Features

A Glimmer of Hope: Orion interviewed

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Photos: Tristan Price

Since forming in late 2013, Sydney-based quartet Orion has grown to mean a lot to people. The group makes accessible, powerful and sometimes danceable pop songs. Uplifting melodies and synced bass and drum machine blend with dark undertones of guitar and morose keyboards. It’s unsettling at first, but the delivery on every track is unabashed, and they’re a band unafraid to connect with human emotion.

Orion is made up of Yuta Matsumura of MOB and Oily Boys, Kerem Daldal, aka Dizzy of Oily Boys and Low Life and Sarah Davis and Chris Colla, both formerly of Whores. While Orion invites little comparison to any of these bands, there is a familiar underlying aggression to their brand of new wave pop. The group’s live shows are sure to break out into a pit of undulating bodies, some heaving, some dancing, many embracing frontman Yuta as he struts around the stage.

I caught up with Yuta, Dizzy and Sarah at the Huntsbury pub in Petersham to talk about pop, emotional maturity and the flicker of a future. The group is currently working on their first LP – a follow-up to last year’s demo cassette through Paradise Daily.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is the first straight pop band that any of you have been in before?
Sarah: Indeed.

Yuta: Pretty much. I was in one when I was 16 with Al (Haddock). It was rubbish. That’s actually when I first met Sarah. The band didn’t really work out, we didn’t really know any better back then. Everyone’s in shit bands when they’re young.

Was it hard to write pop songs initially, given that you’d never really done it properly before?
Y: Yeah it was – I think with pop music, you need to experience a lot of different emotions in order to write a good pop song.

Is that to say that your other bands were less rooted in emotional experience?
Y: Definitely less so than Orion.

S: I think the emotion was just different. In our early twenties I think a lot of us felt like we had no future so all the music was really bleak, mostly just grim shit. Now I guess the idea of a future is growing.

Dizzy: I dunno – aren’t we all still making that same fucken harsh music that we were before?

Y: Totally, but now there’s just like a glimmer of hope in it, I reckon.

D: I think now we’re just able to write good songs because we know what’s good and what’s not, so we don’t put out trash or anything.

So does Orion represent an evolution in songwriting for all of you?
S: I guess we’d just never tried this mode of songwriting before.

D: I think we just honestly have better taste now. I think if we all tried to be in a pop band in our early twenties, it would probably be pretty bad.

Y: Yeah, because we’ve played in other punk and hardcore bands before, I think now we just have a much better approach to writing pop music. Orion is just a different dynamic to any other band I’ve been in.

D: Just being in this band, it’s a much more communal thing – there’s way less ego in Orion. I mean, I suppose there is ego in this band but we don’t let it get in the way of anything.

Was the goal to try something different when starting the band?
Y: It all happened pretty naturally. Me, Sarah and Chris always talked about starting a pop band. The song ‘Sexy Alien’ came from a jam between me, Sarah and Chris – it was pretty much just us sitting in a room writing songs that captured what we thought pop was. Then I had a jam with Dizzy, and that’s when we wrote ‘Church Bells’, and then we figured we’d all just combine and start a band as we were all writing music that related to each other. It was never a conscious or set thing to start Orion.

D: I think we played our first show as a two-piece while Sarah and Chris were out of action. But it was always the intention to have them play.

Your music obviously draws on a lot of other much-loved bands. The instrumentation, particularly the bass lines and the drum machine compliment each other pretty precisely. Which came first for Orion, the sound or the idea?
D: I think the drum machine was actually just a stopgap for a while. We always said ‘Oh yeah, we’ll get a drummer some time’. We were debating it for some time, and then we all ended up deciding to go for the drum machine. People always asked us ‘When are you getting a drummer?’, ‘Uh…well maybe we won’t.’

Y: I definitely don’t think about the sound that often, like what sound we’re gonna make or what goes where – it all just happens naturally.

D: It’s never contrived or anything, never too much forethought goes into any of it.

Y: That’s why every Orion song sounds different I think. Like there’s a strong difference between ‘Red Lights’ and ‘Turbulence’.

