Nic Belor, a gentle, long-haired guitarist and songwriter living between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast, is about to release his first solo album, Bestfriend, via Queensland-based imprint Feedback Town. Formerly of the post hardcore-influenced Wilde Child, he’s also a member of Figures, a three-piece band that pairs sweet, Teenage Fanclub-style vocals with rough-edged shoegaze.
Belor’s new material is pop music, plain and simple – an attempt to cut through the noise in a few harmonic minutes. The album’s title track and lead single is a sad-faced number with a chipper demeanour, kind of like Mac DeMarco minus the shit-eating grin. Easygoing and warm, ‘Bestfriend’ is nonetheless just a little off-kilter; its bright chords slightly detuned, twanging uncannily, while Belor croons about the one who’s left him.
Having released a compelling set of country-punk tearjerkers late last year – the brilliantly titled ‘Having pop punk feelings in a country-western body’ EP – Melbourne-based three-piece Two Steps on the Water are now gearing up for their debut LP, God Forbid Anyone Look Me in the Eye. The band – comprising violinist Sienna Thornton, drummer Jonathan Nash and frontwoman June Jones – yesterday released ‘YoYo’, a tender, Kate Bush-referencing ballad underpinned by the trio’s lilting harmonies and Thornton’s intuitive counterpoint. Today we’ve got the video for you, beautifully shot in soft afternoon sunlight by the Yarra. June Jones spoke to us via email about the new record and the band’s upcoming June residency at the Gasometer Hotel.
Can you tell me what ‘Yoyo’ is about? did you write it for someone in particular?
‘YoYo’ was primarily written for myself when I was younger. I have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder since I was 14, which made life pretty hard especially when I was a teenager. I used to beat myself up about being so terrified all the time and it took me a long time to realise that I wasn’t to blame for my trauma. ‘YoYo’ was written for me back then, but also for anyone who needs to hear that it’s not their fault, that they are beautiful and dangerous. I should probably mention here that the first two lines of the chorus are totally ripped from ‘Cloudbusting’ by Kate Bush (a timeless classic).
Is there a narrative behind the video clip? It’s a gorgeous setting – where’d you guys shoot?
Nah, no narrative. The last clip we made (for a song called ‘More True More Rowdy‘) was pretty heavily rooted in narrative, and we filmed that in a few different locations which meant that it was a pretty time-consuming process. This time around we just wanted something simple and pretty. Working with absolute legends Nina Renee and Olivia A Fay, we filmed the whole thing in Fairfield by the Yarra. One half was at the beautiful amphitheater and the other half was with a group of friends in a clearing that Sienna knew about (and I think people put on raves there sometimes?).
Congrats on recording your debut record! Can you tell us about how it all came together – the writing and recording etc? How would you compare the new album to HPPFIACWB, whether aestically or thematically, or the process in general?
Hey thanks! We wrote all the songs in the second half of last year I think. Made some demos in Sienna’s shed and sent them to Simon Grounds (who was recommended to us by our friend Laura Jean, an amazing Melbourne musician). Recording took place from early February through to late April, starting at Bakehouse Studios with Simon and then RMIT with some friends who are studying sound production, then doing all the overdubs at Simon’s home studio.
Aesthetically I think we’re working with similar ideas to what’s happening on HPPFIACWB, but there’s no electric guitar this time around. Thematically I think God Forbid Anyone Look Me in the Eye is more coherent. I’ve realised that lyrically I tend to tackle three themes over and over again, and those are trauma (spanning the last 10 years), my social experience as a trans woman (the last year and a half), and lastly the object of most songwriting ever: love and romance. The three overlap and intermingle and fight between each other. For example, there are three songs about love/romance/sex on the record but two of those are very much about my experience of these things as a trans woman looking to be recognised as such by my partner.
It’s been five years since Melbourne expats Civil Civic released their debut record Rules – a driving mix of noise, post punk and math rock. The duo met via email in 2009, and began trading ideas between their homes in London and Barcelona. It could be a slow, convoluted process, but the results were manic and immediate, and often gleefully nerdy, with fast-paced songs changing key and time signature mid-flight.
