WE GOT COMMUNICATION..
AS: After returning from (our first) overseas tour of Europe and Japan, we had some brand new additions to our set.. 3 or 4 new songs with vocals. They were the songs In the Red, No Way Out and Waiting. This meant that we were no longer officially an ‘instrumental band’ which might have disappointed some instrumental music purists out there, but there you go. The new songs went on to an EP, which we called ‘We Got Communication’. Luke and I incorporated vocals pretty much as soon as we were comfortable enough on guitar and bass to do so. We didn’t want the vocals to sound tacked on, or ‘over the top of the music’, we wanted them to be a growing part of the changing whole, another ‘instrument’. Starting to sing live was *broken record alert* really scary.. facing the mic (and not the amps like we had previously gotten away with) monumentally freaked us out. No Way Out directly reflects some of the anxieties about singing live. I guess it is a song about situations that you have brought on yourself that feel are unavoidable.
Reactions to the new material were perhaps mixed. I probably only listened to the negative stuff people said.. my brain became like a magnet for it. For a while I felt responsible for perhaps having ‘ruined the band’ (for some of those purists out there), which sucked, but that’s ‘my issue’ really. Looking back now, in the grand scheme of things.. it seems like no big deal anyways! (..the power of hindsight).
I only momentarily felt like crap about the incorporation of vox and we continued to channel all our energies into working hard and getting the whole vox thing up to speed. Trying to be ‘in tune.. most of the time’ and discovering slowly but surely how to push our voices so that we might be ‘fairly audible’ over the racket we were making.. If my vocals from the early material sound generally like those of a stressed out individual that’s because I was.. I used what I was feeling to help me sing louder and I used the adrenaline to force myself to face the audience and not turn the other way. I was not feeling calm and relaxed about anything.
We recorded that EP at ABC studios with Leah Baker and Jay Walker and it came out on Unstable Ape. No Way Out and In The Red later went on to a 7″ on UKs Passport Label.
TOUR OF JAPAN 2003
AS: On our way back from the Euro tour we stopped off in Japan for some more shows. We flew from Amsterdam to Frankfurt to Japan. After innocently dodging a potential customs scare / complete crisis.. (Let me just state the obvious by saying, ALWAYS check what you may have on you that is legal in one country and NOT in an other..) We arrived in Tokyo! Japan was brilliant, everything seemed so different. Even the 7-11s served great snacks, little onigiri /rice balls etc. In terms of culture shock, even making it out of the airport probably took us a while as we were probably stopping to look at every second vending machine containing crazy stuff. We commuted by train into the city to Shinjuku station. Shinjuku is the biggest and most crowded station in central Tokyo, so we felt slightly shell shocked and bedraggled as we stood surrounded by all our gear.. which amounted to quite an impressive array of mac pacs and music cases.. waiting for our friend Shintaro to meet us. Let me just say, that touring predominantly on public transport is fine.. except it is so crazy having to be able to physically carry everything with you at all times. Particularly music equipment, which is well, heavy. I joked wryly at the time that it was like ‘rock n roll bootcamp’. When you find yourself in a train station, running up flights of stairs carrying more than your own body weight to catch the train that is about to pull out of the station.. the last train that will get you to the show you are playing on time.. you know you have reached bootcamp territory. ‘The Amazing Race’ television show might be another embarrassing but fitting analogy to use here. Maybe its my German heritage, but I find running late or cutting things fine etc a bit stressful and we had lots of moments like that on tour. Where the logistics.. or the plan.. worked (!).. but only through miraculous good fortune combined with crazy amounts of leg work and rolling with the fact that yes.. we were going to have to run for a lot of trains.
We were met at the station by our amazing friend Shintaro, (Ashtray Boy, Clover Records) who put us up and helped organise our shows. We played a really fun show in Tokyo with Guy Blackman (Chapter Music) He was living in Japan at the time and also playing keys in this great band called Pervenche. Another band on the bill, ‘G Spot Hunter’, were also awesome. They played intersting sort of ‘choppy and changey’ compositions with call and response vocals.. they were also a bit like Deer Hoof. I bought every piece of merch they had for sale that night! The show was fun I remember we laughed (but i was secretly psyched) that the sound check times were written on a whiteboard at the front of the stage and to be strictly followed. Also, we noticed that people didn’t really drink much at shows. Shows are earlier in Japan than what we are used to Australia. And people have to buy tickets in advance. So generally, people seem quite subdued and then it’s after the show when everyone goes out for dinner that people get loose, drunk or as our host Shintaro put it ‘sexy’.
