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26 May Rocking the boat – An interview with Nicholas Allbrook

Nicholas Allbrook has been keeping busy in his solo guise, playing an intimate national tour in support of his single ‘Advance‘, and is about to embark on a massive tour of Europe. His new album, Pure Gardiya, is out tomorrow via Warner Music. We met up with him during his local tour for a typically candid chat about life, art, getting ign’ant, and rocking the boat.

 

Brandon John: I think the last time we spoke to you was Falls Festival 2014. How’ve the last couple of years been treating you?

Nicholas Allbrook: You know, great and terrible. Somewhere and everywhere in between. It’s been quite a while. I’m sort of running the gamut of feeling shit and on top of the world.

Which one is it at the moment?

Kind of feeling stressed out, preoccupied.

Is that just tour related stuff?

Yeah, but as a sort of general time, I’m feeling pretty good.

It was NYE when we interviewed you and you said your new year’s resolution was “no more guilt”.

Oh yeah!

That answer won you a Fremantle hat, actually. How did it work out for you?

I realised actually just recently that that was a huge one, it’s not just like…

It’s not a one year project?

Yeah, it’s a lifetime project, and I haven’t made any new year’s resolutions since then. I remember making it. I kept trying, I’ve been trying ever since. It’s been hard. So I think I’m gonna set my sights a lot lower, like getting a new suit or something like that.

So just covering up the guilt instead?

Maybe just “get a haircut” as my next new year’s resolution.

 

 

So you sent us through a minimalist playlist the other day – are you in a stripped-back mood at the moment?

Yeah! I just really like that way of making music, and making art, and writing as well. If you’ve got something to express that can be done in a very minimal way, a lot of the time it’s very powerful. But it can also be done very bombastically. I guess I’ve spent quite a while being maximalist.

Those are descriptions that I’d very much attribute to you. When you’re writing, do you start off fairly minimalist, find it just gradually builds and builds, and then suddenly realise that it’s become huge?

Yeah, pretty much. I still let stuff get over the top a lot of the time, and then have to brutally cut all this stuff where I thought “The whole song hinges on this.” Then you finally don’t try to just turn it down or EQ it – you just delete it – and it’s like, “Oh, so much better.” But that’s why, with this last one, I tried to put a pre-emptive cap on that by having me and three other players, and not really be doing overdubs and stuff, so if we can play it, it should be good enough.

I suppose you have to play it live on your own, doing the one-man thing at the moment?

I’m doing it on my own at the moment. We’ve played one show with the same band that did the record, and I can’t wait to do that, it’s so much less anxiety. My adrenal glands can put their feet up in front of the fire and sip a brandy.

You’ve got a pretty descriptive way of talking about it, and echoes what I was reading on your tour diary. I like your writing; is it something you might get into more at some point? I know you’ve got a lot of different things in the pipeline you’d like to do.

Hmm. I love writing, that’s the thing I get the most encouragement to do. Oh, maybe not the most encouragement, but I get encouraged to by people who are – as a young man who was raised to really respect parents and academics – the leaders of society. I probably will. I’d like to. It’s just I’m kind of afraid of, like with music, once you get real, real far in there… I reckon your enjoyment is, by a matter of course, cut by a certain percentage because it becomes this other thing – something deeper and weirder and more complicated and emotional. But I want to keep writing just ign’ant and fun, so I can read books and, if they’ve been panned by the critics, I can just not read that and still enjoy them.

So do you feel that being so invested in music impacts the way that you can listen to it?

Yeah, yeah, totally. I think that’s why my music tastes oscillates so wildly. I try and listen to stuff that’s completely different to what I’m trying to do, so that I don’t have to think about how it reflects on me, or where me and what I’m listening to sit together in this musical universe. So I start listening to minimal, or classical, or just only trap, grime, and ‘90s RnB and stuff.

Trap and grime are good for just shutting off.

Yeah, it’s disgusting, it’s all I listen to. And yet, everything I do comes out like mayonnaise.

