The whole Matrix-inspired debate on whether ignorance is bliss is a tiresome one. Would we want to know our future if it were a grim one? Does looking into a crystal ball hold more significance than the simple charade of spiritual comic relief, if our reality is pictured to become a dire one?
Sydney outfit Community Radio presents these questions all in the sum of a sad life experience in their new single, appropriately titled Crystal Ball. We got talking to lead guitarist and vocalist Cameron Emerson-Elliot about the band and the new release that is destined to become the new go-to background noise of this generation.
Despite its languid pop approach, Community Radio delve into themes of grief and existentialism with spectacular results on their new single, Crystal Ball.
The Sydney-based quartet comprises of Patrick Mathews (bass), Jen Kevin (keys), Malcolm McKernan (drums), and Cameron Emerson-Elliot (guitar/ lead vocals). Former Youth Group fans will recognise Elliot and Mathews from their period in the highly popular indie outfit as well as other bands Songs, The John Reed Club, and The Vines. The title started off as a solo project of Elliot’s: “The very first Community Radio show was just myself playing solo – supporting Luke Steele at the Brass Monkey in Cronulla.” When 2010 rolled over the band debuted as a solid four piece.
Crystal Ball has rather nice, lazy pop melody that floats above a languidly simple tune with a provoking subject matter. The song was inspired by American poet Edward Hirsch’s epic elegy Gabriel, written about the premature death of his son. Elliot explained what attracted them to the subject: “I was really struck by Hirsch’s descriptions of the insurmountable grief that he was confronted with – and also the moments of joy and wonder that he experienced in hearing stories about his son from others. I am a dad myself… and the weight of the subject really struck me, it was something that effected me and I couldn’t stop thinking about.”
It’s a grim tale told through a lazy pop beat that makes it almost come across as mellow and accepting. For some reason Talking Heads’ And She Was comes to mind, as do the subdued tones and airy acoustics of Death Cab For Cutie and Belle & Sebastian. The Youth Group heritage is also completely evident. “For some reason – in my head – the music we make is like Beat Happening, or The Minutemen, or some raw indie post punk of the mid 80s, but it comes out sounding to everyone else a lot more like Belle and Sebastian.”
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This inspired a curiosity about what the significance of Crystal Ball was as a metaphor; “I’m not great at instilling a single concept or idea into my songs, but one thing I guess the song asks is what happens to the future you dream of together with someone when they pass away, or they leave. What happens to the plans you once had together?”
There is an element of clarity in the pure guitar picking and repetition of the very few lyrics that illustrate his grief, the most profound being: “Hey! Only yesterday/we could hold her in our arms/now she’s gone,” all-in-all emitting a very surreal glimpse at reality.
The band are set to release their debut album Look Now You’re Cursed via their own hallmark label Novella Records on July 15th. We asked Elliot what can be expected from the album: “We’ve always worked at keeping our music as elemental and stripped back as we can – and I think working with Wayne (Connolly) more closely, and from the start on this record, he’s helped us work with those tendencies…What I hope comes through the most, though, is the songs. I hope someone picks it up and is like ‘wow – there are 11 actual songs on this thing'”.
Based on this first taste, there is definitely a collection of exciting songs to be expected from the group.
For your next lazy beers and beats rendezvous you can catch Community Radio playing at the following shows:
Friday June 10 – Vic on The Park, Marrickville, NSW w/ Chook Race
Friday June 17 – Tokyo Sing Song, Newtown, NSW