20 years ago The Mavis’s released Pink Pills, embracing their inner eccentricities and projecting them for the whole world to see. The sex-infused. genre-mashing record took late-90s Australia by the haunches and didn’t let go, riding on a wave swollen with catchy lyrics and outsider charm.
In light of the Pink Pills 20th anniversary tour, we caught up with frontman Matt and guitarist Nik to go a little deeper on the band’s most infamous album. Straight from the horse’s mouth, here’s what Pink Pills meant to The Mavis’s – one track at a time.
Before The Mavis’s tour for the first time in 15 years, we catch up with Matt and Nik for the lowdown on their landmark record Pink Pills.
Snow White Line
MATT: I was experimenting with guitar tunings and came up with the chords that kept wanting to change again and again. Lyrically… jumping off into the abyss.
NIK: The Mavis’s have always had an element of ‘space rock’ in our music. It reared its head on almost every record, in this case the opening song on Pink Pills. For me, this is the quintessential Mavis’s song and has all the elements which made us such a unique band.
MATT: I’ve always been one. Love the huge guitar and all the cool little sounds we snuck in there too.
NIK: This song came out of a very tense songwriting session where nothing seemed to be working. Out of frustration I started playing a very unlikely metal riff that I had kicking around. Matt and Beki retreated to separate corners with their pens and pads and Naughty Boy was born.
MATT: We initially invited a ‘legendary’ guest producer on this song but we had to kick him out of the studio and start from scratch as it was sounding like a muddy mess. The song really came together in the studio with our producer Kalju when we added guitar solo, vocoder, answer vocals and synth. Lyrically it’s sweet and childlike with a bitter undertone.
NIK: Releasing Naughty Boy as a single and then following it up with Cry says a lot about us as a band.
MATT: We all did thigh slaps in the chorus together. I enjoyed singing backing vocals for the lyrics my sister wrote about my situation at the time, it’s like being a background character in a little movie. The glam guitars I like too.
NIK: Like Suzi Quatro and T-rex’s love child in an outer space club on acid.
Does It Matter
MATT: I think this was the first track we recorded for the album in Byron Bay. Very tense as the recording console was literally cooking, and equipment was breaking down. The studio was definitely haunted.
NIK: The band had always had a big connection with dub and reggae going way back to our early days. Matt actually introduced me to a whole lot of awesome stuff like New Age Steppers, U-Roy, Singers and Players and Creation Rebel. Does It Matter is a fitting tribute to our love affair with this kind of sound.
MATT: I decided to change lyrics and melody last minute to this song after we’d recorded drums, guitars and bass. Wanting something more urgent and fresh, I wrote the lyrics really quickly and sung them in one take.
There’s lots of cool sounds and keyboard bits in there. We blended Beki’s parts from the old chorus and then all had a hand in pulling faders and pressing mute buttons to get a cool mix with our producer Kalju in the captain’s seat.
NIK: Matt’s vocals have this urgency that brings to mind John Lydon during early Public Image Limited.
MATT: Written in the early ’90s and part of my solo acoustic set. I thought it sounded better with Beki singing it and again we changed some melody bits during the recording process.
Initially there were more lyrics in the second verse, but I remember shortening it to “da da da da da da da” to convey the feeling of boredom and repetition of taking about someone over and over “Blah Blah Blah”.
NIK: I love the way that Beki was able to take ownership of Matt’s lyrics and put so much heart into it. She really makes you believe every word. Beautifully produced and mixed by Kalju too.
MATT: All I remember is driving everyone mental because I wanted those children’s story book sounds in there, where you’d turn the page to the sound of a harp. Lyrically It’s Lord Of The Flies meets Death Becomes Her.
NIK: Definitely one of our heavier songs live but not sure we quite captured it in the studio.
MATT: Addiction, love, lust and disco.
NIK: Another song that was heavily reworked from demos to the final result. Love the disco chorus contrasted with the more intense and urgent verses.
MATT: I had this old 4-track recording of this song lying around for years with strange tunings.
NIK: One of my all time fave songs of Matt going way back to the original 4-track demo. The middle eight is just pure chills.
MATT: Originally a song called Turn On. Another one where I changed the lyrics and melody on the spot after we’d done the tracking. We recorded two more versions. The second one is a silent version at the end of the album which I prefer.
NIK: I always preferred the silent bonus track version at the end of the album. Having said that, I think the video to the single version is the best we ever did.
Long Time at Sea
MATT: Listening to this again after not hearing it for so long… it’s beautiful.
NIK: The intro! I don’t know how we come up with this stuff haha… the submarine bleeps and the synth bass bring up images of a ghost ship silently sailing through the mist. And then this metal guitar starts creeping in! So strange. The weirdest sea shanty ever.
Catch The Mavis’s live on their Pink Pills 20th Anniversary tour:
Fri 4 May – The Grand Hotel Mornington – Mornington, VIC – Tickets
Sat 5 May – The V Room – Noosa, QLD – Tickets
Sun 6 May – Stones Corner Festival – Greenslopes, QLD – Tickets
Wed 9 May – The Gov – Adelaide, SA – Tickets
Thurs 10 May – The Metro Theatre – Sydney, NSW – Tickets
Fri 11 May – Prince Bandroom – St. Kilda, VIC – Tickets
Sat 12 May – Karova Lounge – Ballarat, VIC – Tickets