New: Astral Skulls – Sexism Sux/Bite My Tongue 7″

Fidgeting synths marrying DIY post-punk for ya Monday morning. It comes from a double A-side 7″ from Melbourne’s Astral Skulls, which is a project that likens itself to Sydney’s own BISTRO, Simo Soo, or Alex Cross.

I say “more political”, when really, I just mean common sense. “Sexism Sux” is a tirade against all things overtly masculine set to plonking synth jabs and fierce guitars. Meanwhile, the flip side builds upon Astral Skulls’ previous potential as Sinister Overlord of the Universe, a mean snarl stretched into three minutes of jagged post-punk.

Astral Skulls launch their 7″ this Friday at Valve Bar, joined by Scattered Order, Skull & Dagger, Yes, I’m Leaving, and Dominic Talarico.

New: Tim & the Boys – Hard Won EP

I was one of the first people to buy the Tim & the Boys cassette EP. That, my friends, is what we in the literary world call “gloating”. It’s not just a thinly-veiled brag, it’s a fully fledged HAR-HAR; I am shoving my superiority in your face with all the subtlety and deftness of a bogan slinging pills at the Teepee Forest at Splendour in the Grass. There is no tactic or strategy – I am a blunt tool, and I am unashamed.

But that’s only because I’m really excited that I own this. It’s a fantastic EP from a new group that Sydney has been in desperate need of, a physical copy of the first taste of a band bound to get the kids excited again. Thudding post-punk, industrial and twisted, Tim & the Boys are Tim Collier, Will Harley (Housewives) and Dan Grosz/Gross (Dead Farmers). Pretty great so far. Then add songs about touching yourself in the supermarket (“I Wait”), a stomping Warriors-Come-Out-to-Playyeeee sequel (“Hear Us”, and a theme song that doubles as the ultimate nihilist anthem. Fuck, that’s alright, isn’t it?

I’m pretty sure the cassette has sold out, but if there are any copies left, they’ll be flying out the door of the Chippendale Hotel Basement this Thursday. Tim & the Boys play a rock show with Orion and Point Being, and it’s FREE. Just gotta sign this thing here. Should be A+.

Interview: Deaf Wish

I saw Deaf Wish a few weeks back at this great little show in Melbourne. The Stevens, EXEK, New War, Totally Mild, and Sugar Fed Leopards all played as well, but Deaf Wish were fucking standouts. Absolutely brilliant. It was loud, unhinged and magnetic, filed somewhere between The Men and Pissed Jeans – intelligent, desperate and gnashing rock ‘n’ roll.

Deaf Wish have their new album ‘Pain’ coming out August 7th. I’m pretty keen for it, and you should be to. So read the interview, peer into the soul of your new favourite band, and then grab a cup for all your drool to spill into until ‘Pain’ gets released.

R: Having been around for so long, how have you perceived changes in Melbourne’s music scene, and to a wider degree, Australia’s?

DW: Heckling has almost disappeared. Ten years ago I would look around the room and see the big personalities and just make a mental sidenote in preparation. So when they arked up I was ready. Mick’s here- he fucked a tiling job in Werribee on Wednesday, got him covered. Damo’ll probably fire one off, he drove into a parked car last weeeknd. It was part of the pre-game, make sure you go onstage armed up. Nowadays they just clap and whistle. I look at the stage floor and think: “What strange hell is this??”

R: It’s really hard to pinpoint or pigeonhole  you guys, especially on earlier records. Has unpredictability been a constant for Deaf Wish?

DW: Bunch of freaks jammed in a room for no real reason except to see what happens. Did you ever have one of those children’s science kits that have a picture of 8 years in lab coats curiously looking into a test tube? You open them up and just mix everything together trying to make something explode and then it does and you’ve burnt your face off and eaten magnesium? That’s Deaf Wish.

R: You all contribute vocals and songs to Deaf Wish – has that caused tension or has it worked as a positive, making the band multi-limbed?

DW: Multi-limbed like a Voltron! Cats for arms and cats for legs. No tension at all. It’s just the way it’s always been for us. No one is the boss, we all have a go.

R: How has recently reconvening in Melbourne affected the band?

DW: It’s cold here. Winter is long and dark and can make you sad. We love Melbourne. We have trams and footy ovals and no fucking sun for 4 months.

R: The first two songs from ‘Pain’ are super short – what is it about a simple, brutal song that makes you write that way?

DW: Rationing ideas. If a song has 3-4 changes, hey man! That’s 3-4 songs. Break em up.

R: ‘Pain’ is the first album on Sub Pop – how does it feel to be another link in a long line of Aussie bands signed to the label?

