Posts By Nicholas Kennedy

LISTEN: Beloved Elk – Distractions LP

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beloved elk booklet

Beloved Elk are a band of great focus. Whether or not you see nobility in their gaze being so consistently directed at human connections, trauma and anxiety is a personal feeling. But there’s something to be said about the boldness of duo Amy Wright and Tina Nyugen dissecting their deepest-selves on record over the course of three E.P.’s, and now their debut album Distractions.

Writing on the production of the record, Wright speaks of a healthy dissonance in the band, and discusses the influences and overall intent of the record.

“We took all of May 2016 to home record the album in the shed at my place. Most of the songs were just guitar chords and vocals to begin with and each morning we would write out new guitar lines together and Tina would come up with drum parts on the day.”

Aside from splitting lead vocals and drumming duties separately, we shared all the guitar, bass and keys playing down the middle. Kinda fighting over each instrument and picking whichever takes sounded best…. I wanted to do all the arranging from scratch and in one hit during the recording of the album itself to keep all the songs unified together in tone and feel…”

Distractions is a collection of sombre, twinkling guitars; clattering experimental drumming; and Wright’s wrenching, mournful vocals. The pieces create a sound that is absolutely sincere and melancholic, working together to form a complete, fully-realised whole.

“It was really inspired by late ’90s Modest Mouse, Cat Power and the Drones when making the album. I intentionally minimised the use of effect pedals and overdubs so it would be as raw and immediate as possible. I was feeling very courageous going in to recording it and wanted to make something that would be challenging to listen to in parts but would take risks and cut through, wanting the delivery to be bold, brave and nuanced… recording it ourselves meant we just had no personal boundaries in what we could do in the room. Even if it meant screaming til our voices were gone.”

“The album covers a lot of ground but ultimately keeps coming back to the two main themes of feeling out of place in society/cut off/not belonging — and feeling overly sensitive, having immense difficulty connecting or reaching out.”

Distractions is out now on LISTEN Records.

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INTERVIEW: Biscotti’s Carla Ori & Alice Hutchison

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Neon Parlour, Thornbury

 

The artistic collaboration between Biscotti‘s Carla Ori and photographer Alice Hutchison is an all-too-rare occurrence. Regardless of how good it is, many artists’ work will often wander it’s way onto Bandcamp at some indeterminate point without much more than a Facebook post. Musicians deserve better, listeners deserve better. They deserve a 30cm dildo jutting defiantly into the sky, surrounded by peaches and greenery.

Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. Hutchison and Ori’s audio/visual collaboration was realised at Neon Parlour Gallery in Thornbury. Ten songs, ten images; each a visual representation of the tracklisting that makes up Biscotti’s debut record on LISTEN Records, titled Like Heaven in the Movies. It helps that Ori’s musical stylings are so eclectic, escaped and elastic, making ample inspiration for Hutchison’s series. I spoke with Ori and Hutchison recently about their collaboration.

So the name of this record, ‘Like Heaven in the Movies’, where does that come from?

CO: Well the concept for the album was that I was playing with the idea of it being the soundtrack to a film that doesn’t exist, and because the songs that I write are so eclectic I end up going through a lot of sounds. So I wanted a theme that would tie them together. Even though I was making lots of different styles, I felt with Like Heaven in the Movies, if it was a ‘film’, there would be all these different scenes, and different things could be happening, so each song was a theme for a different scene, or event, or character even.

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‘Like Heaven In The Movies’ – Alice Hutchison, 2017

What’s it like listening to your album on repeat all day, surrounded by photographs of each song?

CO: Well I actually turned it off because I got sick of it

*laughter all round*

AH: Today is actually the first day I’ve been hearing it all together, and it’s been really nice. Probably the best we’ll see it, all the photos in the physical world, and the music playing over some nice speakers.

What’s the interest been like?

AH: It’s been packed out! We’re both so happy. I don’t think it could’ve gone any better really.