Another awesome thing we did was catch the Shinkansen, from Tokyo to Osaka. The Shinkansen, or Bullet Train, travels at up to something like 320kms / hour.. seriously speedy. We ate expensive bento box lunches on the train and watched the view. I think I have a weird memory that somehow, lost in translation we had boarded an overbooked train and didn’t actually have seats and were sitting on the floor of the divider between carriages for most of the trip. But we went past Mt Fuji which I hadn’t realised we were going to do, which was pretty awesome.
In Osaka, we played 2 more shows. One was at a reggae themed cafe in an arcade / shopping centre complex..
and the other ended up being in a amusement park!
It is SO. WEIRD. that the fact that we were playing at an amusement park wasn’t pointed out to any of us when booking the show, but it was a cool surprize when we showed up at the address and saw rollercoasters and other rides running through the venue. After we played a woman came up and said that she had drawn a picture of our music. We took a photo of it, but it seems to have vanished off our hardrive. Which is a shame. The photo featured lots of spidery erratic biro lines leaping up and down the page like on a graph or something. Made sense.. it looked how i felt that we had sounded. I remember the general response to our music being a bit crazy. Not crazy as in ‘crazay’ , more crazy as in ‘unexpectedly subdued’. This might have had something to do the fact that we ourselves were just standing there and playing.. there wasn’t any rock posturing or anything going on and the other band that played had mohawks and crazy stage performancey stylings which might have given audience more of a cue to ‘act crazy and get excited’. Or perhaps they were just generally more low key about us. After the gig we drank plum wine and took photos of the Parfait stands downstairs. I was obsessed with Parfait at the time. I took lots of photos of the different Parfaits which are also sadly (!) lost. Below is a picture from the internet of some Parfait for your viewing pleasure.
Its a bit sad that so many of our photos from Japan seem to have been lost. If any more show up, I’ll do an update of this post and slot them in here. Over and Out.
TOUR OF EUROPE 2003
AS: In December 2003 we embarked on our first overseas tour, a month long co-headliner with Melbourne band, Baseball. It was booked by Cameron Potts with help from Monika, (they also both played together in Baseball). We used our band savings for our plane tickets, and as most venues had offered accomodation and food, we planned on ‘winging it’ doing everything else on the cheap. Not that many venues or bookers were utilising email yet, particularly in some of the places we were going. It was definitely also before ‘myspace’ and all that, so the tour was probably booked through a combination of a little email, some long distance phone calls and old fashioned snail mail. Anyway, it was a different process to today, which is crazy, as it just shows how much things can change in a relatively small amount of time. The fact that we were even doing this tour so early on as a band, had a lot to do with the fact that Monika and Cameron were both confident and intrepid travellers, having booked and played quite a few overseas tours before this one. Cameron had gathered a great list of contacts from previous tours with Ninetynine and basically hit them all up to fashion together this tour. We started out in Finland and moved our way down through the Baltic States, Czech Republic, on through Germany then up to Holland. We caught buses and trains for some parts of the journey, and borrowed / hired cars for the other parts. We didn’t have the extra funds to hire a driver, so it was Luke who negotiated the icy roads sans tire chains and the pure adrenaline rush that is the driving on the Autobahn in Germany.
Throughout this tour, the venues we played were mainly squats and warehouses, with just a spattering of bars and clubs in the bigger cities. I was completely and innocently, unprepared for the drain of playing every night, sleeping it rough and enduring the intense cold weather and general negotiation of new places etc along the way. I remember getting off the flight in Helsinki, after some 40 hours of commuting, and driving down the highway in our friends Mikko and Neas transit van. My first response was that it looked fairly similar to Australia. Out the window, was a big multi-lane highway, lined with trees and big billboards and shopping complexes etc, not so different to the arterial highways that lead from our own airports. The first big difference I noticed was that, being winter, the sun was rising at about 10.30 am and setting around 2.30-3ish so the days were really short.. the sun seemed really faint in contrast to the piercing Australian sun, which made it feel like we were on the other side of the world, which made sense, because of course we were.
