Interviews

The Buoys talk loving fans, feeling feelings, and ‘Unsolicited Advice For Your DIY Disaster’

The Buoys pushed themselves to new limits recording Unsolicited Advice For Your DIY Disaster, producing some of their punchiest tracks yet.

If there’s one indie-punk act on Sydney’s radar right now, it’s definitely The Buoys. Zoe (vocals), Tess (drums), Hilary (lead), and Courtney (bass) have been touring relentlessly since day dot, accumulating a fiercely loyal and loving fanbase while darting from one venue to the next.

When COVID-19 hit, the group took time to knuckle down in the studio with producer Fletcher Matthews (CLEWS, Dear Seattle). Re-recordings, outrageous guitar solos, and piercing lyrics have all culminated into a commanding EP boasting banger upon banger for fans to chew on. Over some drinks at Camperdown Memorial Rest Park, we got to hear about the whole experience.

The Buoys

HAPPY: A warm congrats on your new EP, Unsolicited Advice For Your DIY Disaster, sounds bloody fantastic! Correct me if I’m wrong, but is this a bit of a breakup-inspired project?

ZOE: Well, it’s a life-inspired project. No one song I think is about the same thing person or event. Let’s say event…

COURTNEY: [Laughs]

HAPPY: A little bit of everyone’s life?

ZOE: Yeah, I’ll generally pick things, whether it’s an event or a particular interaction. Yeah, it’s a mixed bag.

HAPPY: Cool, lots of stories. How did you guys approach the songwriting side of this EP?

ZOE: Actually, it’s very different to how we usually do songwriting. It’s the first time we’ve ever done pre-production, which was really cool. So, instead of just having a song finished and recording it straight away, we had some complete songs, and some parts of songs as if they were like building blocks, and then took them to the producer we were working with, Fletcher Matthews, and we put it all together before recording it.

TESS: It was a much different process to how we’ve written previously, ’cause before we’d jam things out, maybe Zoe or Hil would come to the rehearsal with an idea or a snippet of a song and we would jam it out and play it live and that’s how we would work out how we wanted the song to be.

HILARY: Gauge the crowd.

HAPPY: If they’re cheering, it’s on the EP!

ZOE: Exactly! [Laughs] I mean Slow Down, it’s not on the EP, but this would be a good example of how we used to write. A song that ended up on that EP On This Talking Gets Us Nowhere, is so different to what it first sounded like, and we workshopped while on tour. We played it once, and the response was abysmal, and we were like ‘oh cool, sick, gotta change that one’.

TESS: I remember it specifically, ’cause I remember being like ‘let’s not do that again’. But sometimes they get reworked, but the beauty of this time is that we made a proper demo, and built drums on Pro Tools with our producer, and that way we could have this track where we could move bits of it around and try lots of different things.

COURTNEY: It was a good challenge to really think about the skeleton of the song, but then go, ‘how can we make it even better?’ There was a lot of back and forth, try this, try that, and it was just a really good experience I think.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by The Buoys (@the_buoys)

TESS: I think it was really good as well because before we identified as a live band, like we were gigging so much that we didn’t have time to really write songs in any other way. But because of COVID, we had time to really focus and put time into building the song that way, on a computer, and it was such an awesome learning curve. And I think it’s really changed the way we’ll write songs as a band.

HAPPY: Yeah that’s a great answer. So by the time you were getting the guitars on there, you knew exactly how the song was gonna sound?

THE BUOYS: No! [Laughs]

HILARY: Well, we tracked our last EP live, where this time around, we had more possibilities. So Court would be like ‘we should put some acoustic guitar on this’.

ZOE: The pre-production meant that doing that back and forth was easier because we had a better idea of all the options for what a song could be.

HILARY: I remember one song Zoe had written one melody, and we’d sung it live, quite a few times that way.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by The Buoys (@the_buoys)

HAPPY: What song was that?

HILARY: Car Park, and then we changed it, and it became a totally different song.

ZOE: The chorus messed me up! ‘Cause once a melody’s in my head it’s in there, but that one changed while we were doing it hey.

HILARY: And the same with the lead parts, they totally changed. Things got cut, things got added…

ZOE: Plus in the Bad Habits solo, I remember sitting there, and Fletch was just like “So I’m just gonna play the solo section Hil, and you’re gonna play heaps of different solos”, and then from that, we took bits of different solos and then eventually worked it all together.

HAPPY: You took the best of all the parts?

THE BUOYS: Yeah!

HILARY: I can only keep it together for four seconds at a time [laughs].

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by The Buoys (@the_buoys)

COURTNEY: I’ve got the best video of that, we’re all sitting there and she’s just going [shredding noises] and we’re all sitting there in silence just mouths open.

HILARY: It was actually really humbling, my guitar broke while recording.

HAPPY: Oh no way, like a string or did it fully snap?

HILARY: Nah, the electric just totally went. It wasn’t even like beautifully dramatic, like I wish it broke in half. It just full stopped working. So yeah, had to use Fletcher’s guitars.

