Features

Truth Decay: Housewives Interviewed

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Housewives is a Sydney punk five piece. Comprising members of Ghastly Spats and Teen Ax, the group has just released their debut 7 inch through R.I.P. Society, and will tour Melbourne later this week. As the interview below with vocalist Lincoln Brown shows, the band took a while to settle into its current line-up of Sam Chiplin (Teen Ax), Lincoln Brown and Heather Swan (Ghastly Spats), Will Harley and Dean Adam.

The 7 inch showcases one of the most frenzied and horrid punk vocalists in Australia at the moment, and while there’s a strong sense of gutter humour laced throughout the band’s songs, the primal energy of their live shows can verge on horrific at times – SP

How did you all meet one another?
I’ve known Heather since year 7, we went to high school together. We met Will when we were 16. We were at a friend’s house in Hornsby Heights [in Sydney] cause we grew up around there. Heather, Will me and some dude were the only ones awake and we were tripping. At one point in the night me, Will and that dude went down into the bush land with guitar, bongos and a trumpet that didn’t have valves and had a tribal jam until we got attacked by leaches, haha.It was just after Christmas and Will got one of the bigger iPods as a present, so he no longer needed his smaller 8 gig one. So he gave me it to me when he left after sunrise. It had some of the best music I’ve heard up to that point and took me a year to get through it thoroughly. It had Killed By Death stuff; The Reatards, Razar – you know, good shit. I saw him a few days later and asked him if he wanted it [the iPod] back, [because] we had only just met when he gave it to me and we were tripping. But nope, he wanted me to keep it.

Heather was living at this place on Cleveland Street in 2011 called The Shop. Dean was one of the people who would hang around there a bunch like me, so we got to know him like that. Will has known Chippy for a while, and Heather and I met Chippy not longer after we met Will, but never really spoke to him until a few years later when Will, Heather and I had already started jamming. Then we started hanging out more and more till he joined the band and now we’re ‘bff’.

Was there always the plan to form a band?
Heather and I had already been playing in Ghastly Spats for a while when I decided I wanted to start a more straightforward punk band. When I told Heather and Laura (Hunt, also in Ghastly Spats), Heather immediately wanted in as she’s a huge Killed By Death fan. I told her how it would be great to get Will Harley in the band as he is the biggest KBD fan I knew, and turned me onto it in the first place. Luckily enough we saw him at a gig not too long after that and hung out with him all night and when we asked him he was keen.

So we were looking for a drummer and Jack Mannix had mentioned to Heather recently about how he wanted to drum for a band again, as that’s where he started in his first band [with Kiosk]. So I think we had two jams with Jack on drums, Heather on bass, Will and I on guitar and Heather and I singing. Then Jack moved to Melbourne indefinitely and Chippy already mentioned to Will that he was keen to drum in a band, so we asked him. But after Heather, Dean and I just moved into a new place with some people “housewives” had a jam with Dean on drums. But I still wanted to give Chippy a try on drums which Dean was cool with but asked if he could still do something in the band. And I already had the idea in my head that I could put down my guitar for a few songs and do the whole “frontman” thing so I got Dean to just play guitar instead.

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I know that you guys write songs while together and jamming, most of the time. Do you feel part of this intuitive collaborative songwriting is integral to the band and its energy? Have you ever written in a solo situation for the band?
It’s easier to come up with obnoxious lyrics when I have to yell them to hear myself above the instruments. What I think is great about our band is that Chippy and I still write guitar riffs even though we’re not playing guitar, and those guys are more then happy to play them. [At the same time] Will, Chippy and Heather will write some lyrics and i’ll write the rest of them about what I think those lines mean. It’s very collaborative and yeah, I think that’s what makes it great.

Most of the time it’s like that: some one will have a riff ready and we’ll try and flesh it out into a song when we jam. Sometimes also i’ll write a whole song: riffs, lyrics, structure and bring it to a jam. We also try and come up with songs on the spot. Chippy is the master of it. Our shortest song ‘Piss Rip’ and its brother song ‘Piss Rash’ are songs Chippy wrote in his head on the spot in less than the time it takes to play them. Pretty amazing thing to watch, haha.

Live, Housewives to me is a band of extremes – sometimes blisteringly good, and sometimes fucked up and incomprehensible. Is this an unspoken, unplanned dynamic ? Is the live thing something you plan?
I agree and it’s definitely not planned. The thing is even when we play bad, ie “incomprehensible”, people still tell us it was great. I think if we ever will play a bad set it will just be dull and lifeless, even if everybody hits all the notes right. We’ve played shows where I had no desire being there because I’ve been pissed off by someone in the band but that still just makes me want to go harder, like it’s an opportunity to let it out. But I think most of the time it just obviously has to do with how much we’ve had to drink.

Does drinking add to the energy or detract? Is there a fine line or a blurred boundary?
It’s always kinda been about hanging out, drinking and playing music. I don’t think we’ve had a practice where at least somebody isn’t drinking. There is a line, for instance when I have to tune a guitar before we play because they’re too drunk. But at the same time if we played completely sober I think it would be a little dry. But more importantly the shows are better when the audiences are drunk.

