Primitive Calculators is a very funny band: ‘The World is Fucked’ reviewed


1) Primitive Calculators do not sound like an angry band. It’s a matter of pure speculation whether they’re maybe angry in their intents or maybe angry in their personal lives, but their new record did not make me angry. It made me laugh. I smile when I listen to Primitive Calculators, and that’s why I enjoy listening to this band.

2) Faced with the prospect of potentially writing about a Primitive Calculators album, my immediate reaction was that I wouldn’t, because Primitive Calculators is a legendary band and their history has been told. Anyone interested in Primitive Calculators, I initially felt, has had decades to figure out why they are good or important or neither of these. But The World is Fucked does not sound like a strange old Melbourne band from the late ‘70s reforming for a laugh, because this record proves that their heritage is very unimportant. This Primitive Calculators record is not evocative of any past, present or future ‘condition’. The Melbourne from which they spawned is gone, and yet here they are. Who cares about that old Melbourne now, modern Primitive Calculators do not live there anymore. Primitive Calculators are just some band.

3) I’ve written that this Primitive Calculators record is not evocative of any past, present or future condition, and yet it is called The World is Fucked. Surely this is a topical punk rock record then. No, it is not topical. The world has always been fucked since the dawn of time, and fucked in different ways depending on your vantage point. You may feel like the world is especially fucked now – and it is – but never has there been a time when the world was not inhabited by people who believed that the world was more fucked than ever before. The world is permanently fucked, then and now.

4) As I’ve written above, Primitive Calculators is a funny band. It’s hard to explain because they are not taking the piss, and nor do you feel like they are very earnest. It’s the extremity of their music which is funny, and the way Stuart Grant enunciates his vocals as if they mean something. I’m not sure they do: none of his lines will strike you as worth hearing for the lessons they may teach or the outlooks they may propagate or the feelings they may evoke. Sometimes when I’m listening to The World Is Fucked I imagine a world where every rock, metal and hardcore vocalist painstakingly enunciates their words so that their lyrical sentiments gain primacy over the music. I feel like Primitive Calculators is a very good noise band because they reveal these lyrical soundbites for what they are. If there’s one thing someone who likes aggressive music might object to in Primitive Calculators, it’s that they can understand every word that Stuart Grant sings. It may annoy them to realise that these lyrics are not profoundly angry or moving, but instead profoundly dumb. Because Primitive Calculators is a strange noise band. They don’t allow you to paper over cracks with your imagination.

5) Why exactly do you listen to the new Primitive Calculators album. I don’t know why I do regularly, because it is not euphonic and nor is it very atmospheric. You don’t put it on in the background, you don’t put it on while you’re cooking tea. You pretty much have to just sit there and listen to it. But if you imagine a young man or woman sitting in their bedroom listening to Primitive Calculators, what kind of person do you imagine. I imagine no one.

6) I like The World is Fucked because it apparently aims for nothing less than an assault. Every part of Primitive Calculators’ music is there because it wants to be as obnoxious and confrontational as possible. Look at the song titles: ‘Dead’, ‘Cunt’, ‘Nothing’. Maybe Primitive Calculators find it hilarious that some people consider their lives meaningless. Maybe it’s funny that people must have meaning. Primitive Calculators feels, to me, like the meaningless of meaningless. They punch people in the face at their weakest. Why question your meaningless. Why not just deal with it, because it’s true and always will be. Your mild daily misery at the state of the world and your inability to solve its problems is either permanently debilitating or very funny. It’s like watching a cat repeatedly leap for a ledge it can never reach, or reading a Kafka novel, or planning for the future.

7)  “Why do I even fucking bother getting out of fucking bed in the morning.” When Stuart Grant sings this line during ‘Why’, it is very funny because it is a rhetorical question. Of course he knows why: because he needs to go to the toilet and he needs to eat, and maybe he needs to go to work too.

