Record review: Clowns – Bad Blood (2015, LP)

clowns bad blood

Here’s a question you’d expect to hear at a football riot, not read in a music review: who’s ready to have their face ripped off? This second album from Melbourne punk quartet Clowns will not only do brutal things to your kisser, but it’ll have a go at putting your ears out of commission while it’s at it. Their 2013 debut album was a savage tribute to partying and punk rock, and while Bad Blood continues in a similar vein, it comes with a growing range and belief. Like a school bully who lets you think you’re off the hook before hitting you a slap, opener ‘Human Error’ takes a full minute to kick into gear; its scratchy riffs build anticipation for what’s to come. Single ‘Euthanise Me’ is an early highlight; its melodic elements and broken-down interludes are welcome additions to a powerful punk track. Next comes a trio of 90-second hammer blows in ‘Figure It Out’, ‘Infected’ and the title track, which is perhaps the most metal here. Closing anomaly ‘Human Terror’ is easily the most interesting; at 11 minutes it’s at least three times longer than anything else and isn’t a journey for the faint-hearted. While Clowns’ brand of punk is as ferocious as ever, it’s the longer songs that impress most, as the band have grown significantly in terms of musicianship since their debut. That isn’t going to do your face any good, all the same. (Poison City)

For mX

Record review: Dorsal Fins – Mind Renovation (2015, LP)

dorsal fins

Hey, did anyone see the Grammys this week? No, me neither. I was too busy listening to the debut album by Melbourne ten-piece Dorsal Fins, and FOMO can GTFO because this stuff is smokin’. Patched together by Liam McGorry (Eagle & the Worm, Saskwatch) and members of the Bamboos and New Gods, Dorsal Fins are a band on a genre-bending trip of sometimes dreamy, always layered alt-pop that twists, turns and captivates at every moment. Just about everything is a high point; Ella Thompson’s perfect pop vocals on the express train of a synth-pop track ‘Monday Tuesday’ are especially fine, while McGorry doesn’t hold back on his social commentary cuss-fest ‘Jacqueline’. The fact that the first few bars of ‘Heart on the Floor’ sound like the drum intro to Spinal Tap’s ‘Big Bottom’ before the song turns into an ‘80s Madonna-esque pop ballad reflects the wonderfully random tangents the album takes throughout. Elsewhere, the title track cranks the psych-rock guitars while ‘Cut the Wire’ is all dark electronica, and there are beautiful and melancholy ballads in ‘Escape Me’ and ‘Superstar’. Being a ten-piece means that Dorsal Fins have a multitude of tricks up their sleeves, so hopefully this won’t be simply a side project to the band members’ other more well-known ventures. With this album, Dorsal Fins have marked themselves as serious contenders; not even a Grammy win could make me dislike them. (Gripless/Remote Control)

For mX

Record review: The Frowning Clouds – Legalize Everything (2014, LP)

the frowning clouds

Let’s get this straight from the off – legalizing everything probably isn’t a good idea, and it’s safe to say Geelong retro garage-rockers The Frowning Clouds know that. That aside, this is a band with some serious pop-writing chops, as this third album from the quintet shows. Plenty of sixties-inspired jangly pop with more than a few welcome psych-rock touches is the modus operandi that long-term fans of the band will recognise, although there are a few neat new tricks slotted into a series of two to three-minute tracks to keep things interesting. Indeed, it’s the lack of extended King Gizzard-esque psych-rock wig-outs that make Legalize Everything bounce along so nicely, although at no point does the mood get beyond incredibly laid-back. Opener ‘Carrier Drone’ sets the tone with a chilled and distorted chorus of “take me, take me anywhere you want”, while ‘Sun Particle Mind Body Experience’ carries on the relaxed vibe with some shiny guitar moments. Tracks like ‘Move It’ and ‘No Blues’ display an intriguing diversity to the band’s sound that points to a more eclectic future, while space-rock instrumental ‘Radio Telescope’ sounds like a group of guys making ear-searing noise just for the sheer pleasure of it. All in all, it’s this mix of elements that combine to make an album that’s catchy, crackly and a whole lot of fun.

Best track: Sun Particle Mind Body Experience
If you like this, you’ll like these: The Kinks, The Small Faces, The Byrds
In a word: Swingin’

For Beat

Record review: Kingswood – Microscopic Wars (2014, LP)

kingswood microscopic wars

As recently as February, Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner felt the need to include the words “that rock ‘n’ roll, it just won’t go away” in an award acceptance speech, as a gesture of defiance in support of a so-called waning form of music. If rock and roll is indeed fading away, thankfully nobody has told Kingswood, who seem intent on embarking on a one-band mission to put it back where it belongs. Anyone who has had their ears assaulted by the Melbourne quartet on one of their many jaunts up and down the east coast over the last couple of years knows that they are one of the hottest rock bands in Australia right now, but until now they’ve been a white hot rock band without a debut album. Now it’s here, and it’s a lot more varied than you might expect, with the scorching big-noise numbers ‘Ohio’ and ‘Sucker Punch’ being bookended by the desert blues of ‘So Long’ and jaunty ‘Piece By Piece’. Single ‘ICFTYDLM’ packs an altogether groovier punch than perhaps anything the band has done before; it’s as if a sleazy lounge band has been allowed to throw in some songwriting ideas for a few minutes, and it works beautifully. Inevitable Led Zeppelin comparisons will ensue, but whether you label this album good old fashioned rock and roll, straight-up guitar-rock or whatever, in the end Microscopic Wars is simply a ballsy and brilliant piece of work. The future of rock and roll, it seems, is in excellent hands. (Dew Process)

For mX

Record review: Lowtide – Lowtide (2014, LP)

lowtide album

Melbourne’s Lowtide are a band that takes their time, but boy has it been worth the wait. What started as a bedroom project for guitarist Gabriel Lewis in 2008 has blossomed into a four-piece band with a strong live reputation and now a debut album in the bag; and what a fine debut album it is. While shoegaze is the label that will be slapped all over these nine songs, there’s a lot more to sink your ’90s-cut teeth into. The band seem to know the perfect time to drift out of focus, as on ‘Still Time’ and ‘Yesterday’, before returning sharply into view with crisp pop single ‘Held’ and darkly primal ‘Autumn’. First single ‘Blue Movie’ could be ripped from a Lynchian dream sequence, whereas the chugging bass rhythms on ‘Wedding Ring’ provide a more forward-looking approach. Top marks have to go to singers Giles Simon and Lucy Buckeridge, whose poised vocals provide constant highlights on most tracks. Unfortunately, such fresh beauty often causes music reviewers to roll out plum old phrases like “melodic textures”, “aural layers” and the worst of all, “sonic soundscapes” in failed bids to capture the grandeur of this music in words, but crap like that doesn’t do it justice. Whether you want to call it shoegaze, roogaze, dream-pop, indie or whatever, this is simply a classy piece of work that should feature in everyone’s end of year best-of list. (Lost & Lonesome Records)

Gabriel Lewis of Lowtide: “I’ve battled this for a long time in my head”


HAVING EXISTED in various forms since 2008, yet only releasing their debut album this month, Melbourne shoegazers Lowtide aren’t a band you’ll catch making snap decisions. Blame their perfectionist guitarist and all-round nice guy Gabriel Lewis.

“Yeah, it has been ages actually,” he says. “When we recorded it there were lots of overdubs and returning to things. I sort of decided how my guitar was sounding in the studio sessions wasn’t as up to scratch as I’d like, so I overdubbed everything and broke everything down separately, just to get full control over everything and its sound. Otherwise, I think we’d played too much all at once and it got a bit choked. I really like doing that sort of stuff, because the idea is always there when I’m performing the songs, but I know that I don’t have enough fingers to be able to play all the stuff that I’m thinking of. So it’s kind of cool to flesh it all out and to see it realised in a way that we hope to be able to do.”

The quartet’s eponymous debut may have taken an age to see the light of day, but consistently strong live performances have paved the way for its arrival and reception.

“To begin with, we were so relieved just to have it done,” Lewis says. “But now it’s really exciting; the response we’ve had from the single so far has been really amazing. Live, there’s always a pretty strong response. The good sign is that you can’t hear too much talking going on in the room, which is nice. Especially with the quieter songs, people tend to lose attention and be chatty or whatever, but it seems to hold, so I think that’s a win.”

The first single is ‘Blue Movie’; a sparse slow-burner, although any future writing may come about in a different way, or so Lewis hopes.