Its funny how the everyday or mundane also become so exotic when you are travelling. Shopping in a supermarket in another country for the first time, for example, was an amazing experience. Just wandering around and looking at all the different labels and types of food was really amazing. New types of cheese we never knew existed, weird vegetable pate in tubes, drinkable yoghurt in milk cartons.. weird labels on jam.. strange new brands of chocolate biscuits.. there were heaps of new and ‘fancy seeming’ items to discover. Our hosts Mikko and Nea (Hero Dishonest, Echo is your Love) did an excellent job of making us feel welcome and they organised a bunch of shows for us in Finland for which we were very grateful. We did well at those shows, lots of people came to see us play and by the end of the Finnish leg of the tour we had made enough money (partly also due to the excellent exchange rate) to cover the cost of hiring a car throughout the Baltic States and also again in Germany rather than catch buses all the way through. We also recorded some demos at ‘The Institute Of Pop and Jazz’ whilst we were in Finland, that were perhaps going to be turned into an EP but didn’t quite make the grade in the end.
After finnishing (sic) up in Finland, we caught a boat across the Baltic Sea to Estonia. At the terminal on our way out, there was a delay as there had been a violin reported stolen and Cameron, who was carrying a violin, began to look very suspicious to the customs officials. After the initial setback of having to defend ourselves, we boarded the ferry to experience 5 hours of abject nausea and motion sickness. The sea was so rough that before you’d taken a step, the ships floor had lurched up to meet your foot, only to drop away again suddenly and send you stumbling with your arms out.. only to break your fall on the floor that had risen up to meet you again . Outside the windows, the horizon line was jerking up and down, in and out of ‘shot’, one second the view out the window was sea, the next all sky. And so it lurched. The food court was terrible.. but it was true that the clear culprit in this debacle was well and truly the rough sea. There were people throwing up everywhere. When we finally arrived at the terminal, none of the registered taxis would take us.. we looked a motley crew I guess, and also we had with us this massive pile of gear. Eventually we got one of those illegal cabs that they warn you against getting at terminals etc. This cab spotted us, mounted the curb and drove diagonally in a bee line towards us. Out climbed a short man with missing teeth, one of these hats and a thick accent.. “Welcome to Estonia!” he proclaimed, grinning wildly, arms outstretched.
There were too many of us to fit in the cab, but this was not going to stop him from taking us. He gestured for me to pile in the boot wedged in with all the gear and off we drove. We had drove off through the industrial, crumbling, abandoned part of town where the wharf was, made a few turns and then things seemed to go pear shaped. From the boot I noticed the car stopping, and as I peered out through a crack in the window I could see we were parked outside a long, tree lined driveway, with a high wrought iron gate and with two burning fire torches on either side of it. It was like a scene from a Polanski film. There was a huge, bald headed, tatooed ‘bouncer’ wearing a wife beater (despite the cold) standing, arms folded at the gates. At this point, I basically assumed that instead of taking us to our hostel, this cab driver was going to trade us and our gear on the black market, and that his initial glee had had more to do with this detour, than any kind of welcoming spirit. It soon became apparent that he was simply asking the bouncer guy for directions, but what on earth was actually going on at that place with the wrought iron gates I will always wonder.
The shows throughout The Baltic were fun. I think people were generally really grateful that we had travelled all the way from Australia and that translated to the energy of the shows. We experienced amazing hospitality almost everywhere we went. Pretty much every venue gave us food, beer and somewhere to sleep, even if it was just a patch of floor. There were some great late night chats and we met some really sweet people. We were living on a mainly vegan diet due to the places we were playing and at times it got a bit tough. There weren’t that many fresh vegetables around, so it was mainly tinned or pickled veg, or this other, weird, spongy foodstuff called Textured Vegetable Protein (otherwise known as ‘TVP’), which we soon came to despise! There was one time that we were running late to a show because we had finally cracked and were out dining on steak, we missed our sound check in the end. We all felt really guilty when we arrived to people humbly offering us steaming bowls of textured vegetable protein..that they had slaved over.. that we had no room for.