What are your most memorable live shows to date? And your most forgettable?
I reckon our most forgettable was in August at Midian, we were on first and were tired from playing in Newcastle with Pop Singles the night before, and just played an extremely tight and dull set. My favorite so far was probably when we played Blackwire with Kitchen’s Floor, Ruined Fortune and Sewers. Perfect amount of chaos. Nathan Roche still says our first gig was our best which really pisses me off, every time after we play I ask him if that has changed. It was a pretty funny gig though. It was in April 2012 at Dirty Shirlows with his band [Camperdown & Out], Family and Convent who had all been around for longer, but for some reason Dan Grosz [from Family] said we should headline and we did, and every one including the audience was wasted and I think I requested our own encore even though we had no more songs, haha.

Do you think you’re on your way to making in your mind the band you envision? Or is Housewives some happy compromise?
I think it’s different from what I originally imagined, but I think it’s better. I mean it’s not that much different, punk is such a simplistic style that there is only so much you can do with it. But I think we’ve pushed it in our own way and by that I mean every individual has helped mold it into something that is a bit different. I feel that punk and rock n roll as an art form can reference itself a lot but still remain exciting and original because it’s more about individuals expressing themselves in the moment. I think I can be more successful doing that in a live scenario than something like performance art. I’ve seen amazing performance art, but usually I find it a real bore. I’m much more affected by bands like Deaf Wish or Whores.

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You’re very young Lincoln – how old are you? I hear that you have been playing in bands through all of your teens. Care to explain this history to those who may only know Housewives? Were you always really into music from a young age or was it a gradual progression? 
[I was born in] 1992, I’ll be 21 in August. I started playing guitar when i was twelve and started jamming with friends not long after that. While I was in high school I played in a few bands that had a few gigs here and there but nothing really worth mentioning. My first good band was Ghastly Spats which Heather, Laura and I started in 2010. I guess like most people, leaving primary school and starting high school was when I started to get into music more. I remember a friend’s brother taught me how to play a riff from a song I liked on guitar and it was easy, so that’s when i wanted to learn guitar. It kinda snowballed from there.

Do you write the lyrics? Live, the lyrics are somewhat muddied – do you purposefully sing them in a way that is hard for the audience to understand?
I guess I write the majority of the lyrics. Sometimes someone else will come up with a song name or a line or two and I write the rest of the song from that. Heather wrote all of ‘Special Power’ except for the second verse, which I wrote. I don’t think the way I sing the lyrics is [due to my not wanting] the audience to understand them – I’m not shy about them. I guess it’s hard to understand them cause I like to yell, it feels good. I love the whole rock n roll scream and shout, roll around on the floor thing. And sometimes I wanna sound like the guy from Young Identities, and sometimes I wanna sound more like Anal Cunt.

Care to write some of the lyrics out and explain their origins?
Okay, here’s the first verse from ‘Fuck You Or Fuck Yeah’:

Ate some face cause it felt good
What an idea, had nothing to lose
Can’t stop now, a mission man
Bath salts and some truth decay
Total recall is no good
Comes on fast and is hard to disprove

That song is kinda about how the things people do when they’re trying to have a good time can affect other people negatively. It’s also about those cannibals that were in the news last year, how people thought they were on bath salts or something and that turned them into zombies. I know that’s how I’ve felt when I’ve done shitty ‘Designer Drugs’, ie legal cocaine.

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Housewives is touring the east coast next week. The dates:

Melbourne- March 1st @ The Gasometer w/ Radiant Living, Cocks Arquette, Gentlemen
Melbourne- March 2nd @ The Grace Darling w/ Dead Boomers, Sky Needle, Encounter Group
Sydney- March 22nd @ The Old Fitzroy w/ Oily Boys, MC Madcunt, Angie
Brisbane- March 30th @ The Spring Hill Hotel w/ Sewers, King Tears Mortuary, Cannon, Pastel Blaze
Nambour- March 31st @ Time Machine w/ King Tears Mortuary, Bitter Defeat, Scissor

First and third photos by Patrick Mason.

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Features

Growing Inside: Blank Realm Interviewed

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Blank Realm formed in Brisbane circa 2005-06. The group features three siblings (Daniel, Sarah and Luke Spencer) as well as Luke Walsh on guitar. During the course of their eight year existence the band has evolved from strange and colourful free rock into a more streamlined and song-oriented affair, culminating in their latest record Go Easy, which released on Siltbreeze and Bedroom Suck late in 2012.

Go Easy has attracted the group more attention than any other release, but for anyone interested in improvised psychedelic rock music, their early recordings such as Free Time (Music Your Mind Will Love You) and Heatless Ark (Not Not Fun) are well worth tracking down, among many other cassette and CD-R missives. The group’s pop tendencies crystallised on 2010’s Deja What? and were further sharpened via a 2011 Negative Guest List single.

We caught up with Daniel Spencer on the eve of an extensive Australian tour to promote Go Easy. For tour details, scroll to the bottom.

