Reviewing new music often degenerates into simply working out which bands to compare to which bands; this band will move you like that band, or if you like that tune you’ll love this one, and so on. Then along come Newtown trio DMA’s and make the job so easy that you’re not sure if it’s an unashamed rip-off, genuine homage, or a mixture of both. This five-track debut EP is so steeped in ’90s indie-rock and garage-pop flavours that you expect it to let out an extended Liam Gallagher-esque vocal sneer at any second, but thankfully it never comes. Instead, this is a collection of tunes moulded by a combination of Britpop melodies, rough edges and plenty of heart, carried off by a bunch of scallywags you wouldn’t trust to borrow your car and bring it back in one piece, if at all. Opener ‘Feels Like 37’ veers close to ‘Morning Glory-era Oasis territory, while there’s more than a hint of shoegaze guitars under a Charlatans vocal line about ‘Play It Out’. The high point is closer ‘Delete’; the most delicate and almost ballad-like track, which will appeal much more to fans of Noel Gallagher than it will to those of his more abrasive younger sibling. This is a promising start to a young band’s career, but it’s how DMA’s take a sound cemented in such obvious reference points and make it their own that is most important from now on.
NEW WAVE LEGEND Martha Davis is in a surprisingly positive mood considering the catastrophe that just occurred.
“I’ve just realised that my basement has completely flooded,” she says. “It’s pretty much a nightmare; I’ve just moved my studio down there and all these rugs and things are ruined. It’s not even raining; we had a lot of snow in the last week and I’m pretty sure I’ll be drying out rugs until the day we fly to Australia. But everything works out in the end, doesn’t it?”
The 62 year-old singer has reason to be upbeat, as a new line-up of a band that formed in California in 1975 looks to bring back The Motels’ sound of old on an upcoming Australian tour.
“I’ll be coming with my ‘new’ band, which has really been my band for ten years; longer than the original Motels were together,” she says. “These boys are amazing; they’re younger, very cute and way-ass talented. I’m also bringing along Mr. Martin Jourard, who was the original sax and keyboard player for The Motels. He and the guys love each other and we have so much fun, and it’s such a joy to have the saxophone back. We’ll be playing a lot of the old favourites and a couple of new ones; we’ve gone back into the catalogue and dusted off a couple of songs we haven’t done in a while, so we’re going to bring Australia some very luscious sets.”
The band scored an Australian number four hit with ‘Total Control’ in 1980 before going through multiple line-up changes, but Davis is clear about what she wants for the band from now on.
“People really missed the saxophone when it wasn’t there,” she says. “Clint [Walsh], my guitar player, has been doing solos and he’s absolutely stunning, but there’s something about when that saxophone kicks in that really makes people go wild. Then there’s Marty’s antics on stage; he’s always been a crazy guy and his keyboard stuff is wonderful. Sometimes I think it’s more a Marty show than a Martha show! The saxophone is so evocative and has a really precise emotion; for me it sums up a wet street or alleyway and is so noir-ish in a way. I love that imagery and the lonely saxophone sound. Is it lonely, or is it just me? That’s probably why I’m a band girl rather than a solo girl; I love how the harmonies and sounds of different things layer to make an atmosphere as opposed to just having a song.
“Our last Australian tour [in 1988] was a crazy-ass tour. I should really pull out that itinerary because we played everywhere from Darwin to Tasmania; we played places that most Australians haven’t been to. I think we were there for 50 days and we played constantly; the drummer ended up in hospital in the end. It was non-stop and we went to every nook and cranny, but it was hilarious. Everything I do is hilarious; it’s a funny job and you can’t get around that. I always say to people that you should watch Spinal Tap and then realise that everything in there is true. But it was long and fun tour, although we were a very different band then; more jazzy. This tour is going to recall the first album more and be true to the record.”
While there will be an element of nostalgia in the upcoming shows, it’s not something Davis is happy to depend upon.
“Me and the boys spent some time in the studio before it flooded,” she says. “We just wrote three new tracks which are really wonderful; these guys are such great players. I’ve always got songs lying around so there’s always stuff to be used. Once we get in the same place it comes together pretty quickly. We’re preparing for Australia more than we are for the album right now, but there will be new songs coming out soon.”
MARTHA AND THE MOTELS PLAY THE NEW GLOBE MARCH 19.
ADELAIDE indie-rockers Bad//Dreems are set to have a pretty big year.
“We’re about to sign with a record label,” says guitarist Alex Cameron. “I can’t say who it is, but we’ll announce the signing probably in the next couple of weeks, and the next release is a seven-inch called ‘Dumb Ideas’, which comes out at the start of April. That’s the first step towards an album that we’ll probably record later this year and release towards the end of the year or next year. There might be an EP in between.”
The quartet’s debut EP Badlands earned rave reviews and helped the band find their sound. This time, they’ve enlisted help from an experienced source.
“We’ve always got heaps of songs,” Cameron says. “We had fifteen demos for this seven-inch that we whittled down to get these two. One of the ways to do that is to demo a lot of songs and pick the best. The last EP was a collection of songs that spanned from when we started in 2012 through to just before we recorded it in January 2013. You can probably see an evolution in the songs; the first song we wrote was ‘Chills’ and the last was ‘Hoping For’, and I think that ‘Hoping For’ was the song that we think crystallised our vision into something that was around the mark of what we were going for. The difference may be that we’ve recorded with a new producer; Mark Opitz. He’s a pretty famous Australian producer; he worked with a lot of Australian bands of the ’80s. He originally worked with Vanda and Young doing a couple of AC/DC albums, then the first album he did himself was The Angels’ second album, which sold about 300,000 copies, and he worked with The Models, Hoodoo Guru and INXS. We thought it was a left-field idea to record with him, and we didn’t even know if he was still recording, but we got in contact and he really liked our stuff. I wouldn’t say the bands he recorded in the ’80s are particular inspirations of ours, but it was more of the way he captured what were good live guitar bands, and also the fact that he’s a very song-based producer and good at helping to bring out a band’s sound. Also, he’s good at sifting through songs and turning them into the best pop songs possible. He was given a lot of credit for the massive albums bands like INXS had, as he was able to pick out songs that had potential and take them to the next level. We were happy with the EP recording, but this time we were able to capture more of the live energy of the band. First and foremost our songs are based around playing them live; we don’t want to record with overdubs and there aren’t extra instruments in there padding out the sound. The EP didn’t quite have the same energy, but this time we’ve got that a lot better. I think the drum track for the single was the first take. We set up all our stuff in the room, gave it a run through and [Opitz] was like ‘Okay, that’s the drums done’.”
Triple J have been big supporters of the band, but radio airplay isn’t a make-or-break factor says Cameron.
“Triple J support didn’t happen overnight for us,” he says. “’Hoping For’ was the fifth single we put out. Having said that, Triple J have been supportive of all our things from the start; whether it was on Unearthed or Home & Hosed. There are two approaches that we wanted to avoid. One of those was caring too much about whether Triple J was going to play our songs or not, and pinning all our hopes on that. Triple J support is great, but if you pin all your hopes on it and it doesn’t happen you can be left high and dry, when there are plenty of other avenues to get your music out there. The second approach that some bands take is to be anti-Triple J and don’t want to put their stuff on Unearthed or associated with it. We just make the best songs we can and if Triple J support it so be it, but we’ve got other irons in the fire, and keep pushing ourselves to keep playing live and doing different things. The other thing I’d say is that the band started off not trying to ape any particular genre or make a new sound, but just trying to make really good songs. There are certain touchstones and elements that we reference, but our goal is to write songs that can be appreciated by everyone from the man on the street, to the music critic, to the hipster if you will, to the guitar shop guy. Some of my song-writing idols, from Dylan, Springsteen, Paul Westerberg, Kurt Cobain and Robert Smith; they wrote songs that are appreciated by everyone. That’s our goal as songwriters, and while we’re a long way off achieving that level, if you aim for that other things will follow. We just worry about the song-writing and the rest will take care of itself.”
Upcoming slots at Bleach* Festival and supporting The Scientists will give Queensland fans a chance to catch the band in their natural setting.