Since then, the band has released a single with outsider artist and lo-fi pioneer R. Stevie Moore (it sounds a bit like the Cure fast-forwarded to 160 per cent), and guitarist Aaron Cupples produced the Drones’ outlandish new record, Feelin’ Kinda Free. Along the way they worked on a follow-up record, describing it early on as “a big, ballsy expansion and escalation of the sonic turf we staked out on our 2011 debut Rules, with more high emotion and destruction and joy and carnage.
“Even at this stage, with the long and punishing mixing process ahead of us, we’re already scared of the results.
“This thing is going to give people brain tumours (the awesome kind). All we wanted to do was make a jaw-droppingly awesome record, not some sort of hyper-music-weapon that gets us ‘black-bagged’ in our sleep and end up working for the C.I.A.”
First single ‘The Hunt’ has finally landed, making its Australian premiere right here. It’s an acrobatic number, veering between shimmering, harmonic chords and blinding electronic passages, all underwritten by relentless 909s, prog solos and a wash of noise – kind of like Fuck Buttons spliced with TNGHT. Aaron sums it up like this:
“You wake up late afternoon, your hair a mess. You smell like a bin. Breakfast is the rest of the falafel from the night before. You’re volatile, energised, funny as fuck. You don’t give a single shit what others think of you.”
‘The Hunt’ will be out 24 June on Civil Civic’s Gross Domestic Product label, via Believe Digital, with an album to follow in spring. Check out the teaser below:
Earlier this month, Evelyn Morris released her third Pikelet LP, Tronc. After the expansive, full-band psychedelia of 2013’s Calluses, Morris returns to her roots on the new album, crafting experimental pop gems at home with a loop station and an array of analogue gear. She spoke to us recently, via email, about making the new record, her feminist practise and working with the LISTEN collective, patriarchy and white supremacy in Australia, and her upcoming launch show at Hugs & Kisses this Saturday night.
Hi Evelyn! We were really sorry/mad to hear about your gear; I hope it’s making its way back to you. Anything our readers can do to help?
I’ve been very fortunate in that everyone pitched in and crowdfunded the replacement of my gear! So I’m not feeling as awful as I did when it first happened, as it’s been somewhat affirming to have so many people rush to my aid like that. However there are some bits of gear on the list I posted on fb that can’t be replaced so… I guess just keep an eye out? If you happen to be a regular Gumtree or eBay shopper. Thanks for the sympathy!
Tronc is a pretty different record to Calluses. It’s recognisably Pikelet, but it sounds more lofi and possibly more eclectic than ever before. After working in a studio with a full band for Calluses, why did you decide to do a solo home recording this time round?
It happened rather naturally, given that I’ve had to squeeze my music practice in around my feminist practice with LISTEN, which consumed my time and energy for a good year and a half or so. The work I did with LISTEN also really highlighted my own insecurities as a musician and helped to allay some of those fears because I’ve started to understand that some of them are to do with living within patriarchy and within the binary. So exploring feminism has given me a renewed confidence – and hence recording on my own in my own way was both very interesting and much more possible than ever before. I always needed other people to validate my ideas prior to this record… so I released it as quickly as I could, because I needed to do that in order to stop myself from allowing those doubts to creep in that usually cause me to turn to others for advice. That process of self doubt slows things down immeasurably.
Tronc seems quite avant-garde; there are a lot of ideas in the mix (and what i think is the first Pikelet r’n’b track?). I was wondering if you could tell us something about the ideas you had in mind, and any reference points you had for the album?