8) Why does this music even exist. Why do we submit to music so determined to push us away. Some kinds of difficult rock music require the listener to learn whole new ways of listening. Some music, like extreme forms of punk or metal or noise, are only accessible if you identify something inside that you would like to obtain. But to my ears, Primitive Calculators are ugly and unwelcoming on these terms, impenetrable from every angle, and that’s why they’re a very funny band. Primitive Calculators is a stone you might enjoy trying to bleed for a while, and those who stick around will enjoy the trick that there’s actually nothing inside. It’s just noise and sloganistic fury. That is all. It’s funny.

9) One of the best live shows I’ve ever seen was a Primitive Calculators show. It was gloriously stupid. Stuart Grant swore at someone in the audience. I remember no other specific details, but I went away laughing at the way I and others I know will often try to rationalise everything in our lives, because a friend said “why did you bring me here”, and “why do people listen to that”. “Why does it sound like that”. Why indeed.

10) Primitive Calculators is a very funny band. I’m not sure what they have to say about their music because I’ve never bothered reading any interviews. I actually don’t care what they think. I’m confident that all three are smart people – in fact I know, because they’re the Primitive Calculators – but above all else listening to The World is Fucked just feels like beholding the culmination of so many stupidities. Its bluntness and ugliness only serves to illuminate how empty of perfect logic it, and everything else, is. Yet listening to Primitive Calculators on record is not cathartic. I don’t know what it is.


Primitive Calculators’ The World is Fucked is available through Chapter Music.


True Tales of Half Time: The Stevens interviewed


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.


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.


Patrick Bateman Vs. Standish / Carlyon – Deleted Scenes reviewed


Brett Easton Ellis has said that if American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman were alive and killing in 2013, his favourite artists would include Coldplay and Mumford & Sons. It’s easy to see why. These artists share parallels with Bateman’s canonical favourites because they’re basically designer responses to popular rock’s early tenets of abandonment and frivolity. For these neurotically neat and fussy artists, songs must be neatly shorn of that formerly celebrated mess and impulsiveness. Sentiments and melodies must be offered with clinical precision, and no ambiguity is permitted. That’s immensely important in popular music nowadays: that sense of knowing exactly what it’s about, that requisite adaptability.

By contrast, had Standish / Carlyon existed in 1985, you might initially predict the psychopath to own a copy of Deleted Scenes, because at first glance this album is fixated on a surface-level vapidity. In its glistening, oily bass lines and cocaine-glazed synth bliss, Deleted Scenes sounds like some bygone epitome of pop glamour, but also simplicity. It sounds like pop geared to assauge the delicate hearts of the terminally wealthy, but also, perhaps as an afterthought, anyone else within shouting distance of an FM radio.

But in 2013, Standish / Carlyon is none of this. I’d wager that modern Patrick Bateman would hate it.

Because Standish / Carlyon is divorced from this lineage for many reasons, not least because this is not boardroom ‘80s pop music for the burgeoning affluent, despite it wielding a lot of sounds that suggest it could have been. Born from the ashes of rock group The Devastations, Conrad Standish and Tom Carlyon have never been this fussy or precision-oriented. They’re working musicians with a limited, appreciative audience. In other words, they’re not popular. To put it indelicately, they’re ‘underground’. So Deleted Scenes is actually quite a strange and complicated album, if you assess it based on where and when it’s from. The glamour here is so remote and so mythical that it ceases to taunt or tantalise. Instead, it soaks those associations, nurtures them, and presents a kind of warped mirror that you reservedly behold.


Nothing at face value

For the past five years or more, independent pop music has not shied away from channeling these glamorous and sensual ‘80s associations. Whereas a kind of timidity or neutrality usually marks an independent pop band’s relationship with class, Standish / Carlyon, alongside the likes of Toro Y Moi and many other artists dealing in formerly ubiquitous pop tropes,  seem to indirectly address it by muddying the waters. Because while Patrick Bateman may have enjoyed the affectingly uncomplicated strains of Whitney Houston or Huey Lewis and the News in the ’80s, so indeed did every-bloody-one else.

