“We’re friends first and a band second”: Body Type chat parking fines, Sydney music, and Ariel Pink

I first saw Body Type live on a Monday night in 2016 at the Newtown Social Club. It was also the last time I would ever attend a gig at that venue. The Social Club, like many other Sydney venues, shut its doors soon after. Another chapter in the story of Sydney’s struggling music scene.

Though while the local music scene seemed to be struggling in one area, it was thriving in another – great local bands like Body Type seemed to be popping up everywhere. Fast forward to 2018 and Sydney finds itself with one of the most unique music communities in the country. Every weekend, Sydney-siders are faced with an “overwhelming” choice of great live bands to go see… and still among them are Body Type.

Since that gig in 2016, the quartet have become one of the city’s favourite live acts. They’re the product of a flourishing Sydney music scene – and to anyone who doubts the quality of Sydney’s musical output, I’d like to direct your attention to the collaborative musical project of Sophie McComish, Annabel Blackman, Georgia Wilkinson-Derums, and Cecil Coleman.

With a debut EP now under their belts, the band are gearing up for a series of launch shows in Sydney and Melbourne. So we caught up with the band to chat about the negative perceptions of Sydney’s music scene, the significance of one particular parking fine, and receiving feedback from Ariel Pink.

Photos: Dani Hansen

Fresh off the release of their debut EP, we caught up with Sydney outfit Body Type to chat about the flourishing Sydney music scene, parking fines and receiving strange pieces of feedback from Ariel Pink.

HAPPY: Congratulations on getting the new EP out!

SOPHIE: Thank you.

HAPPY: You slapped a parking fine on the front cover, so my first question is, whose fine was it? And what were the circumstances that led to it being issued?

CECIL: I was using a car, my friend Lewis’ car. He was away.

ANNABEL: He was away doing that Timothy Winton film, Breathless. No, it was Breath.

CECIL: Yeah, Breath. So we had this car that we were using as a band car, and a weekend adventure car. We were rehearsing at Waywards, back when they allowed bands to rehearse there. We were running late because we normally do 9 – 12 slots. We rushed in, not knowing that you had to have a ticket. We came back out and there was a parking ticket on the dash.

SOPHIE: At this point, we had also been debating band names.

CECIL: Yep, so at this point we were nameless. Well, we had a couple of names…

HAPPY: What were some of your earlier band names?

CECIL: Nope, we’re not going there.

SOPHIE: Georgia And The Dribbles. Fine And The Felonies.

GEORGIE: Lob Before You Dob.

CECIL: So we had this fine and we said: “ok cool, maybe there’s a band name on there.” So I pulled it out the next day when I was at work because I was the one that had to pay it. I was rolling through the names on there, and it came to ‘Body Type’.

SOPHIE: Licence and registration. Model. Body type.

CECIL: And the colour was silver, which of course became one of our later singles.

HAPPY: So there’s actually a lot of significance to this fine…

CECIL: Yeah, and I kept it in my wallet as well, until Annabelle stole it to scan for the EP cover. So she needs to give it back to me. But yeah, it’s always been a lucky token for us. It’s where it all began. I can’t remember the date now, but it was in May of 2016.

HAPPY: Is it true that the first time you guys jammed together was the first time you’d all been in a room together?

ANNABEL: Yeah. Well, I hadn’t met Georgia before we rehearsed.

HAPPY: So how did that jam come about? What brought you all into that room?

GEORGIA: Well the way it came about was, Sophie and Cecil knew each other from when they were living in Sydney at the time. They wanted to start playing together, so they said: “why don’t we jam?” Annabelle was living in a mutual friend’s place, and they needed a bass player.

CECIL: Sophie sent many messages to Georgia asking if she wanted to play bass. Finally, we wrangled her to a Sunday rehearsal. We had rice paper rolls afterwards.

SOPHIE: Cecil’s memory is shit-hot. It’s so good.

CECIL: We made the rice paper rolls afterwards at my old house.

GEORGIA: I remember that actually. But yeah, that jam would’ve been the first time we’d all hung out. How strange is that?

HAPPY: From what I’ve read, Body Type was the first time you’d all been in a band. Then Ludlow came out and it was a really good song… so what musical experience did you all have before joining this band?

GEORGIA: I want to start off by saying that I have listened to all these women’s musical capabilities, and I am always blown away. I played in a band as a twelve-year-old, but this was my pretty much my first time in a band. Any time I hear one of them pick up a guitar, it seems like there’s been a lot of experience. I mean, Annabelle’s classically trained, and everyone plays the piano really well.

CECIL: G was a shit-hot kid in a cool rock n’ roll band. [To Gerogia] You were a cool rock n’ roll kid. Sophie and I played the piano in school.

SOPHIE: Post-concert band.

CECIL: Yeah, post-concert band vibe. Once you learn an instrument it always makes it a little easier to pick something else up. And I guess that’s where we were all at. Each of us had guitars or had aspirations to learn something. I always wanted to learn drums.

GEORGIE: And it’s a strange thing, learning a new instrument. I’m starting to play guitar a bit more now, which is completely different from bass. So I can’t imagine how it was for you guys…

HAPPY: So you all learnt new instruments for this band?

CECIL: Yeah, well I had always wanted to learn drums, but only learnt properly once I joined the band. I over analyse when it comes to music, so I guess having drums in front of me is a lot easier than having notes. It’s nice just hitting things.

ANNABEL: That said, the way Cecil writes her parts is almost like another melodic instrument in the band. They’re really intricate, and like any good drummer, she listens.