 

 

 

So you’ve finished the album, that’s out of your hands now?

Yeah it is. It’s actually fully out of my hands. It clings on, though. It clings on for so long, and you don’t even notice. You think when you’ve finished recording it, or even mastering it, then it’s done. But then there’re all these little lingering smells, like video clips…

…interviews.

(laughs) Yeah, interviews. No, that’s a whole different ball game. This is phase two. No, phase three. It’s a cyclical thing.

When you’re finished with the touring and album launch, what’s next in the cycle?

Then it’s going into a hole somewhere, and changing up everything in life for a little bit. Kind of rocking the boat.

You’re gonna jump ship from Freo?

Yeah, something like that. It’s like a four-part process which is like rocking the boat, so that I start thinking and writing, and then recording it. Then it’s administration, the shittest stage of it all. Then it’s tour. Repeat.

Especially considering you’ve been fairly prolific and dropped quite a few records over the years, how long did it take before the novelty of the release process wore off?

Um, not long at all. (laughs) Even when we were just going across the road in Daglish in Perth to the DiskBank to print out, you know, 100 discs, that was already shit.

Already mundane, not quite Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

It’s not. DiskBank is not the chocolate factory.

 

 

‘Advance’ is the lead single at the moment. I’m just wondering what prompted you to riff on the national anthem?

I don’t know, I think something that’s been brought pretty far into the forefront of everyone’s mind is ‘the Australian way’, and where we stand with everyone else. Last year, I felt like it became a lot more prominent, a lot more noisy and confusing.

The track struck me as sort of sarcastically joyous.

Yeah! Yeah, well that’s great, that’s perfect. Because yeah, I’m joyful in my love of Australia, but it’s rimmed with poison ‘cause it can be pretty hard to be a patriot when we’re stopping the boats, et cetera, et cetera.

Being a patriot doesn’t mean ignoring everything that’s wrong with the place.

Exactly. I’m an obsessive reader of George Orwell‘s stuff, he’s great for that. He loves Britain, and Britishness, but in a really sensitive, thoughtful way in that he wants to change it… or wanted to change it.

Still, we’re an Aussie publication, and we want to pump up Australia as much as we can, so are there any Australian artists we should be keeping an eye on?

There’s so much to be positive about in Australia, especially groundswell, ground-up artistic creativity. Among so many other things, it’s a pretty fucking peachy little thing. It’s a happy world if you look at that.

Any bands or artists in particular?

Yeah! Melbourne. I came here five days early just to see friends and stuff, and the whole ‘music capital of Australia’ (or the southern hemisphere, or whatever) – it’s so true. It’s true. And that kills me every time I come here. It’s constant, amazing… I saw this band called Two Steps On The Water the other day. Fuck, man, they were so good. So good. (laughs) And, uh, RVG, I saw them at The Tote. And Spike Fuck (laughs), that was amazing. And Jaala! I love what Cossy (Cosima) is doing. She’s embarrassingly talented.

Definitely. I’m not familiar with Spike Fuck though, I’ll have to give that a look.

It doesn’t sound the way most people would jump to conclusions about it sounding. It’s like a Berlin industrial version of a ‘50s girl group, all computerised. It’s rad.

Well, maybe there’s always time for you to move back here down the track…

Oh, mate, it’s a beautiful place. It’s great.

But you’re out of here tomorrow?

Yep, going to Brisbane, sunny Bribbun. And then Sydney, and home to Perth. Hopefully I can still jump in the water.

 

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24 May Trading Tunes with Nicholas Allbrook: The theme is ‘minimal…ish’

Nicholas Allbrook is about to set off on a pretty gargantuan European tour in support of his forthcoming second LP, including a slot at London’s Field Day festival. To celebrate, he’s sent us a lovely selection of tracks that do a great deal with relatively little – “minimal…ish”.


Javad Maroufi – ‘Prelude’


“I really, really should have Erik Satie at the very toppermost here, or Steve Reich or, shit, a whole lot of things that are incredible. But fuck it, I love this song and maybe Mr. Ma’roufi will gain some new fans out of it, as he should.”


