Deerhoof is here to stay: An interview with Greg Sauniers

Labelled under the list of most progressive and influential bands of the 1990’s and you’ll find Deerhoof among there. With propulsions of guitar riffs, electronics, spectred by innovative drum patterns, the San-Francisco based band has been the front-runner for influencing profound bands such as TV on the Radio and the Dirty Projectors.

We speak to head honcho and drum wizard Greg Sauniers on how it feels to be on the road, innovative drumming and their previous tour in Singapore.

Hey Greg! You guys have just finished touring Bangkok and Japan as part of your Asian tour. How’s it been so far?
The Bangkok part isn’t finished yet, unless we played it last night and I have forgotten but actually I doubt it. Usually I am very good at remembering a show we just played. I can even remember very old shows, like when we played Singapore 2 1/2 years ago. The fried rice backstage. The craft fair. The red t-shirts of the student security. The frowning Australian couple who said our soundcheck was disturbing their sleep. The soft rock band playing covers in the restaurant right next to the stage. The offers of marriage from beautiful audience members. In other words, the tour is going great.

Deerhoof has an impressive record, having released 11 studio albums throughout your career. How important do you think it is to stay relevant to the original direction you started out from?
For Deerhoof it’s more important to try to be irrelevant. Our fans like to be surprised, which is why we love them. Every new thing tells another part of the story, so it’s relevant automatically.

It’s been two years since the release of Breakup Song. Any plans on releasing new material soon?
We have finished a new album, last night at 2am, which is why I am a little bit tired and maybe my answers are a little funny. It is about the death of financialization and it will be coming out November 4th.

Thats quite a piece of news! You’ve been labeled as quite a sizeable influence on artists such as TV On The Radio and Dirty Projectors. How does it feel to be cited as an influence to these bands?
It is not our main goal to influence other musicians, but I do remember how important some music has been to me in my life, ever since I was a kid, and still today. I remember the first time I heard the Rolling Stones, the first time I heard Stravinsky. Everything changed for me at huge moments like that. I’m so happy if there are musicians who have moments like that with Deerhoof.

Let’s talk a bit about drumming. Your drumming is an off-kilted, off timing sense of rhythm – it’s almost like a lead instrument in its own sort. What are the limitations and advantages of playing in an “unorthodox” way?
The advantage is I love playing the drums. To me it’s not so unorthodox. Sometimes when I play drums for other people, like in an orchestra for example, it’s so much weirder having to play without ever changing the rhythm, to play like a machine. It’s like I have to keep reminding myself not to be musical.

So I think you’re right that in Deerhoof we all play like we are the lead instrument, or at least we want each other to be free and wild and squeeze the most out of the song and have a musical conversation. We have been playing for years and it is more exciting than it has ever been. We feel like we’re just starting to understand how to play together.

Any heads up for the gig happening in Singapore? We’re excited to have you back!
I am always telling people back home how much I loved Singapore, the music fans, the incredible mix of people, the palm trees, how easy it was to chat to people and make jokes and laugh. It’s going to be a great concert.

By Evan Woon

Deerhoof will perform at *SCAPE The Ground Theatre with The Trees And The Wild on 19 June.

Tickets can be purchased here.

JamIt!: Giving Myanmar musicians a stage

It’s 7pm on a hot, humid summer night in Yangon at a faded bowling alley on the outskirts of town. Out in the parking lot (a loose term as it’s overgrown with grass and weeds) gather forty Burmese youth dressed in everything from short skirts and heels to tight black ripped jeans with punk-inspired t-shirts. Inside, the tireless owner is scrambling to get some air-conditioning units kickstarted and bands are milling about with lukewarm beers. The doors open, the fans pay USD3 to enter, and the music kicks off. Eight bands play sets of 20-45 minutes each and the styles
could not be more varied, from a Portishead-inspired duo to a three-piece hip hop act with plenty of rock in between.

Welcome to JamIt!, a year-old project started by musicians Eaiddhi and Ye Ngwe Soe to provide opportunities for local unsigned, underground bands to play live. The concept was inspired by days when the two friends, in their younger days, would sit out on the street at night and strum their guitars with friends — but this time one notch up by choosing a more public location and inviting friends.

As Eaiddhi tells us, “We got this idea just to perform in public places like Kan Daw Gyi park with our acoustic guitars and invite some friends. It’s more like a party. Just like the old times when we were young playing guitars in the streets and that’s what all the young Myanmar people do.”

Since that first gathering a year ago, JamIt! has quickly grown from its humble roots. The first show drew just twenty fans but recently shows are drawing a crowd of around 300. The frequency of the shows has increased and the variety of acts is growing. Myanmar fans are taking note and grateful for the opportunities that JamIt! is creating.

One fan, Py Soe, stated that, “There are many underground bands in Myanmar… and I think they should get the chance to play to an audience. JamIt! can give them what they want.”

