli is our drummer now, he’s doing all the mixing and recording for us, which is cool cos we can save a bit of money on studio time. We like doing it ourselves so we can make it how we want to make it.
Your bass player Lindsay has to be the happiest bass player I have ever seen in my life, he is all smiles! In fact, your whole band smiles heaps and you look like you’re having the best time while you play and I think that’s infectious. It kinda lights up the whole place.
JT: That’s amazing! I catch Lindsay doing that out of the corner of my eye and I make mistakes because I start laughing. He’s just lovin’ it!
Debt Cult have a 5-song EP coming out. You recorded that at Vinnie’s?
JT: Yeah. I do a lot of closing shifts during the week. When there’s no shows, I have the keys to go in there, we do our practices there sometimes. All the drums are mic’d up already, we just go plug in.
Did you record in that space because you wanted the same feel as when you play there live?
JT: We’ve only ever played at Vinnie’s. I hope the recordings sound the same as our live show because it is recorded in the same room.
There are parts on the EP that have talking in the background and it feels like it has a live, party vibe.
JT: That’s on the song ‘Ca$ino’. We went down to the Cecil Hotel and had a slap until I got a feature and we recorded the feature on the machine [laughs].
What are you going to call the EP?
JT: We’re still trying to figure it out. Maybe Debt Cult EP 1. Everyone is so busy with full-time work and full-time study. Michelle’s about to be a Sparky [Electrician] and she also works. Lindsay is doing horticulture and working. I’m doing Community Services and working at Vinnie’s when I can. I don’t know what Eli is doing, he’s a bit illusive that fella. Eli is coming over to my place this afternoon and we’re going to make the covers for the EP, we both do collage stuff. The title might end up being one of the track names like ‘Southport’s Sharpest Weapons’.
That was one of your earliest songs?
JT: Yeah. We all live down the street from Vinnie’s. We wrote that song walking to Vinnie’s after a couple of beers.
Write what you know, right?
JT: Yeah. It was kind of taking the piss about gang mentality and street violence, it’s pretty abundant in Southport. We’re a bunch of soft, friendly people singing this song [laughs]. There’s a pretty gnarly homelessness and drug problem in Southport right now. I don’t know what the council is doing about it. I know there’s some free clinics around, but if you don’t want to get help you won’t.
I’ve definitely had friends that have decided to take that route in life and they seem happy with it, but it’s not sustainable, you’ll hit ten years from now and go “what have I done?” To each their own though. What I’m going to do with the community care thing I’m doing is I’m going to go into the drug and alcohol-side of things. I’ve had a lot of friends who have burnt out on it. I definitely had a party over in The States as well, that’s part of why I wanted to come home too, to get out of it. It’s too easy to do it over there, you can get everything so cheap. Over here you can’t go out and get $2 whiskeys.
Alcoholism is the symptom of the problem, it’s not the problem, the problem often has to do with having a low self-esteem. People in the situation of addiction often don’t know that there’s something else there that they need to fix. Especially around punk rock and rock n roll, it’s cool to do drugs and burn out, but it really isn’t because you never get anything done. It’s definitely a trauma response for some people, there can even be multiple traumas you repress and don’t even realise.
How did the song ‘Anna Seedy’s Graveyard Party’ come about?
JT: Lindsay’s alter-ego is Anna Seedy. There’s a story of him being at a party and disappearing and then having his own party in a graveyard. He told me about the story and I decided to write a song. It used to be a longer song but we cut it down, we made it almost like a nursery rhyme. It’s one of our favourites from the EP.
What about ‘IDK Where My Legs Went?’
JT: When we play it live, we play it straight after ‘Southport’s Sharpest…’ and it’s kind of like, you go out on the weekend and you lose your legs! [laughs].
Do you write most of the songs?
JT: Yes, for the EP I did. For the next one Michelle is stepping up. I wrote ‘[Do You Love Me?] Logan Lea’ for Michelle to sing. She’s got some new songs we’re trying to play. I’m trying to get everyone involved. Lindsay has a song we’re going to try to play too. I’m trying to get everyone excited about doing it, because I don’t want to be “the guy”! I don’t want to be the frontman. I want it to feel like everyone’s project, not like they’re just helping me.
