Melbourne punks The Snakes are: “An angular vortex of pain but you can dance to it.”

Handmade mixed-media collage by B.

The Snakes are one of our editor’s favourite bands. When we recommended their self-titled debut LP (on Anti Fade) on our Albums We Loved in 2019 list we described their music as early ‘80s underground L.A-style new wave punk. The actual underground though… The black market kind. You know, the “under the counter” kind. We interviewed The Snakes and found out they’re working on new music! Stoked much?!

How did you get into music?

LEWIS (vocals): Who has a choice? At some point some cunt’s gonna play some shit and you’re either gonna love it or hate it, I guess I liked it.

What have you been listening to lately?

CHARLOTTE (bass/vocals/harmonica): Ummm… Butch Willis, GG Allin, Roy Orbison, The Byrds, Rupture, Napalm Death, Traffik Island, Plantasia, Anohni, Ariana, X (Aus).

LEWIS: Death (from Florida), Extortion (aaaagain), The Kinks, Obituary.

JIMMY (drums): Jackhammers and my own inner dialogue.

STEPH (guitar/vocals): In the mornings we listen to ambient sounds such as the distant radio and twings and droplets from whatever James puts on the stereo. When we play cards we listen to hardcore and punk. And I like the start of the Exploding Hearts album so I listen to that in the shower. Same with The Loved Ones but that whole album is good. Could be in a musical rut… I like soul and country music a lot.

CHARLOTTE: You like Suzi Quatro, Steph.

STEPH: I like lots of things not mentioned. Loves Suzi but. Gets wild to Suzi!

When did you first know you wanted to make music yourself?

LEWIS: When I realised it was a piece of piss. It’s the socially acceptable way to be the loudest person in the room.

CHARLOTTE: I was in choirs my whole life but guitars were always for boys, I really just wanted the attention.

JIMMY: I didn’t, I was just jealous of my friend’s guitar when I was six.

STEPH: I got into music by being rejected from my family for not being as good a singer as my sister, and not being allowed guitar lessons like my brother cause I’m a girl. So I taught my damn self and now I rule the world!

Tell us the story of how you all got together. What inspired you to start The Snakes?

LEWIS: Three of us had on and off lived together for a while, two of us had planned to do a psychedelic proto-punk band called Giant Door (side note: Giant Door is one of the top three bands that never existed). We are two couples and at some point, Charlotte our bassist moved into a new house and we went over for a kind of house warming. We ended up jamming and writing about six songs that all pretty much ended up on the album. We had some shitty phone recordings and shared them with each other and realised we needed a drummer. It took us about two seconds to find him and that’s it.

STEPH: Jim completes us.

Photo by @sub_lation; courtesy of Snakes.

What do you feel are the key elements that make your sound?

CHARLOTTE: Jim’s drums swing, there’s no one like him.

LEWIS: Clearly the keys stands out, having James on them is a refreshing take. Flange plays a massive factor. It’s a mash of shit we listen to and shit we find fun. It’s an angular vortex of pain but you can dance to it.

How do you go about writing a song?

LEWIS: Charlotte generally comes up with the riffs with a few exceptions and we all just put our parts in from there. We’re natural, baby!

Photo by @sub_lation; courtesy of Snakes.

Last year you released your self-titled debut album on Anti Fade Records; can you tell us about recording it? Billy from Anti Fade recorded it, right?

CHARLOTTE: Yes, he did. We’d spent about a year playing together before our first show and he offered to record and put us out at that first show. Recording in Geelong was great but what was really fun was doing vocals and mixing with Billy. We had a lot of ideas, we had a vision, Bill helped us execute it.

JAMES (keys/vocals): Bully Gardner is our mentor and he wax trax layer to the max.

Cover art by Eve Dadd.

What’s your personal favourite track on the record?

LEWIS: We don’t play this one anymore but I really like singing “Drug Pig”. I came up with the lyrics on the fly and I love screaming “Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ, smoke a gram of pure ice”. “Solid Income” too, it just kind of cruises.

CHARLOTTE: I hate “Drug Pig”, even though it makes me feel tough, there’s a part that makes me feel kind of sick. I love playing “Ugly Faces” it’s simple but it’s rude. I know Steph loves “Pop Song”.

When you finished the record; who was the first person you played the songs to?

CHARLOTTE: I think my friend Kieran, they frothed for it!

Eve Dadd did your album’s cover art; what’s the story behind it?

STEPH: Eve does art and is related to James. She is talented and a boisterous bitch that lives on the South Coast of NSW. We love and hate her at the same time.

CHARLOTE: She’s a Scorpio.

LEWIS: Me and Charlotte outright bought it, it’s on our wall.

Launch poster by Eve Dadd.

How do you feel when you’re performing?

LEWIS: Extremely confident and self-conscious at the same time. I just go for it, I don’t really give a shit.

CHARLOTTE: When I play, I’m singing my bass parts in my head. I like watching Steph solo and smiling at James.

What’s been the best and worst gig you’ve played? What made it so?

STEPH: Best show was one at One Year (in Collingwood). I had just discovered the beta blockers and dexie combo and I did not give a fuck and people could tell. Smiling is good when playing fun music. Worst show was that one with Bloodletter. Can’t remember why but I know it was bad.

