Dreamy Meanjin based post-punk Ancient Channels: “Time, Space, Ancient Worlds”

Original photo: Jason Cahill. Handmade collage by B.

Meanjin/Brisbane musicians Kelly Hanlon (Deafcult/Terra Pines) and Chris Preindl (Apparitions/Leavings/Vestiges) take us on a sonic sci-fi expedition exploring ancient, ceremonial drumming together with shoegaze dream pop and cosmic themes to create a band that’s outta this world, Ancient Channels.

How did you two first meet? What were your first impressions of each other?

KELLY: I first met Chris through the Brisbane music scene. Our other bands have played multiple shows together over the years so we’ve been in each other’s orbit for a while. I’ve been consistently blown away every time I’ve seen Chris play with any of his bands whether its Apparitions, Leavings or Vestiges. He’s all over the kit with such deft and precision, technically brilliant but also insanely creative, I swear he’s got an extra set of arms hidden away somewhere. I remember thinking that I’d like to work with him sometime soon after seeing him play, and here we are! Dreams do come true!

CHRIS: Our first meeting is hard to pinpoint because Brisbane often feels tiny. I do feel like my first impression of Kelly is one-and-the-same with what would be the most prevailing impression, that she’s an incredibly talented songwriter and musician, and a really cool, calm and compassionate person.

You both play in multiple other bands. Kelly plays in Deafcult/Terra Pines and Chris plays in Apparitions/Leavings/Vestiges; what inspired you to start Ancient Channels?

KELLY: I had wanted to start a project a little more pop-centric and beat orientated. I was also watching a lot of Ancient Aliens  at the time (for pure entertainment, I don’t actually believe Ancient Aliens built the pyramids) which resulted in the idea of combining elements of ancient, ceremonial drumming with more contemporary style song structures and the aesthetics of dream pop, shoegaze and post-punk. I wrote a few demos and sent them to Chris and asked if he’d be keen and lucky he was. We didn’t practice together before recording just winged it on the day and Chris wrote and executed his drum parts with such energy it was beautiful! The drums are really the forefront of this band in my opinion, almost like a lead guitar or something, well and truly up front.

CHRIS: Kelly reached out about starting a new project together in early-mid 2019 and I didn’t deliberate much; sometime after my band Leavings played with Terra Pines (for something like the third or even fourth time around Southeast Queensland) Kelly had written some incredible demos and after hearing them I was very excited at the chance to collaborate. She suggested it’d be more of a studio project from the outset which was super ideal for my other band commitments and life schedule. Dates were then set for roughly six months later to record with Cam Smith at Incremental Records.

You’re into sci-fi soundtracks of early film and television; what’s one of your favourites? What do you appreciate about it?

KELLY: Film soundtracks, particularly sci-fi soundtracks are so evocative and they overtly convey tension in a way that I love. The 1950’s had some really great film soundtracks full of creepy theremin tones that make my skin crawl in the best possible way. It Came From Outer Space 1953 is a favourite, also The Day The Earth Stood Still 1951. I tried to get a theremin-ish like tone in “Orbital Dance” with one of the synth lines, it’s not exact but it’s the best I could do with the tools that I have haha. I also love the original Dr Who theme 1963 by Delia Derbyshire and Ron Grainer. It’s such an iconic piece of music, “Carpe Noctem” was an attempt to do something big and dramatic in that vein. There is a great doco on Delia Derbyshire called The Delian Mode on YouTube that everyone should watch for a bit of backstory on her. I’m also big into Vangelis like everyone else under the sun.

CHRIS: I think this is more Kelly’s realm, at least as far as direct influences on this project go, but for me I can’t go past such iconic scores as: Blade Runner (Vangelis), Akira (Geinoh Yamashirogumi), 2001: A Space Odyssey (Richard Strauss), and more recently the scores of Drive, Ex Machina and Good Time… although some of those absolutely aren’t sci-fis.

