Features

Scott & Charlene’s Wedding: a brief Q&A

3303

Scott & Charlene’s wedding is touring Australia as we speak. The band, which currently resides in New York, passed through their native Melbourne on March 15, but have two other east coast stops before they nick off back abroad. Their side of a split with Peak Twins has just been reissued through Critical Heights, as well as the third run of Paravista Social Club, following editions released both independently and through Bedroom Suck.  A new record is due later this year through Bedroom Suck and Fire Records.

To alleviate our anticipation for the group’s Sydney return this Saturday night at the Red Rattler (which will also feature the long awaited rebirth of Circle Pit), we sent guy-who-writes-the-songs-and-generally-runs-the-show Craig Dermody a few perfunctory and inane questions in the name of lite entertainment. Rest assured we’ll tear Dermody’s brain a new one when the new record releases later this year (if he obliges). Also note that we forgot to ask him about the new Total Recall film.

Scroll to the bottom for dates.

How’s New York been treating you?
Good! Super cold but good. Just finished the new record and a film clip, which has been super fun.

Footscray Station is being renovated at the moment. Feelings?
The elevators could be made of gold and babes could swipe your card for you and I’d still hate the joint at 6am.

The original pressing of Paravista Social Club had individual, handmade cover slips. Why did you choose the art you did for the Bedroom Suck reissue?
It was my favorite cover of all the 200. It also took me the least of amount of time. Thirty seconds, and as soon it was done I knew it was the best work I’d ever done.

Critical Heights has just reissued Paravista Social Club as well. Did you expect this LP to get so much mileage?
Na, I still laugh about how much mileage I’ve got out of that record. It just keeps on going and going. It’s been a pleasant surprise.

There’s a new record coming, right? Got any details?
Umm, it’s more set in New York now and we recorded in a great studio, but I’ve still written all the songs in the same way. Heaps of down and out tracks and heaps of come back songs. Heaps of brokenhearted rock songs of course too.

Matt Kennedy from Kitchen’s Floor wrote a tour diary for us recently. He wrote that you worked as a bouncer in New York. How did you enjoy that experience?
Enjoy is not the word I’d use for that job, in fact I would say that it was an awful experience. Basically I had to pick out the who’s who of NYC and keep everyone else out. Soul crushing, but I got a few songs out of it.

***

Tour dates:

Saturday March 23 – Red Rattler, Sydney
w/ Songs + The Friendsters

Sunday March 31 – The Blurst of Times Festival, Brisbane
w/ Violent Soho, Bitch Prefect, Terrible Truths + more

Standard
Features

Growing Inside: Blank Realm Interviewed

blankrealm3

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.

blankrealm3

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.

***

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.

Standard
Reviews

Angel Eyes – Final Fare (LP)

angeleyesfinalfareOn Final Fare, Angel Eyes captures the docile, captivated sensation of being a passenger; of having an endless supply of landscape scrolling to one side. Minimally cinematic life rushing by, with no requirement for you to engage. Movement without expenditure. An unfolding of potential events. Random and unrelated input.

I’ve tried to formulate why Andrew Cowie’s music affects me for years now, but it’s a slippery thing. Sometimes I think it’s simply and unashamedly gorgeous and nothing else. That’s fine, isn’t it? But then when I’ve come close to accepting that idea, I listen again and think… well, it cannot be that simple. It’s true that many of the textures Cowie trades in recall sentimental ‘80s pop music. I’m thinking specifically Berlin’s ‘Take My Breath Away’: beautiful deep oranges; shimmering distant globes; sounds that impart a renewed appreciation for sentimentality. A world in slow motion with a liberal spread of lens flare. That Berlin song is beautiful. So is Angel Eyes.

But that’s the problem. Angel Eyes on paper is nostalgic. The textures here: the spatial disorientation, the chorus and reverb, the synths, the muted pop sensibilities… maybe you could file Angel Eyes in a section for unusually dour chillwave (take a deep breath) and be done. But at best you’d be selling the artist short and at worst: you’d be an idiot! Angel Eyes, in practice, is something ineffable. It’s something personal. You cannot relate. You’ll blaze your own path.

To me, Final Fare sounds like a city. Final Fare reminds me of depictions of Manhattan, or Sydney, or Tokyo, in 1980s films. Brief, wide pans across a bewilderingly modern skyline, at sunset or sundown. A still vision of perfectly curveless architecture that betrays no evidence of organic life. The bays and quays shimmer, the lights along busy roads glow, but it doesn’t look like actual life is happening there. A city from a distance resembles a monument. A monstrously ornate, fairy-lit, but otherwise lifeless monument. It betrays virtually nothing from afar.

