Sunday, 28 June 2015

Hermitude at the Enmore Theatre

Photo: Mikki Gomez

Hermitude seize the improvised element of a live rock show and run it through their own, and the effect is captivating. All I could think is why aren’t they performing at an overseas festival right now.*

Sydney’s Enmore Theatre crowd was rowdy an hour before the duo even took to the stage, thanks to warm-up acts Jayteehazard and Basenji. The whole night felt like a celebration of this decade (or what we have so far) in Australian music – with tracks like Flume’s 'Slasherr' remix and Basenji’s ‘Heirloom’ prepping up the room.

Hermitude have smoothed out their live show since their last hometown gig in 2013 – instead of a clear stop between tracks, their act now ebbs and flows through different dynamics, much like their latest album, Dark Night Sweet Light, already does.

They also have an animated visuals setup, which complements their music, travelling from exotic, tropical rainforests to white sandy coastlines and underwater coral reefs. At points, it looked like something out of Spirited Away with an oversized caterpillar and forest silhouettes. Again, I feel like this would translate well overseas, if not just as a celebration of Australian landscapes.

We started singing along early on when the duo played ‘Searchlight’ (“looking for a change/ Tell what I’m looking for”) interspersed with ‘All Of You’s well-known sample refrain (“hey baby baby.”) Despite the continuity of their set (both looked like they were hard at work on the decks, this was no typical EDM gig) El Gusto was scratching throughout and we got a glimpse of it on their trademark over-the-shoulder GoPro-like footage. There was an energy only a full house home crowd could provide, which led other-half of Hermitude, Luke Dubs, to exclaim, “Sydney, Sydney, Sydney…what a beautiful reception.”

The two played a flashback medley, including their Lion King remix into the track that got their name out, ‘Hyperparadise.’ It suddenly felt like we were at a festival, with hundreds of people clapping along, cheering on their friend’s shoulders and enjoying the moment sans iPhones. And just like a festival, whenever the boys leaned into the mic, the crowd screamed. Everyone was expecting to have a good time and so they did. But despite the rowdiness, there was actually quite a lot of breathing space up front – no one seemed too aggressive.

While the show was part of their current album tour, Hermitude didn’t shy away from playing old favourites, including the ‘Hyperparadise’ Flume remix following their original and ‘Speak of the Devil.’ As usual, Hermitude brought out special guests and vocalists onto the stage, with Mataya and Young Tapz adding to regular Chaos Emerald. It kind of felt like old mates were running the music at a house party – checking in occasionally but mainly leaving us to dance on our own.

In true rockstar fashion, they saved the best for last – signing off with new single ‘The Buzz’ before returning for an encore performance of 2012’s ‘Get In My Life.’ They may have sold out venues across the country but the duo still have their attitude in check, asking us to put our middle fingers up and party till the sunrise before the curtains went down.

*With follow-up research I found that Hermitude will play at the Hard Summer festival in Los Angeles in August.

Published on theAUReview.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Fuzz rock Melbourne band Pretty City are in the middle of their 'Triple A' east coast tour of Australia at the moment. We talked to lead singer John-Luis Moretti on their latest music video, why they released three singles and late night snacks in Sydney.

What is going on in your latest film clip for "Melt"? How did you film to get that psychedelic effect?
Yeah, we did it all ourselves. What is it actually? We thought a lot of people would ask that question when it got out there. We did it in my backyard with Drew's father's camera. So what it is: you get a white tile, draw on it with Sharpies and then you drop alcohol on it. What happens is, the alcohol dissolves the Sharpie and so it ends up oozing and drippingl; then you just use different colours and drip them and drop the tile a bit so they ooze around together. As they tile covered with colour, we would either spray more alcohol to change shape and colour and then when we started to get bored - we got some food-dye, which is water-based and squirted that on it at the same time and it would react with the alcohol in funny ways. It's very simple, but it comes out great.

Is one of you a visual artist?
No, we're just very creative in general. I think I saw something similar to that on Pinterest and I thought that looks really cool because we're all into psychedelic stuff. Visually, we love that. We're always getting artists who do artwork for us, poster art or CD art, to make it look kind of psychedelic. On the video clips too, we use double exposure, which is kind of 60's. We wanted to try and do something with lights but that wasn't quite happening, so I saw this and I thought, 'That looks really great.' It took a whole afternoon, you should see our first hour worth of footage, it doesn't look that great or impressive. But once we got the hang of it, we got this great footage.

At least it didn't turn into a Pinterest fail.
Yes I know! That's what we were thinking. We literally had a week to get it sorted. We all sort of got together and had a meeting with our managers and were working out promotional timelines and tour timelines. They asked, "Oh, do you guys have a video clip? Can you get it done by Monday?" We put a lot of eggs in one basket for this video clip, hoping it would work. If it turned into a Pinterest fail, I don't know what we would have done.

How is the tour going so far?
It feels great. We love playing Adelaide, it feels like a second home to us now. And Geelong, we play a lot of shows in Geelong - we played a new venue and I think we were the first gig to play there. That was cool. I think it was an old R&B nightclub. It feels a little bit R&B - it's got the disco balls and weird chandeliers around. But you fill it with smoke and lights and it just feels like another rock show. Melbourne was really good, we were bouncing on a high from the other two shows the nights before so when we got there, we hit the ground running and there was a really good vibe. It was packed out as well.
 Again, I think the room really helps a gig going well. We really want to curate the whole night. So we have the Flyying Colours DJs before and after the band there, which is really cool because they created the energy and the vibe that we wanted to have. So the music fits well, the supports fit well and with the visuals and the smoke it all locked in together and everyone was sort of along for the ride.

I'm looking at your tour schedule now and I see you had three nights in a row. That's intense.
Yeah, that happens quite a bit with touring now. We try and work as much as we can during the day to afford days off to go on tour.

So what was the thinking in releasing three tracks before an album?
It is part of something bigger. We first recorded an album in February and we've slowly been drip-fed the mixes back, sort of one or two a week. They were just sounding so good, we thought, 'We have to release a single, which one should it be?" We were kind of arguing over those three songs because they all occupy a different space, sonically, for the band. "Melt" is a psych-y track, "Second Hand Clothes" is very pop and "Running Around" is more of a straight up rock song. They really sort of line up with the personalities of the band. I'm straight up power pop, so "Second Hand Clothes" sits really well with me, "Melt" goes well with Drew, and the rock song is Hugh straight up. We're three completely different personalities that come together in this band, so why don't [we] release the three songs as a triple A side? There's no vinyl. You can have as many tracks as you want. So we called it a triple A side, each with equal worth and merit, as a taster of more things to come.

Well I imagine most people find your music on Soundcloud or digital radio stations.
Yeah, I was speaking to a mate recently about it and he said people can see music in a completely different way when it was on a physical format. So the whole thing of having an A side and then a B side, or having to fill up an album with 60 minutes worth of music, that's gone. You can do whatever you want now. If you want to release an album that's four hours long, you can do it.

It will be cool to test your music overseas, if you get a chance to do that.
We just hired a publicist in the UK, he's going to try and flog our music over there. So hopefully it does make its way into the underground nightclubs up there

What are some other Australian artists you guys are digging at the moment?
There's heaps of Melbourne bands, obviously we've played with so many. I mean, the bands that we play with at these gigs we totally love. So Fierce Mild are a really cool proggy band, I don't think they see themselves as proggy but I can't think of another way to describe them. If you see how long their set is, they start and they just finish at that time. It doesn't sound like they have different songs, it sounds like one long song that ebbs and flows. I never hear them finish a song, it's mixed into the next one. The Rollercanes are really cool, they kind of have a chilled vibe about them, like 80's post-punk. Magic America are really cool, they're a little bit like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club or Queens of the Stone Age, when Josh Homme was getting into the Desert Sessions, dark brooding sort of stuff. And I guess Sunbeam Sound Machine, we've played a few gigs with them and they've DJ'd shows for us before, they have great washy psych pop stuff.

You should really enjoy playing Frankie's then if you're looking for a fun vibe.
Yeah, I'm really excited to play Frankie's. It's funny, we tried to get shows there a year ago I think and the guy said we weren't hard enough, we weren't rock enough for Frankie's. I think the only song he'd heard of ours was our only pop love ballad and he just put us in the "no" basket. The guy who runs it finally heard our new stuff and said, 'Yep that's fine.'
 I'm excited for the pizza. Food is a crucial part of the tour. When you're living outside of your house, you don't know what you're going to get. I think the first few times we went to Sydney, we went to the place on the corner of Kings X that just sells cheap shitty food for 4am. They've got a strip of pork with crackling and fat all over it in a bag for five dollars and I love that. Especially after a gig, you just want something hideously unhealthy. A friend of mine is a food blogger in Sydney and she just posted about this new pork restaurant, so straight after the Frankie's gig, we're going there. There is a reason I've been on a diet, because every time we go on tour we go straight for the junk food.

What are the perks of playing (and going to) a local gig?
The big difference between big shows and little shows is how connected the bands are to the shows. I think once you get to a certain level, the band gets a bit detached from the whole process of organising the show. They're sort of told the day before who's supporting them, what the merch is. But at small shows, the headlining bands are doing everything. They've DIY-d their video clips, they've brought projectors from home, they've borrowed lights from friends, they've filled the place with balloons - these are all things we've done by the way. I think smaller shows are great because it's kind of like a house party but you don't have to clean up afterwards.
 We want to give people a reason to see us, other than we're playing the show. I think when you start doing that, things get stale. But if you give them a reason - like we're projecting forgotten animation classics from the 1970's - people respond to that. You get a genuine connection with the band that you probably don't at larger shows. I know when I'm watching them, I dance with random people at the front. And then you see them at the next gig. I think I've met half of my friends that way and we're like, 'Hey, you like the same bands as me!'

When can we expect to next hear music from you?
Second half of the year. It kind of depends how this tour goes. If no one likes it then we're going to release it ourselves around September, otherwise we might hold it back to January. We recorded it in February and we've got all the mixes back now so we're eager for people to hear it.

What keeps you going?
I can't think of a reason. I can't think [of] not being an artist. Even in my day job, I work in a laboratory cleaning beakers and doing experiments - even within that context, I'm still very creative. If I wasn't into music I think I'd be painting or sculpting. It's in my blood. It's a compulsion, I can't not do it.

Published on theAUReview.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Interview with DJ Ember

Ember is a regular in the Sydney club scene with a versatile style that gets people up and dancing. He travels cross country regularly to entertain crowds at the hottest party spots, and has just been nominated for an inthemix 50 People’s Choice Award. We spoke to him ahead of his Queen’s Birthday long weekend set about the Australian electronic scene, the DJ lifestyle and more...

What tracks are you listening to on repeat this weekend?
A$AP Rocky - ‘L$D,’ the whole At.Long.Last album, and some Kendrick Lamar / Schoolboy Q, I’ve had Oxymoron back on repeat again all week.

What can we expect from your set on the Queen's Birthday Long Weekend at Sunday Long Day?
Looking forward to changing it up a bit. It’s my first time playing at The Collaroy, so I’m pretty excited. Keen to play a bit more Sunday friendly and get some house on in there, but we’ll see how things go on the day.

How has the Australian electronic scene changed since you started DJing?
It’s definitely become a lot faster. With the introduction of so much technology it’s made it a lot easier for a broader range of people to get involved. It used to be a lot less affordable to start off as a DJ or musician. Music was expensive to buy and took a lot more time and effort to collect. Now, a song can be sent around the world at the click of a button. It’s added a whole new level of diversity to the scene, and given people with ideas the ability to create and explore a lot more easily, it’s great.

Whose set are you hoping to catch at The Collaroy Sunday Long Day?
KLP! Super talented, knows her music, and I haven’t had a chance to catch a set of hers in ages.

What's the most annoying thing someone has said or done to you on the decks?
That’s a long list. Drinks spilling on equipment or people pulling out power cords are always some of the first things that come to mind. That or people who spend less time enjoying themselves and more time hounding you for music you don’t have on hand would be right up there. But it all comes with the territory.

What's your secret for enduring the DJ lifestyle?
Sleeping when you can. Especially when you’re travelling a lot. I still can’t sleep on planes but it’s one thing I need to learn this year. That, and having your ear to the ground with music, basically.

What are you looking forward to coming up in 2015?
Working on a couple of new projects and a few tours happening over the second half of the year, which are all coming together super fast, but it’s all still under wraps. Other than that; taking each weekend as it comes and enjoying a few beers over the long weekend.

Published on theAUReview

Red Bull Academy Presents Elefant Traks at Vivid Live

Photo credit: Prudence Upton

You wouldn’t think of the Sydney Opera House as a venue for an underground hip-hop party on a Sunday night, but that’s what Elefant Traks brought to the Studio as part of Vivid Festival this weekend. The Sydney-based record label presented a mix of live performances and DJ sets from old school to original hip-hop, which gave the night a sort of festival feel... crowd members holding GoPros and wearing felt hats contributing to that.

DJ MK-1 was on the DJ decks in between live acts and his set ranged from hip-hop ("Rapper’s Delight") to salsa beats (yes, there were some people trying to salsa) and plenty of tunes direct from your secret Spotify playlist (‘Work It,’ ‘In Da Club,’ ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’) The crowd was of mixed ages so he seemed to keep everyone happy. And the fully decked out lighting of the Opera House Studio only added to the atmosphere.

Then we got a taste of original hip-hop from L-Fresh The LION, the Sydney-based rapper with unbounded energy who made it feel like we were at some basement party in the US. Shouting “bounce, bounce,” he got fellow Aussie hip-hopper Mirrah on stage and everyone put their hands up (again, remember this is about 9pm on a Sunday.) He rapped, “I created a world where I’m in my element” and it isn’t hard to believe.

Then big Sydney personality (with a big Vivid Live outfit to match – gold tights and fairy lights wrapped around his face) Joyride took to the stage with his strong vocals. And all throughout he was holding a tiny white wine glass, “I’m a thirsty boy, cheers!” And he had the crowd laughing from the start, “DJs take note, Kelly Clarkson "Since You’ve Been Gone" is a banger. It’s the only track I’ve had such a huge reponse to in years.” Later Joyride took on a more serious note, saying “f*** you” to anyone who is anti-gay marriage or anti-immigration. His set was the same, it started off humorous with One Day track ‘I Eat Pills and F**k Your Girlfriend,’ and then slowed it down for more romantic ballads like ‘Leave Your Windows Open.’

And finally the main event of the night, Jayteehazard (JT) came on with a strong bass-driven mix that changed the Studio into some type of Boiler Room. He was doing a lot of manual work on the decks, I’m not exactly sure what, but he looked focused and it sounded great. His set was mostly instrumental and percussion-driven (reminding me of fellow Elefant Trakers Hermitude) but with samples that got the crowd excited, like Kendrick Lamar’s ‘King Kunta’ into an old school funk track.JT showed us his scratching skills and didn’t touch the mic too much, letting his music speak for itself.

What a fun night... I say we make this a weekly installment!

Published on theAUReview.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Surfer Blood - "1000 Palms"

Most of 1000 Palms seems like a love letter (to one, lucky girl) but one that is written right at the start when all is uncertain and the pursuer is full of jittery energy. And when the album persona is not wooing his desire, he’s looking wistfully back at a rich collection of memories.

Or maybe it’s hard to move away from recognising clear autobiographic influences in Surfer Blood’s music. “If we could never let it go/how could I ever say hello?” primary songwriter John Paul Pitts sings in the first track. He is vulnerable in his storytelling and while this album is very lyrically driven, it has a charming, nostalgic touch to its sound with distorted guitar and male-female harmonies. The album does lose part of its vibrancy after the first half, moving from pop structured choruses to more chilled, but still endearing, tracks.

“Island” ironically starts similar to “Island in the Sun” but with dreamy backing vocals and two electric guitars chasing each other in the background. Then “I Can’t Explain” changes the mood to something more desperate, with powerful electric guitar and smashing cymbals under a heartfelt but strong lyric; “I can’t explain” is repeated over and over and we can feel it.

I felt a bit of an OC surf rock vibe from 1000 Palms, with the fuzzy vocals and dreamy lyrics. And for an album that was largely self-recorded (in the living room of drummer Tyler Schwarz’ house) it is still crisp. Fans of Best Coast and even Cloud Nothings will appreciate the subdued pop structures weaving into reflective narratives. Some of the tracks feel like they will easily become sing-a-longs in their live shows.1000 Palms is one of those albums that sounds good in one big listen, the songs meld into each other and they tell a story.

Pitts has been criticised in the past (namely for his arrest – we didn’t want to bring it up but just google his name and it’s there.) But maybe Surfer Blood have reached a redemption point after that and their break from Warner Bros. records: “But nothing’s alright if you’re not my girl/you bring me peace in this chaotic world.” It’s not world-shaking but it’s perfect for a lazy listen. 1000 Palms might just be the cathartic look into past pain that we need right now.

Published on AdamNOTEve.