I first fell for the jangly garage sounds of Rosa Maria last September. The Sydney five-piece were yet to release their debut album, and had only a handful of gigs under their collective belt.
Since that night, the band have further refined their mesmerising blend of psych, blues, surf, and garage to craft an irresistible sound that’ll possess the body of any punter who finds themselves in their path.
Now with the release of their new single Howlin’, we caught up with the band’s five members Broc Townsend, Bobby Diamond, Red Velvet, Patrick Thomas, and Chris Sirote to chat their new album, touring with The Ruminaters, and how to make people dance.
Having just dropped their new single Howlin’, we caught up with Rosa Maria to chat their new album, making people dance, and beating up The Ruminaters.
HAPPY: I’ve been to my fair share of Rosa Maria gigs, and I don’t think I’ve been to a single one where the entire crowd hasn’t been dancing. How much of a consideration is the live show when you’re writing your tunes?
BROC: I dunno, that’s a good question. Well, we write the songs for people to dance to.
CHRIS: I think its developed over time. On the first record we made it for how it would sound through speakers or earphones, but when we started playing live shows we started getting into that groove of what people like dancing to, and we love feeding off of that.
BROC: Yeah, it’s infectious when people dance… so you just want to make more of the tunes that people dance to, instead of the one’s where people sit back.
BOBBY: But we never consciously sit down and go “oh no, fuck, people can’t dance to that”.
HAPPY: When your writing these songs, do you have any idea early on of which ones are going to land live?
BOBBY: All of them land live.
CHRIS: I don’t think we think like that. I think once it develops, we look around and everyones got this excited look on their face, like “oh shit, this is gonna be one of those dancin’ songs”.
PATRICK: You know in rehearsal when you look around and Broc’s dancing, and Bobby and Red and Chris are going nuts, then you know it’s going to be a good song.
HAPPY: You mentioned that it’s a lot more tempting to lean towards writing those ‘dance-y’ songs… but when you’re putting together a full-length record, do you find it’s important to have those slower songs in there that’ll balance things out?
BROC: Yeah definitely. Everything that’s recorded feels really slow, and when we’re writing a record its funny, because we have all these 60’s garage sounds that are quite fast paced, and at the same time we’ve got a lot of slower stuff that’s a bit Mystic Braves-y. And yeah, it’s hard fitting both those types of songs on a record…
RED: It’s hard finding that balance.
BROC: It’s still a massive learning curve, making records and finding how people react.
HAPPY: Do you tend to get much feedback from people on the records? Or is it one of those things that’s really hard to gauge?
RED: I think there’s always people telling you what they like and especially what they don’t like…
BROC: And they’re mostly pretty pissed at the time as well.
PATRICK: I think you get more feedback from the live shows than the record for sure. We get feedback at every live show we play.
BOBBY: We’re contemplating calling the new record We’re Better Live.
HAPPY: How does a Rosa Maria song come together? Is there a set process?
BROC: Not really, a lot of it’s either premeditated song-writing, or it’s just “yeah we’ll come up with something.”
BOBBY: I feel for the most part, Broc will write the guts of it… so he’ll come in with a loose structure, play it, then everyone just adds their thing.
CHRIS: Usually there’s a basic structure that it comes with, then it morphs over time. Sometimes we come in with a certain idea and then it evolves and evolves and evolves and evolves, and all of a sudden it’s a different beast.
BROC: It’s about trust as well. I’m not even writing full songs anymore, like I did on the first record. Now I’ll just kind of write a chorus, and I’m sure the guys will come up with something different or cool.
HAPPY: When you guys first emerged, you came about with this fully-formed style – both musically and visually – was that something that came about naturally or had it been in development for a while?
BROC: I think it’s just all the influences kind of rubbed off on everything.
CHRIS: I think it was all just about us having a good time, really. About not taking ourselves too seriously and just going with what felt good and fun at the time.
BOBBY: Well with our first show we were all in just jeans and t-shirts, but I think we were still conscious of the fact that a lot of the bands we love had a particular image. And I’m a big believer in that people hear what they see… if you present yourself as a unit, it makes the music tighter.
PATRICK: What you said about being fully-formed, I think that comes down to the first record. We didn’t really plan to ever play it live… we just wanted to put out a record. That was the plan, but when it got closer to the time of recording, we decided to play it live. We rehearsed for almost a year before we played live.
HAPPY: What was Rosa Maria originally going to be then? Was it just going to be a one-off record?
BROC: Not really, we’d all jammed with each other at some point before we started the band, so I think it was always going to happen.
BOBBY: I don’t think we actually thought we could do it.
PATRICK: I think the original idea for this was a vague idea of what we’re doing now.
BROC: We we’re always going to shows, we love live music. We’d be going to see bands five, six, seven nights in a row. Infectious garage bands like Los Tones, we went to see them so many times…
BOBBY: I remember going to a Los Tones show, and we barely knew them at the time – they’re good friends now – but we full confronted them saying “we’ve been working on music, and we’re gonna be a way better band than you.”
PATRICK: Bobby was out for war from the start.
HAPPY: What’s it like playing with bands that you use to go see?