You’ve recently released Moments In Ruin; what inspired the writing of this album? It seems pretty cosmic!

KELLY: It all comes back to Ancient Aliens haha I feel like I was thinking about it for a year or so before we even started writing, but mainly the idea was to just have a collection of songs that draw from many influences both concrete: Shoegaze, Dream Pop and Post-Punk and Abstract: Time, Space, Ancient Worlds etc… I think there was also talk about writing a record full of singles. The idea that every song on a record could be a single is a bit of a novelty but thought it would be a fun challenge.

CHRIS: Other than a partial embracing and full appreciation of engineer/producer Cam Smith’s drumming (in specifically Terra Pines), and the desire to serve Kelly’s demos sufficiently I embraced influences stemming back to when I first started playing drums. Essentially bands like Metric, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and pretty much any DFA/New York City band from the mid-2000s.

I’ve heard that drums and percussion are the foundation of your sound; how do your songs form most often? Can you tell us a bit about your writing process?

KELLY: All the songs were written using Garageband to demo initially , and then Chris rewrote the shitty Garageband drum loops and made the songs infinitely cooler and more interesting. All the songs were written with the same approach though, built from the ground up, rhythm section, then guitars and synths (textural)  and vocals last. The vocals took the most amount of time to write because melody was really important, most of the songs on the record have alternate versions of the vocal melodies and harmonies. I think “She-Rise” had about 8 different versions.

CHRIS: Up until now it has been part recreating the beats mapped out by Kelly and part improvisation in the studio environment. The intricate layers that formed the first versions of the songs that became “Moments In Ruin” afforded me a lot of room for inspiration and, to a degree, experimentation so it’s been quite a thrilling and fun process; the approach with Ancient Channels is different to the more jam-based process of other projects I’m involved with.

We really love the song “She-Rise”; what sparked this song?

KELLY: From memory it was one of the last songs written for this project, there was a feeling the record needed something a little more driving and immediate. I’d read an interview with Grimes about her writing process, that she’d often write songs to scenes from films. I kinda liked that idea and thought I’d give it a go. I picked the Bride vs The Crazy 88 scene from Kill Bill Vol1 and tried to write with that scene in my mind and often playing in the background on silent. Thematically I guess I projected myself into the role of the bride and sexist sound guys in the role of the crazy 88 (metaphorically speaking of course). It’s a clusterfuck, I’m not sure it works as a score to the scene but I was happy with how the song turned out.

CHRIS: For my part I really wanted the rhythms to be straightforward and blunt, as the song seemed to me to be one of the most propulsive and pounding. It embodies what is probably the most intense, menacing and bold energy and so I thought a rigorous and sweatily performed dance beat would serve the song best. An undoubted influence for me for “She-Rise” is the music of U.K. post-punk band Savages.

What most excites you about your new album?

KELLY: I’m excited that it’s out and we can move onto the next one.

CHRIS: Recreating the songs live, with additional members: Elise Clark, Imogen Kowalczyk, Kelly Saunders & Joel Saunders. We haven’t yet brought all the songs to life: as is the case for a lot of other bands (local and nationwide/worldwide) it’s been a difficult year to effectively showcase new music. Fingers crossed for the remainder of 2020 and the start of 2021…

I know that you love recording and being in the studio; was there anything you tried or experimented with while recording?

KELLY: Most of the experimentation came with the drums (different beats that Chris wanted to try and varying types of accompanying percussion.  Everything else was locked in by the time we got to the studio as we had Garageband demos with sounds and tones finalised etc…

CHRIS: Percussive layering felt like the most immediate example of studio experimentation. Usually I’m quite hesitant to contribute or sign off on drum parts that aren’t in the realm of possibility to perform live, but we both agreed that we could maximise some of the songs with overdubbed drum hits and cymbal swells. It also helps that Elise is also a drummer!

We love the vocals on the album, very ethereal, haunting and atmospheric; how did you approach doing them?