The challenges of organising concerts are immense: there are few venues in Yangon willing to host live bands, power supplies are irregular, sound equipment is expensive, sponsorship is virtually impossible to come by and getting the word out to new potential fans is tough. Yet Eaiddhi and Ye Ngwe Soe power on and the hard work is certainly paying off. One cannot help but be impressed with the quality of what they are putting together.

When asked about what it takes to stay motivated, Eaiddhi replies: “Despite the frustrations, I love doing it and I really enjoy it. Me and Ye Ngwe Soe always talk about this: when we’re growing old, we still don’t want to go and hear this same old shit. There’s gotta be places and bands we can go and see for real, good music. This is part of our dream too. One band can’t create scene, if we are together this is something.”

JamIt! is just one example of the growing push by the younger generation to promote creativity and free expression. The arts scene has taken off and the entertainment sector is liberalising and expanding — compared to three years ago, Yangon’s events calendar has exploded. New multi-purpose spaces such as Pansodan SceneDeitta Gallery and TS-1 are hosting theatre, music and exhibits while organisations such as ‘FAB’, an LGBT events group, and Myanmore, an online portal, are driving the social scene.

Whilst some of the ‘new’ Myanmar projects aim for financial benefits, JamIt! simply wants to promote talented musicians to more fans. They sum it up by saying, “None of these underground bands become rich from playing music. We are not trying to make money but we need money to make music. We hope that if can make more gigs happen, the bands could get more and more fans and it would also be a place to get more albums out.”

By Anne Cruickshanks

Tully On Tully: To Asia and beyond

Tully On Tully are making waves wherever they go, and they’re not afraid to get out and try their brand of indie-pop on new audiences. This has taken them from Australia to the Philippines, to Canada, New York, and back to Singapore, and all in a twelve-month window.

Hitting Singapore at the end of May for Music Matters, Tully On Tully treated audiences to shows at both Crazy Elephant and on the Fountain Stage at Clarke Quay. Apparently, opening for K-Pop Night Out (the festival’s Korean showcase) brought back memories from their 2013 visit to Singapore.

“We played a show at Home Club (last year) but we got to come see some K-Pop. I remember walking down a street and all of a sudden there was a huge crowd of people like just in front of me, and I realized that we were walking behind this huge K-Pop star,” says vocalist Natalie Foster, “We were just there being like, ‘What? What’s happening?’”.

“You hear about that kind of stuff happening to other people… but we never thought it’d happen to us”

The Internet has played a pretty significant role in the band’s story of going international, with their first foray into the wide world being their 2013 trip to Manila for Wanderland Festival almost exactly one year ago. There, they played alongside established acts including The Temper Trap and Nada Surf.

The story goes that the band received an email from Stephanie Uy [the 23-year-old President of Karpos Multimedia and brains behind the festival] who had heard of the band from her sister. Finding their videos online, she got in contact, and the rest, they say, is history. “It’s sick,” says sometime piano teacher and Tully On Tully keys player Pete Corrigan. “You hear about that kind of stuff happening to other people — being discovered on YouTube or something — but we never thought it’d happen to us”.

Turns out that the Wanderland opportunity was the beginning of an exciting journey for the band. “It was a huge stepping stone for us, to be able to play internationally,” Corrigan continues, telling us that “it was a huge learning curve as well, in terms of organisation and getting ourselves ready”. Before this opportunity, though Tully on Tully was well educated on hitting the Australian road, only guitarist Greg Rietwyk had travelled internationally for gigs.

“…when they go out, they don’t wanna go clubbing; they want to go and watch a band”

And it certainly wasn’t overnight success for the band. Formed in 2011, they’d spent two years playing in and around their hometown of Melbourne (Australia), independently releasing their debut EP ‘Weightless’ and supporting the likes of local artists Tigertown and Whitley.

They attribute their success, and the success of other Melbourne bands, to the vibrancy of the independent music scene in the city. “Honestly in Melbourne, I think it’s a lot to do with all the venues around town. Also, I suppose, just Melbournites in general – they just accept Melbourne as a place of supporting the independent music scene,” says Corrigan.

“There’s a whole subculture of people who really thrive on that; who, when they go out, they don’t wanna go clubbing; they want to go and watch a band”. Both Corrigan and Foster believe that the x-factor that other cities lack is the supportive community of artists, who are both the producers of, and the supporters of, the arts there.

“It’s good having another voice in there to kind of balance us out and also throw in ideas that we never would’ve considered by ourselves”

But that’s not to say that there aren’t positive factors to getting out of Australia; the enthusiasm of crowds in South East Asia is one of the draw cards for Tully On Tully. “It’s great, we love it,” Foster says. “It’s almost like everyone is so much more receptive here. Like they’re so open and wanting to hear new music and stuff, whereas in Australia they’re a little more reserved.”

Recently, Tully On Tully have been making the most of being in demand overseas. In the last month alone, they’ve played shows in Toronto for Canadian Music Week, New York and Singapore. “It’s been kind of a whirlwind month for us!” Corrigan says.