Vincent Gallo – ‘Was’


“Everyone thinks this fellow Vincent is a bit of a dick, from what I can tell. Maybe because of Republican leanings? I dunno, seems like he must just be a genius provocateur who gives absolutely no fucks about how cool the people he offends are. Either way, I had no idea about any of this controversy when I heard this album, and it cracked my brain asunder and began this aesthetic and sonic binge.”


Ela Stiles – ‘Kumbh Mela’


“Not much to say except that putting on this record is like… crackle crackle heart soar.”


Jeremih – ‘Pass Dat’


“K, this is my favourite song and has been for a while now. I can be literally zombified on a couch, but put this on and I’ll buzz back to life like a rewound toy and blunt/drank myself into another stupor until this song comes on again. So powerful. So little going on. But so much. The one chord on the second line of the chorus… bliss.”


Neu! – ‘Hallogallo’


“This theme is incomplete without this song. With robotic repetition and the cinematic vastness of the arctic tundra in neon, it introduced me and countless others to the kosmische form, and the conceptual and artistic depth for which rock ‘n’ roll has the hidden potential. Hundreds of bands base their entire career around this song, which is an enormous ripple to make with such a simple stone.”


Arthur Russell – ‘Soon To Be Innocent’


“One man in a room with a cello and a mountain of echo and drum machines, slowly dying of AIDS, created the most crushing and transcendental album ever. I love this song, this album, and this man.”


Catherine Hershey – ‘La Chute’


Julien Barbagallo (former member of French outfit Tahiti 80) introduced me to this once I showed him Ela Stiles. It is incredible and simple and gorgeous.”


Kanye West – ‘Low lights’

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“Kanye kills minimalism. The beats for Mercy and Numbers on the Board, for example, kick the shit to death with very, very little indeed (breadth of bass not included of course). But yeah, I was just listening to this album a second ago and it’s fucking badass – I could write a full essay on it, but Pitchfork already nailed it (cheeky buggers). Who sings this? Hello? I said who sings this?”


D’Angelo and The Vanguard – ‘Back to the Future (Part I)’


“This gets in the list because a) it’s one of the sickest albums of last year, and b) the bassline goes for a long time without changing notes, whilst remaining as raw as an Englishman’s neck in the Perth summer.”

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24 May Edd Fisher’s beachside playlist for PBS Radio’s ‘Take The Plunge’

Just in time for winter to truly start setting in, we’ve received an aural postcard of sorts from none other than Edd Fisher, encouraging everyone to sign up and support one of the stalwarts of Melbourne community radio, PBS 106.7FM. When he’s not being one of our favourite local DJs, Edd also hosts the PBS programme ‘Tomorrowland’.

“This year’s PBS Radio Festival’s theme ‘Take The Plunge’ ties in nicely with a mixtape I’ve been working on, inspired by a recent trip to the Solomon Islands. You could play a speaker from where we ate breakfast, jump in the water with a snorkel and listen to music whilst staring at anemones, giant clams, clown fish, sharks and beautiful coral. This playlist is a retrospective mix of watery songs I would take back with me to the islands.”

Hiroshi Sato – Jo Do

On Retinae – Dip In The Pool

Rat & Co – Seawind

Dean Blunt – Seven Seals of Affirmation

Software – Island Sunrise

 

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20 May Premiere: Lucy Cliche’s Good Manners Mix

Sydney electronic musician Lucy Cliche has put together a deep, dark mix for us ahead of her live set tonight at Boney for our pals at Good Manners Weekly.

Lucy has been on fire recently, her blinding set at Meredith cementing her as one of the country’s premiere electronic artists. Signed to NOISE IN MY HEAD, she’s on track to have a massive 2016, and the snug dancefloor of Boney is an ideal spot to catch her live.

She’ll be playing from 2am, surrounded by a talented crew of resident DJs including friendships, Amateur Dance, Darcy Baylis, Planète and The Harpoons. More info can be found on the event page.