“When we started there were a lot of songs already written,” he says. “[They] sort of just slotted into place in the band. More recently, we’ve had a few jams and a few ideas started from the two bass players doing parts over each other, then I’d come along and do stuff over that. I’m hoping to do more of that in the future. Everything I’ve written is really kind of taxing as far as performing goes. When we play shows it’s non-stop for me, and everybody else gets to have a bit of a relax now and then (laughs).”

Shoegaze’s original wave of popularity might have peaked in the early ’90s, but Lowtide are just one of a number of new bands taking the genre in a new direction.

“I’ve battled this for a long time in my head,” Lewis says. “You kind of don’t want to knock off what everyone’s done in the past, and if it works so well then why re-invent the wheel? Then there are a lot of bands classed as nu-gaze or whatever, adding their own edge to it to try and stand out from the crowd. I find that generally weakens the concept, and I guess if you look at blues or rock – there are standard ways of doing them, and it’s the same with shoegaze. Shoegaze is a fairly independent or off-the-radar thing, so maybe that’s why people feel that they need to try to make something else of it. But I think it’s now establishing itself, and the sound is still popular, even if it’s still linked to the ’90s because that’s when it first blossomed. It keeps coming and going as well; there have been ups and downs, and it’s just coming up at the moment, which is really exciting.”

As humble a musician as you’ll probably find, Lewis is happy take one thing at a time for Lowtide.

“At the moment we’re just focussing on the album launch,” he says. “[It] is on the 25th of July at the Tote, and after that we’ll be touring to Brisbane, Sydney and over to Adelaide as well. Then we’ll take it from there, I guess.”


For mX

Ella Hooper: “It’s been going nuts live”

Ella Hooper

WITH her stint as team captain on Spicks and Specks at an end, former Killing Heidi lead singer Ella Hooper is getting back in touch with her first love; making music.

The 31 year-old’s new single from upcoming album In Tongues is ‘The Red Shoes’; a take on the classic Hans Christian Andersen fairytale.

“I think it’s so evocative,” she says. “It’s well-covered territory; everyone’s had a go at reinterpreting this tale. I think the biggest influence on me was actually the [1948] film; the beautiful adaptation that was done around the ballet, where the ballerina dances herself to death. It’s about obsession, but remains very delicate and classy with the way it handles it. I think with this whole album, I’m looking at lots of different ways that things can take you over and push you off your natural path, and sometimes that’s a bad thing and sometimes it’s a good thing. ‘The Red Shoes’ is a little bit of both, I think.”

Fans of Killing Heidi will find much to like about the new single, but Hooper says to expect a few new ingredients throughout the record.

“[‘The Red Shoes’] is actually the rockier side of the album,” she says. “It’s not all like this. My first single ‘Low High’ is probably a better indication of the meat of the record, but I really wanted to get ‘The Red Shoes’ out there too because it is my rockier, more anthemic song, and it’s been going nuts live. There’s probably two or three other tracks in this vein, and the rest is more ethereal and a bit more kooky.”

While these are the first tentative steps into a solo career for Hooper, she was able to count on an old friend for support and musical direction.

“There’s definitely a big influence from my producer Jan Skubiszewski,” she says. “He’s Way Of The Eagle; he’s been around for years and has done lots of great stuff. He comes from a more urban background, so that was another reason I wanted to put down the guitar for a bit. I write almost all my stuff on guitar, so I wanted to put that down and get into a studio with Jan to work with some beats and do a couple of things I haven’t done before. He’s my main collaborator on this album and probably the reason why it sounds so different to everything else I’ve ever done.”

With much changing in the day to day life of the radio and TV personality, it was inevitable that her song-writing would be affected, she says.

“It’s a bit of a break-up record; it’s a tough one. It’s about Saturn returning, which is that astrological phase when you reach your late twenties in which everything you’re not meant to take into adulthood is ripped away from you or falls away, and you have to redefine yourself. I ended a long-term relationship and changed my working situation. You know, I’ve always been in bands with my brother and this is the very first time I haven’t worked with him. There has been so much change, and a lot of it has been scary and a little bit painful, even though I know it’s right. So the album is about going through those things to come out better on the other side.”

Hooper will play release shows in Sydney and Melbourne to air the new solo material, but don’t be surprised if she pops up in other projects any time soon.