HAPPY: Speaking of Fletcher, how was that experience, being with him in the studio and working on the tracks?

ZOE: It was… eye-opening.

TESS: [Laughs] If Fletcher was listening to this, he’d be like “okayyyy”.

THE BUOYS: [Laughs]

ZOE: Nah, it was actually a challenge, because I’m quite stubborn, especially with songwriting. It’s like I guard myself, right? And he had a way of opening that up, which is a gift. And afterwards I remember thinking, ‘I’ve gotta go apologise if maybe I was ever blunt with him’, so I did and he was like, “No, we were back and forth”. And why I say eye-opening is ’cause I never thought I was capable of changing the way that I write.

HAPPY: You have a vision?

ZOE: Not even a vision, more just my method. I have a strict method and he helped me learn ways to grow.

HILARY: I think he really pushed us and made us go ‘how can we make this be better?’ When someone has high expectations of you, you try really hard to like meet and lift, and there was a real shared sense in the band that we want to make this song the best song it can be. How do we do that? We were all on the same page when it came to that.

TESS: We had a meeting as we just started working together, and he said “What do you want this EP to be? And we said these things, and he just held us to that.

COURTNEY: Yeah, fully.

TESS: It was interesting at times, and at times really frustrating, and a really long process working with him, because he believed so much in serving the song. You know, you can try so much stuff when building it on a computer, so let’s try and try and try.

COURTNEY: We had versions and versions and versions of every song, it was nuts.

TESS: When you’ve tried so hard, and someone says, “let’s try something else”.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by The Buoys (@the_buoys)

ZOE: In hindsight, you go, ‘ahh, this is what he was getting at.’

HILARY: He’s like a personal trainer of the music community.

TESS: Ten more pushups!

ZOE: That’s such a good analogy.

HAPPY: Hilary’s on the ball.

ZOE: I call Hilary my personal dictionary, she’s my word person.

HAPPY: One of the things that really stuck out to me on the EP listen was the electric guitar, it was very bouncy, very full-on, in your face, really cool. So I’m wondering Hilary, what sort of inspirations and other bands were you listening to at the time?

HILARY: I mean, bands I was listening to at the time probably isn’t that helpful.  I listen to a lot of avant-garde music. In terms of this band, definitely a lot of [John] Frusciante from early Red Hot Chili Peppers, and then also, I really like the warmth in Slash’s playing. It’s sorta funny ’cause I don’t listen to him much and I play a Telecaster. I think there’s a real warmth when people play with Les Pauls, and I think you hear it in AC/DC as well. Getting those 70/80s rock whales.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by The Buoys (@the_buoys)

COURTNEY: And hitting those frequencies is just epic!

HAPPY: Fuck yeah.

HILARY: Also some of Fletcher’s guitars have really high necks. There’s this song on the album called Clits, and when we play it now, for me to get up there on the Telecaster, it’s so hard!

ZOE: In saying that, Hilary can do anything – on any guitar.

HILARY: I was using this Jazzmaster with a really long neck, and was like ‘oh, I can go up really high’ and now it’s like, a bit hard.

COURTNEY: We need to get more guitars don’t we?

TESS: This is the thing we gotta do next time, guitar tech [laughs]. Guitar rack!

HAPPY: You guys pushed yourselves in the studio so now you’ve gotta push yourselves more in the live shows right?

COURTNEY: Jesus… looking forward to it though.

ZOE: Absolutely, playing those songs is just so fun live, and we had the pleasure of doing a mini-tour in between the lockdowns.

TESS: A couple of shows and Mary’s Underground and one in Brisbane, I think we played all the new songs at those gigs? It’s incredible playing new songs because it has a new energy, and I think the crowd can definitely feel a shift.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by The Buoys (@the_buoys)

ZOE: I don’t if maturity is the right word with those songs?

TESS: Refined?

ZOE: Yeah! That’s a good one.

COURTNEY: Us as individuals and as a band, there’s a lot of growth there. I think there’s a mature edge to it for sure, but still very playful, you know?

ZOE: We’ve been playing together now for like two years, so the comfort of being on stage together makes a huge difference too.

HAPPY: Do you think the chemistry is heaps better than it was?

ZOE: It’s a massive part of it, we still played incredibly well when we didn’t know each other that well, but once we did, everything just happens a little bit easier.

TESS: It’s so easy for us to play a good show because we don’t play a show necessary for the audience. We could play a show and there’d be one person in the room, but as long we can see each other we just have the best time.

HAPPY: That’s a good attitude.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by The Buoys (@the_buoys)

COURTNEY: That’s our special secret. Play hard no matter what. Doesn’t matter.

HAPPY: That’s such an important thing as well, because if you guys aren’t enjoying it, then the audience isn’t going to enjoy it either.

ZOE: 100%! I go back to what my lesson was in musical theatre which was if you give 110% the crowd is gonna see 80%, so you have to give more, ’cause they’re gonna give you a little bit less. Facial expressions, movement. If you’re only giving it 80%, they’re probably just gonna be standing there.

