Tuesday, February 22, 2011



Often in the heady world of popular music, someone who isn’t an attention seeking charisma machine can find their songs lost in the ever-faster-flowing release of new albums, singles and scenes. Replacing fireworks and neon signs with brains, a dulcet voice and acerbic lyrics is D. Rogers, who, on his fourth album, has decided to bring in fewer accompanists on what is a surprisingly eclectic album.

Don’t be fooled by the image of a myopic singer-songwriter from Northcote, Rogers is a writer who is comfortably in command of an arsenal of sounds without ever playing to a cliché or straying from a delicate, oddly hi-fi, production. A string section on Pay to Pay is gorgeously arranged, lending the track a wintry ominous quality, reinforced by reversed drums, while Emma Heeney’s beautiful vocal harmony brings a warm complimentary glow wherever she lends it. Possibly the most beautifully realised song here is Hanabi, a two minute burst of fuzzpop that brings Rogers back to Japan, the country where his first two albums were born, to celebrate space, land and tradition; a long way from the domestic concerns that give the album its title.

With less of a country edge than his earlier work, Rogers isn’t all about ‘casting a spell’ with his voice and guitar, which the opening track Not Correct and the acquiescing lament I’d Cave prove he can do with ease. A cranking ‘band’ (himself and drummer Dave Kleynjans), bursts through on the power pop crackle of Your Heart’s An Only Child, lead off single Westgarth Talking and spellbinding closer Food & Electricity. With no songs straying over four minutes, Rogers is still revelling in the pop song framework, but it’s rarely been used with such a manifold talent or acuity as it is on Natural Disasters.


(Memphis Industries / Shock)

Go! Team mastermind Ian Parton recently described Rolling Blackouts as ‘all over the shop’, which is quite something from a guy who seems to have a very fixed idea of atmosphere and almost no rules for how to create it. Though known for their cheerleader chants, squalling guitars and ruthlessly low-fi approach to sample-based good times, The Go! Team here bring in a whole new element; harmony. Though not a huge deviation from the unhinged raucousness of the still-brilliant début Thunder, Lightning Strike there are moments when things become unexpectedly sublime. The glistening 80s keyboard swoops on Apollo Throwdown, sweetly naive melodies on Ready to Go Steady, Deerhoof’s Satomi Matsuzaki’s vocal on Secretary Song and Best Coast’s Bethany Consentino’s contributions to the Triple J-hyped Buy Nothing Day all hint at this being their most song-oriented album yet. Introducing an African choir on the brilliant The Running Range that exemplifies the freedom Parton operates under, given that there are essentially two versions of the band; Parton in his room bringing in guests and band members as he chooses to make an album, and an exuberant sextet who sell it.

Apparently mastered via a C90 cassette the album doesn’t sound low-fi to its detriment though vocal clarity is sacrificed for that glorious nostalgic scuzz which seems to suggest happiness in a sunny pre-internet age. With rumours that the band may be splitting after their tour this year, the instrumentals Super Triangle, Yosemite Theme and Lazy Poltergeist hint at a possible future for Parton’s music; heavy on Boards of Canada-style Moog lead lines and acoustic guitar, by no means a bad thing. Hopefully this focus on melody and harmony won’t mean their live show is any less thrilling when they bring it in May.

Live Review: M WARD


Tonight’s tickets state in black block writing ‘M Ward, sponsored by Frankie Magazine’, and boy does it look like it. So many nice frocks, tight jeans, softly pointed boots and perfectly tousled hairdos are squeezed into the Palais this evening that it’s remarkable 1000 Pound Bend bothered staying open. With all the unfussiness befitting his plain-speaking songwriting style, Ward walks out, waves, straps on his Gibson Hummingbird and launches into a dynamic bluesy instrumental. With the crowd already attentive to every plucked string and pealing harmonic when he introduces his gruff tenor with Paul’s Song, we’re transfixed. Which is a hard thing to be by one man and a guitar, no bells or whistles, just minimal use of harmonica, a little delay pedal and some simple piano. There is no overwhelming talent or blazing charisma with Ward, and it would be distracting if there were. His voice is expressive, his songs decent and his guitar playing excellent; a collection of talents that could be found in a dozen musicians in any given city, yet somehow, with Ward, one and one and one is four.

A wave of applause rolls around the theatre with the opening notes of Chinese Translation, a hush descends for the Dylan-meets-Khalil Gibran poetic solemnity of Requiem and cheering breaks out for a neat expropriation of Don Gibson’s Oh Lonesome Me.