Do you guys see yourselves more as a ‘band’, or as a family? Do you primarily spend time together hanging out or making music?
Definitely more of a family. I mean, I guess at some point we’ll stop doing Blank Realm, but we’ll always be family. Luke Walsh included. The band arose out of just hanging out, out of wanting to do something more than just hang out and listen to records together. Not that doing that is waste of time – I spend a lot of time doing that still.

There’s always been a bit of a spirit of mucking around to the band that I think will remain no matter how successful or unsuccessful the band manages to get. It will always mostly be just goofing off. For the most part, I think that’s how it should be. Bands who are really trying to make it, or bands who write a press release or an exegesis prior to their first jam have never really set my world on fire. These days, it’s probably 50/50 hanging out and making music. There’s actually a lot of work put into our music, even though it still sounds terribly sloppy.

The first time I saw you guys play it was more experimental and minimal. Now it seems like an extreme yet undefinable rock and roll band. How would you describe yourselves, and the various progressions you’ve made?
That’s sort of hard for me to say. I mean, I can see there has been a pretty radical shift in the sound from free noise, to almost straight up rock and roll, but being in the band it feels a lot more gradual than it may seem to those patient enough to have been listening all along. Part of it is just learning how to play. In the beginning we couldn’t play at all, we just turned everything up and tried to somehow control the waves of feedback. It was really fun, but maybe not so much fun for the audience.

I like that you said ‘extreme’ rock band, because that’s how I see it in a kind of ideal sense. I feel like all the noise and chaos of those early records and shows is still in these songs we do now. We like to keep things on the edge of collapse. Some people have said to me that we change every time they see us, which is cool. I mean, I don’t think we do, but it’s cool that people think that.

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I’m really interested in the lyrics. Do they come before and after the jams, and are they based on reality, or are they spontaneous?
Well, I’ve written all the lyrics so far. In a way the lyrics and the music exist independently of each other, until we find a way to bring them together. I go for a walk pretty much every night and will turn over phrases or words in my head. I’ll think of words, almost slogans really, and I’ll just hang onto them until we play something they seem to fit with. That usually doesn’t take long. Whenever I have a lyric I think is good, the band usually play something that goes with it within a week or so, without me even telling them the lyric. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but it continually mystifies me, the way that seems to work.

I definitely wouldn’t say the lyrics are based in reality, I think they are more symbolist. Sort of  transmissions from some warped quasi-religious rock and roll fantasy. I’m not too interested in writing about everyday life. There’s lots of people doing that better than I ever could these days.

I’ve always been obsessed with siblings – in films, books, literature etc – and the complex nature of these relationships. With the group comprising three siblings, have your relationships with each other always been creative?
Now that you mention it, I guess it has. Even when we were little kids we would make up fake bands with our toys and even record whole albums in stupid funny voices. I feel like going any further into that would destroy any chance we’ve ever had of being seen as cool.

Regarding lyrics, I like what you say about everyday life versus fantastical themes/ imagery, because I can relate to that with my own lyric writing [Angie writes with Circle Pit and Ruined Fortune – Ed]. Do you feel, however, that somehow they filter down and directly relate to real life events, your personal history etc, at a later date?
I feel like I definitely get the same feeling from your stuff, especially with Circle Pit. I believe rock and roll is a foundational myth in contemporary culture, and we, as a band, are true believers in its redemptive power as one of the true freedom musics. I feel like my real life is terribly boring a lot of the time, and the lyrics are sort of this parallel fantasy life. Everyone must have that to some extent, but I just get to make records about it with Blank Realm.

I wanted to ask about your artwork, as you guys usually get an artist to provide imagery for you. Was this the case with the new album?
Yep, for sure. The album art was done by Spencer Clark and his friend eggyolkeo. Spencer does a project called Monopoly Child Star Searchers, which is incredible, and he was in the Skaters, which was his band with James Ferraro. We were big fans of that band. Anyway, we visited Spencer on tour in Portland, and we were surprised to learn that he is obsessed with Australian rock from the ’70s and ’80s, like Dragon, Icehouse, Matt Finish and all that kind of thing.  He kind of saw our music in that tradition, which is really cool.

When it came time to do the art he was the logical person to ask. He initially wanted a photo of Luke [Walsh] standing alone outside a nightclub in a leather jacket to be the cover, but we could never quite get the shot. From what I understand the cover is stills from movies in Spencer’s enormous VHS collection. He explained that the cover is meant to capture the dichotomy in our sound between the nightclub and the beach. I’d never thought of it like that before, but that definitely makes a lotta sense.

Watching you play live, especially in the last year so, there is some kind of frenetic energy coming from all of you. There’s an equal excitement there, something that I interpret as coming from the fact you’re all so close. How do you feel about playing live? 
I’m not sure where the excitement comes from, but we love playing live. We are really comfortable on stage now, which we absolutely were not in the beginning.  I feel like we are a live band, meant to be seen live, that’s where we really exist. The records are just kind of representational.