D: We want to be able to write in a lot of different styles. We never want to box ourselves in to any particular mode or genre. Not to say that the past was great or anything, but I think bands were much less limited on albums where they could do like ten different styles. It seems like nowadays bands get boxed in much easier like ‘you’re this kind of band, so you’ve gotta subscribe to this style’, and it’s hard to move out of that.

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Yeah, funny you say that, I remember at Maggot Fest last year during your set, some punter shouted out ‘Fuck the ’80s!’ Do you ever feel pigeonholed as an ’80s style, new wave bad?
Y: Definitely – but they’re fucken ignorant.

S: For sure, but we’re not ashamed to be heaps of shit from the ’80s, we all love it. At the same time I’d like to think that we have our own take on it.

Y: People are always gonna look back on music from the past and it just so happens that the ’80s is where our music fits best. That guy who says fuck the ’80s is probably into millennium hardcore [chuckles].

S: Pop music is like a language – you draw on certain things because that’s just the mode of it, that’s the medium that you’re working with.

D: I’d say one thing about making pop music and I think why Orion formed when it did was mainly because we’re much more confident musically now to make pop music. When you are a bit less confident, and I’d say we all definitely were, it’s hard to make music for listeners to ‘have a great time’ to. I think that definitely takes a bit of bravery.

Y: I’m much more nervous about making pop music than any other type of music.

Is that because you feel there’s more honesty in it?
Y: I think so. I think there’s a lot more personal shit coming out of you in pop. Personally, I definitely have never ever sung with as much emotion or aggression before. When I was younger I was much more shy.

Do you guys find it challenging to perform live in Orion sometimes?
S: I do – I’m pretty fucken socially anxious so yeah, it’s pretty hard. I’ve gotten better at it with practice, but there’s no way I could ever sing.

D: I wouldn’t wanna do what Yuta does. It’s easy enough to hide behind an instrument.

Y: It was hard at first. But there was definitely one point in time where I was like ‘fuck this – fuck feeling anxious, I should be more confident in our songs.’ Once that happened, it became much easier. The more we played the more comfortable we became.

D: I don’t know if I’ve ever been nervous playing in Orion. I’m not too sure how Chris feels but he has his back to the audience mostly.

It’s palpable that when you see an Orion show, you really feel the emotion and passion emanate from the live performance. Audiences get really rowdy and into it.
D: Yeah it’s really cool to see people express emotion and respond to music you put out there.

How satisfied with your demos were you?
D: Very happy considering the amount of effort that went into them. It was all pretty rushed, and Lawrence [Hall] did a great job of making that shit chime. I mean, it’s definitely not great, and all of those songs are gonna be on the LP, and they sound so different now.

In what sense do they sound different?
D: The vocals are a lot better, there’s new drum tracks. Everything has a different feel to it now.

Y: When you get used to a song, you can play around with it.

I see you’re playing Maggot Fest again in Melbourne. How do you find Melbourne audiences respond to your music?
S: They were very receptive, and maybe initially I thought they wouldn’t be.

D: I think it almost embarrassed us. We had this preconception of Melbourne crowds and how they’d respond to our music and I think we were all totally proven wrong.

What’s been your most memorable live experience?
S: They’re all a blur.

Y: The Birdrib one was pretty fun. Even though we sounded like absolute shit.

S: Ha, yeah that was awesome. Christian (Low Life) just like Godzilla’d it on stage and knocked over the synth and all the shit – those are definitely the mad ones. The one’s where everyone gets really raucous and it doesn’t even matter so much what you play.

D: Playing a great set to people who don’t give a fuck is actually nowhere near as good as playing an absolute horror show to people who are really into it.

Y: The funnest ones are probably the ones where we don’t complete a set for whatever reason that might be.

A lot of people seem to be quite enthusiastic about Orion. Do you feel that you’re filling some sort of void in Sydney music?
Y: No, not at all.

S: That’s definitely not something I would have ever thought about. We just wanted to fill our time and do something fun with people we like and just do some shit musically that we’ve never tried before.

Orion’s demo cassette is sold out, but it can be downloaded here.

