Sydney band C.O.F.F.I.N live at Vinnies Dive, Gold Coast, Queensland (28/05/2021)
Photos by Jhonny Russell
All photos by GIMMIE ZINE.
Sydney band C.O.F.F.I.N live at Vinnies Dive, Gold Coast, Queensland (28/05/2021)
Photos by Jhonny Russell
All photos by GIMMIE ZINE.
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!
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!
Sydney punk trio ARSE’s straight-forward, minimalist, and most importantly honest music, captures the daily grind of the modern world in all of its anxieties, pressures, stresses, and frustration. Gimmie spoke at length with guitarist-vocalist, Dan Cunningham.
How did you get into music?
DAN CUNNINGHAM: From a very young age my parents got me playing music as soon as I was old enough to do so. It’s been a lifelong thing for me really, it’s in my family as well, I have cousins, aunts and uncles that all play. There’s always been music in my life and it just made sense to go for it myself. When I got to high school, I started playing guitar and that’s where I met Jono [Boulet], who also plays in ARSE. He and I have been on the road musically, and literally, together for years; we’ve always played in bands together. I’ve always been in bands, ARSE is the most recent one.
I know you did bands Parades and Snake Face too! You’ve gone from doing Parades that sounds pretty indie pop to doing a punk band with ARSE. Often when people are younger and in their teens, they’re really angsty and the music is aggressive and as you get older you mellow out more, I feel like you guys have gone the opposite!
DC: Jono and I have always had a punk band of some kind or another going at all times, even during Parades we had Snake Face as the side thing. We’ve always bonded over that kind of music. As we’ve gotten older, we’ve even said it out loud, at this point we’re in our 30s now… it’s insane when you’re doing music and you get to that point, it feels a bit ridiculous to be doing a kind of indie thing, unless you do it really well and you really think about it and it’s coming from a really visceral, honest kind of place and you do it convincingly, then it works. For us, we’re just at the point where we want to keep playing music together. At the time we started this band, it just felt like the absolutely right thing to do, especially for where I was at in my life, to do the band I always wanted to be in. Jono has always been on the level. We just did it and it felt like a really natural thing to do. We had zero plans for this band, to be quite honest. We started it three years ago.
I understand at the time you started the band you were going through a real depressive period in your life?
DC: Yeah, somewhat. I was a bit wayward really… just, life never turns out the way that you want it to, which is a sad reality. At that point I was really frustrated with everything in my life… which is totally normal I think, anyone can relate to that. At that time there was a real lack of music in my life, at the bottom of it all I think that was the root of a lot of my problems. I just needed to fill that space, that void in my life, it was absolutely the thing that I needed to do—that’s how the band started really. That’s something I only realised much later though, maybe after a year of doing it.
Was there a reason why there was a lack of music in your life at that time?
DC: Circumstances. I was at university studying and I didn’t have the time to do it, there were other personal things going on, it was a tumultuous time. Doing what I was doing at university I was pretty conflicted about it taking up so much of my creative time. There were a lot of questions about whether I was doing the right thing? As you get older I think you’re more aware of time, how you’re spending it and if you’re being honest with yourself in that. That’s where I was. I’m still kind of there [laughs] in a lot of ways. There’s a lot of those questions still hanging around. At least music is more of a thing though, it’s a clear and present thing in my life. I feel a lot better about everything.
What is ARSE for you?
DC: It’s an outlet for a lot of stuff. I do it with two of my best and longest standing friends which is a huge thing, just getting to create something with them! We get to spend a shitload of time together. When we play shows we love to hang out, often playing a gig is an excuse to go grab dinner somewhere, for me it’s something to do—that’s’ the most important thing to me. I love playing out of Sydney. Before lockdown we’d spend a lot of time in Melbourne, last year  we went down five or six times; every time we play down there it gets better and better. Melbourne is such a great place to hang out. They’re really going through it right now with the Coronavirus. Knowing the people I know down there through playing in the band, the cultural aspect of Melbourne is its greatest strength and right now they’ve completely lost it, it’s pretty devastating. ARSE for me is to make connections, that’s a really valuable thing in my life. The music is the most fun I think I could have, doing that, getting up there and turning everything up to 11! Really feeling it! When you play it’s really a bit of a heighted state that I can’t get any other way.
I saw the podcast you were on recently and you mentioned that playing live was almost like a meditative experience for you.
DC: Yeah, absolutely. I’m definitely not thinking about whatever is going on in my life when we play, that’s a hugely underrated thing. We also mentioned that in the world of music there is this innate relationship with music and substance abuse and all that sort of thing, we see that when we play ‘cause obviously we’re playing shows all the time and spending a lot of times out in the evening, playing pubs, venues, where there is alcohol everywhere – which is totally fine, do whatever you do. For me, after a few years of getting on stage with a few beers under my skin and feeling maybe not as present as I could have been, now it’s really valuable to me to really be present and to just take it all in—to really be there for the moment. If I want to have ten beers after, well, that’s a different story, but when I play it’s really important to me to take stock of the moment, because moments are fleeting, moments are all we have at the end of the day, experiences and things like that. It sounds new age or something but that’s just where it’s at for us. I don’t know if that’s a bummer for some people, because I think people want punk bands to be bit lawless and fucked up basically, there’s an image there that people really connect with. It’s not our thing, it’s not what we set out to do.
One of the reasons I really love ARSE is because music-wise you are very traditionally punk rock and what people may expect from a punk band but then your lyrics are intelligent, at times philosophical and there’s a lot more going on there then what it might seem at first though. I feel like you have a lot of deep thought happening there.
DC: Thank you! I think about what I’m writing, if for no other reason than… for me, a lot of the band is writing the things that I would want to hear or that I would be stoked on if I was hearing the band for the first time, that’s always in the back of my mind. I’m a huge fan of music, music is my life! Even when I’m not playing it. I’ve been in bands where you’re not into the music that you’re making, which is a really weird thing to do. I reckon there’s so many bands playing right now that don’t love their own music, that they just do it for some other reason. For me the only reason to be in a band is to make the music that you want to hear—that’s all we’re doing. It’s definitely what I try to do with the lyrics. I really nerd out on the lyrics of all of my favourite artists and bands. The lyrics are half of the picture for me, music is one part and then if you’ve got the lyrical side happening as well, those are the things that make my favourite bands.
Same! One of the first songs of yours that I heard and that really resonated with me was ‘NRVSNRG’.
You have no idea how many times I’ve listened to that song, especially in the car on my way to work every day, I could so relate to what you were saying. The lyrics are so honest. I’m listening to it and I’m like, “yeah buddy, me too!“
DC: Awww that’s amazing. Thank you for saying so.
What’s the story behind that song?
DC: That was a really easy one for me. Some of our songs you don’t want to know how long I’ve spent on the lyrics, it freaks me out. I definitely get stuck in a kind of feedback loop when I’m writing stuff, I’m in it big time right now because we’re using the downtime to try and put out new stuff. I’m working on lyrics to a whole bunch of things at the moment, it’s kind of a bit of a pain in the arse. That song was not one of those instances, I remember being surprised at how easy that one was to do. The music was really straightforward and I didn’t need to fit things in anywhere, I could just go for it. A lot of the time when I am playing guitar as well, a lot of the lyrical side of things has to fit in with how I’m playing because it’s too hard to do live, it’s got to be feasible for me to be able to sing and play at the same time. That one was really easy for me because I don’t really play anything in the verses in that song, I had a chance to do whatever I wanted.
What you’re singing, the lyrics, is that how you were feeling at the time?
DC: Absolutely! It was a really natural thing to put all of that down, I was surprised at how well it worked, that’s what you want. I always want to get a result where I feel like it wasn’t written by me, that it was written by someone else; that’s the mark of a great result, that is the pinnacle of that feeling for me. I don’t know who wrote that song [laughs], it hit all the beats for me.
How good is the bass line in that song!? It has such a groove.
DC: Yeah, that’s Jono. He brought that to the table. That whole song is a great example of every piece falling into place. I would say in a way that is our most well-known song. When we play it in Sydney, that’s the one that everyone knows, I think it’s because it’s probably the most relatable.
I’ve noticed that at your shows. You look around at everyone in the crowd when you’re singing it and it really feels like everyone is like: I get you! I feel it too.
DC: Yeah, that’s it.
I like how you guys have a real minimalist kind of drumming.
DC: [Laughs] Yeah, we do. There’s a few things going on there with the drums, the big one is that it’s a bit of a, I don’t want to say experiment… Tim [Watkins] our drummer is a really incredible drummer, very talented, we just wanted to see if we could focus his energy completely, we didn’t want him to have all these extra bits of the drum kit to play with; we wanted him to have three things to hit. It’s so tempting to be all over the drum kit, he is that guy, he’d be all over it if he could! There’s only three of us in the band and we wanted to have every element going at 100%. The best way to do that with the drums is just to give him a couple of things to do. It helps us write the most effective song if we only use a couple of things.
You mentioned the song ‘NRVSNRG’ was easy to write; what’s something that’s been hard to write?
DC: Probably the EP, Safe Word. That was definitely harder, because we were trying some stuff, we were seeing what we could do differently. There was a lot of trial and error in that. There were also some time issues. It was a bad time to try to write a record, in our lives there were a lot of things going on; there was a lot of juggling of things. Lyrically as well I was trying new things. We’re still happy with the end result, but it didn’t come together easily. The odds were against us.
It’s been really cool now to have the time to think about what we’re doing; that’s one upside to the lockdown pandemic situation we’re all in.
What kinds of things have you found yourself writing about now?