Tracklist:

K. Leimer – A Spiritual Life
Scraps – Touch Blue
Anne Clark – Sleeper in Metropolis
Dan White – Buckley’s Escape
Peeping Tom – Fear without consequences
Matthew Brown – Sedulous Palter
Nicky Crane – Hara Sloj
Container – PERIPHERAL
Privacy – Query B
FEMMINIELLI NOIR – Exotico
Not Waving – Face Attack
Basic House – Pyre of Bro
Pye Corner Audio – Electronic Rhythm Number One
Mosfets – The Great War

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13 May Trading Tunes with Leisure Suite: “Songs (and albums) we’re vibin'”

Melbourne electronic duo Leisure Suite are playing live at Boney tonight for Good Manners Weekly, followed by DJ sets from the likes of friendships, Darcy Baylis, Planete and The Harpoons.

For today’s Trading Tunes, Bridgette and Mitch sent us through a bunch of tracks that they are, quite simply, “vibin'”.


Bridgette:

Smile More – Syd (from The Internet)

I have a huge girl crush on Syd, she has the smoothest vocals and this track is the best before bed track. Such a simple track driven by the chilled out beat and Syd’s silky vox – a match made in heaven.

Showin’ Off – The Karma Vigilantes

This type of music is probably what I listen to the most on a day to day basis, soul music is a huge inspiration to how I approach writing music and this is probably one of the best examples – improvised melodies and a very J Dilla inspired guitar sample, the end result could relax anyone.

All I Need – Noname

If I could rap, I’d want to be Noname, completely effortless in her delivery – her casual almost just talking way of rapping makes it so personal which I find really interesting.

Modern Soul – James Blake

I had James Blake’s album on repeat since its release and this song is one of my favourites, it’s probably the one track on the new album that sounds most like his earlier works where the focus is purely on Blake’s vocals and piano. It’s a beautiful piece of work.

 

Mitch:

Great Outdoors – Dad’s Oasis

I’ve always had a soft spot for jangly/melancholy guitar music, so I Found it hard to pick one song off this record, they’re all gems. Filled with beautifully layered textures and beautiful guitar tones, this has definitely been my favourite release of this year (so far).

Nearly Oratorio – Tin

Music from the man who can do no wrong! From I’lls to Kllo to this, everything he touches is always instant gold in my book. I wish I had one hundredth of his talent. Super beautiful stuff.

Ivan Ave – The Circle

This is a track taken from his debut EP Helping Hands (which is an amazing record) and also my favourite from this release. Ivan’s music was sort of a go-to for me when picking music at work which made me a little nervous before giving this a proper listen through. Luckily it’s a great record, beats are good, songs are good, all is good. Good good good.

FunkyJaws – Feel This Way

Oh Lorde that sample is super nice! I always get mad when I hear songs like this, like I wish I knew where to find samples that nice.

Broadway Sounds – Exclusive Love / Digital Influence

The perfect balance between funky, corny and coooool. If I’m being super honest, my old intern boss showed me Broadway Sounds last year and I didn’t think I could get into it. However the fact that I love them now must be a testament to their song writing and infectious melodies.

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12 May Export initiative SOUNDS AUSTRALIA denied vital Catalyst arts funding

SOUNDS AUSTRALIA, the development and export initiative that has helped hundreds of Australian artists gain vital exposure on an international stage, has been denied funding by Catalyst, the newest incarnation of the Australian Government’s arts and culture funding.

The program is currently funded through to December of this year, but without the additional funding that could have been provided by Catalyst it will need to scale back its artist support significantly. Meanwhile, established organisations such as The Australian Ballet received up to one million dollars alone.

SOUNDS AUSTRALIA provides an enormous amount of opportunities for Australian artists, managers and labels to perform, promote, and network overseas. The organisation has been responsible for putting hundreds of Australian artists in front of international crowds, helping them to secure slots on festival lineups or SOUND AUSTRALIA’s own long-standing showcases such as The Aussie BBQ. Additionally, Australian managers and label-owners have been able to secure the connections and networking opportunities they need to promote their artists overseas.