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Features

Room For Error: Ill Winds interviewed

image Born in Berlin, Jack Dibben and JF (Ill Winds) have been making music together since their respective moves to Europe in 2011. Calling on sombre sounds from the Belgian coldwave fold of the early ’80s spliced with hints of the Neue Deutsche Welle, Ill Winds’ music is both uniquely electrifying and terrifyingly isolating.

Despite being largely comprised of old material, Ill Winds’ latest cassette release on Hidiotic Records represented a maturation in sound for the former duo, now trio. Adding a synth to their new recordings brought a new element to their sinister brand of post-punk and signified a willingness on songwriter Jack Dibben’s behalf to embrace electronic sounds and instruments. Now situated back in Australia after a 3-year stint abroad, Jack Dibben discusses the musical landscape of Berlin and the future of Ill Winds.

When and how did Ill Winds come about?

Ill Winds came about at the beginning of 2011. At first we were going under the moniker 3D Meat, but we changed it pretty quickly. JF and I had just moved to Berlin under completely unrelated circumstances; JF in pursuit of his studies and myself in pursuit of an Austrian woman who happened to be moving to Berlin to undertake studies. My eldest sister knew JF, twigged and sent us on a blind date. It all followed from that. Marijn (Denegaar, synth) came into the picture later.

Much like the Post-Punk and Coldwave of Belgium and Germany in the early ’80s, Ill Winds music sounds similarly sinister with analogous music arrangements. Did you find that you were better placed in Berlin/Europe musically?

Well yes and no. I found a lack of band culture in Berlin and Vienna particularly. In that sense it’s pretty different from London, Barcelona, Melbourne and Sydney. It seems like everyone in Berlin is making or listening to techno, and that’s where the vast majority of the musical energy is channelled. It’s like at some point in the ’90s most Berliners decided that actual instruments were archaic and moved into the electronic/digital realm, never to return. However Berlin is certainly much more strategically located and in that sense more conducive to playing in a band. The geography of Europe and the ease of getting to so many major cities naturally lend itself to touring and thus opportunities to play with and to different people.

Do you feel the city influenced or shaped your music in any way?

Naturally, being in Berlin shaped my music; that’s the nature of music, it’s shaped by your surroundings and state of mind. The weather, the feeling of being a part of something bigger, political tension, culture shock, living day-to-day, no security, the threat of having nowhere to turn. It also very much instilled a love of techno. I was hesitant for about two years, attending the odd CTM Festival event, trying to keep an open mind, but really just turning my nose up at a majority of what I heard; possibly based on the on the precedent that it was electronic. Just dipping my foot from time to time. Then out of nowhere; BAM. I was at Berghain every other weekend. Shirt off, cap backwards, pumping my fist and losing brain-cells.

Many artists/musicians move to Berlin to hone in on musical pursuits. What’s the city like in terms of a musical community? Could you rely on the support of other bands for gigs and such?  Do you feel Berlin as a city lives up to its romantic ideals?

It’s odd. Berlin doesn’t really have a music scene like what exists here in the big Australian cities. But this Argentinian band Mueran Humanos – who, from what I could tell, were one of the only worthwhile bands based in Berlin – always encouraged us in a positive way. Our good friend, life coach and guru Olle Holmberg, who produces music as Moon Wheel, has also been closely involved in everything we have done, from putting on shows to recording. We were getting gigs from our either our label Noisekölln, other club or party nights or shows that we’d put on ourselves or through friends who just liked the band. And there was always an interesting touring act from one place or another that was mulling around looking for a show on their way through which I could pick up. Regarding romantic ideals: God no. I urge anyone with any romantic ideals regarding this place to dispel them unless they constitute any or all of the following: ubiquitous expat culture, 30¢ beers, good cheap beer, techno, 6 months of grey skies and dull weather, seasonal affective disorder, Currywurst, Käseleberkäse, scrimmaging through abandoned buildings, East German and Nazi memorabilia, “street art”, FKK (naked Germans), Schlager, etc…

It seems as though Ill Winds shows are few and far between. Do you enjoy playing live? How do you feel the recordings translate into a live context?