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‘Instamatic’ – Alice Hutchison, 2017

The album seems to draw a lot of inspiration from cinematic styles and periods, 70s Italian work especially. What are the movements within cinema that had the greatest impact on Like Heaven in the Movies?

CO: I really got into Giallo films, which is Italian horror; Dario Argento and Ennio Morricone worked together a lot during that period. They really set the style, in a way, together. Song-wise, ‘Leave the Gun, take the Cannoli’ is very specifically from The Godfather, and when I was working on the album a friend of mine mentioned that quote and I was just like “pwoah…thats just…gotta be in there”.

Actually, one of the techniques in my creative process when I was writing the album was thinking about how I could start writing a song. One of my problems is titling a song once I’ve written it, so I thought, this time, I’ll actually title the song before I’ve written it. So I just started brainstorming this list of names, one of which was ‘Leave the Gun, take the Cannoli’, also ‘Velvet Sunflake’.

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‘Soda Pop’ – Alice Hutchison, 2017

How did the collaborative process begin between the two of you?

AH: We’ve been friends for many years. We’ve done a few smaller collaborations like promo photo shoots, and Carla responded to some of the imagery I’d been creating in a series of still-life photos. She expressed an interest in collaborating over some album artwork, and I was really keen; I love Carla’s aesthetic, it matches what I’ve been doing with my still life work. So we got together and we agreed we’d at least create the back and cover art for the record, but once we’d set up the lights we were like…maybe we should just do two more for the singles and stuff.

CO: Then we were like “ohhh…they’ve come out really good. We should do one for every song…”

AH: When we put ‘Jeanie Brown’ online, people really took to it. There was a lot of people engaging with the image and it encouraged us to pursue a larger project, which we see all around us now.

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‘Cognac’ – Alice Hutchison, 2017

What were the conversations like surrounding the collaboration itself when it came to actually creating the images?

AH: I would say it was surprisingly organic. I mean [the images] were highly considered…

CO: We’d use Pinterest to spark the beginning of each image. I had an idea of where I’d wanna start and Alice would be like “yeah!” and start putting stuff up on there.

AH: We’d literally get colours, and put boards together just with colours. But also other things like…a velvet curtain, or an old leather sofa, and then Carla would respond to that. Then in real life we’d go on op-shop journeys and source products. Many months of sourcing went into that. Some of it was a real challenge, others were just jackpots.

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‘Jeanie Brown’ – Alice Hutchison, 2017

Like the retro-futuristic television?

AH: We just found that in an op-shop; Carla literally picked it up and just yelled “ALICE!”, holding it aloft over her head. We were just like “holy shit, yes”.

CO: I was also trying to think of friends I had who were collectors. Obviously we didn’t have a huge budget to go out and buy or hire props…we only hired one thing, the gun…

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‘Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli’ – Alice Hutchison, 2017

That’s a real gun?

AH: It’s a real ‘PPK’, that’s James Bond’s gun.

CO: We had to go to a back-door hire shop, we had to meet the guy in the street and he took us down an alleyway.

That doesn’t sound legal…

AH: Yeah we went up this series of outdoor staircases that led to this tiny room that was all fenced off.

CO: But y’know I didn’t get a bad vibe off him, we did call the cops, though. We actually had to because we had to check to see if we had to get a special license to use it for the day and they were like, “oh is the guy you’re getting it off named ‘such and such’? He’s fine.” I was just like, “thank christ, he’s legit”.

Carla, how did your knowledge of the song’s themselves influence the creation of the images?

CO: Well in the case of something like ‘Instamatic’ I thought more about the tone of the song, so like; summer, fun, pop aesthetic. So I thought what objects would portray that?

AH: Me and Carla were very much on the same page about everything though, I think there was enough discussion about the songs, what the songs were about, the feeling we were going for. These were pretty extensive conversations.

CO: Oftentime I would have pretty specific colours in my head when I thought about a song. These songs sound like these colours. If I was going to make a ‘Jeanie Brown’ music video, it’s gotta be blue and orange.

