PREMIERE: Prints Familiar – Screenshot

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I’m on my deathbed. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, but the Black Plague is upon me. I’m suffocating on waves of phlegm, my bones hurt, my throat is lined with blades that gleefully slice and dice my oesophagus every time I inhale. I’m being skullfucked by the Grim Reaper, and these are my final words: enjoy the latest from Prints Familiar!

Formerly known as just Prints, the Sydney foursome have just announced their sophomore EP, following on from last years Some People Will Listen to Anything. As coughing fits consume my soul, I’ll weakly reach out to press play on “Screenshot”, their new single. Part Strokes, part The Bravery, “Screenshot” is the past decade’s golden bands of indie rock distilled into one danceable tune that’s catchier than the sickness that is currently wreaking havoc upon my very being.

Prints Familiar will be launching “Screenshot” when they support the very excellent Good Counsel at their album launch next Thursday, the 26th of November, at the Newtown Social Club.

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Gig Review: At First Sight Festival

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What kind of world do we live in that some fucking ginger kid with the social etiquette of Todd Carney on a handful of pingas can make out with a copy of Slayer’s Show No Mercy AND boogie to NO ZU in the space of a single day> It’s a truly  barbaric thought, and it’s one that came true just a few days ago. At First Sight Festival, curated by Marty Doyle of Dusty Fingers fame, happened over the weekend, and it was a truly glorious time for all involved.

Full disclosure – I was involved in some aspects of this festival, but not anything that could be considered important. Nope, Count Doyle did it all, from booking an incredible lineup which somehow deviated from the usual Tkay Maidza/Hilltop Hoods/Sticky Fingers combination, to the promotion, scheduling, and other organisational duties that no sane person should be willing to take on. Instead, I was tasked with trapping a member of Blank Realm in a car, and chewing his ear off for hours on end. It did mean missing the early portion of the festival, but according to multiple eye-witnesses, Rolling Blackouts and Royal Sitars were best on ground.

The first moments of At First Sight that were seared into my eyeballs belong to the explosive set of Palms. Seriously, if you haven’t listened to their new album Crazy Rack, then fuck off and do so. There’s no reason to continue reading, just plug yourself into this masterpiece for the next half hour and only return when you’re finished. Done? Fucking hell, so you’ve come to the realisation that these Palms dudes would sound alright blaring out from a fuck-off, huge mountain of speakers, yeah? Because that’s what happened; Palms ploughed through all the hits from their two records to date, smashing “This Last Year”, “Love”, “Bad Apple”, and “Beatdown” with the kind of howling ferocity that forces you to lift a fist (IF NOT BOTH) in the air with mashing glee.

TEESNicholas Allbrook and Lucy Cliche all swiftly followed with impressive sets. TEES provided a dreamy set that showcases that their dreamy pop material works just as gorgeously on a stage as it does in .mp3 form, and Nicholas Allbrook brought the weirdness in leaps and bounds. Literally, the man cannot stay still – although his set suffered from such sporadicalness, shifting manically and at an unpredictable whim, the POND frontman remained enjoyable. Lucy Cliche was a bevy of intensity, her thudding, sharp dance music transforming a small bunker at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon into a thriving hive of hungry gazes and shuffling feet. Do yourself a favour, and make yourself as familiar as possible with her work.

This next passage might seem hyperbolic, but it’s not. If anything, whatever words I type next will be under-representative of the insanity that is NO ZU. An eight piece hydra indebted to raising the heat of a room by several degrees, the Melbourne collective had pulses racing at an unhealthy rate. Folks should have been having heart attacks from all the exercise that was going down, but sheer joy and anticipation for what NO ZU would pull out next forced them to party on. They remain to be one of the funnest, strangest, most exotic things on this planet, a laboratory of thrilling genres mashed into a sweaty dance-floor filling experience. Forget heroin, NO ZU are the most addictive substances on the planet.