DC: I think I’m definitely trying to get to that place where things lyrically need to come from the heart, which sounds a bit wishy-washy but I’m really trying to connect with that and things I’m feeling and try to put that into songs where we can play with new ideas. Musically, we’re in the early stages. Jono and I are just trying to figure out how we can be the best version of what we do. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, we’re just trying to hone in on the things that we love about the band and try and do better. We’re chipping away. We hang out once or twice a week and throw ideas around. At the moment we have a lot of stuff to go through, we have a big pile of trash we’re working our way through [laughs]. We’ll pull one or two things out and finish them.
What do you love about writing lyrics?
DC: I’m a writer for my work. I write for websites, that’s my bread and butter. For as long as I can remember, even as a kid, I’ve always had music going and I’ve always had writing. I studied journalism at uni. Like I said before, I really nerd out on great lyricists and lyrics. Writing is something I can’t not do—it feels good to be doing this. I feel like it’s what I should be doing.
Do you have any favourite lyricists?
DC: Definitely. I hate to be obvious, but someone like Gareth Liddiard [Tropical Fuck Storm / The Drones] for me is one of the most underrated lyricists; he is rated but he could be rated better!
Totally! He is one of the best Australia’s ever had.
DC: Yeah, he’s one of the best Australian songwriters of the last thirty years. That’s not gushing either, that’s the truth. He’s kind of like the gold standard. I feel like what he does is uniquely Australian, I think only an Australian could do the thing he does really well.
The way he delivers the vocal as well, it can give you chills and make you feel. It’s really emotive and he’s really great at creating an atmosphere.
DC: Yeah. I’ve read a lot of interviews with him as well and he kind of brushes off his talents in a way like, “Oh yeah, I just wrote this thing.” You can tell there’s so much work went into what he does. It can’t be mistaken; you just know when someone has worked really hard at what they do. He may be blasé about what he does but he is way better than people realise.
I also really like Nick Cave, for all the reasons I just said before, an Australian songwriter that’s undeniably Australian in what they do. These are big figures to have looming over me as I’m trying to write [laughs]. I’m not saying I’m anywhere near the talent of those guys.
You’re very talented at songwriting. I can tell there’s a lot of thought behind your lyrics.
DC: Thank you. I’m really glad when we play that the thing people often approach us with after we play is that the lyrics really resonate with them. For me, that is the ultimate compliment. I really appreciate that.
You meditate, don’t you?
DC: A little bit. It’s something that I’ve dabbled with for a long time and Jono’s done a little bit here and there. I’m always trying things. I’m always trying to be healthier. I think it’s an age thing. I’m always trying to create habits that I can carry into my later years because there’s people in my family and people that I know that are close to me in my life that never cared about that stuff and now in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s they’re just fucked! I don’t know how else to say it. Just surviving and not living. It goes for mental health as well. We’re of the generation now where there is a huge focus on mental health, it’s being taken more seriously. There’s not a person out there that doesn’t struggle with some form of mental health. I’ve certainly had my share of issues. There’s no one I know that hasn’t. For me meditation – it’s not something I do as much as I could or should – is something that I’m mindful of and work on.
So, when you’re doing it it’s mindful meditation that you’re doing?
DC: Yeah, a real basic one. I got really into it for six months, to the point I was doing it almost every day. I look back on that time as a time of better mental health. I’m currently trying to steer the ship back to that period.
I’ve been doing it on and off for around twenty years now and I know for a fact that my life is always better when I do it.
DC: You can’t deny it’s impacts. What type do you do?
I’ve tried a lot, like you I like to try as much as possible. I’ve struggled a lot with mental health and my whole family has had most major health problems you can think of, so I can really relate to what you were saying before about loved ones being fucked. At different points in my life different styles of meditation have helped but I always come back to the mindful breathing in, breathing out, simple meditation.
DC: Yeah, that’s the one.
I’ve been doing the mindful breathing one lately but when I breathe in, in my mind I say, “I’m breathing in, I’m alive” and you acknowledge that you are alive and that you’re here now. When I breathe out, I say in my mind, “I’m breathing out, I smile” and that’s appreciating that I am alive and that I should make the most of that. It’s as simple as that.
DC: Amazing! That’s a great lesson for anything really. You just have to find the thing that works for you.
Exactly! And, everyone is different…
DC: Yeah, so it might not work for someone else but if it works for you, fuck, you’ve just got to do it, right?
DC: I never thought that something like music and my practice of music, that mindfulness, by extension meditation, could play into the musical part of my life. There’s a relationship forming there, which to me is something worth pursuing. It’s great! Anything that’s going to improve your existence and whatever time you have left—you just have to do it.
*More of this interview can be found in our editor’s up coming book, Conversations With Punx, alongside in-depth chats with Ian MacKaye, Martin Rev, Brendan Suppression, Keith Morris, spiderxdeath, Rikk Agnew, Geza X, Steve Ignorant and many more.
Mere Women are back with a divine new offering song ‘Romantic Notions’ the title-track from their eagerly awaited fourth album due 5 March 2021 via Poison City Records. Gimmie are excited to premiere the song’s clip directed and lovingly crafted by the band, shot on the land of the Kuing-gai and Eora Peoples. Vocalist Amy Wilson gives us an insight into the track, clip and the album.
This year has been a challenging one for everyone; how are you? How has things affected your creativity? What’s helped you stay positive?
AMY WILSON: I’m ok thanks. It’s been a rough year for lots of reasons and everything has changed so quickly and extremely. We managed to squeeze recording in just before lock down which was lucky but I feel that as a band we were ready for a little breather after that anyway. I’ve been playing around with ideas since then but have been really unproductive when it comes to music to be honest. 2020 has been very hard and every aspect of my life changed so much that I felt like I didn’t have space to be creative. That said, it was very fun to get together to make the ‘Romantic Notions’ clip and I’m finding more space to write music again now. It’s beyond exciting to finally be releasing music and looking to get on with things.
How have you felt about not being able to play live shows? Why is it important to you?
AW: I love playing live so it’s left a huge hole in my life. There’s something so special about playing to an audience and feeling like as a band we’re all interconnected and nailing it. It’s pure joy. I don’t get that feeling from anywhere else so I’m really missing it. I also miss meeting people at shows, seeing other bands and feeling like I’m part of a community.
What was the first concert/gig you ever went to?
AW: I travelled up from Wollongong on public transport with some mates to see The Living End play at the UNSW Roundhouse when I was 12 or 13. I was so excited to go and had my whole outfit planned out weeks in advance. Probably used up a whole eye liner pencil that day I reckon.
You wrote record number four in March this year in a “special place”; what can you tell us about it at this point? Sound-wise where’s it headed?
AW: We wrote the majority of the record at our place on the Hawkesbury River where three of us live. It’s a stunning spot right on the water, surrounded by national park. The record has soaked up this place over the writing process and as a result is more spacious and considered I think. Living here has made me feel like more of an outsider and this really comes through lyrically. As an album it’s dark and self-reflective but hopeful.
‘Romantic Notions’ is the first song from Mere Women in almost a year; what inspired its writing? What was the process for this track?
AW: I’ve been spending lots of time with my grandmother and hearing her stories about the complicated relationship between her mother and father. I think that’s where the spark of the ‘Romantic Notions’ theme came from. It explores the idea that love can be used as a tool to control someone or can be used as a reason to make destructive life choices. As a band at that time we were inspired sonically by groups like TFS, White Hex and BAMBARA and wanting to create something that sounded sludgy and enveloping.
Can you tell us a little about recording the song?
AW: We recorded it along with the rest of the album at One Flight Up studios in St Peters. It was a really fun song to record because we were super confident with it and vocally it has this really frenetic energy which is great to play around with.
When and what was the last romantic notion you had?
AW: Oh I have them on a daily basis and they’re usually quite impossible and ridiculous. Today I was fantasising about living solely off my own vegetable garden as I picked a few measly grub-riddled peas off an otherwise-barren bean stalk.
I think living where I do now was a Romantic Notion too but surprisingly it seems to be working out.
We’re premiering the video for your single; can you tell us about making it? Where was it filmed? Who made it? What feeling/mood were you going for?
AW: We were trying to create this sense of ‘becoming’ something new and leaving the old behind with the clip. It was filmed at our cottage and in the surrounding bushland by Flyn and Mac from the Band. Mac edited the clip and made the opening titles. Our friend Kim from White Lion Cosmetica got on board to do makeup and created this really cool monsteresque look that changes and grows throughout the clip. Considering we had no band money from shows in 2020, it’s a totally DIY clip and I think we did a pretty good job.
There’s some interesting outfits in the clip, especially the custom Mere Women blanket at the end of the clip; what’s the story behind it?
AW: Trisch [Roberts] our bassist and I do love to play dress-ups and wear ridiculous hats so we had fun planning out the costumes. It was designed and hand stitched by Arielle Gamble. Arielle has done the artwork for our previous two records. Each little stitched icon on there represents one of the tracks from the upcoming album.
What’s something that has really been engaging you lately? What do you appreciate about it?
AW: I just read The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh and absolutely loved every minute of it. It’s about a family with 3 daughters who live alone on an island in an old hotel in a post-apocalyptic world. I enjoyed how it mushes all of this imagery of beauty and decay together and keeps you constantly guessing.
Previously when we’ve spoken you told me you were passionate foodies; what’s one of the most memorable meals you’ve ever had?
AW: Flyn and I were travelling in China and had this incredible noodle dish for breakfast every day we were in Guilin. It’s rice noodles with a spicy broth, pickles, peanuts and thinly sliced pork of some kind and it blew our minds! We’ve found a place in Sydney that does pretty much the same thing and whenever we’re in the city we always have to go.
What’s something else you’d like to share with us?
AW: Just that we’re so happy to be releasing again and getting back to playing music. Thanks for watching and listening to ‘Romantic Notions’ – it means a lot and we hope that you enjoy it. We hope that anyone reading this is also doing ok, especially those of you from Victoria who have had it so tough these last few months.
We’ve fallen in love with romæo’s music—gorgeous shimmering electronics, lush sounds, dreamy melodies, hypnotic vocals and radio-ready hooks. Gimmie interviewed romæo to explore her world.