We love it. But it can be tricky. There’s not that many parts to the whole band, and in my mind’s eye that should make it all easy to execute, but when push comes to shove is proves exceedingly tricky at times. We all live in different cities these days as well, which doesn’t make it any easier to organise and play shows.

You’ve just released a tape on Hidiotic. Most of the songs on the tape are old songs that have been recorded a few times. Do you feel as though these tape versions are the perfected product? Have you written new material?

We released a cassette in 2012 with that Berlin label Noisekölln, which was limited to a run of 50 copies. 30 of which were sent magazines, a handful of which we got reviews from. However I feel that these latest recording are for that matter much more true to form, or moreover ideally what we’d like to sound like live. If what you’re getting at in the second part of this question is trying to ask me why are the older songs on here all I have to say is I have no idea in slightest. Stupid ain’t it? JF and I are working on new material and a new release at the moment, which will not include any of the older songs. I swear it.

There is some great synchronization between bass and drum machine, coupled with interesting guitar interplay and synth layering. What does an Ill Winds songwriting session usually consist of? Is it a solo venture or does JF weigh in too?

The thing that I’ve found with song writing is that it’s always different, so that’s almost impossible to answer. I never know where the idea is gonna come from, and rarely where it’s going to go, at least initially. I have to just go by gut instinct. But this is most definitely a band where everyone gets to contribute to the composition of a song. Everyone writes their own parts, but at the same time everyone gets their say whether those are used or not.

A lot of the songs on the tape feature a repeating lyrical phrase or motif. Is there any unifying theme/s or notions that runs throughout the lyrics in your music?

To start: hysteria, anxiety, solitude, occultism, paranoia, ideology, iconography are all themes that come to mind.  We might jam and I might just chant this mantra of whatever would come to my head or notes I had made over whatever we were playing at the time. However this was an experiment for me when I started doing it or at least as experimental as I was willing to go at that time. I didn’t care so much about the actual contents of lyrics themselves, rather it was just another instrument, and that repetitive nature became a stylistic motif in what can only be called our “sound”.

Tell me about your new project ‘Subterranean Rain’. Does it provide a different outlet for you than that of Ill Winds?

Yep. And I think that it’s solely for that purpose. I tried making JF play ideas I would come up with in my own time. And it’s not like he would outright refuse. He just wouldn’t play them. Ideas I might add that that I enjoyed the idea of working on. So i just kept working on them and over time it has become a distinct project.

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Features

True Tales of Half Time: The Stevens interviewed

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The Stevens is the Victorian guitar-pop brainchild of Travis McDonald and Alex McFarlane. Combining their respective bedroom-based projects, they began writing music together in 2009 under a series of different guises. Their lyrics, while seemingly introspective and self-referential, are often based on the droll perceptions of two guys in their early twenties, their oddity fueled by the irreverence of the unthinking rock idols they once looked up to during puberty. Their general demeanour may be centered on a satire of their early influences, but their unique pop intuitions are infallible: The Stevens have produced some of the most refreshing pop music to come out of the Melbourne Flying Nun-inclined fold.

Their first self-titled EP was self-released initially in 2012 on cassette/CD but later re-released as a 7 inch this year by Chapter Music. It’s pop music that stands on its own hind legs – brilliantly crafted songs that resonate contextually across decades. In the lead up to the release of their debut LP A History of Hygiene, Travis McDonald discusses their approach to recording, teenage pipe dreams and forlorn rock gods.

It’s been over a year since you released the Stevens EP on cassette. The songs seem to be indicative of a particular time in both yours and Alex’s lives, in that the EP feels unified through points of self-realisation and ‘quarter-life crises’.  Do these comments align with your own perceptions?

In ways, yes, but most of the words or lyrics are more observational anecdotes about friends, not so much our lives. Alex’s songs are almost exclusively journalistic. They’re often about other people, but at same time are very personal. My songs probably don’t make a hell of a lot of sense to people a lot of the time, because I mostly just mash together conversations or things that I overhear… things like random science facts or oracle and news events seem to come up quite often. With the new record there are definitely aspects of that on there: the processes for writing lyrics are still the same. I guess the real difference on the LP is in the way it sounds.