Still reeling from NO ZU, Nun continued the legacy of Melbourne acts putting on exhilarating performances. A member was wearing a Gutter Gods t-shirt and that wasn’t even the most punk thing on stage. Front woman Jenny Branagan is fucking mental to watch. She is the greatest thing to happen to a stage since our prayers were answered and Dave Growl fell off of one. She jumps, dives, sprawls, screams, thrashes and delivers shriek after shriek, her band’s domineering wall of synth punk throwing jabs from behind her. Incredible – if you haven’t picked up their debut album then fix this gaping mistake in your life with a little bit of this.

Following Nun are Brissy’s Blank Realm, who have been awarded the very prestigious honour of “BEST FARKIN BAND IN AUSTRALIA”. They get this award because they a) wear Pere Ubu t-shirts, b) rock keytars like Duran Duran didn’t fuck it up for everyone, c) are possibly the best songwriters in the country and d) because fuck, have you heard Blank Realm before? They’re amazing! Of course they rule live, how could they not? When you’re a band that owns a cache of tunes like “River of Longing”, “Falling Down the Stairs”, “Reach You on the Phone” and “Go Easy”, it’s hard to be anything less than “BEST FARKIN BAND IN AUSTRALIA”.

Previous duties withheld experiencing My Disco, Broadway Sounds, and most of Andras’ set, but hey, we all know these acts are national treasures, so build a Spotify playlist, and get over it, y’know? Let’s move onto Oscar Key Sung: draped in cloth, the man is pure beauty constructed around eyes of steel and a voice of cotton. His beats switch from lush and textured to the occasional pummel, however, it did feel like he could have benefitted from someone else onstage to help him. It’s hard to fully enjoy a crooner like Key Sung, who is so concentrated on flipping between production, singing and entertaining. He worked best when he was joined by Amrita, who danced their way into all of our adoring hearts, and freed Key Sung up into a party mode.

Moving onward to Total Giovanni – now they’re a band that could give Blank Realm a run for their money. The tagline for this band is “Fun. Incarnate”. With enough energy to power the LargeHadron Collider,  Total Giovanni are Italo-disco superstars, bestowers of the silky sensual. This is a group with only a handful of singles to their name, but every single beating heart in the cavern of Carriageworks was thumping along meticulously to the party that Total Giovanni were delivering. What was the greatest moment? “When We Break” churning a few hundred people into  a sea of flailing bodies? The over-the-top, pelvis-shattering thrusts that took place during “Human Animal? Or the batshit crazy cover of Eddy Current Suppression Ring’s “Precious Rose”? Trying to decide the answer to that question is aneurysm-inducing.

By some miracle, the best moment of At First Sight didn’t belong to any one of the bands mentioned above, but rather, a combination of them via Uncle Donny’s Rotating Sideshow of Stellar Performance aka the Donny Benet Showband’s Tribute to Nile Rodgers. Bringing out all the day’s superstars, including Becky Sui Zhen and Daphne Camf of NO ZU, Oscar Key Sung and Vachel Spirason of Total Giovanni, Donny and co. re-introduced some of the past century’s biggest hits, resulting in an all-out dance bloodbath. The sea was angry that day, my friends. Oh, it was an angry mosh of people screaming, “OH FUCK, I LOVE THIS SONG!” as DB and his merry band played the best version of “Original Sin” since Hutcho called it quits. Special mention goes to Nicholas Allbrook for a very special performance of Mick Jagger’s “Just Another Night”, and in turn, transforming a so-bad-it’s-good song into something so-good-it’s-brilliant.

It’s worth reminding everyone that, whilst all of this amazing music was happening, people were record shopping. Two of the greatest habits, combined into one day! How can someone like me be lucky enough to get The Saint’s I’m (Stranded) and get the opportunity to witness a one-of-a-kind musical experience courtesy of Donny? It cannot be overstated how much of a miracle it is that all of this could happen under one roof: the bands of tomorrow shredding minds and expectations to tatters mere metres away from where some of the most important records are being sold. That’s the dream, ladies and gentlemen. That’s the fucking dream. See you at Carriageworks next year.