If there was any group aloof to this, this ostensibly simple and direct pop, it was the complicated and delicate middle class: the liberal educated who demand insinuation and subliminality, some kind of hidden meaning, those who hate the characters in Ellis or Martin Amis novels. Those who search out something else and, maybe, define themselves by it. And so it makes sense in 2013 that this complexity is sought in what was previously taken for granted as vapid toss. It makes sense in an age when artfully constructed and literary rock music is basically for everyone. It makes sense “post-taste”. This realm that Standish / Carlyon explore – it’s a new refuge for those people in the middle.

Standish / Carlyon apply very small doses of dub and late ‘80s industrial music to their sound, but the effects of these elements is negligible when the similarities to say, Duran Duran (‘Nono Yoyo’) or even early ‘90s euro-dance (‘Moves, Moves’) are so front and centre. Even so, these moments of pop lucity are punctured by monochrome dirges (‘2 5 1 1’) that pin the record to 2013, to a time when the mixing of these inclinations no longer cause frissons, but instead resignation. One of the best moments on Deleted Scenes is ‘Feb Love’, during which these contrasts collide: lovely, ghostly harmonies combat against Jonnine Standish’s bleakly disinterested lyric recital, and this feels epochal in a way. It sounds like the playing out of a battle between what we instinctually want, and the way we address and understand those instincts.

What is it that we instinctually want from pop though? Is it really all about us? Standish / Carlyon make an effort to look unusual. Their press shots (pictured above), in contrast to a lot of their peers, are hyper-stylised and the very opposite of the everyday. Standish / Carlyon don’t adopt conventions in order to be conventional, but perhaps instead to alienate you, to trigger that ancient sensation of pop music and pop artists being something bigger than ourselves. So while these lyrics may be platitudinal, there’s the sense that they’re coming from somewhere unusual. The outre stylistic incursions – the dub, the industrial – serve to present a pop music that shirks the oppressive relatability and intimacy many independent artists convey. Maybe, in 2013, an Australian Patrick Bateman would love Bitch Prefect, if he could suffer that voice.

Let it be?

Let’s face it: as amazing as this record is (and it is), it cannot escape the question of why. There are too many contexts here, too many references, too many potentials as to why it sounds the way it does. Standish / Carlyon, being who they are and with the background they have, cannot escape this. They’re a rock band gone rogue, playing with tools that weren’t built for them.

But maybe Deleted Scenes is archetypal in its reflection of modern independent pop’s desire to simply be in the face of an audience educated in its ways, hip to its signposts. In our late-Capitalist confusion, these distinctions remain as important as they are increasingly vague. As ‘consumers’ of non-popular music we don’t immediately know, anymore, how to address something that offers just sensation. We can’t tell if something is strange or just affected. We don’t know whether any of these is good enough, and so nothing stays forever. We shed music quickly. We churn through ideas rapidly now: too quickly for enduring philosophies and outlooks to sprout. There’s not the time to deconstruct.

Because perhaps this is just a pop record. Maybe it’s dumb. Maybe it’s vapid. I don’t know. But it’s too slippery to fit that mould in 2013. There is no neat appellation. 2013 Patrick Bateman would hate it. I think it’s incredible.


Standish / Carylon’s Deleted Scenes is available through Chapter Music.

New Music

Watch: Standish / Carlyon – Nono / Yoyo

While we wait for Standish / Carlyon’s debut LP to release next month through Chapter Music, one way we can sate our urges is by watching this new film clip for the album’s lead track. Alternatively, you could closely study the recent interview we did with Conrad Standish, and wonder how he’s going with the whole ‘giving up smoking’ thing.

The clip above is the work of one Aurora Halal, who has previously created videos for the likes of Ital and Maxmillion Dunbar, making her a pretty obvious choice for the Melbourne duo’s first official video. If you hate moving images, stream and download the track here.


