When Kris Buscombe donned the sorting hat it placed him firmly in the house of alternative rock. On this foundation, he and his band Witch Hats concocted a sound with large doses of classic rock and post-punk. With eight years of training and practice, they have added a pinch of pop to the pot, levitating the Melbourne boys out of the musical underground.
Forming late in 2005, guitarist and vocalist Buscombe brought together his younger brother on bass and drummer Duncan Blatchford to release a self-titled demo. By 2006, they were able to recruit another guitarist, as well as Phill Calvert of Australian post-punk legends/Nick Cave’s first band The Birthday Party to produce their first EP, Wound of a Little Horse. Conjuring a brand of low-fi unhinged punk lead by Buscombe’s strained Joe Strummer-esque voice, Witch Hat cast a spell over Calvert and had him back for their debut album, Cellulite Soul*, released in 2008.
Their early adoration and touch of eccentricity earned them a spot supporting The Drones for their US tour. Here, they pulled out their book of spells and started work on their second EP, Solarium Down the Causeway, brought out in 2009 and earning them a slot at Meredith Music Festival. It took until October 2011 for Witch Hats to put out their second LP, Pleasure Syndrome, after teasing their fans with a very The Clash-like single Hear Martin in August. Stripping away some of the dark roughness of their earlier sorcery, Pleasure Syndrome exhibited Buscombe’s initial steps towards pop sensibilities in his song and lyric writing.
With a new drummer and guitarist in tow, the boys toured all around Australia, including a spot on The Blurst of Times Festival (Simpsons reference ftw) in Brisbane, alongside the likes of Violent Soho, Velociraptor and The Cairos. Their touring took them to Asia at the end of 2013, hitting up China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea. As part of their fundraising efforts for the tour, they released the compilation album A China Selection, touting tracks from their previous two EP’s and two LP’s, as well as three new tricks. These new offerings showed a further stride towards more classic writing, whilst retaining their bass and distorted guitar driven sound of old; Animal sees the addition of a piano lick, A Strange Life takes on a folky vibe, and Friction a straight up rockabilly party with crash cymbals aplenty.
Whether or not these three tracks will feature on their upcoming third album, or merely point at various directions their sound might take, remains to be revealed. Only Kris Buscombe knows what he’ll pull out next; the only clear intention being that he’ll produce it himself. We’ll have to wait patiently to see which hat Witch Hats will wear, until then you can peruse their back catalogue at Bandcamp.
* Guys… what is a cellulite soul?
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