New: Mezko – Journey’s End

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Before “Journey’s End”, MEZKO were a bunch of space goddesses who made majestic synth darkness. Now, they’ve gone and become fully fledged queens of pop. Crystal Castles, Grimes, Purity Ring – put down the keytar, and hit the dole-queue, you’re out of a job!

This thing – it’s a full blown pop explosion. Fucking BANG! It shows MEZKO hitting a new peak for themselves, delving head first into a territory that was only hinted at in their previous songs. Once “Journey’s End” hits that chorus, you can practically feel yourself being flung into that scene from the Matrix 2, where everyone’s caked in mud and raving. This whole track is covered in thrilling from top to bottom.

MEZKO play the Gaelic Club this Saturday with Shocking Pinks, Ill Winds, and Lovely Head.

Video: Kirin J Callinan – The Teacher

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It’s taken me a fair while to come around to this new Kirin track, but watching the video has erased the doubts I held. Damn, I could watch Connan Mockasin serenade me for eternity. He leans into the camera, loosens his schoolboy tie, fixes you with those eyes of steel, and from that point on, it’s hard to keep in the fluids.

For those that haven’t heard it yet, “The Teacher” is a graphic description of a relationship between a teacher and student. Led by piano, a pittering hi-hat, and some lush sax, “The Teacher” builds into quite the grandiose musical ballad. Whether deliberately or not, “The Teacher” has got daytime soap all over it, soaked in enough noir melodrama to knock the wind out of The Young & Hopeless.

New: Lower Spectrum – Proxima

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You ever wanted to know what would be playing on the stereo of an ultra cool political assassin who looked like George Clooney? This. This fucking song would be on the stereo, blaring out of the alien version of a Ferrari. “Why am I doing this? What purpose does this serve? Am I evil, or just a product of a society that looks suspiciously like Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner?”. All these questions and more stir around our protaginist’s mind as the deep groove of Lower Spectrum “Proxima” beckons from the speakers.

The inner turmoil rages, and the only hope to drown the questions out lies within “Proxima”  Shades donned, silver fox hairdo slicked back, blaster pistol tucked into a pair of expensive jeans, and a piercing gaze that would have us all bowing in submission, the saving grace of our anti-hero lies within the lush stare of Lower Spectrum.

New: Marcus Whale – If

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Marcus Whale – one of the most constant heads you’ll see at any gig at Sydney. Also, the owner of some of the most impressive dance moves this city has had the pleasure of viewing. Seriously, when you head to a Collarbones show, there’s the unspoken law that you go for the music, but you stay for the dance moves. I didn’t invent the rule, it existed before I got here, and I’ve somehow become a disciple of it.

Besides Collarbones, Black Vanilla, Tennis Boys and Scissor Lock, (feel unproductive yet?) Marcus has been working on some solo material which melds his various guises and his background in classical music for a potent slow-burner. It begins with mournful piano droplets, introduces Marcus’ gentle vocals, and, with the help of some throbbing production and glistening strings, grows into a dark dance floor hit.

If this feels like a bit of a gush, it’s because it is. Marcus Whale occupies so many different territories with his music, and the sheer fact that he’s been able to mould all of his interests into something as beautiful and tantalising as “If” is a testament to his ability as a musician, vocalist and producer.

New Electronic: NO ZU + World Champion + Movement + XXYYXX

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A bevy of tunes for you to use in your next DJ set to piss off people who just want to hear “Hotline Bling”:

NO ZU – Hi Gloss

NO ZU are going to be returning to Sydney this Saturday for At First Sight Festival, and I’m excited. You should be to, unless you hate fun. Because NO ZU are the definition of fun. They’re more fun that going to Disneyland with a Skip-the-Line pass. They’re more fun than having a wise-cracking talking parrot as your best mate. They’re more fun that travelling back in time to stop the birth of Tony Abbott.