How do you feel your songwriting has evolved over time? Have you had any significant new influences that weren’t there on the EP?

I don’t think my songwriting has really evolved much at all. I’ve been writing music and playing in bands since I was about 13. I think there was a period when I was about 18 when I felt the pressures of the avant-garde looming over me. I was trying to make music which, at the time, I thought was quite clever. I let all these electronic influences take over my songwriting. Now I feel as though I’ve almost reverted back to my 13-year-old self, [now that I] mostly write songs now on guitar and piano.

What was it like growing up in Elphinstone? What sort of a place is it and how did you source your influences and inspiration for writing music? 

Elphinstone is small. It has a population of only a couple hundred. As a kid I was able to make a lot of rowdy noises and stupid recordings without anyone complaining. There were no record stores or any access to Internet most of the time so writing songs was an easy way to hear new music. My dad had a few CDs including some Flying Nun comps. I made a band when I was 13 with Matt our current drummer, which was called The Kites. We tried to sound like the Velvet Underground and Jimi Hendrix and used to play a cover of ‘Billy Two’ by The Clean. That lasted till I was 15.

The new single ‘Hindsight’ has a seemingly thicker, more layered aesthetic than that of previous recordings. In what ways do you feel your sound has developed?

The previous recordings were done mainly with Alex (McFarlane, of The Stevens). I sort of pushed him around and told him what to do some of the time, but really it was pretty straightforward. Half of the new album was recorded with Mikey Young at the Town Hall and the other half is made up of home recordings of Alex’s or mine. It’s pretty much a collection of songs from the past couple of years. The first EP was once going to be a 20-song album, but we decided to cut anything we thought was half cooked.

We’ve basically done something similar for this release but with more than 50 recordings to choose from. So again, it’s a best-of/mixtape type deal. Where it really differs is that we have the additional help of Mikey Young, Tex Houston and Noel McKenna for superior results. It was also written over two different line-ups, and it isn’t written as 50/50 like the EP. I wrote a fair few of the songs this time round, so there is a lot more filler in between Al’s songs on this one. Plus Alex and I recorded just over half of it at Alex’s house. It also features a bit more keyboard too.

Did you ever consider re-recording those home recordings?

Nah, not really. We operate on this idea that each song should be treated differently, some of the songs sounded better just recorded acoustically, or with just one person playing. With Tam and Callum leaving the band about a year ago, the different configuration of members meant that there were different punctuations on each song. It was definitely a conscious decision to leave them as they were.

What effect did the departure of Tam and Callum have on the band at the time? Did you ever contemplate calling it quits?

Well the immediate effect was that it made us very sad. I remember at the time messaging Alex asking if he wanted to quit, and that if he wanted to he should let me know now. He replied with “nup”, so we’ve never really considered quitting or anything. Alex and I have both had our own recording projects dating back to when our testicles hadn’t dropped yet. We committed to merging the two before we ever had any other members. We seem to work pretty well together, so we decided to stick it out.

How did Gus and Matt fit in initially? I know you guys are all old friends, so I guess I mean musically more than anything.

It definitely brought different flavours in, for lack of a better word. Matt comes from quite a jazz-heavy background. He’s sort of a Gene Krupa kind of drummer, which is really interesting because he’s incredibly technical, so it’s given us a lot more opportunities to explore different rhythms. Gus as well is just a wizard, a really multitalented musician. It was a pretty seamless transition, but the band still definitely has a different feel about it now.

You’ve did the artwork for the first Stevens EP and seem to be quite a keen artist. Do music and visual art provide different outlets for you creatively?

Yeah, they do totally. I think music is one of those art forms that definitely has a more immediate, more enjoyable outcome, and it’s definitely the one that makes the least sense. You don’t have to really ever think about it or consider it in the way you do with an artwork. Painting is an art that’s really a bit of a mindfuck, in that it’s much more intentional and cerebral, but I think they still do feed into each other a lot of the time.

Is that why The Stevens often adopt the approach of only doing one take for each song and not dwelling on the recordings too much?

