Interview with Cull

After releasing their debut EP Bà Nội late last year, Sydney band Cull have received a super steady stream of rave reviews, including our prestigious Vid O’ the Week. We love their loopy, swirly sound, and their visual aesthetic which blends Australian and Vietnamese cultures. We had some words with them about pedalboards, Sydney competition and what its like to play alongside your best friends...

CullIllustration by the incredibly talented Reiko Ellis!

How did Cull come together in the form we know it now?

In mid 2012 I started writing and producing dramatically differently to the other bands I was in at the time. Using far more pedals than usual, basically, which made me realise I’d probably need to find someone else with a sizable pedalboard. That’s when I asked Alex to come on board with his big-board. Fraser (bass) and Julian (drums) jumped on shortly after. They also have pedals but they use far less electricity (no matter how nicely I ask).

The form of Cull now is that I record the tunes and the guys do a phenomenal job translating those recordings to a live setting. Lots of rehearsals, lots of best friends having a good time.

What unites you all? Do you all listen to the same music?

Mostly friendliness. We have a few musical taste alignments here and there, but overall everyone is pretty diverse. Some of us get tinnitus from post and math-rock, some of us melt from catalogues of soul and shoegaze.

The songs from Bà Nội are all quite densely layered, which is what really makes you guys stand out from the crowd. What’s the recording and editing process like for your songs?

That’s a nice way of putting it, thanks! I built a “studio” under the loft bed I sleep in, this is where I record everything. There isn’t anything terribly formal about the recording and editing process, but during mixing I’d usually have some sonic reference to tracks or songs I’m obsessed with. Sometimes I’d draw confusing diagrams of the stereo-space to figure what goes where. Or just wing it the morning it’s due!

What’s your favourite piece of equipment? Every muso has one…

Right now it’s a toss up between my recording interface (Apogee Duet II) or any one of my pitch pedals. The Apogee Duet is what I’ve been using to record for a couple of years now – it’s extremely mobile and has some of the best preamps for something it’s size. And the pitch pedals…well, they just make anything pushing a signal through it sound dreamy and gnarly.

Are there any tricks to replicating your sound live or is it just a matter of having an enormous pedalboard?

Regarding guitars, having an array of pedals definitely helps in translating the recordings to a live sound, but just being realistic also helps a load. There can be upwards of 4-5 guitar tracks in some parts of the recordings so Alex (guitar) and I routinely figure out how to play as much as we can to the accuracy of our pedal-stomping feet. Alex has three loopers on his board, but there’s a fine line between looping realistically, and looping that makes tracks sound muddy.

Are there any local psych bands that you’re working with or really digging at the moment?

There are a bunch of shoegaze bands that have psych sensibilities that we really dig – Day Ravies, Miners, Spirit Valley. I’m actually putting together a slowcore-ish side project called Futy with one of the boys from Miners, should have some stuff coming up soon.

Cool! There are a lot of Sydney bands making swirly dreamy music like yourselves, is there any competition in the scene or are you all working together towards a common goal?

There’s less competition and far more fanboy antics and oogling/dissecting their pedalboards. I think, sometimes, there is competition for board size, but it’s always friendly.

Where do you see this explosion in the popularity of shoegazy, psychedelic guitar music heading in the future? Is it sustainable?

It’s definitely a healthy direction. You can take so many sonic aspects from each of those genres and execute them in infinite ways. Just think of all those parameter combinations on the pedals and processors!

People often say the cycle is repeating, that it’s 1991 all over again, which is nice because all those bands from 1991 are so great – and most of those bands are still around, in one form or another. So it seems to be sustainable, right?

Right on. What makes you happy?

eBay and Gumtree conquests relating to G.A.S (gear acquisition syndrome). Also, Adventure Time. I love Adventure Time.

Reiko Ellis, who created our awesome Cull illustration, is based in Melbourne. Imagination plays an important role in Reiko’s work. No matter the scope of a piece, she always attempts a high level of imaginative quality coupled with believability. The main inspiration for Reiko’s work comes from Japan: It’s animation, it’s manga, (Japanese comics), and all facets of it’s art. She’s available for free-lance work and collaborations. For more info, check out her website.