Here, let me prove that fact to you right now, with their new jam “Hi Gloss”, six minutes of exotic, sensual, shoulder-rolling, hip-thrusting, knee-jerking groove. Listening to this makes me want to don a turtleneck/teashade sunnies combo and hop into a convertible on my way to a 1960’s nightclub where the STD’s are flying around like mozzies and no one gives a fuck.

World Champion – Shakes 

Also on the At First Sight bill are relative newcomers World Champion. They’ve been gigging for a fair bit, but “Shakes” is only their second track. Released through Future Classic, World Champion bring the vibes that only a true global winner can wring. With Madchester scrawled all over it, “Shakes” is about as euphoric and uplifting as they come, thudding without being overwhelming, and pop without being plastic. Fuck, it’s just a really fun song, y’know?

MOVEMENT – LACE (Demo)

It has been a long time between drinks for MOVEMENT, Sydney’s future R&B legends who propped up everyone’s ears with their EP last year. BUT IT HAS BEEN TOO LONG! TOO! LONG! To be fair, they’ve been opening up shows all over the world, but COME ON! The lumps in my throat from the last time I listened to “Like Lust” are subsiding!

“LACE” comes just in the knick of time, lightly ruffling those goosebumps that MOVEMENT pressed into our flesh so long ago. They might have left us in the lurch for a little while, but their return is enough to give the drools to anyone within earshot. “LACE” creeps at a depraved pace, as affecting as anything MOVEMENT have done before, breathing heavily until you can feel hot air rustling the hairs on your neck.

Apparently, it’s just a demo, but Jesus Christ, if this is the half-arsed version, I don’t think the world is ready for a fully-fledged reindtion of this. Furthermore, it’s a free download, at least for the time being, so grab it and store it in that iTunes Library playlist entitled “I Am So Lonely, Will Someone Please Touch Me? Please?”. Everyone’s got one of those, right?

xxyyxx – Red

 

The combination of xxyyxx’s age and talent is enough to give every big name producer out there a stroke of doubt followed by a mass existential crisis. If a 19 year old from LA can make beats as dark, brooding and sultry as “Red”, then what fucking hope do we have? Delete that copy of Ableton that you downloaded illegally anyway, push away the decks, and send those half-finished demos to the trash bin. I guess the only consolation prize here is that you can now spend more time listening to xxyyxx, and it’s hard to to find onus with that.

Video: IV League – Lit Screen

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I love this band. I love this goddamn band more than I love pork rolls. Well, maybe not that much, but I love this band a lot. It’s been a while since I heard an indie rock band worth getting really excited about, and a band who’s name is a portmanteau between hospital apparatus and schools where douchebags are bred.

IV League are basically an amalgamation of all my favourite bands from 2015. Babaganouj, Tired Lion and Bully collide for a powerful stirring of 90’s nostalgia, doled out with an ear biting earnestness. But it’s the voice that takes IV League from that mere tickle of “Hey, this reminds me of…” to, “Fuck me, what can I do to hear more of this? Where must I travel to? What quest must I embark on?”

Seriously, this is a band that you not only need to keep an eye on, but concentrate all of your physical, emotional and financial being on them. IV League are top bloody notch, I tells ya.

Also, do yourself a favour, and check out their previous jam “Varsity”. It’s no David Guetta x Sia collaboration, but it’ll get you going.

Interview: Palms

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Al Grigg is the nicest man in rock ‘n’ roll, and that’s a fact. When he’s not shredding in Palms or Straight Arrows, he’s got his head bouncing around at a show, managing to get around the entire room and give everyone a hug and the time of day. Remember when Wavves made that song called “I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl”? Fuck that, they need to change the lyrics to reflect the real best bloke in rock music.

It’s always a pleasure to get to chat to Al, whether we’re talking shit about who would win in a fight between Cheap Trick and Thin Lizzy, or which pub has the best burger in Sydney. This time ’round, we got to chatting about the new album Crazy Rack, which is just *mwah* absolutely fucking stunning. Read on for musings about fame, depression and The Replacements.

R: Swiggy Griggy!

A: Saarzy! Well, well, we meet again!

R: We’ve been mates for a while, but when we first started to know each other, and Palms had first started…

A: Our courting period!

R: Haha, exactly. When Palms first started, people would recognise you a lot as ‘Al from Red Riders’, and now it’s shifted to ‘Al from Palms’. Do you notice this at all?

A: I don’t really know, or notice the change. But I guess that’s the truth – there’s something else for people to notice me as now. I’m also quite often, and embarrassingly, known as ‘Al from Cream’ [A second hand store in Newtown; go there for autographs]

I was at Splendour with Shane [ParsonsDZ Deathrays/Angus Young’s Protege] and Dave [Williams/WolfmanManly Sea Eagles/Patron Saint of Footy Beards] and they had this funny thing going of who would get recognised first. Then there was this chick and a guy who said, “I know you from somewhere!”. I was like, “Palms?”, “Naaaah”. “Red Riders?” “Naaaaah”, “Straight Arrows?” “Naaaah”. And then they were like, “You’re the guy from CREAM!”. Haha, and yes, I am also the guy from the second hand clothes shop! I probably sold you an old pair of cut off denim-shorts.

R: Do you think that being noticed of how far Palms has travelled since the first album came out?

A: Yeah, I guess. Obviously….we’ve played a lot of shows, and…this is gonna sound really arrogant, but I think it’s kind of true. I think we’re just friendly guys, and we make friends easily. When we meet people, there’s no separation between us as a band and them as people. We’re just people.

That sounds like such a gross cliche (laughs) but you get what I mean. It goes from Al from Palms to Al very quickly. And then it goes to Swiggy Griggy!

R: Onto the record – you guys recorded it twice. When you finished it the first time, and it was decided that it wasn’t quite good enough, was that disheartening?

A: Yeah, it was really disheartening. When you’re writing a song, it’s in your head a bit. Even when you’re playing it live, it’s just an interpretation of how you feel. There’s nothing concrete about it, you have this potential for it: “When it gets recorded, it’ll be really big, and sound like this!”. And then you hear it back, and you see the reality of it, it can be really hard. I thought this was a really great song, but actually it sounds a bit shit. 

And that can be a mixture of the song being shit, the arrangement being shit, you just not playing it right, the mix is crap, or whatever. And sometimes its just your attitude; I think we weren’t ready to record the first time, and I was a bit nego on it anyway. I was just a bit down on it, it didn’t feel right.

I also don’t think I wanted to do it in fits. With Step-Brothers that’s how we did it. We did it with Owen [Penglis, Straight Arrows/Recording Sensei] on one four-track, and then on another four track, and then an eight track. It was cool, but it didn’t have coherency. 

R: What was it like going from recording in Owen’s kitchen, to a proper studio? Was it a throwback to the Red Riders days?

A: A little bit. But still very much a half-thing. We went into Linear Studios with our friend Nick [Franklin, Fabergettes/AUSTRALIA/Recording Guru], so it still had that feeling of being at your friends place. It was still very comfortable, as opposed to this gross, fish out of water thing. For me, that’s always been the studio battle, because I don’t understand anything about [studios], being surrounded by equipment I don’t understand and instruments I can’t play (laughs). I feel a bit inadequate.

R: What do you think the major changes between the first and second recordings of the album were?

A: I think it’s just a bit more confidence. And I mean that in a way that it just feels more varied, there’s more going on. There’s more mellow moments, more jangly moments, it’s not so much a straight-up garage thing. I’m more comfortable seeing this other side of the band. 

I’m more confident with the lyrics as well. The next single we put out is probably going to be “No More”. We’re going to put out an acoustic song. We’re not going to blow anyone’s minds, but we’re just going to let them know there’s a different side of Palms. WE JUST WANT TO LET THEM KNOW THERE’S MORE TO US, RYAN! I’ve got feelings! Emotions!