DW: Feels good.

R: How has working with Sub Pop differed from self releases and Homeless?

DW: Homeless did a one-off re-issue of our first LP before our last tour, it was handy on the road.  The self-released stuff was to avoid asking for a release when the state of the group was so confusing. I did it.  I was bad at it. Lazy, distracted. I enjoyed driving to all the stores and chatting about music with all the shop owners but then forgot about the money or the emails. On the other hand, having owned our own releases is great on the road, where the sales keep us rolling around.

R: “Eyes Closed” seems like on of the most gritty songs you guys have recorded since “Mum Gets Punched in the Face”. It feels like you’re goading a reaction from the listener, which is rare for a band nowadays, would you agree?

DW: File next to “Mama Said Knock You Out” and “Get In The Ring”

 R: Apparently everything on the album was recorded in three takes or less – was that something you specifically set out to do? Why not take more time with the record?

DW: I actually hate that this gets mentioned so much. It’s not important. We basically will go into a session and work ourselves up to a wild-eyed state and try to stay like that for as long as possible. We will do 2-3 takes of a song and move on to the next one. Any more than that, we start to hammer it flat. So if all three takes suck, we’ll come back to it later. It’s important to us not to get stuck when we are ripping them out. Got to keep moving through it, stay in the noise tunnel. That’s what I was trying to say with that. We also love layering harmonies and messing around with overdubs.  We all love Big Star so we are always trying to slot in more vocal layers.  I dont think this process is unusual for a band like us. I’m sure it is quite common, actually.

R: I managed to catch you at a rare show in Melbourne a few weeks back – are there any plans to make it up to Sydney and around Australia?

DW: Yes, I reckon over Summer would be a nice time to visit the beach! See what we can get happening. I love Sydney- nice bread and sea breeze, Triple 8 Chi-town, Wentworth, Cristian Sullivan and Jetta on the wing.

‘Pain’ is out August 7th on Sub Pop Records. Pre-order here.

 

New: Weak Boys – Suffer For You Art

 

Pioneers of dad-rock and living embodiments of Principal Skinner, Weak Boys return from their smash hit debut album [sic] with a cassette of covers. But this isn’t the bullshit that Barnesy pulls out every couple of years because DIAMOND ENCRUSTED SHITTERS DON’T PAY FOR THEMSELVES. No, Weak Boys have actually compiled a few covers by actually decent bands.

There’s contributions from Adelaide’s Hit the Jackpot and Brissy’s Extrafoxx, as well as Benjow’s “Fell In Love”. But the standout here is easily “I Like Beer”, a song that, although not written by any of the WB crü, feels specifically made for them. With lyrics about how people who don’t like beer can get fucked (seriously though), “I Like Beer” fits in well with the rest of Weak Boys shambling, lo-fi canon about shitty landlords and shacking up with Diane Keaton.

If this is your first exposure to Weak Boys, do yourself a goddamn favour, and buy their record ‘Weekdays/Weekends‘. Eight months on, this album is still a huge winner. Also, they’re going to be playing with Wireheads/Day Ravies/Thigh Master at The Union on August 21st.

New: Helta Skelta – 55mm

38 years ago, The Victims released the ‘Television Addict’ 7″. The introduction to that song changed the way that music was perceived by a lot of people, myself included. That’s what’s going down in Helta Skelta right now – not only are both bands from Perth, and HS are obviously taking a lot of influence from the Victims, amongst others, but they’ve both nailed the ability to infect pop music with punk snot.

The most interesting thing with this new Helta Skelta track is how far removed from the original hardcore/thrash stylings abundant in Helta Skelta’s first incredible album (it’s free download here, it’s absolutely essential). Instead of tumultuous brutality over squall, Helta Skelta have moved into something new but just as exciting. A throbbing, distinct bassline, fiery guitars that spit fire parallel to each other and a wistful sneer, Helta Skelta have dropped the most romantic single since ABBA’s “I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do”.

New: Tyrannamen – I Can’t Read

From the bowels of Melbourne is a band that have finally figured out how to put Redd Kross (‘Born Innocent-era), Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Dead Moon together. The answer, of course, is a big fucking riff and enough charisma to choke out Jon Hamm. “I Can’t Read” is magnetic a slice of lovesick rock and roll that slides in more comfortably with the “sick” than the “love”.

Released on the only label in the world worth caring about (Cool Death Records), this “Tyrannamen” song is a warbling troubadour snarl, jaw-unhinging belters with a scab-peeling solo that’d make Ron Asheton giggle in his grave.