Deleted Scenes: Standish / Carlyon Interviewed


Deleted Scenes, the debut record by Standish / Carlyon, seems like a complete reinvention. The duo of Conrad Standish and Tom Carlyon made up two thirds of The Devastations, and while that group’s last album – 2010’s darkly sensual Yes U – contained hints of what’s offered on this debut, the sounds on Deleted Scenes are likely to seem jarring to fans of the older band. On this record, the duo has joined an entirely different orbit. The trappings of rock music have been emphatically cemented over, finally.

Deleted Scenes sounds like a strange combination of 1980s smooth pop and the darker industrial leanings of that era. If you can imagine Roxy Music playing with a drowsy early Coil, with all the proto-techno associations that may conjure, you’re kinda close to the mark. The new album is surprising, sure, but it feels like an honest and – most importantly – natural progression. It reconfigures The Devastations as a strange pop band shackled to a rock ensemble. Listen to Deleted Scenes divorced from what you think you know about these songwriters, and you’ll find much to enjoy. Basically, it doesn’t sound like a couple of rock guys dabbling in something weird. It works.

I spoke to Conrad Standish over the phone last week. At the time he was about a day into an effort to give up cigarettes “after years and years of abuse”. He nonetheless dealt with me very graciously. The duo is playing the Gasometer in Melbourne on Friday night with Roland Tings.

For a little bit of context surrounding the references to HTRK, Conrad is married to Jonnine from that band.

The new record is a pretty big stylistic shift for you, would you agree?
It doesn’t necessarily seem like that to me, because things evolved over a few years [during which] I guess it looks like we were inactive. It doesn’t feel that way to me, it feels like a fairly natural thing. If you hadn’t heard anything from us in the last couple of years, it could seem like a shock. On the last album in The Devastations we were exploring a bit of this stuff, so it’s not that weird.

Why isn’t this a Devastations record?
I don’t know really. It certainly wasn’t a conscious thing where we wanted to get rid of Hugo [Cran, drummer for The Devastations]. I guess it’s not a Devastations record because we don’t want to have a drummer, basically. Maybe two years ago when we started to write for this, we were enjoying the dynamic of just the two of us, so we felt like it was important to make it a new thing.

Does it feel like starting again?
It does actually, for sure. It really does. But that’s cool too.

Are there any difficulties that come with starting again, after having established a name?
I don’t know, it’s probably easier in some ways because I mean we had kinda a name I guess, but the hard thing for us was learning how to do this shit live. I guess we came from a trad band arrangement, so learning how to do a lot of these things was a learning curve live. But it’s been good largely, we’re really enjoying it.

You said before that the shift is natural to you, but the audience might not see it that way. Was there anything that triggered this shift? Was it London? Were you getting fed up with rock music? What was the reason?
I guess I was getting fed up with rock music. But also just years of slowly hearing about new things, and getting influenced by different things, and years of living in London. I guess that [living in London] got me into dub in a massive way. My wife and I used to live in a Jamaican area in London and we were exposed to that vibe, it rubbed in. It’s five years worth of listening to records. It’s nothing too sinister.

It must be strange coming back to Melbourne. Melbourne at the moment – and I guess always has been – fairly fond of traditional rock ensemble music.
You do feel that, but there are lots of interesting people working in other fields.

In terms of other fields, what are you enjoying?
Angel Eyes I think is really good. Superstar. Kangaroo Skull. Zanzibar Chanel has been a good addition to the live scene. HTRK, but they’ve been around for a while. Roland Tings. There’s a lot that’s happening here.

I’ve only listened to the record about five times, but…
Is that enough? Is five times enough for you?