CECIL: Thanks man.

HAPPY: You’ve said that when you first started, you’d say yes to any and every gig. I can imagine that with this kind of mindset, you would’ve got roped into some pretty shit gigs. Do you have any particular memories?

CECIL: Yes and no. I don’t want to say they were bad, just loose.

SOPHIE: The best thing we ever did was say yes to our first show. Because we didn’t think we were ready, but we said yes. We did it and it was great. And I think everything show we’ve done since has been great.

HAPPY: Bad might not be the right word. Have there been any particularly strange experiences?

GEORGIA: Oh, so many strange experiences. Half the time we’re delusional because we’re so stressed and tired.

CECIL: One of my favourites is probably Sophie’s birthday two years ago. We all got absolutely wasted at some pub. The Captain Cook. At this point, we’d only been playing for like three weeks. I don’t really remember the set.

SOPHIE: Another good one was when we supported Ariel Pink. We’re all really big fans. We were a little bit starstruck, and he is as kooky as you’d expect him to be. After the show, someone was complimenting us, and he was within earshot. He said, “yeah, it sounded like you were playing in a trash can.” Like is that a compliment? That’s probably the strangest piece of feedback we’ve ever had.

HAPPY: I mentioned before how much I love the track Ludlow. For the new EP, you decided to re-record that track. Why do that?

SOPHIE: Yeah, there was a lot of debate over whether or not we should. Because the original recording was very special for us, and it sounds fucking great. But this was our first time properly recording, and it felt wrong to not give that song a shot at a hi-fi recording. But it definitely took a lot of debate.

ANNABEL: It’s crazy listening to it now and really feeling the comparison. I’m always blown away by the difference.

SOPHIE: Also, a lot of people really seemed to connect with that song in ways we didn’t expect. People would write to us about it quite a lot, and people would sing it at our shows. Despite it being incredibly lo-fi, it got us to where we are now. It’s a very strange thing when you see something you’ve made connect with people like that. So re-recording it was something that we put a lot of thought into, but I think we made the right decision.

HAPPY: Across the whole EP, it all feels very shared. Everyone feels like a really important part of the band. Are things still that shared during the writing process?

ANNABEL: We definitely contribute parts to one another’s songs. Sometimes songs will be really straight-up and simple. But on Dry Grass, for example, there was a part where I didn’t know what to do, so I got Sophie and Georgia to sing a few parts. There’s definitely sharing there.

GEORGIA: But in terms of how we approach songwriting, one person will always bring the bones, then we’ll all sit in it for a while.

HAPPY: Everything you do as a band always feels very community focused. And Sydney is an interesting city because there’s this perception of a struggling live scene, but you look at a band like yourselves, or at a lot of other local bands, and it doesn’t feel like our scene is struggling. I think Sydney has the most interesting music scene in Australia.

SOPHIE: That’s so cool.

HAPPY: Why do you think there is this conflict between perception and reality?

GEORGIA: Because you’re looking at two different strata’s of society. There are different sub-groups as well. We’re not really struggling because experientially, we’ve been doing it all the time. In my experience, I think its flourishing. All the best bands are playing right now.

CECIL: None of us are originally from Sydney, and coming into this place, you look at the music scene and it’s very big on bands. A lot of big bands are from here. That triple J level. It’s hard to kind of crack that. When we first got here, we were like “where’s the local music?” But then after we played our first show, we were like “oh, here it is.” We played with Solid Effort for our first show and we became friends with them. From there it’s kind of spiralled and we’ve got in with a beautiful crew in Dinosaur City. It’s communities like that that are keeping it going. But as Georgia said, that’s a different level.

GEORGIA: And everyone talks about the lockout laws, but it’s those political movements that make a scene flourish. People say it’s dying because of the lockout laws, but people are willed to rebel against it.

CECIL: It’s overwhelming at times, the number of things that are happening. There is this weird disparity to it, but we’ve never felt that. We’ve been lucky enough to have been playing shows weekly. We played like 70 shows last year. It burnt us, but it was incredible. We were very lucky to have done that.

HAPPY: Throughout that time you’ve supported some really hectic people. As you mentioned, Ariel Pink. Was there any particular support slot where you were like “holy shit“?

CECIL: Unknown Mortal Orchestra.

ANNABEL: I think that one was the best this year. It was really special for me. We’ve done heaps of road trips and listened to all the albums, and we’ve seen them at Meredith, so playing that was really special.

SOPHIE: Also, I just wanna shout out the FBi Turns 15 party. To be considered for a lineup with such a high class of artists, it’s a huge compliment.

HAPPY: It had to be the best lineup ever…

SOPHIE: Ever. Of all the festivals this year, that is what people should be paying attention to. For us to join Divide & Dissolve and Spike Fuck and Tropical Fuckstorm, that was really flattering.

HAPPY: And speaking of Sydney music, here’s to FBi!

SOPHIE: Big shoutout to FBi. Amelia Jenner for president.

HAPPY: You mentioned before that your writing process is very collaborative. And when you’re playing live, it always feels like you’re really enjoying yourselves – you’re always riffing off one another. Do you think that process of writing music so collaboratively affects your live show in that way?

CECIL: Yeah, and I guess it’s got to do with our friendship as well. We’re all very close. We also all lived together for a period of time too. We’re friends first and a band second.

Catch Body Type live at the following dates:

December 13th – The Old Bar, Melbourne
December 14th – The Lansdowne Hotel, Sydney

More info here.