Album Review: Day Ravies – Liminal Zones

Day Ravies have been busier this year than Tony Abbott’s publicist. Fresh from releasing a cassette EP on the new label Strange Pursuits, and a 7″ laaate last year, the band with an affinity for Kinks puns have finally released their follow-up to 2013’s ‘Tussle’. And as expected, it’s a weird, askewed take on pop that unveils yet another dimension to Sydney’s finest.

To fully appreciate Day Ravies and their encompassing knowledge of all things noise-related, you’ve gotta take a look at their side-projects. Mope City, Shrapnel, Disgusting People, and stints in Weak Boys, The Cathys, Beef Jerk are among a select few of the guises you can catch members performing under. They’re in high bloody demand is what I’m trying to say, and no genre is inescapable from the hands of Lani, Sam, Nev and Caro.

Whilst their previous record ‘Tussle’ was mostly concerned with sidling alongside shoegaze and twilight shades of pop, the band feel invigorated on ‘Liminal Zones’. There’s a thrust and excitement behind the songs, naive, open-eyed wonder that froths beneath the surface. There’s a bubbling intoxication that oozes into the songs here, and each track buzzes with the sound of a band that’s been inspired.

Well, of course they’re inspired Ryan, ya fuckwit – they’ve released more material in the last twelve months than most bands release in their careers. IS IT ANY FUCKING GOOD? Well, have you checked out their previous singles? The lead up to ‘Liminal Zones’ has seen cuts like “Fake Beach”, “This Side of the Fence” and the former Shrapnel tune “Hickford Whizz”, which has been reinvigorated and Day Ravies-ified. i.e a whole bunch of noise has been smacked down on top. All three point to very different, but all fantastic, factions of the Day Ravies camp. “Fake Beach” sighs and huffs in equal measures, an existential crisis kept whirring in a bottle, whilst the latter two bristle with a bit more oomph than is expected from a usually delicate band.

But the singles are more of an indication of the album as a package – Day Ravies twist through genres like Natalie Portman twists through mental anguish in Black Swan. They’ll spearhead delightful noise with pixie-dust sprinkled pop on “Halfway Up a Hill”, queue up the jangle buttons and sloshy feedback on “Pulse Check”, and lay down strident alternative rock on “Couple Days”. This consistently stirred genre pot makes the whole process feel like eating skewered kebab blindfolded. You never know what you’re going to get, or what flavours will jump out in the next bite. Roasted capsicum and tender beef? Grilled onions and a slice of chicken? WHO THE FUCK KNOWS!

Unpredictability is key to Day Ravies’ sound on ‘Liminal Zones’, but rather than encourage uncertainty, it gives the whole album a flavour than can be sorely missed in other shoegaze/pop releases. Also, the band are having too much fun, and are so assured in each song. They’ve never sounded more confident, and that rubs into whomever happens to be wearing the headphones at the time.

‘Liminal Zones’ is out now on Sonic Masala/Strange Pursuits, pick it up here. Day Ravies are gonna be playing a few shows pretty soon as well: 24th of July in Manly, 21st of August w/ Wireheads, Weak Boys and Thigh Master, VOLUMES Festival on the 29th , and an album launch on November 9th at the Roxbury in Glebe

Shoegaze Dump: FOREVR + Ultra Material + Maybe

G’day fans of swirling, overblown guitars and incomprehensible vocals, this one’s for you:

FOREVR – DEMONSTRATION

It’s probably the mind-numbing, gonad-expanding, feet-burning heat in Brisbane that has inspired such a gargantuan wave of shoegaze bands. FOREVR are the latest chips off the melting block up North, and they do good, with epic and bold intentions sweltering underneath a crushing amount of instrumentation . If you’ve ever felt like hearing Bjork in suspended animation, bolstered only by thumbing drum machines and sheer noise, FOREVR are your go to. Fucking serene mate – make sure “Heart of Ice” gets added to your bucket list.

Ultra Material – EP

Ultra Material are shoegaze, and also come from Brisbane, but their goal seems more pop-oriented than FOREVR. Like Day Ravies taking a step back and admiring the reflection of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Ultra Material don’t just embrace melody, they strangle it. They bury their muzzles in it, biting until their sharp harpsichord melodies are oozing pus and blood. Then, they thrust and push and shove and fucking throttle until the music is intoxicating, a suffocating blend of styles. The opener, “Crash”, is an unstoppable punch to the guts, and Ultra Material push on from there, ebbing and flowing with some really stunning pedal-thrashing melodramatic pop.

