Posted at 15:58h
We sat down for a chat with Stephanie Crase from Summer Flake in a park in Fitzroy ahead of the band’s headlining set at our first Ripe Presents event. Stephanie discussed what it’s like starting a band in Adelaide before moving across to Melbourne, working with producer Geoffrey O’Connor and the label Rice Is Nice, and how ever-present money issues affect artists.
Marcus Rimondini: You’ve said in the past that you started playing guitar around the age of 11, but it didn’t take off seriously until university. Why was that?
Stephanie Crase: Well, I don’t know about ‘taking off’… There’s this joke in my family that we are all really unmusical, but for generations everyone’s been obliged to learn an instrument for a year, and then everyone jokes about it. I did a year of classical guitar, and that was not working, but I was into it and kept persisting. I was definitely into it when I was at school, and once I changed to a more relaxed teacher who was a random dude and not a guitar maestro, it was heaps easier, because he would say “what do you want to listen to?” We’d bring in tapes, and trade tapes of songs, and that was the joy of it in a way.
Photos by Sarah Chavdaroska // @sarahchav
What’s it like trying to start a band in Adelaide? What’s the venue situation like?
Adelaide is an easy place. If you live there, the harder thing is working out where to go, not where to play.
Did you have certain venues you wanted to play?
Yeah I did, but they wouldn’t be my targets now, necessarily (laughs). When I was younger I’d go see gigs at the Crown & Anchor – they do a lot of punk shows. At the moment the Exeter Hotel, Format and The Metro are great. All you have to do is email someone and say “is the 21st free?”, and you got it. But it feels like there’s less available in Adelaide, fewer people touring and fewer bands coming from interstate. Local bands are not a big feature in entertainment in Adelaide anymore.
At what point did you make the call to move to Melbourne?
I wanted to mix it up. I think I pushed it back and rejected the idea for years, because in Adelaide it’s such a right of passage that everyone moves away, and generally when people move away, they move to Melbourne. Some people go to Sydney, some people go to London. I went to London for a couple of years, and then by the time I’d come back from London all my friends had moved to Melbourne, or were ready to retire to the suburbs. I was getting into my 30s and I needed the change. It’s very nice easy living in Adelaide – it’s a very affordable, gentle, predictable place.
And you’re living now in Collingwood?
Yeah just off Smith Street.
Is it hard making the interstate transition?
Yeah, it is hard, because one the best things about living in Adelaide is everyone can live in houses, spare-rooms, or backyards. there’s even one house in Adelaide where heaps of bands were practicing every night of the week just in the lounge-rooms, and people were like, “Cool, sounds great.” Here in Melbourne you have to get a space, you have to pay money. The biggest shock moving to Melbourne is the lack of affordability; I feel like I’m doing the struggle, like I’ve just moved out of home.
Does the expense affect your recording process?
I think it does, because you have to be economical with your time. I used to work part time and have a lot of time free, and do a lot of writing. I could play drums at home, record, and spend time working on it. Now I’ll only have an hour to use before work, and it has changed the songwriting a little bit. I don’t have the drumkit set up; everything’s becoming a little more stripped back, but that will be for the next album. The new album Hello Friends was all written in Adelaide, and I carried it over.
You recorded the album with Geoffrey O’Connor at the Vanity Lair?
Yeah, at the original Vanity Lair, which was just a granny flat, a tiny little shed in a Thornbury sharehouse with carpet and a sliding door. We did guitars and vocals over afternoons for months. I really thought it would take a week, but the more we got doing it, I thought, “You know what, let’s triple track all these harmonies.” So it would be 36 vocal takes for this one chorus, and Geoffrey would say, “Maybe let’s do one more?” He’s such a sweet dude, he’d never be like, “That sounded awful.”
How did signing with Rice Is Nice in Sydney come about?
When I first recorded the self-titled EP, I sent it to a bunch of labels and everyone said, “Cool, carry on.” So I just put it on Bandcamp myself, and Jules from Rice Is Nice emailed me saying, “Oh my god, I loved it, I wish you hadn’t done that, I wanted to do that!” She was really nice and generous and spoke my language, and we had heaps of email chats.
Now that the album is recorded and released, what’s the next move for Summer Flake?
Hopefully we’ll do some more recording by the end of the year. I’ve made plans that have fallen through to go overseas a couple of times and it’s mostly been because of money. I’d like to go back to America, but I think it’s really hard for musicians there. You get paid less, and they’re spoilt for choice, whereas playing in Europe you get paid really well. For some reason you get a lot more people at your shows, and you can get accommodation and delicious food. There’s something more exciting and special about playing in Europe.
Photos by Sarah Chavdaroska // @sarahchav