AH: The images are highly influenced by the props themselves, so they bring their own stories. You try to drop them into your own narrative. We were very considered, I hope that comes through in the artwork.

 

So I wanted to ask about the penis statue…and the school.

AH: *scoffs*, oh yeah.

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I notice that you’ve got it covered up… what happened there?

AH: What happened was that we didn’t realise that there was a primary school across the road, and our exhibition opened the same day that school went back for the year. Total coincidence.

So they went and had a sook to 3AW.

AH: Yeah, and then they called the gallery, the gallery called me, and I just said “oh well I never even considered it to be controversial, I’m not going on air to defend my work, I don’t feel like that is a balanced forum in which to discuss artwork”. My written statement was to the effect of… *pauses*

CO: “If art isn’t the form for expressing yourself, then where in society is the space for that?”

AH: Well said Carla.

And I’m assuming here that the problem was sexuality and children, right?

AH: Well, I just think they were saying it was inappropriate, and maybe it is, but in another way I think ‘is this all you need to do to get media coverage in Australia, is to put a dildo in a window’?

I’m not saying we’re right and they’re wrong, we responded in a way that was ‘if you’re asking us to censor this, then we’re going to censor it in the most blatant way we can’.

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Biscotti’s debut album Like Heaven In The Movies is out now through LISTEN Records.

Biscotti will be touring nationally in support of the record, the dates for which you can find below.

FRI MARCH 3 – GARDEN OF UNEARTHLY DELIGHTS, ADELAIDE
SAT MARCH 4 – GRACE EMILY, ADELAIDE
SAT MARCH 18 – THE EASTERN, BALLARAT
THURS MARCH 23 – THE GASOMETER HOTEL, MELBOURNE
SAT MARCH 25 – THE BEARDED LADY, BRISBANE
FRI MARCH 31 – THE ODD FELLOW, FREMANTLE
SAT APRIL 1 – THE BIRD, PERTH
FRI APRIL 7 – POLYESTER RECORDS, MELBOURNE
SAT APRIL 22 – GOLDEN AGE CINEMA AND BAR, SYDNEY

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INTRODUCING: Okin Osan

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Okin Osan is a new band fronted by Sydney-based Rose Chan, sporting a hyperactive, grungy take on surf rock with a kind of 60s Japanese twist. She’s supported names like Jeremy Neale and Empat Lima, and if you know those artists, you’ve got an idea of the off-kilter kind of alternative pop-rock you’re in for. Rose also happens to be the sister of electro-pop mover-n-shaker Rainbow Chan.

Rose doesn’t take much inspiration from her sister’s already considerable back catalogue, instead focusing on carving a new vibe full of fuzzy chord progressions along with razor sharp riffs and vocal melodies. Rose clearly has a deep affection for the period of mid-1900s western dance-hall optimism, but digging deeper into the demos on her Soundcloud also shows her leaning towards the grungy angst of the ’90s.

Okin Osan’s debut single ‘You Tell, I’ll Listen’ is a strong starting point. It’s got that lonesome, sun-soaked delivery of something like Martha and the Muffins’ ‘Echo Beach’, but is a little more rough around the edges in a youthful, carefree way. It’s short but upfront, confident, and full of ideas that are begging to be expanded on.

Okin Osan’s debut EP will be out digitally and on tape via Healthy Tapes come November 10

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INTRODUCING: No Local

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Image by Greg Holland Photography

Liam ‘Snowy’ Halliwell isn’t a content man. You see it his songwriting, and the fact that his main band camp page looks like this. He reminds me of the classic fervent artist – constantly immersing himself in creative process, creation and destruction, rarely rising up to the surface to breathe in and take stock, always sorting through his ideas as quickly as possible.

The focused movements of his best-known work with The Ocean Party are probably the result of having to work to the combined schedule of five other dudes, but in his new project, No Local, Snowy is purely himself.