And there’s more to come. With a new EP on the way, things are only heating up for the band. Whilst ‘Weightless’ was engineered by Rietwyk, the band are now looking for a change. For the first time, they’ve worked with a producer, and with positive results.

“Sometimes I think when it was just us working together it was easier to get on each other’s nerves and disagree,” says Foster. “It’s good having another voice in there to kind of balance us out and also throw in ideas that we never would’ve considered by ourselves”.

Embracing the new seems to be working in Tully On Tully’s favour.

By Eleanor Turnbull

Sidney York: Keeping unconventional cool

Last Saturday at Music Matters Live with HP 2014, Canadian act Sidney York gave a blistering performance at the Fountain Stage, armed with unconventional instruments (a bassoon, anyone?) sliced over catchy tunes and pop sensibilities.

These girls, with a killer and refreshing attitude to boot, just might be the next big thing in Canada — but don’t be too quick to compare them to their more famous Canadian counterparts Tegan and Sara, or even an Emily Haines-fronted Metric.

We sat down with Brandi Sidoryk and Krista Wodelet of Sidney York before their set, and talked about famous Canadian people, their insanely fun music videos, and their latest record, <3s (Hearts).

Hey Sidney York! You’re from Canada, the home to all things musical and great. Any famous friends to date?
Famous friends [laughs]? I guess it depends, because the acts that we think are big, aren’t that big internationally. You could be really good in Canada, but not so big in the rest of the world, or you could be really good internationally and no one’s heard of you in Canada. We’re friends with these bands, Mother Mother and The Odds, who are huge in Canada.

“We didn’t mean to write a breakup record, but as we were writing for the album, both of us were going through really tough breakups unexpectedly”

Let’s talk about your newest album, <3s (Hearts). What is the inspiration and meaning behind the album?
It was a breakup record. We didn’t mean to write a breakup record, but as we were writing for the album, both of us were going through really tough breakups unexpectedly. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t help but write that shitty break up song [laughs].

We like to have a lot of fun on stage and we don’t like to take ourselves too seriously, so even if the lyrics are dark on this album, it’s not often found in the music. It’s quite a big contrast between the dark lyrics and the upbeat, pop-y music — we like that contrast because it leaves a inner meaning for people to listen a little deeper. It’s really fun to listen to at first, but once you get into the record and  listen to the songs a couple of times, you’ll realise that Krista and I were kind of messed up [laughs]!

Your music is really interesting, something under the umbrella of indie… and pop, but then there’s also this certain edgy vibe to it. What genre would you classify your music as?
I would call ourselves indie pop. We’re the indie pop musicians that listen to those indie pop acts, but we love St. Vincent and we want a little bit of that dirt in there too. I would say we’re schizophrenic indie pop [laughs].

With two females fronting the band, do you get compared to any other artists?
I think we’ve gotten compared to Tegan and Sara, just because we’re both Canadian and duo-female fronted acts. We’re big Tegan and Sara fans, and we’re happy for the comparison, but we definitely have some differences musically. We’ve been told that we’ve been quite similar to Metric as well, or a happy Fiona Apple; Katy Perry meets PJ Harvey, or a new-age The Go Gos. Krista and I are the dorkiest popstars you’ll ever meet.

“…we’re schizophrenic indie pop”

Your music videos are amazingly fun! Who comes up with the concept for the videos and do you think they convey the actual spirit of the band?
We have hired a number of specific directors, mostly from the same production company in Vancouver that we work with. We are really involved in concepting [the ideas] and we love it.

More times than not, we come to the table with an idea that we’ve already gotten attached to and we say, “Can you direct this music video with this idea?” and usually they say, “You’re crazy, absolutely not!” and then a week later, they’ll say, “Okay, yeah we can do this.”

Oh, and for this new record, we’ll be doing a music video for every song on the album.

Oh right, so you guys are pulling a Beyoncé?
Exactly! Except that we’re less of a surprise, we let everybody know what we’re doing.

[youtube width=”450″ height=”340″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suT_q_kVuCI[/youtube]
By Evan Woon

Check out Sidney York’s crowdfunding campaign for new album <3s here.

The Horrors: Moving further ahead

Emerging from the Southend scene in early 2007 with their critically acclaimed debut album Strange House, The Horrors have since relocated to London and, in recent years, settled into their own studio, recording their last two albums independently. Two days shy of their first performance at Austin Psych Fest, I spoke with the brooding frontman, Faris Badwan, digging deep into the creative process of their latest release (which took a full fifteen months to make).

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CN0jkdTvl9s[/youtube]

 

Luminous, the band’s fourth full-length album, is a collection of glittery synth motifs along with elevated upbeat tempos. It is in stark contrast to the gothic, organ heavy, shouty tunes coupled with those aggressive stage antics the band was notorious for at the beginning. They’ve definitely matured drastically.