R: Speaking of moving on from garage, it felt that you were really embracing your love for 80’s pop and rock. There’s a couple songs on there where I think, ‘This sounds like Rick Springfield’.

A: (laughs) I hope we make as much money as Rick Springfield! I reckon that’s a bit of a Dion [Ford, shred lord] influence. When we were finishing Step-Brothers, that’s when he joined the band, a lot of the parts were already written, so he didn’t put as much of a stamp on it. With [Crazy Rack], there’s a bit more of his style. I think “Thoughts of You” is about as close as we’ll ever come to writing a Cheap Trick song. It’s got a cowbell, some Southern Boogie in the chorus…

All my favourite albums, like The Replacements…when you think of a classic Replacements song, you think of “I Will Dare”, or “Bastards of Young”, but there’s only ever two or three of those songs on an album, but then there’s a bunch of punk songs, or alt-country songs, or weird nightclub, jazzy things with piano. What we wanted to do was, if you like classic Palms, you’ll like this record, but there’s other shit to keep you interested.

R: Another thing is that you’ve always been very heart-on-your-sleeve with the music you’ve made. But the songs on Crazy Rack, there’s a lot of guitar, and catchy songs – were you ever afraid your message would get lost in there?

A: I think the message does get lost and no one pays attention to what I’m saying (laughs). I think that’s part of it though. First and foremost, I don’t want to write and sing songs that don’t have meaning to me; when I’m playing live, I want to have something, an emotion to draw on. I want to be sharing something of myself, lyrically, and that’s a hard thing to do. 

It can be a bit too much for people; not everyone wants to come and hear a guy tell you all his feelings. It’s like, dude, go see a psychologist, there are professionals for that! But there’s guitar solos, all that fun and exciting stuff is wrapped around it. So if you want the intensity, if you want to hear a guy put his heart on sleeve, and you enjoy that, the intensity’s there. If you just want to sing along, you can do that as well.

Crazy Rack is out now on Ivy League Records. It’s fucking incredible, five flaming guitar outta five, do yaself a favour and grab it here. If you need any more convincing, then read this. Make sure you catch Palms when they play At First Sight Festival next weekend (the 14th), with Blank Realm, Total Giovanni, Nicholas Allbrook, NO ZU, Los Tones and heaps more! Tix here.

PREMIERE: The Wedge Tape

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You know you’re the head honcho of a major label when you decide to turn down hot chips for wedges. “No thanks mate, trying to take care of the whole kilojoule intake, hahaha”, you’ll chide at the confused waiter, “I don’t know if you know this, but I’m the head of Strong Look Records, so it’ll be just the wedges for me, thanks”. You’ll take a big juicy bite out of that thick, brown un-chip, coated in sour cream, let a little morsel dribble down your chin, and exclaim, “Man, it’s good to be king”.

Which is why it comes as no surprise that the Strong Look Greatest Hits package is named after a label head’s favourite snack. The Wedge Tape contains a collection of un-released, alternative and live tracks from artists on and associated with Strong Look.

Just like a wedge, there’s a whole lot to sink your teeth into. A few new, or at least unrealeased sunny pop jams from Disgusting People, a live take of a Weak Boys favourite in THE BIGGEST VENUE IN SYDNEY, and an acoustic version of “Dog Farm” that brings out the Galaxie 500 in the band. There’s also the inclusion of the driving gnash of “Kewl December” from the shrouded Solid Dad, the genius chopped electronica of The Seaport and the Airport, and even a live comedy skit from ROMI.

Whatever you’re after, it’s all here, in one convenient location for your listening pleasure. And that’s why Strong Look Records is the best major label a band could be on: they give the b-sides the big budget treatment that others couldn’t begin to fathom.

You can pick up the tape from Strong Look’s Bandcamp here. And while you’re over there, you may as well have a browse through some of their other releases, like Weak Boys ‘Weekdays/Weekends’, which remains one of the best albums to be released in Shitney.