Just before entering into a gorgeously caustic version of Hold Time, Ward ruefully mentions that he’s promoting an album he released two years ago, ‘late, I know, but I love coming here.’ Whether he likes being on stage is another issue. He rarely smiles and dispatches songs almost begrudgingly, echoing a recent interview in which he mentioned his disdain for performing. The songs however, don’t suffer at all. Ward’s piano-led take on Daniel Johnston’s The Story of An Artist is perfectly pitched, equally funny and tragic without the solemn reverence it would be so easy to give it. A brief dip into the Monsters of Folk’s Slow Down Jo and The Sandman, The Brakeman and Me are warmly received and Sad Sad Song leaves the crowd cheering louder than ever, despite few audience members seeming to own it. His closing Undertaker dies with a distorting, shorting battery in a guitar pedal, which he weathers to great effect. Plucking Alex, a pianist, from the audience for the encore Rollercoaster proves a smart move as he provides the perfect accompanist, putting Ward in the straight-man position he seems clearly more comfortable in.

Thursday, February 10, 2011



Mistletone again prove they're the promoters to beat as every band brings their own twisted logic to the theatre of electro-pop and emerging victorious on a night that ranks as a highlight in a brightly studded summer of gigs.

Kicking things off are the duo of Lost Animal, featuring a welcomely ubiquitous Shags Chamberlain who helps out on bass. A man who plays in both of the support bands and is an ex-member of the headline band, Chamberlain gets deserved props later in the night from Mr Pink, but here he plays backup to the gritty, misanthropic electro dub dirges of Jarrod Quarrell. It's great to see a wry intelligence and dark sense of humour having its way with these evocative and underused sounds.

One of the city’s most musically talented groups, Pikelet deliver a sterling set of new songs and highlights from the recently AMP-nominated Stem. Always interested in pushing the boundaries of melody and structure, their new songs continue an exploration with new wave disco, polyrhythms and layered sounds. The opening Smithereens, new song The Year Is… are highlights, as are Locust and Weakest Link. 'Shags and I were lucky enough to play in his band last time Ariel Pink was here which makes us the biggest fans in the world' says singer Evelyn Morris in what is news to most of the audience. Their last two songs inspire dancing amongst those closest to her, and it’s a glowing set from one of our city’s greatest musical assets. If new ideas run the risk of being buried under the weight of the previous ones still repeating, then this only means you have to listen closer.

A by now packed Hi Fi Bar are nearing ecstasy as Ariel Pink and his cohorts, who have been mingling with the audience all night, finally assemble themselves amidst their instruments and begin their set. Miming to a TV ad for the compilation CD '60s Gold', Pink, the only member not dressed in a sparkly or riotously colourful outfit, leads the band into a blistering take on Artifact then Bright Lit Blue Skies which ring with a punch their CD versions only hint at. As with few other gigs I’ve ever witnessed, the ringleader has the power to effect good luck; the uncorking of a champagne bottle perfectly introduces L’estat, Pink calls us a ‘bunch of bogans’ before staring down a screaming girl in the front row with ‘I appreciate it, but you are politely declined’ as Flying Circles bursts forth in perfect syncopation. It seems impossible this wasn’t planned in advance but it adds to the uniquely thrilling whole that the very tightly rehearsed band create. 

Though the first half of the 90 minute set is gold, the density of sound, clashing vocals styles, frequent bursts of feedback and need to have everything drenched in reverb wears. Round and Round (introduced with ‘let’s get this over with’), Fright Night and Beverly Kills all work because of their cleaner sound, which also allows Pink’s uncanny pop nous to shine brighter. Don’t Think Twice (Love) is another highlight and the closing blast of Jules Lost His Jewels brings things back up to a height few other bands can manage. Though he paces the stage, swigging champagne or aimlessly wandering as if looking for something, suggests he’s uneasy, he seems born to do what he’s doing. Bands this blindingly charismatic and obviously smart don’t come along every day, or put on gigs this gloriously messy.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011



With your humble reporter the youngest in the room by a considerable amount, a rapt and enthusiastic audience greeted the return of the English gravelly-voiced blues/soul singer. Though some are applauding the show, others the legend, Cocker’s backing group are worthy of all the adulation they receive. Featuring Hendrix alumnus Mike Finnigan on Hammond, the phenomenal Oneiedo-James Rebeccu on bass and Nichelle Tillman on backing vocals and stealer of Up Where We Belong, they are the perfect mix of sexy 30-something and venerable near-legends.