Does everyone have different influences that they bring?
JT: Yeah, I just want it to all melt together. Lindsay likes a lot of post-punk. Michelle likes Amyl & the Sniffers and country music. Eli listens to a lot of alternative stuff. We all like the same music but have different styles of playing.
When you started doing Debt Cult did you have an idea of what you wanted it to sound like?
JT: A lot of my bands have been reverbed-drenched and surf-y. With this new project it’s reverbed-drenched and fast with keyboard leads. Sonically I left everyone’s role for them to decide how it sounds, I don’t tell anyone else what to play. Everyone writes their parts and that makes the sound.
What’s one of your favourite aspects of making music?
JT: Seeing the finished product and having something to be proud of. Having something to be involved in with my friends creatively. I love performing! Each show we play we try to do something different. The Dicklord show we played we decided to dress as cowboys and I cut my jeans into arse-less chaps! [laughs]. It was so much fun.
Debt Cult have played five shows, all at Vinnie’s. Can you remember the first show you played?
JT: It was with Headlice. Having Vinnie’s as the homestead is the cherry-on-top to moving back to Australia. It gives us the space to practice and record, it’s everything that I was trying to do over the last four years. I tried to do it in Texas but it was oversaturated there. On the Gold Coast there’s a few good bands but not 400 trying to do it. It feels amazing to be back in Australia doing this. I’m really stoked on the energy.
You also make collage art; when did you start doing that?
JT: I did a design course in Texas but I dropped out.
Why did you drop out?
JT: The gun laws over there are cooked, especially in Texas. There’s mass shootings going on, one happened the day before I had class. I was sitting in algebra and the alarm staring going off and I chucked all my stuff in my backpack and I was halfway out the window. It was the projector turning on or off and the whole class was looking at me like what-the-bloody-hell-is-going-on? I was like, you guys are so desensitised! There’s shootings happening every bloody couple of days, and you think I’m weird for jumping out of a window when an alarm goes off! So, I dropped out of college for fear of getting shot. You can open-carry AR-15’s in Texas. Most of my friends had guns over there. I was against guns when I first got there, but then their government is cooked so maybe people should have guns.
When I was last in Los Angeles, I was walking around with a friend and there were some dodgy people hanging around and my friend was like, “It’s all good. If anything happens, I have a gun in the glove box of my car!” I was like, whoa! What the fuck? I’m from Australia, that idea to me is foreign and weird. It freaked me out that that’s such a normal thing for people.
JT: When I first got there, I was so adamant about no guns! I was having a conversation with someone who was very pro-guns. I stopped having the conversation because you can’t win. I was like, people can be irresponsible with them. A couple of weeks later he got drunk and accidentally blew his friends leg off with a shotgun!
Whoa! That’s intense.
JT: He’s not pro-gun anymore. He thinks they’re bloody dangerous! When I would try to explain to people over there, I’d be like my grandfather is a sugarcane farmer, he has a gun in a safe and the ammunition is separate and he has it because there’s a big bloody carpet python at the creek and he doesn’t want it to come to the house, that’s a reason to have it. For 21-year-old kids to just have a gun in the glove box of their car, it’s pretty cooked.
So, you mentioned you dropped out of college; how did you get to making collage?
JT: I tried to quit smoking cigarettes and I just started cutting up magazines, to keep my mind busy pretty much. I saw a country compilation LP at a thrift store and I really liked the design on the front and thought it would make a good collage. I started piling books up, within minutes I had a bag of books and I knew I was going home to cut them up so I wouldn’t buy a pack of smokes. I still do collage now, but I started smoking again! [laughs]. I really like that medium of art, it’s almost like sampling music. It’s sustainable too.
Sydney-based creative Ishka Edmeades is constantly in flux whether it’s working on one of his many musical projects: Research Reactor Corporation, Set-Top Box, Satanic Togas, G.T.R.R.C, Gee Tee, Australia Idol and more; independent punk label Warttmann Inc; zine, TV Guide; making art or writing graffiti. No matter the medium, the message is always one of humour, fun and honesty. Gimmie was super stoked to chat with Ishka!