The band recently performed their first single ‘I See You’ at The Fly Awards in February with Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore. Of the collaboration, Badwan says, “instantly, his guitar-playing style… fit in with us and it was cool how quickly he adapted to playing.”

Having wowed critics and music lovers with their Krautrock-inspired improvisations and unique sounds, The Horrors are known for being extremely experimental. With the infinite number possibilities using electronics in this age, it left me wondering; What was the Genesis of this record? “Now we’ve done four albums, you start to realise the patterns that you have to go through, and you know the difficult things you have to go through in the beginning and it kind of always falls in the same way. It takes you a while of constant recording to figure what the album will sound like,” Badwan explains.

“When you’re making anything, whether its art or music or writing, whatever, the hardest thing is knowing when to stop.”

With five multi-talented individuals writing alongside one another, there’s always a high tendency that it would be hard to come together and agree on everything. However in the case for The Horrors, “its more the songs, that kind of decide”, and “not letting ourselves repeat things too much”. Besides allowing the music to fuel the direction, Badwan also notes “I think it is a case about having to trust each others’ taste and sort of let it be a democratic thing. I think between us we can figure it out.” Also “depending on the song, different ones of us take more control.”

Their forward thinking methods have established The Horrors as completely one-of-a-kind. One could easily get blissfully lost in their explorative process of creating new music. When prompted about the band’s aim to create original material for the album, Badwan explained; “Well, I think we do want to create things that are original for us; we want to create things that we feel that we haven’t touched on. It doesn’t mean sort of completely changing genre every record, it just means more about pushing ourselves each time.”

“You want the songs to be the best, it’s not letting ourselves repeat things too much, I figure you have to keep moving forward.”

Having their own studio proved to be greatly beneficial to the process, as they had fewer restraints. “[We were] able to stay however many hours, to be able to make music at all times,” says Badwan. “Its not that we’re deliberately trying to shut the outside world out, the world that we are creating is kind of more exciting for us, and I think that we find it a lot easier to escape in our world than we do in the other one. I think its just more rewarding to be in there.”

Since the beginning, guitarist Joshua Hayward’s physics background has sparked an interest in taking apart guitar pedals, making different modifications to create specific sonic concoctions that has helped push the boundaries of their sound. “He’s always building stuff,” remarks Badwan, “The main thing I think was we had used some (Josh’s probably) pedals, to change the way the sounds fades away and I think its pretty unique for the guitar sounds.”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlFZYk0xgn8[/youtube]

 

Another interesting addition to their plethora of devices used to make Luminous were the Pyramid synths from the ‘Changing The Rain’ music video that their label had made for them. “I suppose that was the most unusual instrument that we had… but it wasn’t the thing that we used the most because it broke really quickly; now its in the workshop,” Badwan explains.

In terms of the future, Badwan has one thing on his mind; “I think the main thing is we really wanna build this band; I don’t know what the band will be doing in 2 years. We’re very bad with conscious planning…” he says. “I guess that’s exciting for us because, especially when we demo songs, we don’t really know how they’re gonna end up turning out. I think that’s one of those things about being in a band.”

Luminous is out on 5 May.

By Maria Clare Khoo

These Brittle Bones: “I don’t want to impress people”

Chris Jones, of These Brittle Bones, often has people tell him that he has an ‘old soul’. “I find it extremely annoying,” sighs the Singapore-based Welsh singer-songwriter, who began putting out records from his bedroom when he was twelve. It does seem that young musicians are frequently subject to this sort of trite remark when they display talent or depth ‘beyond their years’ – it’s practically inescapable.

It’s impressive, no doubt, that at fifteen Chris has risen to some fame within the local scene. “But I don’t want to impress people,” Chris counters, “I want people to be able to connect to my music.” The irony here is that Chris’ age helps to draw attention to his music, yet at the same time has an effect on the way his music is perceived. But he doesn’t want to be patted on the head and praised: he wants a real emotional response.

People might do better to stop reacting so effusively to Chris’ ‘precociousness’, and react instead to the actual music. Take These Brittle Bones’ latest single, ‘Hollow’, which was reworked from an earlier and less polished version. When asked what it’s about, he replies obliquely: “it’s about being in this place, and you can see something but you’re not quite able to get it, something intangible.” What Chris is hinting at is that there’s something deeper, and perhaps symbolic that lies in between the lines – it can’t quite be grasped or verbalised easily, it’s more internally felt, more visceral. “I don’t usually like to give specific meanings, I like to be quite implicit,” he adds. His lyrics are certainly ambiguous, but they are also inexplicably evocative.

For Chris, it’s important for his songs to be affective, to stir up depths, to strike a chord. “You don’t have art because it’s nice, you have art because it makes you feel something,” he states firmly. An avid reader, Chris also has a particular liking for the works of Edgar Allan Poe; whether coincidentally or not, the celebrated Romantic poet was part of a movement which emphasised the value of emotion and intuition in art.