Maybe – DEMO

One of the blokes from Death Bells shared this on his #personalpage, and the guy has only ever emerged with the good stuff, so old mate was inclined to take a look. Maybe (the band) don’t disappoint on their first demo, a forlorn, melancholy lo-fi recording of splintering guitars and vocals battling out to see who’s more depressed. It’s desperate, mournful stuff, with a powerful edge, like Kevin Shields applying his impenetrable wall of noise to a band that’s just witnessed a massacre and has been inspired to write poetry about it.

Interview: Darts

Earlier this year, Melbourne-via-Bendigo fivesome Darts released their debut record through Rice is Nice Records. An acidic, vitriolic commandment of biting rock, Darts threw down the gauntlet, swaying vocally between angelic, and grinding fury. It was a headbanger, through and through.

When they were in Sydney, Darts’ co-vocalists Angus Ayres and Ally Campbell-Smith had a chit-chat about their album, turning a lack of confidence into a thrashing source of therapy, and the trials of growing up in Bendigo:

 

R: This isn’t the first Darts record, you’ve had other stuff. But you got rid of it, there’s nothing on the Internet about it.

Angus: The old stuff, we’d been around for a while, so it was a really more of a compilation of songs that were from different eras of the band. Whereas this record, we see it as more cohesive, and representative of how we want to sound.

R: What makes this more particularly definitive?

Ally: This is a bit more of a basis. The last EP, like Angus said, it was a lot of different periods, so this is a bit more concrete.

R: Do you think it was weird that it took so long, from 2009-2014, to develop that basis?

Angus: We hadn’t really thought about it too much. In 2009, we got “unearthed”, and we didn’t really consider trying to push ourselves. Someone telling us that we were alright, that pushed us to have a crack at recording some decent songs. I guess that period has meant we’ve had a slow build to where we are now.

Ally: It was a long process, we recorded the album three separate times.

R: What wasn’t right about the first two times?

Angus: They sounded good, but the environment we were in was very comfortable. We were in this guy’s bedroom in the outer suburbs so we had all the time in the world.

We thought once you put something out there, it’s out there forever. We wanted to put something out we were 100% proud of.

R: After recording so much – where there any points you thought you wanted to give up? 

Angus: You get really tired, and you have no money, but collectively, there was never a question of not finishing this record. We spent so much time on it, we were all very driven to complete it.

R: You said before that someone ‘told you’ that you were good, which I guess led to some high profile slots like Groovin’ the Moo and supporting Wavves. How do you reckon that affected you?

Angus: I’d say we’re a pretty low confidence band. Even if we’re playing a small room, and someone comes up to us and says they thought we were good, we’re blown away. We’re dumbfounded by it.

R: Do you think that non-confidence feeds itself into the aesthetic of the band?

Angus: All those feelings of being overwhelmed, it can lead to feeling hopeless, and that bottoming out sadness. And then when you feel that exhausted, it can turn into aggression, and that comes out through the record.

R: You guys are originally from Bendigo, and I find that a lot of great bands in Oz come from regional areas, like The Ocean Party and High-tails. Why do you think bands from isolated areas develop into something more unique and special?

Angus: I think in regional areas particularly, sport and football is a big thing for kids at that age. When I was 16, the first song that really connected with me was Bob Dylan’s “Lovesick”, and that feeling of a big famous person going through what you’re feeling at the time…that’s amazing. People from those regional areas, when they have to move to a city, it’s a different kind of isolation. You don’t know anyone, and it makes for interesting songwriting.

R: Do you think it’s because there’s extra steps to actually play music?

Angus: [In Bendigo] there were maybe three or four “alternative rock” bands. Every week, it’d be the same bands, at the same venue, in front of the same three people. And I remember when one band went to play in Melbourne, we all thought, “Oh they’re going places!”. It was a cool thing for us to think about.

R: Looking back, how are you viewing, ‘Below Empty & Westward Bound’, this baby of yours?

Angus: It’s interesting, we were very proud of it, but outside of that, anything is a bonus. It’s really amazing that it’s had a [good] response. There were moments in the studio, where we had ideas and thought, ‘Is that a bit too crazy?’ But we did it anyway, and now we have confidence going forward, and we’ll trust our instincts a bit more.

R: What would an example of that be?

Ally: There’s a lot of dueling parts in the songs, like “Below Empty”, where there’s just one guitar, and then whistling. Like, who whistles on a track?

Angus: And there would be three minute tracks turning into five minute tracks. Those were moments where it’s like, is that too much, is that too long?

Ally: Anything over three minutes feels long to us!

‘Below Empty & Westward Bound’ is out now through Rice is Nice Records – grab it here.