I am so heavily influenced and inspired by music that’s around me, because that feeling of watching your friends get up and do something beautiful is like no other. So there are many of my friends’ musical inspirations infused throughout. Orlando Furious (Ben Snaith) is where I found an access point to r’n’b, though I suppose I was aiming more towards an experimental electronic track originally [on ‘the Neigbour’s Grass’] and my pop tendencies is how that aim ended up in r’n’b territory. Other local influences for this record would be Laura Jean, Rogue Wavs, Lalic and the collaborations I’ve done with Nick Allbrook have probably also had a big influence. Also more experimental acts in Melbourne are always keeping me refreshed… a band I’m in called Prophets inspires me greatly, as do artists such as Eves and Carolyn Connors.
My constant and ever-present reference point is Broadcast, and track 2 is an ode to Trish Keenan who tragically passed away not long after I had the pleasure of touring with broadcast. That track is named ‘Trish’, however on the cassette the track listing says track two is called ‘Tronc’ for some reason, I guess because I rushed the artwork along and didn’t notice it had been written indirectly until too late.
A lot of times, this sounds like a pretty angry record. On tracks like ‘the Neighbour’s Grass’ and ‘Interface Dystopia’ you talk about feelings of dispossession and disillusionment. There are places where you seem cautiously hopeful, too – making reference to human plasticity/possibility, and finishing up with a track called ‘Survived’. Could you talk a little about the themes of the album, and what kind of headspace you were in while writing it?
I have been dealing with all these themes for many years, however perhaps in a less direct way in the past. I have been stuck in a place of in-betweens my whole life in many ways. In-between the gender binary, in-between my favourite music styles but not really knowing where I sit, in-between poverty and comfort also not really always knowing how good I have it when compared to others… these strike me as fairly universal feelings for a large portion of the population, and especially for Australians that don’t opt to be as wilfully ignorant of suffering as we’re encouraged to be. We are living on stolen land and have been destroying that environment and First Nations people’s lives every day since we first arrived here. We continue to do so every day that we stay here without acknowledgment of the white supremacy infused in our culture. We are also simultaneously actively allowing for the suffering of refugees and asylum seekers to continue because we think we have a right to keep this place to ourselves. I don’t know how anyone could live in Australia and not be angry.
But it’s not just that Australian anger that I have expressed in these songs, it’s also the anger that has built up since realising my feminism more fully. The years wasted on hating myself and undermining myself because that’s how I have been raised in this structure… I’ll never get those years back.
There’s so much happening emotionally on this album though, and ultimately like any record, I wanted to find a way to capture those feelings so I could look back on them some day. I suppose the cautious optimism is the only way that anyone can look at these themes and not feel really stupified as to what we should be doing. You’ve gotta convince yourself of the fact that there’s purpose to continuing to work towards change.
A chef and a publican (he co-owns the lovely Longplay in North Fitzroy), Tim Richmond has been composing songs, slowly and steadily, since 2008, using a guitar he first bought as a teenager. His last record, Dot, consisted of stark, skewed guitar pop, as idiosyncratic as you might expect from a businessman with the freedom to experiment, tinkering determinedly after hours.
Richmond’s first two solo records were made with local stalwarts like Declan Kelly, Nick Huggins, Kishore Ryan and James Cecil. For the latest Tim Richmond Group release, What’s in the Middle?, he’s convened another all-star team, with Mark Monnone of the Lucksmiths, Monnone Alone and Lost & Lonesome Recording Co. on bass and Joe Alexander of Terrible Truths and Bedroom Suck Records on drums.
Lead single ‘Come to Papa’ sounds slick and dense compared to Richmond’s earlier work. In place of Dot‘s spidery riffs, he’s opted for bright chords and effects pedals, and a characteristically agile bass line from Monnone is well paired with Alexander’s featherlight drumming. Cheerful, wry and just a little creepy, the track’s basically a football anthem for cool dads – with a sneaky change of time signature to underscore the strangeness of this chorus: ‘Come to papa / Bada bing bada boom … Booya!’
