Sunday, January 3, 2010


Monday, September 01, 2008 

Minimalism, repetition and Flopsy the Bunny…could it be anyone other than our once-soporific prolific PIKELET? ANDY HAZEL thinks not.

Those familiar with the music of Pikelet (aka Evelyn Morris) will recognise a lingering sense of wonder in her music, an almost haunted feel of a girl left on her own at home to contemplate life and invent friends, a girl who chooses to share her introspections. It’s this inherent intimacy that acts as a draw-card and the feeling that every song is part of a personal concert. However, times have changed for Morris, and so has her muse and music.
“I feel like I’ve left the house.” She explains. “My music might actually be a reflection of complete opposites in my lifestyle. When I was writing the first album I was transient, I was moving house every few months, so maybe I was looking for comfort and homeliness in music. Now, I’m quite settled in a house I really love, so I’m wanting to do the opposite where I’m let loose,” elaborates Morris. “I was exorcising a lot on the first album because I had to confront my mum’s mortality at the time, so I was definitely processing the feeling of being a kid. I think most artists do that with their first album, they do the kid thing and then the second album they go through that teenage thing where they’re like ‘fuck you guys’ and then do more ‘contemporary’ stuff when they get older.”

Having been happily surprised by the reaction to her first album, which took her from curious weeknight oddity to opening for Sufjan Stevens and Beirut, the organic growth of her success gave her a sense of validation about her stories and songs. However, the album, she confesses, is rarely played, “it really feels like it’s in the past. Afterwards I had a very intense period of anxiety, which is really natural because of the phenomenon of being observed - you can’t help but change your behaviour. I just sort of processed it, I thought ‘I’m going to get through this period and remind myself that none of it is important at all’. That’s the main thing you’ve got remember about doing music, it doesn’t actually matter. It’s just something you do that’s entertaining. There’s no need to get hung up on things or worry about what people think or whether anyone is going to listen to it because ultimately it’s only going to ruin your expression.”

In contemplating a ‘teenage’ second album and to accommodate her penchant for challenges Morris formed a band, an addition that anyone who’s witnessed Morris’s virtuoso use of a delay pedal wouldn’t have thought a high priority for her. Still, it does beg the question, what, exactly, does the name Pikelet refer to her or her band?
“Both. I enjoy the challenge of being a solo performer, and that it’s a lot more minimal. I get anti-playing live with four people because sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the sound. I enjoy the space of controlling all the sounds; I’m a bit of a control freak!” she sniggers. “But I think the band is the best thing I could have done at this point; it’s all about having as much freedom as possible so I won’t ever get locked in to having them. If they want to go and do something else, it’s not like [adopts a gruff ‘scary’ voice] ‘No, you are a Pikelet now.’ I want them to pursue what makes them happiest as well. I try and keep it all open.
They’re all really good creative intelligent musicians. It’s actually sometimes really daunting to play with them because experimenting and jamming is not something I’m used to doing with Pikelet, so it’s been really challenging for me. We’ve had some rehearsals where I’ll get close to tears, ‘I don’t know…you guys are really good and I don’t know what to do!’ They’ve been awesome because they’ll turn around and say: ‘we’re going to jam. You join in when you feel like it,’ and that’s a really great thing as something will come out of it and I’ll say ‘that’s cool, let’s use that part,’ it‘s a really collaborative affair. I do come in with ideas but so often in the cold harsh light of day, in front of these three minds, they crumble, which I think is a good filtration process,“ she laughingly admits.

Despite this, it’s clear she’s at a very prolific stage with her songwriting. To take care of these songs that she fears may otherwise disappear, she has compiled handmade CDs to sell at gigs. Her recent nine-song Dictation EP collects recent musings of the solo variety. Inspiration, it seems, is usually expressed more musically that lyrically.
“I love repetition and minimalism so much, but lyrics are the most difficult things ever,” she says exasperatedly. “On this record I really want to try…I feel like it’s a second attempt at the first album in a way in that I want to get across similar ideas but do them in a way that’s different. It’s been interesting, I’ve been really experimenting with lyrics, and I always find I come back to storytelling; I just think it’s a really excellent way of getting across an idea or a feeling or a perspective without blatant explanation. It’s something that I hope everyone can relate to…at least I hope most people had stories read to them when they were kids. I really liked the story about Flopsy The Bunny whose ears went down rather than upwards, I could really relate to that bunny, because of the ears poking downward yeah, but because I could relate to feeling like an outsider. I had two older brothers, I was a total nerd at school and no one else wore glasses in my year. It was really weird,” she says bemused, “I happened to be a year with the most excellently-sighted gene pool. I liked Peter Rabbit too…it’s all about rabbits!” she realises with a laugh.