His debut release under that name is Nolo Contendere, named after a kind of plea bargain where the defendant admits neither innocence nor guilt. If you’re familiar with Snowy’s preference for darker self-reflection, these themes will come as no surprise.

Here Snowy’s exposed, no longer hidden behind a guitar or nestled in with others’ sounds. Last time I saw No Local perform was at STRINE WHINE’s August residency at Melbourne’s Gasometer. In that performance Snowy approached a pop-star iconography, his all-black outfit bookended by his mess of blonde hair on top and white Converse All-Stars on the bottom.

Zach Denton, also of The Ocean Party (and other groups, like Pregnancy and Cool Sounds) backs him up on drums, so Snowy’s not totally on his lonesome. In a conversation we had the other day about the project, Snowy told me that he was looking at No Local as a collection of shifting parts, different players coming in and out, bolstering and subtracting as they come and go. He likened it to operating Sui Zhen’s live outfit.

Nolo Contendere is scattershot in its sounds but unified in its intent. Speaking on that lack of cohesion, Snowy harkens back to Aphex Twin’s 2001 release Drukqs, a double LP that flits between classical composition and razor’s-edge electronic production. To him, as much as that record is sonically unpredictable, as an Aphex Twin project it all makes sense.

Nolo Contendere contains two songs that’ll eventually make their way onto No Local’s debut album later this year – the already released ‘Thinking the Wrong Things’ and ‘Somebody Else’ – but it’s the deep cuts on the tape that are the true gems. ‘Do What I Said’ could almost be summer anthem, if it weren’t for Snowy’s hushed vocal delivery. ‘I.W.B.W.U.’ is a contorted chop up of Flowertruck’s ‘I Wanna Be With You’, showcasing deft vocal sampling.

Skating the edges of indie pop, house, funk, and dance music, Nolo Contendere sounds unique. Snowy coming out from the conventional (but still wonderful) world of guitar pop is something to behold.

No Local are about to go on a wee tour in support of the Nolo Contendere release. You can catch them on these dates:

22 September – The Phoenix, Canberra, w/ Sachet, Dog Name, Territory

24 September – The Fitzroy Pinnacle, Melbourne, w/ The Finks, Frances Fox + Yours & Mine Zine Launch

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LISTEN: Redspencer – Fuss

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Redspencer are a chill band. Their new one, ‘Fuss’, is a chill song. Makes sense to me.

The band seemed to be on the back-burner for a little while, a time when members Aiden and Dave McMillan threw their efforts into Jesse McCormack’s Tourist Dollars EP, a severely under-appreciated release from earlier this year. Coal’s back in the furnace now though, and the engine purrs once more. It’s the kind of jangly, driven-but-not-too-quick kind of guitar pop that you’d recognise from their self-titled 2015 EP.

“It doesn’t matter too much / what they say about you / you’re flying up and above / over the fuss” sings frontman Dave McMillan. Absolutely dude, right fuckin’ on.

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LISTEN: Hi-Tec Emotions – ‘Look Around’

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On new track ‘Look Around’, Hi-Tec Emotions are manic, un-subtle, and the most lovable form of tacky. On the music video you can check them grooving around under adornments of dollar bin Spotlight fabrics and fake flower petals. ‘Look Around’ is short and sweet: the only way is up, and Hi-Tec Emotions never really bother to slow down. Even vocalist Ema Dunstan has to catch her breath and take a sigh of relief at the end.

The whole thing is doused in this echoey production that makes it sound like you just ducked out of a gig for a cigarette, the band still freaking out just inside the doors. The bass and organ/synth leads are completely blown out of proportion, huge lumbering beasts grinding against your ears.

It’s also another great one from LISTEN Records, the fuckin’ awesome audio side of the broader LISTEN Collective. Recently they’ve been moving from strength to strength, giving exposure to the amazing music coming out of Australia’s various LGBTQIA+ communities. You’re probably also going to want to check out the shit hot roster for the upcoming ‘Feminist Futures’ LISTEN Conference.