Would you say it’s a kind of release for all of you?
It’s definitely a release. Being on stage is the only time my mind is empty of everyday bullshit. I don’t think about anything other than what we are playing and trying to get the audience into it. It’s the most liberating thing. I really love playing for people. I think we are pretty dependent on the crowd being into it. If there are five people in the room, and they are all hanging by the bar, we’re probably not going to play our best show. Some bands play really well with a nonexistent or indifferent audience, but we just don’t. I think there’s still part of us that’s really amazed and grateful that we are up on stage in front of people, and that keeps it this kind of joyous thing. I mean, when we started this band we never imagined we’d ever even play a show.

How can you relate the experience of singing and drumming at the same time? Are they the opposite to each other, or intertwined – something you have to balance?
Singing and drumming is definitely hard to balance. At the risk of drawing attention to it, the drumming becomes far simpler when I have to sing at the same time. I guess the way I sing is pretty influenced by my drumming, sometimes I think it’s not so much singing as much as it is rhythmic yelping.

What are your plans after this tour, will you return to America? What other projects are you all working on?
We’re going to America to play Chaos in Tejas and a bunch of other shows. Really need to try not to gobble so much intense junk food this time. We’ll have a new single really, really soon and we are finishing up a new record.

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Blank Realm’s Go Easy is out now through Bedroom Suck and Siltbreeze. The band is currently touring Australia to launch the record. Full dates here.

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Out of Phase: Home Blitz Interviewed

In an irregular series, Crawlspace speaks to an overseas artist with an imminent Australian tour. In our first, Angela Garrick speaks to New Jersey’s Home Blitz, who tours in October.  More details at the bottom.

Home Blitz is the recording project of New Jersey raised Daniel DiMaggio, whose otherwise traditional songwriting is typically shrouded in heavy lo-fi rubble. DiMaggio has released a series of 7 and 12 inch singles, with several early recordings compiled on a 2007 self-titled LP. Since then, he’s released one full length album, 2009’s Out of Phase, on Ritchie Records, culminating in last year’s Mexican Summer released A.T.K 12 inch.

I’ve been to New Jersey once but didn’t stay long. I loved the feel of the place: it seems hardworking but relaxed. I’m curious about the local bands and goings on. Care to illuminate for us Australians?
Yeah I like New Jersey a lot, I think it’s really sick and has a lot of nice and cool parts and is very diverse. I’m glad I don’t live there anymore cause it made me really sad towards the end, but I like going there a lot and do it pretty often.  “Hardworking but relaxed” is a pretty good assessment of the general feel of it I think, though neither adjective really applies to me personally.

I bet there are a lot of good bands in New Jersey but I don’t really have a comprehensive sense of the music scene there unfortunately, though I feel like I should find out more about current bands in the state. Some of the best groups from New Jersey, past and present, are For Science, King Darves, Saves The Day, the Disturbed, Amor Fati, David Sutton, Misfits, Smart Remarks, Slow Tongued Beauty, Bruce Springsteen, Ambulance, the Worst, Big Troubles, My Chemical Romance, Psycho Sin, Ted Leo, Genocide, Matthew Young, the Van Pelt and Terry Hughes.

Home Blitz is essentially your home recording project. How did it turn into a live project?
There started being a live band of Home Blitz that would play shows pretty early on, soon after the release of the first Home Blitz single in 2005. I think at the time I mostly cared about recordings and putting out records and making good singles, and I had a sort of ‘why not’/’might as well’ attitude about live performance. I’ve gradually gotten more serious and kind of ambitious about playing live, as I’ve developed more of a need for validation and also have wanted the band to cross over into the real world more and be more in touch with reality, though the live performing band improving and getting tighter (IMO) is also a big factor.

With your singing, it seems there is this urgency to kinda spit out the words. Would you agree with this? And is the subject matter of your songs something you need to ‘get out’?
Yeah man, kind of. Honestly a lot of the lyrics to the songs don’t mean that much to me cause they were written a long time ago and I don’t even know what some of them are about anymore really, but I still like to try to sing them hard cause I am real angry a lot of the time, and also cause singing rules and is fun. Recently I’ve been trying to work on it more.

The first time I saw Home Blitz live I was really surprised and impressed with the feel, style and tone of the live band, particular your and Teresa’s steady, solid guitar playing. The two guitars seem so in tune with one another. I was kinda expecting the band to be less (for lack of a better word) ‘refined’ and more all over the place. Was the band like that before, but since evolved?
Thanks! That means a lot to me. Yeah, the live band of Home Blitz definitely has gotten more refined and better, both in terms of each successive line-up and this particular line-up over the three or so years we’ve been playing together. Earlier versions of the band were more ramshackle, I think, in a way that I didn’t like, though the improvement is due as much to me getting better at basic stuff like singing and playing guitar at the same time. Which shouldn’t be that hard but I’ve realised it is [as hard] as any change in personnel. Like you mentioned, adding a second guitar has made the biggest difference, and I think having me and Theresa both playing at the same time is the primary reason that the band sounds okay now, since I can’t imagine it sounding good with just one guitar.