With a new album in the offing, Morris is sure it’s going to be a half band and half solo, but unsure which labels will release it. ““It will at least be half out on Chapter [Music]. I was thinking about starting my own label, but I’m pretty impatient when it comes to paperwork. I think I’m good at two things and that’s music and talking to people; even working with Chapter I enjoyed talking to whoever and self-managing. I’ve got Sophie from Mistletone managing me now, she’s got excellent ideas and her approach is really refreshing. They [Mistletone] just do whatever they want which is great because whatever they want to do is really good.”


Monday, September 01, 2008

Like the security staff and police, winter was out in force tonight. A fact the hundred-meter line of trembling indie kid was not allowed to forget as we queued outside, bathed in the neon glow of the nearby adult cinema. For reasons never explained, the venue was allowing access solely via the elevator meaning that several early sets were missed by many, and that upon arriving, Roxanne felt like a large emptily exclusive firetrap. Despite this, and despite the surprisingly defective PA system in the main room, the dual-stage magic organised by Sophie and Ash of Mistletone (a duo thanked profusely throughout the night by every act) succeeded beyond measure in making one of the finest nights of music of recent years.

Pikelet indicated again just how quickly she is gaining confidence and how comfortable the band feel working with her songs. Glowing just as warmly as the winter lights she adorns the front stage with it’s a gorgeously muted set that finishes with a never-lovelier Toby White. Hopefully Beach House were watching and will take her away to cast her magic with a wider net.

With a setlist that sits like delicate spires of Pavlova Magic The Crayon Fields pitch their music perfectly and deliver an immaculate gig. Delicate and brisk, like the Belle and Sebastian songs you can dance to, the accent is oddly away from the guitar (courtesy of guitarist Chris being away from the country and ably replaced by The Motifs’ Alexis) and back on the keys, chords and vocals. This lends new songs like Graceless and Other Pleasures a richer, less accented tone and makes the forthcoming album that little more hotly anticipated.

Entering into the tight triangle that Love of Diagrams form has always been an inconceivable task. Easy to admire, respect and appreciate, actually being moved by them has been hitherto impossible. Tonight however, showcasing almost entirely new material LoD indicate that not only are Matador going to be pretty damn excited with any new recordings but that their music, without compromising an inch, will be more accessible. Vocals are increasingly becoming a more powerful weapon in their arsenal, melody, wah-wah pedal and length seem to be new interests and ones that are as well deployed as their innate tightness and obvious talent.

Bachelorette almost steals the night with the latest installment of her love affair with electricity. Just as tight and as well executed as Love of Diagrams, she is compelling to watch, hypnotising to the ear and never at any stage buys into the detached irony that so often comes with the field of electronic music. The scene-setting On The Four seems to defy age and My Electric Husband brings the inherent humanity through loud and clear in a way so few acts do; perhaps she invests more than others? Whatever it is she does, right through to the cut-up cassette recordings of acoustic guitar that close her set, its spot on.

US headliners Beach House take to the stage with quiet aplomb and set about redefining the term ‘soporific splendour’. Sounding at times like Mazzy Star fronting a stoned Kraftwerk, it’s all regal gorgeousness and a constantly transfixing smoulder that renders the snails pace of the songs barely noticable. In constant sway at the keyboard, Victoria Legrand is the figurehead while guitarist Alex Scally and drummer Dave Begander quietly build and deconstruct the walls and towers that see most of the new album Devotion brought thoroughly to life.

Meanwhile, Actor Slash Model show again why they can’t be pigeonholed and require consistent reviewing. Tonight sees melodies just as manhandled as guitarist Ricky French’s Jazzmaster where guitar noise becomes the exception and all the more powerful because of it. Almost straying into the realms of snappy pop with up-front vocals and an unusually clear mix, the band burn up the stage with energy to spare and songs that actually sound like songs. With their years of gigging as homework, this is a flying colour performance. Awesome stuff.
Qua’s crackling bass and erratic beats play on in one room and Guy Blackman cranks up the wheels of steel in another as the crowd thins while Mistletone cement themselves as the label that can do no wrong.