“I’m focussing on the future,” she says. “There will be the two singles we’ve put out already, ‘Low High’ and ‘Häxan’, and ‘The Red Shoes’. We also like to chuck in a couple of interesting covers, because I do know it’s hard for a crowd to sit through a whole set of brand new music. We like to throw in anything from Fleetwood Mac to strange country songs. I already do miss [being in a band]. I miss hiding in the band and being part of a whole thing. I have an amazing backing band now, who I feel very close to. They’re fantastic musicians, and will be touring with me for the Sydney and Melbourne shows. I sort of feel like I have created a bit of a band around me, but I definitely look forward to other side projects where it’s not under my name; where I can just be a character amongst other characters again.”

Her stint on the rebooted Spicks and Specks came to an abrupt finish with the recent announcement that ABC wouldn’t be recommissioning the show, but Hooper remains upbeat.

“I would definitely love to do more [TV work],” she says. “It was just the most amazing opportunity, and it was really sad that it didn’t last longer, but I’m hoping to keep looking at things in that arena. At the end of the day, it was just not up to us and we’ve all had to practice letting go, and I’ve had so many nice comments about the show. I’m a big one for trying to get more music on television; I just think it’s crazy there’s so little. We have the fantastic RocKwiz, which I’ve been really involved with, and Spicks was a another really great way to get more music on TV. I’m passionate about that, and hopefully in the future I’ll be able to be involved in something that gets more music on TV.”

Although the show is a big loss to Hooper and lovers of music on television, don’t expect to catch her putting her feet up and taking things easy.

“Music isn’t how I pay the rent any more,” she says. “I do a lot of other things as well. I’ve got my radio show on Sunday nights all over the country on Austereo. I also host a program called The Telstra Road To Discovery, which is a song-writing search for the next great generation of song-writers; that kicks off in a month’s time and goes through the second half of the year. I’m also doing a few other things that I can’t talk about yet; some more mentorship and song-writing projects. I’ll also be writing some music for an event in the countryside where I come from, so I’ll be quite busy. Oh yeah, and releasing my album [laughs].”

Ella Hooper plays:
Newtown Social, Sydney – July 17
Shebeen, Melbourne – July 18

For Beat and The Brag

Record review: 360 – Utopia (2014, LP)

360 utopia

If you believe everything you read on the Internet and most music press, then you either love or hate Matthew James Colwell, a.k.a. 360. The likely truth, to which this reviewer can relate, is that you’re probably one of the silent majority of music fans who simply couldn’t give a fiddler’s fart about the 27 year-old Melbourne rapper’s music or persona, and the only reaction the constant “is he or isn’t he a sell-out/scumbag/self-obsessive” questions bring about is a jaw-cracking yawn. On his third album’s opener ‘Still Rap’, he tries to address the common criticism that his music is too “pop” and that he can’t rap… on a track that is ironically one of the most “pop” here. Lyrically, there’s no real direction throughout; the bulk of the subject matter involving sulky reflections on the price of fame (literally, on ‘Price Of Fame’, featuring Gossling) and getting sober, as on ‘Must Come Down’, ‘Early Warning’ and ‘You And I’; the latter coming off like a bad Temper Trap B-side. Ultimately, there’s very little that stands out, and each song plods along at a similar pace with no real zip or zeal. ‘Uncle 60’ may be the biggest rapper to come out of the Australian scene, barring Iggy Azalea (if she’s still being considered an Aussie), but this latest pop-heavy, rap-light stab at hip hop utopia shows that he could really do with a bit more musical meat if he wants to continue to be a heavyweight contender. (Inertia)

For mX

Record review: Remi – Raw x Infinity (2014, LP)

remi album cover

Last year, Melbourne rapper Remi Kolawole dropped the single ‘Sangria’; a blissed-out scorcher of a tune that spoke of the joys of summer, sun and getting sh#tfaced. There’s always a time and a place for songs like that, but the 22 year-old’s lyrics have moved on from those hazy days in the bars of Brunswick, to somewhere where the present isn’t looking quite as rosy. Like a rabid greyhound out of the traps, Remi – backed by Sensible J on drums, production and DJ duties, and Dutch on beats and production – sets off at speed from the start and doesn’t let up, with many a sacrificial rabbit in his sights along the way. He has insisted in interviews he’s not a particularly political rapper, but lines on the title track like “Tony Abbott and the Government / Need to get on the boat to Iraq and sh#t / Take a walk down the Gaza Strip / They’ll either wake up or get blasted then” say something different and show something Australian music needs a lot more of in 2014: guts. There are party tracks too (never fear), and ‘Livin’ might be the best one here; a controlled diatribe against workin’ 9 to 5, while ‘Tyson’ is brutal braggadocio at its best. While this is only Remi’s second album, after 2012’s Regular People Sh#t, it feels like the work of a seasoned pro. This guy is going to do big things. (House of Beige)

