R.I.P Society Vs. The Jagermeister Indie Music Awards

A receipt for a $6 packet of chips from Melbourne’s Medina hotel. Relevant, because that’s a bloody rip-off.

So a representative of Crawlspace casually asked me to report on my Jagermeister Independent Music Award experience. They were probably half joking but it was such a bizarre night, with an even more bizarre aftermath, that I thought why the hell not. I went down as a representative of Royal Headache: I’m not in the band, I’m not their manager, I just run the record label R.I.P Society. Law, Joe and Shortty couldn’t get off work to attend the award ceremony, leaving the two free flights and room in the Medina on Flinders Street for Shogun and myself. I was hoping to do a really critical and impassioned spiel but after being exposed to the indie elite and a live performance by Loon Lake I have this deflated, hopeless feeling looming inside. Let’s see how this goes, sorry in advance.

Loon Lake: enduring Australian indie rock music

For those that don’t know, AIR is the Australian Independent Record Labels Association. The next bit was copied from their website: “Now in their seventh year, The JAGERMEISTER INDEPENDENT MUSIC AWARDS is an opportunity for Australian labels, artists and the Industry at large to celebrate the successes of some of the country’s most vibrant and eclectic artists. With a diverse pool of representatives voting this year, from online media, music press, broadcasters, independent music industry representatives and artists themselves, the results will truly reflect the opinions of the collective Independent Music scene.”

For the record I think that AIR is a great organization. They are the good guys. It’s not AIR’s fault the prevalent music culture (even on an independent level) in this country is so bland.

Royal Headache was up for the Best Independent Artist, Best Independent Album and Breakthrough Artist of the Year awards. Shogun and I flew into Melbourne early Tuesday morning, took a shuttle bus to the Medina on Flinders Street with fellow nominees and a few dancers. We listened to the first Generation X album, had a nap, got a few beers, listened to Kool Keith, Negative Approach and Antidote before heading over to the event. It’s important I mention these bands so you know we’re cool.

We arrived at the venue at about 6.30pm via public transport; it was pissing down rain outside yet we seemed to be the only people that were wet. Shogun and I were interviewed by a few media outlets, usually resulting in Shogun stating he doesn’t really know much about the award or other nominees but was thankful, gracious and polite, followed by me ranting for 20 minutes about how I think most of the nominees contribution to culture are on par with 50 Shades Of Grey or Vagazzling. Actually that’s probably making them sound raunchier and more exciting than they are, “a bunch of bands that sound like music from tampon ads” as a friend said is more like it.

We were late to getting a seat for the actual ceremony as I was trying to grab as much booze as possible. I knew I was going to need it to get through this celebration of the country’s most vibrant and eclectic artists. From previous experiences I also knew that Jaaaagermiester is an excellent mental lubricant that would allow the punk portion of my brain to move to the front of my skull, blocking all signals from the sensible adult behavior department. The main man behind the Elefant Traks label gave an excellent opening address, his idea of what the essential qualities of independent music culture seemed very in line with my own: basically creating your own culture from the ground up. Unfortunately this theme did not run strong throughout the night, bringing me to a fairly controversial segment of the night.

Lanie Lane’s label: not independent / heavy enough

Lanie Lane was accepting an award for best Blues And Roots Album and as she thanked her label Ivy League I saw a great window of opportunity to yell “not independent”. This was greeted with a bunch of grumbling and maybe even a tiny bit of shock ‘n’ awe. I didn’t enter the award ceremony with a vendetta against Ivy League; this was a jovial, spur of the moment reaction. Whether Ivy League are independent or not is not really something I dwell on as Ivy League (and a great deal of the labels present at the AIR Awards) are so removed from any affecting independent music culture past or present that it seems irrelevant to discuss. But I guess as this comment apparently re-sparked some debate on “what is independent”, I should probably expand on my drunken heckle.

Contrasting definitions of independent aside, Ivy League does not operate in any way, shape or form like an independent record label. There is no creative idealism or attempt to foster any type of collective /counter culture, nor has there ever been from what I can see. Ivy League basically picks an act and has the resources to ensure they will be somewhat prevalent in the Australian music landscape. I’ve seen Ivy League acts play to modest sized audiences yet still the label manages to construct this very confident, successful presence around the group. They have the tools and resources to sculpt an artist to convince mass-culture (or semi-mass culture?). Kudos to Ivy League for being great at what you do but in my mind (a mind I think is fit to make comment having put every other aspect of my adult life secondary to independent music culture) you don’t have any cultural agenda or agenda beyond the success of each individual artist. I’m not saying you’re invalid, you’re just not an independent record label.