LEWIS: Last Maggot Fest was great, it actually went off. Supporting The Stroppies was pretty dry, not The Stroppies, I love The Stroppies I just don’t think that that crowd was really down for us. I remember putting on a show and crawling on the floor and screaming but still there was a big gap between us and the crowd. Maybe we’re too high brow.

Photo by @sub_lation; courtest of Snakes.

Have you been working on new music?

LEWIS: Yes.

What would we find you doing when not making music?

LEWIS: Working like a dog.

CHARLOTTE: Watching telly. I just bought a keyboard too, been trying to figure out how to play “Everytime” by Britney [Spears]. Also pretty heavily into Tik Tok at the moment.

JIMMY: Drink, complain, bate.

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Please check out: THE SNAKES. The Snakes on Instagram. ANTI FADE records.

Billy Gardner of Anti Fade Records: “I feel very blessed that all of my talented friends let me release their stuff.”

Billy has put out some of the Gimmie Team’s favourite Australian underground releases of the past several years on his label Anti Fade Records (you can check out some of AF’s catalogue HERE). AF is one of only a handful of independent Australian labels that avid record collector and music aficionado Henry Rollins buys anything from—“I like what they do,” Rollins’ has said. Us too! Billy plays in Ausmuteants, The Living Eyes, Cereal Killer and Smarts. We thought Billy was the perfect person to chat to, kicking off our chats with Australian artists who we think should be celebrated!

We love Anti-Fade Records, a lot of our favourite releases of 2019 have come out on your label.

BILLY: Awww sick! Thank you so much for getting in touch. I feel very blessed, I have a lot of close friends making music.

Right now we think Australia has some of the best music in the world, most diverse too, all the bands on your roster have their own thing happening.

BILLY: There’s a bunch of different things, the new Program record I’m putting out is a little different.

How did you first discover music?

BILLY: I have knowledgeable parents, they were always playing me music from a young age. Particularly my dad, he played in bands when he was my age. Both mum and dad taught me heaps about music, so I guess there.

What was the first stuff that you started to discover for yourself?

BILLY: In high school I got heaps into ‘60s garage through The Frowning Clouds guys, we went to the same school as them. They were into ‘60s garage stuff and I picked up on all of this.

Your band, The Living Eyes, that’s a reference from the ‘60s garage band, The 13th Floor Elevators, right?

BILLY: Yeah, everyone thinks it’s a Radio Birdman reference but deep down it’s 13th Floor Elevators [laughs].

Artwork by Paris Richens.

I love that band.

BILLY: They’re the best!

Did you start playing drums first?

BILLY: Yeah, I started playing drums really early, I think in grade 6. I gave it up for ages and came back to it in Grade 11 or 12. I kind of picked it up again properly when Ausmuteants stared in 2011. Drums were the first instrument for me but they got neglected for a few years.

What started you off playing them again?

BILLY: Me and Jake from Ausmuteants started the band as a two-piece that we would just do in the bedroom. We’d swap between playing keyboard and guitar and the other person playing drums. Once it came to doing the live band we decided we had to pick instruments. I volunteered to play drums, because I felt Jake was writing most of the songs anyway; as it went on it just way more sense like that.

You’ve been doing Anti-Fade since 2011-2012?

BILLY: Yeah right at the end of 2011 I first started, I made plans for it, two days before Christmas I put out one cassette. In 2012 was when it really started rolling, there was actual record releases.

Why did you start the label?

BILLY: New Centre Of The Universe, I had the idea to do a compilation before I had the idea to do a label. I remember getting the idea for it one night, I spent so long thinking about it and the possibilities—I got really excited about it! I started talking about the label idea and I put out four cassettes of friends’ bands – Ausmuteants were one of them. Centre Of The Universe came out in 2012. The first eight months or so were just getting things together.

When you first starting out did you find it hard to deal with people because you were so new?

BILLY: I suppose so. I was asking a lot of people that I knew that did labels for their advice and tips. I have three handy friends that helped me out with all of that stuff at the time, which made things way easier.

What was a tip that you got that was super helpful?

BILLY: At first my idea was to press this many records but then my friend talked me down to only press 300 instead of 500 because this market isn’t as big as it might seem. That was pretty good advice, I’m glad I didn’t press 500 of the first bunch of releases.

I understand it took you months to get the latest New Centre Of The Universe track list done?

BILLY: Yeah it took ages! The whole process of the comp took at least a year. I did spend quite a while with that track list. Track lists are getting more and more important to me as I get older [laughs]. I was happy with the end result. I kept changing my mind about track two on each side.

What makes track lists more important to you now?

BILLY: I’ve just been noticing things a bit more. I think it can add a lot to a record, choosing a really good order as opposed to a bad one—it has to flow.

Artwork by Carolyn Hawkins.

I get that, I make a lot of mix tapes for friends and there’s different moods and peaks etc. to consider.

BILLY: You know how important it is then.

Yes. Now Anti-Fade is sixty-one releases in?

