Interviews

Psychedelic Porn Crumpets: a sweltering new album fuelled by lockdown and mango beer

psychedelic porn crumpets

Psychedelic Porn Crumpets have returned, doing what they do best but on a much more cinematic, multifaceted scale.

A conversation with Porn Crumpets frontman Jack McEwen is almost as easy as listening to his latest slice of psych-rock brilliance. With the warmth of an old friend and the quips of a bloke who’s seen his fair share, you’re always in for a treat no matter the occasion.

It almost makes you forget that he’s one of the geniuses behind Perth’s most intricate sounds. Mathematical riffs that are hot to the touch yet enticing, the group’s latest project is a triumph of genre in itself. We caught up with McEwen to hear more.

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HAPPY: Congrats on Pukebox first of all.

JACK: Yeah, thank you. 

HAPPY: There was some major existential chaos happening in that track. Am I right in guessing that this may be a bit of a theme of the new album?

JACK: Yeah definitely. It’s all sort of like anxious, hungover tales of waking up. Sort of tall stories, I think. Like, “oh my God what is happening, what are we doing.” Yeah, it’s all that sort of mess about trying to recalculate or reevaluate your life when you get back off tour. 

HAPPY: Yeah right. 

JACK: That’s a strong theme, yeah. 

HAPPY: So it’s an ode to the post-tour blues? 

JACK: I think so yeah, but with zero clarity. Especially at the moment where there isn’t really an end goal or a theme in sight, it’s sort of a big drinking album. I was doing this all through the bottle shop and, from there, writing music. Then the lyrics I had, more than anything, were about tour and alcohol. 

HAPPY: Could you tell us a bit about the flavour of the album when it comes to the sound and the different styles you’ve incorporated? 

JACK: Well, I started off with this sort of glitch approach. From the last album, I wrote this track called Digital Hunger and it was sort of by accident that I stumbled across it. It was like, you’ve got at the bottom more of a DJ complexity to how they’ve obviously made the software. But we put the guitars into this thing called beat mode. It transposes the guitars so you can put them up like an up octave or a down octave and it makes it sound just super glitchy and I love that idea. Why don’t I go more on that and write an album theme around that sort of ‘70s-style glitch rock record?

JACK: There was originally a concept of a guy called Norton Gavin and this was his greatest hits, this fictional guy. I wanted it to go through his timeline of his life. Then I really got stuck in the ‘70s. If you just glitch the harmonies and make it sort of chaotic in a way that it still flows but something about the song, where it’s like, “what’s going on here.” Maybe the instruments don’t sound familiar, so I wanted to make that sound the flavour, make it always come up. It’s just like one big come up. So every track leads onto the next and feels like it’s getting more chaotic and it’s a big flow that eventually… it’s always peaking, I didn’t want to bring it down at any point. 

HAPPY: Yeah that’s mad. What was the name of the guy you mentioned?

JACK: Oh, Sir Norton Gavin?

HAPPY: Right. Who’s this guy? Tell us a bit about him.

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JACK: There was going to be a big backstory on him, but I don’t know if I am going to save it for the next record.

HAPPY: Oh true.

JACK: I’m still working the idea out. But you can chuck it in if you want to, which I don’t know if we can come out and make him real. Then people would be like who is this guy? Try and put it onto Spotify and have all these songs that we’ve made as Norton Gavin as well. 

HAPPY: Right

JACK: The demo is like someone else is singing them and trying to make it sound like a 1960s tape and then we’ve covered the song. So it could be a big elaborate plan but I don’t know how we’d pull it off. 

HAPPY: That could be a huge conspiracy. That could be sick. 

JACK: That’s actually us as well. It can get a bit funny. 

HAPPY: Were there any moments on this album that you’re particularly proud of?

JACK: I really like how there’s three tracks, there’s Hats Off To The Green Bins, Glitter Bug, More Glitter (which is sort of an interlude to Pukebox). From them three, they worked together to boost Pukebox. It’s weird how that song by itself, every time I was recording I’d go back to that, it’s too slow, so I kept taking it out of the track listing. Then, for some reason, I sort of just tweaked… I was in control of what I’m writing, the music or the songs. Sometimes, I was always writing a song and then I was writing another song and trying to put them together somehow in an album listing. I was just like, “well, what if I just actually just write the album listening to that first song?” Does it need to go up in BPM, does it need to go down? Is it heavy? What would be almost a way to juxtapose from that song to get a completely different flavour on the next one. It just slowly blended that in that middle run. It was nowhere near that Abbey Road thing. You know how they have the medleys?

HAPPY: Yeah.

JACK: Where they’re going into each other. That is my favourite album, especially the back half. I’ve always been amazed at how it’s not so much how one song sounds split into ten and it’s just one idea repeating, it’s actually melodically shifting and changing. But still, there isn’t an actual part where you’re like, “has it ended?” Has it finished? That, to me, I was really happy with. 

HAPPY: Yeah totally. Well I got a lot of Abbey Road energy from Mr. Prism in particular. 

JACK: Oh thanks. That’s a huge compliment!