Okay, so after Elaine finished her speech 360 won and said he didn’t deserve it. Seemed like a pretty solid dude, no joke. Some other people won and said stuff. Paul Kelly played and it was rad. I don’t think I really need to report on the rest, this thing is getting too long, also I can’t remember a lot of it. Thinking about Loon Lake’s performance makes me feel depressed. Probably shows how out of touch I am with your average Australian but I can’t imagine an adult listening to this music. At least an adult that has experienced any aspect of real life, from falling in love to having diarrhoea.

Other than Royal Headache winning the album of the year award the main outcome of this night for me was the conclusion that a great deal of the music that was up for nomination is actually detrimental to humanity. I’m speaking mostly about the stuff that might get classified as “indie”. It promotes this unimpassioned, grey, overly stylized approach to creating music that is so devoid of any unbridled emotion, personality, interesting insight into the human condition or, ummmmm, actual art. It’s not a Fred Durst, steampunk or Christian metal type of awful, it’s a more subtle awful. Accessory music awful. Projecting onto society that this is the stifled way you’re actually supposed to create and communicate. I can’t relate to any of this shit, and I’ve got a feeling most people in the room knew what was being celebrated was just more industry fodder to be embarrassed about in a few years time.

R.I.P Society is an awesome Sydney label. Royal Headache is an awesome Sydney band. The Jagermeister Independent Music Awards is from Melbourne. It took place on October 16, 2012.


Usually Being Mob: Whores Interviewed

At about 7:22pm last Wednesday I called Al Haddock from Whores for the interview below. After the interview I checked my email and saw a message received at 7:23pm that read “hey Shaun I’m really buggered from working wondering if we could do the interview tomorrow.”

You can read this interview with that fact planted firmly at the front of your mind. Al is a smart and accommodating guy, but he did, in retrospect, sound really tired. I’m not sure how much can be said about a band like Whores if you actually play in it, but keeping in mind Al’s wishes not to be interviewed at this particular point in time (for reasonable enough reasons) he did a fair job of conveying that Whores is very much an instinctual operation: lacking in calculation.

The first time I saw Whores back in 2009, they frightened me. This doesn’t happen very often. There are many bands that try their very hardest to be ugly, and horrible, and confronting, but Whores just kinda effortlessly are. Most bands seem like a joke when they try that, but Whores don’t. Whores capture for me the feeling of being miserable and alone and angry: they remind me of drinking port mixed with coke at lunchtime on a Tuesday. They remind me of the feeling you get sometimes when you realise you’ll never be alright. It’s not positive. It’s self-wrought misery. That’s my personal response to their music. Some of my questions, in retrospect, seemed to be trying to tease some affirmation of this feeling. The fact of the matter is, a lot of people probably love Whores just because they’re really fucking heavy.

Whores don’t really dress any part. No one in the band – Haddock, along with band mates Sarah and Chris – sound like they’re really in control of the music. Their new 7 inch is one of the most horrible recordings I’ve heard in a long time.

Al Haddock is involved with another group at the moment called Mob. Maybe I’ll interview him again regarding that group, and hopefully he’ll not be tired. The impression I got during this interview is that Whores isn’t really a priority for anyone at the moment. Which is a shame, but such is life.

Did you know there’s a band in Atlanta called Whores?
Yeah actually, we realised that when we looked it up on Facebook. I dunno, they just look pretty… [laughs] we just didn’t really care at the time. We had the name for a while before we realised there was another one. Heaps of people send us photos of them on Facebook, and photographers have taken photos of their show, then they look them up and send them to us. Now I’m getting people on Facebook adding us because they think Whores is a [Facebook] group, like sluts or something. It’s pretty dumb.

How come you called the band Whores?
I dunno, Sarah and Chris… we had a show and couldn’t think of anything and we just came up with it, and then thought fuck it and went along with it. We were going to change our name to Mob Reality, the name of the 7 inch, but I don’t know what happened to that. We probably will change it to that soon.

What’s the band’s background? Are you all Sydney locals?
Chris is from Griffith, this small country town, and Sarah is from a town called Young, which is an even smaller town. All in the south west of New South Wales. I’m just from the inner-west, Leichhardt.

