Archive for the ‘Buzz Magazine’ Category

They Might Be Giants at the Corner…
May 5, 2013

If not for They Might Be Giants, I wouldn’t have been as successful as I was on television’s Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? in the United States.  It was in a glass-floored studio in California in 2001 when the gameshow’s host let a smug smile slip across her face when she asked ‘Who was the eleventh president of the United States?’ and seemed a little taken aback when some Australian up-start answered correctly, before even being presented with a series of multiple choice answers.

Coincidentally, on the same day that I was fulfilling that particular ambition, I was missing the chance to realise another at home: to see They Might Be Giants live, as their Hi-Fi shows took place while I was out of town.

They Might Be Giants,
Corner Hotel, Melbourne, May 2, 2013…

With this being the first of the shows of the tour to go on sale, and consequently the first to sell out, the Corner was set up in ‘Big mode’ tonight, with the second stage set up for the support act – complete with a theremin front and centre –  and the band room filling quickly after the doors opened.  It was close to a full house when support act Pluto Jonze and his band took to the stage, backed by a vintage television sitting precariously atop stacked crates and displaying various clips and lyrics in synch with his tunes.

It was an impressive support slot which inspired me to look further into the band.  Pluto Jonze seems like a talented multi-instrumentalist, though the aforementioned theramin did seem to be used only for novelty purposes.  Everyone is familiar with their radio single with the Fitter Happier-style Paranoid Android verses, but the rest of the setlist consisted of immediately catchy tunes which sounded a lot like how Hot Chip might if they decided to go for a rockier sound.

The main stage was pleasantly filled with instruments – keyboard, bass clarinet… – as the house lights dimmed to a subdued blue and the five members of They Might Be Giants took the stage, with the infamous Johns doing so to enormous applause.  Opening with something new, it was when the band launched into We’re The Replacements that the crowd were really brought on board, and that excitement remained, particularly when John L strapped himself into the clarinet or his ‘Main Squeeze’ accordian for songs like Meet James Ensor and Dr Worm.

The first of many accomplished guitar solos by Dan Miller – generously celebrated this evening – teased towards any of several song possibilities.  It temptingly drifted in the direction of a rocked-out version of Robot Parade or Istanbul (Not Constantinople), but was actually a distraction whilst the Johns disappeared from the main stage, replaced on the support stage by The Avatars Of They, a puppet band who offered underhanded thanks to the ‘grandpas’ playing as their opening act, before ranting about local politics and performing a Tom Waits-style tune.

After the set by the Avatars, the Johns returned to the stage for favourites like S.E.X.X.Y., Ana Ng and a new song about Dr Tesla (nicely balancing out the group’s apparent pro-Edison slant) before another energetic solo for the real Istanbul which was so powerful it saw Dan break several guitar strings.  The group were called back for two encores, culminating in a sing-along She’s An Angel.

For a band with thirty years of experience and sixteen albums, there was always going to be a whole clump of songs from my wishlist that were missed out live.  On the other hand, this was a show that featured not only some of my favourite songs, but a whole bunch of other things I like, like puppets, robots, and an accordian.

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Manual Jackhammer…
April 24, 2013

Just as Freddy Krueger is said to be the son of a hundred maniacs, Circa Survive seemed like a band incepted from roots in various different other bands.  I’d only ever heard of the band before their support slot at the Metro on Sunday, though I had heard a certain faction of the audience describing tonight’s’ proceedings as a ‘double headliner.’

Coheed and Cambria, with Circa Survive,
Palace Theatre, Melbourne, April 21, 2013…

I detected shades of Placebo, The Eagles, Smashing Pumpkins, Iron Maiden and Kaiser Cheifs, amongst other apparent auditory influences.  It was a combination that seemed to work well together, and it certainly seemed to be keeping the ‘double headliner’ crowd immediately in front of the stage happy, with significant trickles of satisfaction seeping back through the rest of the crowd.  The lead singer flounced enthusiastically around the stage through their handful of sprawling songs, leaving me wanting to find out more.

It was clear as the lights dimmed that, despite the thoughts of the Circa Survive die-hards, Coheed and Cambria were the real headliners of the night.  It had not been a sell out, although the Metro looked crowded as everyone vied for prime position (luckily an easy prospect at such a fine venue.)  Still, there was a lot staked on the bands’ performance.  Coheed is a band that have in the past given us cancellations, shows tarnished by bad audiences, but also albums rich with production featuring dynamic effects and broad instrumentation.  How well would that translate to the stage?  Would it need to be toned down?  It was a little concerning to see, just prior to the band’s emergence, a stage populated by the rock basics – guitars and drum kits – but no sign of the sing section or piano that makes their albums complete.