To me, and don’t take this the wrong way, Home Blitz seems very much a ‘singles’ band. You’ve released a bunch of 7 inches before the LP. Was it a different or more difficult process to make the album? Or was it just a bigger bunch of songs?
Umm not really, I guess it was only more difficult in the sense of taking longer and requiring more work just time-wise, since I generally work pretty slow, though I’m trying to get faster. But in terms of conceptualising it as an album it was pretty easy once I made up my mind to do it. I feel like all the songs came together and were written pretty quickly, but that can’t be the case. I think it just seems like that ‘cause it was a long time ago and I don’t remember things that clearly from back then. It was maybe a little harder ‘cause I tend to be obsessive about a lot of little details in each song (though it may not sound like it), which is more conducive to making singles than albums, so to do that for an album’s worth of songs was a more involved mental process. But maybe also I wasn’t as much like that back then, who knows!

I love the artwork and aesthetic you guys have for all your records and flyers. Who does them? I love the Perpetual Night 7 inch artwork in particular. Why is the A.T.K 7 inch so different?
Thanks! I do all the artwork for all the records (excepting maybe the Weird Wings 12” inch, for which the artwork I had done was rearranged and amended by a graphic designer). I think I’ve only made one flyer ever from a long time ago and I dislike it. I’m not super into the artwork I do for the records, I just feel like I have to make the art ‘cause it’d be inappropriate if I didn’t and the records had artwork like a lot of records do, like a picture from a book maybe or artwork designed by a friend or lover of someone in the band. I like the Perpetual Night artwork a lot too, I think it looks sick. The A.T.K. 7 inch looks different I think ‘cause the artwork was an effort to make it look less stupid than the other records, though it’s also the only Home Blitz record with a band photo so maybe that’s why.

Its interesting that you say there was no direct impetus to play live at first, as the records to me ‘scream’ live show. Once you did get the band going live, do you feel that it has changed the tone and direction of your home recordings?
No not really I don’t think, except that being in a real world band and playing live is frustrating and aggravating, so I think maybe it contributed to me being more pessimistic and having a more negative outlook about the band which possibly has affected the tone of the records, I hope.

What are you expecting out of your Australian trip? The eve of an overseas tour is always a combination of the best and worst form of anxiety. Are they any Australian bands you say would have influenced you in some way or another?
I don’t really know what to expect but I am looking forward to it for sure, I think it’ll be sick. I like or expect to like a lot of the bands we’re playing with so I am looking forward to seeing cool bands and shit, and I’ve never even been to another country except Canada, so to go to another one where they speak English will be cool if nothing else. I like a lot of historical rock from Australia. When I was in high school I had a tape where one side was the Where Birdmen Flew compilation and I listened to it quite a bit so I’m real into that stuff, like all of the “Murder Punk” bands. My favorite of those are the Leftovers and the Chosen Few, like the most thugged out sounding stuff. I also really like the Bee Gees a great deal and have listened to them a lot in my life, I love it.

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Home Blitz will appear at the 2012 Sound Summit in Newcastle on Sept 30. They’re also touring nationally:
Brisbane – Wed Oct 3 – Black Bear Lodge with Kitchen’s Floor + Matyr Privates
Geelong – Thurs Oct 4 – The Nash with Woollen Kits + Austmuteants
Melbourne – Fri Oct 4 – Liberty Social with Blues Control + Woollen Kits + Rule of Thirds
Sydney – Tues Oct 9 – The Square with Raw Prawn + Drum Drum

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High Rise Horizon: Repairs Interviewed

Ben Hepworth is frontman of Melbourne-based synth punk band Repairs. The group released their first cassette on Captured Tracks in 2009, followed by a Nihilistic Orbs 7 inch earlier this year. Hepworth also plays in Interzone alongside Jarrod Zlatic and Shaun South, among others. The interview below was conducted over a series of emails, and touches upon the formation of Repairs, the Melbourne scene that orbits Shaun South’s Nihilistic Orbs label, and how Repairs’ aesthetic has evolved since the decline of all the instruments that were fundamental to their initial sound.

Regarding Repairs – your main project – how did it get started, how did you meet one another, and how has the band evolved over time?
I get asked this question a lot and people always seem to get a kick out of the answer – Repairs evolved out of a high school band.  Al Montfort (UV Race, Total Control, East Link) has talked for years about writing a Repairs zine or biography where we all show up on the first day of school wearing Kraftwerk t-shirts and decide to form a synth punk band but unfortunately that wasn’t the case.

I met Alex [Lee], Jon [Koop] and Andrew [Brocchi] when I was 12. Andrew and Alex have known each other since primary school. I started learning guitar when I was about 11 or 12 and began to seriously think about putting a band together when I was 15 or 16. Alex had left our school by then but Andrew and Jon both started learning drums to join. Andrew joined and we played with a few other people until we finished high school.

After we finished high school I ran into Alex a few times and I remembered that he could play piano – he was classically trained as a child. We bought an old ’70s Italian hammond style combo organ and Alex, Andrew and I started playing together as a three piece – organ, guitar, drums and sometimes bass. It was really raw post-punk no wave type stuff. We played a show or two but it just didn’t seem quite there.