An abridged version of this conversation first appeared in Issue 4 of the free mail-order music mag Streetview (@streetview.mag), which we love! It’s worth your while to get on their mailing list.
Hi, Ishka! What have you been up to today?
ISHKA: Hey, Bianca. I’ve just been hanging out.
Is it your day off?
I: Every day is pretty much a day off at the moment. When Corona [virus] hit, I was working in cafes, and since then it’s been hard to find a job. I’m enjoying the time off though.
Yeah, I found myself in the same boat. Like I said in our correspondence, I’ve been working in libraries for so long and when COVID-19 hit, there was no work for months. How’s lockdown been for you?
I: I feel bad to say it but, it’s been pretty good for me in a lot of ways. I’ve been recording music and just being creative. It’s been good having time to ponder different things. I feel bad because in one sense, Corona is a totally shit thing to happen!
I know what you mean. Creatively for me it’s been great too! During this time my husband and I made Gimmie zine and worked on my book. To be honest, most creatives I know, say it’s been great for them. Of course, there’s the downsides of no shows, losing jobs etc. but at least from a creative perspective many who I’ve talked to, worked on projects, learnt new skills and took the opportunity to make the best of the downtime.
I: Yeah, that’s the thing. For sure, you have to make the best of things. For me, I’ve been recording every day or making art—it’s been great!
Anyone I’ve interviewed or spoken to that knows you, they always have the loveliest things to say about you. One of the most common things people tell me is that they’re really inspired by you, you have a pretty prolific output and are in so many bands. I know for you that’s just what you do.
I: [Laughs] Oh, I don’t know… thank you. That’s really cool to hear; I’ve never really heard people say that before. Thanks. I guess because we’re all just good mates and hangout all the time, stuff like that never gets brought up.
Kel [from Gee Tee] is definitely a big influence on how I go about recording stuff. He moved down to Sydney from the Gold Coast into a house with me last year in June. I had my drums set up in my room and we just had a fun time recording. We did the Chromo-Zone stuff, I play drums on it. It was good to watch him record. I’ve always liked Gee Tee and Draggs. Watching him do stuff heled me heaps. I first met Kel when Draggs came down to play here.
Are you originally from Sydney?
I: Yeah, I’ve lived here all my life.
What scenes or communities did you grow up in?
I: My dad’s Māori. He moved to Bondi from New Zealand in the 70s, there was a big Māori community around there. I grew up in that area in the 90s then I moved out to the Inner West when I was nineteen. There’s still a Māori community but it’s fleeting, a lot of them have left. All the older guys in that community were into dub and reggae, I got heaps of influences from them. I still really love Prince Buster and the Blue Beat [Records] stuff.
I figured you were into that, on your Instagram a while back, I saw that you had a live video you took of Lee Scratch Perry.
I: My friend Harry, who plays in [Satanic] Togas as well, my friend Dion (we’re all old high school friends) and I got to see him live, it was great! He was pretty out there. It was pretty funny. Half of his set was him rambling.
So, dub and reggae were the first kind of music that you got into?
I: Yeah, it was the first music that I was exposed to. Where I was born, my dad’s house was the jam house, he had every kind of instrument and people would come over and jam all the time. From when I was born, I was always around people jamming. I’m sure they were just playing the “skank” one note [laughs] and that got lodged in my brain.
Is that how you started playing guitar?
I: I started playing drums first, because of Metallica. My friend and I really got into Metallica, he played bass, so we started jamming Metallica songs when we were ten. I got my dad’s old drum kit. After school every day, I lived close to the school, we’d just go home and jam Metallica songs with drums and bass, it probably sounded pretty horrible to all the neighbours! [laughs].
How old are you?
I: I’m twenty-two right now.
How did you get into punk rock?
I: After Metallica, I got into Nirvana. The first real punk memory I have is watching Decline Of The Western Civilization [a 1981 documentary on the Los Angeles punk scene]. It’s the usual story, Kurt Cobain would mention a lot of bands and you’d go check out some of the bands; that movie came up. The Germs was the one thing in it that was like, “Oh yeah! That’s awesome.” Darby Crash in the movie was a train wreck, at the time I thought it was pretty cool [laughs]. He was maybe putting on a persona in a way, I guess.