Dwarfed by this show is the opening slot of George Thoroughgood and the Destroyers who are heavy on theatrics and light on memorable hooks. Madison Blues and Tail Driver allow a copiously sweating Thoroughgood to get fiendish on the guitar, only it seems to be one style he can manage; an open-tuned slide guitar. This doesn’t stop him throwing up his hands mid-solos if amazed by his skills however, and it is, in the end, an entertaining set.

For a man who has spent his near 50-year career sounding like an possessed alcoholic, Joe Cocker looks, unsurprisingly, worse for wear. Never having been the most handsome of crooners, his distinctive singing style is rendered all the more arresting by his huge barrel chest, flailing limbs and squalls of saliva which accompany his outbursts. With a distant, almost blank-eyed gaze, he lurches towards the microphone again and again, contorting his shoulders and squeezing out impassioned grunt after whispered syllable in a near-imperceptible way. Four songs into his set he’s shed his blue paisley suit jacket, said a few words of thanks and his vocal style becomes legible, though his bizarre air-soloing whenever he’s not singing remains. After a blistering run-through of his first US hit The Letter, things get very AM radio with the power ballad to end all power ballads Up Where We Belong and You…Are So….Beautiful….To Me which allows Cocker to scrunch his face up even more and the crowd to get louder in appreciation. Slipping in the title track from his new album Hard Knocks, Cocker then revels in Hitchcock Railway, which gets him back to his bluesiest roots, before searing versions of the songs people paid for; our hearts are unchained, we’re getting by with some help from our friends, but our hats are off. As is Cocker, for a few minutes, before returning to encore with a barely recognisable Cry Me A River and a heartfelt (as if he can do any other way) take on Thankful, satisfying us all.



One scan of the audience and you can tell that there will be a lot of taxis heading north after this show. Quite how so many kids have heard these bands given the scant radio play they’ve received is testament to the power of Pitchfork. Those here tonight have passion to burn, even if the red curtain has been drawn, halving the venue’s capacity, due no doubt to the number of other Laneway sideshows elsewhere.

Switching playing order from gig to gig, tonight sees Bear in Heaven in the earlier slot and clearly not the band most people are here to see. Whether it’s a sound issue or the nature of their songs, there is a BiH ‘sound’ from which there is little deviation, and it rarely sees its elements evolve from a saturating density; little dynamics, heavy basslines, huge synth pads, constant busy drumming and simpering vocals that grow stronger as the gig goes on. It’s a sound that works on record, but as with tonight’s headliners, translating suffusing atmospherics into a compelling gig is a difficult task. Ultimate Satisfaction sees singer Jon Philpot struggling for high notes in a way that seems weak at first, but soon becomes an asset as his voice gamely rides the churning mass of music and whole thing comes together beautifully. Elements fall into place on the simpler Lovesick Teenagers too and also soars as a result.
'You guys are like the Brooklyn of Australia right?’ says Philpot partway through the set, during one of his ‘whisky breaks’. ‘That's cool. Brooklyn’s cool,' his baritone voice cracks, in counterpoint to his quavering tenor when singing. 'This next song goes out to Triple R...and Triple J' he says, launching into the closing Beast in Peace.

The front few rows of the crowd are full of iPhone-wielding 20-somethings clearly a little nervous. Can The Antlers pull of the translation of their delicate and harrowing album Hospice in a live setting? Is it even possible?
Thankfully the anticipation is diffused by the band entering to the bursting strains of Huey Lewis and The News’s The Power of Love and we realize that this band do fun. ‘This is our first night in front of fans, says singer Peter Silberman, ‘we mean wind fans, not you, we thought we might look stupid, but…it’s OK,’ he says drily before the sounds of Kettering overtake the audience’s laughter. With both Silberman and keyboardist Darby Cicci hemmed in by layers of pedals, they slash at the instruments giving the songs their all, using their pedals as much as conventional instruments. Arrangements for songs are thrown out the window as they push dynamic shifts and only Siliberman’s crystalline searing voice roots the songs in the realms we know. Sylvia is hammered home, fans scream the lyrics back at the band, Bear becomes a near-Christmas carol until its all-subsuming chorus hits. Two is taken from a steady brittle guitar chug into an epic tempestuous harmony-laden swathe of atmospherics that serve the piercing ache of the song beautifully. One of the most therapeutic albums of recent years is treated with the respect it’s deserved and few concessions are made to allow it to be just as compelling live.
When Silberman forgets the words, twice, during Wake it’s a testament to the love the audience have for him that a chilling narrative isn’t broken, rather everyone cracks up and starts trying to help him out. Drummer Michael Lerner asks if anyone is up for an apartment swap from Brooklyn to Melbourne, which several people take him up on straight away. The band leave, the crowd bay for more, they return and play a staggeringly beautiful version of Epilogue and sell a LOT of merch. Tonight was a sweet taste of Brooklyn.