Yeah. A lot of the time it is just one take and if we ever redo a take – which come to think of we actually do a couple of times on this record – it’s mostly about just having fun and fiddling around with it. There’s still a very little amount of planning or thinking or intention behind any of the recordings. I suppose it’s like improvised recording in a way.

Your love of bands like Guided By Voices and Devo really shows in your live shows and stage presence. Alex’s dance moves are very reminiscent of Mark Mothersbaugh and at times there’s a sense of nerdish, self-aware comedy that shines through. You guys don’t seem take to yourselves too seriously, almost comically undermining the sentiment of each song. Is this something you’re aware of?

Yeah, for sure. No matter what we’re singing or writing about, it’s always undermined by the fact that we’re on a stage trying to live this teenage dream of ours in a really kind of contrived way. The biggest influences that we have are your classic kind of rock idols. So I guess we’re all fed by this mindless teenage rock obsession. All of us grew up separately listening and watching The Who, Hendrix, Kiss, The Beatles, and other classics. I think rock is some kind of fundamentalist religion you are forced into at an early age without really knowing it. You grow up paying tribute to rules, historical moments, prophets and dress codes etc. I used to design fake band logos and crafted a front man’s jacket. I would always plan ultimate band line-ups of friends for weird different sub genres.

You guys don’t play outside of Melbourne much – has there always been a solid Melbournian support base for The Stevens?

Yeah definitely more than any other band I’ve been in. I guess that’s the joy of playing in a band with Alex, he’s always known a lot of local people in the music scene. I only moved to Melbourne when I was 18 and didn’t really know many people. I’d played in bands before I made the move and we were always playing to two or three people at best. I guess any show we’ve played has had at least double that.

Playing overseas is the dream, it’s one of the boxes we want to be able to tick on the teenage dream list. You know, to be in a sick rock band that goes on tours. I’d definitely like to go to America and New Zealand, but of course we’ll be playing in Brisbane and Sydney in support of this record.

Your latest track ‘Hindsight’ was written up on AdHoc and Pitchfork the other day. A lot of the releases on Chapter, like Twerps and Dick Diver, seem to be getting a lot of praise in the States.

Yeah, that was surprising. I guess Chapter has stuck around with these kinds of bands for long enough, so it’s good that they’re getting some stuff on websites like Pitchfork. It’s a very fashionable sound at the moment, and it was inevitably going to be fashionable at some point. The fact that they’ve [Chapter Music] been around for 21 years now has meant that they’ve become a very influential force in Melbourne independent music. Both Guy and Ben keep a very close eye on whatever goes on in the Melbourne scene. They saw us play at a couple of smaller gigs a year or two ago. They definitely are invested in putting out records, rather than focusing on the business side of things and are very well trusted and respected for that reason.

There really is a daunting proliferation of bands in Melbourne. Where do you guys place yourself in Melbourne Music?

There are probably more bands and scenes than people, but the music scene here is smaller than it looks. A lot of the guitar bands share members and that determines where they play, who they play with and what they sound like. It’s a good group; the only thing is that it can become a bit hard to tell who is writing for who sometimes. Because it can be so blurred, there have been a few Melbourne music writers coining these scenes. There’s the garage, the jangle, the anxiety pop, the slacker pop, the dole wave, the chill mate etc. I still can’t tell what the difference is. Its hard to know where we are placed, we like too many things that aren’t those names. We’re also still a fairly new band too.

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The Stevens’ A History of Hygiene is out now through Chapter Music. The band play Sound Summit next weekend. Full details here. The group will also launch their record in Melbourne on Friday December 20 at the Tote, with Lower Plenty and Nth Wheel. $10 on the door.

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Reviews

Raw Prawn – None Left (7 inch)

rawprawn“Weirdo Aussie punk that sounds like a Blue Heeler giving birth in the hot sun, while a Gallah eating a witchedy-grub watches on.” That’s how frontman Alex Kiers describes his band Raw Prawn. While there’s an obvious adoration for and infatuation with harsh Australian iconography, the madness of such a narrative is the perfect way to define Raw Prawn’s bizarre strain of punk, and Kiers’ facetious mode of songwriting. There’s also a dog wearing sunglasses on the cover of this record.