I began to get a bit frustrated and bored with guitar based music. It wasn’t exciting anymore. I always thought Jon had good ideas, and we had a similar taste in music at the time, so I asked him if he wanted to join too. After that I bought a cheap ‘60s Farfisa organ and Jon introduced me to the idea of sampling. He wrote a few drum machine beats, played with the tuning, and they became the basis of songs like ‘Lottery’ and ‘Outside’.

Melbourne was in the middle of a heatwave and drought at the time and over a week or two the Hammond organ started to go out of tune. I would run it through my 30w tube amp and have to distort it to get even a half decent sound out of it. We bought a delay pedal and that was when things came together. The organ was so out of tune that every single note on the keyboard was different – not one was the same. By applying delay and distortion I found that when I hit combinations of certain notes I could create different harmonic tones, clusters and feedback that in a crude way reminded me of the more minimal drone based music I was listening to.

One afternoon we had our first jam together which resulted in ‘Lottery’. We named the band Repairs after a sample Jon had, and then we put the song online. That evening we were contacted by Mike Sniper (Blank Dogs, DC Snipers) who asked us to do a cassette for the label he was starting – Captured Tracks. We wrote the other three tracks over two weeks and sent them to him.

It got us a bit of attention because no one knew who we were and that resulted in Shaun South (Nihilistic Orbs, Chrome Dome, Deaf Deaf) inviting us to play the Chrome Dome Negative Vibes 7 inch launch with Primitive Calculators, Matthew Brown and Free Choice at Rearview Gallery. We booked a show beforehand as a warm up. It didn’t go so well – the owners of the bar were so unimpressed with our performance that they refused to give us our rider and most of the cash. Luckily the Rearview show did [go well] and we started getting asked to play shows.

After that things got a bit harder. All the equipment used during that period was lost, stolen, destroyed by vindictive housemates or fell victim to the heatwave. Our approach was completely nullified and we were forced to re-think it if we were to continue as a band. It was devastating and, in my mind, took us a year or two to completely recover from. We were approached by some labels such as Woodsist and S-S Records, and Captured Tracks proposed a follow up 7 inch, but we weren’t happy with anything we produced.

Changes in equipment also meant changes in approach. Originally it was Alex and I on organs and Jon and Andrew alternating between drums and singing. Then when we got our first synthesizer, ditched the drums and I started singing too. Then as we got more synths the sound streamlined to what it is now with Jon, Alex and Andrew all playing synthesizers while I sing and control the sampler. It’s moved slightly away from the sluggish industrial drone that it was to a more ‘70s influenced synth punk sound. It’s almost like playing a 33rpm at 45rpm in comparison. All the core elements we began with are still there, we just focus more on songwriting now.

The Repairs 7 inch (Nihilistic Orbs, 2011) was recorded by Tom Hardisty from Melbourne band Woollen Kits. How was it recording with him? Did you do just those songs, or was there a bigger session?
Tom was great to record with. Besides the Captured Tracks tape there were only a few attempts to record Repairs, which all ended in disaster. The Captured Tracks cassette was recorded on an old ‘70s 2 1/4″ track reel-to-reel I’d bought off a classifieds ad and two $10 microphones. Prior to that I had no means to record or document anything I was doing and a reel-to-reel appealed to me because I wanted a certain level of quality. Unfortunately that broke as well. Matthew Hopkins (Vincent Over the Sink, Naked on the Vague, Half High, Four Door) once offered to help record us if we came up to Sydney but logistically it was too hard for us to coordinate due to work and other commitments. I approached Tom because he’d mentioned he was looking for bands to record and he came to see us play a lot, so he had a good idea of what we were working towards.

We only recorded three songs for the 7 inch. Nihilistic Orbs had given us a very strict deadline, but we recorded all three in two different styles. ‘High Rise Horizon’ evolved into it’s current state during that session. It was originally slower and based around a stock sample taken from a Seeburg drum machine – an American furniture company that had their own line of drum machines in the late ‘60s or early ‘70s. They were one of the first purchasable drum machines. The outtake, ‘No Future’, is a song we used to play a lot but the recorded version was a little lackluster – it works much better live. We’ve talked about re-recording it live and releasing it on another 7 inch.

With some of the money we made last year we bought a 4 track 1/4″ reel-to-reel and have begun working on an LP. The plan is to record the basic tracks ourselves and mix them with someone so that we have the freedom and space to work on it more than the last time.

You play both guitar and synthesizers, but have a strong understanding of drum machines, programming and effects. Did you teach yourself? Was the learning process about trying to fill something that was lacking or did you genuinely want to make programmed music? If so, was it a matter of control or style?
I did teach myself, but that process was never about filling a void. I genuinely wanted to make programmed music and I would say at first it was a matter of style. I had a very specific concept so it was about finding the right way to effectively realise that. Control became a more important factor later on. Once those basic stylistic elements were in place it became about refining the individual sounds.

