After playing a killer set to a huge showing of fans at Splendour In The Grass, Fran, Tom and Joe from Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever sat down to talk about their recent album Hope Downs, copious amounts of touring, and cocktail recipes.
The Melbourne act have gained remarkable traction overseas recently, playing festivals like Coachella and Primavera. With an accentuated Australian twang, they bring their own version of indie rock to the table, with Fran, Tom and Joe all alternating as singers and guitarists.
Post-Splendour they’re settling for a few months before jumping back on tour, kicking off with Brisbane Festival in September.
If you haven’t jumped on the Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever bandwagon, now is a good time. We caught up to chat Hope Downs, world-class festivals, and surprise cocktails.
HAPPY: It’s been a huge year for you with touring and the release of your album. How do you feel now that Hope Downs is out in the world?
FRAN: Really good, it feels cathartic or something to have it out. You know, you work on something for so long and you’ve heard it for so long and nobody else has heard it yet and it doesn’t feel real. Then it’s out and people respond to it and say ‘oh that’s my favourite song on the album’, and playing the songs live you can get the reaction. People move to them because they’ve heard them before.
HAPPY: How have the international crowds been treating you?
TOM: They’ve been great. We’ve played in Europe a bunch recently and in the States. The UK has been really receptive to it particularly. It’s kind of a lucky dip you know. So yeah it seems like the UK have been loving it, which is good. Europe is starting to get to know us and the States as well. Certain places in the States, New York, Seattle, Chicago, certain towns kind of get us or something. We also play all around like Salt Lake City and there might not be that many people there but we all have a good time together.
FRAN: You just sort of chip away, it’s such an unknown thing. You’re in a town for the first time, there might be 60 people there or there might be 200-300 people there, and you’re like alright, whatever, cool.
HAPPY: Yeah right, I guess it would be a good feeling even to see one person singing along to songs.
FRAN: Yeah it is, it’s such a trip to see somebody in the front row and it’s funny because it’s all sorts of different people as well – I’m sure that’s with everybody it’s not just with our band – but all sorts of different people respond to your music.
We were at Primavera (in Barcelona), we were setting up before the show and there was nobody around, but there was this one guy up the front who looked like this huge unit; tanned, bronze, ripped, a good looking rooster just standing there – looked like he might go to Stereo or something. I was like ‘this guy is cooked’, it’s only Saturday afternoon and he’s already lost it. But no, he’d come there for us and he’d flown from Brazil. That’s what the internet does I guess. It’s just like a paint splatter that hits all over the place. But yeah, it’s always surreal when you have people up the front singing.
HAPPY: Coachella, Primavera Sound, you’ve got more festivals coming up – what’s been your favourite so far?
FRAN: I think it was Primavera for me, I think for all of us.
TOM: Yeah absolutely, Primavera, we had an amazing response, in Portugal as well, there’s two Primavera’s but Barcelona Primavera, it was a pretty triumphant thing. We were looking out over the water over the Mediterranean, the crowd was as big as it could’ve been in that bit, we kind of packed it out, and we had an amazing time. Coachella was interesting, we were definitely on the lower end of the line up (laughs). That’s more of a pop festival these days but it was an amazing experience as well to do that. It’s a different world Coachella, it’s its own universe.
HAPPY: Did you catch many acts you really wanted to see?
FRAN: Yeah, we saw Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds at Primavera Porto and our friend Scott hustled me and him to side of stage… being not even ten metres away from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, it was a trip.
HAPPY: There’s been a lot of references to The Go-Betweens when writing about your music. What music you were surrounded by when growing up?
FRAN: I think I got into The Go-Betweens in like 2005 or something, before that, in the car as a family there was a lot of Paul Kelly, Neil Young, Van Morrison.
JOE: Saturday mornings was Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan to the point where I hated it as a kid and then finally came around and realised that I loved it.
TOM: All the baby boomer classics.
JOE: And Queen.
TOM: Yeah, I think once we were growing up we got pretty big into The Strokes and stuff when we were young kids. It was a bit of a trip to see, we just played before Albert Hammond Jr back there, and to see him running around thinking ‘woah, we used to be massive Strokes fans’. A steezy unit.