Monday, September 01, 2008
Hi-Fi Bar

Sunday night was always going to be the less whelming of the two BJM gigs. Many who came to the Saturday show (an official CD of which can be bought at the busy merch desk) are back for more, and excitement can’t help but build throughout the night.

The Black Ryder; three girls, three guys, three guitars, three chords. These ingredients are rendered surprisingly well, the band seem like they’ve been playing together for a long time despite having only two main members. Even with a lack of vocal presence, the Ryder’s way with carefully building a Spiritualized-style epic from some echoed guitar and floor-tom thumps is a formidable thing. Penultimate song Burn and Fade is a near-masterpiece, while the keyboardist cleaning the blood off the guitarist’s fingers as mainstays Amee Nash and Scott von Ryper play the very Nancy and Lee Sweet Come Down is a high point.

While being from Sydney ensures the guitars The Black Ryder play are classy, a real array of guitar pornography precedes the arrival of BJM; Voxes, Gretchs, Gibsons all vintage and immaculate and never asked to do anything beyond some barre chords and simple lead lines. Half an hour after the advertised time, guitarist Ricky Maymi strides onto the stage to begin a series of drones that characterise this new-model BJM who’s motto seems to be; ‘we’re here to make music, this ain’t no freak show’. The band slowly join him and kick into gear soon enough; 7-strong and clearly not about to act like the shoegaze band that their new album has seen them accused of being. With music this simple and derivative, it’s the personality and energy invested in the music that separates the insipid from the incendiary, and it’s a fine line the Jonestown boys walk. Anton Newcombe, almost imperceptible so far stage left is he, is clearly not going to be repeating the antics of their last visit, despite the continuous stream of heckling the band receive from two much-loathed fans in the front row. Joel Gion works the cigarette as hard as the tambourine while guitarist Frankie Teardrop and bassist Collin Hegna keep the vibes flowing smooth and strong, though it’s the chain-smoking Maymi who seems the most relaxed and in control and who finds himself on the end of most heckles. A cameo vocal appearance by Amee Nash from The Black Ryder sits beautifully in the set.

Despite the hangover-slack pace of the evening and that many songs are rendered almost indistinguishable by the same chords being played on the same guitars with the same effects over similarly paced beats with inaudible vocals, there are clear highlights. Who? gets the crowd the most noisy, Yeah, Yeah, and Golden Frost go down well, as does Feel So Good and seeing how long Maymi can leave between cigarettes is fun game to play. A lengthy bass-amp malfunction sees some entertaining banter ensue, but the band doesn’t really seem bothered trying to recover the formidable groove they sometimes manage to hit almost incidentally at later stages it seems. BJM have always been about attitude and though tonight comes across as more Ron Wood than Brian Jones, the crowd dig it all the same (though are more vocal about shouting down the hecklers) and the legend remains intact Nevertheless.


Saturday, August 09, 2008 
The Tote

There is a refreshingly unprofessional air about the bands playing tonight. Not that there aren't prodigiously talented people playing, but that no one is struggling for perfection or over-valuing musicianship, all the stories that are being told tonight rely on personality, originality and, as befitting any event organised by Guy Blackman, individuality.
The Twerps initially appear as though they're another band who heard The Pastels and thought 'I can do that'; cue melodic four-note basslines, lazy guitars, one-beat drums and some out of tune vocals. Several songs in though, the band reveal themselves as a throughly exciting proposition. Their willfully low-fi nature will alienate some, but there are absolute gems of songs here. The Twerps manage to make their touchstones their own, particularly via the lead guitar curlicues from guitarist Julia which befits their unassuming broken logic wonderfully. A real discovery, and a band destined for tiny, wonderful things.

Bringing a whole different flavour to the night is Beaches, a group who tonight justify the slow-swelling hype by resolutely kicking arse for the entirety of their set. Seeming comfortable on stage, even with three guitars blaring, the members listen to each other and know when to step back. Most of the stepping back is done for the galvanising Antonia Sellbach whose lead guitar lines are the icing on the cake of Sterolab-esque rock that the band push. Occasional vocal interjections give the songs a shot in the arm and it's those songs, most particularly The Rip and Ramblin' that linger longest. Bring on the album.