Since Shaun South started Nihilistic Orbs, do you feel it has created a ‘home’ or ‘hub’ for like minded artists working in Melbourne?
I think it has, but Shaun has always sort of tried to cultivate a ‘hub’ or ‘community’. Over the past seven or eight years he’s run Summer Winds (music festival) and Nihilistic Orbs, both of which had a similar focus. Nihilistic Orbs is more specific and had to start on a smaller local scale to get things moving. There are more and more bands forming interstate that could fit into his aesthetic and in the next year I think Shaun will release more interstate bands.

It took him a while to get the label off the ground but it’s been interesting watching it come together. Repairs, Nun and Asps are playing a Nihilistic Orbs showcase at Sound Summit this year which is great for the label and bands involved. I doubt any of us would have been invited to play otherwise.

You said you focus more on songwriting now. What exactly do you mean? Do you feel the LP will be more “songy”?

Originally it was much more free-form, instrumental and chaotic. Songs lingered on a singular theme with no progression or development. It was obnoxiously minimal and monotonous. Now I put more thought into the structure, lyrics, effects and programming while trying to incorporate those original elements in a more interesting way. One of the newer songs is eight minutes with a simple driving beat and two note bass line, so the placement of lyrics and effects is important. The LP will definitely be more “songy”.

Your lyrical themes are ambiguous to me. Would you care to elaborate a little on what motifs and ideas you write about?
My lyrical themes are usually autobiographical or observational and quite nihilistic. I’m influenced by what’s happening around me. Relationships, suburban boredom, addiction, loneliness, cities and escape are all recurring themes but I try to write about them with a sense of humour or from a completely neutral, emotionally detached perspective.

I really love your other band, Interzone, which seems to have gone through many different line-ups. Will there be a release in the future? It seems that Jarrod Zlatic (Fabulous Diamonds) has been a fairly consistent member, along with yourself. How is it working with him?
Interzone has gone through a lot of line-up changes but has finally stabilised. There have been seven members and three distinctly different versions of the band. We now have Albert Wolski (Nevada Strange, Exek, Slug Guts) playing lead guitar and Andrew Brocchi (Repairs, Safeway Cafe) has been a consistent member for a while. Jarrod Zlatic and Shaun South are the only original members besides myself.

I really enjoy working with Jarrod. He always has an interesting take on whatever I bring in and he really drove the band in a different direction. I probably never would have played a guitar solo if he hadn’t insisted on it. There will be a release soon, hopefully. I want to record a 7″ before Jarrod and Albert go overseas. There are a lot of live recordings we’ve tracked down and also looking at releasing. Jarrod is considering releasing a live 7″ of the current lineup as well as a cassette of live recordings, rehearsals and demos chronicling all the different line ups on his label Redundancy next year. Fidelity would be an issue but it could make a good LP too.

I’m really curious about what you do when you’re not playing music. What are you favourite ways to spend your time?

I’m kind of boring and reclusive at the moment. I read a lot, hang out with my girlfriend, drink with friends and I’ve started writing a bit. I don’t have a TV or internet so I have to keep myself entertained. Next year I want to travel more.

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Repairs’ High Rise Horizon is available through Nihilistic Orbs. Top photo by Max Milne.

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Features

Mysterious Sound: Menstruation Sisters Interviewed

Nik Kamvissis, one third of Sydney group Menstruation Sisters, exists to me as some kind of reactive spirit guide to the surreal. He is submerged in a world that exists along a frequency only few understand. His creative work, both in the realm of music and visual art, eludes both radiance and destruction. The magic in his performances lies in the fact that it’s all natural and no farce. The spectrum of sound he creates, primarily through voice, is unlike any other: he channels a supreme instinct that is highly his own.

In our current world amid the industry of culture, most creative works are made to be disposable: to serve a wider financial or social purpose. Listening to Menstruation Sisters – Kamvissis’s primary musical project – illuminates this fact because by contrast it leaves an imprint. It feels as though the work has been made for you and no one else. I see Kamvissis’s output as a bodily function, exerting itself with no control or warning, something essential to his life.

The initial interview I had planned was in person, at Kamvissis’s home. We sat down to watch a film first: Dennis Hopper’s Out of the Blue. We watched the first 15 minutes, until the girl, our hero, is singing to herself in a greenhouse. It’s a nice image to end on. This moved into a discussion of our mutual interest in film, particularly of Cassavettes and Fassbinder. While chatting about David Cronenberg, I realised that although a fan, for me his films are almost too putrid, too abject. Although the images and themes portrayed deal mostly with contrasting realities and the flesh meeting mechanical, it seems like it could be a situation that could be played out in some future everyday life. When I say this, I am referring to the aesthetic of Existenz in particular – the fleshy bodies, limbs out of control –  At one with human elements and the limits of reality and the rules of morality, pragmatism. An intense yet imaginable proposition.