Some of Australia’s biggest recent musical exports such as Courtney Barnett, Chet Faker and Vance Joy received support from the organisation early on, and continued to do so as their careers progressed. Similarly, over 600 artists have been supported over seven years, resulting in over 1000 performance opportunities.

Established in 2009, SOUNDS AUSTRALIA is a joint initiative between the Australia Council, the Government’s arts funding and advisory body, and APRA AMCOS, Australia’s largest royalty collection agency. Catalyst is the Coalition’s arts funding program, which was introduced in November 2015 and is presided over directly by the Ministry for Arts – a contentious decision which has allowed Government ministers direct control over arts spending.

Arts Minister Mitch Fifield‘s office made no official announcement about the new round of funding, choosing instead to stealthily publish the list of recipients on the department’s website. The update was made public hours after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called for an election on July 2, allocating the funding at the final hour before the Government enters its pre-election caretaker period.

The Greens’ Arts Spokesman Adam Bandt criticised the move, as well as the program as a whole, arguing that “arts funding should be kept at arm’s length from ministers, especially in election years.”

“The arts sector is already in turmoil because of the cuts made by this government and now instead of orderly, peer-reviewed funding it seems decisions are being made on election timelines.”

When approached for comment, APRA AMCOS Head of Member Services Dean Ormston expressed his disappointment with the decision.

“As one of SOUNDS AUSTRALIA’s primary funding partners, APRA AMCOS is extremely disappointed that the export development initiative has not secured Catalyst funding. SOUNDS AUSTRALIA provides an invaluable service to hundreds of touring artists, and has been instrumental in helping some of Australia’s largest musical exports make the leap to the global stage.

Contemporary musicians are amongst Australia’s smallest and most innovative businesses, but they will suffer without a dedicated commitment towards a service that supports the export of Australian music.”

A petition has been created on Change.org (here) by Laura Wallbridge with the slogan #saveoursounds, requiring 1,250 more signatures at the time of writing to reach its target of 5,000, at which point it will be delivered to the Honourable Mitch Fifield.

As stated by Laura, “Many of us in the Australian music industry have been extremely distressed to learn that SOUNDS AUSTRALIA  did not receive #Catalyst funding for their vital work exporting Australian music into the international market.”

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04 May Video: Nearly Oratorio – ‘Tin’

 

Simon Lam received a few Radiohead comparisons during his time with former band I’lls, so it’s funny that the video for his beautiful, humble little track ‘Tin’ would release on the same day as Thom Yorke & Co. pull the trigger on their much-hyped ‘Burn The Witch’.

Rather than a carefully-manicured stop motion epic, the new Nearly Oratorio piece is a glimpse into Lam’s past, filmed over two years ago by his I’lls/Couture bandmate (and Solitaire Recordings co-owner) Hamish Mitchell on his then-newly acquired VHS camera. It draws back the veil on Simon with its earnest home video quality, lyrics printed for all to see and ponder.

Many artists of Nearly Oratorio’s age would shudder at the thought of releasing something recorded this long ago, not content with press shots taken mere months ago. But ‘Tin’ sounded wonderful then, and now.

The Tin EP is out now, and is available to buy here.

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03 May Premiere: Jackie Brown Jr – ‘Lake Loser’

 

Jackie Brown Jr are a five-piece funk, soul and rock crew from Sydney’s inner-West, who caught our attention with a sound that scratches a similar itch to fellow horn-dogs Animaux‘Lake Loser’ is one of two singles on the way from the young outfit (the other being the intriguingly-titled ‘Sauvignon Bogan’), and it’s a promising start to their 2016.

‘Lake Loser’ begins as a gentle stroll for your morning coffee, evoking sunbeams through half-closed curtains as Madeleine Mallis delivers her husky narrative of finding one’s feet. Kicking into a canter around the midpoint, the rest of band get to stretch their legs a bit, bolstered by some sleek horns. The instrumentation never quite throws out any real surprises however, mostly leaving Mallis room to do her thing alongside the supportive howls of a rambunctious audience.

