Tropical Fuck Storm aren’t interested in making their songs sound pretty.
At Splendour In The Grass 2019, we caught up with band members Gareth Liddiard and Fiona Kitschin to chat about their processes of making people ask ‘what the fuck is that?’
While killing time at Splendour In The Grass, Tropical Fuck Storm told us all about their entirely fucked up music making strategies .
HAPPY: The second album’s done! You’ve been belting them out pretty quickly… has it always been intentional to do things this way?
GARETH: Yeah, we always wanted to get it started fast. It sucks only having nine songs, so the second album was always going to come really quick. But now we’re going to tour heaps, because it is time-consuming recording that much. We’re going to put this album out, then do a two-year lap of the universe.
HAPPY: So you’re going to slow down now on releasing new music?
GARETH: Well we’re going to try and write some stuff in the interim, but yeah we just want to tour. Strike while the iron’s hot.
HAPPY: With the first album, you recorded it in a pretty short amount of time, right?
FIONA: Well we had our first rehearsal in May 2017, then we put out the first song in September. At that time, the single was the only song we had. Then the album was out in February.
HAPPY: So when you released Chameleon Paint, the album wasn’t done yet?
FIONA: No, when we put out Chameleon Paint, that was literally all we had.
GARETH: We were just making it up as we went along. We’d record something and stick it out, record something and stick it out. With The Drones we kind of did the same thing, but there was more of an insurance policy. We’d make something and sit on it for a while. But with this, we said, ‘fuck it, whatever it is let’s put it out.’ It was a fun way to do it.
HAPPY: So this project saw a real change in philosophy from The Drones?
GARETH: Yeah, there was a real sense of emergency. Also, hanging out with the King Gizzard guys and watching them churn shit out.
HAPPY: Makes you feel really fucking slow…
GARETH: It does! It makes you feel slow as fuck. They came up and did an album at our house, and then they put the single out from that album, then they released another fucking album. It was so weird.
HAPPY: When you started Tropical Fuck Storm, were there any other intentional points of difference you wanted to establish from The Drones?
GARETH: We wanted it to be groovier.
FIONA: More fun. We wanted it to be less depressing.
GARETH: We never did anything really groovy with The Drones… well, until the last album. But for the most part, it was always quite slow. With this, we wanted more shit you can dance to.
HAPPY: Well with Feelin Kinda Free, it did seem like you were beginning to lean in that direction.
GARETH: Yeah, it was going there.
HAPPY: Was it during the making of that album that you decided you wanted to go full-ball with that groovier stuff?
GARETH: Totally. With the album before that, I See Seaweed, that was the best guitar album we were ever going to make, so we didn’t want to do that again. Feelin Kinda Free was all about fucking around.
FIONA: Feelin Kinda Free had a lot more beats and electronica stuff. With Tropical Fuck Storm, we learned how to mesh that with more guitar stuff.
GARETH: Yeah, it’s got electronic stuff in it, but it’s still trashy garage… it’s still sloppy. We’re the sloppiest electronic band.
FIONA: I prefer the term loose.
GARETH: Yeah, loose. We’re the loosest electronic band in the world. Electronic music is always lined up so perfectly.
HAPPY: The loosest electronic band in the world… I like it.
GARETH: We don’t have a click track or anything. We just vomit it out.
HAPPY: You did an interview a while back with Enmore Audio where you talked about the key instruments that shaped A Laughing Death In Meatspace… one of the first things you listed was magic mushrooms. Did shrooms play a large role in the making of this album too?
GARETH: Magic mushrooms as a tool work really well.
FIONA: We didn’t do that many this time though.
GARETH: No, but with that No Country For Old Men soundtrack, we made that up on acid. That was very effective. The main difference this time was techno software, because all techno shit is just software. We ran everything through that, and we did it the wrong way. There are specific ways to use that stuff, but I approach it the way I approach a guitar; bastardise it, pervert it, do it the wrong way. Change all the BPMs, fuck with the machine.
HAPPY: If you’re not getting errors, you’re not doing it right.
GARETH: That’s it. The computer should be breaking every five minutes. So that was really cool. We chop and skew everything until you’re left saying ‘what the fuck is that?’
HAPPY: Was that use of techno software something you approached differently from the first album?
GARETH: We always try and do something different from the last album, otherwise it gets boring.
HAPPY: So when you’re putting out a new album, do you sit down and think about what you can do differently?
GARETH: Yeah, before we get started on it we think up a couple of new and weird angles. They’re good starting points.
HAPPY: What were some of those starting points for this new record?
GARETH: Well, this isn’t revolutionary, but for this new record we all played in the room together. We’d have a general idea of a song, then we’d jam it, then we’d fuck it up. That’s definitely not revolutionary, but for us it was new.
HAPPY: I love that idea of having a song and fucking it up. Could you tell us a bit about that process?
FIONA: Chameleon Paint was a great example of that. We recorded it and just sounded too nice, so we asked, ‘what can we do that’ll make this sound more wonky?’
GARETH: Yeah, the wonk machines. We’ve got these pedals that do vibrato, and if you use them just a little bit, they really make you feel sick. We’ll mic shit up wrong and use speakers for amps. Speakers shit on normal amps. You’d never be able to get away with it live, but they’re amazing. Anything wrong, we’ll do it. There were bits of the album where Hammo [Lauren Hammel] was throwing shit at her kit. That’s the weird guitar break in Maria 62 – it’s just Hammo chucking shit.
HAPPY: So a lot of these sounds genuinely just come from chaos?
GARETH: That’s just what we do. It’s a cool setup too. It’s this big old classroom with a kitchen in it, and the rest of it’s a recording studio. In that last Drones album, you can hear people frying up stir-fry and dogs barking. But it sounds good.