Earlier this month, when Gold Coast duo Tesla Cøils dropped their new video for Dinosynth, we were immediately on-board with their dark, post-apocalyptic sounds.
So we caught up with the band to chat about the song and film clip came together, science fiction in songwriting, and what the future holds.
Fresh off the release of their new video for Dinosynth, we caught up with Gold Coast-based duo Tesla Cøils for a chat.
HAPPY: Hey, how’s it going? What are you up to at the moment?
TESLA CØILS: I am actually drinking a Stone and Wood, listening to Madonna. Early Madonna.
HAPPY: We’re really loving Dinosynth! Could you walk us through the process of how the concept behind this cyborg dinosaur came to be?
TESLA CØILS: Thank you so much, yes of course. Long story short, years ago I was at a house party, jamming in a circle of musicians making improvised droney noise. I suddenly found this sound on my synth that instantly reminded me of what a cyborg T-Rex would sound like. The next day I went home and wrote the whole song, lyrics and all. I was going to replace the lyrics, as they sounded like a bit of a joke at first, but then they grew on me… I brought it to Chris (our drummer) and he loved it, and it’s been an essential part of our live set ever since.
HAPPY: Sci-fi stories have always been used to convey deeper themes… but I feel like this hasn’t happened too much in music. What made you take this approach to songwriting?
TESLA CØILS: Yes, I agree. I love how the great fiction authors and screenwriters have always reflected the real world and surroundings. For me, Dinosynth is more about reflecting my own personal feelings inside. I guess when I stood back and looked at my funny Dinosaur-in-space lyrics, I realized that they were also a reflection of my own experiences with social isolation, alienation, loneliness. It is really satisfying when you use despairing emotions as catalysts for creation.
HAPPY: What do you think the benefits are of this kind of songwriting?
TESLA CØILS: I’ve always used songwriting as a way to convert negative feelings into positive ones. If I am writing about a horrible experience I’ve had, introspective turmoil or a pure fear of the outside world, it almost acts as a form of relief from the constant anxiety life throws at you. I can take these negative aspects of my essence and convert them into songs, recordings, live performances…all things that are going to make me feel better about myself, and proud of my achievement. It’s an essential part of strengthening mental health, and I encourage all creative people I meet to utilize it.
HAPPY: You recorded the song at your home studio, right? Could you walk us through what your setup looks like?
TESLA CØILS: My home setup is pretty modest really. What I’ve found is the best way to write is to have all of my instruments set up, all plugged into my interface, so I can play anything in the room and be inspired by any sound, whenever I want. My main instruments currently include vintage analog synthesizers from the early 1980s, as well as some impressive modern instruments. The main aspect of my home setup is the fact that everything is tactile, expressive, characterful – something I can never achieve using virtual instruments. I’ve used plugins in the past but they have always frustrated me – doing it with a mouse sucks, there’s always latency, and a weird digital 0’s and 1’s sheen to everything. I’m more interested in the imperfections and unpredictable nature analog instruments bring.
Basically they all plug into an interface and I can hear them through a set of Yamaha HS8s – those are beautiful speakers, they really do the analog instruments justice. I prefer hearing through monitors, I can’t seem to vibe using headphones. Maybe it’s just that low-end rumble of my Roland SH-101 that makes the walls shake.
HAPPY: Do you find recording at home limiting? Or do you find doing things on your own terms more freeing?
TESLA CØILS: I’m currently dealing with a few limitations of my home setup. For one – there’s no aircon – and that is very frustrating, especially in the Queensland summer. I sweat ten times more than normal people, and when sweat starts dripping down your nose onto your keyboards, it kills any vibe you previously had. I’m also dealing with the fact that the space is limited. Sometimes I have to pack instruments away just to make room for other things (like my bed so I can actually sleep). But it just encourages me to strive to finally move to a place that has more room, has aircon, and I can have everything set up forever. Overall, you need to force yourself to create with whatever setup you have, no matter what, otherwise you’ll just delay finishing things until you have that better setup.
HAPPY: We love the video for the track too! Could you walk us through the process of how this came together?
TESLA CØILS: The video was a fun collaboration. I met Peter Anthony, our animator, at one of our gigs. I was describing my idea for the clip to him, and he suddenly exclaimed “I can do that. I can animate that for you“. So I then wrote him a script, and he started making concept art and storyboards, and before we knew it he was already bringing the characters to life using Adobe Flash. I really like the way he captured myself and Chris’s likenesses. And the way he designed the cyborg dinosaurs was just what I had in mind. He made the Dinosynth just as heroic as I wanted, he made the lady-dino just as tough, and the evil pterosaur just as menacing. It was amazing to see my ideas come to life – and Peter’s suggestions and guidance helped take what was inside my brain out onto the screen. I’m really proud of it. Please play it, RAGE!
HAPPY: What’s next for Tesla Coils? Any other exciting plans in the works?
TESLA CØILS: We have a bunch of new music in the works. My plan is to just keep releasing singles with cool film clips that we’re proud of, just be fully creative about it and have fun. Then eventually we will have enough for a bigger collection. Possibly on vinyl. I know a lot of our fans are begging us for vinyl. I also hope to just play more and more shows this year, perfect our live set, and add more new stuff to the live setting. We love playing live. I’m really proud of our live setup – Chris has full reign of sampler pads, meaning that he can trigger weird sounds, drum machine sounds, and the very important Dino-roar sound. I’m happy with my setup, too, because it’s made up of entirely analog synths. Their unpredictable nature and organic quality mean that every show will be different.
HAPPY: Cheers for the chat!
TESLA CØILS: Cheers, HAPPY!
Watch the video for Dinosynth above.