For mX

Remi: “I was trying to write stuff that was a bit deeper”


REMI Kolawole began collaborating with Sensible J and Dutch in 2011, and the rapper’s lyrics have continued to evolve without looking back. The Melbourne trio’s new album Raw x Infinity takes a new, edgier direction, as on singles ‘Livin’ and ‘Tyson’.

“We’re just trying to show to anybody who had only heard ‘Sangria’ last year the direction we’re going in,” Remi says. “Our last album, Regular People S#%t, was quite an eclectic listen. A lot of people who have heard that album would probably be ready for our current album, but for a lot of people who hadn’t – as triple j opened us up to a much wider audience than before – this was a good way to let them know what they were in for when they were getting this album. We have beats that are heavily driven by strong drums, live musicianship and there are no samples on ‘Livin’. I guess it’s also a bit deeper than ‘Sangria’; we’re talking about how we’re all being told how to live, as opposed to getting pissed in Brunswick [laughs]. I guess that it’s more of a move to show people our range and what we’re going to do. We just really like the song as well.”

The 22 year-old is keen on embracing a wider range of subject matter, and tackles topics like racism and politics in his songs. But does he consider himself a political rapper?

“Quite the opposite [laughs]. I just write from the average person’s point of view. I can’t pretend to be anything more than I am. [Tony Abbott] doesn’t really speak to me or the people who are around me. Obviously that’s just my opinion, and that’s what rap is. If anyone agrees, that’s cool, and if anyone disagrees, that’s cool as well. It’s all quite progressive; we’re always trying to do something new. On this album, I was trying to write stuff that was a bit deeper. This was all stuff that I just kind of picked up, but by no means do I want to be considered a political or super-conscious rapper. I just write about what I see or what I experience, and I guess some of the political issues came out.”

New single ‘Tyson’ is a no-holds-barred blast of Remi flaunting his lyrical talents over a brutal beat.

“Obviously you should be sending a message,” he says. “That should be a part of what you’re trying to do. But at the same time, you can also rap just to rap and get it out of your system. You can write some shit that hopefully sounds cool, you know what I mean? That’s ultimately what ‘Tyson’ is; just straight rap braggadocio bullshit that I’ve tried to construct to be as entertaining as possible. All the stuff that I write is basically made up of my experiences, or stuff Sensible J, Dutch and I talk about. I could be anywhere; I could be on the bus and see something happen and write about that. On the flip side, with Sensible J; he’s making beats in his head while he’s at his computer at his day job, so you just got to let the music take you whenever, in the most un-corny and unclichéd way [laughs].”

The new material has earned the trio plenty of national radio play, which Remi happily embraces, albeit with a touch of caution.

“Up until about three or four months ago we didn’t actually have any management or anything like that,” he says. “So we always operate like nobody’s got our back, if that makes sense. We’re thankful for anyone who plays our shit, because the stuff we’re doing at the moment is lyrically and sonically different to what’s going at the moment. It’s strange to us if anyone picks up on that and we’re thankful for it. By no means are we banking our career on anyone, because I don’t think you should be writing your music for a station or a magazine or anyone. Those avenues should allow the artist to do what they do, then spread their music, not the other way around. I’m totally thankful for what triple j has done for us, as well as any other media coverage that we’ve received. At the same time, I’m not going to bank on the stuff we do being picked up or written about because that would stifle my creativity and the creativity of Sensible J and Dutch.”

The group’s upcoming calendar is a busy one, with plenty of chances to air the new material.