How did you first discover music?
ROMÆO: My parents are big music fans and always had the speakers blaring as I was growing up, so I was always singing along to a variety of artists. But the record that really made me want to be a musician was Missy Higgins’ The Sound of White. It came out when I was five and I was immediately sold – I started taking piano lessons and joined a choir.
When did you first start singing? We really love the harmonies and spoken word parts. Do you have any vocal inspirations?
R: Like I said, I was always singing along to the household high-rotation records. I still remember Sharon Jones’ Naturally and Nick Cave’s The Boatman’s Call back to front. I’ve struggled a lot with where I think my vocals sit and where I used to want them to be. I used to wish my voice was more powerful and mature, but as I’ve developed more confidence in my music, I’ve realised that I can do a lot with what I’ve got. My current vocal inspirations are Kacy Hill, Cecile Believe and Okay Kaya. They all deliver really vulnerable performances and aren’t trying to be anything they aren’t, and in that there is a lot of power. Their vocal melodies are also unusual and unexpected; I love when a melodic line continues further than you expect.
Your music is experimental bedroom art-pop; how did you first start making your own music?
R: I’ve been writing songs for a long time now, albeit most of them were iffy at best and a lot of them where much more indie singer-songwriter vibes. I started playing around with more electronic sounds over the last four years. I’ve always really loved pop but only really came across experimental pop in the last few years, so it’s been quite a recent thing in the grand scheme of things.
What’s your favourite instrument/piece of equipment to use right now when making your music?
R: I bought my first synth earlier this year – the Korg Minilogue XD (in white) so this has been a lot of fun, although every time I think I understand it something weird happens and I’m reminded I don’t.
So far you’ve put out a couple of releases and demos – monologue, revealed & iso demos; could you tell us a little about the progression of your work so far?
R: monologue details the period of time where I fell in love with ‘experimental pop’ and discovered my production potential. I’d always been afraid of trying to be a producer, and to be honest I still shy away from the term, but as I was working on those tracks I built up a lot of confidence. I guess I felt like I finally proved myself to myself. iso demos was thrown together in about a week right at the start of COVID-19. I’ve reconnected with the guitar after disowning it for a few years, so it was fun to combine that with my electronic production. Weirdly, I actually made revealed before any of the other stuff. I was really proud of this track and knew right away I wanted to ‘officially’ release it, so I’ve just been quietly sitting on it for about a year now.
I noticed on your bandcamp you’ve written “written/produced/mixed/mastered (lol)”; why the LOL? It sounds pretty fucking awesome to us!
R: Aaaaa you’re making be blush!!! I guess I’m just giving myself an out in case people think it doesn’t sound too good LOL. Confidence is a slow burn, but we’re getting there.
In November last year you were talking about the first EP you released and mentioned “I’m excited to finally have some faith in myself and my music, albeit unsteady and unreliable”; what changed for you to finally have faith in yourself and what you’re doing?
R: Hmm… I think what I finally realised is that what I’m making is solely my own. I think my music is exciting, its unexpected, its weird – it doesn’t sound quite like anything else. And that is what I look for when discovering new artists. So I kind of shifted my priorities and expectations. My music doesn’t have to be perfect or pristine, it just has to excite me. I still have to remind myself of that constantly though.
When you wrote song “don’t be so hard on yourself” was that a kind of note to self?
R: Oh gosh yes. That song is quite funny, because I listen to it and go ‘yikes that doesn’t sound too good’ but that is the whole point right!! I also laugh at myself for saying “don’t be so hard on yourself/be so hard on yourself”. I know I need to ease off on myself, but personal criticism is such a hard habit to break and can sometimes be valuable. This song was basically my Self pleading to my ego; pleading to be freed in a sense… for these two opposing forces I hear within me to make peace.
Your lyrics are very thoughtful and really honest; are you ever afraid to put yourself out there via your lyrics?
R: Definitely. I do have some unheard songs where I’m like ‘this could be a bit brutal’ for people who actually know me to hear lol. In terms of releasing stuff, I guess I’m conscious of coming off a bit ‘sad girl-y’ and being almost absurdly direct in my lyrics, but I don’t really know any other way. I can be very upfront in person so it is pretty natural for me. I also laugh at my own melodrama and don’t expect it to all be taken too seriously.
Has there been a song that’s been hard for you to write? Why?
R: revealed was actually really challenging to write. I wrote and recorded the first verse and then had no idea how to develop the idea / where to take it or what I even wanted from the song. I basically sat on it for a couple of months and hated everything I tried. Then finally one session, the chorus and bridge just flew out and came together almost insanely quickly. I think the best songs are the ones you can’t even remember writing; they just happen.
Musicians Paul Mac and Rainbow Chan have given you a little guidance with what you’re doing; what’s something you learnt from both of them?
R: Paul and Rainbow are so inspiring for soooo many reasons. What I admire about both of them is their versatility as both musicians and creative, artistic people. They each apply their skills to a variety of different artistic endeavours and kill it every time. Paul helped me learn how to make cool/wacky beats that are both disorienting but also keep the listener engaged. Rainbow has helped me realise how much you can do without overloading a song with different tracks and sounds. As in, we always want to over complicate and add different elements and ‘sparkles’ to a song, but you can also manipulate the same sound in so many different and weirdly wonderful ways. Sometimes less is more.
You use flowers in your artwork; what’s the idea behind that? What do they symbolise to you?
R: Flowers are the ultimate symbol of traditional femininity. Delicate and beautiful, they also allude to female genitalia. Flowers come in all different varietals, all of which are precious. I really struggle with how women in the media must brand themselves. We have to be bold and fierce, or soft and gentle. We are either sexually liberated or innocent and pacificist. But we are all these things, and none of them.
Have you been reading anything interesting, enthralling or great lately?
R: I was enthralled by Murakami’s Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage the other week. His writing is of course stunning – it is as simple or philosophical as you wish, and he hits you with the occasional deep cut. When discussing the unity of heart in relationships, Murakami notes “they are.. linked deeply through their wounds. Pain linked to pain, fragility to fragility”. That hurt.
I’ve also just started my honours thesis on music philosophy, so I’ve been reading a lot about music’s relationship to consciousness and time. Interesting, enthralling and great, it also is an absolute killer.
What’s a song that never ceases to make you happy/cheer you up when you hear it?
R: “Young Hearts Run Free” [by Candi Staton].
What are you working on next?
R: I’m gearing up to release my second ‘official’ single soon which is super exciting. I’m sitting on a number of tracks that I might throw together in a mixtape soon-ish. I’m a master procrastinator and perfectionist, but I think it will be sort of liberating to get these songs out there. It is really hard to stay creative and inspired right now, so I’ve really just been enjoying listening to music and playing around with little ideas. Who knows what’s next!
From the Northern Beaches of Sydney come C.O.F.F.I.N with their loud rock n roll punk and wild shows putting the fun, danger and excitement back into punk rock. They’ve been in the studio recording their new record which is getting ready to see the light of day. Gimmie caught up with them for a chat.
How did you first get into music?
BEN (vocals-drums): Hard to tell, it’s been a key component of my life as far back as I can remember. My mum had really good mixtapes an old boyfriend of hers from NY had made. They were always playing in the car. Maybe that. Apparently I got loose from her when I was two at a benefit gig Midnight Oil were playing on Freshwater Beach. She found me side of stage captive and clapping along. So probably a combination of that and watching Video Hits with my old man at his place on the weekend.
ARTY (guitar-vocals): Whole family loves music. But when I was little my parents were still having parties and house shows and my dad was still always playing gigs in his bands (Crazy Legs Vermin, Knucklehead and others). CLV were out there punk with psychedelic and scientific themes and influences. My imagination went nuts every time the ol’ man had a gig. Probably didn’t even understand what gigs were but there was always a wanting of inclusion.
AARON (guitar-vocals): I listened to Big Willie Style by Will Smith.
I know you guys spin records at events/gigs from your personal collections sometimes; what is: the last record you bought? The most treasured record in your collection? A record we’d be surprised you own? A record that never fails to get the party started?
AARON: Last I bought: All That Glue – Sleaford Mods. Most treasured: My dad’s original Beatles – Revolver. A surprise one: Wrestling Rocks – Real Rock ‘n’ Roll Sung by the World’s Greatest Professional. Party starter: Abijah’s copy of Eddie Murphy’s Party All The Time.
BEN: Last I bought: Greta Now – S/T. Most treasured: OG copy of Motörhead – On Parole. A surprise one: Enoch Light – Big Band Bossa Nova. Party starter: Three 6 Mafia – Mystic Stylez.
C.O.F.F.I.N all grew up together, bonding over a love of music and skateboarding; what initially sparked the idea to start the band?
BEN: We’d always be telling our folks we were staying at each other’s places and then just sneak out and skate, cause a ruckus, and go Shanti Hunting. Shanti Hunting was scoping out well enough covered areas like bin rooms or unit block fire escapes to sleep in for that night.
On the weekends when we did end up staying in we’d just jam anything for hours and talk about rock ‘n’ roll, and usually prank dominoes to con them into delivering free pizza.
We didn’t have any songs or a proper band name really, we’d always just improvise and start again the next time. This is where one of the really uncanny moments in our story takes place. We got our first gig in year 7 and were compelled to make an actual band because Loz who was in year 12 at the time was putting on a show with the Hard-Ons at our local youth centre (aka KANGA). Arty hearing this and being a major fan of the Hard-Ons lied to Loz and told him we had a punk band and really wanted to play. Loz let us open, and we had to get a set together in a month. Who would have known that a decade later Loz would end up joining the band he sorta spring-boarded into creation.
On a sidenote; who’s your favourite skateboarder? Why do they rule?
BEN: Well our favourite “blader” is Robert Grogan. And our favourite skateboarded is Rhys Grogan. They are both excellent shlonkers.
