Souls On Board: 24 Hour Interview
Rock and roll. Smoky pubs, gaffer tape, drinking, lights in your eyes, tinnitus and sweat. So why is it two in the afternoon on a brilliant winter’s day and I’m sitting on a lakeside bench with SOULS ON BOARD frontman Anthony Petrucci watching small children row past in canoes. In Daylesford, writes MARCUS TEAGUE.
SOULS ON BOARD are a new band technically but have a genesis that dates back to the late 90’s, when Anthony and drummer Brent Lockwood (also of the Specimens) found themselves living together in a sharehouse in Seaford on the Mornington peninsula. Playing parties, rehearsing and generally fucking around in a house where instruments were second only to food, a link was formed. Friends and other local musicians moved away and over time the two found themselves back up in the big smoke. In 2003 Anthony had started to play solo under the SOB moniker, whilst at home he was piecing together fragments and demos of what would become SOULS ON BOARD’S first EP. Soon Brent was recruited back into the fold to help lay down drums, bass and to throw ideas around with. From then on a friend of Brent’s Jono Guy was asked to help build on basslines the two had figured out, and finally at the tail end of the EP Mark Campbell entered the fold to play keys and bits of guitar.
The culmination of all this is their debut self-titled EP produced by industry legend Tony Cohen. An encouraging debut release that’s imbued with wiry adrenalin and an urgency that sounds like good ideas shaved off other songs and pieced together like slivers of old soap; a mixing pot of ideas that creates a new whole, and set to a thunderous backbeat, Yamaha keys and tense guitar lines. But at the basis for all this hubris lies a pop band at heart.
Title: 24 Hour Interview or A Pat Down From Your Grandpa
Starring: Souls on Board: aka: Anthony Petrucci, Brent Lockwood, Jono Guy, Mark Campbell
Location: Melbourne, St.Kilda, Daylesford
Theme: The Experiment
Reason: No good one.
8am – The task. My alarm goes off. Once the task begins there is no lightness of being for the task has been set and is this: spend 24 hours with a rock band. In a row.
9am – I knock on the door of Anthony Petrucci’s house in North Carlton and am summoned into the living room of the captain and chief map-maker for SOULS ON BOARD. The house is your usual cheaply rent, inner city single terrace; magazine cut outs taped to the walls, ironic record sleeves and knick knacks taking up most available space. One room holds a small home studio and an array of musical instruments; another an array of linen. Unfortunately this house also holds me. Awake too early.
10am – We shuffle into a café for breakfast at a nearby cafe, and I place my mini disc recorder in the centre of the table in the hope it acts like some conversational talisman; attracting intelligence and insight where there is none. After two coffees and much blinking it begins. ‘Back to bed?’ Anthony suggests.
M+N: How have you described yourselves in the press release for the new EP?
A: (Our label) Low Transit industries described things that basically I think are true, that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
A: Tense…rabid guitar. Drug-addled pop...which, y’know sounds a bit daggy…but most of those things do. But mainly the mixture of elements, which I really hope is coming through. The guitars have been called ‘staccato bursts’ and the keys ‘ethereal and droning’ which…I like the mix because I think it’s what makes music interesting.
M+N: You could word what you do and be correct and yet it would come off sounding like this current crop of disco-punk. Cause you could say ‘wiry guitar, driving rhythms, keys’ and you’d think it was The Rapture or something.
A: Yeah I definitely thought about that, especially using that Yamaha keyboard. Thinking that alone would make people think we were an 80’s rehash, but we don’t sound like that.
M+N: No you don’t.
A: But when you describe that line up, it suggests we’re cashing in or something. But we don’t sound like that stuff at all. Maybe because I don’t really listen to modern music or the radio at all.
A: I never listen to the radio. I find I get very swayed or…I’ve only ever heard At the Drive-In and the Mars Volta live and yet people say we sound like them.
M+N: I think that’s lazy journalism. I think people only say that because you look more like them than you sound like them.
A: I’d only really ever seen them at the Big Day Out, but once people said that I couldn’t really listen to them. It’s sort’ve why I stopped listening to radio. About 5 years ago I consciously thought I can’t listen to this anymore. Because I couldn’t help that my approach to writing would then change. I felt like it was going away from my own style or own thoughts. What I do intuitively. So I don’t listen to the radio. I probably should cause I could hear new things and find them inspiring but I find I don’t even want that inspiration. I find I get enough from outside music. And I figure the really good stuff I’m going to hear anyway. Passed on through friends or something.