BRIDGET TURNER of Perth-based folk-pop outfit Simone and Girlfunkle talks about songwriting in parks, getting props from the ambassador to Syria and chasing Cliff Richard with a fork.

“It is strange being in a folk-pop band here,” laughs Bridget Turner for the first of many times during our interview. “There are lots of vaguely inappropriate places to play in Perth if you play our kind of music,” she says of the rock-heavy sounds the city has become known for over the last decade. “Still, there are great scenes here.”

Neither a Simon and Garfunkle tribute band nor any longer a female duo, Simone and Girlfunkle began life as a project between Nelson and lifelong best friend Gabrielle Lammers. Though playing for several years, the band only released their first EP in late 2010, building up enough of a fanbase to ensure the launch was a sell-out and interesting offers of gigs ensued.

“We recently played The Ethnic Business Awards,” she says with a laugh, “it was televised on SBS and Aurora and it’s this big sit-down dinner affair with the Premier and all these politicians. After we played our folk songs, we had just got offstage and were still trembling when the Syrian Ambassador wanted to talk to us. He talked about his wife - which was good - and was full of praise; ‘that was great, you girls keep going’, it was one of the strangest things.”

Now with four other members, Nelson doesn’t find it weird that Simone and Girlfunkle now refers to a partly male collective, “I‘ve never asked the guys if they mind being in a band with this name,” she says wistfully. “I guess not, they do it with a smile, and they show up. We write more collaboratively now too. Gabby and I sit in Hyde Park and write with the birds around us, in nice areas of shade so our guitar doesn’t buckle. When we started singing together we wanted to have a band but didn’t really know it, we glided into it. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, it’s what I want to do with my life, but if you put the focus in the wrong places, it won’t get you what you want. I have no illusions, and it’s working out all right so far.”

With the growth of the band seeming to be almost accidentally happening around the songwriting core, Nelson professes to be set on music as a life-long career, even if the releases aren’t coming thick and fast.
“The EP took a long time, a few years in fact, but when you get paid $50 a gig it takes a while to save up to make a record. Gabby and I messed around and didn’t focus on it much; we were more interested in writing and playing. We recorded an EP of our acoustic stuff, tested out the band with it, and had a launch that was a great success and everyone liked it,” she says happily. “We don’t have the cashola for an LP; we want to record an EP of songs with the band, more pop flavoured than the EP, more…Cliff Richard.”

With a biography containing multiple references to the clean-cut 50s popstar, this obsession clearly requires some explanation. “I really like old music and Cliff Richard especially, and I figure if I keep name-dropping him, a [Google] search for Cliff Richard will bring us up and eventually we get to meet him,” she says giggling at the logic. “I almost got to meet him last year,” says Turner excitedly interrupting herself. “My brother is in the Army and I was at the airport seeing him off, and at another gate, far away, I saw Cliff Richard with all of his people. So, I was running towards him but there was a security gate between him and me and I had to get scanned. Security were like ‘you have a weapon’ and they found a fork in my bag. By the time I was through, he was gone. It was tragic.”

Sunday, February 6, 2011


DAN WHITFORD and TIM HOEY from CUT COPY explain how they invented the title for their new album Zonoscope, don't care about chart positions  and have been known to dance to their own songs.

When you listen back to Zonoscope, does it sound like the album you set out to make?

Dan: Yeah, we’re stoked with it! It’s a weird time because we’ve been finished with it for a while and, finally, it’s going to be everywhere tomorrow [February 4], which is exciting.

Tim: It was the same with In Ghost Colours, they had to line up territories and it sat around for ages, which was frustrating at the time. Thankfully, this one’s been more seamless and it’s coming out around the world almost simultaneously.

Since In Ghost Colours did so well, do you feel any need to address the expectations people have about a Cut Copy album?