Featuring Anna John of Holy Balm, Kiers of Camperdown & Out and Al Haddock and Chris Nailer of Whores (and not to mention MOB), you’d struggle to find a more stylistically dissimilar group of musicians. But listen to this single and it’s not hard to hear where their influences lie. It’d be easy to compare them to bands like The Victims and Swell Maps and then conclusively say that they’re awesome because of this, but Raw Prawn’s eccentricity is far more worthy of any mere comparison, as with many other bands in Australia’s contemporary punk culture. Having formed in 2011, their prolonged Internet anonymity (with access to only one streamable song) and boisterous live show has managed to create more buzz than reams of Bandcamp demos could ever have done. It’s certainly made this debut 7 inch all the more special.

For want of a better description, Raw Prawn’s first tangible release typifies the band’s self-proclaimed ‘weirdo, yobo-punk.’ As soon as the first drum roll of ‘None Left’ fills the room, your eyes widen and your pulse races, like a deranged Pitbull chasing down a stray cat. Each song on this eight and a half-minute offering features a relatively similar duped recipe, infusing chaotic elements of ’70s murder punk with the disjointed basis of ’80s post-punk. Kiers’ irreverent singing style forces out simple, banal lyrics about running out of excuses, being in the wrong place at the wrong time and consequently “always seeming to end up in the shit”, all tied together by hooky guitars playing manic riffs. In contrast to the band’s playing style and live sound, the production on this record is relatively clean, but it’s not of any significant detriment to the songs’ sordid authenticity. All in all, it’s a pretty fun, mind-numbing spin.

Between the meme-like canine on the front cover and Kiers’ mischievous, brazen chanting, it’s clear that Raw Prawn doesn’t stand for anything too serious. It’s an amusing 7-inch by one of Australia’s more interesting bands in the DIY rock mould. It’s hard to stop listening to and simply not long enough.

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Label: R.I.P. Society
Release date: January 2013

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Reviews

Bitch Prefect – Big Time (LP)

 “Doing the grocery shopping on Tuesday”. “Washing your bed sheets more than every season”. “Remembering to feed the Geckos”. These are a few lines taken from the vinyl insert of Big Time, Bitch Prefect’s debut LP. Couple these laments with the languid album cover, which shows the band riding a Sydney ferry, and the foundations are laid: you may be looking at one of the most sincere pieces of Australian pop in recent memory. It’s this candid and self-deprecating approach that has carved out an identity for a new school of independent Australian artists, and on Big Time Adelaide’s Bitch Prefect are constantly complaining and yearning: projecting a sense of desperation at the hardships and tedium of pointedly monotonous, dreary reality. Everyday struggles.

Adopting a no-frills, utilitarian approach to their songwriting, the longing for cigarettes and “shoes without holes” is jovially set on a backdrop of affable, lo-fi guitar-pop, reiterating the idea that their grumbles are ultimately petty and trivial. Despite a similar sound, Big Time is a far cry from their 7 inch EP: once dreamers longing for a holiday in America, they’re now realists living in the realm of boring routine.

Album opener ‘Guess the Person’ is an ode to a loved one past or present, sung through the gloriously whiny voice of Liam Kenny, saturated in a thick Australian drawl. You could easily liken Bitch Prefect’s music to Flying Nun bands such as The Clean and The Verlaines, but Big Time suggests something deeper than any such comparison could offer; something that will cut to the core for every Australian who’s ever been hopelessly in love, strapped for cash, debilitated by a lack of motivation or beset by “bad life decisions”.

But it’s not a means of fishing for commendation or otherwise, as Scott O’Hara affirms on fourth track ‘Okay’ where he admits that despite his everyday quibbles, he’s actually okay and that a change in lifestyle is needed. “I’m gonna shave my dirty face, and clean up my dirty body.” ‘Summertime’ is perhaps the album’s standout and shares a similar sentiment to ‘Okay’, finding O’Hara pondering where life is going and where he’ll ultimately end up. It’s this winning combination of charming pop tunes, modesty and perceptiveness which makes this album so endearing.

Label: Bedroom Suck
Release Date: August 2012

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