The life of a touring band is a strange one. One day, you’re riding the ten-foot wave of ecstasy that is a great gig, the next you’re fending off drunken band mates and getting up to some strange antics at after parties. Having just finished up their new LP, Nic, Baden and tour manager Wolf from Ocean Alley sat down with us to give a rare insight into the most bizarre and exciting aspects of their touring life and some in depth analysis on their musical adventures.
Debut LP’s and selling out overseas, we delved head first into the lives of the hardest working band in Sydney, and lived to tell the tale.
HAPPY: Congrats on the upcoming release of Lost Tropics! Are you all relieved that it’s done and ready to go?
Nic: Yeah, pretty happy to finally get it out.
HAPPY: As your first full length, how will it differ from your previous efforts? Did you do anything differently this time around?
Nic: We wrote it pretty quick, we actually had only half the album written when we booked the recording sessions.
Baden: We had about six weeks to write the rest of the album.
Nic: That brought out a lot of good things in the writing though. It was good in a way because we didn’t just sit there and second guess anything.
Baden: Yeah, it gives you no time to sit on it, you just write it and record it and because you haven’t heard it any other way, there’s no reason too keep going back and fucking with it.
Nic: There was a lot of writing on it, we played with some pretty surf-rocky stuff then straight into some pretty heavy fuzz rock. There were a lot of influences on this one.
HAPPY: Lemon World, your latest single from the record, is a ripping track but… what’s the track about? What even is a ‘Lemon world’?
B: I was just fucking around in my room with some lyrics and a melody…
N: …And you just came in one day and said “I wanna call a song Lemon World”.
B: I guess I just like the idea of having a name that’s completely irrelevant to the song instead of just naming it after a lyric or something, it adds to the intrigue of the final product.
HAPPY: What does your songwriting process usually entail? Do you have one or two main guys or do you all have a crack?
N: Mainly, one of us will bring an idea to the table or something like that then everyone is free to do whatever they want with their own part, so it keep everyone’s creativity high.
HAPPY: You’re pulling some serious crowds at your live gigs recently and even sold out in New Zealand! How does it feel to have people respond so positively to your tunes?
N: Yeah, it was pretty shocking really, we didn’t know what to expect.
B: It was a fucking fun tour, one of the best we’ve done. It was our first overseas so it was heaps challenging getting everyone around when everyone’s half out of it. It could’ve been more cruisy but we ended up going all out, which was pretty tiring.
HAPPY: So how did you get around?
B: We had two vans with shitty tents on the roof.
HAPPY: So a lot of band spooning?
Wolf: Mitch (guitarist) was the one who slept in the van most of the time, he liked his alone time (laughs).
B: Yeah we called it Mitch’s ‘jerky house’ (laughs)
HAPPY: (laughs) Yeah… I won’t ask. What do you think sets you apart from other bands trying to do the same thing?
B: We’ve been doing this for a while so we’ve given everyone plenty of time to get to know us by playing every party and every pub possible. So I guess, people are forced (laughs). And now everyone’s on board.
HAPPY: I’ve noticed your sound has developed and evolved recently, straying slightly from your reggae roots what sparked this change of direction?
N: Yeah, we sort of got a bit bored of the whole reggae side of things. Our influences have changed so much that we don’t wanna settle for just writing reggae. We were never really keen on just doing reggae anyway. We just want to expand on that sort of thing but still wanted to keep our roots. It’s what our fans wanna hear too.
B: It restricts you a little bit, it’s just a repetitive sound. There’s only so much you can do with the whole “chk… chk” of reggae.
HAPPY: What or who inspired you to get into music in the first place? How did you learn your instruments?
N: It was sort of a weird beginning, really. A few of us guys used to just jam in my shed and muck around. They told me to get a bass, so I got a bass.
B: A bass from Cash Traders, about the size of a shoebox!
N: I was just keen to learn, I got lessons for a while then just got bored of it and thought it would be easier to teach myself.
HAPPY: What about you, Baden, did you learn to sing?
B: Nah, not really. I used to just sing in my room and fuck around, no one really knew I could sing.
N: It was weird, everyone used to have a dig at singing, Mitch and Lachie (keys) used to sing a bit, then we heard Baden sing and thought, “better give it to him”.
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HAPPY: Was music always the plan of action?
N: Not really, we just started mucking around for the enjoyment and never expected the success. Every tour we’re doing, we get more people through the door.
B: You get out what you put in. Obviously we’ve played our share of sows we haven’t been proud of but we can’t dwell on it. We just keep moving and progressing.
HAPPY: I’ve heard it said that your sound is the Northern Beaches personified, what has growing up on the beaches contributed to your music, if anything?
N: Well I guess that would rub off, hey. We never really thought about it.
B: Well we’re all from the Northern Beaches, we’re a product of our environment. We tend to write about all the stuff that goes on here over the weekends, we all do the same things and get up to the same mischief. It sort of just comes through subconsciously.
HAPPY: There’s a lot of talk about drugs in music these days and whether or not they’re needed for creativity, what are your thoughts on this?