D: I think you’ve just got to focus on your bit of it. I guess that’s the good thing about having a team around us like our label, management, and people that do all the engine room work of getting a record out to people; we just focus on being creative and making something that it hopefully new and exciting for us and other people. We really try not to think at all about commercial concerns or other people’s expectations, that’s for them to worry about, the whole ‘is it going to work on the radio or whatever’. I guess they might tell us if they think nothing is going to get played, but we’re not really aware of these other concerns that more commercially-minded people might be.

So, you won’t be checking the Australian or Billboard chart entry position then?

D: No, not at all. It’s almost the last thing on our minds really. I guess we didn’t know what a chart was when our last record came out [laughs], and we were lucky enough to have a number one in this country - that was a total surprise. We thought that was the realm of people other than us, [gestures to the massive posters adorning the walls of the Universal Music board room] Bieber and Gaga. It’s not something we think about ever.

What prompted the short video you released in October of you guys in the studio partway through making the album? It sounded like you were revisiting some early Sonic Youth in an abandoned warehouse.

T: Yeah, it sounded like we were making the sequel to Metal Machine Music [laughs]. Our idea was to get people wondering what the hell we were doing in this warehouse space. Making that documentary was a look at behind the scenes of how we were making a record. As artists we’re always fascinated by behind the scenes process and we’re constantly hunting down the series of Making Of... DVDs or books about making albums and I think it gives a really accurate portrait of who we are as well as the process of making that record.

The opening track Need You Now has been getting a fair bit of buzz. Were you expecting that track to be singled out?

D: No, not really, I’m thrilled it has been though. I remember when you [gestures to Tim] first listened to it. I’d been tinkering with it at home one morning we were meeting up to go and talk about some band-related issue, and it was something I’d been tinkering with the night before. In the morning, Tim and Ben turned up and I was like ‘check this out’. It was only a sketch of what that track was but immediately everyone had the same feeling about it, that it was this quite unusual but at the same time classic-sounding track. I think the way we recorded it has done justice to that original idea, creating this sprawling, building thing. It almost moves like Bowie’s Heroes, which was a reference point we were using while we made the album. It has this slow-burning dynamic, starts small, is long, and gets huge by the end.

Did you use the gated microphone trick he does on that track, since you had a warehouse to record in?

D: Not on that track no, but it was something we talked about ‘Hey, we’ve got this huge space - we can do that Bowie thing!’ But that song was partly a process of figuring out how to belt out the vocals more than I ever had before on Cut Copy tunes. It’s one of the vocal performances on this new record that I’m really happy with. It’s awesome that people are having the same feeling we had about it, that there’s something special about it, something that’s unusual enough to stand out but it could still be a single - it is now I guess. It’s nice that that’s translated.

Did you intentionally try to use different vocal range on these new songs?

D: Yeah, a lot of the songs are more percussion-driven, with some of the tracks singing differently felt right rather than doing the vocals I’d done on In Ghost Colours, which had a gentler, almost polite sound. This felt like it needed a punchier, almost stern, chanted vocal sound to it, quite primitive - like you would sing as if you just had drums and vocals. With all of the records we’ve worked up to getting more diverse skills, whether it’s Tim’s guitar sound and finding ways to use the weird noises he can conjure up, or Mitchell’s drumming which has gone from…uh…questionable in the beginning [laughter] to being pretty awesome these days. I think everyone’s gone on a journey since the beginning. Vocally, this has felt like a big development from the last record.

Do you ever dance to your own songs?

T: [slightly embarrassed and carefully] When we’ve been out in clubs and they’ve come on, we’ve…kept…dancing…

D: Yeah, don’t fight it.

T: [laughs] That’s right. I think it’s important for the music to be able to exist in a lot of different contexts. A lot of it is based around house music and references that, but we like the idea of it being able to exist in the club but also at home on the stereo or walking around the city, that’s very important and that’s where a lot of the pop music elements come into it. Maybe we’ll bring in some of the harder house sounds or shoegaze guitar stuff to try and keep it accessible in every kind of environment.

Is a Zonoscope the name of the artwork you used on the cover?

T: [pauses] No, the idea came from us. The cover is actually this bird’s eye view of this world we created for this record and we decided a Zonoscope would be the lens used to view it. We wanted to come up with our own word for it so for the rest of time when anyone mentioned Zonoscope it would only be associated with this album.

Or Googled it even?

T: Yeah, exactly [laughs]. We really liked the idea of this record standing on it’s own and creating a new world which the image on the album cover represents for us. Hopefully it will be in the urban dictionary in years to come [laughs]

D: Yeah, with our faces on it [more laughter].

How did you come by the cover art?

T: We just stumbled across it then tracked down the artist who created it and actually found it in a collection of photomontage artworks that I found in the RMIT art library with a lot of the pages torn out, thankfully this picture was the cover. I thought this guy was incredible and this image seemed like an idea that encapsulated this other place that the record existed in. A big place, quite grand, modern but prehistoric, this combination of here and a far away exotic place as well. We sourced the image from the publisher of that book in Japan. The artist passed away in the 90s but we got permission from his wife who found the image at their house, buried under a whole bunch of other prints. We were lucky to get it in the end; it all seemed to come together. She was really cool about it once she found out we weren’t wanting to put it on a t-shirt and make a million bucks off this image her husband had created.

You’ve worked with other Japanese artists in the past like Nagi Noda, were you surprised to find out that this artist was Japanese?

D: I wasn’t surprised at all. To me Japanese people seem to have a real aesthetic and visual sense whether it’s with pop culture, absorbing Mickey Mouse and Western culture or with their own. There’s some amazing graphic design and designers from Japan, and since I’m a graphic designer, I’m aware of art and graphic art from that era, there are some amazing illustrators too. Technically, one of the things about this image that I really like - and you can see form our previous record covers - is that I’m slightly obsessed with photorealistic, almost airbrushed, art. With [first album] Bright Like Neon Love, that was me recreating that style. Making these hyper-realistic images, it’s almost like a lost art form. [Looks at CD cover] To me it just reminds me of covers that I love, from Krautrock albums or covers that only exist because there’s a super-talented artist who made it, not because you’ve got the latest version of Photoshop [laughs]. And it just looks different; you could try to recreate this in Photoshop, in fact I did my own not-so-good version of this [more laughter] using Photoshop. Soon I was like ‘ah, let’s try and find the actual guy that did this’. There is a magic to the way it comes together. It looks modern and futuristic, but…there’s something about it that is…

T: Timeless

D: Yeah, it almost doesn’t come from now as well. It’s a weird combination that just works.

Part of the power of a lot of the songs on Zonoscope seems to come from the evocation of Australian electro-pop bands from the mid-80s and sounds that listeners might not have heard since then. I’m thinking of bands that only had a few songs like Koo de Tah, I’m Talking or The Machinations, their songs don’t get compiled or played the way that punk or new wave bands do. Is this era a direct inspiration?

D: Well, yeah. One of these tracks is called Strange Nostalgia for the Future, which is based on a Brian Eno quote from when he was talking about Kraftwerk. He said it their music was futuristic but at the same time, it’s nostalgia for 1920s dancehall music; the most modern thing you can imagine but still quite old fashioned in a weird way. We try to listen to new music as much as old, and within the music we love, I can see an evolution over time. I think we reference that pathway and hopefully push it into somewhere new and different as well.

T: I think with synthesizer music it has that connotation of 80s pop scene, and it’s constantly tied to that. We try and re-imagine that with modern production techniques, where we try to find sounds that are more unusual. We use the Fairlight on Zonoscope, which is quite an archaic-sounding synthesizer-sampler, the first one of which was invented in Australia. It’s not in a cool vintage way like a CS80, it’s more clunky and very mechanical sounding, so we thought it would be great to treat that with a more modern production technique. 
Synthesizers will always have that connotation regardless of what you do with them, I think it covers every decade from then till now.

Was making Zonoscope a totally different process to making Bright Like Neon Love? Has the process changed?

T: It’s totally changed. Now, there’s an initial period where we just listen to stuff and we kind of compile references we’ve come across since the last record. Every time we go on tour we come back from overseas there’s an extra suitcase of records and after this period of absorbing stuff there’s another period where I’ll tinker at home, get ideas and get some basic song structures down. Then I get the other guys in to say ‘what do you think?’ We’ll work on them bit by bit and finally we have a more extended session where we go to town on each of the tracks in the warehouse and transform them into the songs they are on the record.

D: For Bright Like Neon Love I just worked on everything at home and gave a cassette to Tim who layered guitar over it. We tracked everything in an afternoon at a studio in Northcote and mixed the thing in Paris.

T: Yeah, I didn’t even realise I was in a band until afterwards [laughs].

When you go overseas, do you feel any more Australian than you do day-to-day?