Guy Blackman and his band are, in keeping with the mood, on a more informal form tonight. Again his guileless charm permeates through the room, most notably on the revealing (yes it seems there are still layers left of the Blackman psyche to reveal) It Hurts Me To Sing, which almost suits it's falling-apart ending, an addition most songs have tonight. A warmly chugging Gayle, the funny and engaging Stay On The Beat about gay nightclubs in Tokyo and a never-more-haunting I Love Myself For You prove the highlights.

Adelaide's Hit The Jackpot are the focus tonight and don't disappoint with their arresting simplicity that sears in a way befitting music made in relatively isolated places. With the basics mastered and a lot to say HTJ kick off with album-opener King of the Pool and instantly it's the desperate yelps of singer/bassist Jess Thomas that arrest the listener, allowing a glimpse of the raw emotion not quite buried under the layers of repetition. This song alone is reason to pick up the Soul Money Gang Vibe CD they launch tonight, along with set closer Winter Coat which again sees Thomas launch into her tympanic-membrane shattering register. In between these two high points the band drift through numbing and sometimes moving relentless indie rock, echoing the drone of Beaches and the cassette-tape quality of The Twerps. Vocalist and guitarist Kynan Lawlor is a tousle-haired anti-charisma frontman with his downbeat vocals, friendly banter and resigned stance; and therefore, just perfect.


Thursday, August 07, 2008

Sun and fun!
Splendour proved to be a microcosm of it's nearest town, Byron Bay. Plenty of tents and music options for the spiritually aware, and an all-pervading feeling that it's all going to be OK. And it is. Barely anyone puts in a poor show and even if they do, the crowd will sweetly forgive.


Following Delta Spirit, the GW McLennan Tent becomes a love-in for the brightly-shining charisma of the knobbly-kneed and mouth-agape Dev Hynes of Lightspeed Champion and his splendid backing band. Hynes' cascading guitar solos and smart songwriting turns of Tell Me What It's Worth and No Surprises are only outdone by his Aussie-flag-in-mouth take on the Star Wars Theme and a version of Everyone I Know Is Listening To Crunk that classifies as haunting, even at 3PM on a sunny day.

Meanwhile Bliss and Eso are busy turning the Mix Tent into a dutch oven. The joint is heaving with happy punters and a pall of smoke gathers during their set. Their unshowy visuals and absence of dynamics force the focus back on their inspired rhyming again and again; it's phat. 'Listen to Triple J' they shout. It seems we do.

Starting with a storming Mistress Mabel The Fratellis' set then takes a downturn. Their newer, less-immediate songs are largely lost on a crowd clearly there for the incredibly immediate Chelsea Dagger (or the following Cold War Kids) which does the job nicely. Melodic lout-rock chants may work better on English football terraces, but the choppy feelgood vibe still shines, if weakly.

Disappointment of the festival is Tricky. An artist all about atmosphere, stratospheres of dry ice and moody lighting can't hide the feeling that the music (and most notably his voice) sounds forced. Black Steel should shimmer violently but comes across as mid-90s digitised metal with breakbeats (which it was...time has not been kind) and leaves most punters unmoved, bar those who do leave and move to Devo.


Make up, hair and clothes are still fresh on the girls who line the barrier for Yves Klein Blue, though the band has a lot more going for them than the boundless showmanship of singer Michael Tomkinson something the girls celebrate vocally. One of the weekend's revelations, YKB use the stage for all it's worth, shifting between Suede-rock and a furious indie buzz.They pull punters and keep them, right until Tomkinson is dragged bodily offstage after a theatrical collapse. Great fun.

The Supertop crowd crush reaches maximum intensity seconds into Let's Dance To Joy Division and Leaving For New York midway through The Wombats' set. Though it's unlikely the band have the songs to forge a several-year career, they have energy to burn and excel at sending the crowd bananas, even if the misogyny wears thin before their sweaty set ends.

Few images will burn brighter in the mind than that of Patience Hodgson of The Grates bursting onto stage as Batgirl, Batman theme blazing overhead. Kicking into a blinder of a set that balances the exuberant new album with crowd-rousing faves, the size of the stage makes the other members seem like a backing band as she twists, kicks and jumps with glee, rending the show a highlight, even before the confetti cannons detonate during 19 20 20 etching joy into the upturned faces.