The band name stands for Children of Finland Fighting in Norway; were there any other names that you consider for the band? What made C.O.F.F.I.N the one that stuck?
BEN: Yeah it’s a fucked name. Well, the full version is at least weird, but C.O.F.F.I.N is a bit ordinary. I guess that happens when you’re 11 years old and naming your band.
Me and Arty had sorta played around with a couple other names (Leatherface, Val Halla) but they were kinda other projects going before the three of us (me, Arty, & Abijah) we’re fully jamming together.
We’d often go to these gigs that would happen at a heavier local rehearsal space in Brookvale called ‘Scene Around Sound’ or maybe ‘Rockafella’s’ because it was one of the only places we could see live music while being underage. The way I remember it was that Arty pleaded with one of the dudes running night to let us get up and play! WE HAD NO SONGS! The bloke said ‘sorry but there was no room’, yet he was intrigued by Arty’s forwardness, and that such young kids had a band. He told Arty that we could possibly do so next time and asked what the name of this young boy’s band was.
Arty being put on the spot for name answered ‘Children Of Finland!’ My only guess being because we were listening to lots of Scandinavian metal at the time. He came back to the couch we were squished in and recounted to Abijah & myself what had happened. We all agreed that was a shithouse name but stupidly felt it had to be kept because we announced to this guy that’s what it was. We decided to try and redeem it somewhat by turning it into an acronym and say that Arty hadn’t told him the full band name. C.O.F…COFFIN…’Fighting In Norway’ was the first thing that came out.
And here we are 15 years later still confusing folks and having Jerry Only implore us to trademark.
What was the inspiration behind having three guitarists?
BEN: Arty being stuck in an anarchist squat in Athens with no passport or idea of when he’d be able to return to Australia hahaha. Aaron filled in for the few gigs Arty missed and he ripped. He was already our best mate and at most of the shows. It seemed stupid to stop the fun he added and stifle his input so we told him he should stay. He’s got great taste and it just makes the sound and already odd setup more offensive and unique. In the new stuff it creates a wall of sound, but they’re different interlocking bricks. I really love Cuban music and how skits the layering is.
We’ve tried to make each guitarists’ part different but not so that it’s sounds obnoxious.
It’s sorta like when the Power Rangers make that one big Megazord or whatever it is.
When C.O.F.F.I.N started out you were all underage and found it hard to get shows because of that fact; can you tell us a little bit about this time? How did you work around the situation?
BEN: We continued on playing countless shows at KANGA (Manly Youth Centre) and got heavily involved in the Manly Youth Council because of that. It kinda allowed you to put on or influence the shows that happened there, and the community projects proved to be pretty great too.
We did lots of creative collaborations with kids that had intellectual disabilities, and environmental awareness festivals. I was even a penguin warden for a while hahah. Basically I had to stop dogs from chomping fairy penguins at the wharf.
We played for free anywhere that would let us. Other youth centres (YOYOs), band comps, parties, rehearsal studio shows. We’d lie and say we had the same focus or theme as some public event just so we could play at that, and at around age 17 we all stared looking old enough to just tell a venue we were 18+ and hope no questions were asked.
As for going to shows we were pretty skilled at sneaking into places and staking out the shadowed corners or sitting under tables.
You have a new album in the works; what’s it called? When will we see it released? How did you challenge yourself while writing and recording it?
BEN: Not sure about a name yet, maybe S/T. Probably end up releasing it when we are able to tour it properly, hahaha sigh.
I think a major difference and intentional challenge for this one was to sorta just have the skeletons of the songs sorted and work the rest out while doing it – keep a bit of the looseness and spontaneity.
I remember once hearing someone say “an album is never finished, it just has a deadline.” We set a deadline.
You recorded vocals through a vintage mic; what difference did it make to the vocals? Did you experiment with any other interesting equipment?
BEN: The old home phone thing right? We actually recorded harmonica through that, it sounds sick! Antique, like an old Maurice Chevalier recording. Usually we do very little to the vocals but do really like messing around with a few uncommon things.
Some of the odd stuff we used that I can think of is: A lap steel guitar I got second hand in Austin that’s from 1947, heaps of hand percussion and random shit I tink ered together, a bullroarer, and as I mentioned before harmonica.
We met and became friendly with Briggs while recording because he was working on demos at a studio in the same building as The Pet Food Factory. We were going to record him thwacking the roller doors out front with this baseball bat we had for this new song called Dead Land. Unfortunately we didn’t end up at there at the same time again. But that would have been boss.
During the creation of the new record, when was the point that you started to get really fired up about it?
BEN: About a month before we were booked in at the Pet Food Factory do it. But we are constantly scribbling notes and jamming riffs. It’s more just that the refined editing that becomes whipped into orbit as we get closer to that deadline.
What kinds of things are informing the new record lyrically?
BEN: Frustrations, depression. The stuff that probably keeps me grinding teeth at night. Holding people accountable for shitty behaviour. There are songs about the consequences of mistreating the land, how appalling domestic abuse against women in Australia is, dead shit abusers disguising themselves as artists…..and the pit gets deeper. The anguish of having things beyond your control controlling your life. But music can be a really powerful therapy for such grief and anger. If a song is done well it sorta becomes a timeless ‘fuck you’ or mirror to whatever it is you’re quarrelling with.
Last year C.O.F.F.I.N toured the country with T.S.O.L.; what did you take away from that experience?
ABIJAH (guitar-vocals): touring with a sober band is great because you get their rider.
ARTY: Been a fan since 13-ish, so stoked that they were all proper legends. Really nice, honest, funny blokes who were great to hang out with. They shared a lot of fucked up & insightful stories with us that’ll probably save our lives a few times in the future.
LOZ (bass-vocals): It’s really good hanging out with a band who have been playing together for so long and still loving it, even with a collection of so many fucked up stories as large as they have.
You guys have toured quite a lot; what’s be one of the most memorable places you’ve been? What made it so?
Ben: Hell, there are so many, a lot that probably can’t even be told yet…
LOZ: Let’s go with China, we were at the tail end of a tour that had gone through Japan and South Korea. Ben had a broken foot, Arty had 2 broken hands, and I shat myself on stage after drinking a bad shoe beer.
Language obstacles, sickness, travelling by public transport city to city, it was more charged than anywhere else we have toured. We witnessed some of most astoundingly beautiful scenery and conversely there some really stained sections too. Some gigs were the loosest and psycho shows we’d ever played and at others the police barged in, took over, and locked everyone in until each person had been drug tested. Just really felt like we never had a clue what was going on and that was awesome.
What do you all do outside of music?
ABIJAH: Snorkelling or diving whenever I get the chance and boring work shit in between
LOZ: I dedicate a lot of my time to music but I’ve also been a sign writer for the last 10 years
AARON: Uni and Radio Shack.
BEN: I also play in Research Reactor Corp and White Dog. I make jewellery, do video stuff, work construction, and sometimes assist my mum with her glass artwork. Essentially make money anyway I can so I can make more music and tour.
What’s something really important that C.O.F.F.I.N care about that you’d like everyone to be informed/aware of?
BEN: Inclusivity and equality, to respect those around you who deserve it, don’t waste it on those who don’t.
What’s one of THE best things you’ve experienced lately?
BEN: Recording with Jason Whalley at The Pet Food Factory, bush walks and the beach.
ABIJAH: You can get Ichi Ran Ramen in Australia!
AARON: I’d have to think about it, not much. Getting our US tour with Amyl & The Sniffers cancelled and staying inside for two months fucking sucked.
LOZ: Great K-hole last weekend.
ARTY: First and foremost is seeing my best mates since this big dumb brain freeze.
We love Loose Fit’s rhythm-heavy groove-driven post-punk no-wave sound. Their self-titled debut EP was released as a limited cassette run in 2018, but was recently put out on 12” vinyl by UK label FatCat Records. We spoke to them about the release, their beginnings and more.
How has your day been? What did you get you get up?
MAX: I’m currently ‘working’ from home. I’m waiting for the phone to ring so I can help someone with their issues using Zoom, as I am apparently an expert since two months ago.
Outside of music what do you do?
KAYLENE: I run a little knitwear label called WAH-WAH Australia and work as a design consultant.
MAX: Just the boring normal stuff. I work a normal job, enjoy socialising on the weekends etc. I’ve been enjoying cooking a lot more recently.
ANNA: I make art, illustration, painting and other. I also freelance as a social-systems designer and right now I’m doing work as a Speculative Futurist, which is basically a dream come true where I get to make sci-fi artefacts and tell people they have been sent back to us from the future.
RICHARD: I’m a video editor.
What’s an album that you’ve listened to more than any other? As a music fan what do you appreciate most about it?
KAYLENE: Naughty Boys – YMO. It’s the perfect pop album. It manages to do that thing where it makes you happy and nostalgic at the same time, and such cool synth sounds!
MAX: Too hard to be completely definitive, but one I’ve been obsessed with in recent years and keep returning to is Arthur Russell – Calling Out Of Context. It’s mentioned briefly in the AR doco how he loved riding the ferry and being on the water, and that feeling often filtered into his music somehow. I love that feeling in these songs, how they just kinda meander and float by with this kinda pleasant wistfulness. They’re also still super catchy somehow! He’s a master.
ANNA: Animal Collective archive I have been revisiting for years. When I feel boxed in, I listen to them and I feel myself again.
What was your first introduction to D.I.Y. world?
KAYLENE: I grew up playing trumpet in brass bands and orchestras, which was not in line with what I was listening to, or wanted to play, but it was a great musical training. When I was in year 11, I saw an advertisement on the Wollongong Music Scene online forum looking for a trumpeter to play some mariachi style trumpet on a rock album. After my debut in the rock and roll world, I joined a local band of misfits called The Nice Folk.