Opening in anthemic style with No World For Tomorrow, the enthusiastic delivery and receptive audience went a long way towards making up for the elements not present from recordings.  The rest was made up by a DJ delivering suitably science-fiction interludes and introductions to the remaining songs.  It’s an impressive set, though focused on more recent material, and also, perhaps oddly for a band with a varied collection of slow and more progressive tunes, focused entirely on heavier material.  A cool down sway with wedding favourite (presumably) Wake Up would not have felt out of place.

Nevertheless, the show didn’t disappoint, and a Coheed and Cambria headline show more than made up for the hit and miss affair of Coheed and Cambria in festival-mode, and their associated audience.

Not Drowning, Soundwaving…
March 5, 2013

Cinnamon Lip,
You’re headed for a breakdown.
Cinnamon Lip – Pollyanna

Before almost every festival I’ve been to, I’ve heard on the news that PAD sniffer dogs will be ‘out in force,’ and I’ve usually been disappointed when I get to the festival and don’t see any.

So I was understandably excited when I disembarked from the Soundwave Special to see the station lined with police officers with blonde, brunette and black police labradors.  I headed towards them for a closer look, and delighted in their wagging tails – it is good to see them enjoying their work.  I’d smiled as I passed several dogs before I became entangled in the leash of a small black dog which seemed to be enthusiastically trying to get past me.  I stepped back with a mind to getting out of the dog’s way and letting it continue its duty unobstructed, and fell into the awaiting arms of a policeman.  He turned me to face a further two officers wearing white, and asked if I’d mind stepping towards them.

‘The reason you’ve been sent to us,’ started the male officer, who I noticed was wearing blue rubber gloves in conjunction with his white police polo shirt, matching the attire of his female colleague. ‘Is because the dog has indicated that you may be carring an illegal substance on your person.’

I was obviously surprised, and couldn’t think of anything I might have ever carried that could be classed as an illegal substance, let alone on that particular morning after I’d performed a meticulous stocktake on my usual array of pocket and wallet contents in order to make my traversion from one stage to the next as efficient as possible.  This at least made unpacking all of my possesions at the officers’ request quick and easy, though I found it difficult to answer their questions without saying something which might get the dog into trouble.  Questions like ‘Are you carrying anything you shouldn’t be?’ were easy enough to answer without thought, but others involving descriptions of how highly trained the dog is, and how it is rarely wrong were more difficult to respond to without making what sounded like accusations.  I acknowledged that the dogs were all undoubtedly good at their jobs, and pointed out that few people admire dogs in the workforce more than I do, but suggested that, in this case, this particular dog must have been mistaken.

Soundwave,
Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne, March 1, 2013

By the time I was released from police custody (without incident, obviously,) Billy Talent were concluding their set on one of the middle-sized stages, which were notably surrounded this year by the kind of barrier that normally prove little more than a nuisance at the major stages.  Luckily the barriers didn’t get in the way too much, and I was able to make it to the adjoining stage to hear a fun-filled set by Flogging Molly, which had the audience dancing, though my comment that I prefer the music of the Mountains Goats seemed to fall on deaf, confused ears.  Flogging Molly were the first of the old guard playing on the minor stages who would be the festival’s saving grace.

After a previous Soundwave cancellation, Sum 41 made it to the stage immediately after Flogging Molly for a set which was on par with the band’s usual standards.  Whilst that is a high standard, they didn’t bring a lot that was new for those who have seen the band play before, and continued with their usual insistance that they were ‘bringing the metal’ to the stage.  Oddly, the audience became very fashion conscious, even bitchy, when fans were invited on stage with the band.  ‘Oh my God!‘ cried one girl. ‘He’s just gone on stage… wearing a Blink 182 t-shirt!’

On my first trek to the main stages, I discovered one of this year’s Soundwave Festival’s main flaws: the discrete change of venue from the Royal Melbourne Showgrounds to Flemington Racecourse prime, best remembered as the venue that Big Day Out sucked at from 2009 onwards, was laid out in such a way that the two main stages, traditionally interconnected, were this year spread far apart, with a different, limited access barrier for each.  With drawcard acts like Blink 182 and Metallica set to play these stages, the barriers were sure to fill quickly, with no access to view (or even hear) one stage from the other, and viewing limited without the advantage of the remains of the grandstand at the Showgrounds.  I arrived for Blink 182 to a disorganised throng of dense crowd, however my years of festival experience allowed me to slip towards the front of the stage without too much obstruction, despite security contractors’ advice that the barrier section was full.  This was true – much like last year’s Soundwave, it did feel a little over-crowded in front of the stage, begging the question of the value of these BDO-style barriers at all.  If nothing else, the layout prevented me from enjoying any of the tail end of A Perfect Circle‘s set from the other main stage.