Even playing below par, a band like Sigur Ros are operating on such a different musical, theatrical and creative level that they still impress mightily, despite their unfortunate scheduling between The Vines and Wolfmother. Several miscues and mistakes may prove they're human but bring the usual cloud-configuring orchestrations back to earth. Still, the band's militaristic-Tim Burton getup is glorious to behold, and many songs off the new album shine magnificently while the tracks from Takk and Jonsi's bow-breaking guitar playing burns more furiously than ever.


Band Of Horses were also a highlight, they seem to craft moody Neil Young-style paeans from the very air, and the reception they got was incredibly vocal and passionate, almost more befitting an emo band.

British India, though full of energy and in possession of one of the more charismatic frontmen working the country at the moment were a little predictable and relied a lot on boring bar chord riffs and flustered hands running up and down the guitar neck in lieu of ideas. That said it was good to see the crowd loving them so much.

Devo were a clear highlight of the weekend and they still know how to put on a show. With a great selection of songs - Peek-A-Boo, Uncontrollable Urge, Mongoloid, Gates of Steel, their dynamite cover of (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction and the set-closing Beautiful World as sung by Booji Boy, there was little you could fault. incredibly tight players, the sort of connection only musicians who've been playing together as long as they have and a real sense of showmanship ensured that no one left disappointed and many left to hunt down their old records.

Vampire Weekend showed that they can play as tight as they can on record, and that's pretty much all they did. 'This is out first time to Australia.' says keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij . We know. 'We're really glad to be here.' Really?
Though they seem a little surprised at the reception they get, little emotion is spared and though the songs are well-written, there are no real surprises and it's a merely perfunctory show.

Still, Splendour in My Arse (as the locals call it) was a blast, in it's last year at Belongil Fields (next year sees the site move northward 20kms to a slightly larger place that will hold 20 000 punters) it really did bring out the best in the region and the punters seemed surprisingly respectful of the community and site. The 5-empty-beer-cans-earns-you-one-free-beer system kept the place tidy and people happy and all in all, it deserves the reputation of one of the country's best music festivals. I know I'll be back.


Monday, July 28, 2008 
The Evelyn

The first thing you notice are the projections. The dimly lit room sees two walls playing host to short animated reels, and later, advertisements from the 1960s that perfectly set the mood for Pikelet's vaguely nostalgic and sometimes funny tunes. Twinkling fairy-lights adorn the stage and line the instruments soon to be resurrected from their stands, while the audience fall into the habitual Melbourne pattern of shying away from the stage and cramming the back two thirds of the room. For once though, this arrangement is necessary. Aleks and his Ramps soon march out in front of the stage in synchronisation and begin to enact a dance routine that seems to be heavily influenced by the actions of a new born kitten. Kicking off with Whiplash which builds over the killer electro-pop intro that backs their kitten-dancing, it soon dawns on those present that whatever hijinks the band got up to while touring Canada they've returned stronger than ever. They're tight, they dance, they have incredibly exciting songs that are a little bit pop with a lot of sudden dynamic turns, odd but really effective structures, killer harmonies (sometimes stretching up to five parts) and their lyrics are now audible. Extreme Wheeze reins in his excitable limbs and is more about the music than powering nations with his extraneous kinetic energy and they've even got songs based on a hypothetical film about Bruce Willis going back in time to stop 9/11. Good God people....what else do you want? Far from plying populist fare, the Ramps are never anything less than a charming creation of rambunctious curiousness, which I seriously doubt influenced their earlier dance, but does render it clever as well as disarmingly endearing. I Wish I Was An Aurora Borealis and Sorry Mum But I'm Andrew Bolt may not be bursting on to JJJ playlists anytime soon, but in a just world they would be all over it.

Soon enough the fairy lights are reignited and pot plants positioned as the band assemble. "Hi. We're Pikelet," says Evelyn Morris, the woman I was about to call Pikelet. "Tarquin, Matt, Shags and I'm Evelyn," she later introduces. Epithets aside, if the excellent EP for sale at the busy merch desk is anything to go by, it does seem that Morris is embracing the addition of electronics, drums, bass and clarinet, and as tonight proves, the audience are embracing the idea too. Straight away it becomes apparent that is Morris's voice is far stronger than those familiar with her better-known songs might expect, and she seems to like singing more forcefully. It could be expected that those better-known songs (Bug in Mouth, Little Man, Beyond The Sky), gentle paeans to solitary characters that suit her homespun delivery, would be the highlights of the set, but it's clear with the energy she invests into her new songs, that days of quiet meanderings are not what is inspiring her now, and while as beautiful as ever, they're dwarfed. With a refreshingly minimal use of the delay pedal and battling through technical difficulties, it's the new songs, three of which conclude the set, that glow the most warmly. Whether these were the same ones nervously debuted at Golden Plains several months ago I'm not sure, but the vaguely disco Brain Allergy and another fantastical character story Toby White show that the creation station that is Evelyn Morris seems to have found another level, working with the other instruments to create rich and intricate backings for her still-Morrisian subjects. A top night that ends with Morris's adieu of 'keep being rad', a perfect description of the band's progress.


