Good Intentions: Lace Curtain Interviewed


Dave West is rather deadpan. It’s not surprising considering his background in punk, a private secondary education, the resulting smarts not to bother with tertiary education and an upbringing in rural Western Australia. That’s where he is at the present moment, talking over a shifty Skype connection, switching computers, while staying at his parent’s house in the remote town of Kondinin (“it’s spelt k-o-n-d-i-n-i-n”). It’s a region on the wheatbelt, east of Perth, that can be oppressively hot in summer and is probably better known for its disappointing Wave Rock in Hyden nearby.

At 31, West has spent a large chunk of his adulthood overseas. San Francisco has been his home for the most part, recording for the likes of DIY punk three-piece Grass Widow and putting out music under his various projects, including the broody post-hardcore of Rank/Xerox and derelict pop of Rat Columns. He’s worked with lo-fi garage performer Ty Segall while subsisting off a job at “a beautiful mid-century ceramics store”, among other things. But in leaving that behind and not yet deciding where he’ll end up, West says he’s currently in Australia to enjoy “the joy of sun and warm weather” before setting off on another US tour with synth-punk band Total Control, of which he’s become a permanent fixture since filling in on bass in 2011. Some Rank/Xerox and Rat Columns shows in Europe to follow.

Two other TC members, Mikey Young and James Vinciguerra, make up the rest of Lace Curtain. Together, they produce an askew amalgamation of their fractured conception of electronic music, with a punk sensibility. Their first track ‘Good Intentions’, which came out as part of a self-titled EP on DFA around the time this interview happened, resulted from an offhanded composition at West’s house in San Francisco during a Total Control tour, with Young mixing and adding to it remotely. From there the trio was born. Since then, they’ve had a second EP release Falling/Running on even more impressive NY label Mexican Summer, home to other askew noise and EDM acts like Pete Swanson and Daniel Lopatin’s Software imprint, which includes Lopatin’s own Oneohtrix Point Never, Blanck Mass and Slava.

There’s an element of conscious Luddism and coarseness to these acts, that still dwell in an ideal of a pre-internet approach to their work, even when they’re as reliant on it as anyone else. The first DFA signing precipitated via email and West tells me, if I want to know what Lace Curtain is supposed to mean, “a quick search of the internet could yield that information”. All I found was a pejorative term for socially mobile Italian or Irish-Americans, as well as a less sanitary one involving Swiss cheese and cunnilingus on urbandictionary.com. In an email, Vinciguerra tells me they use the term for a specific reason that has nothing to do with how it was used “in that movie with leo di cap and jack nicholson”. That movie is The Departed and its meaning would be the former. Infer from that what you will and imagine the following exchange with the lilting tone of sarcasm…

How did the DFA release happen? It feels so unlikely.

Yet so deserved.
Well, everyone knows everyone. The Internet’s omnipresent, you know. I think that they just Googled our individual surnames and it just came up and then they got in touch with our blogs. I think they came to see Total Control play in New York and so we met them and I think James just got in touch with one of the DFA dudes, who’s not James [Murphy of LCD Soundsystem]. We sent him a song and he liked it, so we sent some more. I think James and the DFA camp are pen pals.

‘Good Intentions’ was the track you released as a single and it was the one I liked the most but it’s the most different from the other three.
That’s good. Well, it’s not really the single. Do you mean the one that they put on the Internet so you could hear it?

That’s probably because it’s the shortest one. That’s a good song though.

It was you and James that recorded that at home in San Francisco, right?
We recorded that and then Mikey added some stuff later on.

So you did it together and then Mikey did it remotely from Philip Island, or wherever he is?
[laughs] Yeah. James and I where in a room together and we just did it together in my old house, in the sunset, in San Francisco. We were just hanging out and we did some tracks. It was really quick. We just tossed it off. What you can hear is just one take of everything. It was really impromptu and Mikey mixed it. While he was mixing, he added some little sparkles.

What kind of equipment were you using to record?
On that song we just used an old eight-track. I bought it off a guy in Oakland. Where was he… he was out near Mills College in Oakland; the famous feminist women’s college. He had once jammed with Helios Creed from Chrome. Uh huh. And once he partied with a guy from Minimal Man. He told me a great story about this guy from Minimal Man jumping through a window. Also, he used the reel-to-reel to make his own avant-garde take on Indian-influenced percussion.

Is that what made you buy the recorder?
That really pushed me over the edge, you know. If you listen really closely, at the end of ‘Good Intentions’ you can hear some real Indian avant-garde tabla music. Crank it up.

What led you to take this stylistic direction with Lace Curtain?
I think it’s just pure circumstance. Also because we already are involved in things that are more rock n roll-based, we did kind of decide to do something electronic but it wasn’t heavily conceptualised. I mean, there’s guitar in there.