My brother famously said that the only good thing about Blink 182 is their drummer.  Whilst his comment is at the extreme end of the scale, he isn’t alone amongst Blink fans and their admiration for the drumming styles of Travis Barker.  In the moments before the band’s afternoon set, the murmur through the crowd was doubtful of how the stand-in, Brooks from Bad Religion, would perform.  For most, these doubts were quashed as soon as the frantic solo introduction to Feeling This was played to perfection.  For the others, who stoicly persisted that ‘It just isn’t the same without Travis,’ I am sure it was merely a matter of principal.  It was a set heavy in material from the most recent albums Neighborhoods and the self titled record, which was surprising but not a disappointment, with those albums featuring, in my opinion, the band’s best material.  Of course, the set also covered all of the hits and favourites from earlier albums too, and whilst the songs driven by Tom sounded great, Mark seemed to be struggling in the vocal department, perhaps driving some of their song choices (or, more importantly, the choice of songs to be omitted.)

Once again, I caught the end of a band’s set on my way to seeing another.  This time it was Cypress Hill, who I was disappointed not to have been able to have seen more of, due to their clash with Blink 182.  It sounded like I’d missed a good set, ending well, if predictably, on a rendition of Rock Superstar which would have been better without the pauses in the song to allow for audience participation.


The end of their set left me perfectly positioned to enjoy Garbage, who put on the best performance of the day.  Shirley Manson stormed onto the stage, clad all in black, broken only by a different colour of polish on each fingernail, and, as well as performing to the audience, seemed to be putting on a show for her band-mates too, climbing on Butch Vig’s drum kit to pose for his photos at one point.  Shirley embodies her songs in the same way that Nick Cave does, taking on the persona of each to keep even the most casual of fan engaged for the whole show, stalking around the stage, snarling songs like Why Don’t You Love Me? as though to the unseen lover to which the song is dedicated.  The whole set had the audience singing and swaying along, and was a nice change when compared to some of the past crush-along audiences of Soundwaves past.

Festival headliners Metallica had, by this time, commenced their fairly unprecedented two-and-a-half hour festival set, so I took a look through the vast mass of spectators during my dinner break.  They sounded okay, but that was about it.  There wasn’t anything particularly engaging, but perhaps that was because I was so far away.  Later, during the end of Paramore‘s set, I realised that despite the band’s popularity and alleged commercial radio appeal, I don’t really know any of their songs.

Paramore’s crowd cleared quickly once The Offspring took to the stage, backed by a simple, yet impressive lighting set up:  The Offspring skull logo hung behind the group, with dancing lights projected onto it in different colours, to create the impression of the band being backed sometimes by flames, sometimes waves in water, and sometimes weirdly coloured slime.  It was surprising to see a strong audience reaction to a lot of the more recent songs, but, as expected, the real highlight is always seeing the middle-aged band rocking through songs about how tough it is being a kid, Noodles with a cigarette hanging from his lips even as he shredded through solos. As always, Want You Bad was a set highlight. Despite appearing this year on a smaller stage than at their last Soundwave appearance in 2008 when they’d headlined the show, the Offspring still put on an enjoyable show.

Leaving the venue, in impressively efficient fashion, Metallica could still be heard droning beyond the advertised 10pm noise cut-off time, with announcements at the train station repeatedly talking over them to request that the implausibly named ‘Delta White, please meet your friends at the city-end of the platform.’  Whilst the usual string of cancellations and last-minute changes have come to be a staple of the Soundwave festival, this year was also hindered by the ugliness of the venue, unlikely stage layout and poor sound for the headliners.  With the high price tag, I am again left to say that it would need to be a good line-up for me to consider Soundwave again, but good line-ups are something that Soundwave are known for.