It’s not always, but I think I have a feel for it. One of my impressions is that previously I’ve found your songwriting very frank and vivid. The “child bearing hips” in ‘Sex and Mayhem’ come to mind, and the song ‘I Don’t Want To Lose You Tonight’. But now your lyrics seem more cryptic. It’s not as visually vivid. Has your approach shifted?
I still think it’s very visually conceptualised, but I’m writing less about myself now. When I was younger I would take everything down in almost like a diary entry way. I feel like that’s how a lot of artists approach songwriting when they’re starting out. But yeah, I’m less interested in myself and more interested in other things outside of that. But I won’t tell you what those things are, but I’m writing about those things. Escapism really. [laughs]


I was wondering whether there was anything philosophically connecting HTRK and Standish/Carlyon at this point in time? The sounds aren’t exactly the same, but they share a bit in common mood wise, I think.
I know that this is probably going to come up a bit. You know, we’re family obviously. Years of living overseas with each other, me and Nigel shared a lot of music with each other and have done for years. It is safe to say that quite often we’re interested in a lot of the same things, which I guess is a natural progression of being around each other all the time for many years, and having many highs and lows.

One thing that I’ve identified on the new album is an ‘80s adult pop aesthetic – particularly the canned handclaps during ‘Moves Moves’, and a lot of the synth lines remind me of smooth radio pop from the ‘80s. Do you identify that in your music?
To a certain extent. I love a lot of that kind of stuff – The Art of Noise is quite a big influence. I love these dudes that make highly highly chic but weird kind of pop. I guess later period Roxy Music, the Avalon album was the height of yuppie fantasies. In fact I was quite interested in yuppie culture when I was writing the record. But you’re right – I love ‘80s adult pop.

You’ve spent a lot of time in London, Berlin and Melbourne over the last ten years. In which of those cities have you felt most creatively potent?
In all honesty, London. Though all three of those worlds have things that have attracted me to them in the first place. My wife and I moved home to Melbourne last year for family reasons – we had to be here to deal with emergencies – so it wasn’t a planned move home. But there are certain things about the Melbourne scene that I like. It’s easy to get things happening here. In London it can be a pain in the arse even to get to a show, lugging amps in cabs… it can be difficult. All three of these places have very intense vibes to them, and I get different things out of each of them. But in Melbourne, it’s so expensive to live here at the moment, I’m not even sure how long I can stay.

I noticed the same thing in Sydney, moving from London – traditionally it’s been the other way around.
When we first moved over to Berlin in 2003, it felt like a city full of runaways. That was a really fun vibe, and there were loads of Americans, loads of weird Norwegians, and everyone was on the run from something. It was this weird island. When we first arrived, reasonably quickly we were taken under the wing of Einsturzende Neubauten, which felt hugely validating for us and exciting. I was in my early 20s. I couldn’t believe that we were in this world all of the sudden. But it’s a lifestyle over there that can really wear you down. That’s what it did to us.

What kind of lifestyle? Is it hard to get work? Why was it hard?
It was hard to get work, and we were surviving off our music at that point. It was more the fact that it’s a 24 hour culture. There’s always something on, and I don’t think that any of us at that point had the self-discipline necessary to know when to reign it in. We had a winter there where every night we’d be home at 8 or 9 in the morning, and we’d wake up at 4 in the afternoon, so we’d never see sunlight, for months. That does things to your brain.

Did Berlin influence the more electronic leanings on Yes U and on the new record?
No. It was more London than Berlin.

Have you always played around with the electronic instrumentation, or have you learnt it recently?
It’s something that I’ve had to learn, but I personally am still a bass player. Tom mainly handles the electronic side of things. I know my way around an 808 but I’m not a sequencing whiz by any means.

Now that the record is finished, do you like it?
Yeah, I really like it. It’s been finished for a while. The fact that I still like it now after longer than I’ve ever sat on a record, yeah I think it’s great. I’m super happy with it. We now just want to move onto the next thing, mentally at least. So we feel like we’re ahead of the game.

Is there any anxiety with how the record will be recieved?
That’s something that you can’t control. You can’t force people to like you, and while I’m sure every artist will say things along these lines, everyone wants to be appreciated, but there’s nothing you can do about that. You just have to do what you do. Me and TOm make music for ourselves. If other people are into it, that’s great. We can’t afford to worry about whether anyone will like it or not.


Standish / Carlyon will play at the Gasometer in Melbourne on Friday night. Their debut LP Deleted Scenes is out through Chapter Music in May.