Monday, July 21, 2008 

"It's whirlwind tour, literally 'play, press, press, play' says Grates' singer Patience Hodgson of their promo tour during which we catch up. "But it keeps us in the good books of the record company, it's cheaper because we can squeeze it all in at once and stop them hating us from spending their money. [leans in whispering] They're very tight with money these days, record companies, it's not like the 80s, when you read biographies about bands having meetings with record labels and everyone doing coke on them - I feel lucky if I get a coffee! But who knows what happens after the new album? Who knows how much coke our record label is going to be giving us? A mountain?"
"Yeah, like in Scarface." interjects guitarist John Patterson.
"A mountain of icing sugar...come on, snort a bit of that," laughs Hodgson at the oddly fitting image.

Known for their ability to craft sub-three minute rollercoaster rides of tummy-turning glee, The Grates have been embraced in the UK, the US and, via their Top 10 album Gravity Won't Get You High, our own shores, a place they were glad to return to after years of non-stop touring. This recent down-time has seen a different approach to their new album Teeth Lost, Hearts Won, a Wonka-esque creation of buzzsaw guitar, colliding vocal lines, pumping drums, and songs that show that once the sugar rush wears off, there is a lot going on.

"We're really excited about the record. We wanted it to be organic but bigger and give it more guts and sincerity," explains Hodgson. "With the last album, we were touring, then we recorded and then we kept touring, so we were always having a connection with the audience. If we wrote a song we'd just start playing it live, there was never any period where anything was just kept to ourselves. This time round it was so much more insular."

Live is where the band has traditionally excelled, and the previous album sought to capture the energy of a Grates show. With the process reversed, Teeth Won… requires the band to flesh out the new songs, but retain the distinctive rawness that has become their trademark. "I'm still using the same guitar," says Patterson. "Last time we recorded the dudes hated that guitar. But this time the guys were like: [adopts disbelieving tone] 'that's your guitar?' and every time I tried playing something else he'd say 'You can't play that!', so it became the guitar on every song and I was so pumped up about that because it's my favourite guitar to play. And everyone else has been like 'you can't play that it sounds like shit'.
"We wouldn't have our sound if it wasn't for your Silvertone," agrees Hodgson, "within five seconds you can tell it's a Grates song. When we were recording I overhead the engineer say to his friends: 'you should see this guy's guitar!' she laughs. "I was so proud."

The band seems justifiably proud of the album too with first single Burn Bridges returning the band to the JJJ high-rotation they enjoyed in 2006. Though the film-clip and artwork keep the animals and handcrafted aesthetic of the first album, the work within has developed with clear intent. The single, The Sum of Every Part and most impressively, Storms And Fevers, are songs that show a vitality and vulnerability even more engaging than the overt excitement of their previous radio hits (more of which are here in spades). The richer and more diverse sounds that come courtesy of Peter Katis (producer for Mates of State, Interpol and The National) and make an unusually widescreen setting for the band's hallmarks.

Any suggestion that The Grates make music for an adolescent audience brings a swift response from the band, and most vocally, the ever-vocal Hodgson: "NO!" she exclaims, "I feel we have a really broad audience. I think it's actually something that is almost unique to our band, the broadness of our audience. It's something I never really noticed until it got brought up in a gig review one day, and I challenged the review: 'we don't really have an audience like that?' and you [John] were like 'yeah, totally'."
Patterson agrees. "I always see a bunch of old dudes and some little kids at the shows, and I think it's because we're a bit niche but not like 'cool' niche, you don't have to be in a certain kind of scene to enjoy it. It's not tailored to a scene which I think makes it more accessible."
If noisy positivity pisses you off you wouldn't bother coming? "Positivity and guts," agrees Hodgson.
"In Brisbane there is a group of four biker guys that will come to all of our shows. I trust them almost like security now, I imagine that if someone was giving us a hard time, I could be: 'Oi guys!' and they'd come in and save me," she laughs. "Another thing is that most people come to enjoy the show, it's never gross or weird. It's funny, when it's an all ages gig and people have to come with a parent or guardian and they end up having a blast. It happens so often."

