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LISTEN: RVG – A Quality of Mercy LP

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RVG

Image by Louis Oliver Roach

A Quality of Mercy – the debut album from Melbourne’s RVG, premiering here – is a collection of sharp, driving pop songs that draw equally from the goth palette of early 4AD and the literary proto-punk of Television. To celebrate its release, songwriter Romy Vager spoke to us about androgyny, emotional intelligence and The Twilight Zone.

Tell me about RVG – who’s in the band, what brought you together?

RVG Consists of me, Reuben, Angus and Marc. We’ve all known each other for at least a few years at least through playing gigs with each other in other bands we were in (I used to play in a band with Marc called Sooky La La).

Angus and I were sort of planning a record of my songs a few years ago that was was going to be a lush Echo and the Bunnymen kind of album. We made a few demos but didn’t really do anything past that. I made a little tape of songs taken from my Soundcloud in the meantime and arranged a small launch for it. I asked everyone if they’d be interested in playing a one-off gig as a band. We did it and people liked it and so we just kept going.

We like a lot of the same music, and we don’t get into those weird passive-aggressive fights that seem to happen with every other band. We all seem to be on the same wavelength about what’s a good idea and what’s a bad one. It’s weird, I’ve never been in a band like it.

Aesthetically, RVG and [your other band] Avoid are quite different (at least, one reminds me of Television, the other – from what I’ve heard – ‘Atmosphere’-era Joy Division), but they both seem to be drawing on sounds from the late 70s/80s. Is that an era you return to a lot as a listener? What music was formative for you?

I started paying attention to music in my teens, and at the time being a sensitive, gender-confused loner, I was very attracted to the androgyny of people like The Cure and Patti Smith, which was the closest thing like that for me growing up in conservative Adelaide. I saw Bowie on his last tour and it cemented the fact that I belonged in that universe. I’m still also a massive fan of The Sisters of Mercy. That band introduced me to a lot of non-music influences like T.S Elliot and Francis Bacon.

I love the emotional intelligence of that era of music. Everybody seems to know what they’re upset about and can express it to you clearly and concisely. I don’t like listening to anything that’s unclear about what it’s trying to tell to me.

Do you write songs and bring them to the others, or do you jam/write together?

I make little demos of songs and then usually put them on Soundcloud. Initially RVG was just sort of selecting songs that would work with a band, but as a band the songs come out very differently. ‘A Quality of Mercy’ was initially a half-speed country ballad. It sounded awful. Angus suggested we speed it up and turn it into more of an Echo and the Bunnymen song. He pretty much saved that song from being unbearable.

I really can’t do jamming, it makes me feel gross. I generally write the lyrics and most of the structure and the band builds around it. We only really rehearse a song a few times and then start playing it live. It never usually sounds any good if we work on things for too long by ourselves. Angus said once that a gig is worth four rehearsals and that’s become a bit of a mantra for me.

How did the LP come together? do you feel like there’s a theme?

The title track is named after an episode of The Twilight Zone. The American army has cornered these sick Japanese soldiers in a cave during battle. The soldier in charge is about to blow up the cave for no immediate reason. He gets knocked out or something and wakes up as a Japanese soldier who’s just been given orders to blow up some sick Americans in the same circumstance. The whole episode is about perspective and empathy, which is similar to the theme of that song. We decided to name the album after that single cause it felt like a bit of a mission statement. It’s a very moral and perspective-conscious album.

I think previously to RVG, I wrote songs that were mostly bombast and shallow, in which I would always be the voice of perfection – real ego driven songs. I think so much in my life has changed and I’ve been able to write stuff in the last few years that has a lot more empathy. The album feels like the shedding of some kind of old skin. I think that might be a bit to do with being trans, and maybe because I don’t take as many drugs as I used to.

Do you have a favourite track on the album at the moment?

‘A Quality of Mercy’ will always be my favourite. I was really proud of myself when I wrote the lyrics to that song, and watching it grow with the band has been really beautiful. It’s also really interesting to play the part of the second character in that song when we play it live. I really like to get into it.

RVG launch A Quality of Mercy at the Tote on 3 March w Scott & Charlene’s Wedding and Girl Crazy.

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LISTEN: Dr Sinha’s Jazz Lobotomy – ‘ Grown Man’

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DrSinhasJazzLobotomy_JayJunior

[Very Jerry Seinfeld voice] What’s with the upsurge in jazz collectives these days? Honestly let’s go back to slacker rock’s hey-day where every band was just a bunch of same-same blokes who didn’t go around waving their talent in your face and make you wish you stuck with those high school clarinet lessons. Make music bland and complacent again? Seinfeld and Trump in the one intro? I digress, but Melbourne’s Dr Sinha’s Jazz Lobotomy have got me all excitable and riled up. Five very accomplished musicians led by Chinmay Sinha have come together to produce a debut track that’s a clean, complex FU to big dumb boys.

Actually, I get the feeling it’s about male identity at large, and the things that come up when your gender brings up issues that are also exacerbated by your culture and race (Sinha is Indian-Australian) and how you’re meant to work that shit out while the world tells you it’s not an issue, kindly shut up and get over it. If you weren’t paying attention you’d get carried away on the clever arrangement of tight harmonies, melodic raps and warm keys when the lyrical content is the real kicker. The conversational interludes re-focus the track, as Sinha recaps an anxiety-induced downwards spiral and other identity issues.

Sinha was kind enough to provide us a few of the tracks he pops on to help stem the gushing tide of anxiety, as well as a few that explore different experiences, because as much as I love slacker-rock we need to be conscious of consuming different voices. So get scrolling for some Koi Child, Public Opinion Afro Orchestra, The Bombay Royale and Fulton Street. 

Melbourne babies can catch Dr Sinha’s Jazz Lobotomy in full swing on February 26 at Bar Open.

Courtney Barnett – Avant Gardener

“Courtney is a legend and Avant Gardener is one of those classics that will last forever.”

 

D D Dumbo – Satan

“I find the themes of this song quite cathartic. D D Dumbo’s singing style is also super comforting. He’s a real innovator.”

Public Opinion Afro Orchestra – The System

“Local Afro Beat legends, continue to light the fire that Fela Kuti started. You can feel the fire in their hot grooves too.”

Harvey Sutherland – Bermuda

“I could dance to this all day, everyday.”

Koi Child – 1-5-9

“I heard them last year on Triple R or PBS and I had to Shazam the tune in the middle of a freeway (I recommend not doing that…). Would love to play a gig with this band one day.”

Kirkis – Bristil Paintings

“Kirkis is part of that initial scene with Hiatus that really allowed a high musical standard to blossom in the Melbourne scene. In my opinion, a lot of kids would’ve become unafraid to dig deeper and innovate because of artists like Kirkis.”

AB Original – ICU feat Thelma Plum

“AB Original are heroes because of their activism. Makes me feel inspired and motivated to create change.”

The Bombay Royale – Karle Pyar Karle (Cover)

“One way to forget your troubles is to listen to Bombay Royale’s take on old school Bollywood classics.”

Fulton Street – Problems & Pain

“Melbourne locals, classic soul for your soul. You could really sweat out your qualms dancing to this groove.”

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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WATCH: Forevr – ‘Petrichor’ Video

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forevr

Making a video for Petrichor’, Brisbane band Forevr’s first single as a four-piece, must have been a bit intimidating. The song itself has all the unpredictably energy of an electrical storm – how do you match those drums pulsing up from a thousand miles under the earth, then attacking skittishly from all sides? How do you make images that stand up to the precision and detail of the sound, the weirdness and the deep grounding emotion?

Using moody wafts of slow-moving smoke, deeply unsettling Claymation, and 3D diamonds shattering across the matrix,video director/editor/clay enthusiast Josh Watson (responsible for Blank Realm’s ‘Reach You On The Phone’ video, among others) has gone with vibe over plot. Though there’s still an overriding theme – a sense of being out of place, of trying to get back to the familiar, but every way you turn there’s something more strange and frightening. With fleshy molded flower petals opening and closing like mouths in silent desperation as Sam George-Allen coos ‘make your bed / where you call home’, the animation turns the natural into the perverse, but in a way that draws you in.

The 3D adds a more lighthearted future-from-the-90s tone – shit, there’s a lot going on here. Impeccably timed fast cuts fusing together the sound and image, and making sure there’s always something new to see.

Forevr are currently working on two releases, which will be out later in the year.

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LISTEN: Orion – ‘Execution’

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Orion

Might surprise you to hear this from your ah, oracle of all things new and current, but at my house all we listen to all day and night is this ‘80s playlist that my genius housemate made. Every song on there, from The Chills to deep cut Dexys to Belinda Carlisle is perfect. No matter how many times we listen to it every few songs something will come on that sparks a chorus of THIS SOOOOONNNNG. This. Fucking. SONG.

I get a real similar feeling when I listen to this new single from Sydney 4-piece Orion. The ‘this fucking song’ feeling. It’s that dirty word nostalgia, but without the kind of cheesy theatrics that makes you cringe away from stuff that sounds too openly ’80s in that big shallow shiny chorus kind of way. Not that the big choruses aren’t there, they’re just sold with a defiant gaze rather than a shit-eating grin. And that post punk-y guitar so thick you wanna wallow in it like the fucking Smiths loving pig that you are.

I think one of the biggest skills in in pop music is being able to crib little references and signifiers that already mean something to people and serve them up in a way that resonates immediately, but is also obviously your own thing. It’s difficult and takes a lot of sensitivity and smarts, which Orion definitely have.

Execution is off the band’s debut self-titled LP, coming out on Cool Death Records on Friday (not to rub industry perks in your face, but I listened to it already and that’s some GOOD SHIT). You can preorder the record here. A few of the tracks are re-records off this demo EP that came out a couple of years ago on Paradise Daily too, if you wanna be fully prepped. Also Orion shares members with M.O.B who released that sick tape also on Paradise Daily. Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah LINKS.

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WATCH: Chelsea Bleach – ‘Shedding Skin’

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Chelsea Bleach

Chelsea Bleach are B U S Y. They’re writing, recording, mixing, mastering, playing all of the shows, figuring out how they can fit more guitars into the fold (there are three at time of writing). They’ve also made a film clip for ‘Shedding Skin’, the opening track off their debut EP ‘Decent Connections’ which they released at the end of 2016 and you can watch it here on this website so don’t say we never do anything for you!!

If you’ve been consumed furiously making new years resolutions and worshipping jesus and binge drinking over the past few weeks I’ll give you the lowdown on the good thing the kind folks of Chelsea Bleach have gifted us. Their guitar riffs and vocal melodies are heavy on a cool nonchalance that brings to mind the Seattle-based garage rock of Chastity Belt, but with rougher edges. It’s not as hard or fast as Melbourne mates Cable Ties or Wet Lips, and actually the sparser elements call to mind Hobart rock dogs (they said it so it’s fine) Naked.

Decent Connections keeps the take-no-shit lyricism of lead single ‘Public Safety‘, neatly packaging what it’s like to be not-a-white-guy in public: “Watch my back / leave no tracks,” and applying this sentiment to personal growth and relationships, gradually working through the 20-something feeling of not knowing why or what you are doing at any given time. Each track abruptly shifts between pretty different components, flipping the song’s mood back and forth multiple times during the lifespan of each track. ‘Daydreams’ could have been produced by Courtney Barnett with its sunburnt slide guitars and vocals sliding up and down a three note melody, until the switch is flicked to an agitated chorus speeding through wilful indifference: “Everything changes yeah / nothing really matters to me.”

‘Shedding Skin’ carries the same menacing guitar line as ‘Public Safety’ and Chelsea Bleach’s three guitarists (Prani, Bridget and Em) really feel like they’re in sync on this one, working towards six-stringed symbiosis. The overall sound teeters on punk, threatening to topple over into all out mosh but instead channeling all their thrashy energy into sections of tight, virile bar chords. The tension works a dream.

The video for ‘Shedding Skin’ is an assortment of cameras in the direction of the Chelsea Bleach crew, and possibly others. The tangle of limbs makes it hard to discern the exact number of bodies BUT it does look like fun. I think maybe too much of my view of Melbourne comes from DIY music clips but to me the video looks like your average Tuesday arvo in a Melbourne sharehouse? Chelsea Bleach are DIY til they DIE, with guitarist and backup vox Prani the mastermind behind the video and drummer Jay mixed, mastered and recorded the whole heckin’ EP too.

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If you’re in Melbourne go and check Chelsea Bleach launch this thing into the stratosphere with Cable Ties, Palm Springs and kandere @ The Tote on January 20, Facebook event here.

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