In Lithuania, we arrived after an epic 12 hr bus ride.. only to be met by the promoter and told the venue had burnt down the night before! Crazy bad luck, both for us and the locals in the town, who had started up the DIY venue as a place to do their thing. Anyway, in classic and plucky style.. a new venue had been chosen, a dusty abandoned warehouse in the city. When we arrived it was full of hundreds of people, already partying pretty hard. They were chanting, and throwing chairs on stage and creating a general riot.. clearly bitter and incensed after the torching of their favourite venue (apparently it had been deliberate and done by rivals of some sort). We were so late at that point that we had to jump straight up on stage with our backpacks and everything else and just start playing.
In Leipzig, we played at a warehouse with a band from Brisbane called God Nose. We didn’t have anything in common with them musically and it just happened that they were also touring and so we shared the bill. They called us ‘Art Fags’ which we all thought funny. When we came outside the next day we saw the words ‘ART FAGS’ scrawled defiantly into the frosted window of our hire car. *
After a few weeks of touring, it was only a matter of time who was going to break and get sick and (as usual) it turned out to be me. Monika had far too much going on playing every night in not one but two bands (!!) to get sick and luckily she did not. It happens a lot on tour, there are two many things that start to wear you down. Anyway, I had this weird experience on the streets of Prague, where I was basically really sick and standing on a corner, not knowing what to do, thinking I should find a pharmacy or a doctors, when an old woman approached me and told me out of the blue where a doctors surgery was! I guess I looked really sick. At the doctors, the fact that we spoke different languages was not too much of a problem and after a fair bit of intense guesturing, sad face and pointing, we both knew what was what. The only English he did speak, was to tell me not swim in any pools and he sent me on my way with some hardcore antibiotics.
The night after, we arrived at another squat.. still sick I was starting to worry about sleeping on drafty floorboards.. sometimes it was damp.. it wasn’t so good for this thing I had. I remember we tried to explain this to the people we were supposed to be staying with, that we might lash out just for one night and find a cheap hotel, just to help me knock this thing. Basically, they could not get it into their heads that we would spend any of our own money on a hotel, so they told us to leave it to them. After the show, they drove us out to this weird, eastern bloc style hospital / rooming house building complex that was shaped like a U, (it was awesome architecture) with these skinny, hospital green, metal beds all lined up rows. I’m not sure exactly what the deal was there, but I do know that we didn’t have to pay and we barely bumped into anyone either.
Another crazy thing that happened to us on this tour that I will never forget, was at this little Black Metal bar in a really remote place up in the mountains (somewhere in the Czech Republic). It was the last night before the venue was to be closed down and the promoter (the only person who knew what was going on/ where we were staying etc) had gotten so drunk, that he was falling on the floor behind the bar and completely incomprehensible well before we even played. Monika and I got approached by some incredibly dodgy guys, who had attempted in a bear like way, to manhandle /dance with us. Disgruntled by our simultaneous rebukes they darkened considerably, but for the time being retreated.. A little later I noticed they had gained a few more friends and were gesturing towards Luke as if to say ‘that’s the guy..’ Basically at this point the only people in the room, are these crazy thugs in wife beaters, fur (!!) and chains, a couple of random bar flys, one random, incredibly ernest indie guy in spectacles and a dog. There was no bass amp, so I had to go through the D.I. It was turning out to be quite a gig! I was really scared about the prospect of playing to these guys, who basically wanted to beat the hell out of the males in our group as soon as they could get the chance. Anyway, we played the show, to a weird audience and with a dog running around on stage. The night went on and these scary dudes got drunker and drunker.. one of them came up to us and started spinning this lame story about them working at a childrens hospital, and that we should come with them RIGHT NOW and play to the children. It didn’t take much to know that that was complete bullshit, so we sat tight.. hoping that the promoter would sober up enough to finally, reveal to us the whereabouts of accomodation for that night! Eventually this dude, who had been there all night, sitting quietly on his own, came up to us and said that we were in fact staying with him. We were vaguely suspicious, but also relieved that he seemed to be the sanest person in the room, so we followed him out of the venue.. racing to the car incase the heavy dudes followed us out. We got the hell out of there, without getting paid, and followed this guy higher and higher up these winding roads into the mountains, hoping that we were indeed following the right and not the wrong person. Eventually we arrived at his house. It was simple hut with a dirt floor and there was a litter of kittens with gummy eyes running about the place. He gave us a joint, we listened to Wipers and he fed us walnuts and dried pears from a tree in his garden.* We slept soundly in his little cottage, the next morning we woke up to this!
The amazing thing about that tour.. is that the most exciting things that happened, happened because we weren’t staying in a hotel, because we didn’t know what was going on half the time and had to ad-lib and patch it all together. Although that was kinda stressful at the time, I wouldn’t trade those memories in for anything now! That tour was the best way to gain our touring legs.. it was like rock and roll bootcamp or something. We developed a keen touring ‘muscle’ from that tour, where things were always seeming about to fall apart, but also coming together in a serendipidous way at the same time.
I haven’t even talked about Amsterdam or a bunch of other places we played, bands we played with or people we met, because I literally could keep going on and on. The European leg of the tour wound up on Xmas eve, where we played a show in Hamburg at a venue called Knust. The venue used to be an abbatoir, and the floor was sloped and ridged so the blood could drain off the floor. (ew) We were offered to sleep back stage, and in the morning feasted on the ‘rider’ awaiting us in the cool room. Cheese and smoked salmon and lots of other goodies. It was Xmas day. That night, we stuck around at the venue and saw Nikki Sudden and Dave Kusworth (who were playing together as the Jacobites), which was a real treat. Nikki Sudden was very chivalrous, although I think he was a bit over me raving to him about Swell Maps. They played an awesome set and were dressed real dandy. The next day or so, we flew out to Japan for the final leg of the tour. That’s going to be the next post. Stay tuned.. For now, here is a brief photo essay from the tour..
* maybe it was the beret..??
* and on what planet would that not be considered a good thing?
MORE SHOWS IN 2003
AS: We played a bunch of different shows in the latter half of 2003 and we also made it over to Adelaide and Sydney.
It was around this time that we started incorporating vocals into the music. I think the jury is still out on whether people thought that that was a good idea or not and of course that shouldn’t matter anyway. Initially, some people were saying to us ‘Your music would be better with vocals’. We stood by a stance that the instrumental songs didn’t need any vocals, but that we were keen to try incorporating vox into the composition of some of our newer songs. Once we incorporated vox a lot of people started to say ‘They were way better before they had vocals!’ Grass is always greener?
One of my favourite things about instrumental music is the way that it can be so pure, so self-referential. It’s a bit like abstract painting or something. By this I mean, it’s off the map.. and so we look or listen closer. There is no defining language based narrative, no overlying story.. But like we do with everything around us, we end up finding our own stories, patterns and meanings. Just because there might be improvised, abstract, spontaneous, or even random elements involved.. it doesn’t stop us searching for patterns.. we are wired to do this. We are wired to try and understand what we are faced with. To make sense. Sometimes ‘the narrative’ lies not within the vocals, but within the structures and make up of the song itself…. In the dynamics, rhythms, moods and diversions.. an abstract message, potentially unique for each listener. I reckon this is a special thing. But, so is progress. And progress we did.. into new, unmapped vocal territory…!
We have always tried to write lyrics open ended enough to not overly define the music. To play around with words and allow them to have a life of their own at times. Learning to sing with love of diagrams was a steep learning curve. We all had a go at singing in those days and all of us were of course untrained, the most reckless and (arguably best) way to be! I think we basically wore a few people out along the way, through the trial and error process of learning to sing live. But that’s life. Anyway, I reckon we all got better at it pretty quick and we went on to write the first songs with vocals ‘No Way Out’ and ‘Waiting’ and ‘In the Red’ in 2003, the year of the posters above and below.
That year, we toured Sydney (we played at the Bat and Ball and the Spanish Club) and Adelaide. In Adelaide we played some shows organised by Tom from St Albans Kids. These were Luke and my first experiences of touring and it was good practice because we had a tour of Europe and Japan lined up for later that year organised by Monika!
..Below is a copy of the flyer from the Adelaide tour. We played shows with St Albans Kids (as flyer suggests these were there last shows) and it was the first time we saw Hardy Coxon featuring Scott (Bitch Prefect, True Radical Miracle) and Kynan (Hit the JackPot). Schifosi were awesome in a punk and blinding, grindcore sort of a way, and I remember digging them. We also played a show on this tour with a electro pop / punk band called ‘Snap Crack Le-Pop’, who later relocated to Melbourne and re-named as ‘Snap Crack’.