“We’ve got our national tour coming up; the Raw x Infinity tour,” Remi says. “Then after that, we go to Splendour in the Grass, which will be great. Then we’re doing a few other – perhaps two or three – nationwide tours before November. Then we’re going to Germany in November, and back in December to hopefully do a bunch of festivals. We’ll be doing a couple of showcases in Germany, and we’ll definitely be going over there just to kick it [laughs]. I’ve been told only good things about Berlin, so I’m pretty excited.”


For Beat Magazine.

Dan Whitford of Cut Copy: “People have really embraced it”

cut copy

IT’S BEEN SOME TIME since Cut Copy played headline shows on home soil, but this is one electronic four-piece who haven’t been sitting still.

Producer, songwriter and vocalist Dan Whitford explains why the upcoming Australian shows are going to be special, and how the band has made new fans in some unexpected places.

“We went to Moscow for the first time,” he says. “We played to a room of 1500 people. It was the same in Lima, Peru; we went there a few weeks ago, and that was a voyage of discovery. But we’ve found that people know our music and we have a fanbase that is excited to see us, so we’ll try to make the effort to get in front of our fans. On one hand, we’ve seen more of the world for ourselves, and on the other we’ve expanded the places we can tour around the world. It’s grown from just doing Australian shows in the beginning to being able to play most places around the world, which is a pretty amazing thing. We were really surprised; I think it’s partly due to people listening on the Internet and that kind of thing. We weren’t aware of any radio play or anything in these places, but obviously people are managing to find our music by other means. When we went to Russia we were kind of amazed that people knew even our first record, which wasn’t our breakthrough and is a bit forgotten or obscure. We found a lot of people requesting songs from that record, and everyone knew all the words; it was quite amazing.”

The band’s latest album, Free Your Mind, was released in November, and it’s one Whitford is keen to introduce to Australian audiences.

“The last time we played in Australia was about three years ago, so we’ve totally revised our show,” he says. “We’ve got a new record out, so we’ll be performing a bunch of stuff from that, and we’ve just got a completely new lighting design, projections and visual stuff as well. Hopefully people will be excited to see something new. We’ve played festivals here in that time, but our last headline show was that long ago; I suppose because we took time to make the new record and this is the first time we’ve been able to book in some headline shows. I’m glad we’ve managed to get it happening again, because obviously we started out in Australia and tour pretty extensively all around the world these days. There are lot of opportunities for us everywhere, but we still love coming home and playing to our longer-serving fans and audiences that have been listening to us for a long time. Often when we play something new people will sort of sit there with a slightly stunned mullet look on their face. They’ll take it in, but not necessarily respond by dancing or anything. We’ve found with this new record that people have really embraced it from the beginning and have responded to the songs as if they have been listening to it for a long time, which is really good. What we look for in terms of a good show is to have people really moving and responding to what we’re doing, and it’s been really good off the bat for the new record.”

Having appeared at just about every major festival in the world, Cut Copy benefit from their music appealing to both dance and indie-rock fans.

“It’s always been a good thing,” Whitford says. “Because we’ve felt that we’ve been able to have a foot in both camps, so to speak. We don’t belong 100 percent to either; we’re strangely between worlds, and sometimes that really does work in our favour. At indie or guitar sort of festivals, playing dance music that’s a bit more energetic or upbeat can make a nice change for people, and at dance festivals where it’s mostly DJs playing, we can come out and play live music and have a more engaging show. Visually, that definitely excites people.”

The frantic pace of the touring cycle doesn’t look to let up for the Melbourne band, with a return to Australia slated for later in the year.

“We’ll be touring for most of the rest of the year,” Whitford says. “With our last record we ended up doing 180 shows in the year, but I don’t think we’re going to try to repeat that this time. Between now and the end of October or November we’ll be doing a bunch of northern hemisphere festivals, then hopefully play a bit more in Australia towards the end of the year if we’re lucky enough to get offered some festivals.”



Scott Owen of The Living End: “I guess we just get along as mates and respect each other”

living end

THE LIVING END have just played five Soundwave shows and will headline The Big Pineapple Music Festival next month; not bad for a band technically on a break. Upright bass player Scott Owen explains why the Melbourne trio doesn’t sit still for long.

“Soundwave was fantastic,” he says. “We didn’t know what to expect as it was all very last-minute; we only got added to the bill two weeks before the festival. It was unexpected, but you can’t complain about getting up in front of audiences like that. Everyone seemed to file in there early and there was a really respectable amount of people there. [Short notice] can work either way for us; sometimes we rehearse our arses off before a show and for one reason or another it’s difficult to pull it together, and then sometimes you just have to jump into the deep end without a chance to rehearse, and they can be the best gigs. We went for the middle ground and only had a couple of rehearsals in the week leading up to it, and left it at that; just enough to dust out the cobwebs a little bit, but not overthink it.”

The band will be the top-billed rock act at next month’s second Big Pineapple Music Festival, which also features Dead Letter Circus and Spiderbait.

“Because we’re at a stage right now where we don’t have a new record out, we’re just kind of getting up and trying to tailor our set – and this probably sounds wanky – to please everyone,” Owen says. “We figure with festivals you’re there for a good time, not a long time, so we just try to play things that we think people are going to know and things people can sing along to; I think that’s our job at a festival. We didn’t really think of doing [AC/DC’s] ‘Jailbreak’ until the day of the gig at Soundwave in Brisbane, but every now and then we’ll pull out a cover and it’s normally something that’s planned. We’ve got six albums, so there’s a lot of catalogue to choose from and it can be difficult to try to think of what will please everyone, but that’s why we tend to rely on the songs most people are going to know. It’s not our own show; people are there to see a bunch of bands, so we just try to offer a good time.”

This year marks two decades since the band formed in Melbourne, but Owen isn’t keen to make a fuss of the anniversary.

“We did a retrospective tour the year before last, where we went out and played all of our albums for seven nights in each city, and that was a good way to look back over everything,” he says. “I think we’re more into looking forward than looking back now, although the plan is to do nothing for pretty much the rest of the year, apart from a few gigs here and there, and then sometime next year we’ll get together again and start thinking about the next record. This is the first time we’ve all not lived in Melbourne. Over the last couple of years we’ve all moved in different directions; Chris [Cheney, singer-guitarist] is over in America, I live in Byron and Andy [Strachan, drums] is down the coast in Victoria. There’s a bit of a distance between us and we figured it’s a good opportunity to just chill out for a reasonable amount of time. Fortunately we’ve never had any major difficulties with each other and we’ve been lucky to continue to get people to want to watch us play. I guess we just get along as mates and respect each other, and just enjoy getting up onstage and playing together. I really don’t know how to read it any more deeply than that.”

The band’s sound includes elements of rockabilly, rock ‘n’ roll and punk; a formula that has worked well for the trio, although Owen’s ‘bass stunts’ – primarily standing on his instrument mid-performance – wasn’t always the polished party-piece it is today.

“When Chris and I were in high school we were only interested in’50s rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly,” he says. “Getting up on the bass was always part of the act; it was happening from day one. The funniest time was when Chris and I started playing; we were only about 16 or 17 years old when we started playing pubs around Melbourne. One of the very first times we played a proper pub – and we were still just doing rockabilly covers at the time – Chris climbed up on my bass to play a guitar solo and it all went horribly wrong and we ended up in a pile on the floor. It was devastating; we were thinking we could never get up onstage and show our faces again after such an epic fail. But we got over the hurdle. Luckily it hasn’t happened in front of an enormous audience.”


Taasha Coates of The Audreys: “It’s a really strong friendship and creative relationship”


ADELAIDE folk and roots duo The Audreys may be triple ARIA Award-winners, but it’s mostly producer Shane O’Mara’s fault, explains refreshingly down-to-earth singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Taasha Coates.

“I reckon we’d still be a shitty folk band playing in the local pubs if it wasn’t for Shane,” she says. “He heard something in our music that we hadn’t heard ourselves, and pushed it in a direction that’s made it a better beast than when we started out. We just really like each other and push each other in the right way. Early on I had a tendency to be too precise and be really anxious about minute details and mistakes and he was always [saying] ‘no, get over it.’ He taught me that it’s about the performance and not about being perfect. We’ve made four records with him now, and it’s a really strong friendship and creative relationship.”

The band’s new studio album ‘Til My Tears Roll Away follows 2010’s Sometimes The Stars, and is set to propel Coates and guitarist/banjoist Tristan Goodall back into the spotlight.