This discussion is what leads me to Menstruation Sisters and Nik’s greater artistic vision – exploring and expanding these barriers of what one can imagine sonically and melodically. Along with collaborators Oren Ambarchi and Brendan Walls, who at current form an unstoppable dynamic of three, the power of Menstruation Sisters lies, for me, in the fact that the project is solely intuitive. It is physical and expressive rather than ‘composed’. This condition is why the project is so powerful. Through this form, they are pushing music to what it should be more and never seems to be, especially in these times: dangerous, unsteady and heading towards an uncertain end.

I accidentally taped over our one hour interview. The lost hour was a chat about the recording processes Menstruation Sisters go through in order to create their full length releases MA and Samantha, My Wack Panther. I was curious to learn that they improvise in the studio, meticulously pulling out the best components of each session, creating tracks and then finally songs and then a live set learned from the recording sessions. This almost seems like a more expressive, pure, intuitive form of making a record – rather than trying to emulate a live experience in the finest detail. We corresponded over email later on, which proved to be more of a success.

Samantha, My Wack Panther, pictured above, was originally released in 2009 through Ecstatic Peace!

As you’ve been playing music for so many years, has your relationship with it changed as you’ve got older? Do you feel that is has been a progressive, constant experience, or something that fluctuates?
It’s one interrupted rollercoaster ride, a broken down love/hate relationship. It’s provided me with many thrills along the way but only now can I fully appreciate the value of all the mayhem. Age has helped fade the hate away. I treasure the band.

I wanted to ask you about the relationship between your visual art and your music. Do they influence and inform one another, or do you find they are separate, unrelated entities?
Both are deeply improvisational practises, and no songs or drawings are composed beforehand. It’s more a searching, for an idea or a vibe, and once contact with a sound or visual has been made, that triggers a desire to create with it. It becomes a give and take practise until the desire has been fulfilled. A guitar solo can so easily inspire a rhythm, an energy which is used to draw with, and vice versa. I love the psychedelic and punk visuals from the rock record covers as well as being influenced by fine art. I am consistently with them both and I’m sure they are working together in ways I’m not even that aware of.

I see your music and art as extremely personal. Is this true? How does expressing yourself to the public, particularly through Menstruation Sisters live shows and recordings, effect you and your output?
Not too sure what you mean by personal. It’s just music and visuals which are very much influenced by many things, some I’m aware of and some not – ideas, practices, feelings and forces which have been around and developing for thousands of years. These musical and visual ideas or creations have a life of their own, and the relationship with them I find far more problematic than simply participating in a process of creating them. Playing live is a treacherous experience. Ultimately this is a rock band, so it has to get it together live. It’s that trip down the lonely road…

MA was reissued on No Fun Records in 2008.

As the recorded MS albums are based around improvisations, do you feel they represent a ‘period’ of your life or are they more representative of fleeting moments, experiences?
I would see them as experiences. I like to see them on a superficial level: the sound, the colour, the lines, the composition.  Do these experiences help produce new experiences?  Do they make you want to experience something new?

You mentioned that each recording is an experience. How would you describe the contrasts between the experiences played out in MA and Samantha? They’re both amazing records.
MA is our first record, recorded probably between 1994 and 1997, and it was done all over the place: inside bedrooms, rehearsal studios, different people’s houses, overseas in someone’s toilet, and with other people at times controlling the recording process, using different equipment and instruments and making spur of the moment decisions in the final mix, therefore leading to an album that is sprawling.  Samantha is just one two hour session at a rehearsal space when I had a bad case of sinus, so it was just quite mellow. Feeling sick played a part, so it’s important not to worry how we are feeling, but to instead go with that feeling and see if it bears fruit worth biting into. Do any of these experiences make you want to experience more, to explore further?  Samantha is a great example of this as the songs played live are radically different and have kept evolving. [That is where] the value is for us.

Playing live as treacherous, I like this idea – standing on an unsteady fence – it’s a very powerful image. How often do things go off the deep end in terms of control ?
Hahaha, control! There is some sort of control there, but what or who is controlling what and when? I’m not too sure. But when it’s a great ride, it’s a great ride! That’s what we are aiming for, to take a song somewhere it hasn’t been before, somewhere we haven’t been before…”the lonely road”. Sometimes it’s best when, on a whim, a song is derailed. The song is breaking down and being reborn all around you, leaving you with no idea of where you are going and no care: you are in the eye of the storm. It’s a fine line where this takes you, so the band has to be on a similar wave length, and even then you just don’t know, but on a good night the band will thrive on this.

What are your thoughts on being an artist working in Australia at this point in time? From a cultural point of view, do you feel facilitated and welcome here? Do you feel attached to any kind of artistic community?
Attached and lost consistently. It’s important for me to keep working on what it is and why it is that I desire.  Australia is fine for now, I don’t have too much of a problem with working here at the moment. There are many people around me who are a consistent inspiration, generous, supportive and helpful in many ways. There is so much more that can be done here while working with people and spaces overseas.

Do you know where you are headed in terms of personal creativity? Do you have an idea of what you want to do and where you want to go with it?
I’ve no idea where I am headed, the road to hell or the road to heaven? All I know is I need to “go go go!”

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This interview was originally published on Angela Garrick’s Silver Video blog. Thanks to Daryl Prondoso for the live photo.

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