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HAPPY: Could you tell us a bit about the writing of the album, cause you’ve said it’s a very different sound for you guys. Was this something that you went in intending, or did it just come about naturally?

JACK: Originally, though the time frame, I had that world. But obviously before Covid sort of struck the planet, we had to release everything. I think I had to get all the songs recorded and finished by March so we could go on tour with Ocean Alley. The plan was to release the album mid-July to August, so that tour was almost like a joint tour of the album release.

HAPPY: Right.

JACK: As soon as it sort of hit, I was not really happy with a lot of the songs because there were some metal tracks and obviously psychedelic tracks. Like, “how do you make a mismatch album sound like it has a theme or concept and make it sound like I knew what I was doing?” But, really, I was sort of like trying to cover my arse a bit. I was showing our manager, Luke, and the boys what I had recorded and they were like, “it sounds like four different albums and there wasn’t really a theme.” I had Mr. Prism obviously recorded and Mundungus and Pukebox. I used them three tracks and then went off and started thinking alright, so how do I connect these three together and what should come first and how am I going to go into that and save all the metal bits and pieces and the slower stuff? Sort of building up this catalogue.

HAPPY: Yeah.

JACK: Everything has got a theme. I think for SHYGA, as soon as we got back it was summer. Obviously, I had recovered from that pneumonia which was hectic. It was almost like this lease of life being able to drink again. I just wanted to pile that energy into that feeling and emotions. That was sort of the strongest, I think writing-wise, was the inspiration for the record. Yeah, like a really upbeat summer album. I hate that word, but yeah, it feels warm.

HAPPY: So, basically you had the nuts and bolts of it down before, but you refined it during lockdown, is that right?

JACK: Yeah, and then take it all apart and just sort of reworked it cause, obviously, we didn’t have a deadline anymore.

HAPPY: Yeah.

JACK: It was such a nice feeling to be like alright, and it’s the first time I think since High Visceral Pt. 1. Where, obviously, I had an unlimited timeframe because we were not really a band. Everything since then has always felt rushed in a way. Like, there’d be a tour booked and nothing was finished. You sort of had to be like, deadlines are good because, sometimes, if you do get carried away, it’s not finished. With this one, it was the first time I’ve been like, “alright, I think that’s finished and then we were like perfect, this is the release date.” You can get all the records sorted and my album artwork. I think the artwork as well, I’ve never had visually something that looks exactly like the record. It looks like this glitch but a warm and fuzzy world, almost childish.

HAPPY: Yeah, it’s so cool. 

JACK: Ah yeah, he did a great job.

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HAPPY: Did you find yourself turning to any other sources of inspo while working on the record in lockdown?

JACK: It was weird, it generally was just beer and I think… I had this song that I wrote for Matso’s Mango beers. I was like, “this is the most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted” and put on 20kgs, since I was drinking pure sugar pretty much. I think the flavour my brother described was like what a bee would taste when it gets nectar from a flower.

HAPPY: Fucking oath. 

JACK: And from then on, I was like a bee. I got home and waited for the bottle shop to open, which was usually around 11 o’clock. It was kind of sad looking back on it cause obviously… I mean, I probably kept them in business through Covid but I was just there like, I know you’re in there. And they rolled the door open and then I would be like sweet, this, that, and sort of come home. It was obviously funny, it was strange because it hadn’t really hit Perth. We were really fortunate there weren’t too many cases. You could still be in lockdown and sort of have that feeling, it was missing you if that makes sense. Though we were able to sort of go out again fairly quickly about half the capacity, which it felt like I was literally a tourist back in Perth for the first time because before that we had been away for about almost two years. Just constantly touring. It would be about three weeks at a time and there would be a couple of days before we would head off to a festival or this or that. So when I got back, this is a new bar or this is a new pub. So it was really fun, it just felt like I was on a gigantic holiday, so it was good. 

HAPPY: Did you get any non-touring cabin fever setting in? 

JACK: Not touring… All my anxiety seemed to go which was nice. I realised how scared I get before like a tour or a show. Like, we played a show on Saturday and the three days before my voice just went and I didn’t do anything different. I was like, “oh my God I’m not going to be able to sing.” I think that’s my biggest fear, rocking up on stage with no strings on my guitar, not being able to talk and being like, “what’s happening?”

HAPPY: That’s actually terrifying.

JACK: Now I’m learning to calm down a bit and be alright. Cause it feels like, I don’t know, music is two things. There’s recording, where I know I’ve got a certain amount of time or whatever, it’s freedom to just write and create and get things sounding the way I sort of want it to sound. And then there’s live where it’s just all this energy at once, where everything you’ve thought about comes out and the lyrics, I don’t know. It seems like after the first ten seconds it’s on autopilot, which is amazing. You really can’t remember a lot. But the moment leading up to that I’m like, “oh my God, I’m going to crumble.” 

HAPPY: You’ve got the album slated for the start of next month. Are you guys planning to chill for a bit, like get back into it, like what’s on the cards for you?

JACK: We started actually jamming like a lot more which is nice so. It’s actually quite nice to be writing again with everyone, sort of moving into different territories as well. 

 

Grab your copy of SHYGA! The Sunlight Mound here