The new 7 inch sounds a lot darker to me than the earliest track I heard, which was ‘Cop Scum’.
Yeah, I was listening to that track the other day, it’s pretty funny. Probably about two years ago now we started hanging out with a lot of people who were into hardcore and stuff, and I think they influenced us so much, pretty rapidly I guess as well. We probably did weirder stuff than ‘Cop Scum’ than what we’re doing now.

What kind of groups influenced you to change the sound?
You mean when we were changing or what we were into first?

When you were changing.
Our friends in the band Taipan, their music influenced us heaps. They got me into a lot of black metal and stuff, like Darkthrone. We can’t really play fast, so we kinda play a breakdown… a lot of our stuff is just a breakdown that goes on and on, kinda like Cro Mags I guess, but just without the fast stuff.

What’s Mob Reality about? Where did the phrase come from?
Nic De Jong [None Music, Naked on the Vague] came up with it. I dunno, the term mob, if you had a bad style you’d have a mob style. Nic De Jong just kinda turned the term mob reality into bad reality. The song… it’s just about a time when shit was getting pretty real. For the people around me but not necessarily to me.

What kind of shit?
Hold the interview for a second. Actually it’d be really awkward. It was about when a lot of my friends were on smack. Actually, you can put that in, it doesn’t matter.

There’s something really abject and dark about the 7 inch. Was it the intention to make something really ugly?
Yeah, I would say so. We did it with Andrew from Cured Pink and he definitely had an influence on it, and that’s why we wanted to record it with him because we knew we’d get something hectic out of it. We never used to sound like that, but the way he recorded us is the way I wish we could sound at shows. He captured a really cool sound.

Is that him playing on ‘U.B.M’?
No, that’s Nic De Jong, he’s playing clarinet. He used to play clarinet for us and a couple of months before the 7 inch came out he played synth with us as well, which was awesome because it filled the sound out and made it sound like it does on the recording. But he moved back to the coast so we don’t really play with him anymore.

Do you think you’ll recruit another instrumentalist in the future?
Yeah. If we have friends at a show we’ll just ask them to play something. It doesn’t really matter. Just to get a friend to smash a cymbal or something. If we play with Teen Ax they’ll always come and feedback a guitar or something.

The band’s sound is, like I said, very abject and rundown. Are all the emotions and sentiments in Whores your own? Is there any role playing involved?
Not really, cause I kinda just write all the songs. I’m just trying to think… there is one song where I roleplay, but most of the songs I’m just singing about something stupid that either happened to me or is happening all the time.

Is there a general outlook or philosophy that drives Whores?
Maybe there used to be, but not so much anymore. We’ve kinda all gone in separate ways. We don’t jam as much as we used to and definitely don’t play as much as we used to. The dynamics have changed I think. Everyone’s off doing their own thing.

Do you think Whores are coming to a close?
I dunno, everyone is doing different stuff so it’s hard to say. I love playing in Whores and I love when we play a show, but I dunno if we still have it in us. But at the moment we haven’t even thought about going down to Melbourne and we’ve got a 7 inch out.  I guess we’ve had it for four years now.

The reason I like seeing Whores is that you’re quite scary on stage. It’s very intense. What does live performance mean to you? Why do you do it?
I dunno, the only time I ever go out now is when I go to a show. Playing live shows is such a weird thing, it can be so daunting but so much fun, but fuck, I don’t even know how much I like it anymore. It’s so weird playing a show, and then you have to walk around and be told it’s good even if it was a bad show. It’s such an awkward affair. That might sound really wanky. I guess it comes with it.

Is there anything you’d prefer to be doing outside of Whores?
There’s art stuff that I do, I enjoy that. There’s pretty much just me in the end, and music. I really like playing, it’s a bit weird of me to say that, but keeping it fresh is the key. I get so bored… even if I’m playing in a different city it’s just all these songs. Even though there’s these people who haven’t seen it before I just get sick of playing it.

Is that why Whores evolved the way it did?
Yeah, probably. Musically we’re all over the shop, really. Over the four years we’ve just kinda transgressed to what it is now. I guess we retain little bits, but I dunno. It’s a lot more refined now.

Does your visual art follow a similar aesthetic to Whores? Is it similarly themed?
I dunno man, I don’t know how to explain it. It definitely doesn’t have any themes. I don’t even think Whores has a theme.

Apart from other music, what would you say did or does inspire Whores?
I dunno man. I dunno. I could have said a while ago. I don’t even know anymore. Sorry I’m really vague, I’ve had a big day.