D: Yeah, we ARE Australian [laughs] so definitely. I think there is an Australian-ness about us, I think we’re pretty down-to-earth and we like good food and good coffee - the same can’t be said for a lot of places we tour [more laughter]. There is an Australian-ness about us we’re quite proud of, but at the same time, from the very beginning we weren’t championed in Australia, we didn’t have a scene or anything. We just did our own thing and eventually things started to develop around us like The Presets or Midnight Juggernauts and like-minded people finding a connection. Now it’s almost that Australia is known for electronic music. When we started you could barely name an electronic act from Australia that had done anything overseas. It was quite a different scenario.

It’s interesting, I feel like we’re an international band these days, we spend as much time here as we do anywhere else in the world and our fans are pretty evenly distributed which is nice for us we because we get to travel a lot and get in front of all of these people. 90% of the next nine months will be spent away. So yeah, we definitely still consider ourselves Australian.

Do you think many of your fans know you’re Australian?

D: Oh definitely.

T: I don’t think we have a distinctly Australian sound, but then I don’t know what one is, I guess it would be rock music, the foundations of AC/DC, stuff like that. Actually, it’s funny, everybody thinks we’re from England when we go overseas it’s often: ‘British three-piece Cut Copy’ even when we talk they never think we’re Australian [laughs].

Will you mainly be touring for the rest of 2011?

T: The majority of the year will be focused on touring, but we’ve also realised that we have a lot of music left over from the sessions at the warehouse and we’d love to get to a point where we’re releasing music on a regular basis. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the next Cut Copy album you need to promote and do a big thing about; we love the idea of putting out a 12-inches of straight-up house tracks. There’s all these little half-ideas and sketches of songs, and it would be great to put out an EP of those, the way bands used to; Guided By Voices or the Suitcase Series. We have all these little ideas that may not fit as part of the next Cut Copy record. It would be great to find an outlet for this and release a lot of music. We love that old model of a band releasing an album a year or even more recently like Deerhunter, Bradford Cox, constantly releasing music – amazing music. It would be great to get to that point, hopefully we can find some time to release that stuff one way or another.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

LIKE…WHAT???: An interview with TIM AYERS of TIM & JEAN

TIM AYERS of up-and-comers Tim & Jean talks about dealing with being the youngest guys at the festival and proving to their mates that electro-pop can be cool.

Mandurah, Western Australia isn’t known for its musical output. Despite a photograph of the town being used as the cover shot for The Triffids' Born Sandy Devotional album, it’s safe to say that a teenage electronic pop duo is a brightly-coloured aberration in the city’s DNA. Yet Tim & Jean, already riding high on prolific airplay, are now on the verge of getting nationally recognised for forthcoming album Like What and as surprised as the rest of us.

“It’s surreal man,” says singer and guitarist Tim Ayers. “I guess a lot of people would say that if they went through the transition from staying at home and chilling to going out and doing things they’ve dreamed about, it’s definitely not normal yet. I get excited when [manager] Pete [Carroll] rings me up and says we’re going to do this and that, going to New York or talking about the album being released in the UK. I don’t show it but inside I feel it and it’s crazy – I think that’s the best way to handle it. Jean, he’s pretty comfortable with it all. He doesn’t show it on his face but I’d say he’s just like me, buzzing about it but wanting to focus on the job to get it over the line,” says Ayers of his band-mate Jean-Christoph Capotorto (that’s a French Jean, as in Jean Claude Van Damme, not a trouser). “When he started he was 15 which is really young to be touring, but his parents are really cool with it. At the start they were kind of ‘…uhhh’ ‘cause it’s natural for a parent to be concerned about things like their kid taking a year off school, because they could think anything could be going on; he could be wagging. Now they’re all for it, they always come to shows, they’re like my parents who are the most supportive people you could possibly want.”

On the back of their meteoric rise from jamming on an acoustic guitar in Jean’s bedroom in 2009 to being the subject of a multinational major label record bidding war, the first fruits of which will drop April 1 with the duo’s debut album Like What, it’s been a mad 18 months. As with many bands the helping hand has come in the form of love from Triple J, something Ayers is quick to acknowledge. “I never thought that Triple J would take to us like that. From what I’ve done in the past with other bands, I know it’s difficult. When Jean posted our song [Come Around] on Unearthed and we got that drum sign to say that we’d been played once it was amazing, because that had never happened before,” he says as if it happened five minutes ago. “That was in late 2009, and then they went with it we got played more and a bit more and in 2010 they flogged it, and they played Veronica and then we released the new song I Can Show You a few days ago it’s been getting played too.”