MAX: I had a couple of bands during and just after high school, so I guess we were ‘doing it ourselves’ back then? Not because we were super aware of DIY as an ethos or a musical subculture, we were just entertaining ourselves.
ANNA: Tangentially to music….My D.I.Y sensibilities came through my love of fashion and making things. When I was 10 I started designing and making my own outfits and accessories. In high school my friends and I had heaps of little fashion businesses and sold things at music festivals and all ages gigs and markets. We even made swing tags and brand labels.
I understand that Kaylene and Anna first met at fashion school and bonded over a mutual love of experimental music; what were some of these bands/artists? What was your first impression of each other?
KAYLENE: Fashion school was so all consuming that we didn’t really get a chance to bond over shared musical interests until after we graduated. That was almost a decade ago now, but I remember Anna introduced me to some cool artists like Anna Meredith and Blues Control. We went to a Holy Balm gig together and that really got us talking about synthesisers, and what music we could potentially make with the electronic music gear my brother had given me.
First impressions of Anna? Charismatic, good dancer and intensely creative.
ANNA: I knew Kaylene had an entire room in her house dedicated to records, and at fashion school she also had a vintage designer handbag and a pair of Ann Demeulemeester lace up boots. So I knew she was FRESHHHHH. She is such a clever designer. I had crippling social anxiety during fashion school, it was hard to make friends properly. During fashion school I used to go to gigs by myself at Black Wire and this artist run experimental spot in Chippendale called Serial Space and a grimy stinkhole under an escalator in Chinatown called The Square. I saw the most inspiring stuff at those places, especially Serial Space.
What inspired you to start Loose Fit?
KAYLENE: Until forming Loose Fit, I’d always found myself playing in other people’s bands as the trumpeter. It was satisfying in the sense that playing music with others is always (usually) a fun experience, but it wasn’t necessarily the music I felt I wanted to be making.
ANNA: I felt angry.
Can you describe Loose Fit in a sentence please?
RICHARD: No instrument more important than any other instrument.
ANNA: I still feel pretty angry.
Loose Fit started out with Kaylene and Anna doing lo-fi bedroom recordings; did you have an initial idea of what you wanted to sound like? How did you get started?
KAYLENE: Loose Fit is actually the coming together of two half formed musical projects. Anna and I knew we wanted to make music together, but we only really got as far as learning how to program beats on Ableton, and how to integrate analogue synths and old drum machines and record on a somewhat archaic 8-track mixer that we couldn’t export the audio from. Not long after, Max and I started throwing around the idea of making some music together. Our first attempts involved synthesisers and experimental trumpet, before I jumped on the drums and decided that’s where I’d like to sit. So I guess we started out thinking we were going to be more experimental than where we ended up.
ANNA: I used to joke with my friends that I was going to quit my job, go art school and join a rock band. And then eventually all those things happened. And lucky, because otherwise I’d still be recording videos of myself lip-syncing to Brian Ferry and posting them on the internet.
How’d Richard and Max get involved in the band? How did you meet?
RICHARD: Max was (and is) Kaylene’s boyfriend, I was a friend of Kaylene’s. The first time we were all in a room together was our first rehearsal.
Your self-titled EP was released in 2018 and in April this year UK label Fat Cat Records put it out again; have you been working on anything new? What can you tell us about it so far?
RICHARD: We’re working towards an album and recorded a bunch of tracks but it all got put on hold (like everything else) back in March. We just started rehearsing again and have been working on new stuff so we might try and get back into the studio soon.
ANNA: New songs, many new songs. I really like the new songs. So fun! I really miss playing them at gigs.
How do you write? Is it collaboratively? What’s your process?
RICHARD: A lot of our songs come from stuff that just happened in rehearsal and we liked it. We’ll often just start playing until we hit on something that feels cool. We try and come up with interesting places to take it, and then edit pretty hard to turn the bits into a tight song. Sometimes someone will come in with a bit – like Max came up with Pull The Lever’s main bassline. But nobody brings a completed song and plays it on an acoustic or anything gross like that.
ANNA: Yeah and we tried to do long distance Covid songwriting over email but it sucks.
Can you share with us one of your favourite moments from writing and/or recording your s/t LP back in 2018? I read that you recorded it in one weekend.
MAX: I can’t really think of a particular moment, but the whole process was a real delight. I’m sure everyone who’s been in a band can relate to that intense burst of energy and excitement when you first get together, write your first few songs, play your first handful of shows and make your first recording. It was a blast. Also, Anna had never played in a band before and Kaylene had never played drums. We approached the EP more or less just as a document of what we had achieved in that first 6-8 months.
ANNA: Playing our first shows!!!!!!!! I was so nervous we’d play to an empty room, but all my friends caught the train up from Thirroul to Petersham Bowling Club to see us play! What a buzzzzzzzzz though. Every time someone invites us to play a show I’m still flattered.
RICHARD: We did the EP with Jono Boulet, it was a pretty fast and furious session in his little studio in Marrickville. There wasn’t much overthinking, they were all songs we knew pretty well and we just smashed through them.
The album art features details of “Lost In Highway” a painting by Botond Keresztesi; how did you first find their work? What attracted you to using it for your cover?
ANNA: I discovered Botond through Nick Santoro I think. They have a similar language in their art. It’s one of those things. You see an image it is just obvious that it is perfect for the sound of the music and the mood. I can’t explain it. But I do love the post-internet hyper-real style of Botond’s art, and the sort of awkward non-spaces of the scenes he paints. Objects floating and existing, somewhere kinda vacant and artificial, in no particular time or place.
In regards to song writing, what is one of your biggest challenges?
MAX: Sometimes it’s just hard! Sometimes we’ll stumble upon something and end up with a song an hour later, but other times ideas are just less forthcoming.
RICHARD: Everyone in the band listens to a pretty wide variety of stuff. I think we’re all interested in exploring lots of different territory stylistically. Maybe the challenge is doing that while making sure we retain the band’s own style and personality.
ANNA: Being able to retain the same off-the-cuff natural energy of jamming and chaotic improvised lyricism in the final refined song.
A couple of months ago you released a film clip for song ‘Black Water’; can you please tell us a bit about the day of shooting it?
MAX: It was a really fun day! Two of my friends from work helped us out behind the camera. Solomon directed/shot it and Gabe helped out ‘on set’ and shot some great photos. One of the dancers, Cait, is an old school friend of mine that I called upon when we needed a couple of ballroom guns. So it was just a whole lot of fun. I think it turned out really great too. We’d sort of had the basic idea rattling around for a while but when we pitched it to Solomon he really brought the final thing together and made it look super schmick. Total pro.
ANNA: It was pouring with rain and the roof of this heritage listed hall we rented was leaking. Gabe had to mop the floor between every take so the dancers wouldn’t slip. Kaylene and I spent most of the day applying makeup and fake nails. Richard brought one of his attractive vintage speaker systems for set dressing. All our costumes were from charity shops and we were aiming for daggy-glam but we kind of ended up looking like a rip off Gucci campaign.
What’s next for Loose Fit?
MAX: Hopefully we can finish the album soon! Just focusing on the little victories for the moment I guess.
ANNA: Bringing heaps of hand sanitiser to band practice.
Sydney’s The Dandelion channel the best parts of 1960s music, hints of exotica and psychedelia to create a magical world of their own. We had a deep chat with The Dandelion’s creatrix Natalie de Silver about creation, spirituality, songwriting, growth and their new album in the works.
What feeling do you get from making or playing music?
NATALIE DE SILVER: It brings on a whole range of emotions. A good song is a song that makes you feel something quite powerfully; a bad song is a song that doesn’t make you feel anything or it might just make you feel annoyed [laughs]. I always judge a song by how it makes me feel. The feeling I get from making or playing music is quite inexplicable really. The creative process is quite complex, sometimes it can be frustrating. I start with a sound in my head and I want to bring it to life; it doesn’t always come out the way that you want it to, which can also be a good thing as well because it can be surprising where it goes. There is something about spontaneity in the creative process that is magical.
I understand that you don’t really feel so comfortable writing and recording in the company of other people; why is that? Is there a freedom in making things by yourself?
NDS: I don’t mind recording in front of people. The reason I do lots of recording by myself is mainly financial. I can do it from home and I’m not on a time schedule. I can chip away at what I’m working on when I feel like it and I’m in the mood, rather than have studio time booked and have to get everything together for it and make it in a short timeframe. The next record that we are doing is going to be in a proper studio, it will be a bit more of a collaborative process with the other band members more involved. We’ll have a recording engineer as well which is exciting!
I was going to ask you about recording your next album because I saw back in November last year that you put out a call for a violinist on social media, saying that you might be recording this April.
NDS: That’s right, it’s still scheduled to record in April.
I’ve read you talk about wanting to really get a really lush sound to your albums. I was thinking being in a studio as opposed to home recording like you usually do, you may be able to realise that.
NDS: For sure! It will be nice to have a little bit less responsibility in terms of capturing the sound but, it is inevitable I will be directing a lot of what is happening and the creative process. Not having to be the one that presses play, record and rewind, will give me a different type of freedom. Like you were saying before, I do have a sense of freedom when I record by myself at home but, I think having less responsibility in engineering the recording I will have a different freedom in the studio.
I know that for the last two LPs you used the same recording equipment and instruments to get the sound you have. Using a different studio etc. it will be interesting to see where this recording goes.
NDS: I think it will have a different sound sonically for sure. I don’t want to give away anything yet before it is done though. I always find that generally how I would envision the album before its being made, it doesn’t always turn out the way I plan.
I understand that when you do start writing for an album you often think it’s going to be a folky kind of album and then it turns out completely different.
NDS: That happens pretty much every record, I plan to do a folk record. I think it’s because I write a lot of my songs on a nylon string acoustic guitar. You can probably tell on my albums there is a lot of folk material, that’s generally how I start the record, then there is this moment where I get a burst of energy and want to play real drums and play an electric guitar [laughs].
I think it’s so cool that you write, play and record all your songs yourself, not many people do that.
NDS: I don’t know how that came about? I learnt to play instruments, I had a period years ago where I was living in a warehouse space, that’s where the band used to rehearse so instruments were just there set up… maybe I started out of boredom? We had band rehearsals once a week and I had all this time in between that, where I was surrounded by all of these instruments. I was always writing songs and I’d feel anxious because I wanted to just record it. It was a slow process of recording and learning how to play those instruments at the same time. I had a multi-track cassette recorder and I would start with the drums. I’d record myself jamming to myself and then I would write the song based around that drum beat. I would have an idea of the song in my head but then I would create little bits, like a drum roll or a break down, and start playing softly. Once the drum beat was recorded I would listen back with the organ or a guitar playing along with it and work the song out that way.
It’s really great starting with the drums because the drums are such a primal thing.
NDS: Yeah, I always consider the drums as the heartbeat of the song, everything else is on the top of that. This record I’ve been writing is a little bit more challenging because I am writing at home by myself and having the other band members involved. I’ve been writing very much on just guitar and organ, without the drums. We’ll see how I turns out.
I understand that spirituality is a big driving force in your life and your music; when did you start on this path?
NDS: Yes. I’m a cradle Catholic, so my spiritual journey started form birth. I was initiated into the church through the sacrament which is baptism, confession and Holy Communion and Confirmation. Like most kids who were initiated into religion at a young age, I didn’t really understand the true significance of those sacraments until later in my life. I left the church when I was fifteen, I would have been in Year 9 or 10 at that stage, I was going to a Catholic school—I chose a path of self-spiritual self-discovery through what I would call chemically-induced mysticism. I was very influenced by my favourite musicians from the 1960s. Unfortunately that path inevitably got me expelled [laughs] from Catholic school. Music became my religion for years after.
Through those years I identified as a non-practising Catholic, however I formed a strong attraction to New Age spirituality. That led me into the occult and I began to experiment with practises such a Hermeticism, Gnosticism, Witchcraft, Sex Magick and spiritual channelling. The practises were complimented by drug use, mainly amphetamines and psychedelics. I think that created an illusionary sense of connecting with the divine, it took me many years to wake up from that—I describe it as self-centred, chemically-induced, hypnotism. When I woke up from those experiences I thought it was a very self-indulgent way of obtaining spirituality and spiritual enlightenment—spiritual gluttony is probably a better term to use.
Quite recently I found my return back to the Catholic Church and I begun attending the traditional Latin Catholic mass. I started participating in daily prayer and regular confession, slowly I began to realise that there is no self-centred way to God and spiritual enlightenment. The holy mysteries are revealed slowly and incrementally through self-sacrifice and positively and actively participating in society, as opposed to chemically inducing yourself into a state of false divine revelation.
Was there anything in particular that woke you up?
NDS: I realised I was self-destructing, that was a wakeup call. I got to a point where I realised that if I continue down this path I’m not going to be alive, it was getting to that point. I had a wakeup call that when I looked at myself objectively and asked myself; what are you doing to yourself? I asked myself the very serious question; do you want to live or do you want to die? That’s when I realised how self-centred I had been by being self-destructive. It’s quite easy to get self-destructive, there’s something quite romantic about it, throughout the centuries people have written poems ad painted pictures and created stories and lived out these seemingly romantic lives of self-destruction, living in pain and embracing it. There is a lot of pain and suffering inevitably in life… there’s that romantic notion that you embrace it and take it head on. Once I looked outside of myself and looked at what I was doing and realised it was affecting other people around me, my relationships with them and my life, that pulled me out of that vortex, that cycle. That’s when I come to realise that self-sacrifice is the key to obtaining true enlightenment. I had to give up a lot of things in my life which I was enjoying, but they weren’t healthy for me. Ultimately the outcome of that – it wasn’t an easy process, it was quite painful but ultimately beautiful – was that I was able to find an inner peace. I have less friends now but I think that the people that are close to me, those connections are so much more solid than before when I felt quite lost amongst a sea of madness [laughs].
Isn’t it funny how different people in your circle or groups of people you know, start to fall away and out of your life when your self-growth accelerates in positive ways.
NDS: I know! It’s a painful process because they are people that when you’re amongst that arena, everyone is on the same wave length, we’re all searching for something and you find each other and you do form a closeness; it’s painful to break away from that. Sometimes people don’t like it when you do better because they might feel like you’re leaving them. Ultimately it’s probably best for both of you to move away from each other, especially if you both have the same bad habits.
There’s a lot of references to the natural world in your music: the night sky, willow, fire, sun, moonbeam meadow, cold wind, petals, morning, evening, nocturnal/night, garden, caves, earth, milky way, trees, 8-legged ones, seasons; what’s your relationship to nature?
NDS: To me nature is the best representation of the existence of God. I see God as the essence of creation. I’m fortunate to have a backyard in my apartment, I have a garden so I go out there and you only have to sit and watch for a few minutes and you’ll see creation and the creation process. That to me is a symbol of the existence of God because I recognise it from my own observations that everything does have a purpose… which is contrary to what prominent Atheists like Richard Dawkins say, things like, the universe has no purpose of design and there is no good and evil, that the world carries on with pitiless indifference. To me there is more evidence to suggest that we do have a purpose and an intrinsic purpose which we call survival. If you see everything intertwining and working together in this beautiful harmonious structure… I see it as this metaphysical hierarchy in nature, there’s the hunters and the prey, some species are both, and it’s fascinating to see that unfold.
It’s interesting that if you look at nature it seems like everything lives in harmony with everything else except for us humans.
NDS: Yeah, I guess so. There’s a certain grace that nature has that us humans try really hard to obtain. For instance, if you watch two humans fighting each other it’s generally what I would consider an ugly performance – maybe with the exception of controlled fighting like martial arts, there’s some sense of beauty in combat there – generally human conflict is ugly. If you watch a wolf hunting down a deer, even though it’s brutal to watch and can be confronting, it has something majestic about it. That’s part of the process of life.
What makes us different is that as humans most of us have our basic survival needs already met, this looking for our purpose and meaning changes to other activities; those other activities sometimes can come into conflict with other people’s purpose and activities and what they want out of life and what they feel is important to them—that’s when us humans can definitely fall from grace and that’s when the world ca become quite ugly. When we become too focused and too ideological about how we think the world should be run as opposed to finding balance and harmony.
In some ways I also believe that conflict does seem necessary in some way because I always think of those moments when you have a conflict with someone and then post that, there’s often a moment of transcendence where you can reflect on it and learn something from it and hopefully reconcile with the person you had the conflict with and then you both transcend—that’s such a valuable experience to have. The connection and transcendence with that person wouldn’t have happened unless you had conflict. I guess that’s the strange puzzle of life that I think is very mysterious. Spirituality and religious philosophy is able to explain that well I think.
There’s such an importance in mythological stories, they convey human experience as opposed to just looking at stuff analytically, like in the Sciences as opposed to direct human experience. In saying that, I have a big respect for the conventional Sciences as well; that’s part of us as well, a gift that human beings have, to look at things analytically and experiment with things as long as it’s done with positive and good intentions. There’s another part of human nature that’s hard to put into words, that’s where I see myths, stories, films, music, art, are the best methods of explaining that inexplicable.
I noticed that the Aboriginal creator goddess Yhi makes an appearance in your songs ‘Garden of Yhi’ and ‘Goddess Yhi’; how did you first come to know of her?
NDS: It’s a fascinating story. The first version of the song, I recorded in the morning, it was actually a very beautiful morning. I was contemplating her, again I was in the backyard. It was one of those angelic mornings where you have that dappled sunlight shining through the trees and I was thinking about the goddess Yhi, I feel her story is very similar to Persephone in Greek mythology, she goes down into the underground Hades but when she comes up its springtime and everything just comes to life. I saw a very strong correlation between Yhi and Persephone. It’s a beautiful story that’s symbolic of the cycle of life; again it’s a symbolism of God and creation. Her archetype was very, very inspiring.
It’s almost even similar to your own story, you went into the darker areas of life and you’ve now come out the other side where you’ve created all this beautiful stuff.
NDS: Yes, that’s the love and hate relationship I have with the creative process [laughs]. You have to destroy yourself for a little bit to see the light. Although now as I’m getting a little older and more responsible, I think I’m definitely finding a way to manage that duality a bit more.
I know what you mean. I think for myself where I’m at is that I really believe in love, creativity, compassion, service, connection and nature.
NDS: Yeah, and what’s beautiful about all of those things are they’re so mysterious and that’s why we are so attracted to them. They’re not things that you can merely just look at. I googled the scientific explanation for ‘love’ the other day. The only way that you could analytically or scientifically look at love is through physical relations; it says there’s a certain chemical reaction in the brain when someone is in love and then it has these bodily sensations. I thought that was simply reducing something to a physical reaction—love is so much more mysterious than that. It’s something that is subjective and objective because it’s part of our experience and we all have a different understanding of love and we express it differently. I think love also can sometimes be confused with infatuation which can be the onset of love, but true love is something that you can’t really explain it. When you think of how you love your family members, sometimes in reality you might be really angry at them, sometimes you even hate them but, it’s inevitable that you do love them. Once you really embody that, you realise how powerful it is. When it’s true love that’s when you learn that love is not impatient, love doesn’t hate—there’s something really supreme about it. When we talk about the concepts of God or Goddesses or any type of archetype, love is one of those things that there is nothing higher than that.
When you talk about nature, there’s something so miraculously mysterious about it when you see how it all works together. At the same time it’s beautiful but it’s also brutal. If you think about us human beings, if we were to be thrown out into nature, out of our little cocoon of our home and shelter, nature could be really cruel and unforgiving—it could destroy you.