Can’t Stop Partying…
February 1, 2013

Weezer,
Sidney Myer Music Bowl, January 16, 2013

A lot of Weezer fans look like Hurley.  That was the first thing I noticed as enjoyed the stroll through the Botanical Gardens towards the Sidney Myer Music Bowl.  It was Weezer’s first night in town since 1996, and there were a lot of guys who looked like the photo from the cover of the band’s last album, along with people wearing Hurley surf and skate brand t-shirts.  Sadly though, I didn’t see anyone wearing the ‘Weeze’ t-shirt from the Perfect Situation video.  Had those been available at the merchandise stand, I would have left even happier than I did.


I’m not traditionally a fan of the Music Bowl, but tonight I was given a special treat, in the form of surprise, last minute tickets in the stalls, and it made me see the venue in a whole new light.  Rather than spending the time before the headliner squeezing through the crowd in general admission to find an unobstructed line of sight to the stage to set the focus on my binoculars, I was able to relax in a comfortable chair with a drink whilst Cloud Control let their single Gold Canary intermingle with a rendition of the Butthole Surfers’ Pepper which came as a pleasant surprise and set the 1990s nostalgia scene in preparation for a rendition of Weezer’s self titled blue album.  I felt like one of those people who vow to never fly ecconomy again after using their Frequent Flier points to upgrade to business class.

As soon as they’d finished, members of Weezer appeared without ceremony on stage to help Cloud Control move their gear away, and to set up their own instruments.  It looked like a simple setup, the only obvious tech being in the form of the webcams attached to all of the instruments.  The work done, there was time for Rivers Cuomo to kick a ball around on stage with Steve Horvat from Dust Devil Music.

As the sun went down and day turned to night above those poor souls with general admission lawn tickets, Weezer’s ‘W’ logo illuminated above the stage, and Rivers mounted a kit box to address the audience, and introduce us to the musical time machine that would be the first half of the evening, a greatest hits set running in reverse chronological order opened with Hurley‘s Memories.  It was at the second song of the evening that the crowd started to really react, a surprise perhaps, as I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone else who really liked Raditude, the album from which I Want You To was drawn.


Ensuring everyone on the lawn of a close up of the action, Rivers leaped from the stage during Troublemaker to run a lap of the entire venue, with the energy of arena divas like Pink or Gwen Stefani.  Other highlights came as the time machine passed through the territory of the Make Believe and green self-titled albums, with Beverly Hills and Island In The Sun.  It seemed a shame that it was a featured album show, because a longer hits set could have included songs sadly omited this evening, like Keep Fishin’ and I’m Your Daddy.  Never the less, the hits set gave way to an interlude filled with a slide show of the bands career, with live narration including anecdotes from the long touring history.

In the past 18 months, I’ve seen Good Charlotte, Wheatus, Saves The Day and Dashboard Confessional all cover Weezer’s debut album to some degree, but as soon as the simultaneous jolt of beat, riff and vocal kicked off My Name Is Jonas, I could tell that original would be best.  What followed was a flawless – if at times too stringent – rendition of a classic album.  It was when the band deviated from the format of the album tracks that they were at their finest: an even more powerful arena-rock styled Say It Ain’t So, a key-laced Buddy Holly were highlights.

Hearing the first album, along with a sample of previous albums, live for the first time left the audience wanting more, and trying to calculate how many years it might be before Weezer are back in town to play their green album.

Give me the people who know all the lyrics…
September 20, 2012

As one of the few people I know to still not only purchase albums, but also buy them on CDs, it may come as a surprise for people to learn that I was actually an early adopter of MP3 players, being the proud owner of one of the early models – a stylishly shaped, no-name number – which connected to the computer via the printer port.  I also downloaded a lot of MP3 songs in those days too.  Most of them were the follow-up singles to radio tracks from bands I’d just heard of and kind of wanted to buy the CD, but couldn’t justify on the strength of one song.  This lead me to some great albums… Liam Lynch’s Fake Songs, The New Radicals’ Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too, and the self-titled debut album by Wheatus, long with its follow-up Hand Over Your Loved Ones.

When I bring up these well-rounded, perfectly varied albums in conversation, it always ends with someone coming to the eventual realisation ‘Oh, you mean that band with that one song, right?’  It also means that it is unlikely I’ll be able to find someone to take to the show when the artists tour.

Nevertheless, when Wheatus announced a tour, I rushed to the Corner box office the moment the tickets went on sale.

Wheatus,
Corner Hotel, September 19, 2012

I was surprised to see a queue around the block to get in.  Despite this, once the doors had opened, no one was exactly bustling to get to the front of the stage for local support Masketta Fall.  They played a good pop-punk style set, and seemed quite well-known and liked amongst the audience.  A cover of the Killers’ Mr. Brightside was interesting, but didn’t have the dramatic highs and lows it seemed destined to.  Their original tracks, particularly those based on a reggae-style beat, would have been enough to make it a good set without the cover, and show the band to be someone worth looking further into.