PATRICK: It’s incredible… so much fun. You kind of just want to finish your set so you can have a beer and watch Los Tones or The Dandelion… I can’t get enough.
BOBBY: Well yeah, the coolest thing was that they were bands we use to kind of idolise, and now they’ve become good friends, and we’ve started playing shows together, then it got to the point where at our last headline show at Oxford Art Factory, they supported us. It was kinda cool.
RED: Yeah when you’ve seen them six, seven times before and you start idolising them, then you meet them and start talking to them, and it’s like “fuck”.
BROC: Everyone making this kind of music are great people. There’s no pretentiousness about it.
HAPPY: I mentioned before that I’ve never been to one of your shows that hasn’t been a good time… but I imagine touring around Australia, you’d have had some pretty rough gigs. Any stories?
CHRIS: What about Geelong?
CHRIS: We were playing with Ruminaters and Crocodylus, and we had a good show in Melbourne the night before, but this night we had a pretty rough one in Geelong. How do you explain it?
PATRICK: I reckon seven people showed up to this show.
BOBBY: It was more than that…
PATRICK: You’re including the people in the bands though…
CHRIS: This room had a capacity of like 500 people. It was a huge room with a massive stage.
PATRICK: Playing to an empty room was all worth while, having Crocodylus and The Ruminaters sitting there with scorecards in the front row judging us. And for their very last song, Rumies played You Sexy Thing by Hot Chocolate, and they always get both us and Crocs up on stage for that song, but because there was only six other people in the venue, Pencil said “alright everyone get up here,” and everyone in the building was up on stage.
RED: We were literally playing to one photographer.
BOBBY: Then we came outside after that show, and the Ruminaters had parked behind the venue – it was a public carpark – but it turns out the guy who owned it came out and saw their big van, and rammed straight into the van…
RED: This fourteen-seater van was completely fucked…
BOBBY: And the security told us who the guy was and where he lived… so Pencil grabbed a megaphone, and everyone in the venue went up to this guys house trying to get him to come out.
RED: His name was Phillip. Pencil was there shouting into this megaphone “come outside Phillip.”
CHRIS: “It’s your time Phillip”
RED: “Time to feel the pain.”
PATRICK: “It’s time to face the music, Phillip!”
HAPPY: Where did he even get a megaphone?
RED: He brought it on tour with him.
PATRICK: The Ruminaters have everything.
BOBBY: On tour, Pencil started doing this thing on the bus called ‘compliment time’… so he’d bring out the megaphone and give someone on the bus a compliment… and the last time that he did it was after a show in Brisbane.
We came out all pretty boozed, just hanging out by the van, and Pencil launched into ‘compliment time’, saying that Mossy – their guitarist – was the best guitarist in the world, and that if anyone disagreed, he’d fight them. Then Pat said “Broc’s a better guitarist”… so a massive brawl broke out and we beat the shit out of the Ruminaters.
PATRICK: I sneak attack choked him. I had him on the ground, and Bobby and Broc were kicking him and fighting off the rest.
BOBBY: So that was the last ‘compliment time’ of the tour.
HAPPY: Will we ever see a rematch?
BOBBY: I don’t think they’d wanna do it. They’d be too terrified.
BROC: They should come do a night fight with me and Bobby. We used to do these things called ‘night fights’…
CHRIS: Didn’t you break your foot trying to fly kick Bobby down the street?
BROC: Yeah I fractured my ankle.
RED: Playing gigs with a fucking moon-boot on…
BROC: We played this show in Berowra to like 600 people and I had this moon-boot on… it looked ridiculous.
RED: He was trying to do his dance, but because of this boot he was barely moving.
HAPPY: I think it’s interesting that you guys skipped that whole EP phase that bands have. You just went straight for the full-length. Straight for the jugular.
BROC: Yeah I’m not sure why bands do that.
PATRICK: Why does everyone like EP’s so much?
BROC: Just put the music out there. Whatever. We’ve got favourite bands that still have shit songs.
HAPPY: Was that the thinking behind dropping the full-length straight away? Just saying “fuck it”?
BROC: Yeah for sure. We were enjoying it at the time, so why not?
HAPPY: You guys are working on your next album now…
BROC: Yeah we’re about halfway through.
HAPPY: How different was it recording this new record to Let It Be Known? If at all…
BROC: Well we recorded Let It Be Known in two days…
RED: We kind of know what we’re doing a bit more now.
BROC: We’re still recording it with Owen (Straight Arrows), but everything’s a little more thought-out. It’s a bit more of a beefier record. We’re taking it a little more seriously.
CHRIS: A big thing is that with the first one, we’d only played one show… whereas with this one, we’ve played the live show so many times, so we know these tracks inside out.
HAPPY: Can you divulge any information about the album?
BROC: I think we’re looking at about 12 tracks. We’ve got 8 recorded at the moment.
PATRICK: You would’ve heard a lot of the songs in the live shows.
RED: Everything we’re recording is everything we’ve been playing for the last year or so.
HAPPY: Any other working titles besides We’re Better Live?
BOBBY: Nah that’s it.
HAPPY: Well there you go. You heard it here first.
Listen to Rosa Maria’s latest single Howlin’ now.