If you look at the patterns of Indigenous People throughout the centuries, they seem to have found a way to communicate with nature and to move harmoniously with it. Modern humans have a lot to learn from that. There’s a tendency in the modern day to see that type of thinking as primitive or archaic but I think there’s a lot of things we could learn from them. Where we are in this day and age where we are, going through this very strange pandemic, there seems to be crisis all over the world, environmental, social; we can learn a lot from going back. I don’t like the word ‘primitive’, I think that makes it sound derogatory, I like to think of it as eternal wisdom.
Going back to the concept of spirituality and religion, there’s an eternal wisdom that has always been around. Certain people throughout the centuries have been able to tap into that better than others. Hopefully as a nation we can start to recognise that and cherish that and conserve that as opposed to throwing it away.
We live in quite a post-modern type of world. Look at our technology at the moment, it’s helped us a lot but, things that have been created now are very disposable. I’ve always wondered; how does that affect us psychologically? In ways that we might not even be aware of it, unconsciously we’re owning all these things that we throw away quickly.
Lately I’ve noticed with everyone being in lockdown, when you do go out to the shops there’s so much stuff on the shelves that people don’t really need. I think maybe people are starting to live simply on what they need, the basics, rather than frivolous things they want.
NDS: Yeah. Obviously during these times you spend a lot of time scrolling through the internet, which can be not so healthy, but occasionally you’ll see that people have come up with some beautiful analysis of what’s happening. They’re looking at positives that have come out of this social isolation. Life tragedies are somewhat necessary for us to progress and move forward, as painful as it can be; there’s generally some sort of answer after. That is the mystery that we’re all in one way or another searching for, some of us call it God, some of us call it enlightenment, some of us call it just existing.
On album Old Habits And New Ways you have an instrumental song called ‘De Silver’s Dream’; do you dream often?
NDS: I do. I have a reoccurring dream, unfortunately it’s not a very nice one. I go into an old style house, similar to the ones in Surry Hills in Sydney, they’re skinny three-level terrace houses, and it has nice Victorian furniture in there and when I enter I’m compelled to walk up the staircase. There’s an impending doom-feeling and something telling me that I shouldn’t go in there but I walk up anyway. There’s a horrible, deathly, sickly smell and I open a door and feel the presence of something, suddenly I wake up. I haven’t had it for a while but I’ve found that the dream comes about in times of uncertainty in my life, I think that’s what it represented. I’d have such a mixed feeling, compelled to do something but something telling me not too. Maybe it represents a big decision that I had to make in my life.
I haven’t dived too much into dream interpretation but I’ve been meaning to. I’m so lazy with writing them down. I started writing a dream journal for a little while, there were some weird ones! Beyond weird [laughs]. I stumbled across it the other day actually, I was writing some songs – I always have ten books that I write in – I picked up one and it was actually my dream journal. I read through it and thought they were so weird!
I was watching Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain the other day and thought that movie is such a great depiction of what dreams are like; just complete weirdness, things have symbolic and sometimes triple meanings. The one thing I experience often, which I think others would too, I experience this phenomenon in dreams where you’ll be talking to someone and then they’ll change into something else, I find that fascinating. I think dreams are where our surreal art and art in general comes from. I’m really into C.S. Lewis at the moment. He’s one of those writers that are a top-level intellectual writer. He said he’d have these dreams and wake up and write a novel. I wish I could do that, it’s so fantastic!
Do you find lyrics come easy to you?
NDS: Lyrics are a tough one. That’s the part of the songwriting process that I like the least to be honest. The music side comes easy, I can pick up a guitar and write a song straight away. I would be mumbling lyrics and saying nonsensical words though. You know what is the most annoying part of songwriting for me?
NDS: It’s when I have those moments and pick up a guitar and start to write a song, I’ll start humming lyrics and I might feel they’re good but then I can’t remember them because it’s such a spontaneous process. I’m just spewing out lyrics but they might actually sound good and then I’ll go get my book to write things down and I’ll be like; what the hell did I just say? It’s so annoying! When I focus on writing the song down it can sometimes lack that magic it had when I was just first creating it and I wasn’t really thinking about it.
What I’ve got into the process of doing now is that, when I start strumming I’ll have my phone next to me with a voice recorder and I’ll just hit that and record what I’m doing and I can play it back and generally be able to pick out some lines. The lyrical process for me is somewhat of a stream of consciousness. I find it hard to write about specific things. I know some writers might have an experience and they’re able to articulate it poetically and brilliantly use abstract words to tell the story. I don’t really write that way, sometimes I wish I could. I’ll generally have a mental spew of words, words will come together. I do like rhymes. What is really interesting is that when I reflect on the song it will have a theme and meaning; it will more often than not portray my state of mind or what has been happening in my life or where I’m at.
If I look back at my past songs, it is kind of like looking at a diary, which can be a bit awkward. Like when I look back at my dream journal, you sometimes cringe [laughs]. I feel that way with certain songs that I have recorded, it’s a bit embarrassing but then on the other hand people may see something different in it. There’s also times I do look and find moments of pure naivety, and I could never replicate that ever again. If you look at any artist that has put out a catalogue of work, it’s often the early stuff that people enjoy the most; during that time the artist isn’t over thinking everything or didn’t know what they were doing and sometimes that naivety creates something really, really special and accessible. I say this somewhat in jest but, my music is becoming somewhat more sophisticated in my artistic approach that I’m a bit unsure if my new music will be as accessible because I’m looking at it with a bit more experience. I don’t know though. When I record something I rarely listen back to it, I say goodbye and it’s then the listeners’.
Research Reactor Corp. play super fun, goofy, cartoonish, weirdo-punk. We spoke with the Reactor’s Billy and he gave us the goss on a new RRC record, a new band called Mainframe, his new label, a new G.T.R.R.C release and more.
BILLY: I’m just playing with two naughty kittens in my lounge room right now.
What are their names?
BILLY: We got them two weeks ago, we thought it would be a good time to adopt them. One looks like a sweet potato so we just call him Sweetie or Spudboy. The other one we called Dee Dee, lil’ Dee Dee Ramone.
That’s my favourite Ramone.
BILLY: Mine too, he was bad arse! He’s the only one that had an offshoot hip-hop record. He’s the coolest Ramone, which is a big call. Johnny is a big Conservative and I’m not too into that.
We got that Dee Dee King record as a wedding present. I walked down the aisle at our wedding to the Ramones.
BILLY: That’s awesome! I just love how his vocals are just so rat shit on it [does a Dee Dee impression] I’m Dee Dee Ramone! [laughs]. He sounds like a frog or something.
What have you been up to today?
BILLY: I am lucky enough to still have a fulltime job. I’m a screen printer and in a team of three people. I’ve been printing hi-vis vests for a supermarket all day that say: stand 1.5 meters back. Exciting stuff! [laughs]. Apart from not being able to go to shows, which is driving me insane, because of all this COVID stuff… I’m ADHD, I don’t really like sitting around too much and I’m going a little bit stir-crazy in my house. I have two little cute kittens running around and a girlfriend I live with so things are good. It would be a real lonely time for a lot of people, it’s a weird time to be alive!
We’ve been doing the Zoom thing, which is pretty funny. We’ve been playing this game called Quiplash which is kind of like Cards Against Humanity. Kel who does Gee Tee lives on my block and he has been the guy organising that and streaming it off his computer, it’s pretty funny. I’ve just been checking in with everyone. It was my thirtieth birthday on the 10th of April. R.M.F.C. and Gee Tee were going to play in my lounge room but we had to call it off. I had an ice-cream cake delivered, that was pretty bad arse. Other than that I didn’t do too much.
How’s it feel to be thirty?
BILLY: Kind of exactly the same! I feel like a big giant baby! I feel like I’m fifteen. It’s not the end of the world [laughs]. In the two days leading up to it I was like, oh cool, I’m a real adult now! I said that when I turned twenty as well though [laughs]. I still feel like a big kid.
Totally know them feels dude! I’m still sitting on my floor listening to records, doing interviews and making zines, the same thing I was doing when I was fifteen.
BILLY: That’s bad arse! My friend Sam just moved house and he found a skate punk zine we did when we were fifteen called, World Up My Arse. We interviewed some power-violence bands off MySpace [laughs]. We only printed like ten copies and gave a couple away. It was pretty fucking cool, I can’t believe he kept it.
Nice! I have boxes of zines, I’ve been collecting them for around twenty years.
BILLY: I have a lot as well. I’ve just moved into a bigger place than I was in, I live in Petersham in Sydney’s Inner West. My zines are all in boxes too, some are at my parents’ house. I have every one of those Distort zines that DX does periodically. I have a lot of graffiti ones as well, I was into that for a bit.
Same! I was really into graffiti and hip-hop as a kid. You were born in Sydney?
BILLY: I was born in Manly Hospital in Sydney in 1990. I grew up on the north side of Sydney in a place called Narrabeen. When I was eight, I moved to the Gold Coast of all places for my stepdad’s work and was there for a couple of years and then came back to Sydney. No matter where I’ve visited in the world, I always say that Sydney is my home and it’s great to come back to. I have lots of time for Sydney! I don’t know why grumps in Melbourne always go “Yuck! You’re from Sydney?!” It’s weird. I was born and bred in Sydney.
What made you want to play music?
BILLY: It’s a weird one for a kid, but I think the first CD I got was the South Park Chef Aid one. I remember thinking it was so funny because they were singing about balls! [laughs]. My dad has always been into music and goes to gigs, he grew up seeing bands like The Riptides, The Scientists and stuff like that. I was lucky enough to have a dad that had a pretty decent record collection. It’s a bit disappointing that he kind of sold his record collection about fifteen years ago to go on a trip to Europe, so I missed out on that.