TESS: There are some crowds that are harder to get going than others, we won’t say names…

THE BUOYS: [Laughs]

TESS: I think that if you lie on getting 100% of your energy from your audience you’ll run into problems. If you’ve got an audience that you can tell just isn’t into it, it’s a harder show to play, but having been able to stand up there on your own. I remember doing a show at the Gold Coast like two years ago. It wasn’t promoted at all, the only people there were the parents of the band that supported us, but we just ended up having the best time!

COURTNEY: That was the first time we played Wah. 

ZOE: As long as we have each other it’s legit always just the funnest time.

HAPPY: Awesome, I’d love to touch on the two singles if that’s cool. Lie To Me, a bit of a tear-jerker, at least for me, which Zoe you recently performed on Live At Enmore which was really cool, how does it feel to get that story out into the world? Bit scary, bit liberating?

ZOE: Both scary and liberating because all my lyrics are very personal, but this one was like… I liken it to that meme where that person is slowly putting on the clown makeup, ’cause you’re just convincing yourself, ‘nah it’s cool, nah it’s cool, nah it’s cool, no actually I’m a clown’. And to say that out loud is a bit scary, but that song, is so beautiful, it’s so good to have it out.

COURTNEY: I love that.

HILARY: I once wrote a song… Zoe helped me a lot, it was about heartbreak, and I just couldn’t imagine playing it without going back there, and for me, that was a really difficult thing. It gave me this amazing insight into what Zoe must go through every time she plays a song about a heartbreak like that. She had a completely different take on it. Once she wrote a song and put it out there, that was the release of it.

ZOE: It heals you, but that doesn’t stop me from going back to it on stage every time. It’s a moment. A perfect example is that I had a big fight with my best friend and I was so mad at her, but the second I wrote a song about it I was ready to forgive her. But still, when I play it, I feel that moment, but when I finish the song, I close the book.

HILARY: I think though, you’re very good at letting yourself feel your feelings.

TESS: Good point.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by The Buoys (@the_buoys)

HILARY: If you go back on stage, it’s kind of fine in a way, you’re letting it happen, meanwhile… repressed over here!

ZOE: For me, it’s like I have to do justice to the story, and if I’m just spitting out the words that I felt in the moment, it’s not the same. Revisiting that experience on stage means you’re performing it with the same emotional energy in which you wrote it.

HILARY: We’re also lucky that our audiences are really beautiful people, so there’s definitely a sense of, we can give out to a crowd…

HAPPY: And trust that there’s gonna be good energy?

ZOE: 100%.

COURTNEY: And being on stage with you, it’s definitely a supportive space.

HAPPY: So wholesome!

ZOE: There was a staff member at OAF [Oxford Art Factory], I can’t remember who, but they said they love having Buoys shows because our fans are so great – and it’s so true. The people who come to our shows are just the loveliest people in the world. We have such amazing supporters.

HAPPY: Shoutout Buoys fans.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by The Buoys (@the_buoys)

TESS: It’s been really lovely, there’s been a bunch of people who’ve been chatting to us over Instagram and then chat to us at the show, and we just love that! If anyone ever wants to talk to us after a show, we love that. We wanna get to know all of our fans.

ZOE: Shoutout Nic Leggles.

TESS: It’s lovely to put faces to Instagram handles. So encouraging.

HAPPY: Sounds like you’ve got a really loving community, which is so cool.

COURTNEY: We’re all just big music fans, that feeling from the other side is still there.

ZOE: As a music fan I would never go up and talk to anyone unless they were maybe standing next to me, and I might say ‘hey man, that was a really great set’. I will always have so much time for anyone that wants to come up and have a chat. So many people out there are trying to do their own music projects and you can learn from other people, it’s always so encouraging.

HAPPY: Awesome, awesome. Your other single Bad Habit, which Richard Kingsmill from triple j called “the musical definition of a bullseye”, how was hearing that back?

COURTNEY: Putting that single out was just like, we had no idea what was going down, so when all that happened, I just… I couldn’t do it!

ZOE: With COVID and not being able to perform, one of the pinnacle moments was not being able to tightly squeeze you all and cry and scream when Richard Kingsmill called that song “the musical definition of a bullseye”. I needed to be in a room and celebrate with you guys, that’s wild!

HAPPY: Too much to take on by yourself.

TESS: It’s funny, when you make a new body of work and it’s a bit different and there’s a lot of people that like the first body of work that you did because it’s really raw…

HAPPY: Weezer and that?

ZOE: Yeah, and sometimes you put something new out there, but we’ve got honest fans, like Simon, and I know I can go up to him after a show and be like, “what do you think of that?” and he will give me an honest answer. Sometimes you don’t know how your new songs are gonna go down, I mean, we would have loved it anyway,  but it’s nice if other people are into it as well – especially Richard Kingsmill.

THE BUOYS: [Laughs]

HAPPY: Thanks so much for your time, it’s been a pleasure to meet you and chat with you guys.

THE BUOYS: Thanks for having us, nice to chat.

 

Unsolicited Advice for Your DIY Disaster is out now via Spunk Records. Stream or buy the EP here.