“Sometimes when there’s another person involved, the direction can get confused.”

Three years have gone by since the release of These Brittle Bones’ debut, self-produced EP ‘Leaving the Woods’, and a lot has changed since then: the bedroom recording has been upgraded to studio production, and These Brittle Bones now play live as a band. “I’ve grown up a lot,” Chris muses, “I’ve had a lot of experiences musically, and even socially – to become a better person.” And now that Chris has ‘grown up’, he has developed a very clear idea of what he wants to achieve as a songwriter, how he wants his music to sound, rather than leave it to his producers.

“I want to have full control,” he confesses. “It’s quite selfish… But sometimes when there’s another person involved, the direction can get confused.” Chris is quick to add that “it’s not all the time I’m sure of the meaning myself – it just happens”. The idea is that in order for it to be able to ‘happen’, he needs the creative freedom to be able to explore what he wants on his own, not to always have to be accountable to his collaborators.

It’s because of this that Chris is contemplating going back to what this project originally was, going back to where it all started: self-produced, home recording. “I find that I’m a lot more creative when I’m recording in the bedroom,” he explains, “Rather than in the clinical space of the studio where there’s no windows, no daylight or anything.” But the difference is that Chris is no longer an amateur newly inducted into the world of Garageband; he’s bringing the experiences that he’s accrued in the studio and on stage back to his bedroom. Going further, he’s also planning to draw on the unique advantages of home recording, to “experiment with how you can use background noise and atmospherics to build on to the music, rather than have absolute silence”.

 “You don’t have art because it’s nice, you have art because it makes you feel something,”

It’s an exciting time for These Brittle Bones, with a new approach to production, a new release in the works – he’s even got a new piano in his bedroom. He’s come a long way since he first started out, and now is the time to take things to the next level, to push the envelope and break new ground, to “do something that I’ve never done before”. Chris’ age may disadvantage him in some ways, but ultimately, it’s because he started young that he’s been able to learn more and develop himself more fully as a musician, taking the time to figure out what he wants, and where he wants to go from here.

By Li Shuen Lam

Saskwatch rise up with new album ‘Nose Dive’

On the eve of dropping their new album Nose Dive, Saskwatch member Liam McGorry caught up with Other Sounds to chat about how nine kids went from busking on city corners to sharing an arena with the Rolling Stones.

The past two years since releasing their debut Leave It All Behind have been fuelled by ambition and filled with endless nights of writing and performing. After scorching stages across Australia, the UK and Europe — Nose Dive has proven that the hard work has paid off.

OS: There are nine of you – so the obvious place to start is: how did you all find each other and get together?
L: Most of us met studying music at uni. We used to busk for change outside Flinders St Station in the city once a week on a Friday.

The soul attitude of your music seems to pay homage to the swing and RnB originals. You have managed to give the spirit of the greats an upgrade into the 21st century. How do you manage to entangle these worlds?
I think personally just growing up Melbourne in the mid 2000s and going to see gigs, there were a lot of great ‘soul’-inspired bands. Seeing bands like The Bamboos, The Cat Empire and Dynamo were great because they fused soul with rock ‘n’ roll, blues, funk and many other types of music.

“… There’s been a definite choice to try and write better songs and for it to be really not just a bunch of songs but an album as a whole.”

There seems to be a soul revival in the works on an international scale. Who inspires you?
Daptone Records, Lee Fields, Primal Scream. These days, hearing bands like Alabama Shakes, Dr Dog, The Black Keys, Arctic Monkeys all play soul in their own way is really great. I guess we just listen to lots of music.

The new album is launching today. You have given us a taste by releasing the new single, ‘Born To Break Your Heart.’ The single seems a bit more reserved compared to the previous collection of songs on ‘Leave it All Behind’ which you released in 2012. What can we expect from the album?
I think the album is a bit more well-rounded this time. There’s a bit more light and shade, and a bit more range in terms of emotion, dynamics and sound. I think it takes on some new influences from the bands above, and there’s been a definite choice to try and write better songs and for it to be really not just a bunch of songs but an album as a whole.

[youtube width=”450″ height=”340″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSGlfcP6A2Y[/youtube]

As a collective, you have brought together an eclectic style. Since you have been working together for four years now, have each of you acquired a role in the group?
I think over time, just working together, everyone really has acquired their own role. One person looks after the merchandise, writes songs, organises everyone, brings up a idea about live set… It’s just happened pretty organically, really!

Do you think that Nose Dive reflects the always-evolving maturity of the group?
I think it is something we’re all really proud of, to be honest. I think our main goal really was to just try and make a better album than the last.

Your live shows have been described as “electrifying.” The energy and vibe of the show is always high – how does this translate from the writing and recording process you go through? Are your live shows a reflection of the creative process?
I guess it is pretty similar to shows because most of the time we record live. There will always be little issues that we’ll go back and work on pretty thoroughly, in the rehearsal room and the studio. But I guess the only time it’s different is just the writing itself.