“Half the set consists of new songs now,” Cameron says. “We play most of the EP and plenty of new material. The shows are rock ‘n’ roll shows; we don’t go in for smoke machines or giant fans up there. We just really enjoy playing live, especially at the moment. It’s interesting when we play now because people actually know the words to the songs, which is pretty moving and inspiring. Bleach* Festival will be awesome; we’re big fans of Violent Soho. Supporting The Scientists will be one of the highlights of our career so far; we could pretty much pull up stumps and be satisfied. They’re idols of ours, and that might one of the few times I’ll be nervous playing in front of them, not that they’ll even be watching probably. I’m sure their fans will be pretty discerning too, so we’ll certainly want to be on our game.”
BAD//DREEMS PLAY BLEACH* FESTIVAL MARCH 14 AND THE TRANSCONTINTENAL HOTEL MARCH 27.
BEN Grzywacz – a.k.a. Uberjak’d – is fast becoming one of the hottest names on the Australian DJ scene. He’ll be joining a stellar line-up for the national Future Music Festival tour.
Hi Ben, how’s life, and what have you been up to recently?
Great! I’ve just been moving house, which as anyone who has moved knows sucks, but [I’ve] almost moved into the new joint and loving the extra space and new studio. I’m also just about to start Future Music and Goodlife Festival tours, which I am amped for.
What can fans expect from the shows?
Well I’m going to be testing out a lot of new tunes which I have been working on for my EPs for Dim Mak and Mixmash; I am humbled to be a part of the national tour this year. I remember as a young kid it was the first festival I ever attended, so to be on the national tour is something never in a million years I would have thought would be possible.
Will you get a chance to check out any other artists? Is there anyone further down the bill you’d recommend?
Well, I can’t wait for Prydz; for me, he was one of the guys that really inspired me to write music. He was always able to bring the melody and feeling with an upbeat energy. It’s also his first time playing in Australia, which is a pretty big deal!
What releases or remixes do you have in the pipeline right now?
Okay, so literally once I finish this interview, I’m getting started on a remix for Deorro. I can’t say much more than that though. I have a heap of originals coming with my Dim Mak EP featuring four tracks; ‘The Moment’ with Sarah Bodle is coming out very soon, I have an EP with Mixmash coming later in the year, as well as collabs with Will Sparks, Deorro, Zoolanda, Slice n Dice, J-trick Kronic and Chardy.
You recently had your first international gig in New Zealand. How was it?
Yeah it was an awesome experience! Really hope I can go over there again some time, New Zealand is a beautiful place.
How do you rate the club scene in Australia right now? Are there too many government restrictions?
Ugh, don’t even get me started on the lock outs; I have been going out to clubs almost every weekend for four years and I am still in one piece. It’s not the clubs that are the problem, it’s the streets. Apart from that, the club scene is great; Australia is getting a great reputation worldwide for its sound, so it’s a great time to be an Aussie (when isn’t it!)
I read that you’re heading to America soon. What is the plan for the trip?
I can’t wait for America, I’m going to be doing my first international tour, which is 14 dates over a month. As well as that, it’s WMC which I can’t wait for, I’ve heard it gets crazy over there in Miami around that time.
How do you respond to people saying DJs aren’t really playing live music?
I guess people that don’t understand it will say that, but DJing is an art. It’s like showing a million dollar piece of artwork to some bogan down at Centrelink (for those non-Aussies, that’s a welfare office and a redneck); they will probably not understand it and say it’s just a piece of card with some paint on it. But to the educated, it’s a masterpiece and they can appreciate the art and what the artists was trying to make them feel, I think DJing is a lot like this. In saying that, there are good and bad artists, just like DJs.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
Spend more time in the studio! I never get as much time to do it as I want. Thanks for the chat and hopefully catch you next time I’m in your hood.
FUTURE MUSIC FESTIVAL DATES
Saturday 1 March – RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane
Sunday 2 March – Arena Joondalup, Perth
Saturday 8 March – Royal Randwick Racecourse, Sydney
Sunday 9 March – Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne
Monday 10 March – Adelaide Showgrounds, Adelaide
Sydney quartet The Jezabels have become such an integral part of the Australian indie-rock landscape that it’s easy to forget that their debut album is just a little over two years old. While much of their time has been spent overseas since that well-received debut, The Jezabels are back with a bang and treating their Australian fans to an album release over two weeks before the rest of the world, and that can only be good news for us.