You did graffiti back then too?
I: Yeah, I still do. I actually went to court for graffiti a few days ago. It was terrible, I had to wait there for a while. It was good though, I got no conviction, I got a good behaviour bond. Happy days! I celebrated after. I was just drunk and not looking and being an idiot. Graffiti is great though.
How did you get into graffiti?
I: A mate used to do the loops every day. Two of my mates started doing it secretly. I found out and was like, “Let’s go stupid!” They took me to do loops after school one day, and I got hooked; “loops” like train rounds. I got pretty into it for a while. I stopped for a bit and then got back into it, I’ve been in and out all the time. Recently, I got super into watching Style Wars [a 1983 documentary on hip-hop culture with an emphasis on graffiti] again and it sparked my interest in it again.
That one’s a classic! I grew up loving hip-hop and that whole culture. When I was in primary school my mum brought me the book Spraycan Art, which was released just after…
I: Subway Art?
Yeah! I thought graffiti was the coolest and tried to replicate it in my notebooks and learn about the writing styles I’d see in that book. I’ve always loved both the hip-hop and punk subcultures, and art; my husband Jhonny is the same too.
I: Yeah, they’re such cool subcultures. I was into punk rock at the time but all the writer’s I knew were into Aussie hip-hop, which wasn’t that bad but I was like, “Is there any punk writers?” I found out that there are a lot of good writers that are punk!
What were the early local shows you’d go to?
I: In Year 7, I’d go to metal-core shows. The first proper one was Parkway Drive; my mate and his brother were really into them. From there, I’d go to local shows at the Annandale Hotel.
I’ve heard some of the earlier music you’ve made and it’s quite different to the stuff you’re doing now; what was it that changed your music making direction?
I: I was into punk but I didn’t really know anyone that wanted to play that stuff. I started to get into garage rock and I started leaning more towards psychedelic rock more and wanted to do that. I used to jam with a friend called Jake, he went to some after school guitar school; I met Owen Penglis there of Straight Arrows, that’s where his studio was.
I ended up doing work experience at Owen’s studio, I went to a TAFE high school and you had to do work experience every Friday. It was pretty cool doing work experience there. Owen put me onto the Back From Grave and Killed By Death stuff!
What was it like working with Owen?
I: It was cool. I was a pretty quiet kid at the time. I was really interested in what we were doing at the time because I had already started to record stuff at home, real badly though [laughs]. I got to watch a few albums being made like the first Los Tones album [Psychotropic]. I was there the whole time plugging in stuff and setting mics up and all that stuff. It was cool, I used to have conversations with them but I felt so weird because I was so young and had no experiences yet, I was definitely an observer at some points just taking it all in. It was great!
You do a lot of different music projects – Research Reactor Corporation, Set-Top Box, Satanic Togas, G.T.R.R.C, Gee Tee, Australia Idol and more– they all have such strong identities; do you think that might be able to be tracked backed to early on seeing someone like Darby Crash, like we were talking about earlier, and how you thought his having a persona was a fun idea?
I: For sure. I feel like making a persona, making a character in a sense or characters, is fun. It’s cool to play something else, it’s kind of like acting in a sense. It can help song writing. I consider myself bad at lyrics, or at least it takes a while for me. Sometimes it’s random but mostly it takes a while. If I have a character to think about, I can write for it. For example, with the Set-Top Box stuff, I could always write about a movie or something like that.
I noticed in your zine TV Guide, you had movie reviews of 80s comedy/horror flicks.
I: Yeah, I love all of that stuff. Me and my housemates always watch those kinds of movies all the time. My housemate works at JB Hi-Fi so he always gets heaps of movies cheap.
Nice! What are some of your favourites?
I: I recently watched Wild Zero that Guitar Wolf movie, it was great, I hadn’t seen that for a while. I like TerrorVision, that’s one of my all-time favourite movies. I love humour in movies, I try to put humour into music.
That definitely shines through. I especially like the humour in Research Reactor Corporation’s songs.
I: Yeah. We like to paint a scene. Billy’s lyrics are actually pretty funny and great. You can’t understand them sometimes [laughs], but they’re really great. The movie [Class of] Nuke ‘Em High is pretty much the genesis concept for Research Reactor, there’s heaps of samples from it throughout the album.