Erica Dunn debuted Palm Springs just last October, releasing a pair of 7″s that sound like dust-streaked sunlight. Now, the SMB having hung up the fishnet stockings for a little while, Dunn’s been back in the studio, her group rounded out to a trio to record a new cassette. Engineered by the Drones’ Dan Luscombe and mastered by Mikey Young, the Flowers in a Vase EP features an updated version of the sublime ‘Winning & Losing’, a charming Randy Newman cover (with more harmonica than honky tonk, to be sure) and a suite of aching gothic-country numbers, delivered in Dunn’s dusky contralto.
Palm Springs are launching the cassette tomorrow night at the Gasometer Hotel. Calamari Girls will be playing in support (along with Caroline No), so this feels like an excellent opportunity to talk about the Before Darwin Tape.
Calamari Girls features members of Melbourne garage punks Constant Mongrel and the Shifters. Quietly released in July 2015 via Al Montford’s Hideotic Records, their sole release has flown more or less under the radar. There’s not much press out there on these guys; one of the only leads to follow is a cryptic message left on their Bandcamp page: ‘Long live Takashi Mizutani’. It’s a reference to the frontman of Les Rallizes Dénudés, a Kyoto band that operated in the late 60s, making long-form, DIY noise rock inspired by the Velvet Underground. This actually tells you a lot of what you need to know about Calamari Girls. Scrappy but charming, the Before Darwin Tape combines post-John Cale, pre-Loaded Velvets with the naive pop of the Beat Happening. In short, it rules, and it’s available right now as a free download.
While I’m on the subject of cassettes, I found this one mooching around on Bandcamp:
Lalić is led by Melbourne’s Mladen Lalić Milinkovic, a GNC artist who’s been recording under their mother’s maiden name since high school. Milinkovic has described Bed Tape as ‘an interim release’ before a third LP comes out later in the year, and it does have an ephemeral feel – more a collection of textural experiments than a song-driven album. Its palette drifts somewhere between Animal Collective’s early acoustic recordings and the narcotic teen fantasies of Foxes in Fiction. Milinkovic moves tentatively, testing out a melodic phrase, a synthesiser setting, a sample – adding layers almost haphazardly to the mix. The results are surprisingly lovely, with songs that stumble, frayed, then miraculously coalesce: reaching, collapsing and reforming.
“We can agree/I’m not quite what I used to be,” James Harrison, a preternaturally world-weary teen, mumbles on ‘Telephone’, a standout track from the Goon Sax’s debut record, Up to Anything. At once self-conscious and naïve, it’s one of many tunes on the theme of adolescent awkwardness, with lyrics detailing sweaty palms, unconsummated affection and the indignity – even “heartbreak” – of a home haircut.
Despite their youthful preoccupations (the band’s youngest member is only 17), this trio has sophisticated tastes. On the eve of their album launch tour, they’ve sent us a playlist: 17 songs about water. Featuring tracks from Soft Machine drummer Robert Wyatt, as well as John Phillips’ cult first record the Wolfking of LA, it’s a timely reminder that, though just out of high school, the Goon Sax are cooler than you.
Singer/guitarist Louis Forster writes:
‘The following songs aren’t connected by any kind of genre or time period, but what they all have in common is that they are set beside or based on some kind of body of water. Whether it’s the Marine Girls’ loneliness scaling the depth of the ocean, or Neil Young’s bitter observations on the beach, by the water is always a brilliant setting for a song, and serves as the perfect comparison to just about any emotion.’
The Marine Girls – 20,000 Leagues
The Beach Boys – Feel Flows
Robert Wyatt – Shipbuilding
Bob Dylan – When the Ship Comes In
The Velvet Underground – Ocean
Pulp – My Lighthouse
Erika Eigen – I Want to Marry a Lighthouse Keeper
Mercury Rev – Opus 40
Neil Young – On the Beach
Creedence Clearwater Revival – Proud Mary
Talking Heads – Take Me to the River
Canned Heat – Going Up the Country
The Waterboys – Fisherman’s Blues
John Phillips – Malibu People
Gordon Lightfoot – The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
G. Wayne Thomas – Morning of the Earth
The Triffids – Seabirds
You can catch the Goon Sax on their east coast tour in April: