When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphanies since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.
What have been your musical epiphany moments?
The first one, the equivalent of your Detroit Rock City, was Nirvana. And that's actually kind of strange, because I was less than 2 years old when Nevermind came out. I kind of just had a background soundtrack of whatever folksy/classic rock stuff was on around the house, and when I was about thirteen, I discover Nirvana for the first time, long after grunge died, and had the exact same reaction you describe. Raw, visceral, this-isn't-my-parents'-music instant intrigue. And so of course that branches out as a gateway drug to all the genres that I know and love today, but there's still this heart of grunge influence, I feel, to what we do in AVER. In the first album was a bit more obvious, but there's a bit of that quiet-verse heavy-chorus dynamic going on, and the balance between aggression and melody. A lot of the stoner/psyche musicians of this current generation I speak to are the same way, with this grunge background, more so than just suddenly liking discovering Kyuss and saying “yeah, I’ll do that”. I think it makes for more interesting music, too, as a lot of early stoner was this one vibe for the whole song sort of deal.
Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?
What's pretty cool is that the way we write each song is different. Sometimes I’ll come with the song written and everyone will add parts and we'll make some small changes and it's done, and sometimes it's jamming something until things happen naturally and we like how it's going, or sometimes we'll sit down over it all written out in segments like coaches pouring over a playbook before the big game. I guess the constant is that lyrics are written to fit the music. I have to be in a particular mindset, sit down and play the riff or listen to a recording of it, and try and put the feelings that went along with making it into words, and hopefully poetic enough to be more than "isn't this an angry vibe for this distorted section!!!" or "Kind of spacey now, isn't it?!!!" I think the most important ingredient to it though is time. It'll take about a year from the time we have a final draft of a song, to the finished version. Things just become apparent about what could be done better, like a recipe you refine over a year. Luckily there's not a huge amount of "I wish we did this differently" because we give ourselves enough time, but you can't rush that.
Who has influenced you the most?
Might come off as pretentious, but I’d say it's totally each other. We've been doing this since we were teenagers, growing and changing what we create and directing one another in the way that we write. None of us have any formal training, we don't play covers, and I couldn't play you a minor scale. We'd be total oddballs in other bands, we have our own language to communicate our ideas, any one of us would be removed from another band when we start up with "Well, right now it's like this song is a sandwich, and I like the meat, I like the bread, but the condiments aren't zesty enough. Can we add a zestier condiment to this sandwich? Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good sandwich, great even, but you have to balance that heavy meatiness with something tart that cuts through, and we haven’t even begun to discuss the cheese in this sandwich…", and so on. It's probably a very unhealthy musical co-dependent relationship, but at least our Behind The Music special could double as a cooking show.
Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?
The drive to come closer and closer to translating and displaying the different ineffable vision each of us has in their soul, through our tools and joint effort to capture a moment in time that resonates, on a deeper level, with those who listen with receptors open and meet us on the same wavelength. And lots of money. Just silly amounts of it. Jed wants a jetpack.
Sydney, Australia. We have lots of lyrics about the sun. But seriously, there's not a big scene for the heavy/psyche thing here (and there was even less a few years ago), and that's contributed in a couple ways to our sound. The first is if it's not going to be mega-popular anyway, why set boundaries? Song length, structure, and composition rules went out the window, and that's huge, that's who we are, and something we wouldn't have been able to do in the battle-of-the-bands/mixed bill/pub-rock environment. I know that some people feel the weather in some way affects the music, but I’m not sure I buy into that. Some of the most chill desert bands come from Scandinavia, and some of the grimmest frostbitten black metal from sunny South America. The heat here just makes jamming in a room with a bunch of hot tube amps suck.
Where'd the band name come from?
I was trying to find an awesome band name, drenched with meaning and ambiguity by reading the dictionary. Didn't get past "A", but we’re always near the top of alphabetised lists, so we’ve got that going for us.
You have one chance, what movie are you going to write the soundtrack for?
Jed got really excited when I asked him this question, he said whatever Star Wars film is next, he reckons he could make some crushing riffs and whirring space sounds as the perfect backdrop to lasers and spaceships and whatever else (I don’t like Star Wars, but that’s a question for another interview). Personally I would have a crack at 2001. Do away with the symphonic business and get something more psychedelic, and an absolute freakout when he travels into the planet rather than the cat-walking-over-a-synth-controller music it currently has. I’ve thought about this before, we would make awesome music to go with the apes and the monolith and the discovery of tools and everything. In fact I’m offended Kubrick didn’t use his time machine to ask us in the first place. (My theories about Kubrick’s time machine are also content for a later interview).
You now write for a music publication (The Ripple Effect?). You're going to write a 1,000 word essay on one song. Which would it be and why?
Kashmir by Led Zeppelin. A deep examination of how to take two riffs to make a solid minute of a song, and then keep going for a further seven minutes without improving or advancing the song in any meaningful way, and the mercifully ending with, of all things, a fade out, implying that if the studio engineer hadn’t intervened the band would still be there playing those two riffs for eternity, searching for a spare scrap of time which doesn’t already have the word “baby” in it already, and hastily screeching “baby” over that exposed gap, so as to rule out any inconsistencies in style or intent that would otherwise make a fantastic start to a song into anything other than a drudging, repetitive let down. I think your reader numbers at The Ripple Effect might take a slight hit, but these are the hard hitting stories that the people need to hear.
What is you musical intention? What are you trying to express or get your audience to feel?
Everyone in this bad has probably got a different answer for every song. And that's a good thing. As far as an audience, interpretation is very important. There's nothing worse than having a favourite song which perfectly describes the love of your life, every word ringing around your skull like it was written for your very situation, and learning the songwriter wrote it about his childhood dog. Or whatever. So in that regard, it's about whatever you think it's about, and whatever you feel is correct.
Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?
We were playing interstate a few months ago and we booked a room at a hostel, but what we didn't realize is that this particular hostel was in the middle of the business district and mainly frequented by people on business trips who brought their family along. We thought there'd be plenty of young party animals at all hours getting up to all manner hijinks. Instead, when we rock up at 3 in the morning the night clerk actually shushed us for talking too loud, and in the morning we were surrounded by families having breakfast making their children not stare at the table of hungover delinquents trying not to regurgitate their continental breakfast of cereal and orange juice. Not very rock and roll, but very spinal tap.
Tell us about playing live and the live experience for you and for your fans?
Live shows are very important and something I think about ways to improve frequently. To me there’s little point to seeing a band that just plays the songs, and plays them the same way they sound on the record you have at home. We don’t have the lasers and projectors and choreographed light show (yet!) so I like to think we bring a tangible intensity to our shows. Something that makes the fact that this is happening in this place, at this moment, special. We’re not a band you can ignore when you’re in the room, for better or for worse, there’s some tense, raw shit happening on stage, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
A great subjective experience of that song. The right time, place, and mindset. Most of the songs that have stuck in your soul have hit you at a pertinent time, maybe when you were a teenager and most emotionally vulnerable and inexperienced, maybe when some life event happened and then the song resonated with that event and you experienced synchronicity and now the song is inseparably connected to your nostalgia or memories of that event. There’s a million songs with amazing riffs, soaring solos and heartfelt lyrics, but sometimes it’s the four chord folk song that affects you in ways some grand magnum opus never could. I think those elements are often overlooked when we look at the “Best songs of all time” lists or whatever. It has more to do with when it was released and the context of that time than it did with the quality of the song in a lot of cases. You ever shows somebody the Rolling Stones who never heard them before? The songs go over as a giant “meh”, you couldn’t imagine those songs leaving the middle of the act of the local opening band today (my Ripple Effect writer position culling the reader numbers again). So I guess if I had to answer the question in one word, it would be this: Timing.
Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?
Retreat To Space, off our first album was Jed and I jamming for the first time and coming up with that guitar and bass call and response deal. It was originally called Interplanetary Pimping and we were 17 I think. Thankfully we matured just enough to realise how terrible of a name Interplanetary Pimping is.
What piece of your music are particularly proud of?
Of the music we have which is recorded (because the new stuff we’re writing at the moment is going to change the game completely) my pick would be the extended psyche section in Waves. You’ve got acoustics, a sitar, a djembe, two or three lead tracks playing, the rhythm electric, bass, and drums. I just love the depth of those few minutes, the swirling and gurgling cauldron of sound going on there. The idea for those layers and everything, by the way, came from the opening minute of Nebula’s “To The Center”, which a consider to be a masterpiece of “More is More” songwriting.
Who today, writes great songs? Who just kicks your ass? Why?
I could go through all the bands that I like who are making great music but at the moment I’m obsessed with All Them Witches. I think they’re the greatest band in the world today. I listened to Lightning At The Door hundreds of times, and their new release, I actually haven’t been able to listen to all the way through, the thought of finishing it and not actually having more to listen to makes me genuinely anxious. I think they’re changing the game by shunning genre typical clichés and motifs and becoming their own beast, something I think we very much relate to.
Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?
Vinyl, but for non-audio reasons. We have fewer and fewer meaningful rituals these days when everything is accessible with a click, your opinion of agreement can be summed up in a Like on Facebook, and when people are connected more than ever, are having less actual connection with one another and there’s a growing feeling of isolation (I know this is getting heavy, bear with me). Especially in the context of listening to music with friends, rather than the Youtube DJ experience, being able to pull out a physical LP, pass the case to people to have a good look at the art, start up the spinning turntable, and lower the arm and the first few crackles start up. And you can’t just forget about it, this machine is spinning in the room, and each side only goes for a half hour before you have to physically change it means that the music is being listened to with intent. With more focus and a tangible shared experience. I think that is special and I’d ask you to recall the last time you put on an album you liked on Youtube and everyone in the room stopped talking and really soaked it all in, together, for the first time. I think vinyl is a catalyst to shared enjoyment and purpose in listening to music. Digital is easy, vinyl is worth the effort.
Whiskey or beer? And defend your choice.
Beer. Whisky and I haven’t been on speaking terms since The Incident.
We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. What's your home town, and when we get there, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?
In Sydney it would be Red Eye records, there’s reviews written by the staff of a lot of the albums they sell, it’s one of the few places that stocks old, rare, and odd music and attracts old, rare, and odd people, which makes for an atmosphere which is vastly different than a music retail shop. Highly recommended.
What's next for the band?
Touring and writing a new album. The songs are nearing their final draft stages and we’re reading to start hitting the road and spreading the good word wide and far, because with this album, our live show currently, and what we’re working on, things are about to get very interesting indeed.
Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?
Ghandi once said “Be the change you want to see in the world”, and with that in mind I think the obvious thing to do is, when the opportunity first presents itself, purchase the Nadir vinyl from Ripple when it is released (Which will have two new songs on it!), gather some likeminded individuals, and experience the complete album for the first time together. In fact if Ghandi were alive today I’m sure that is explicitly what he would be referring to if he said that. Just food for thought.