We really love the new Satanic Togas record X-Ray Vision!
I: Awww, thank you.
I really love the song ‘Skinhead’!
I: [Laughs] That’s a pretty funny song. I wasn’t even going to put that on there but Billy [Research Reactor] made me! Well… convinced me.
It really does captures them well!
I: [Laughs] Yeah, not diss to anyone! It’s just a funny song. I was thinking about skinheads, like tough skinheads, and I thought it would be funny to write a song where there was a really small skinhead singing the song, a baby skinhead in a way. It was a stoned idea! [laughs].
When I heard the lyrics, I cracked up! “I’ve been listening to Blitz / I put my hand in a fist”. It’s so good!
I: [Laughs] Thanks! It makes me crack up too.
Hearing you say you wrote it from the perspective of a baby skinhead makes it even funnier! Total gold.
I: Kel loves that one too, it’s a lot of people’s favourite.
How many songs do you think you’ve written?
I: I don’t really know, maybe 100? There’s more to come! I’ve got lots more to record.
Awesome! Can’t wait to hear them. Do you have a process for writing your songs?
I: It’s pretty different all the time. I usually play guitar a lot and a riff will just come up. Sometimes the whole song comes out straight away. If I just have a riff, sometimes I might not finish it until ages after, or I’ll slowly build the idea. Sometimes it’s a synth line.
What interests you about writing songs?
I: I never liked learning other people’s songs, when I first started playing guitar, I wasn’t really into that. It’s just very satisfying at the end to have a song. Doing it always feels cool. It’s all fun.
I know that you have a lot of fun going down internet rabbit holes too; what’s an interesting one you’ve been down lately?
I: Oh yeah! I do. I’ve been watching heaps of monkeys on YouTube [laughs].
[Laughter]. You’re also a big music nerd and always looking for new music; is there any kinds of things in particular that piques your interest?
I: At the moment, stuff from the late 70s and early 80s, if stuff is around that time that’s been interesting me recently. I like releases that will have a weird saying on them or stuff like that.
Sometimes when I’m flicking through 45s at a record fair, I’ll come across titles of songs that sound really interesting or weird or cool that make me buy it.
I: For sure! There’s a few buzz words that I have in the back of my head and if I see them I think, “Oh, this has gotta be good!” [laughs].
I’m always drawn to things about space or dogs.
I: Space is a big one for me too.
So, what kind of set up do you record with?
I: A cassette 4-track, I just got a new one. I had two or three break on me recently, which sucked, all breaking around the same time. Most of the Togas record was recorded on my friend’s 4-track, he’s got a snazzy Tascam one with heaps of knobs! [laughs].
I love all the extra fun sounds you add into the mix and synth-y sounds.
I: A lot of that stuff can be a tape being slowed down or sped up, I love that stuff.
Before you mentioned that you record stuff after a smoke; is that how you record a lot?
I: Yeah, pretty much! [laughs].
Does it help your process?
I: It definitely does. It makes more ideas flow… maybe?
Maybe it’s because you’re more relaxed and more open to trying whatever?
I: Yeah, for sure. Recording at home helps too. I’ve done studios a few times and I don’t know… there’s a sense that you have to do it, right then and there! At home there’s no pressure.
Australian Idol released something not too long ago, right?
I: Yeah. We put out a tape. I can’t remember when we recorded it. We got together, we were seeing Dual Citizen at 96 Tears, which is a DIY venue that used to run for a bit. Everyone was there that night but I went home. I woke up in the morning to all these messages on my phone and a Facebook Group chat called ‘Australian Idol’. They had created a band and made me join without me being there, it was pretty funny. The tape came together pretty fast.
I noticed in your zine TV Guide that you like to ask people what their thoughts are on punk in the digital age; I’m interested to know what yours are?
I: It’s pretty cool. I grew up in the digital age. It can be good and bad in ways. It’s cool being able to access anything all the time wherever you are and discover things on your arse sitting at home [laughs]. On the other side, it can get overwhelming with too much stuff all the time. You have to learn when to step away from it. Not so much just punk too, being in the digital age in general. I think recording in my house is a great way to escape when I get really overwhelmed.