You have quickly become an international name and have graced stages from Meredith and Falls Festival in Australia to BlackisBack in Europe — not to mention Glastonbury, arguably the most recognised festival in the world. What was the highlight of these amazing globe-trotting tours?
There have been many; personally, Meredith for sure. BlackisBack was definitely one as well. To be honest, it’s probably Glastonbury. Its scale is just ridiculous and it was just an incredible experience.

One of our shows there, we started playing on a very small stage halfway through the [Rolling] Stones’ set. We would finish a song and hear the intro to ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ in the distance. It was surreal… and when they finished, we had about 5,000 walk past and stop and watch us. It was amazing.

“… It is also great to come crashing down back to reality with a 6.00am flight home after playing in Perth and go straight to work.”

With such a massive year behind you and the ‘Nose Dive’ tour approaching, how do you all keep your cool during down-time?
I just think we’re all very lucky to have done half of this stuff. But it is also great to come crashing down back to reality with a 6:00am flight home after playing in Perth and go straight to work.

You had your breakout residency at the iconic Cherry Bar in Melbourne. With great venues like The Empress and The Great Britain closing down – and organisations like SLAM (Save Live Music Australia) trying to save them, what do you think the future holds for indie bands in Melbourne?
Obviously more has to be done to save these great venues. At the same time, the future is still bright with new ones like Boney and Shebeen opening up as well. I think Melbourne has such a great musical culture it will be fine. The people can’t do without music.

Looking toward the rest of the year – what does 2014 have in store for Saskwatch?
We’ll be touring Nose Dive a little later in the year around Australia and hopefully getting back overseas as well. And working on the next album too.

By Lucy McPherson

Order ‘Nose Dive’, the new album from Saskwatch, here.

Introducing Whitaker: This bromance will never surrender

Ryan Meeking, Brett Scapin, and Simon Rabl are the charming trio, Whitaker.

After launching their self-titled debut EP in 2012 with producer Nick Didia (famous for his work with Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen and Powderfinger), Whitaker took a transitional journey outside the studio. The result of this wandering was the five-track EP, Wichita. Sincere and drenched with soul, the EP spans from rock to folk, blending the genres without forfeiting the charm of either. Onstage, Whitaker are charismatic with a degree of comfort that comes with being true performers.

We caught up for a beer with the boys from Whitaker to talk about their second album, using the site Pozible and finding the vibe.

OS: You have been described as an acoustic pop-rock band, which is a bit of a mouthful. How would you describe your sound?
R: You could throw so many terms out there that we would agree with. Except heavy metal. Any kind of melodic-based genre will suit us. We have gotten our folky roots back with this EP.

It is quite an emotional album. ‘Hurricane’ and ‘Wichita’ are standout songs — it feels like you have opened a door for your audience into your memories. Where did you draw the inspiration for this EP?
R: Lyrically, the previous work we’ve done and the vibe of songs have been very intense emotionally. This EP was looking at the same emotional content but in a nostalgic way. It was observing what has been processed. It was more of, “this is what has happened and this is me making sense of it,” rather than raw emotion.

“We decided to embrace the vibe instead of worry about imperfections, because they add personality to the songs.”

Can you give me a run-down of the creative process for Wichita?
R: With the songs — I kept them secret and slightly unfinished so that each song itself could grow in the studio with everyone there, in a new environment. Doing it that way meant that we were not locked into traditional roles and the songs got what they needed and what they deserved.

S: Everything before this EP had been worked on until we thought it was perfected. This time around, we would rock up thinking “I don’t know how this will sound today.”

R: It was reactionary. We decided to embrace the vibe instead of worry about imperfections, because they add personality to the songs.

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What was it like parting ways with the studio to record in public spaces?
R: We wanted to move forward from the previous sounds we had achieved.

B: Abbotsford Convent was an experiment. We didn’t know what we would get done there. We used it for vocals and horns. We didn’t want the EP to come together in a sterile recording environment.

R: It would rain and be so loud we couldn’t record. In the studio, you can put on ‘reverb’ to make it sound like you are in a different place. We wanted this to be a natural sound. One of the spaces was a church hall that is now a ballet studio and we did all the drums and bass there.

The energy of the creative process translates to your live performances. Your onstage banter allows the audience to experience the ‘bromance’ of Whitaker. What vibe do you want your shows to achieve?
B: We don’t plan what we say onstage. The songs are serious but we’re not. We’re shallow and stupid and silly.

R: We have always been sensitive to wankiness. We have never wanted to appear as anything other than who we are. You come out with a sad song, but that’s not completely us.

“Crowd funding is not crowd charity. We were not looking for handouts. For everything that people pledged, they were rewarded in tangible ways.”

What was working on your first EP with legendary producer Nick DiDia like?
S: It was mind-blowing. He was the number one guy on our dream producer list. He taught us a lot. He brought us into his family. The sound we achieved there was blockbuster. It sounded enormous. He knew how to put everything together.