Recreating the new songs effectively on stage and investing them with a physicality already written into their earlier songs clearly poses a challenge, but its one Patterson is embracing keenly. "Basically you try and take the parts out of the songs that people are going to miss least. We still have Dan Condon [from The Sips, helping them live] and we make him work like a scientist. I was dreading working out how to do everything, but once you start it's so exciting, working out the most efficient way of making as many noises as you can at the same time."
"Sometimes you can hear the parts in your head even if they're not there, if you know the songs well," adds drummer Alana Skyring.
"That doesn't work if you haven't heard the album," counters Patterson.
"It doesn't matter though, because the audience haven't heard the album," finishes Hodgson succinctly. "Live, we'll probably keep it fairly simple. I don't think we'll ever have more than four people on stage."

Building strong relationships seems something the Grates do undeniably well. Fans are on first name terms with the band and they make a point of getting to know them whenever possible. While we can see how teeth might be lost at Grates' shows, what about winning hearts?
"It's hard," says Hodgson. "It's dangerous when you start going out with someone when you're in your semi-off period. You can get really used to that lifestyle of one of us being around all of the time. And then it's like: 'yeah, you knew I had to tour.' Somebody knows that you've got to tour but until they experience what it's actually like to be dating someone who is touring, you never know how that's going to work out. But at the same time my logic is: 'don't put rules on it'."
Rules nil. Hearts won.


Saturday, July 19, 2008 

"Baby in this universe / You're gonna be swept away" promises the opening lines of TSOMM's re-released EP, and yes, they deliver on this premise. Now with 10 tracks and clocking in at 42 minutes, including live tracks from their apparently all-conquering 2007 Falls Festival show, the Hobartian duo are back, buying time until the release of their debut album due in December. Not only are they doing that, but they've also made a wholly worthwhile release that anyone who owns the original won't feel shafted for buying. 
For the last twelve months TSOMM have been little brother to the big three electronic acts ruling the charts, getting mad props from various French producers and selling out The Forum, and though this extended EP won't put them on equal footing, it does show that they aren't far behind. Full of driving guitars, soaring synths and smoothly surfed dynamic shifts, the band seem more intent on hyping crowds (which anyone who's seem them live can attest they can do), exploring analogue synth sounds artfully and using a vocoder with admirable restraint. The way they construct the songs is where TSOMM really kick into gear, having a great intuition for when to let grooves ride and when to cut everything away before bringing it back times ten. Obviously in debt to French house and sounding a bit M83, a little Human League and well-matched to be supporting The Presets on their current tour, perhaps they don't really add anything to the genre but it is rare to find charisma, energy and a non-exclusive love of music attached to a band in this day and age and TSOMM are certainly one of those few. 
This still sounds like a debut EP though a world-class one and the next twelve months will be fascinating to watch based on the contents here. Opening track Easy has never sounded better, Live All Night is some of the best driving music this side of any 90s Stereolab release, For You is gorgeously warm and shows they can really sing, while the live Falls Festival tracks live up to the hype. The remixes aren't scintillating but do show that the lads are moving in bigger and bigger circles, and with no shortage of ideas, expect little brother to grow up fast.


Saturday, July 19, 2008 
The Toff

When music is showcased this well - via such well-produced posters, through such a glorious PA system, amidst clouds of dry ice, beneath a neat lighting rig, with such great instruments and equipment via people in the prime of their life - there is a reasonable expectation to expect great things. The organisers have certainly gone all out to launch the debut EP for local three-piece There She Goes Again; not only do we have the well-publicised lineup above but we also witness three burlesque performances from the talented and captivating V Dentata Burlesque Troupe (Aphex Twin's Windowlicker soundtracks the removal of Marie Antoinette-style get-up surprisingly effectively) and a fashion show launches the evening. Punk rock has rarely seen kid gloves this clean.
First band up Black Pony Express play fairly unexceptional country rock that they would probably like to have likened to Crazy Horse but, due to the undistinguished and indistinguishable voice of their singer (rendering an instrumental they play a high point) and plodding tempos, it's not going to happen here. Things come to life on the unexpectedly brilliant Home, and a cover of Neil Young's Running Dry which sees a slow-burning guitar solo in it's proper place but overall it sounds like soundtrack music that needs a film.