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INTERVIEW: Em Gayfer of Rock4Renewables

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If you’re out and about in Melbourne you’ve probably been touched by the ambition and grace of Em Gayfer in one sense or another; chances are you’ll recognise them foremost as the vocalist for the fearless Chelsea Bleach, but they’ve put their hand to their fair share of grassroots activism too. This brings us to Rock 4 Renewables, a micro-activism festival to push for renewable energy in Victoria. Far be it from me to explain the whole thing – instead, I spoke to Em recently about R4R’s upcoming gig at The Old Bar on 14 August.

What can you tell us about Rock 4 Renewables?

Rock 4 Renewables is a fundraiser event to raise money for Yes2Renewables – a Friends of the Earth collective. The group has been campaigning in Victoria for over four years to ensure legislation around renewable energy is fair in the state. We’ve been able to get the Daniel Andrews government to commit to repealing the worst of the state’s anti-wind farm laws, as well as commit to a Victorian Renewable Energy Target!

After some major wins, however, this grassroots organisation is running low on funds. We’re calling for Melbourne’s rock n roll community to support us in raising some much needed money so that we can keep working in Victoria to secure a 100% renewable future for the state!

The gig will feature some of Melbourne’s great musical talent, including Huntly, Elizabeth Mitchell (Totally Mild), Brat Farrar and Lalic. We’ll also have a raffle with some amazing prizes going on the night.

How did you get involved in the project?

I’ve been volunteering with Yes2Renwables for over two years. This event will be the second Rock 4 Renewables we’ve hosted – we called on the Melbourne music community to help us out a few years ago in raising some funds, so when we were having financial troubles, it was a good first place to start.

I’ve been volunteering with Yes2Renewables for over two years now and am pretty active in Melbourne’s live music scene. Combining two areas I’m really passionate about seemed like a great solution to me!

What can you tell us about the artists on the bill?

We’ve been lucky enough to secure an absolutely amazing lineup for the event, and just goes to show that Melbourne’s musos are ready to rally behind a great cause. We’ve got Huntly, who describe themselves as “doof you can cry to” and who recently released this amazing EP. Elizabeth Mitchell from Totally Mild will be playing a dreamy solo set, Brat Farrar will be bringing his fuzzy new wave style. Lalic will also be joining us with their experimental psych stylings. And we’ll have DJ Nature Girl playing tunes in between bands, so there will really be no reason to leave the dance-floor!

The event mentions the Victorian state government undertaking “ambitious renewable energy goals”, for the uninformed, can you tell us what these entail?

During Tony Abbott’s prime ministership, the renewable energy sector was dealt a harsh blow, with the national renewable energy target slashed by 20%. This meant that in Victoria, the renewable energy sector was stunted and no new projects were being built due to uncertainty over what would happen in the future.

In light of this, the Yes2Renewables campaign worked hard to ensure the Daniel Andrews government committed to renewable energy in Victoria. The main way to ensure this has been through a Victorian Renewable Energy Target. Recently, the Andrews government announced two renewable energy targets for the state: 25% by 2020 and 40% by 2030 – which is a great step towards transitioning to 100% renewables!

What kind of renewable energy mediums (or methods) is the state government supporting?

Plans for how the VRET will be implemented are still underway so we still don’t know exactly what the state’s renewable energy sources will look like. Their plans show so far that the targets will double the amount of wind energy capacity in the state by 2020 and triple it by 2025, not only increasing the amount of renewable energy but also creating 10,000 jobs which is pretty awesome.

Where to from here?

Victoria’s renewable energy targets are an important step in ensuring a clean energy future for Australia, but there are still a number of other steps to take. The VRET has set a strong baseline for Victoria, but across the country we need to see renewables growing. As well as this, across Victoria, communities have been calling for a permanent ban on unconventional gas (fracking) and are currently awaiting a decision from Resources Minister Wade Noonan, so there are still a number of other environmental threats outside of just increasing the amount of renewable energy in the state that need to be addressed.

Rock 4 Renewables poster

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