You often post videos of animals. There was one post that said something like “Animals are way better than most humans.”
I: [Laughs] Yeah. I do love myself a good animal! Right now, we have a pet rat, he’s been taking up most of my love at the moment! Animals seem to be a lot more caring than humans most of the time.
Totally. We have a little dog and all she wants to do is love and be loved, fuck around playing, eat and sleep. Humans could learn a lot from animals.
I: Yeah, totally! Having said that though, I have met some amazing humans—I have hope in the world!
On this day in 1981, Canadian punk band D.O.A. released their Hardcore ’81 album. Punk heavyweights Ian MacKaye, Henry Rollins, Jello Biafra and Kevin Seconds have all spoken of the impact and importance of this record. It’s been said that the title is the first time the term “hardcore” was used to describe this style of punk outside of a music publication. A couple of years ago their sophomore full-length won The Polaris Music Prize, awarded annually to one of the all-time best Canadian albums based on artistic merit. Hardcore ’81 still holds up today, as a record that is still wild (or as Joe puts it, “rips your face off”), full of conviction and energy. D.O.A. were also one of the first punk bands to tour (North America) independently, setting the blueprint for all the bands that have come after them. Yesterday, Gimmie spoke to vocalist-guitarist Joe Keithley.
On the 22nd of April D.O.A.’s album Hardcore ’81 celebrates its 40th Anniversary; what comes to mind when you think of that record?
JOE KEITHLEY: Lots of things. It’s a unique thing that we came up with, that title, and threw it on an album. It was a collective thing; we had heard the term “hardcore” a few times. There is some argument with who came up with the term but that doesn’t really matter, I think it’s a worldwide movement that came out of a few bands, including D.O.A.
We’re reissuing it on my label Sudden Death Records in August. It will be a special 40th Anniversary edition—it’s a fucking classic record! [laughs]. I don’t look at old D.O.A. records very often, but I put that one on when we were doing the remastering. We added three bonus tracks. I was like, wow! It just rips your face off, so that’s a good thing, right?
Totally! It is definitely a classic. An important punk record. Around the time you initially released the album you would have been around 25-years-old, I think? What was happening in your life or around you at that time that inspired the writing of the songs on Hardcore ’81?
JK: Yeah, that’s about right. Before that we’d spent a lot of time as a band touring. Since I was a teenager, I’ve always been an activist for different causes, we took that on as much as we could doing benefits shows and doing records for good causes all around the world. We’d been around North America [on tour] a bunch and we’d been going to Southern California probably five or six times a year; that became our home away from home. What happened was, I was probably in the van driving up and down the Interstate 5 highway back and forth between Los Angeles and Vancouver playing shows.
The only thing that I did at home was that I was a cab driver. They didn’t really care about me and I didn’t really care about the cab company. When I showed up, I would drive the car and when I didn’t, some other guy would, probably another musician or a waiter [laughs].
Did you find driving cabs interesting with all the different kinds of people that you meet?
JK: [Laughs]. That’s one way of putting it! I drove for a long time, for three or four different companies, on and off, for about six years. I’d go to the job every time I’d arrive back from tour and be broke. I’d just call them up and start driving again. You’d meet some interesting people; you’d meet some you didn’t like and be glad you never got to see them again. I thought it was pretty interesting, the one thing I really noticed was that, people with not a lot of money, they were the most generous tippers and people with a lot of money, were really cheap. Go figure, right?
Right. That’s usually been the case in my experience too. On the cover of Hardcore ’81 there’s photobooth picture strips of each member; where did you get those done?
JK: Yeah, it’s one of those machines that you go into a booth and they’d take passport sized photos, you get a strip of three or four. Our manager had the idea. The booth was probably in Vancouver, maybe at the Greyhound [bus] Station. We went down there and thought it would be pretty funny. They look great on the cover.
Why did you decided to cover the Led Zeppelin song ‘Communication Breakdown’ on that record?