On of my favourite shows of that tour was at a small rehearsal space / all ages venue called Action Park, nestled in a somewhat desolate, industrial part of Adelaide. It was the last of the shows.. ( I don’t think we would get away with playing 4 nights in a row these days!) but anyway, rather than being a fizzer, it was an amazing night.. heaps of people came out, there was a palpable sense of excitement in the air, it was more of a party than a venue gig. Just goes to show, some of the best shows are the ones where it’s pretty much like playing in your rehearsal room.. with just live drums and amp sound. Noisy, messy and fun.. NO STAGE! The best kind of show.
Adelaide was known for having a strong hardcore scene (at the time) and I remember wondering how our music was going to go down with that crowd, considering it didn’t really fit that mould, but we played well.. and in turn the audience really responded. It was one of the few times actually, where the fact of ‘being a female in a band’ kinda came into the equation as something that I became aware of. Quite a lot of the music from that scene and at that time (generalisation alert!) seemed to be of the masculine, hard edged, angsty ‘screamo’ type. So maybe I might ( infact we might all have collectively..) felt like we had something to prove. That our band could be tough too. Anyway, I definitely think that feeling like you have ‘something to prove’ to an audience can end up being a positive thing (for everyone involved!) sometimes it makes you want to push even harder than you thought you could. or something..
Above and below: Photos from our gig in Adelaide at ‘Action Park’..
Flyer from feb 2002, artist unknown? *
AS: Thanks to Monika for finding this flyer which I reckon is probably from our third or fourth show. ‘Cue Bar’ was a cavernous, late night pool hall on Brunswick st, (it’s now an upmarket tapas bar I think). It used to be a really fun place, except the tram lines somehow affected the amps and the PA which always seemed to play up. This show was with the (both) bloody (and) marvellous Das Butcher (Marcus Griffin) and ON. ON was Tym Krasevac, Marney MacLeod, Toni Kendall, Elise Bishop and Justin Fuller. Tymmy, Marney and Justin went on to form the noisey and sublime, ZOND. One of my favourite ON songs was one of Toni’s. It was called “We’ve got TV’.
* Although hilariously we can probably track them as they left a finger print.
NB>> Problem solved, this flyer is by Marney MacLeod.. thanks Justin.
Here is ‘Big Chord Champion’, from ‘The Target Is You’. This was the one we always used to play at the end of the set. Beware. the sound isn’t fantastic on youtube..
LAUNCHING ‘THE TARGET IS YOU’
AS: In retrospect, we had a crazy turnaround for the production of the first record. The initial tracks were recorded over a hot weekend in January, and then the album was launched almost exactly 3 months later to the date. ‘The Target is You’ was released on Unstable Ape Records, a label run by our friend Tim Picone, whom I had met in Tasmania. The label had initially begun in Hobart, I think Tim Evans (Sea Scouts), Matt Neidra, Tom Egg, and Tim Picone were all involved at times. After Tim moved to Melbourne, he got Unstaple Ape going over here and it seemed like the obvious choice to go with someone we knew, respected and trusted. It was a happy decision, and a total no-brainer. As you can see from the flyer, Unstable Ape had also recently released the debut Bird Blobs album, as well as the entire Ninetynine back catalogue, (the band Ninetynine featured Laura MacFarlane from Sea Haggs, alongside Ian McIntyre, Cameron Potts and Amy Clarke.) Laura had also drummed in Sleater Kinney for a brief stint in the States on on their first album.
I’ll try and avoid sounding like a broken record, but we were completely terrified on the night of the launch. This was amplified by the unexpected amount of people at the show. We had been doing quite well, and I guess there was a buzz around us at that time i.e. people were definately responding to us, but we were unprepared for the influx of people and general chaos. There was a line not only going out of the Rob Roy Hotel, but right round the corner and down the street and apparently as many people as were allowed in were unable to get in, something that we never would have imagined. I remember distinctly, this feeling of being overwhelmed and a sense that it was like, ‘out of the fry pan.. into the fire’.. I was socially awkward and nervous, but there was nowhere to hide, infact the trajectory of the evening meant that it was inevitable we would need to go on stage infront of all those people. The vibe was exciting, but hot and, for us, a little oppressive. Although at the time, I found that really hard, I now look back thinking what an great memory and completely exciting, awesome night.