KELLY: I would say that we wanted vocals to sound that way for sure, ambience and atmosphere were important but also melody. A lot of time was spent trying to make the vocal melodies as infectious as possible, as mentioned before they were rewritten a hundred times over and vastly different from their first incarnation.

CHRIS: I can only dream of having had a hand in the vocal process, though it’s fun to watch agape and in awe from the sidelines for this aspect. I guess there’s always the possibility to harmonise live!

Your music is a collage of genres and I love how your artwork for your releases is also collages; where did the idea for this style of artwork come from? You do the art Kelly, right?

KELLY: My friend Jason Cahill (who did our video for “Footprints In The Dark”) is a great visual artist and filmmaker and he sends me art all the time that he thinks I might enjoy. He had an idea once of doing a collage film clip for one of our songs by animating a collage and in doing research for that idea I came across the collage hashtag on Instagram and fell in love with the otherworldly nature of it. It’s a format that seems like it has no rules and so much possibility.

CHRIS: I think Kelly’s collage art precedes Ancient Channels! I love how effective and evocative it is.

Is there anything else you’ve been working on that you’d like to tell us about, Ancient Channels-related or otherwise?

KELLY: Stay tuned to our socials for show announcements and news, we’ll probably start thinking about the next record soon-ish. Both my other bands Deafcult and Terra Pines have new records coming out next year and I believe Chris has a bunch of exciting stuff up his sleeves too which he can tell you about.

CHRIS: We’re excited by the prospect of working on new music as a six-piece band. In the meantime Kelly’s other bands Deafcult and Terra Pines are working on new material. My other band Apparitions will be launching its album in roughly a month’s time with Deafcult as well, so I’m really excited for that!

Please check out ANCIENT CHANNELS; AC on Facebook; AC on Instagram. Moments In Ruin is out now get it here.

Pleasure Symbols’ Jasmine Dunn: “Colin Wilson’s The Outsider and.. Lorrie Moore’s Self-Help.. ended up proving to be great influencing texts”

Original photo by Pierangela Hidalgo. Handmade mixed-media collage by B.

Brisbane’s post-punk, ethereal, goth rockers Pleasure Symbols levelled up and really came into their own with last year’s release Closer And Closer Apart, a moody dream-pop affair. We’re excited to see where they go next, the band have been writing new material. We interviewed bassist-vocalist Jasmine Dunn.

How did you first discover music?

JASMINE DUNN: Slowly, it was always more of a background noise in my earlier years with some significant moments of discovery thrown in. I remember watching my parents dancing to Van Morrison’s ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ in the living room and realising that people can have sentimental attachments to music. On the flip side to that, I grew up in the 90’s so there was a lot of really cringe worthy pop music on the radio and on TV. I learned to dig deep!

How did the creative process begin with your first full-length, Closer and Closer Apart?

JD: I reached out to Steven to see if he would be interested in helping me record what I originally anticipated to be a solo body of work, we had only met once prior to that conversation so the direction for everything was still very unknown. The idea of a solo record quickly moved into talks of a collaboration between Pleasure Symbols and his project Locust Revival, which then evolved again into having him come on board as a guitarist to work on a Pleasure Symbols album, so we began writing and getting to know each other from there.

Photo by Pierangela Hidalgo.

Sound-wise Closer and Closer Apart is quite different from your first self-titled EP, you’ve gone from a more synth-based dark-wave style to a more guitar-orientated dream-pop, shoegaze style; what influenced this evolution?

JD: Four years between writing and then bringing in Steven on guitar meant Closer and Closer Apart was never going to sound like anything previously released under the Pleasure Symbols name. The EP is very primitive overall and I was keen to push the sound further to better represent our influences and songwriting capabilities. We still have a lot more to learn and a lot further to reach, but we’re getting there!

‘Image Reflected’ is one of our favourite tracks on C&CA; can you tell us a little about writing it?