But then when you’re inside it, you forget where you are: it’s not a monument anymore: it’s a labyrinthine, echoing, busy series of avenues and routes. It’s ugly and busy, but we’re accustomed to being inside it, and so the full extent of its still exterior grandiosity never registers. It’s easy to forget how weird this is: how dense we are, how high we scale and wide we reach, until you sit on a hill some several kilometres away. We are the barely comprehensible horror looming just over the horizon. And that’s what Angel Eyes always sounds like to me: like watching something immensely complicated from a distance with a distorted sense of time and movement. Likewise, Angel Eyes’ music is beautiful from the exterior, but try to make sense of it from the inside and maybe you may get nowhere, like me.

Final Fare is the most ‘song-oriented’ record that Cowie has produced, but these pop songs feel like crowded halls of mirrors. Distinct notes in melodies linger longer than they should, they press against one another and melt into accidentally non-melodic yet achingly luminescent textures. Often, it feels like you hallucinate the melodies here. Some tracks here, like ‘A Light Distraction’, recall watching human systems – pedestrian traffic, train line arteries – at such a speed that all movement resembles a permanent blur of shifting colour. Cowie has done this before, such as on his debut Dire Dish, but that record offered a more pastoral setting. Here, his songwriting has become more complicated and strange as a result of averting his glare to a city.

It’s only the sound that betrays this new focus though. Cowie’s lyrics have always been so obscured in the mix that a song about preparing shitty meals, such as on the title track to 2009’s Dire Dish, can sound unintentionally profound. That’s definitely a jarring contrast – the startlingly beautiful knocking head with the mundane – but I can guarantee that you won’t register this when you listen to Angel Eyes. I cannot, and probably never will, accurately decipher what this record is actually about. If indeed it’s about anything. And I’ve tried – that’s my job, right now.

The songwriting, though. Structurally, sometimes it feels almost inappropriately advanced, and arcane, next to the sonic associations it’ll inevitably conjure. Because there’s probably gonna be a lot of people who will conflate Angel Eyes’ music with all manner of conditioned, 21st century nostalgia, and the drowned inexact pop tropes that zeitgeist trades in, but I don’t feel like that’s applicable here. There are sonic parallels, but they’re consumed by the execution. Just listen to it. I challenge anyone to call this record nostalgic in the way we’re conditioned to believe music is intrinsically nostalgic in 2012. Final Fare may be nostalgic for a sensation, a personal sense of childlike wonderment, maybe, but wholesale periodic pillaging? No! Rationalise it on those grounds – give it a go – and you’ll fail. This music provides no context beyond what your imagination will arbitrarily conjure for you. It’s like taking the back seat and having no obligation to chat to the taxi driver, even when he takes flight. Don’t even congratulate the guy, when he’s hurtling towards the stars, and you didn’t even ask for this. Final Fare is docile, blissful receptiveness. At a time when virtually anything remotely strange is ‘weird’, Angel Eyes is legitimately, and beautifully, weird. It’s up to you.

Label: Bedroom Suck
Release date: February 2013

Standard
New Music

Listen: Extrafoxx – Fanatic Rail

extrafoxxcover-327x500Extrafoxx is the vehicle of Brisbane songwriter Conwae Burrell. He released an LP, The Saddest, in 2010 through Bedroom Suck Records, followed by what is curiously dubbed a “debut self-titled studio album” in 2011. It’s true that The Saddest was rough fidelity-wise, but it ought not be relegated to non-existence! The official Extrafoxx website is pretty weird too, populated as it is by a press release that describes Extrafoxx as having “a uniquely engaging stage presence and quirky songwriting style that has captivated indie enthusiasts Australia-wide”, but don’t file it next to other wide-regarded “quirky” indie songwriters, because Extrafoxx is pretty decent.

Anyway, Burrell isn’t considered a genius because of his cataloging and having-a-website skills, he’s considered a genius for his songwriting. He has a new cassette through Albert’s Basement called Love Is God, which is also available as a CD-R via Brisbane label Unique Beautiful Flowers. ‘Fanatic Rail’ features on it, and you can have a listen below.

Standard
New Music

Listen: Angel Eyes – Final Fare

Angel Eyes will release his third album Final Fare in “early 2013” through Bedroom Suck Records. We already knew that, but the emergence yesterday of cover art and a new song makes it seem more real.

Of all the material I’ve heard from this record so far, this track rides closer to the gorgeous orange glow of Dire Dish, his first tape through Not Not Fun. Whatever the case, this record is one of the most anticipated events in my life at the moment, right next to getting a copy of UV Race’s Racism and beating the Sanctuary Guardian boss in Dark Souls.

Standard