“I think it’s a rockier album,” Coates says. “The label picked ‘My Darlin’ Girl’ as the new single. It’s great if you have a good relationship with your label and you trust them; that’s the kind of decision they are much better at making than you are. We gave them the record and basically told them to do whatever they wanted. You can be much too close to your own music, and the few times we’ve tried to write something for radio it’s been shit; radio is a fickle beast. When I first started making records I was conscious of making music to play live, but Shane always told us not to think about it. Now we try to make the best record we can and then worry about playing the songs liven once they’re recorded. I think it’s hard to listen back to yourself, but I absolutely loved every moment of making the last record; it’s something I’ve grown to love. We did most of it in five days; all the tracking was done live, then we re-recorded most of the vocals at Shane’s studio back in Melbourne and brought in guest players and singers and did all the mixing as well. We had a doo-wop group sing on one of the tracks, and lots of mates of Shane’s and local musos; there’s a sing-along song at the end that has something like 24 singers on it or something. It was great fun.”

A new album of course means touring, albeit with an extra person on the tour bus this time around.

“I’ve had a baby since the last album,” Coates says. “When I got pregnant I was really nice to myself and gave myself the time to enjoy motherhood, but then started to miss music after a while. It’s actually quite a good career to fit in with a child as you can fit it around everything, unless you’re away touring. When you’re playing, it’s at night when they’re asleep, or they can come along. We’re doing a tour soon; a national tour all around the country. We’ve been playing the new songs as a duo for about six months now and it’s been good fun. We can’t wait to get on the road with the band.”


Record review: Sexy/Heavy – Battlesushi (2013 LP)

Man, there’s some seriously good hard rock coming out of Melbourne at the moment. The likes of Clowns and The Bennies have been leading the charge of a new wave of high-octane riff-bashing guitar bands, and now Sexy/Heavy are bringing something altogether more sludgy to the table. Dirty, low down riffs and ominously brooding lyrics are the name of the game on this nine-track debut album, with singer-guitarist Logan Jeff’s industrial riffs being underpinned throughout by the crunching bass-lines of Ross Walker. The always-excellent Shihad sticksman and producer Tom Larkin laid down the drum tracks for the album, and the sound undoubtedly benefits from his hard-hitting method of attacking the skins. From the opening guitar lines of first track ‘The Task at Hand’ it’s clear that subtlety doesn’t feature much in Sexy/Heavy’s music; instead, these are all-out, sweaty and downright nasty tunes to jump around to. The title track is the highlight; its suspenseful, slow-burning opening explodes into life half way through, while the interestingly named ‘Testibreasticles’ is much more dark and ominous. There’s an unmistakable whiff of ’80s metal throughout, as well as the likes of Queens of the Stone Age and Nine Inch Nails, and fans of those bands will find lots to like here. If we discreetly ignore the fact their roots are in New Zealand and not actually Melbourne, we can enjoy a fine new addition to Australian rock and metal music that begs to be played LOUD. (Independent)

Record review: Clowns – I’m Not Right (2013 LP)


Finding myself at a loss for which band to check out next at the recent BIGSOUND festival in Brisbane, I sauntered into Ric’s Bar where several hairy young men were readying to play. Thirty minutes later, after an intense onslaught of hardcore riffs and throat-shredding vocals, my state of mind could best be described by one the band’s songs: ‘Oh F_ck, My Face’. That band was Melbourne hardcore/punk quartet Clowns, and my semi-melted mug and fragile eardrums haven’t quite been the same since. I’m Not Right is their debut album, and it packs a punch in a similar fashion to that of The Bronx or Black Flag; all sweaty, beer-soaked hardcore and barely-restrained punk aggression. Movie nerds will notice a sound-bite of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper’s voice from ’80s cult flick They Live in 55-second opener ‘Awake’, before ‘Grave Junkie’ explodes with a savagery that is maintained for the rest of the twelve tracks. The album title is probably more autobiographical than is initially apparent, as the lyrics detail subjects like horse tranquillisers, acid, and various powders, and being an outsider on a daily basis, or “every day I wake up late, surround by the same old sh_t,” as the lyrics go on ‘Sheep in Black’. With song titles like ‘Eat A Gun’, ‘Jesus on Acid’, and ‘Rat’, this isn’t going to be an album you’ll play at your granny’s birthday party, but it’s a kick-ass collection of international-quality hardcore and punk that should come with a warning: must be played LOUD. (Poison City Records)