JD: On the weekends I’d drove over to Steven’s place and we’d start with nothing, maybe a very loose idea and have a song or two close to completion in just a couple of hours. It was kind of surreal how easily we were writing together and I kept wondering if these songs were going to turn out horribly because of how easily they were coming together! I’ve never had such ease in songwriting before and I think a lot of that comes down to the trust and respect we have for one another. For ‘Image Reflected’ Steven had programmed the drums the day before I had come over and a good portion of the song really wasn’t changed much from the first take we did.

Do lyrics come easy for you? Who’s one of your favourite songwriters?

JD: Unfortunately not, I hesitate because I want the lyrics to perfectly articulate a feeling or a mood that’s driving each song. Sometimes there’s too many thoughts or it’s a lost moment in time and trying to catch those fleeting moments can be difficult. When it happens though, it’s an incredibly satisfying feeling. I mostly read to inspire lyrics and to get myself into the right headspace and I was pouring through a lot of Roland Barthes in particular while writing for the record. I came across a very well loved, second-hand copy of Colin Wilson’s The Outsider and my best friend had lent me Lorrie Moore’s Self-Help. Both of these books also ended up proving to be great influencing texts for me at the time.

We love the Closer… album cover; what’s the story behind the cover image?

JD: The photograph was taken by a friend of mine Haydn Hall who would hide out inside this restaurant on the Lower East Side in New York. The photo resonated with me as writing had already begun for the record so I had some idea in which direction we were heading sonically. It’s simple and unassuming with a soft focus. It feels like the calm before the storm.

Multiple Man did a remix of the song ‘Endless’; how did that collab come about?

JD: Chris Campion is an old friend from when we both lived in Brisbane, plus he recorded and mixed the very first Pleasure Symbols demos so there is a bit of history there! He asked to do a remix a while back but it took a little while for me to bounce it across to him in New York.

Last year PS toured Europe; what was one of the coolest things you saw in your travels?

JD: We drove the whole leg so we were exposed to a lot, but we saw so much and loved our time spent there, it’s hard to narrow it down! We hope to be back as soon as we can.

Is there anything you’ve been listening to a lot lately? We love finding new things to listen to!

JD: There’s some new Locust Revival tracks that more people should hear, as well as the new SDH record I’m really enjoying too. Still spinning the latest Tempers record too, that’s an incredible album.

Have you been working on anything new lately?

JD: Yes! We’re currently writing for the new record.

Lastly, what do you love most about making music?

JD: It’s a love/hate relationship for the most part, but it’s a vessel to create and a compelling medium to capture a moment in time and that has to be worth something.

Please check out: PLEASURE SYMBOLS. Closer And Closer Apart out via AVANT!

Surf-gazers The Double Happiness: “Life is short, have courage and be kind to each other”

Original photo by Mark Cranitch. Handmade collage by B.

Brisbane’s The Double Happiness are comprised of two couples that play spooky-surf reverb-a-riffic dream-pop! Their music is joyous, fun and makes you want to dance. Every time we’ve seen them play we’ve had the most fun. They have a new record Surfgazing forthcoming on 4000 Records. We caught up with them to find out more about it, as well as their love of surf and shoegaze, their first concert and more.

I know that creativity, courage and connection are important to The Double Happiness (us too!); why?

MEG (bass/vocals): These are the values that we all hold dear. (Alongside with dancing like maniacs – also very important). Courage is backing yourself, putting yourself out there and not giving up, stretching yourself creatively by trying things that keep your energy up and your vibrancy levels elevated.

Keeping your connections strong is vital right now; we are nothing without other people. These are all good messages during these strange and unsettling times, and the music industry has already begun creatively connecting with audiences through online hangouts and events like Isol-Aid and Couch Choir. Life is short, have courage and be kind to each other – finding new ways to be creative is the upside of these weird times.

How did The Double Happiness come into being?