JK: I can’t remember what the impetus for that was. I remember that there was this guy in my neighbourhood when I was growing up, and if a new song came on the radio… (we lived on a mountainside-type-thing, it was quite steep) he would take his old records, of the songs that weren’t in fashion anymore, and he’d roll them down the hill! When I got into my first punk rock band, which was called The Skulls, we were from Vancouver, I found a hill (this was about ‘78’) and I took all my Led Zeppelin records I had loved in high school and I rolled them down the hill. They got run over by cars and got smashed to bits! [laughs].
For some reason someone in the band suggested we do that song. Nobody could sing it though. Chuck [Biscuits] tried to sing it, Randy [Rampage] tried to sing it, but they were both too high. I said, “I’ll do it!” We put this underwater effect on it, it makes you sound like you’re underwater singing. We were like, “Huh! That kind of works.” The original take actually went on for about another minute, it was longer; at the very end you could hear the sound of a 2-inch tape going off. The ending was kind of perfect.
Why is music important to you?
JK: Music has always been a big thing for me. For one thing, it’s a lot of fun! That’s why you get up on stage, you want to thrill people and excite them and get ‘em worked up. I think that’s the goal of a band. With a punk band, or metal band, or rock band, heavier stuff, you want to see people going crazy, so you have to do something to make ‘em go crazy.
Being in a band is a really good chance to say what you think about the world. I was heavily politicized when I was a kid, with the Vietnam War going on and environmental degradation and the Arms Race between America and the Soviet Union. I joined Greenpeace when I was seventeen. I got into a band, D.O.A. started to take off and I thought I had a perfect soapbox to get up on and say what I thought about the world. That’s why I did my songs.
Before you started D.O.A. you wanted to be a civil rights lawyer; obviously you’ve always cared about people and what’s going on in the world?
JK: Yeah! My goal through Junior High was to be a professional hockey player for the Boston Bruin, to play ice hockey [laughs]. That didn’t work out, I was ok, but not that kind of quality. Then I got into the legal thing. I was involved in protest stuff.
This guy, William Kunstler, the lawyer for the Chicago Seven – there were big riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention – he defended them, which I found quite interesting. I thought, I want to be like William Kunstler! He defended Abbie Hoffman [a political and social activist who co-founded the Youth International Party (“Yippies”) and a leading proponent of the Flower Power movement] and all the rest of the people that were on trial. I guess it was strange for a kid in high school to have the resolve to be a lawyer [laughs]; a civil rights lawyer, not a lawyer, lawyer!
Yes! There’s definitely a difference [laughter]. Was there a moment you can remember that you realised that music could have a big impact on people?
JK: Oh yeah, absolutely! When I was a kid in high school and even much earlier. You could see people like Jimi Hendrix and Country Joe McDonald, influenced what was going on in the world. Think about the Vietnam War for example, it was a big, big thing when I was a kid, and musicians would stand up against it. It was an interesting transition, at first, they were called “Commie pinko fags” and all that stuff for not supporting the American war machine. Eventually, people in the mid-west, farmers, saw it was an immoral war as well—not that any war is moral. This one was particularly horrible. All of a sudden, people that played music that was saying stuff against it, weren’t so far out there and wrong, and you had the regular work people saying “yes” too. They might not have been buying Jimi Hendrix records, but he was influencing people that were involved. Rather than saying that Richard Nixon stopped the Vietnam War—it was the people that did.
What do you feel is one of your most powerful songs?
JK: There’s a few. ‘World War 3’ and ‘The Prisoner’ [from Something Better Change] is a really strong song. I think the song that a lot of people identify D.O.A. with is ‘The Enemy’ which is on the first record and on the Positively D.O.A. 7-inch EP [with the lyric]: “Ya gotta know who your enemy is”. It’s synonymous with D.O.A. and D.O.A. fans. The line in the chorus, pretty much says it all.
Your band is known for being trailblazers of independent touring, especially in North America, laying the blueprint for bands that came after you. Previously you’ve mentioned that part of why you started touring is because the band were adventurous; have you always had the sense of adventure?
JK: I was a pretty introverted child, I wasn’t really outgoing or anything like that, which may be hard to believe [laughs], it’s very true though. It was one of those things that just started happening, I went to university to be a lawyer. I was there for about four months and then I was in a punk rock band, we got a little bit popular, not long after that we started D.O.A. and that took off right away, within a few months things were moving pretty quick—right guys at the right time in the right place.