Intense, brooding and full of their trademark grandeur, The Brink picks up where Prisoner left off, albeit with slightly darker undertones and a few new sounds. Soaring anthems are what The Jezabels do best, and ‘Look of Love’, ‘The End’, ‘No Country’ and the title track are the best examples, while ‘Angles of Fire’ adds a touch of Kraftwerk-esque synths and ‘Psychotherapy’ is the token slow-burner.
Hayley Mary’s voice is the unquestionable highlight and places her near the top of the pile of Australian female vocalists plying their trade right now, and when everything else seemingly falls into place so easily, it makes for another strong showing from one of the country’s best exports.
THEIR LATEST ALBUM might have won them an ARIA, but don’t expect Karnivool to go changing to try to please us, says guitarist Mark Hosking.
“I certainly didn’t expect it to happen with this band, you know?” he says. “We were nominated for a couple, I think, and hard rock is such a weird area. We don’t even really define ourselves as hard rock, and it’s hard to say what we even are. The new album is quite challenging, but we don’t make apologies for that as it’s part of what we do. I think all awards need to be taken with a little bit of humble pie, but it’s a nice accomplishment. You never know how these things are going to go, so it was a nice cap on what has been a very busy year.”
More than four years in the making, the Perth quintet’s third full-length record sees the band once again pushing the boundaries of rock music.
“Asymmetry is a continuation of the journey that this band is on,” Hosking says. “We’ve always said we’re never going to do the same album twice. With this one we really had a chance to try a few things we’ve never tried before. The process of taking a long time to write music, turning every stone over and making sure we always find something we can use to our advantage is just the next phase of how we’re trying to be creative with this band. If we had our way we’d do an album every year, but we just know that’s not physically possible with the kind of stuff we’re doing. We do need time to breathe, and to be honest there are a couple of songs on the album that have come together in weeks, and others that have taken six to seven months. We’re happy because if we wanted to change it we could, but we seem to keep falling back to this period of time which tends to be around three to four years, when it feels like it’s cooked, if you know what I mean.”
Australian fans won’t have to wait long to see the band, with a national tour locked in for January.
“We definitely back our live show,” he says. “It’s something we feel is strong and we love to do it. There’s always trepidation about how new songs will be received; some people are going to like them and some people aren’t. On the live front, some people hear the more challenging songs and it clicks, or they get it more when they hear it live. We know that live, we have a better chance of getting our music across to people and they can better understand what you’re trying to do.”
Despite the ARIA win and plenty of recognition at home and abroad, Hosking is clear that the band won’t be resting on it’s laurels.
“We’ve just had a discussion about what’s happening in 2014,” he says. “It’s all a bit of a balancing act as we all have other things going on in our lives now and we’re no spring chickens any more. In saying that, we’ve made a big commitment to tour, tour, tour this album hard. We’ll be doing at least another run around Australia. There are some festivals overseas, more European action, and hopefully we’ll be getting to the States, as we’ve promised so many people we will. Around that, we’ll be trying to get these new ideas out of our heads and starting to form the next album.”
KARNIVOOL PLAY THE SHOWGROUNDS MARQUEE JAN 11.
AS iconic and influential a band as you’re likely to find still touring today, horror-punk Godfathers the Misfits are known as much for their genre-swapping music as they are for their Halloween-themed image. With line-up changes, legal battles and reunion tours behind him, bassist/vocalist Jerry Only continues to fly the band’s flag as loudly and proudly as ever. I spoke to the energetic frontman from his tour bus near Pensacola, Florida.
Hi Jerry, how are you? What have you been up to recently?
We’ve been up to just about everything, to be honest, I guess. We have a whole bunch of new releases all in different categories, we’ve been working on our label, and doing a world tour right now. We’re just finishing up the last leg in the United States and then we’re down in New Zealand and Australia after the new year break.
Tell me about the current line-up of the Misfits. Who have you got in there?