You’ve always been quite eclectic with the music that you do.
That’s kind of true.

Whalehammer, Rat Columns, Rank Xerox, Burning Sensation… they’re all quite different from each other.
That’s true. I guess I tend to spend a shorter amount of time on more things, rather than more time on a single thing, which I regret now.

Do you think it’s a shame? It’s quite a trend, diversifying rather than specialising.
I think it’s a reflection of the modern condition, you know? And it can go either way, good or bad. You can apply it to other aspects of society. People don’t work at the same company forever and ever anymore. People tend to not be married from 18 till they’re dead; people don’t do that. It’s simply a reflection of the fragmented nature of modern society.

And, you know, everyone is exposed to so many different things and there’s less opportunity in music, maybe now, because there’s more of it. So you’re not going to be sitting there casting arrows at the flaming target of gold, at the one thing, forever and ever. You’re more just going to satisfy your curiosity about things because there isn’t as much illusion and glamour anymore, maybe.

You could say that same thing about the way that people read or listen to music. Once you’d buy a record and listen to that all the way through. Now you listen to an iPod on shuffle, or you read half an article on the Internet, rather than a whole book.
Some do. It would be a lie to say we weren’t aware of a lot more things than people used to be but that doesn’t mean the involvement is less sincere. It’s just a different way of working. I guess it’s postmodern.

That’s your explanation as to why diversifying is not terrible, so why do you regret it?
I was just kidding. I don’t regret anything. I was going to say something about people doing things for less. I don’t think that they care less, I think people have been enabled. DIY culture has existed to such an extent that people feel that they can take on whatever they want and that they can make it their own. I think that’s healthy. Obviously, it results in a lot of dilettante shit but it also results in dilettante gold, like our work.

I guess you used to have to spend time finding information, whereas now you can find it instantly.
That’s certainly true but I think the time you’re spending now is in filtering rather than searching. You have so much information but you have to filter heavily because most of it’s garbage. People still need to spend time but it’s just a different strategy now.

There’s also still a lot of stuff that’s lost because of the Internet. If you’re using it as a primary resource then you disregard anything that isn’t on there.
I think dignity is the thing that’s lost the most.

Do you feel like you’ve lost your dignity?
No because I’m not on the Internet as much as some. But if you’re in rock n roll that’s the first thing you give up. You know, when you get your rock n roll license the payment is dignity. You’ve got to renew it every so often by humiliating yourself.


Lace Curtain’s Falling/Running EP is out through Mexican Summer.


Rat Columns – Sceptre Hole (LP)

I didn’t know who U.S. based Rat Columns were before this album hit my inbox. A quick Google lead me to discover a series of links back to Australia: Perth expatriate David West leads the trio, it’s got the Mikey Young seal of mastering approval, they’re label mates with Boomgates, and one piece of the band is a touring member for Total Control. It takes a slight cue from that band’s early oeuvre, too. It doesn’t lean so much on sun-blotting synths as Total Control’s proto-punk Henge Beat did, but one need only look as far as the well-recorded scrappiness of ‘Death Is Leaving Me’ for some similarities to Total Control’s earliest 7”, albeit without the manic vocals.

Shedding the comparison, Rat Columns is West’s baby, a group constructed with his grey vocal style in mind. West’s singing is wilfully out-of-tune: maybe not out-of-tune per se, but always seemingly a tone under what a vocal coach would request. His flatness is wrought with heights and inflection, and partnered with the vocals being low in the mix this gives the songs a sombre trademark. Forecast: gloomy, with a slight chance of sun later in the day.

Sceptre Hole fills out its fifteen tracks with a number of instrumental movements. They emphasise the sunken atmosphere of the record and give the pop tracks room to breath. The one-two punch of ‘Ashes Of A Rose’ and ‘Opaque Eyes’ feel like a total rush after an extended mid-album ambiance. They’re catchy, forward-thinking guitar pop, and I don’t think there will ever come a time when those first few seconds of ‘Ashes Of A Rose’ don’t elicit a surge of excitement in me.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to liken the melodic fuzz of ‘Dying Day’ to pre-Loveless My Bloody Valentine, while ‘Nearsighted’ is held down by a strong post-punk bass line. The mood-change of ‘Summer Thighs’ does what it says on the label as a blissful, quasi lo-fi piece built around decorous strumming. You can almost see the vapour coming off the water. ‘This Night Mocks Lovers’ is a late entrant for album standout, reveling in looped percussion and rosy-eyed keyboard. As a greater part of some new-wave-revival or not, this is unexpected outlier masquerading as retrograde pop.

It’s unlikely Sceptre Hole will set the world on fire, but in the ever-expanding army of guitar bands seemingly orbiting the Mikey Young School Of Sound, Rat Columns have logged a record worthy of attention.

Label: Smart Guy
Release date: August 2012