Think of a synonym for imbecility and The UV Race have probably been called it. Building on a crudely constructed mythology, based somewhere among ugly drawings and terrible haircuts, their howling art punk thrives on chaos and absurdity. These are qualities the band display in heaps as they channel Lobby Lloyde in the demented psychedelia of lyrically gross ‘Raw Balls’ and the jerky farmyard onomatopoeia of ‘I’m a Pig’.
Accordingly, vocalist and centre of attention Marcus Rechsteiner has a sense of humour about him. He’d have to, to let the “idiot savant punk rock” and “avant tard” descriptors roll by, especially considering he works with people with disabilities and has learning problems of his own. But it only means Marcus speaks his mind and sees things differently from other people, which is part of what makes him and Melbourne-based six-piece of (mostly) tertiary-educated oddballs so special.
Presented as a clan of friends who couldn’t give a toss about playing the Big Day Out and who lend their tunes to pornography, The UV Race are more concerned with creating art and having fun than subscribing to any preconceived notions of propriety and/or conventionality. That’s probably why Marcus eulogises the ostensible dirtbag who leaves his wife and kids to live in a playground of ‘Life Park’ and concedes to wanting to “drop a bomb” on traditional domestic life in ‘Nuclear Family’. Needless to say, he doesn’t really relate to his mum or his sisters, with their kids, spouses and mortgages, even if they are “pretty respectable human beings.” Instead, he opts for an album cover photo taken outside the MCG (“of all places”) and celebrates the lot of the outsider with his other misfit friends.
In fact, guitarist and childhood chum Al Montfort is singing the lyrics to ‘Bad Egg’ –a song about a drug dealing teen mum and her good-for-nothing boyfriend –as I’m ambushed by the whole of the UV Race in saxophone player Georgia Rose’s lounge room. She’s the one with the video chat and there’s much to celebrate as Al has just come back from India and Marcus has had a three-dollar haircut (on a trip to South East Asia). Following a warm greeting, and a query as to whether it’s the “red hair” of a non-band member present that’s made me want to switch rooms, its Marcus alone who enlightens me on the impetus of the UV Race, in all its erudite foolishness.
Were you and Al quite unique in high school?
I was a bit of a freak in high school. Al was pretty funny. He had originally lived in the city so he was a bit more cultured than most of us in Warragul [laughs]. He was a fair bit into punk music and stuff, where nobody else really cared about it.
Do you think he had a lot to do with how you turned out?
Yeah. I would never have been in the UV Race if it wasn’t for him. For me to get that opportunity was probably through knowing Al but the actions and behaviours are just myself. Nobody can control that.
Where do you think you’d be if not for Al?
I don’t know. Probably still in Warragul not expressing myself.
There seem to be some pretty existential themes and astute social observations running through your lyrics…
Yeah. It’s just about my experiences of life. I try as much as possible to do a stream-of-consciousness so I just write what I feel. Usually I’m pissed off about something at that time, or happy about something at that time, or upset about a girl or whatever it is. That’ll be the start of the song, then try and find the music that suits the tone of the song.
You know how you say you’ve got bad social skills? What do you mean by that?
I have a learning disorder where verbally I’m very strong but visually my brain isn’t strong. So I think about things that a lot of other people don’t think about. That’s why I like rhyming words because that’s how I get my interaction. Where someone can maybe sit down for a day and just read a book and not talk to anybody, I have to talk to people. I’m always remembering things. I’ll remember things that my friends have told me 10 years ago and they’ll only remember when I basically give them the exact details and they’re like, ‘yeah that did happen but I totally forgot about that’. My brain is more focussed on words and that’s where my writing comes from.
Does that mean you don’t recognise visual cues like body language?
Body language, what’s appropriate to say, that kind of stuff.
Do you often feel like an outsider then?
It just takes a long time for people to realise that I’m not being mean or nasty, just clumsy. It takes longer for people that spend time with me to realise that I’m harmless.
‘Nasty’ in what way?