You have a 7 inch on Negative Guest List coming up. Is that already recorded?
Yeah we did that at the same time as the 7 with RIP, but yeah, when all that shit went down…  he [the late Brendon Annesley of Negative Guest List] had so much to do, so much stuff, a huge list, Brendon did, and I don’t want to be like “we should have ours out”. It’s kinda in this weird limbo because they’re trying to sort it out, paying for it, and I don’t want those guys to pay for it. If anything we should be paying for it in tribute to him, instead of waiting for someone else. I’d really like to put it out, and put it out on Negative Guest List, but I’d like to do it on our own means.

Finally, what does ‘U.B.M’ stand for?
[laughs] “Usually Being Mobs”

That’s back to De Jong’s “mob” tag?
Nah that was just a term from a crew, it was just a pseudonym that they had, and I just took it for the title of the song. I don’t actually say Usually Being Mob in it.


Whores’ Mob Reality 7 inch is available through R.I.P Society

Live photo by Shaun Hemesley / Tenzenmen. Video by Angela Bermuda.


Holy Balm – It’s You (LP)

There’s no murk anymore. The lights are on, smoking has been banned, and Sydney’s Holy Balm have finally recorded a proper dance record. Here the group’s lo-fi grime has been scrubbed away, leaving sharp-focus textures and 4/4s that never wobble out of step. All evidence is gone of the drone-y jam band that debuted on a split CD-R with Vincent Over The Sink back in 2006.

Holy Balm are a dance group that have rarely (if ever) played in a club, appearing instead mostly on punk line-ups. It’s You is released locally on R.I.P. Society but also on Californian label Not Not Fun, and the association with the latter makes a lot sense: some will write Holy Balm off as amateur dance music for people who don’t like dance music, an accusation sometimes leveled at Not Not Fun’s dance offshoot 100% Silk. But this only holds true if keeping things tidy and in their right place is really important to you.

It’s true that precision is not a concern for Holy Balm. Bass lines fall slightly out of step with the beat sometimes (especially on ‘Holy Balm Theme’) and their panicked improvised lead lines always sound like they’re rushing for a bum note. Holy Balm sounds defective, but only just: the clean right angles and white textures of techno are bent crooked here, the shades all mixed up and the components bolted incorrectly. Brief lead lines pop up in ‘Phone Song’ that sound like cameos from other songs, but their intrusion is a pleasing sensorial jolt, like sonic detritus from another transmission.

Holy Balm never sound bad though, just endearingly wrong. Their sound is halfway between rigidly functional techno and the decrepit no-wave of groups like Excepter, and while the group don’t sound especially invested in either extreme their music could satisfy either inclination. Techno-existential dread is swapped out with party tune whimsy, but it’s a weird and almost exhausted kind of revelry: all frayed at the edges and somehow incomplete.

But for all that, the most welcome development on It’s You is the songs. Emma Ramsey’s vocals are still reverberated but they cling closer to a tune now, offering a breadcrumb trail through the matrix of locked beats and askew leads. You can take It’s You however you like, as either an especially blazed dance record or a weird pop one, but it’s never boring. Now that the murk has lifted, we can finally hear them properly.

Holy Balm – Holy Balm Theme from Not Not Fun on Vimeo.

Label: R.I.P. Society / Not Not Fun
Release date: August, 2012


Whores – Mob Reality (7″)

When I was a teenager I had a friend whose father went to prison for assault with a deadly weapon. When he got out his wife left him so he rented his own place. The house was barren save a mattress and a tower of VB cases stacked with empty stubbies against the wall. There was no electricity and the place stank like a dead vagrant. The lawn out back was a forest of weeds and Paterson’s curse, with deflated goon bags draped over the clothes line. This guy would piss and vomit wherever he wanted, but he’d also buy us booze and cigarettes. He’d lost the plot.

This record reminds me of that guy. It’s a miserable and angry thing, totally ruined and ugly. If the song ‘Mob Reality’ was a person its face would be nothing but broken vessels from years of cheap booze abuse. It’d have no teeth and tell you sick stories.

This four-piece have been the scariest band in Sydney for a while, but early tracks like ‘Cop Scum’ were far too catchy to be this menacing. Now Whores are just a malignant punch in the face with brown-glass knuckle dusters, all barbed feedback and stripped screams that make mere disenfranchisement sound as terrible as a chipped coffee mug. This is hatred in totality. Total bile. Five stars.