It may have escaped your attention, but Max Quinn doesn’t exactly take things too seriously. It’s not like you’d name your band “Onomatopenis” without cracking a bit of a smile. Unless of course you left your juvenile side back in 1999 along with Blink 182 and wet willies. But that’s beside the point. On paper, Max Quinn is a funny guy. Quick witted and razor sharp, usually at his own expense, and this same wry humour characterises Quinn personally and his lyrics. However, speaking to him about his new track Waterloo, I get the feeling that Max Quinn is perfectly in earnest about his latest work.
Photo credit to Seshanka Samarajiwa
Chronicling the true story of dodgy real estate agents, mateship and Stabby the stabber, Max Quinn’s Onomatopenis’ Waterloo is the anthem of the boy next door.
The first track to be released off Max Quinn’s Onomatopenis’ upcoming Carpool Tunnel Syndrome EP (expected in November), he goes as far as to say that “I think [Waterloo] is one of my favourite songs that I’ve ever written.” And, not to malign his previous work in any sense, after listening I’m inclined to agree. A punk tinged indie anthem, conversational lyrics chart the mundane trials and tribulations in a vivid picture painted by Quinn’s nasal whine. Reminiscent of pop punk throwback Say Anything, also channelling the anti-hero voice of artists like Frank Turner, or Quinn’s personal inspiration, Jeff Rosenstock.
In a slight change of pace from his last release, a self-titled mini album, the EP was written and recorded as it would be performed in a live setting. Describing the writing process for Carpool Tunnel Syndrome, Quinn says that instead of tinkering with laptops and plug ins, they decided to “Just PLAY the songs like a band: these are the chords, this is the melody, what do you think this bit should sound like?” There is a rawer quality to Waterloo, and also a classic feel tempered by the punk edge.
Based around melodic electric guitar themes, the drums roll in with a familiar soft rock entrance. Recorded at Sydney’s Hercules Studios in one weekend, Quinn also enlisted his friends for the gang vocal parts. The whole track feels refreshingly liberated from studio bells and whistle. It’s straight up and to the point, trading off the intelligence of Quinn’s lyrics. As Alex Turner proved to the host of snotty nosed teenage wannabes, transposing the poetry of the everyday to song requires more skill than you would imagine. Quinn manages to articulate that same earthy eloquence in lyrics like “And the screen door doesn’t close so we invested in a brick / I soon learned “Coles adjacent” was a little real-estate trick.”
Listening to the lyrics of Waterloo and delving into Quinn’s career so far, I started to realise that not only does he possess the musical talent I never will (I’ve made my peace with that -see my bio), but I also started to get the sneaking suspicion that he’s actually more eloquent and articulate than me. And I’m not the first writer to come to this depressing conclusion, with one despairing journo handing the whole assignment over to Quinn to review himself. Without going quite that far, I did ask Quinn for his version of the story of Waterloo:
“My best friend Callan and I lived together in this awful house in Waterloo on Walker Street for all of 2013, just around the corner from where that fatal stabbing at the Grosvenor was. Not to prognosticate about a current police investigation, but there’s a man who walks around the many commission flats opposite, who we were warned about, called “Stabby” – because he stabs people.
Walker Street was a really threatening place on the outside but I really loved that house for its laughable awfulness on the inside: the screen was broken on BOTH doors at either end of the house. The locks were fixed, so we had to use a brick to prop the doors open at all times so that when it slammed you weren’t locked out. I estimate we were locked out sixty times in eighteen months.
The real estate agents totally sold us a cold lemon, but people were generally nice – and also loud – but making their way through life the best way they could. Truth told, the only problems I ever had were with our neighbour John, a gentrified dude who told me once he was an “academic”. One time I heard him yell “the confluence of life!” at one of our elderly neighbours and it was deadset the funniest thing I have ever heard. John didn’t like that I played guitar or that we played a game called “Qunsball” in the backyard where we listened exclusively to Smashmouth and threw plastic balls into a bucket of warm soapy water”.
So there you have it, a compelling story of real estate nightmares, unfortunate music choices and “Stabby” the stabber. Listening to Waterloo you can’t help but be drawn into the narrative, as well as this cleverly crafted song from Max Quinn’s Onomatopenis. Catchy and anthemic, by the end you’ll be wholeheartedly agreeing that John really should fuck off. Though we do have sympathy for anyone subjected to Smashmouth on repeat.