The current line-up of the Misfits has been around for going on thirteen years now. We have Dez Cadena, who was originally Black Flag’s frontman, and he was guitarist when Henry Rollins came on board. In 2001, I brought him out as a special guest for our 25th anniversary, he’s been with me ever since, and we’ve been doing some really great stuff together. He adds a dimension to what we do that we didn’t have earlier. He’s very fluent and has the ability to do some very fancy chords and stuff like that; his dad used to run a jazz and blues label. Dez basically grew up around the studio, so he’s got a really great ear, so when we do a cover of Elvis’s ‘Blue Christmas’ he can add some guitar over the top of it that’s still very punk rock, but fits very well with what we’re doing. He’s also working on a thing called Flag right now, which is the original members of Black Flag minus Greg the guitar player, and that’s going extremely well for him. I tell him that he must be a professional musician now, as he’s got more than one gig going at a time! Then we got Eric Arce, or as we call him ‘The Chupacabra’. He joined up with us back in the day when we had some issues and he was in Murphy’s Law, who were on tour with us at the time. When the band kind of melted down in the middle of the tour he filled in for us, and in the early 2000s he kept filling in for Robo every time he had a problem with his Colombian passport, and he would fly in and do the job. He’s young, hungry, and really aggressive with his very strong double-kick drumming, so he gives us this extra element of surprise. Now, we’re right up to speed with the tools needed to pull off some really thrash-y stuff these days. And me, I’ve been doing this shit forever!
What can Australian fans expect from your shows?
We try to be consistent, you know? I mean, for those of you who’ve seen us before, we have some new material which we think is amazing. We’ll be bringing that all with us, and as far as the fans go, they can expect pretty much more of the same. I tell people that every day we get a little better, and one day we’re going to be the best, so it’s a work in progress. It’s not something I’m going to change; I’m not going to try to come up with some sort of new gimmick for you. Our material speaks for itself, and you’re getting what you expect when you come, and we hold no reservations there. It’s just a matter of if you like the Misfits, come on down, and if you don’t, stay the hell home.
I notice you’ve made a Christmas record…
Yeah! I haven’t got one in my hand yet. I’m getting my first one tomorrow, and I’m very excited. I grew up watching all kinds of Christmas shows; as a kid Christmas always started around Thanksgiving, and I’d be looking in the catalogues thinking about what I want for Christmas, and The Grinch would always be in there. We re-did the song for that; it took a little while to figure out the formula to make it really, really cool, but it came out great. Then we did a cover of Elvis’s ‘Blue Christmas’. Now, back in the day when Glenn was in the band we had done a quick spurt of ‘Blue Christmas’ in Max’s Kansas City one night. I always wanted to redo it, and I always thought it was a cool song, and that’s where Dez comes in and shines. If you listen to it, it’s a punk song, but it has all the little Elvis innuendos that really make it amazing. We also did a song called ‘Island of Misfit Toys’; now I don’t know what Christmas programmes you have down below, but we have what’s called Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which is kind of an animated cartoon with clay puppets, and they have what’s called the Island of Misfit Toys, where all the toys that have been fucked up, have got something wrong with them, or nobody wants them, or whatever the problem is, go to this island, and this song is based on that idea from that Christmas show. For me, it’s like being a kid in a candy shop again. I get the songs about all the stuff I liked as a kid, and use them, and I’m very happy with it. I was thinking of pumping gas, but this might have changed my mind!
You’re often credited with inventing the horror-punk genre. When you started out, did you have any idea that you were starting something like that?
Well, I’ll put it to you this way. I thought we did the same with speed-metal and hardcore as well. We’re a very diverse band, and our subject matter and our image is definitely a horror and science-fiction based image, but our musical extravaganza is all over the board. We go from songs like ‘American Nightmare’, which is a pure rockabilly Elvis Presley/Gene Vincent kind of a song, to something like ‘Earth A.D.’, which is pretty much the speed-metal bible when it comes down to it. We got songs like ‘Halloween’, we got ballads, we got thrash, we got metal, we got it all you know? A lot of time that leaves us in a position where we’re kind of in a class all of our own; it’s really hard to lock us down. A lot of people tag that horror-punk thing on us. Are we a horror-punk band? Of course. But do I think a horror-punk can sustain itself without having great songs? No I don’t. The longevity is in the music, not the look. We’re almost finishing up our fourth decade, we’re going into our 38th year, and my job is to try to keep the band together for fifty. In that time, I’ll build my catalogue to a point where I have stuff all over the place, so when people make movies in the future, they can come back to a Misfits catalogue and pick a really great song that fits any application. I’m not limiting myself to being a horror-punk band. Did we father it? Sure. But we also fathered the Metallicas and the Anthraxes of this world. We have a lot of influences, and it’s based on simplicity and tasteful vocal melodies. I think Glenn really struck a chord when we did something like ‘Earth A.D.’ and he’s really crooning through this stuff, you just realise that it’s a matter of doing tasteful stuff, and I like to think we have a little bit of taste.