KRISTIN (guitar/vocals): We’ve been friends for over 20 years through mutual friends, and attended parties and gigs, always loving the same kinds of bands. We met up at the 40th birthday celebration of 4ZZZ at the Spiegeltent, as we were SO keen to see Ups and Downs. We got the set list, and Meg had the brilliant idea of suggesting we get together to have a jam. Meg and Simon were a ready-made rhythm section, and Pete and I were guitarists. We jammed some songs we knew and loved like ‘Candy’ (Iggy Pop and Kate Pierson) and ‘Doused’ (DIIV). Before you knew it we were writing our own songs. ‘City’ was born shortly afterwards, and the songs and the joy just kept coming.

Photo by Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie zine.

The Double Happiness have a “surf-gaze” sound; how did you first discover surf music?

PETE (guitar/vocals): I have always had a long love affair with surf guitar. We all love The Pixies and I was inspired by Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago, The Shadows and the killer Pulp Fiction soundtrack.

KRISTIN: I grew up listening to my Dad’s surf guitar records – he was a huge Cliff Richard and The Shadows fan.

PETE: We’ve never been fans of guitar chords played at lightning speed. The key to our kind of surf riff is minimum notes – maximum melody. The Pixies were always a surf band in my book.

How did you arrive at combining surf and shoegaze to make your sound?

KRISTIN: Our influences and inspirations are shared which has made song writing such an easy and fun process. We all loved shoegaze bands such as RIDE and My Bloody Valentine in the early ‘90s, yet we have a soft spot for 60s sounds as well.

SIMON (drums): There’s been a revival in recent times of shoe-gaze through bands like Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Froth, Beach Fossils and with Slowdive coming back with a new album which we dig. Locally we also love Relay Tapes, Ultra Material and Pleasure Symbols.

PETE: It was becoming apparent that some of our songs were very surf, and others had a dreamy shoe-gaze sound. It made perfect sense to combine the two!

The surf influence is very apparent in your music, is there any non-obvious influences that might surprise listeners?

KRISTIN: The jangly guitar sounds are reminiscent of bands like The Sundays and The Go- Betweens, but the indie-folk influence of Jose Gonzales is present in our theme tune – Double Happiness (I Want My). We can’t underestimate the impact table tennis has had on us either!

PETER: I’m the true table tennis tragic of the band. It’s a highly complex sport. The competition bats generate so much spin. Check out the high level stuff on YouTube kids! How good is Stereolab’s Ping Pong?

MEG: I hear elements of Stereolab in our songs which is surprising as we don’t have keyboards in the band, but sometimes we get into a heightened rhythmic groove that they capture in their songs.

In the beginning, who or what inspired you to first pick up your instrument?

KRISTIN: Sister Margaret playing Abba songs to us on guitar during wet lunches in Year 3.

MEG: Teachers are so influential! Mr Stanger in Year 5 introduced me to acoustic guitar. Finding an “Archie” comic-style bass guitar in the instrument cupboard in Year 8 sealed the switch to bass guitar.

SIMON: Friends at school gave me a window into the drumming world. Realising that I could imitate the music I loved listening to in my teens like Joy Division, The Cure, The Smiths, REM and The Clash was encouraging.

PETE: I fell into classical guitar lessons in Grade 6 but that only lasted a couple of months because I didn’t know what classical music was. I picked up the same guitar at age 20, learnt to play “Skip to My Lo” and “Venus” and the rest is history.

What was the first concert you ever went to? Can you describe it to us?

KRISTIN: U2 Festival Hall 1984. It was everything.

MEG: Midnight Oil and V Spy V Spy at Byron Bay Arts Factory (when it was known as “The Piggery”) I think it was 1985. I went with my Mum, sister and brother. My Dad sat in the car park reading the newspaper! It was so energising to be part of a big crowd and experience such a strong performer like Peter Garrett.

SIMON: Johnny Diesel & The Injectors on the back of a truck parked at the front of the Narrabri Golf Club. Slim pickings! Next was Rat Cat and the Violent Femmes at the Byron Bay Arts Factory.