Tim & Jean are most commonly likened to ‘an Aussie Passion Pit or MGMT’ says a politely frustrated Ayers, but, he’s keen to point out, most people are basing this on one song, Come Around. “That track does have a Passion Pit vibe on it, because I sing in a falsetto for a part of it - but I wouldn’t go to an opera and say that sounded like Passion Pit cause some guy is singing high,” he says with a laugh. “The rest of the tracks on the album are more natural sounding, there are acoustic sounds on there. I don’t think of it too much,” he says sighing. “We do get that everyone wants to reference us to something and they have to get one from somewhere. I’m looking forward to the time where people say we sound like us.”

Though their age has been a good thing for raising eyebrows and getting some attention, Ayers says it has also made getting taken seriously and recognised as a musicians more difficult. “It’s always been a thing, our age,” he mutters distractedly. “It’s true people don’t take us seriously, even if people like the songs they might not like us because of our age. We do attract a younger crowd and because of the music, we play mainly people our own age that contact us online. Seeing us live is really different,” he says keenly. “From starting our first show to playing Falls Festival, there’s such a big difference into terms of the crowd we play to. It’s not just young girls but…you know…big men too,” he says laughing. “People can get into it more live and see we can pull it off and that we’re actually musicians.” He doesn’t need to prove it, but there are several YouTube clips of crowds getting excited supporting this.

Acoustic guitarists to begin with, Tim & Jean have a history that few other electronic artists can boast. “When we met I was playing jazz and blues guitar in bands and Jean playing guitar in a shoegaze and indie rock band. He was getting into ProTools and stuff, and just recording little things. I heard a couple of things online and thought they were cool. When we met we were just jamming stuff, in fact the first thing we did was a Dave Matthews song,” he says with a laugh. Before this revelation results in Tim & Jean’s cred taking a beating among some readers, remember they were 18 and 15 at the time. “I was really into him and that vibe, I’ve always been more into the blues thing. We were mucking around trying to get a vibe, making tracks and acoustic jamming and just chucked the electronic thing on it.”

It should be pointed out that ‘chucked the electronic thing on it’ is Ayers’ severely downplaying their production achievements. The first thing that jumps out at you when listening to Like What is the remarkable mix of bedroom production intimacy, arena-shaking bass, and his voice. Ayers’ voice, as featured on a variety of YouTube covers he and Capotorto have posted (Fleetwood Mac, Dave Matthews and Tom Petty), is a thing of Idol-slaying wonder and richness, a quality that is even stronger live.

“We produced it in Jean’s bedroom. It was recorded over scattered times here and there and then once we had the tracks we had enough we could pick out what we wanted to put on and what we wanted to do for mixing. We talked about it and decided we wanted to get someone overseas and to go over there and do it, so Pete was like ‘I want to organise someone in New York or LA’ and John O’Mahoney got back to us and we did it. It was so last minute and he was a good choice, he’s a really good dude to work with.” Unfazed by O’Mahoney’s credits (Guns n Roses, Coldplay and…uh, ‘N Sync), the duo stayed focused on the sounds they wanted to get.

“It’s kind of weird,” says Ayers slowly. “Jean is into bands like College and M83, and I was wanting to make it more in your face so you can hear lyrics and melodies; we’ve just taken similar sounds and made them poppier. We were really interested in that kind of music,” he says quickly. “We wanted to make more airy and light sounds - that’s what we were into at the time,” he says of the sounds that anyone over the age of 25 would call ‘kind of eighties’. Ayers laughs at the idea of these sounds being nostalgic for him, but, as a child of the nineties whose parents played pop music, it’s understandable. “Growing up, my parents were always listening to Prince and Michael Jackson because their era was the 80s you know and they were smashing it at the discos. I think we add a different touch to it - a ‘today’ vibe. Jean was really into building up references from different bands, he’s got about two months of music on his computer, he was just constantly listening to stuff and remember things he likes, and it did pay off. We’d never done electronic things before, it was crazy to begin with, especially when we’d play it to our friends,” he says with a laugh.

“It was pretty hard at first, showing my friends who are musicians and coming from a different style of music,” he says with a wry smile audible down the phone. “Obviously I want to impress my friends, and they’ll be honest with you and they’ll tell you if it sucks, and it was hard. My mates didn’t like it at first, but they liked Come Around and then we re-did the first song (Like What), which was the one he didn’t like. Now they’re into it,” he says with a laugh. Don’t think they’ll be the last converts.