Touring support Nova & The Experience were also a pleasant surprise.  I hadn’t heard of them before, but they sounded a little like Angus and Julia might if they ever team up with bis.  The group took to the stage backed by a series of video clips aligned with their performance, but they already had my attention when I saw the stage set up with several guitars, multi-coloured effects pedals, and a piano.  The band may well have overtaken High Side Driver in the running for the Support Act Of The Year award, particularly when they played a song called Mr 95 which could be commissioned as the theme song to the television version of my life, should such a production ever be created.


When Wheatus took to the stage, it was complete with keyboards, back-up chanteuses, and something aptly described by front-man Brendan B. Brown as ‘the bass instrument.’  He wore an MC Lars t-shirt – though the man himself was sadly absent as support on the Australian tour – and reignited the slowly mellowing applause by teasing with a couple of strains from Teenage Dirtbag, before announcing a request-based set that started with Truffles and filled the first half of the show with songs from the band’s self-titled debut record.  It was reassuring to hear a variety of songs being called out other than the band’s hit, but there were some people – even at the front of the stage – asking how anyone knew all the words to the other songs.

Whilst it was great to have heard so many non-album favourites played live, it was clear that BBB knows that his band is remembered by most as a one-hit-wonder. A skilful cover of My Name Is Jonas was perhaps a play on the fact that anyone who brags to their commercial-radio loving friends about their Weezer ticket purchase is inevitably asked ‘You mean that band who played Teenage Dirtbag, right?’  Or maybe I’m reading too much into it, and they just played it because it is a great song.


A request for Punk Ass Bitch was sadly turned down on the grounds that ‘our bass player who we fired wrote that,’ and I wondered if that was perhaps the reason other classics like American In Amsterdam and The Song That I wrote When You Dissed Me were also absent.  Nevertheless, pitch-perfect renditions of London Sun and Wannabe Gangster more than made up for it, and Fair Weather Friend gave the backup singers a chance to show off their own enviable talents.  Even the uninitiated couldn’t resist but to jump around for BMX Bandits.

But it was clear that there was one song that everyone in the room wanted to hear, and it didn’t take long once Teenage Dirtbag started for most of the crowd to jump up on stage and re-enact the scenes from so many decades-old video clips and bounce around unhindered with the band.  That experience in itself may have been well worth the cost of admission, let alone the bonus of shouting along to songs I didn’t think I’d get to hear live again without buying a ticket to New York City.

Originally published in Buzz Magazine.

Misfits…
December 6, 2011

Considering the proliferation of Misfits t-shirts that exist in outfits no matter where one is, it was a surprise to find tickets still available for sale at the door of the HiFi Bar only hours before the band were due on stage.

Misfits,
The HiFi Bar, Melbourne, December 3, 2011

Apparently the night’s support bands had been chosen via an online poll, and set times listed Bellusira, Hatchet Dawn and a group called Electrik Dynamite, playing in that order.  I hadn’t heard of Electrik Dynamite, but the set times seemed a little confused, given the strong following Hatchet Dawn have in Melbourne, and that they seem a perfect match for the headliner.  That said, Electrik Dynamite quickly won my affection immediately by unashamedly wearing their own merchandise and by having a dedicated keyboard axe player.  They played a catchy 80s-style hard rock that would fit perfectly on the soundtrack to a horror movie house party, and jumped around the stage with an enviable energy.

Electrik Dynamite’s set seemed like it was over before it had really had a chance to get started, and as soon as they left the stage the dance floor started filling with a varied crowd vying for prime viewing position.  It was a longer than usual stretch waiting for the stage to be set for the Misfits, with much talk of the double-bass drum set up.  It was the first time I have been in an audience who have felt compelled to cheer for a roadie simply because he picked up an instrument.  It was not undeserved, though, with the roadie playing a few chords on Jerry Only’s customised bass guitar, complete with a cyclops skull on the headstock, and he received another round of applause as he finished the test and lowered the guitar respectfully to its podium.

The audience reaction wasn’t matched until the Misfits themselves emerged on stage, coated in their trademark make-up, Jerry clad in a spiked vest, Dez Cadena wearing a full length leather jacket that I decided I wanted when I saw the skeleton motif printed on the back.  They launched into a string of unfamiliar songs from their current album, which sounded great – and allayed the fear I always have seeing old bands that they might suck – but it wasn’t until they dove into classics like Bullet and Static Age that the audience really went wild.