FRAN: Gold suit.
HAPPY: How did the band come about, how did you all meet?
JOE: So Fran and I are cousins, so we’ve known each other for as long as we possibly can. Fran and Tom went to high school together, so a long time, always just been kicking about together.
TOM: We started a couple of different bands, none of them with any real ambition or plan. Joe, Fran and I have played over the years in three or four different versions of kind of the same band, we’re just a continuation of that. This particular one started about five years ago when we brought in my brother Joe on bass and our housemate Marcel on drums. The chemistry clicked. We’ve always had weird little hobby bands that we’ve been kicking around in but we never made it a big ambition to play music. To find ourselves here is pretty surreal.
FRAN: We always just wanted to write the best songs that we could. We would say to each other ‘oh yeah this next song is going to be great blah blah blah’. I think in the back of our heads we knew we were probably never going to do anything with it, we just liked writing songs for the sake of writing songs. Finishing it and then working on the next one. That was what it was and that was all it was ever really going to be. We’d play shows every now and then, not that many people would come, which was fine, we didn’t really mind. Then we actually did go ‘oh let’s actually put something out properly’, we gave it a bit of a tour and people started to respond. It’s not something we ever really planned for but then when it started happening, we were like ‘okay, we’ll take it seriously now’.
HAPPY: Now that you’re taking it more seriously, do you find it harder to write music?
FRAN: Actually I think we probably used to write a lot slower, I think that we only wrote maybe two or three songs a year really.
JOE: There’s three of us now that are committed songwriters so they come together a bit quicker I guess. Also the collaboration thing probably helps, you can bring a shell of a song to the table and it might come together a bit quicker when you’ve got four other minds working on the same idea. Yeah so we write considerably quicker than we used to.
FRAN: I think that earlier on in the band when there was no expectations, no rules, you would probably just write anything. Write any sort of thing, you’d work on that song for six to eight months and then maybe after playing it for four months after that you go ‘no that’s just a weird song’. But you’d have that freedom, we had that freedom for years and years. We just let the band and the songs go in any sort of direction, but now it’s a bit different when you have a band and you’ve got people who have heard your earlier stuff. You need to be a bit more disciplined about your artistic output, it’s not just a bunch of tunes assembled together just for the fun of it.
HAPPY: What’s on for the rest of the year for you – back on tour?
TOM: Doing a lull before going on tour again overseas. We’re doing a lot of touring, the European summer festival circuit, which should be fun. A festival in every country over summer. Then starting our album tour proper in the States, starting on the west coast and ending up on the east coast.
At this point a stranger declares “Fucking album of the year aye” as he sets down a round of drinks for RBCF.
CHORUS OF TOM, FRAN JOE: Aw thanks man! Cheers! Wow this is nice.
HAPPY: Was that planned?
TOM: No (laughs), that’s never happened before. I don’t even know what this drink is.
FRAN: (Speaking loudly into the microphone) Did you get that? “Album of the year”.
TOM: Then we’ll come back to Australia then back touring Europe until the end of the year. We have a lot of touring staring us in the face.
HAPPY: This is a delicious drink, I’d like to thank the random kind stranger.
FRAN: Can we try and work out what is in it? Would you like to help?
JOE: This would not have been cheap for that guy, they cost $15 each.
TOM: Is that not fruit cup crush cordial?
HAPPY: Whatever it is, it’s good.
If you know the recipe to the $15 cocktail served at Splendour that resembles the taste of fruit cup crush cordial, pass it on to Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever. If you were the guy who shouted them the cocktails, you’re a legend.
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever will be taking Hope Downs on the road later this year. Catch them live at any of the following dates (and find out more here):
Thursday, 27th September – Spiegeltent, Brisbane (Brisbane Festival)
Friday, 28th September – Factory Theatre, Sydney
Friday, 5th October – Rosemount, Perth
Saturday, 6th October – Jive Bar, Adelaide
Friday, 12th October – Workers Club, Geelong
Saturday, 13th October – Corner Hotel, Melbourne