Because Vancouver was a real backwater (not these days though, Vancouver is a big town with over three million people). The music industry was in London, New York, Los Angeles and Toronto, for us anyway. Obviously, you’d link Melbourne and Sydney to that too from where you are. Those were the centres of attention and where all the bands were getting signed and that they would gravitate towards. We didn’t, we thought we’ll just strike out on our own. D.O.A. was a lot more unique because we weren’t trying to play to get signed to a label, therefore our style wasn’t co-opted from someone from a record label going, “Oh, you should really put more of this in there!” The pressures that bands start to get when they begin to get popular. We blazed our own way!
We bought a van and toured up and down everywhere. In 1979, we went all the way down to California, to Texas, up to Chicago, New York and eastern Canada and all the way back; it was a North American tour. We had a lot of days off because we didn’t know what the fuck we were doing! We’d sit around at people’s houses and eat them out of house and home [laughs], ‘til they got sick of us and then we’d try and find another show. That’s all we could do. We were getting a lot of attention.
A big break [in 1981] was that we saw an ad in one of the big English music papers like Melody Maker or New Music Express (they were pretty influential, people in North America would read them too), it said that D.O.A. were opening up for the Dead Kennedys at the Lyceum in London! It was a big, big hall, 3,000 people-type-thing. We looked at the ad and were like, “We are? Nobody told us about that!” We phoned up the promoter and they said, “Sure, you guys can play, but I won’t pay you anything. You have to get over here.” We all saved up about $700 to pay for the air flights and we found some friends to crash with, on their floor. We went to London and played this big show. It worked out because the record company [Jello Biafra’s Alternative Tentacles Records] released Positively D.O.A. and it became Single Of The Week [in British press]. It sold a lot! We were like, wow! Ok! That whetted our appetite to do more. Eventually in ’84 we came back and did a two-month tour of Europe and the UK.
Before you mentioned that when you were younger you were introverted and now obviously, you’re not; did being in a punk band give you confidence?
JK: It certainly makes you stand out from the crowd. When I got into it, people were afraid of punk rock, they thought it was the strangest type of music that had come out and people were shocked by what they saw; some people were interested in it though, and loved it like me. We were way in the minority.
Being in a band, the first few times you go up there, you might want to get off stage and puke because you were so nervous. Because you have your fellow bandmates there with you, your confidence grows off of each other. You get the courage to get up there and do what you do. If you’re good at it, it will grow.
Another thing that I’ve always loved about D.O.A. is that you always keep moving forward and create new things. You once said, “We still sound like a punk rock band, but we’ve tried to progress with the times. We try to expand what we can do lyrically. We sing about what’s going on now. We don’t hearken back to the glory days of punk.” A lot of people talk about punk like it was a special time that existed in a particular time period. It’s still happening today and still thriving. Punk is an energy, that keeps moving and evolving.
JK: Yeah, I would agree. There’s lots of younger bands around with great ideas and lots of energy. They’re being rebellious, and that’s what it was about it the first place. An older band has to find new ways to keep progressing, to find new ways to express themselves, that’s really important. If you don’t come up with anything new, that’s fine, if you just put out two albums and you go on tour 30 years later and play those songs to fans it’s because it’s kind of a trip down nostalgia lane. With D.O.A. there is a sense of nostalgia because we were one of the early pioneers of the whole thing but you have to keep moving forward, otherwise you become a nostalgia act, which is deadly if you ask me; that’s not where you want to be as an artist, you want to keep writing new songs.
Is there a particular way that songs come to you more often when you’re writing?
JK: If I sat down for a couple of days with my guitar I could come up with hundreds of riffs, they could be good or bad or I could be repeating myself (which happens when you’ve written so many songs for as long as I have). The big thing for me is the lyrics; if you get the lyric, that’s the key. When I have the lyric, I can try to write the music to back its sentiment. If it’s a dark lyric, you want something dark sounding. If it’s a happy lyric, then maybe you play D, G and C. If it’s something evil, dark, maybe you play a B-flat and E-flat [laughs]. Some cues are happy and some cues are mean and tough. To come up with a good lyric is a hard thing to do.