By the time The Dead South arrive the venue is thick with punter. The band begin and it sounds like a heavier version of the bar band from Fire Walk With Me - repetitive bass, grotesque squalls of guitar and drums like molasses. And then comes the reverb-soaked baritone of big-bearded singer Spike. Despite the ghost of The Birthday Party being inescapable they're great. Though the songs are formulaic, it's a killer formula: lyrics are several words bellowed again and again, Spike's bassy voice is offset by phenomenally hot guitarist Count Mikey Heartbreak's piercing and heavily processed lead, while tempo and dynamic changes are banished. 'If you've got any hatred send it up to me now. I'll roll it into a little ball and send it back out into the cosmos.' says Spike. Whether we do or not, he's soon writhing and bellowing like a wounded animal while Heartbreak prowls the stages, impossibly skinny and incredibly noisy. Galvanising.

The contrast between the red velvet drapes and dirty punk rock works for The Dead South. With There She Goes Again it jars, nearly as much as the neat visual package the band make of themselves jars against their music which is essentially strung-together riffs and surly yelping. Besides drummer Jamie Power, who anchors the group with his frankly astonishing fills and clever-yet-simple beats, the band seem new to this gigging lark and are surprisingly loose players. Citing Patti Smith as a key influence is understandable, but using her vocal style to hide a lack of ideas and ability is a disguise that thins quickly. Their cover of Smith's Land is a high point, and encapsulates what they do best which is work with dynamics and rhythm shifts, though even when you know the lyrics, they're barely discernible. Seeing There She Goes Again as harmless punchy punk fun is fine, but asking for anything more than that means they'll have to head back to the practice room. The tunes are gutsy but the package is a little too polished for punk and a little too punk for glam rock. Maybe they're starting a new wave?

CD Review: THE FLAIRZ - BLACK FOX (Lefroy Records / MGM)

Saturday, July 19, 2008 

It's hard to separate the band The Flairz from the ages of the members - anyone new to them finds out soon enough that all four are between 13 and 16. Were anyone to listen to this album not knowing their ages it would be branded as pedestrian oz rock by players who haven't progressed past their record collection. Their lyrics are totally fine for 15 year olds playing at being a grown up rock band, the songwriting is on a steep trajectory up from their early WAMI-winning track Sidewalk Surfer, and the whole album sounds like teenagers rocking out and having a good time, which is what they sound like they're doing.

Were they not so well connected to the local music industry it's unlikely the gear, the gigs, the studio time and the attention wouldn't be coming their way. Instead, they would be winning high school Battle Of The Bands competitions, making a garage demo and, in a few years time after some hard slog, probably a fantastic album. As it turns out this album is still a few years away and instead we have the (highly polished) demo. Clearly these guys and girls haven't found their own voice yet so when they mention their love of Cream, The Who, AC/DC and Dallas Crane (you can practically see the Kiss make up on the riffs from Bad Dream) it's them that you hear. In a School of Rock way this is totally fine; by-the-numbers big riff rock satisfies a lot of people (Jack Black included), and those people should be happy, especially seeing them live where it tends to work best, but as for the members themselves, given that they're a long way from finding out who they are as people, there's little real insight as to what's going on for them as people. We do learn about Dion Mariani's "good dream gone bad" on Bad Dream, that they hold Keith Richards in high esteem (first single Mr. Richards) and Scarlett Stevens' concerns on Pollution In The City which ain't 'bout noise pollution but, it seems, asthma. Musically it's her drumming that really shines - she makes a lot of noise for such a skinny-limbed girl and The Flairz really impress with their vocal harmonies which will only get better with time as their range increases, and that's where you can hear the influence of the guitarists' father Dom Mariani of The Stems, they're tough but bang on target. Maybe it's just me that would like to hear kids sing about being kids, as The Flairz do with wide-eyed wonder on their earlier song Speakerbox, included here on the bonus The Early Years 2003-2006 CD "It's a speakerbox, makes a lot of noise / It's a speakerbox yeah". Still, as a debut album, it's a document that they should be proud of for a long time.