BILLY: Yeah, jesus! It sounds crazy when you say it. I feel like the last two years have been really good and I’m stoked with how it is going. I feel very blessed that all of my talented friends let me release their stuff. Pretty much everyone on the label is a close friend, there’s not really any strangers or people that approach me out of the blue.

That’s nice that it’s all friends.

BILLY: I’m really lucky!

Has there been a release on Anti-Fade that’s been really significant for you?

BILLY: The Parsnip album [When The Tree Bears Fruit] that has just come out is a big one! It’s something that has been in the works for a few years. I wasn’t expecting the opportunity to release it. I was over the moon when they asked me to do that. I also feel like the debut Civic record was pretty important. Both of those bands have been the two main ones revolving around the label for the last two years, both kicking goals big time.

Art by Paris Richens.

What do you have in the works that you can tell me about?

BILLY: There’s a few things next year, a lot of split releases, another label will be doing it in Europe or America and I’ll be doing it in Australia. There’s lots of good albums coming, I’ll leave it at that [laughs].

I totally trust your taste in bands, we’ve bought most of the releases on your label, except for the early stuff we missed out on.

BILLY: Nice! Thank you.

Are there any local songwriters that inspire you?

BILLY: There’s a bunch. The people that I play in bands with, Jake Robertson [Ausmuteants/School Damage/Alien Nosejob/Hierophants/Aarght Records] is one. A long term friend – who I don’t play in a band with – Zak Olsen [Orb/Traffik Island/Hierophants]. These are people that I’ve grown up with. Also, Paris Richens [Parsnip/Hierophants/ PP Rebel] always blows me away with her songs. That’s just three, there’s more out there.

I’d pick the same! As well Albert Wolski of EKEK—that new record is incredible. I also super love The Snakes. I love Hierophants, their record, Spitting Out Moonlight, is mega! And I love New War’s records.

Cover art by Eve Dadd. Layout by David Forcier.

BILLY: That’s awesome! I just made this connection, all of the people I mentioned are in Hierophants! [laughs]. There you go! They’re a meeting of the minds.

Songs on that record are so clever. I listen to the songs and I’m like, how did you even write that?!

BILLY: [Laughs] Yeah I know! So many great ones.

Another album I really love from this year is your band Ausmusteants’ …Present The World In Handcuffs.

BILLY: Oh, sweet!

A funny thing is, that when me and my husband see cops when we’re out and about, we get some of the lyrics in our head!

BILLY: [Laughs] That’s funny as!

You know like [singing]: My dad was a cop!

Billy: [Laughs] That’s hilarious!

Artwork by Per Bystrom.

It’s funny how your brain can just connect stuff to songs. I think I’m such a music nerd my mind can connect most things to song.

BILLY: I’m gonna tell Shawn [Connor] the guy that wrote the record, he’ll love it!

When he brought that concept – a concept album that explores a piss-take look on life from the perspective of a police officer – for the songs to you guys; what was your first impression?

BILLY: He came with a set of lyrics to the song “We’re Cops” which is from 2015. He wrote the lyrics and the riff to that, a year or so later he toyed with the idea of writing a part two to it. He wrote a part two and then three and then a whole new album. It took him a while, he was chipping away at that as Jake was writing other songs for the band. So it started in 2015 and we finally put it out this year.

 What’s been one of your favourite songs to come out this year?

BILLY: Holy moly! That’s a tough one…

Or something you’ve been obsessed with listening to recently?

BILLY: I discovered, New Values, by Iggy Pop. I’m having a blank here though… I can’t even think right now.

Henry Rollins often plays a lot of Anti-Fade bands on his radio show…

BILLY: Yeah he played three on his most recent one!

He really has his finger on the pulse when it comes to great new music, especially Australian stuff.

BILLY: He’s totally on to it. I have never met him but I’ve emailed with him a few times, he’s a cool guy.

He is. I’ve interviewed him several times over the years. He’s always lovely. The one thing that has always stuck with me about him is that he is the biggest fan of music!

BILLY: He came to an Ausmuteants show once actually. I was standing next to him, everyone was going up to him and hassling him but I didn’t want to do that. It was cool that he came!

You should totally talk to him next time, ‘cause he is such a fan boy of music and bands himself, he totally understands that.

BILLY: When I talked to him on email he said that too.

What’s the best live show you’ve seen lately?

BILLY: The launch for the new Parsnip record.

Man, I would have loved to have seen that! Now they’re in the US, right?

BILLY: Yeah. I found out this morning that they’re all safely there.

Do you ever get stressed when bands on your label tour overseas?

BILLY: Yeah. There’s been a couple of little scares…

Like the EXEK van rolling in Europe?!

BILLY: Yeah, that was wild. I still don’t know exactly what happen there. They’re back on the road again now, I look forward to speaking to them about it when they get back, I’ve only heard dribs and drabs about it.

Cover photo by Robyn Daly. Layout by Ying-Li Hooi.

Last question, what do you want people to know about Anti-Fade in general?

BILLY: It’s a small little thing that I run out of my bedroom, all the bands involved are my friends.

Do you have lots of stock boxes crammed in your room?

BILLY: Yeah, under my bed, beside my bed… there’s a lot! [laughs].

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