R: It was a musician’s dream. When it came to doing this EP, we really had the desire to do something local and grassroots, something that came from where we do.

Your name comes from the book, To War with Whitaker. After almost a decade of creating music together under various titles, how does this one represent where you are now?
R: We’ve been together under a lot of different guises. Part of how we got this far is from turning a page into a new chapter. Whitaker is the unlikely hero of the book. He is just a fat butler. There is a quote where he says, “We shall win this war for the likes of you and I shall never surrender.” He is just so persistent. That is how we feel about us.

B: We are the fat butler.

S: I thought we should be the Fran Dreschers, but there were copyright issues.

Wichita was funded by your fans using the site Pozible. How was the reaction to your project?
R: Massive. We were pretty much at our target in ten days. Crowd funding is not crowd charity. We were not looking for handouts. For everything that people pledged, they were rewarded in tangible ways.

S: Mostly, people received presale tickets for our shows.

Finally, what can your fans expect from you in 2014?
B: Inappropriate banter.

R: A new EP. Hopefully an EP that has pushed our sound somewhere new again and evolved us further.

By Lucy McPherson

Listen to Whitaker’s debut EP Wichita here.

Going international: It’s a Big Scary world

This month marks the worldwide release of Not Art, Big Scary’s second full-length album. With it’s Australian release last year, Not Art has seen Big Scary receive wide recognition for their music, with nominations including triple j Australian Album of the Year, AIR Awards Best Independent Album and Best Independent Release at the ARIAs.

This all culminated in the announcement earlier this month that they’d won the prestigious Australian Music Prize (AMP), beating competition from more than three hundred entries and boasting previous winners like Hermitude, The Jezabels, Cloud Control and The Drones. “We were all so shocked… it’s cool,” says Jo Symes, drummer and one half of the Melbourne-based duo. “We’ve had a bottle of really nice champagne on ice for months. A fan gave it to us as a gift ages ago, and we’ve never had the opportunity to drink it together after something exciting.”

The other half is vocalist Tom Iansek, known for his ‘evocative falsetto’. The pair run their own label, Pieater, along with their manager Tom Fraser and this has been the platform through which they’ve released their two albums, Not Art and 2011’s Vacation. The label also houses Iansek’s side project, Dads, and new recruit Airling.

“The finished product is all ready and it’s just about giving it its best shot overseas…”

It’s not all smooth sailing for the band however – in Australia, they could be regarded a big fish in a small pond. Taking it international is a whole different ball game, with logistics that need to be considered. “We play with four people on stage these days, but we don’t have the dollar bills to bring them to America for this tour,” says Symes. “So we’ve got to do some rehearsal, Tom and I, rearranging the songs again… and then we’ll be rehearsing with a local guy for a week in Seattle before the tour.”

Luckily, the duo have done most of the leg-work for the release already. With their Australian release out of the way, Big Scary get to skip the frantic lead-up. “Its all there,” Symes says. “The finished product is all ready and it’s just about giving it its best shot overseas. We wanted to make sure we would be there to actually play some shows and promote it properly.”

This time round, they’re focusing on the touring aspect – making a priority of the US. “Because we’re independent, we don’t have a million dollars so we’re focusing our resources [there] and we kind of figure if we do have some success in the US, it really pours out to the rest of the world,” says Symes.

“It was a long, long process, and we had no external kind of influence.”

The tour in question kicks off 4 April, with a hardcore schedule entailing 32 shows over 35 days. Unfortunately, this means the trip will be somewhat of a whirlwind, with the band staying in most cities only one night. “We’ve never toured like that so it’s going to be a quick learning curve I think,” Symes explains. They’ve also never explored the US to such an extent, having only briefly visited the US for South by SouthWest back in 2012. “They were really good shows – there were people at shows which we were shocked about. But this will be our first proper American ‘roadtrip’ – you know, we’ve never driven from city to city. I just can’t wait to stop at cheesy roadside diners and get bottomless coffees.”

Not Art itself explores relatively new territory for the band, in terms of inspiration and the process behind it. The recording of Vacation was an efficient affair, Symes says, with little studio time to play around with the tracks. “There wasn’t much room for listening back and stuff and that was quite stressful,” she explains. On the other hand, Not Art was a more gradual project; more “chipping away” at a sound, according to Symes. “It was a long, long process, and we had no external kind of influence.”

The production on the album was taken on by Iansek and mixed by Tom Elmhirst (who has previously worked with artists including Amy Winehouse, Haim & Mark Ronson) all the way from New York. “We were literally sending him the finished songs, recording during the day (his night), and he’d wake up and we’d finally send the next song,” says Symes. “But we needed that deadline to be like, ‘Alright, this is the decision, it has to be this’.”

“All of these facets have nothing really to do with writing a song and shouldn’t have anything to do with writing a song.”

