Archive for June, 2009

Galvatrons…
June 26, 2009

Patrons are already jostling to the front of the crowded club to find prime viewing position now that the support act has left the stage.  Weaving through the crowd to get to the bar proves a time consuming exercise, but once the sounds of synthesizer and chants of ‘We’re here to save the world’ wash over the building, attention turns instantly to the stage, from where Johnny Galvatron leers seductively at the bouncing fans below.  Throughout the snappy set, fists pound the air from the back of the room right up to the front of the stage.  The audience shout the lyrics in unison, and the evening reaches a climax when girls in the front row are overcome with exhilaration and throw themselves onto the stage to dance suggestively.  Though visibly impressed, the band never misses a beat.

All this excitement for a band who can still count the months since their first rehearsal and are counting down the days until the unveiling of their debut album.  24 hours earlier, the Galvatrons discussed a fledgling career that already boasts the kind of highlights usually reserved for the autobiographies of retiring rock royalty.  It wasn’t long after their formation that the band was snapped up by a major record label.

‘It was really bizarre,’ recalls keyboardist Gamma.  ‘I was the last to join, and then the fourth gig I played with the band was a showcase to Warner.  It was pretty sudden.’

Prior to being signed to Warner Music, the band members were each forging paths in their music career to varying degrees of success.

‘Johnny wrote a bunch of songs and had the idea for the band,’ bassist Condor explains the formation of the Galvatrons.  ‘He knew Manny – our old drummer – through a Battle Of The Bands, or some high school thing.  He called up Manny and said “I need a drummer for this band, do you know anyone?”  Manny was like “I’ll play drums in your band.”  Then Manny found me.  I was working at Safeway and playing with my old band at the Evelyn, and I was hanging out with a mate there whose band was playing.  Gamma was playing bass in that band.’

Manny stepped aside before long, Condor’s brother Bozza took up position behind the drums and the Galvatrons were created.  ‘Yeah,’ Condor sighs, shaking his head.  ‘I never want to step into Safeway again.’

The next step the band did take was onto a tour bus – the first major stop being at the Meredith Music Festival.

‘Now that was weird,’ says Gamma, his eyes widening with the memory, as Condor nods and laughs in agreement.  ‘It was our twentieth show ever.  We played on the Friday, so when we were checking out the front before we played, it looked like it was just a few pockets of people sort of sitting around everywhere.  We thought that was pretty sweet.  Well, we went back stage, and then went onto the stage just to set up and everything.  By that stage it had just filled up…’ Gamma shakes his head.   ‘It had just got like… wow!’

Condor agrees, saying that he had expected their first Meredith crowd to be little more than ‘just a bunch of my mates down the front,’ but personally felt more victorious taking to the stage at the Big Day Out.

‘It was cool.  I’ve always wanted to play a Big Day Out.  We did a sweet show that day, and then had to fly to London that night.  It was an awesome thing.’

An invitation to appear at London’s Hyde Park Calling festival not only meant live international exposure for the band, but a chance to meet some high profile idols.

‘We got to meet the Stranglers,’ Condor mentions with the calm of someone discussing the latest news of an old friend.  ‘They were these big-as dudes – just how they look in the pictures – and really nice.  They introduced themselves to us and stuff…’

‘And we got to meet the Bangles, too!’ Gamma interrupts excitedly, perhaps suggesting the diversity of the group’s musical influences.  ‘The lead singer must be, what?  50 now?  She still looks excellent!’

Perhaps suggesting a similar diversity in their fan base, the Galvatrons received positive reviews for their performance at the Download Festival – normally the reserve of heavy metal and more traditional rock bands.  Condor says that it is difficult to put Galvatrons fans into a particular category.  ‘The people going to our gigs are really cool!  They’re not necessarily always the most trendy, but they just like to go out for a good time.  Sometimes we meet the big footy jock dudes, the kind who used to beat me up in high school, and they’re like “I love you, it was awesome!  It was awesome!”’

It was at Download where the Galvatrons caught up with fellow Australians Airborne, and were invited to fill the support slot for some of their latest European tour.

‘They’ve sold out heaps of European shows last year,’ Condor says.  ‘They’re bloody huge, overseas.  We played a few gigs with them over there.  Two in Ireland and one in Germany, and they were just packed to the rafters.  It was mayhem.’

‘There was this one place, Molotov, in Hamburg,’ Gamma continues.  ‘It was way oversold, so you literally couldn’t move.  It was probably a 200 capacity room, but there were at least three or four hundred in the room.  It was a sweat den.  It was awesome.’

And, perhaps, the inspiration for album track ‘Molotov Cocktail,’ a typically synth-laden celebration in which Johnny recalls cars parked all the way up the street and that ‘these kids know how to have a good time.’

Another of the Galvatrons’ tales of European adventure regards being ejected from festival grounds.

‘Sarah, our manager, said that they were kicking us out,’ Gamma remembers.  ‘Everyone had to go.’

‘They said something like “The man next door complained,”’ Condor adds.

The man next door turned out to be playing the same festival with the Police.

‘There was a band area where everyone had little cabins,’ Condor sets the scene, and Gamma adds that ‘Sting had his own section of cabins.’

‘Our cabin was right next to his section…’ Condor says in summary of the noise complaint.

The brushes with rock fame haven’t ended now that The Galvatrons are back on Australian shores.  The group were selected as support for the entirety of Def Leppard and Cheap Trick’s tour of Australia and New Zealand.  While the Galvatrons were able to get along with their hosts, images of the legends still partying all night, rock ‘n’ roll style, were brought back to earth.

‘They were cool,’ Condor agrees.  ‘They gave us their beers and every night, because they didn’t want to drink much. It was the end of their three-month tour, so they’d flown all their families over for a big holiday in Australia.’

The Galvatrons are in the midst of their own headlining national tour, taking in capitals and regional shows, and prove they can adapt to the stages of clubs as well as they have larger festival and even arena shows, before the release of their album Laser Graffiti next month, and have no plans to break from the touring cycle soon.  Although the band is confident with touring, Gamma admits to being a little nervous at first.

‘It was a bit odd for me because these guys had already formed that bond when I came along,’ He puts on a shy voice to re-enact the first days of touring with the band.  ‘I felt like “Yeah, well this is good, you’re all talking and I feel weird…” But you spend enough time in the van on tour and you get to know all there is to know’

The new album has a retro-future sound familiar to fans of the band’s live shows and first singles ‘When We Were Kids,’ ‘Robots Are Cool,’ and ‘Cassandra.’  Johnny aptly describes the sound as ‘like the disco scene from a grand space opera.’  The album deals with science fiction themes, computer game victories, and high school romance – themes which seem set to stay, at least for the time being, ‘until Johnny works through all of his old heart breaks.’

‘Johnny likes to write about that stuff,’ Condor laughs.  ‘It’s his therapy.  I don’t know what he’ll write about when he works through it all.’

The Galvatrons’ album Laser Graffiti is released on July 3.  The ‘Cassandra’ single tour finishes early this month, and they will then be touring with Something With Numbers, stopping at the Hi-Fi Bar on July 10, the Ferntree Gully Hotel on July 11, and Pelly Bar in Frankston on July 12.  Tour details are available at www.myspace.com/thegalvatrons.

From Buzz Magazine, June 2009.

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Eskimo Joe…
June 26, 2009

‘Yaaaah!  Eeeyaaah!’ shrieks Kav Temperley suddenly over the edge of his back porch, breaking the peace of a warm morning in Fremantle.  He was demonstrating how the chorus of ‘Losing Friends Over Love,’ one of his band Eskimo Joe’s new songs, developed from his impersonation of a soul choir.    ‘I brought out this fantastic bottle of tequila from America.  I’d just had a shot, and did my best black woman’s choir impression.  That vocal, from one of those takes, is the actual vocal used.’

Even before its release, the band’s new album, Inshalla, from which the song is taken, was generating buzz for its bold new style.  Lead single ‘Foreign Land,’ featuring a sample lifted from a traditional Turkish folk song, had been discussed as a particular departure for the band.  Kav thinks otherwise, though.  ‘That song, more than any other song on the record, sounds like Eskimo Joe as we have already been.  It just sounds like a bigger, rockier version of Eskimo Joe.’

Kav points out the songs that feel most different to him are those that ‘lend themselves to being real pop songs.’  Songs such as the aforementioned ‘Losing Friends Over Love’ and ‘The Sound Of Your Heart’ may come as a pleasant surprise to fans of the band.  The real difference on Inshalla, though, which may not be immediately obvious to listeners, was in the song-writing and demo process.

‘Our first three records felt like a bit of a trilogy, in the way we put them together,’ Kav elaborates.  ‘We’d sort of use certain chords and go “This chord is for the chorus, this one’s for the bridge…” and so on.  When we started doing that on this record, it was just really boring.  We did kind of go through that process [for Inshalla], and then we’d mute the piano and guitar – what we’ve traditionally based our songs on – and we’d start from the rhythm track onwards.  We’d do drum loops or some bass.  It has made it a groovy kind of thing.  It sounds cool and different.’

Eskimo Joe enjoyed the freedom of self-producing their last album, Black Fingernails, Red Wine, but for the complex sounds of Inshalla have brought in a producer to ‘throw a spanner in the works and learn some new tricks.’  The band approached Gil Norton, since they were fans of albums he had produced for the Pixies and Foo Fighters, though his work with engineering sounds for more exotic arrangements with Gomez seems more identifiable on Inshalla.  Kav says that Norton was particularly influential in that early development of the songs.

‘Each producer seems to come with their own slant on producing.  It’s always a different kind of flavour each time.  Gil came on in pre-production, and worked a lot on the rhythm section – on the drums, and the bass, and the dynamics of the songs.  You can hear that.  He was partially responsible for that quiet/loud dynamic that the Pixies were famous for inventing.  He really brought in amazing dynamics and a really interesting way to start the production of a record, which was to sit down and look at the actual dynamics of it.  You can hear that on this record.  Black Fingernails, Red Wine almost sounds like a band on cruise-control – everything just kind of cruises through.  This record has a bit more light and shade to it.’

With the new album completed and released, the band are able to think about touring, and have already booked national tour dates, with regional and festival shows set to follow.  Both before and after their appearance at the Sydney leg of the Sound Relief charity concert, Eskimo Joe were touring overseas and especially in Europe, prior to devoting themselves to the Australian release of the new album.

Before travelling overseas, Kav was concerned that their international audiences might be made up primarily of Australian tourists and ex-pats.  ‘Obviously we’re happy to play to anybody who wants to see us play,’ Kav says.  ‘But if you’re making the effort to go over there you want to spread your wings a little bit.  We were really lucky that it was filled with locals.  Because the shows are much smaller – two or three hundred capacity shows – we could go out into the audience and sign merch and talk to the people and find out how they got into the band.  That was really cool, because we haven’t been able to do that in a while.’

Germany and the United Kingdom, in particular, stood out during the international tour.  ‘Germany was fantastic!’ Kav exclaims.  ‘Everywhere we went we just played to Germans, which is always nice.  People actually wanted to put some energy behind it.  Then we finally made the effort to go to the UK and do some touring there and they were awesome!  All the shows were sold out!’

With four successful albums under their belt, Eskimo Joe should expect no problems filling large venues when they start their Australian tour.  But when asked whether early, pre-album hits – like ‘Sweater’ and ‘Turn Up Your Stereo’ – ever make an appearance on live set lists, Kav shudders.

‘Last time we played those was before they died a very slow death in 1999 or 2000…’ he seems to be thinking aloud.  ‘It was in Adelaide – all songs seem to go to Adelaide to die, unfortunately for Adelaide.  I guess Eskimo Joe have had like Mark 1 Eskimo Joe – which was the EPs – then from Girl onwards was almost like a new band, like Eskimo Joe Mark 2.  The funny thing is, when we did Black Fingernails, Red Wine it was really hard to play songs from Girl and even songs from A Song Is A City sounded really weird within the set.  The cool thing about the new album is that it feels like it’s kind of balanced it out a bit.  We’re actually talking about going out and playing a lot more of the songs from Girl and A Song Is A City when we go out and play live now.  It’s almost put a counter-balance in, so it all kind of sits in a good area with each other now.’

Eskimo Joe play the Palace Theatre (formerly the Metro) in Melbourne on August 7, City Hall in Hobart on September 2, and Albert Hall in Launceston on September 3.   Inshalla is out now. 

From Buzz Magazine, June 2009.