N: I guess it depends on what kind of person you are really…
B: …And what dugs you’re taking (laughs)
N: Certain people can get really creative on drugs and other people just sort of get fucked.
B: I don’t think any of us use drugs for a creative purpose any more than we would, just to have fun, there’s not much point.
HAPPY: Well it’s definitely becoming less taboo. Do you write much about it?
B: Not really, we write more just about shit that we do in my life…
N: …And girls (laughs)
B: (laughs) It’s not really anything that anyone else hasn’t done but I guess that’s why they like what we’re writing. They can relate to it, especially growing up on the beaches. I don’t really have much else to write about than my own experience unless I just made something up. I get more enjoyment out of writing something that has actually happened or that I’ve experienced. People realise when your actual emotions are coming out in the song.
HAPPY: I can definitely hear some deeper thought going into newer tracks like Muddy Water was that drawing from a pretty intense experience?
B: Yeah, it sorta was. It was an intense experience but the song wasn’t directly about that experience, more so how it effects me now.
HAPPY: You’re soon to be heading to Europe for your first ever dates there! How’re you feeling knowing it’s so close?
N: I think everyone’s pretty excited, I think only one of us has ever been to Europe, no one else has been so we’re all keen to get over there and check everything out.
HAPPY: What are you most excited about?
N: We’re doing a couple of festivals over there which will be pretty exciting. And just travelling around and getting to see everything; we’re going to places we wanted to visit anyway so it’ll be awesome.
HAPPY: How do you think your sound will translate overseas?
B: And it’s gonna be summer over there when we go so, it’ll be a fitting vibe. It’s not like a dark winter Euro tour, we’re even playing on beaches and stuff like that so, should go down really well.
HAPPY: You guys have gotta be one of the hardest working bands in Sydney, what have you had to sacrifice to keep it up? Are you still able to keep day jobs or is that a thing of the past?
B: Yeah, there’s a lot of time put aside but, it doesn’t feel like we’re sacrificing much.
N: Yeah, we all still do it for fun so it’s not like we’re getting noting out of it. We don’t care too much about money. We still work when we can since music doesn’t always pay the bills, especially with six people in the band. Everything we make as a band just goes straight back into touring and recording. At the end of the day, we get to travel and play music, who doesn’t wanna do that?
HAPPY: Do you think the Sydney scene is dying, thanks to recent laws?
B: The scene is struggling, for sure, but the laws are worse for people wanting to kick on later in the night. We’re still able to play gigs luckily, and there’s always people willing to see live music. I’m keen to play more out of Sydney anyway. After going to New Zealand, it surprised us that there was interest coming from other places besides Sydney, which sparked a bit of curiosity for what we could achieve elsewhere.
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HAPPY: Lately, everyone seems to be having a red hot go at Triple J for a lack of diversity/biased playlist. What do you think?
N: I dunno, I guess they can be a little bit fickle, it’s hard to pick what they’re trying to do. They certainly seem to lean towards electronic stuff these days.
B: They play a lot of great music but they also seem to just stick with the same stuff. We don’t get played but I listen to Triple J every day and it’s a good way to work out what the benchmark is, how to know if people like it.
HAPPY: A lot of musos are getting upset because they’re not getting much air time, is radio still as important as ever in promoting music?
N: It’s not really anything to get upset about, it’s a nice thing but we’re still doing what we’re doing so it’s not really a priority for us. It definitely helps a lot to get your music out to people.
HAPPY: All this time on tour, you must have some fucked up stories, what’s one of your best?
B: That’s generally the sort of thing we like to keep between us (laughs). But there’s some pretty funny stuff. In New Zealand we had a pretty big after party where Angus (guitarist) was smashing full bottles of beer with a cricket bat in the kitchen. We branded some people with a hot fork so we’ve all got the scars to prove it. We got so many photos from people saying “I love my fork! Thanks dude!”(laughs).
HAPPY: Who’s the biggest pest on the road?
N: (laughs) Maybe Obie (drummer) when he gets too drunk.
B: (laughs) Yeah he’s a bit of a menace. He seems to go out of his way to piss everyone off when he gets too drunk which is fucking funny but, when you’re all cramped into a car for weeks on end… It only ever gets to a good slap in the face or a beer poured over someone and we’re all good.
HAPPY: You’re a part of a really great Aussie music scene, which deserves some more exposure. What are some of your favourite Aussie bands?
HAPPY: What are your future goals for the band?
N: We definitely want to just keep it up. Playing more festivals would be amazing because they’re one of our favourite things to do.
B: We just wanna keep travelling the world and playing music. Further away, bigger shows, it’s endless. There’s so much to do and so much to accomplish.
Catch the boys on their East Coast tour in support of Lost Tropics.
LOST TROPICS TOUR DATES:
Wednesday May 18 – Newtown Social Club
Sydney Friday May 20 – The Great Northern
Byron Bay Saturday May 21 – The Foundry, Brisbane
Thursday May 26 – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne