Minimum Chips' Melbourne
How does Melbourne influence Minimum Chips?
Julian: Never had a good answer to this one. It’s hard to argue any broad formal relation between music and the city. The city is a beautiful desperate anonymous struggle and also a huge growing pile of accumulated stuff. The idea that any art reflects some kind of spirit of the time or place is bogus. Music influences music. In Melbourne there are heaps of people making music, so heaps of our favourite bands and biggest influences are local; (insert endless list of friends and favourite bands).
In the old days, maybe people sang to each other around the piano at a pub or at home. These days, especially in Melbourne, we sing to each other through bands. Everyone seems to have a band, which is a funny idea when you think about it, but it makes sense and seems like a good idea if you think about music more like a jigsaw puzzle – or like recognising shapes in clouds – than a game of snakes and ladders.
Nicole: That’s something I think about from time to time, and have never really come up with a decent answer. I’m sure it does [influence the music] in a similar way that a person can affect you without you ever really knowing until that moment when something pops out of your mouth, or you strike a pose, or pull a face that you wouldn’t normally, and it makes you stop and think about that person. Living in Melbourne is also a bit like living with a good friend who brings you joy, shares their sadness and secrets, keeps you on your toes, and lets you know in their own special way what you can and can’t get away with.
Ian: Well, I’m kinda partly in agreement with Julian on this, yet I’ve wondered a lot about places and their architecture influencing stuff ... um ... like an obvious comparison between Melbourne and Bris is that up there the walls are paper thin and it’s pretty rare to live somewhere where you can, say, play a drum kit without the neighbours for streets to come hearing it. That and the climate make certain styles seem quite absurd there yet quite sensible elsewhere. But the main influence would be that Melbourne is a place where people move to, if they want to play or even hear music, whereas Brisbane still has the air of ‘So, what else do you do?’ and, like, if you dress a certain way then you might just feel a bit out of place. And this has always been something I miss about Brisbane. It’s like no matter what you do there it’s not going to be a hit, not even with your friends, so you may as well do some weird shit. Some of the best music ever is from there, and no one will ever hear about it. And when I’m away from Melbourne I miss the feeling that you have to do something top shelf or someone else will do it better.
How has Melbourne’s geography or cityscape been reflected in the music coming out of it?
J: Sometimes we sing a little flat, but that may be part of the charm.
N: What Julian said.
Did you ever feel connected to a community or tradition of art pop in Melbourne?
I: Personally, I feel kinda connected to certain traditions/communities (in Melbourne, Bris-oh, and elsewhere, both on the map and off) that are real, in that they exist ‘out there’, but also imaginary at the same time, in that they are dreamed up and talked about by the protagonists and their pals. And in the sense of something Julian said before, it’s such a small community (sitting around the piano-equivalent). So, how many musicians/bands does it take to constitute a tradition, or art movement or whatever? Sometimes I am horrified at the pretentiousness of self-proclaimed ‘traditions’. Then again, to pick a perfectly pretentious comparison, the whole Velvets (and what begat them, and what followed) bunch were simultaneously a part of a grand tradition, and a bunch of wankers singing songs around the piano (so to speak) who somehow convinced us it was more than that. And yet it was/is because they – or others – said so, et cetera.
My parents went to Melbourne and all they got me was this lousy black and white striped t-shirt (a Brisbane gag).
How has Minimum Chips survived with Melbourne?
J: As a rule, not all of Minimum Chips is often here in Melbourne at one time. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. You cannot kill what does not live.
It’s possible to disappear in anonymous Melbourne, which is nice. At other times it has the intimacy and small-worldliness of a village. As a band we are a social animal making noise with the other crickets, but we also need to retreat to our own burrows to survive.
I: The same you would anywhere. It’s been going so long now we couldn’t stop if we tried.
Have you outgrown Melbourne? Do you see yourself outgrowing the city?
J: A goldfish never outgrows its pond. It may wind up in another one for whatever reason, but has no memory and simply adapts.
N: I’ve just got back from being in Brisbane for over a year so, every day is a new day again for me.
I: Times I’ve enjoyed being elsewhere have everything to do with enjoying the anonymity and the ability to at least feel like you’re reinventing yourself, and nothing to do with outgrowing.
Melbourne audiences are infamously bad at dancing ... how do you cope?
J: Alcohol, usually. We’re not a dance band, but would like to be. We’d also like to think our songs can hold the interest of the stationary listener. Heckling’s not a problem ... Nicole does most of it herself.
N: Unfortunately, the only time we get a crowd dancing is during spring racing when random boozed-up people get lost and accidentally wander in off the streets.
I: As a rule, I don’t blame anyone for not dancing (except the bands) and besides, in Melbourne more than anywhere there’s the possibility that five seconds after the band has finished there’ll be a packed dance floor and excellent danceable music being DJ’d. I am dismayed that most live music experiences are more like standing around in church than going out to dance (like arguably going to ‘see’ a band once was) but we as a band are as guilty as anyone for furthering that kind of culture.
Do the number of venues outweigh the number of competing bands?
J: Are you saying there are too many venues? The idea of bands competing is a funny one. Let’s return to the goldfish analogy. Assuming the fish are generally good-natured, the critical thing seems to be not the size of the pond or number of fish, but how often the water is changed. Venues should make sure they have good air turnover and keep their toilets clean.
N: We’re a bit out of touch with the ratio of bands to venues, but it seems to be always getting better, there’s always a new venue opening up somewhere and there’s always a new band starting up somewhere. Some of them seem to be very in-tune with each other and have similar life spans, so there never seems to be any issues.
I: Um, what the others said. There are people in Melbourne, and elsewhere, who continue to demonstrate that if there’s something actually exciting happening, word will get out and people will go wherever to be a part of it.
Does a band have to be on the ‘east coast’ to be successful?
J: Maybe if they’re playing snakes and ladders.
N: A lot of my favorite bands are from Perth, but they all moved to Melbourne, so yes and no. If you want to be good you do your time in Perth and try and pick up the vibes that go on over there, and when you’re vibed out come over to the east coast and amaze everyone.
I: What Nic said.