Phantom Game: a brief chat with 100%

L to R: Chloe Baxter, Lena Molnar, Grace Stevenson. Credit: Chloe Alexandra

L to R: Chloe Baxter, Lena Molnar, Grace Stevenson. Credit: Chloe Alexandra

Earlier this year I saw Brisbane three-piece 100% play at the Rag Rag festival in Sydney. I don’t remember much about the show specifically. I arrived just as they started and, standing at the back of the room, forgot where I was.

It’s not that 100% make meditative music – it’s upbeat at the surface – but the synth, bass and drum machine blend into something amorphous. It’s like witnessing an energy, rather than feeling it. That mood is captured well on the group’s first independently released cassette demo. Released late last year, it sounds like a lonely city highway at night. Traffic pulses as the listener stands on the median strip, brushed by the forward momentum but not pulled into it. Rigid basslines are smeared by synths and the submerged vocals of Lena Molnar. It sounds like a synth-driven rock trio shrouded in a spectral fuzz.

That first demo was followed by another self-titled, Moontown-issued cassette earlier this year. Featuring three songs not featured on the debut, these newer tracks bring a greater sense of clarity to 100%’s sound.

I spoke to Lena, Chloe and Grace via email.

Who is in 100% and how did the group form? Have the members played in any other groups?
Grace: We are Chloe, Grace and Lena. 100% started with Chloe and I jamming in Chloe’s rehearsal space over the idea of cocktails. We then then asked Lena to join on bass and vocals, and things found their place over the early summer. This was about a year ago. Chloe drums in Cannon. Lena has played for Harriet, Tangle, Manhunt, Overrun and currently also plays bass in Heavy Breather. This is my debut band.

Why the name 100%?
Grace: Why not? We all have different ideas around the name and what it means at different times, but it came from a bottle of water. We like the name.

How did the three of you arrive at the group’s sound? Was it a conscious stylistic decision or something that came naturally?
Grace: There’s a particular vision in what we try to go for in writing and staying true to that. Our writing process is collaborative (I will make a beat, Lena or Chloe will have a melody and bass lines) and taking from our different backgrounds, the sound we’ve created definitely takes from the intersection of those tastes and abilities. As we keep working and writing and playing we’re getting stronger at pulling together that glittering intersection.

What was the particular vision you mention?
Grace: Our initial vision for synth direction was heavily influenced by the Drive soundtrack and when asking Lena to join we asked her if she liked the Eurythmics and other diva music like Kylie and Madonna. That “vision” is what we keep developing from.

There’s a drowsy energy to the tracks on the demo. Particularly ‘Prisoner’, which sounds like a submerged, syrupy dance track, though the bassline is very ‘rock’. What’s that song about in particular?
Lena: That feeling can be credited in part to production from that recording, which was a lo-fi production made in Sam W’s bedroom, which was quite relaxed and made the best sense at the time. The rocking bassline was to effect a kind of trance with the beat, something Chloe and I worked on. The feeling incidentally suits the lyrical content. I was thinking about the British TV show, The Prisoner, and how one may feel simultaneously stifled but also supported at times in their body, community, town or country. The lyrics reflect on this as an Australian feeling.

How is it an Australian feeling?
Lena: Well I mean my feeling or perspective of being an Australian, or from living here. I don’t think it’s necessarily one that’s shared nationally, or a feeling that only Australians have, but a common one. I don’t know what it’s like to be someone else or from somewhere else… I guess I felt like there is a parallel to the themes of Prisoner, to ideas anyone could form about national identity. It’s a beautiful country that is both your home but also a place you may want more from, and internalising that feeling of potentially being stuck or belonging there [is] a fairly parochial tension… These thoughts can come from being a part of something anywhere I guess, but here we are in Australia. I think the song feels like that tension.

When I saw you play at Rag Rag the group covered ‘I Can Never be Your Woman’ by White Town. What’s appealing about that song?
Lena: We agreed that ‘Your Woman’ was a banger of our youth, and we couldn’t help ourselves. It’s elusive and cool but also very funky, without seeming like an obvious choice until we started covering it.

What’s is planned for the band? Is there another release coming?
Grace: We’ve been working on new songs for a 7 inch we are recording for next month. We’ve been exploring some new avenues of performing too. Hoping to change it up a bit and creating a different atmosphere on stage with a bit more energy. We’ve recently been playing a new song where Lena puts down the bass and dances. It is lots of fun and great to watch. The song reminds me of something you would hear at the end of an 80s romantic comedy movie (even though the lyrics are about a spy movie!) Hopefully this new idea will be ready for our next show on November 7 with Multiple Man.

What’s important to you in a live show? What do you set out to achieve?
Chloe: At the end of the day ,100% is there to entertain the people. We’re all about the people. That’s our prime motivation. That’s our goal. That being said, we like to boogie, we like dance, we like to dress up. We’re part of the glamour revolution.

Lena: Right, We want to put on a show! And a memorable one that leaves you thinking about it, like the end of a movie. Mostly that’s about making ourselves comfortable to perform in front of whoever, enjoying each other musically and reflecting this in our dynamic. I think this definitely makes a better show. We want folk to feel a part what we give, 100%. We found it really inspiring to share this in Melbourne, which were some very special gigs.  The 100% vision is one that people can get amongst and engage with at a show, I think? So that means not just holding ourselves back too much as performers and hoping that the audience will be happy to let go of their reserve when they see us play.

Grace: Yeah, it’s much more rewarding for us when people engage (obviously) but it just makes for a happier, more enjoyable time for everyone. I think people need to loosen up and just have a groove, you’ll have more fun… trust me.

100%’s self-titled cassette is available through Moontown.