As far as the actual show went, I can’t remember that much, I think adrenalin definitely would have spurred us on, and as usual we probably played the songs too fast. I know we would have been well rehearsed and I don’t remember any major mistakes or anything, although i think luke might have broken a string or something. I remember a lot of people dancing, which was awesome, because sometimes in Melbourne people are reticent to do this. I was using this Jumbo Fuzz pedal for bass feedback at the time, (it was an Italian, Jen brand pedal, built like a tank.. the controls on it were useless.. it did only one thing..which was excellent, rumbling bass feedback..) and when I turned it on at the end of the set for this extended sort of noisy bit in ‘Big Chord Champion’, I remember looking up and seeing a part of the stage ceiling dislodge and come crashing down to the floor between where me and luke were standing. I remember thinking it was funny, that I could actually say that we had ‘brought the house down’. After the show I remember getting lots of compliments and having no idea how to take them. We were really awkward about this.
We had decorated the stage on the night with all these foam cut out cats from our album cover..it’s probably the most effort we’ve ever gone to to decorate the stage for a launch. At the end of the night I remember thinking, we should take those cats and do something else with them but for whatever reason we didn’t get around to it. Someone, I think it was Bek Duke? saved them and the next time we went to the Rob Roy we found them adorning the walls of the front bar. There was a spate of lots of bands playing at the Rob Roy, and after the bands there were usually DJs and dancing well into the early hours of the morning. It went on for a few years like that and I remember always feeling really welcome there.. part of a real sense of community.
RECORDING ‘THE TRAGET IS YOU’
AS: When we started out we were an instrumental band, no vox.. It was less a stylistic thing and more because at that time we were putting everything we had into finding our way around our instruments.. plus the whole not facing the audience thing would’ve made it difficult! I was pretty much putting the counter melody lines which I would have otherwise sung into the bass parts anyway. Around this time there were heaps of other instrumental acts around.. lots of bands playing math rock, post rock, and that slow build up kind of music, like ‘Godspeed you Black Emperor’ and that kind of thing. Our songs were more immediate and much shorter than all that gracious, slow build stuff, (we’d done some serious noodle culling) and also we didn’t seek our musical solace within the constraints of math rock.
We decided to record with Neil Thomason (from Ricaine) who was then operating a recording studio out of a suburban house in Reservoir. We recorded the album ‘The Target Is You’ over a weekend in February in 44 degree heat.. something we put on our liner notes because we are dags and potentially because when u record in that kind of weather with no air con, you feel like it deserves to go on the liner notes. I remember his house absorbed all this heat.. it was swelteringly hot and we were all in separate rooms connected only through the headphone signals.. I had to play in a closet for a bit to get bass feedback.
Everyone was saying we had to try and capture the energy of our live shows and were in our ears about who we should work with and how we would go about it. In the end I think that album is a good snapshot of those songs. The album name comes from a play on the title of a dark series of anti-war prints my dad made in the 70s called ‘The Target is Man’. There was one song on the record with vocals, called ‘New Fury’. It had 2 distorted and buried lines..”GONE AWAY” and “I WANNA KNOW”.. the start of a vaguely annoying but unavoidable compulsion to hint at but not spell anything out with vocals that I thought might
grow out of change along the way, but haven’t.
The song ‘dude’ was named as a sort of ‘ode’ to my best friend Anthea, (together the two of us had become really obsessed with South Park and used to talk constantly like we characters from the show) I remember years later, when that movie “HEY DUDE WHERE’S MY CAR?” came out, and we saw an ad for it on the side of a bus, we felt like somehow they were copying US. That’s how much we used to say the word ‘dude’. I once spray painted it on her boyfriends doorstep after he told me to stop saying ‘dude’. Dude was our word for each other that we owned 100%.
Recently, I made a clip for one of my favourite songs from the album, ‘Building Better Codes.’ Well, maybe it’s not quite a ‘clip’ per say.. but it provides some visuals to go along with the link on you tube and is more interesting than a static photo of the band or something. Luke plays this really awesome fast kind of surf guitar lick that I really love and it was always a really fun song to play.