Not Art was influenced heavily by the hip hop genre, and it’s clear when you take a listen. The title itself is a bit less obvious – seeming to take a dig at the hype around music and the industry.  “It means different things to both Tom and I,” Symes explains. “For me, I guess the bottom line is that you know people are going to judge the purpose behind the song, people will just make up a purpose behind the song, and you know it’s going to get reviewed. All of these facets have nothing really to do with writing a song and shouldn’t have anything to do with writing a song, so its trying to forget any of the repercussions of making it, and just making it.”

2014 holds many possibilities for the band, and they’ve got two big priorities for the near future. “Definitely more writing, that’s a huge priority,” says Symes. “I think we’ll try and start getting some songs pieced together and even start recording more material by the end of the year.” They’ve now also got some extra resources thanks to the Australian Music Prize, and they’re already brainstorming ways to put it to good use.

Big Scary are yet to hit our shores as a band, having only visited the continent for a four-city tour of India as part of the Aussie BBQ series in 2012 (though Symes did visit Singapore briefly as a twelve-year-old).  “I hope that winning the AMP means we can do more overseas touring, and hopefully include other regions – Asia and Europe – as opposed to just the USA,” says Symes. I’ll speak for everyone when I say that we hope so too.

By Eleanor Turnbull

 

Telling tales backwards: Outerhope tells their story

Micaela and Michael Benedicto (also known as Mick and Mike) are the siblings behind one of Manila’s more established indie pop acts, Outerhope. They were the first Filipino band to play at Popfest New York and San Francisco in 2012 and their label Number Line Records, which they founded with their brother Bobby in 2010, has gained a significant following worldwide for releasing often intriguing contributions from independent Filipino musicians.

Other Sounds spoke with the duo last week before they played to a packed crowd at Route 196 for the sixth anniversary of another staple of Manila’s fast-growing music scene, Attraction! Reaction!.

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It was in 2004 when Outerhope started. “I’d just quit my job and then I had this idea of putting up a band,” Mick says, “so I asked my brother if we could make an album.” She remembers getting a phone call from Toti Dalmacion of Terno Recordings asking them to perform at one of his monthly events, and it was after this show in October 2005 — their first public gig — that it was decided that their debut, self-released record, Strangely Paired, would be distributed on his label.

Outerhope joined a line-up that included Radioactive Sago Project, then the label’s biggest band (both figuratively and figuratively), and an up-and-coming band called Up Dharma Down, which formed roughly around the same time that they did. “It was an interesting experience,” Mick says of Outerhope’s time at Terno, “we definitely gained more exposure, because before that we were playing just to our friends and a small part of the indie pop scene.” But soon, the band started looking for more independence.

“The bands were great and we got along really well,” Mick tells us, but they left Terno in 2008 just before releasing their second self-produced record, A Day for the Absent. Mike says of that departure, “We’ve always had a strong inclination to do things independently where the only consideration would be what either of us puts on the table, as a duo. We’re extremely grateful for all the love we received from and through Terno but eventually, we just decided to craft a future on our own.”

When asked as to what changed in their songwriting between their first two albums, Mike says, “We really took our time. We thought it out more. He adds that “The songwriting process for the first album was really quick. For the second album, we were more conscious of being pleased with it.” Their third record, the 2012 EP No End In Sight, was also “kinda rushed,” as Mike puts it, as they were about to fly off to play at Popfest. “It always has to sort of be this way,” Mick notes, “we give ourselves a deadline or else we’ll take forever.” Most of the time, each of the siblings composes lyrics on his or her own, but a rare exception was their collaboration on the opening track from No End In Sight, ‘Lost Year’.

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Just after their departure from Terno, the band came over to Singapore to play at Rockin’ the Region at the Esplanade in 2009. “Joff [Cruz], frontman for the Dorques, invited us to play alongside Ciudad,” Mike recalls, and it is one of several shows they would jump straight on the plane for. “There’s so much music scattered across the ether that filtering through it involves a significant amount of chance. In that regard, grabbing opportunities to venture out and play for new audiences can’t require much thought.”

Their biggest foreign gig to date was in 2012, when they were invited to play at the New York Popfest after a friend recommended their music to the festival’s organizers. “It was really fun,” Mick recalls, “but we were a little nervous.” They usually had friends in a room when they were playing here, but this was the first time they played to a roomful of strangers. “There were a couple of people who would come up to us after the show,” says Mike of some of the reactions, “and tell us that our set was their favorite of the whole night.”

“We’re extremely grateful for all the love we received from and through Terno but eventually, we just decided to craft a future on our own.”

As for the duo’s plans to do in the near future, Mike tells us, “It’s a bit overwhelming to project all our ambitions into concrete plans but certainly, there’s a more active and hopefully more informed effort now to reach more people. In the past, we weren’t that great at following through with promotion after releasing new material. Hopefully, this time around, we can do a better job at spreading the word both here and overseas. We would definitely want to shoot videos for a few tracks and try to play more shows.”

By Ren Aguila