You can’t say the words “Sydney music scene” and “indie” without conjuring up images of The Valentinos – the darlings of the Sydney scene at this moment in time. They encapsulate everything about music that’s fashionable at the moment – subtle yet prominent 80’s influences, synthesisers, skinny jeans, new-wave hair cuts, bleach-clean guitar and funky tunes that straddle the line between rock and dance. The fact that they play with rock acts, but are also on the bill for Parklife, one of Australia’s biggest dance music events, should give you a fair indication of their genre-mashing abilities.
The Valentinos are one of those bands that you wished you’d have thought of – they’ve only been together 18 months and they’ve already amassed a large following. Their first self titled EP was produced by Kim Moyes from The Presets and now they’re back with their follow-up release Damn and Damn Again, produced this time by Aussie electronic duo Pnau. The first song lifted off the forthcoming EP, ‘Rain’ is a far greater melodic affair that their previous work, which had been written after the band had been together for a month.
The band are trekking around Australia during August and the start of September, and this week sees them hit my home town of Sydney for two shows at Club 77 and at Spectrum, so I’ll definitely be going along to one of them. The boys are also on the cover of The Brag this week. To get you in the mood, here’s a track from their debut EP, ‘Man With A Gun’, the song that brought the band to the national audience.
The Valentinos – ‘Man With A Gun’
Love of Diagrams
Love of Diagrams have been playing together since early 2001, building a steady fanbase along the way. Their angular, post-punk sound with call and response vocals, intricate guitar work and incessant percussion all comes together to form one very tight band, both live and on record.
In Australia the trio released the album The Target Is You and also an EP through credible indie label Unstable Ape, and have supported an impressive selection of international acts such as Death Cab For Cutie, The Rogers Sisters, Electrelane, and most recently, the much revered Sonic Youth.
November 2005 saw the release of their debut UK 7″ single ‘No Way Out’ and the band received airplay from British radio heavyweight, Steve Lamacq as well as XFM’s John Kennedy. The band also achieved what has to be one of the biggest accolades in indie music these days – having their song featured on an episode of music savvy teen drama, The OC. Rumours: the trio are in talks with a big indie label for a worldwide deal, so stay tuned.
Love Of Diagrams – ‘No Way Out’
The Scare – photo by Ami Barwell
Is screamo a one word joke nowadays? Not for these guys, they are having lots of fun and going places with their music. Alright, they’re not really a screamo band, but the vocalist’s stylings remind me a lot of the Blood Brothers’ twin pronged screaming attacks. Not as frantic, but punchier. The Scare are originally from Brisbane but moved over to Birmingham, UK this year. Doing well for themselves, they’ve shared the stage with Pretty Girl Makes Graves, Les Savy Fav and Alexisonfire. Recently their Vacuum Irony EP came out in the UK and got good reviews and modest airplay on the BBC, and now they’re on another national tour with Finland’s Disco Ensemble. Check out the single below.
The Scare – ‘If I’m Choking, Make A Scene’ (mp3)
I’ve been told that the electro-clash movement peaked two years ago. What about the electro-punk movement then, did I miss it altogether or did it not happen at all? Because that’s what I think of when I’m trying to describe Group Seizure’s music. It’s electronic music written in punk structures. Or maybe, a punk song written with sequencers and looping stations. Dance-punk? Does it matter?
Aside from the very cool band name, Group Seizure are three hyperactive Melbourne kids who play music with two guitars, a keyboard and a drum machine. They recorded and mixed their 5 track debut EP in one day last year and got some good reviews in the music street press, but nothing much happened. Most people outside Melbourne wouldn’t have heard of these guys, and I’m not sure if this type of music will ever get big, probably not in Australia. I like it though.
Group Seizure – ‘Love Recovery’
Sparkadia – photo by boudist.com
Time for more pop, courtesy of Sydney three piece Sparkadia. I first heard of this band on Sydney radio FBi 94.5fm, about two years ago. The singer Alex seems to have a gift for melody and catchy hooks. So I went to their next show, a free new music night called Jager Uprising. This was my first time going to one of these and by the time the band came on it was jam-packed. The band has invited all their friends to impress industry types. Tick.
Next, I heard Sparkadia played a few warehouse shows in the city and around Annandale, pulling up to two hundred people in tiny spaces. Creating more buzz to get everyone talking about it. Another Tick. Soon enough they signed to a booking agent and started scoring international supports, and the last time I saw them they were main support for Canadian cuties Tegan and Sara. Triple Tick on the list.
I wasn’t there but when they recently played at Rebel Rebel in Sydney, everyone crammed into the tiny 100 capacity room and sang their hearts out to this tune that you can listen to right here. Tick.
Sparkadia – ‘Up In The Air’
My Sister The Cop
My Sister The Cop are bad ass. OK I’ve never actually seen them but from the reviews that I’ve heard, comparisons to Test Icicles and Atari Teenage Riot fly frequently and that gets me excited. From the listening to the two tracks they have up on MySpace I know I would love their dance-punk repertoire if I just get the chance to see them. Alas, the drummer who recently became a dad decided that he won’t go for gigs outside their home state of South Australia. Now I know that’s a beautiful thing, putting his new baby priority above all else. But I wish I could still see them. Being in Adelaide is tough for a band.
My Sister The Cop – ‘Sorry We’re Not All Wolves’ (mp3)
I should precede this blog with the following: despite the fact that I like Bertie Blackman, I do find her hit and miss. Her songs are either fantastic, or they’re far from it. I’ve been a big fan of Bertie’s voice ever since I heard her single ‘Favourite Jeans’ on the radio. Even the singles she’s released following ‘Favourite Jeans’ I’ve enjoyed.
But there are times when Bertie writes songs that are difficult to like. For example, she often has songs where it’s just her and an electric guitar and aside from the fact that the guitar playing is pretty messy, it just comes out boring. But then she’ll have a backing band for another song and it will sound fantastic. I really think she should either have a full band, or if she’s going to play solo, pick up an acoustic guitar rather than have a song that sounds like a dodgy b-side from a crappy 90’s riot-grrl band.
What Bertie Blackman manages to do well is differentiate herself from the myriad of singer-songwriters that flood the music market. Her performance supporting Jeff Martin was engaging albeit hit and miss – she had a wonderful backing guitarist playing U2-like melodies and it sat wonderfully with her music, and why she doesn’t encorporate the delay/reverb backing guitar more often is beyond me. Bertie Blackman is a talented songstress, and she needs to learn how to hone her skills – I think once she does that, she’ll take off. So sit back and enjoy one of her great tunes, ‘Television’.
Bertie Blackman – ‘Television’ (mp3)