Another favourite that springs to mind is Big Chord Champion which was basically a song written around the tension of holding one chord and getting to use a lot of feedback. We segued the noisy squall of the song falling apart, into the song after it which we called ‘Spy Kit’. Theres a funny story about that song actually. Anyone that knows me, might know that I have a penchant for wearing berets (it’s a security thing, somewhat akin to carrying your bag around absolutely everywhere, I’m trying to break out of the habit, but it’s hard.) I once met with a friend in the city, she was running late and when she finally got there she burst out laughing. I’d been waiting for ages and was staring to feel uncomfortable waiting there for her, so I was standing behind a pole and I was dressed almost entirely in this cliche ‘spy look’. I had wanted more than anything to go unnoticed, but the whole spy look i had cultivated, (trench coat, dark glasses etc) was so conspicuous that I ended up drawing more attention to myself than ever. I had never thought of the sort of obviousness that might come from trying to go unnoticed and we both found this observation very amusing. You might wonder why I’m talking about this, but I feel like these sort of stories will probably arise again, partly because a lot of the songs that we wrote (and continue to write) are concerned loosely with thoughts of paranoia, ‘power’, anxiety, social situations and how they are read. Sometimes they are also self referential, about the racket we make and the relations between those elements creating a larger whole. And then sometimes they are mysterious and contained…even to us..
NB: I don’t want to confuse the fact with stories about Southpark and Spies, but you can’t keep anything completely pure, and as this is my own writing, it’s hard to not connect stories and memories of my own to the songs and their own story. I will now suggest that you listen to the album if you haven’t before and cultivate your own, personal mysteries and conveniently forget about my stories and their weird ass attachments to the songs..
flyer by Antonia Sellbach
A.S: This is not the first Love of Diagrams flyer in existence, it is however the first flyer that I was able to dig up, and here it now appears as the first post. In reality, we began playing as a live band in early 2001 (we also played a few shows under a different name of This Free Field).* We’d spent most of the year 2000 jamming together and for a brief while we also had our friend Tom Egg, from Hobart fill in for Monika as she went on a travelling jaunt around the Middle East. One of our first shows was a gig at the (now defunct) Punters Club (well, it was our third ever show) which was supporting Sir and Ninetynine. I remember we were all incredibly nervous. Our songs were ‘pretty free form’ and not very structured yet, and I remember we all noted post gig that we had played the songs ‘too fast’ and for ‘too long’. That show really stands out as a reality check in terms of making the shift from a band that jams together in the relatively private and relaxed enviroment of the rehearsal space.. to a band performing live, a scenario that carries with it different implications. In the rehearsal room it was easy to jam on a song for 20 mins or longer, but live.. straight away we realised we needed to cull, to trim the fat.
Apart from the Punters Club show we had a handful of other gigs earlier, in 2001, including one under the band name ‘This Free Field’, at the Builders Arms with Berlin Speed Trials (who went on to be Oh Belgium). I remember being absolutely terrified of performing live. Someone commented that it was uncanny how still we stood on stage, that the music was careering and raucous but that it was almost as if me and Luke were not moving at all. Feet firmly planted on the ground, facing Monika (with our backs to the audience)… this was our default stage formation* at that time. I soon also discovered that music was an excellent vehicle for channelling fear and anxiety. I guess back in those days our energy as a band was 99% made up of the unwieldy and swirling adrenaline and anxiety of playing a live show. The shift to playing live shows, and the action of ‘playing a show’ had an impact on the actual music itself feeding an additional energy into the creative process.
The flyer (far above) shows our last gigs for 2002. The show at the Rob Roy (now the Workers Club) in Fitzroy was with QUA and LCD (Jason Heller) and a bit different, them both being electronic acts. I think (although i may be wrong) that it was booked by Brenden Webb (Sand Pit), out of a desire to get some cross genre gigs together at that time. Skip forward 7 years and our friend Jason from LCD made a film clip for love of diagrams, which you can watch here. Also featured on the flyer above, a gig at the Empress with Spanish Fly (Jon from the Ancients was in this) and the excellent Geelong rock band, New Season (Jarrod Quarrel of St Helens and Lost Animal).
* This Free Field also now appears as the name of Lukes solo project In 2009 we also started our own independant record label entitled ‘Free Field Records’ in order to self-release future vinyl releases.
* I should point out.. Monika, a seasoned performer, (having already been in Hobart bands Surgery and Sea Scouts), moved around the kit with great vigour and aplomb. Luke probably moved around the stage a little bit as well.. I was probably the biggest culprit when it comes to the ‘stationary statue pose’ which i adopted for the first while of performing!