Misfits at the HiFi in MelbourneAnd it really was the dream crowd.  A sad truth is that an audience can make or break an otherwise admirable live show.  It only takes a little bit of consistent shoving or macho posturing to cast a shadow over a perfect performance.  Luckily, everyone had come out on this night to show the performance the respect it deserved, and ensured everyone felt truly a part of the experience.  The crowd surged and pulsed at just the right moments, never more evident than when Jerry teased into the microphone ‘I want your skulls…,’ to be answered in unison:  ‘I need your skulls!’

Other highlights included American Psycho and more crowd participation with Dig Up Her Bones, and after a brief break, the band returned to the stage for an encore that slowed down only enough to slide in a delicious rendition of Saturday Night.  It was a set and an encore sadly devoid of any of the covers from the Project 1950 album, but for a band with over thirty years of history, it was a good selection of songs (although I doubt anyone would have complained if I Turned Into A Martian had been slipped in somewhere.)

If anyone was waiting for a second encore, Jerry Only made clear that it was not forthcoming in the most exciting way short of smashing his guitar into pieces against the stage.  In a single, dynamic gesture, he ripped the strings from his guitar as the other members of the band tossed drum sticks and guitar picks into the audience on their way backstage.  As the ominous strains of horror music soundtracks rose over the PA, Jerry jumped off the stage, bypassing the screaming young vixens spilling tattooed cleavage over the barrier in front of the stage and stalked directly to the woman standing in front of me.

An older woman, perhaps in her mid-fifties, she had seemed a little out of place throughout the show – not due to her age, because she was far from alone in that bracket – but because she was wearing a sensible red blouse and conservative slacks, a plain handbag draped over one shoulder that was sure to contain anything she might need for an emergency.  Nowhere to be found were the extremes of make-up, spiked hair, and costumes that were de rigueur that evening.  Nevertheless, she’d been jumping and pounding her fists in the air throughout the night.  Jerry stopped in front of her, and flashed a rare smile, then gave the woman a hug and a kiss, to much deserved applause from even the girls who had been begging for cleavage signatures.

As the scary music continued, so did Jerry, prowling around the whole venue, posing for photos and shaking hands for as long as it took.  Meanwhile, his antics encouraged members of other bands to do the same, and, as I browsed the merchandise stand – surprisingly devoid of the iconic skull-motif t-shirts – an elaborate member of Hatchet Dawn handed me an autographed poster.  I was still reeling from an unexpectedly passionate kiss from Jerry Only and the gig itself, so may have thanked him more ferociously than was called for.

Regurgitator’s New Stuff…
September 1, 2010

The sounds of explosions shake the seats and walls of the Sydney Opera House. The roar of racing motorcycles echos through the iconic venue for the first time in its history.  Over 1,400 people watch on as scenes of gang warfare are fought out before them.  And dwarfed beneath this action, a set of musicians.

‘That was the Akira project,’ says Quan Yeomans of eclectic local favourites Regurgitator.  The project, a part of the first Graphic Festival – a series of events exploring the medium of comic books and graphic novels – saw the band reworking and performing live the score to the classic Japanese anime film, Akira.  ‘The film was a masterpiece.  They spent ten years creating the damn thing, so you can imagine how long must have been spent on the soundtrack – the to-ing and fro-ing, and changing arrangements to get things exactly right.  It’s amazing.  And we thought, “What the hell are we going to do?”

Although Quan typically speaks in a chilled out monotone, it is easy to detect the enthusiasm for the project seeping through when he talks about Akira.

‘It was an arduous task.  Sitting down to work on it was daunting.  It worked out really well though.  We started with trying to do something completely different.  We watched the film, and every time we heard something, we tried the opposite of what we’d heard.  We spent two months sitting in front of ProTools and watching the film over and over again.  It was so tiring, even though the finished work seemed quite simple when we played it all the way through.  We’d love to play it again, though.’

With both anime and Australian music fans left reeling from the spectacle of Regurgitator’s Akira remix (‘They don’t even get that many people in there for opera!’ noted Quan,) the founding creative forces behind the band have found themself living in the same city for the first time in years, and free to develop new music.

‘Ben [Ely] and I are living in the same city for the first time in several years,’ Quan explains the parallel moves to Melbourne, and returning to recording music after producing the live score.  He says that the plan now is ‘to focus on the band as a music producing band.  It’ll take a little while to get back into the swing of things.’