PETER: I ordered my first pot of beer in the early 80’s at the Victory Hotel then went to see Howard Jones at Festival Hall. I wouldn’t rate his music these days but at the time the performance blew my teenage mind. There was this Jamaican guy with a wall of percussion instruments. Amazing!

Two couples make up The Double Happiness; what’s something important you’ve learnt from your significant other while making music together?

KRISTIN: That Pete has an incredible ear for recording and mixing. He’s completely self-taught, very focused and is doing such a fabulous job.

MEG: We have such respect for each of our multiple roles in the band and how they interweave. We do all our own recording, mixing, artwork, t-shirt design, networking, social media and more. I really enjoy everything that we all bring, but I do really get a buzz watching Simon drum on stage. He is a phenomenal drummer, laying down creative and complex beats that drive the songs.

SIMON: That Meg is a bad-*%$ bass player! She obviously loves the stage and playing to a crowd. She is also a social media power house.

PETER: That Kristin comes up with the coolest riffs. A lot of the lead writes itself. It’s always fun and exciting jamming. She’s great out front on stage and enjoys the spotlight. Kristin and Meg both create such a great vibe together with the crowd.

You have an album coming out, Surfgazing; what was inspiring you when you were writing for it?

MEG: Tides, crashing waves, soundwaves, sandy toes, great riffs and rolling beats.

KRISTIN: We have a strong connection with The Great South East and often include references to local landmarks and places that hold fond memories in our hearts. Bribie Island features on the new album in the song “Red Beach”, “Coochie” was written on a ferry to a resort on Moreton Bay, and “Snapper Rocks” is a nod to the thunderous surf down near Coolangatta. So surf and beach references are very prominent in this next batch of songs, but there are other themes – completionism vs perfectionism in “Finish”, and clear communication in “Not What You Said”.

The first single from it is Wild Bikini/Spooky Tiki; can you tell us about each song please?

MEG: “Wild Bikini” is a magic carpet ride spliced with a B-Grade beach movie from the 60s with a sprinkle of I Dream of Jeannie.

KRISTIN: “Spooky Tiki” takes me back to The Brady Bunch Hawaiian Vacation double episode from 1972. Peter and Bobby Brady found a Tiki in a dig that their Dad was working on, but they didn’t know it was cursed until Greg wore it surfing, and all hell broke loose.

Filmed and edited by: Simon Welchman

Can you give us a little insight to recording the record? You recorded at Kristin’s work the Music Industry College and at home, right?

KRISTIN: Yes. It’s been so good to have access to the studio at MIC as well as the assistance from the music dept at the school. The drums and vocals were recorded there, but the majority of guitar tracks and mixing has all taken place at our place, mostly in the walk-in wardrobe.

MEG: I have a lot more insight into Pete and Kristin’s relationship through recording vocals in their wardrobe. They have some very cool outfits in there!

We love seeing The Double Happiness live your shows are SO music fun! We love that Kristin and Meg wear super cool outfits on stage; who are your style icons? What’s your favourite outfit you’ve worn so far?

MEG: Audrey Hepburn, The B-52s and Nice Biscuit. The boys always look good too – Simon sports some killer paisley. Pete has a ripper ‘50s bowling shirt with a Tiki detail.

KRISTIN: My style icons are Serena from Bewitched, Agent ‘99’ from Get Smart. My favourite so far (and this is so tough) was what we wore at The Outpost in January to launch “Wild Bikini” – A-line dresses made by Grace from Nice Biscuit from vintage bed sheets, with a Flintstones bone in our beehives for good measure.

Photo by Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie zine.

What have you been listening to lately?

TDH: Relay Tapes, Majestic Horses, Film School, It’s Magnetic, Loose Tooth.

Lastly, in the spirit of your band name The Double Happiness; what’s something that makes you really, really happy?

MEG: This new album. It is really going to be everything you need in the world right now.

KRISTIN: What she said!

Please check out: THE DOUBLE HAPPINESS. TDH on Facebook. TDH on Instagram.