Oh, I’ll just ask inappropriate questions and not realise that they’re inappropriate. And not reading body language, so if someone’s tired or cranky I keep on asking them a million questions until they have to basically tell me to shut up.
I read an interview where you talked about your dad passing away a few years ago and how the band helped you through it. Is that song ‘I Hate You’ about that?
No not really. It’s about my mum.
I’d interpreted it as you saying you hated what had happened.
I tried to write a song about my dad passing away but I haven’t been able to. With that song, it was more about my mum trying to get me to conform. You know, with my crazy haircuts, she didn’t like them, the way I dress… She was brought up pretty proper. She went to a school that was run by nuns and stuff. So for me to not shave for a while or wear crappy clothes, she’s always like, ‘I don’t know how you turned out this way.’ So I’m like, ‘how did you create me? How do you come from your parents when you’re so opposite to them?’
‘Memenonome’ doesn’t have anything to do with the word menemone does it?
No, not really. Dan [Stewart, drummer] really wanted to do a chant and he came up with that. It’s quite funny, Larry [Hardy] from In the Red Records, who put out both Homo and Racism, he’s got a friend in LA that’s a photographer. Basically he works on porn movies and he’s a porn photographer… erotic photo… man. He takes videos of his photo shoots and he put one of the songs from Homo on one of his videos. It’s not that crazy, a bit of boobs and bumb and stuff. The next one, he just made another one –you can look it up, it it’s like ‘Dave Naz, Kristina Rose’ or something. It’s pretty hilarious. They put that to ‘Memenonome’ and it’s a whole bondage thing, it’s pretty crazy. I’ll email you the link but it’s pretty graphic so make sure you’re alone when you watch it.
Can you explain the album title to me?
It was originally to do with Rich [Stanley, of Aarght! Records, Ooga Boogas], who put out our first seven-inch. He started calling us racists.
It’s a joke. He was just making a joke. He’s a really nice guy and I think it just caught on and other people started using it. We already had Homo, so I think it was just a progression from Homo to Racism; words that have turned into bad words, I guess.
Hasn’t racism always been a bad word?
Yeah [laughs] but it’s a lot harder to defend racism than it is to defend ‘homo’ standing for homosapiens. But by just saying the word on the record, people still think about it, I guess. We’re not racists.
There’s a lot of talk about how educated the people in the band are. Do you think a punk ethos and scholarship can be at odds?
I’m the only one that hasn’t been tertiary-educated so I can’t really comment on that. But, no, I think it’s more about informing yourself. It would be silly to do all these political protests and all this stuff and not want to learn more; just do what everybody else says or what the Socialist Alliance says. I find educating yourself is a good way of doing it. I know Al studied politics and and anthropology, so you learn how the world operates a bit more.
Maybe it’s a bit different these days where people have a bit more opportunity to study than punk in its infancy.
Yeah, I don’t know. I find the word punk to be void, pretty much. I don’t really find it that useful. It’s a contradiction already; it’s about people not following things but because they’re in punk, they’re following something. I’ve never really said we’re a punk band. We might make punk music but it’s all about being creative and expressing ourselves. We’re all really close friends so it’s about us travelling together, having good times and having fun on the road.
What would you call yourselves if you had to?
‘Music makers’… I don’t know, friends making music, basically. A lot of people struggle with putting us into a genre and I don’t really put us in a genre. Sometimes I would call us ‘proto punk’ but that’s about it.
Who came up with ‘idiot savant punk’?
That was Aarght!, our record label. ‘Avant tard’, or whatever it’s called; ‘idiot savant punk’. I’ve been called an idiot savant before.
What does that mean?
It’s kind of like an idiot genius.
Yeah, kind of, like someone that’s that left-of-field that it’s crazy. A lot of people have a certain way of thinking and because they don’t think that way other people see them as geniuses. It’s interesting.
That’s quite an apt description of your lyrics.
Yeah, it’s definitely not normal.
UV Race’s Racism is out now through In The Red.