In the meantime, Regurgitator have released Distractions online, a collection of the songs that have been produced since the return to Melbourne.  The songs’ styles range from pitch-shifted electro-vocals, punk-rock ditties about web-trends, and bubbly romance fantasies.

The songs are now available online, and Regurgitator fans will be quick to notice that there is no discernable style or connection running through the four songs.  Quan says that this is the result of having ‘shed some of the old habits of a “band,”‘ one of the benefits of now being signed to an independent label.

‘We’re trying to focus a little bit more on what we want to get out of what we do, and what the best artistic approach is.  We’re not going to focus on albums anymore.  We’re on an independent label, so why the hell should we have to adhere to this creative paradigm that’s been around for 80 or 90 years and just doesn’t seem appropriate these days.  I know that I haven’t bought and album, or even listened to one from start to finish in years.  It is just not the way that 90 percent of the young listeners are listening to or acquiring music.’

It is a trend which will suit the ‘Gurge, and allow them to return to their musical roots.

‘In a sense, it is more like when we first started out,’ Quan reflects. ‘The band started because we made a demo tape at a School of Audio Engineering course that I was doing.  Four-tracks is what I used to use all the time to create.  For those last four songs that we did, we went into a studio for the first time in years and felt completely uncomfortable.  Listening to it, it sounds cool.  It sounds like a band playing.  But I don’t think it’s sonically superior to anything we could have done by ourselves.  We both have decent spaces here and ways of recording, so we can use that.  That’s kind of in keeping with the spirit of the band.  Essentially, if you look at us, we are kind of like a punk band who got into pop music then became stupidly popular.’

Looking forward, the band plan on releasing more music via their soon-to-be-updated website, with songs uploaded as they are completed.  Compilations of favourites may then be released on CD and vinyl to tie in with tours.  This new style of releasing music will be a load off Quan’s shoulders.  ‘We won’t have to sit around figuring out how to try to list them.  It was always one of the pains of being in this band.  The music has always been a bit all over the place.’

Coinciding with the website update and release of the Distractions recordings, Regurgitator will be touring nationally, avoiding the consistency of sound which Quan identifies with touring for the last album, Love and Paranoia.

‘I think we’re going to avoid that, and go back to a more eclectic kind of thing.  We’re really interested in bringing some visual elements, particularly after doing the Akira thing.  Also I explored quite a bit of that with my solo shows, just because I felt completely naked on stage on my own.  I needed something happening behind me to make it a bit more entertaining.’

Beyond the tour, Regurgitator hope to delve more into other artistic projects, as they did with Akira.  Since their last album the group have collaborated on a dance performance called Rock Show in Brisbane, and other projects they’ve worked on independently.  Quan notes that he and Ben ‘tend to do a lot of different things now.  Ben is a really good painter… I like to do my animation and theatre work.’

Of course, the most prominent performance art piece would be 2004’s Band in a Bubble, which saw Regurgitator locked in a glass dome in Federation Square to record their album Mish Mash!  Quan says that it was ‘the ultimate version of making ourselves uncomfortable,’ and ‘a bizarre experience.’

In the end, though, he decides that ‘the band is this lumbering, creative beast that does whatever it turns its focus to.’

For the time being, that will be the September tour, with supports from Rat vs. Possum and Japan’s DJ Krush, and the release of new songs via http://www.regurgitator.net.

The Spazzys…
September 12, 2009

‘We gave them little instruments like ukuleles, and let them smash the shit out of some tambourines, and just go crazy for 20 minutes straight.’

It may have been a long time since we’ve heard new material from Melbourne pop-punkers the Spazzys, but that doesn’t mean the band haven’t kept busy.  It is almost five years since their debut album Aloha! Go Bananas produced a string of catchy sing-along singles and made the girls a major festival draw-card.  A new album and more festival shows are now on the horizon, but in the meantime, the Spazzys have kept themselves occupied with, amongst other things, appearances at kindergartens.

‘Ally’s started a business called Kiddy Rock,’ band-mate Kat Spazzy explains enthusiastically.  ‘I went with her on Friday.  She goes around to kindergartens and does music classes for all the little kids.  It’s awesome!  We get them all fired up, and then the teachers have to come along and give them their milk and settle them down.’

Suggestion that the group’s involvement with Ally’s Kiddy Rock workshops could lead to a Spazzys album for children were initially dismissed, but Kat conceded that it wasn’t too far-fetched an idea.

‘Children’s songs are pretty cute,’ Kat ponders.  ‘And Ally’s been writing some songs for children.  The Spazzys won’t go that way, but we might start a side band.’

Aside from these performances, the Spazzys have also boosted their profile and made some famous, and sometimes unlikely friends playing high profile support slots.  Kat boasts that Blondie played a Ramones song dedicated to the Spazzys, and that ‘Debbie Harry would do our make-up for us!’ Meanwhile, playing as Marilyn Manson’s seemingly mismatched support act was seen as an opportunity to reach new fans.

Marilyn Manson was wild,’ Kat recalls.  ‘He was crazy.  He never took off his sunglasses at any point at all!  But he loved us, and he was the one who asked us to do the tour.  All those little Goths in the crowd were so funny!  I thought they were going to raid the stage!  A lot of them really, really hated us, but we came out in capes and stuff, and hopefully a few of them liked us by the end.’

It was playing with Marilyn Manson that lead to what Kat describes as ‘pretty much the best show ever,’ playing as Marky Ramone’s backing band during his local tour.

‘He’s our hero, and we love him,’ Kat gushes like a lovelorn school girl.  ‘His promoter had heard about us during that tour and asked us to play with him.  That’s how we first met, and we’re still in touch.  Then he did our film clip with us!’

But the Spazzys became celebrities in their own right, both locally and abroad.  The band have developed a following overseas, and particularly in Japan, where Kat notes that ‘there is definitely an underground pop-punk following, just for our kind of genre.’  The Spazzys have recently released an EP to the Japanese market, and say ‘we absolutely loved Japan, and really want to go back.’

Meanwhile, in Australia, their album charted well, and songs were voted into Triple J’s Hottest 100, and the girls were invited to appear in television appearances, Kat on RockWiz and Ally on Spicks and Specks.

‘I went out the back in the green room and asked the producer for some butcher paper,’ Kat laughs.  ‘I made these massive signs… “Go Ally!” and stuff like that.  So I was in the audience with those and a six pack being loud and ridiculous.’

The girls wouldn’t describe their on-field performance in June’s Community Cup football match as ‘loud and ridiculous,’ though, preferring to quote the title on the medal won by Ally – ‘Most Rockingest Rockdog.’  The Spazzys are veterans in the Rockdogs, a team made up of local musicians who play in the annual Cup raising money for charity.  The mere mention of the Community Cup reveals a competitive streak in the girls’ otherwise light-hearted manner.

‘I hate those Megahertz!’ Kat proclaims, in reference to the Rockdogs’ traditional rivals, the Megahertz, a team made up community radio volunteers.  ‘I don’t really care about football at all – only my Rockdogs.’

After these other projects, the Spazzys say that they ‘are really happy to be concentrating on the music again, and putting out music, playing shows and making more music.’  Their new album will be called Dumb Is Forever, and is currently being finalised and is expected to be released early next year.  In the meantime the Spazzys hope to release a song or two.

‘We recorded it years ago,’ Kat says, recalling being in the studio shortly before the girls went on the road with the 2007 Big Day Out tour.  ‘We’ve made a lot of changes to it since then.  We’re really, really, really excited to finally get it out.’

Prior to the album launch, the girls are reintroducing themselves to touring at the inaugural Blueprint Festival in Ararat, 2.5 hours outside of Melbourne.  They join Jebediah, The Panics, Blue King Brown and Tim Rogers on a varied bill that spans a whole weekend.

‘We never totally disappeared,’ Kat refers to the absence of new music releases since Aloha, Go Bananas.  ‘We’ve been playing all around Melbourne.  No one can stop us from playing.  We kept on playing here and there.  We’ve done a lot of club shows, which I love, but I like a big audience to mix it up a bit.’

‘We haven’t done a festival in 2009,’ Kat surmises that the Blueprint Festival will be the first time the band has played before such a large audience in a year.  ‘This will be our first one.  I’m really looking forward to it.  It’s been a long time.’

But, when noticing that campsites are still available for the festival, Kat notes that the Spazzys have certain standards they adhere to, and warns concert promoters that the band ‘like to put our feet up and have champagne, like rock stars do.  I’m not camping!  I’m a girl!’

 The Blueprint Festival runs from September 18-21 in Ararat, Victoria.  Tickets are for sale now, along with full line-up and other information, from http://www.blueprintfestival.com/.  Bus services are provided from Ararat city central.

From Buzz Magazine, September 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.

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.