It’s here that the band can continue to develop as, while the track is immaculately-polished, it’d be great to see these guys really cut loose a bit more and leave us with a few frayed edges in keeping with the honesty of the lyrics – the gritty eyes and fuzzy head that always come with those mornings. In this instance though, we have an accomplished tune with a very enigmatic vocal as its centrepiece, showing bags of potential.

JBJ will be launching the two singles at Tokyo Sing Song in Newtown on Friday June 3. For more music from this pack, give their four-single concept release from 2015 a look, titled ‘The 44 Project’. ‘Lake Loser’ is up for download on iTunes, as well as streaming on Spotify and all the usual haunts.

 

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08 Mar Premiere: Cosmic Rays – ‘Teen Bank Robbers On Heroin’

 

 

Matt Neumann is an absolute fixture of the Melbourne creative scene. You’ll spot him photographing for music sites, tending bar at the Northcote Social Club, or combustively howling as the frontman of local legends ScotDrakula. He sings, he dances, he crafts gems. So we’re understandably excited to present to you a new track and video from his fledgling side-project, Cosmic Rays.

Talk about just laying it all out there. It’s hard not to turn your head towards something called ‘Teen Bank Robbers On Heroin’, especially when its title is flashing at you in a multitude of colours, and the track – complete with accompanying video, also produced by Neumann – does exactly what it says on the tin. After an extended stare down between its stars Ashley Bundang (of Totally Mild and Zone Out) and Toby Marsh, they kick their adorable but sadly doomed plot into gear with a Tarantino-esque “Yeah, fuck it. I’m in.”

“Teen bank robbers, strung out on heroin…” drawls Neumann over an insistent beat, something along the lines of a warped copy of The Modern Lovers’ ‘Roadrunner’. The jangly scratches of guitar perfectly echo the relentless energy and naïve optimism that comes with young love, even in the face of a foreboding theme of inevitable death.

It’s always exciting for us to see musicians extend their reach beyond just the music in order to give us a broader sense of who they are as artists, and Cosmic Rays is proving to be a great example of why.

We’re looking forward to a new ScotDrakula album later in the year, and there’s also more on the horizon for Neumann in his Cosmic Rays guise. While we wait for the next instalment, here’s his previous clip for the menacing, laser-fuelled boogie ‘Do Nothing Twist’.

 

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11 Feb Premiere: Nocturnal Tapes – ‘Superficial Light’

My only exposure to Nocturnal Tapes‘ beach-side hometown was John Williamson’s twee road-trip ditty ‘Camel Train to Yamba’, which has probably unfairly coloured my opinion of the place over the years. Rather than anything vaguely approaching tacky Australiana, the duo have served up a smooth concoction of slinky guitar and skittering electronic production for their debut single ‘Superficial Light’.

This is no family road trip; more a solitary nocturnal drive down a winding coastal road, its gradual twists and turns drawing you into a trance. Eventually breaking into a surge of falsetto and rumbling synth, it’s easy to see the track reaching an enthralling crescendo in a live setting – one it earns after holding its cards tightly to its chest for the majority of its four-minute length. It’s the slow, creeping tension of a midnight run to the border – “will I get there?” – before scorching off into the sunrise.

Nocturnal Tapes have plenty of potential, and they’ve put together a slick and stylish emergence. This is just our first glimpse of their recorded sound, but they’ll be busy on the live front with a slot at Mountain Sounds coming up, together with a tidy little east coast tour (dates below).

Friday Feb 19: Oxford Arts Factory w/ New Lovers – Sydney
Saturday Feb 20: Mountain Sounds Festival – Sydney
Wednesday Feb 24: The Lass O’Gowrie – Newcastle
Friday 26 Feb: Hermann’s O’ Week Closing Party – Sydney
Friday March 4: Beach Hotel – Byron Bay
Saturday March 5: Ric’s Bar – Brisbane

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