I got a Limp Biscuit CD… and the first CD I bought with my own money other than the South Park one was Elvis Costello; my dad drilled stuff like that into me. Then I got into NOFX and things just went from there. Music is the only thing I’ve ever really given a shit about, besides my family, and maybe skateboarding at some points in my life. I just spend all of my money on records and sit in my house listening to them. My friends and I constantly send music to each other too.
Even as a little kid I loved music, my mum always tells this story of when I used to put on ‘Cake’ which is a Crowded House song—I fucking hate Crowded House as an adult!
When did you first start making your own music?
BILLY: I did the whole booking in the music room in high school thing and tried to rip off bad hardcore bands when I was fifteen. My uncle is a professional soloist drummer so I was lucky enough to have the hook up for cheap drum equipment. I started playing drums when I was ten. As soon as I was fifteen I worked out that I don’t want to play drums in a hardcore band or a punk band because it’s too tiring, you have to bring gear!—I know that’s lazy though [laughs]. I played in some really cringe-y garage and hardcore bands in high school that didn’t make it past playing a few shows at youth centres.
I didn’t really play music for a while and then with the Research Reactor stuff… Ishka the other dude that does it, it’s just him and I, we make all the stuff and then do it as a live band. We have an LP coming out E.T.T. [Erste Theke Tontrager] in Europe and Televised Suicide is doing it in Australia soon; we’ve got it all mocked up and the tracks are done… it just depends how long it’s all going to take with all the pressing plants being blocked up because of Coronavirus.
What’s it going to be called?
BILLY: The Collected Findings Of The Research Reactor Corp. It’s basically our first two tapes and then a couple of new songs. Ishka who I make the music with, it’s just us doing it in our bedrooms, all home recording stuff. He’s a wizard at that stuff, I fucking suck at it! He plays in a thousand bands: Set-Top Box, all of the recordings are just him; Satanic Togas, all of the recordings are just him; on the last Gee Tee Chromo-zone record he does half of everything on the recording. Ishka is a big ol’ powerhouse! He’s awesome, he’s such an inspiring dude. It’s so cool that he is one of my best mates and that I get to make music with him.
I saw his band the Satanic Togas play, I had heard them online but didn’t know anything about the guys. They blew my mind and straight after the set I walked right up to Ishka and was like “Hey man, that was awesome! I’d be willing to beat money that you’re into The Gories and The Mummies” and he was like “Whoa! Shit! They’re my favourite bands!” We exchanged numbers and found out that we both wrote graffiti and were familiar with each other’s words and stuff. It turned out that he was living in the same suburb that I was working in, so we just started hanging out together. We just get in the lab, smoke some reefer and see what happens [laughs]. It’s super funny!
The first Research Reactor tape, the first song on it, Ishka just recorded everything and I basically just one-shotted the vocals! It’s good ‘cause we’re into a lot of similar music, we see eye-to-eye. It just works. If Ishka has a day off and feels like making a song, he’ll send me the recording, a demo, while I’m at work and I might duck off to the bathroom and think of a cool line or idea for the song and just jot down notes in my phone. When I get home I’ll write the song and Ishka is a five minute walk away so I’ll go around and record it. He’ll then do some mixing on it and we’ll take it to practice or to the band and put it on our Facebook chat and ask them if they like it and we all just learn to do it as a live band from there. It’s a cool way of doing it. The new LP we have coming out, the two new songs on there are written with everyone playing on it; it takes longer to record that way though.
What are the new songs about?
BILLY: [Laughs] Well, one of them, it’s actually a bit of a debate, I wanted to call the new song ‘Frog Willy’ or ‘Frog Penis’ but it has no relevance to the lyrics whatsoever! I think it’s ended up being called ‘Shock Treatment’ and it’s about eating heaps of eels until you explode and sticking a fork into an electrical outlet and basically zapping your brain.
What inspired that?
BILLY: [Laughs] We’re definitely a goofy band! Which I guess it’s why it’s so fun to write and play the stuff. Obviously we take a lot of influence from Devo and The Screamers. Without trying to be too much of a theme band and flog a dead horse with the same idea all the time, initially we thought we’ll create a story for it and pretend it’s a corporation. A theme we talk about is nuclear war, without us being a fucking crust band, we’re more like ‘The googles do nothing!’ off The Simpsons [laughs]. We’re like a goofy the-world-is-ending-but-who-cares thing. It’s like we’re a cartoon or like Toxic Avenger or [Class Of] Nuke ‘Em High! We’ll see a scene of like a guy’s face melting and think it would be funny and use it like, oh your boss’ face is melting because you threw a chemical on them, and we’ll run with that and write a whole song about it [laughs].
We take little shreds, little elements of bands we like and make it our own. Me and Ishka are big fans of a lot of the goofy stuff coming out of the Midwest of America. The Coneheads are obviously a big one or CCTV or Goldman Sex Batalion, Big Zit, a lot of the bands that Mat Williams and Mark Winter from Coneheads are associated with. We just make music we like and it turns out we like goofy, silly music [laughs].
It’s nice that people come and watch us play but I think we’re more outskirt-ish in comparison to your bigger Sydney punk and hardcore bands. I love cranky punk and hardcore but it all just seems a bit serious, a whole bunch of people standing around in a room with their arms crossed looking pissed off is just really weird! It’s nice that people just come to our shows and just dance and be a goofball. We’re lucky that all of our best friends play in bands and they are all such cool people like Gee Tee and R.M.F.C., ‘Togas, Set-top Box. I find it really flattering when people say we’re all “the weirder Sydney punk bands”. I feel like no one from Sydney ever says that though…
That’s so often the case with a lot of bands, they’re unappreciated in their own town or country but people in other places, people all over the world super dig them! Look at a band like King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard, they play sold out huge shows all over the world and then they’ll play somewhere here in Australia and sometimes don’t fill the room.
BILLY: 100%! I didn’t realise how huge they were until recently, it’s mental. Now days you can just get in contact with pretty much anyone, you just DM their Instagram. I try to get a conversation rolling with bands overseas that I’m listening to. It’s cool that a lot of Midwest American goofy bands and the guys from R.I.P. Records and Lumpy Records know who we are.
We were supposed to be touring America, Gee Tee and R.M.F.C. were too, on a touring festival that was meant to happen – I think it still will down the track – in July with a lot of our favourite bands but the big Corona did a big shit on that! I guess it just gives us time to hang at home and record. I have a full band room set up in my house at the moment. I’m trying to teach myself how to play the drums fast again, I’m sloppy as at that right now.
We’ve been doing an “email band” like if you know someone that has a home recording set-up, even if it’s someone overseas, you just message and send each other bits of songs for the other to do stuff over. We’ve been doing that and so have some of our friends which is pretty of the time. We just did four songs with this guy Sean Albert from the Midwest who plays in bands like Skull Cult, QQQL and Dummy. We want to put it out as a 7”. We did a new band with that guy with me singing. It’s pretty fun!
Cool. Do you have a name?
BILLY: Yeah, Mainframe. Hackin’ the mainframe! [laughs]. We’ll probably put it online soon. We still have to do synths on one track. It’s just me, Ishka and Sean.
What’s it sounding like?
BILLY: I’ve played it to a couple of people and they said it’s kind of fast Gee Tee, which isn’t much of a stretch. Sean is a fucking drum machine wizard! He’s so good at getting drum fills in, kind of like that guy from Urochromes. He’s a drum machine Don! I don’t know how he does all the crazy shit.
We had a 7” come out on Goodbye Boozy from Italy in February at the start of the year.
That was the split with The Freakees?
BILLY: Yeah! In the same drop of 7”s that he did, Belly Jelly had a 7” we really dug, there’s a Nervous Eaters cover on the 7” that was fucking awesome! I followed him on Instagram and because we can’t really play shows now, I thought let’s just hit him up. He sent us two tracks the next day and then two days later he sent another two. Just on the cusp of all this Covid stuff happening Ishka came over with all this recording stuff. It’s sounding really good. We’ve actually been pretty fucking productive lately.
We do this thing called G.T.R.R.C. where we do all of these goofy covers, it’s half of Gee Tee and half of Research Reactor. We put out a tape about a year ago on Warttmann Inc. and now we’ve just recorded the second one. I’ve done vocals for three covers on it but it’s kind of turned into a comp[ilation] now. Adam Ritchie of Drunk Mums, Grotto and Pissfart Records did a couple of covers, so did Drew Owens from Sick Thoughts, Kel Gee Tee did vocals on some and Jake from Drunk Mums did some too.
What were some of the covers?
BILLY: One of them was ‘Job’ by The Nubs and I did ‘Trapped In The City’ by Bad Times, a band Jay Reatard sung in. I thought they were both appropriate covers to do given the times. It sounds a bit farfetched but I kind of want to cover ‘Karma Chameleon’ by Culture Club at some point. In our live set we used to cover ‘Rock & Roll Don’t Come from New York’ by The Gizmos and ‘I Don’t Know What To Do Do’ by Devo; we had those cover in our set because we didn’t have enough of our own songs at the time. I’d love to cover – sorry for biting this off you Drew Owens, he’s doing in on the G.T.R.R.C comp – ‘Killer On the Loose’ by Thin Lizzy. I love Thin Lizzy a lot, they’re the most bad arse rock n roll band going!
Is there anything else that you’re working on?
BILLY: I’m setting up my own little label at the moment it’s called, Computer Human Records. I’m about to pay for my first vinyl release. I’m putting out a 7” by a band called Snooper that are from Nashville, they’re relatively new but if you like Devo, CCTV or Landline or Pscience you might like them.
That sounds totally up my alley!
BILLY: Cool. They only have a couple of songs online. Blair the singer is a school teacher and she’s really great at video editing. She has a real wild style where she makes everything look like a children’s show or like Pee Wee’s Playhouse!
Also, we’re on a 4-way split 7” with Nick Normal, he recently just toured Europe and Lassie was his backing band. The split is months away though!