What would you like to do in music that you haven’t yet done?
Right now it’s funny, because I kind of covered a lot of things with this Christmas record. Covering ‘Descending Angel’ again, which is a song I wrote for my dad about 1999 when he was sick, and he just passed and didn’t get to hear the song before it came out, is important. I’ve realised the importance of trying to get things done as quickly as you can and not put things off, but the B-side of that is ‘Science Fiction Double Feature’ which I’ve always wanted to cover. We’ve always wanted to do a fifties project; we’ve done that. The new album, I’m very happy with. Right now, I want to go back into the studio and do a lot of the Elvis tracks that I’ve always wanted to do. Also, with the Christmas record, we missed the shelf time for it to actually be bought, and we’d like to get a full-length album out of it for next year, and really go for the Christmas angle with some really cool artwork. We also have images of Marilyn Monroe wearing our T-shirts all over the country now; that’s something I always wanted to do. I mean, if you can align yourself with Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe and people like that, I don’t see how you can’t be recognised as a force, you know? And we’re doing it in a tasteful way too. People who see our skull on a T-shirt know exactly what it means, and those who don’t are still attracted to it. It’s like a moth to a flame; we’re just trying to make that flame as big as we can to get as many of those little moths in there as possible.
What are you most looking forward to about coming to Australia?
The only throwback about coming to Australia is the distance between cities, so for us to actually make it economical, we need to fly between shows, so we do kind of come bare-boned. In saying that, if there’s any band out there who can come and take it to the hoop for you guys, it’s us. We’d love to come down and do some of the big festivals in the future, where we can bring all our stage gear, lighting and set. At the same time, seeing the Misfits in our raw form is what it’s all about anyway. We haven’t been there in three years, so I think it’s going to be refreshing for those who have seen us, and for those who haven’t it’s going to be an experience. So, I hope that does you!
MISFITS AUSTRALIAN TOUR DATES 2014:
Thursday, 16th January
The Zoo, Brisbane
Friday, 17th January
Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Saturday, 18th January
The Factory Theatre, Sydney
Sunday, 19th January
The Vernons are four guys from The Gold Coast, who – having plundered their parent’s record collections and loaded up on retro-fuelled rhythms and a truckload of optimism – have set out to create music that makes you want to rock. Damn hard.
The band’s bio lists their interests as “beer and rock ‘n’ roll” and this four-track debut EP is built on solid foundations of both those things. While it’s hard to describe their music without listing the obvious influences from the best of ’60s and ’70s classic rock, the young quartet have enough of their own thing going on to avoid being labelled copycats.
Opener and highlight ‘Shake ‘n’ Roll’ borrows heavily from the likes of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and Ten Years After’s ‘I’m Going Home’, and barrels along at a frantic pace from the start, before breaking down into a more bluesy groove as the song progresses.
‘Standing In Line’ is a more controlled affair, but loses none of the band’s trademark groove in the process, while ‘White Wine’ is even smoother still. Closer ‘Mercy’ makes a return to hard-rockin’ riff territory before we get too relaxed and before we know it, the EP is finished. With a similar sound to contemporary bands like WA’s The Love Junkies and NSW’s The Rubens, The Vernons have a good thing going on here, and the fact this EP is called Volume I would surely suggest there’s more to come from these Queenslanders.
These songs sound like they would be dynamite played live, and with a reputation for a killer live show, The Vernons are a band to keep an eye on.
VOLUME I BY THE VERNONS IS OUT NOW