11pm- We return to Anthony’s at a bit of loss at what to do with our time, daunted with the effort ahead. ‘I’m concerned well get to like 4am and you’ll be staggering around going ‘ah lets just go home and say we didn’t’ says Anthony. And he’s right. This kind of thing isn’t supposed to be planned; you’re supposed to leave yourselves open to random kidnappings, friends walking by with LSD, burning buildings, angry villagers. ‘How about we go to Daylesford?’ Ok.
12pm – The drive between Melbourne and Daylesford is for the most part, crushingly depressing. Miles of new suburban housing estates bunched together like spreading sores, an ocean of monotone tiled rooftops that barely stand apart. Dull signage that say things like ‘Melton – Victoria’s newest most liveable city’ next to a fast food outlet. After an age we finally we hit the green farmlands that lie beyond this bleak oasis and propel ourselves forward. Talk turns to self-promotion and using the internet:
A: It’s hard. Because each gig there might be a few people that really like it, they might come up and say they like it. And I just feel like a bit of a fool saying ‘Oh can I get your email.’ Y’know I just like talking. The other night at the Northcote Social Club I said something like ‘Oh yeah we’ve got cd’s for sale over there if you’re interested’ but…it generally just feels fake. We played the other night at the duke and when we went on the band before us had left their setlists on stage, and between songs it said one of the band members names and next to it ‘Talk about cd and email list,’ then three more songs it had a different guy and ‘Discuss upcoming gigs.’ Then the last had another guy’s name and ‘Mention email list again.’ It made me extremely angry to read that. Really angry. I don’t know which band it was cause I didn’t know their songs or names. I guess it was a valid approach if you’re wanting to make money from this thing but it’s not a very valid approach if you wanna perform.
M+N: You wouldn’t think you’d have that presence of mind.
A: Even if it means people take a little longer to track that stuff down. I think it’s better that you don’t mention it.
M+N: If people are interested enough they’ll find out anyway.
A: It’s that thing of making it easy for people. Like television ads. Y’know ‘This is really good!’ ‘Oh. Ok.
M+N: It’s interesting that thing of wanting to make it easier for people versus wanting them to have their own perseverance towards something.
A: It’s cause you’d like to think they’d persevere.
1pm – On the outskirts of Daylesford we see a GARAGE SALE sign nailed to a tree and decide to reverse back for a look. This experiment dictates we need to remain secondary to what’s happening around us, but aware of possibilities; moments of interest need to be dwelled upon not overlooked. This is a good start. Down the end of a winding dirt road and driveway we’re met by a lady resembling a Mad Max extra, surrounded by dilapidated house hold items; toilet seats, wicker chairs, odd maps and huge ancient architectural drawings. On learning Anthony’s a musician she goes on to explain how she used to be a noise musician in the 80’s in Melbourne, knew Tex Perkins and the like….but now has moved up here to record in her mud-brick studio and make as much noise as she likes. We haggle over one of the beautiful big drawings but she won’t separate them. Another car begins up the driveway and we pick our moment to get away.
2pm – We have a brief lunch at a coffee shop where the hippie-ish proprietor is arguing amusingly with another young hippie. Eerily, every other customer is elderly. We order more coffee and sandwiches wondering if their argument is about their soon to be redundant clientele. Soon we’re walking down towards the lake where there sits a bookshop, a teahouse and a million kids with their parents/grandparents. Seriously it seems that people come to this town to spawn, die or tie-die.
3pm – Lakeside at Daylesford. Children. Canoes. Relaxed. The sun is shining, willows are weeping and paddlers are paddling. Kids are crying and it’s about as far away from gaffer stuck beer-soaked carpet as possible. We walk around the lake and try to hire a rowboat but no good. Too many fucking kids have got ‘em. This task is breathing down our neck and despite the lush surroundings, ice cream, and sunshine, a creeping nausea at having to document it all bubbles in the gut.
M+N: So I should think of some questions.
A: favourite colour.
M+N: what’s your favourite colour?
A: it’s blue.
M+N: what kind of blue? Navy? Sky?
A+N: it would be a brighter blue so like a sky. But any blue.
M+N: I like blue.
A: favourite type of music…the blues.
M+N: what kind of movies do you like?
A: the blues brothers.
M+N: blue movies?
M+N: So how’ve your shows been lately?
A: We’ve been sort’ve all over the place with playing with different bands. I’m finding we don’t really fit into a scene or anything, or play with a bunch of bands regularly. I think it’s good not to. The only thing that would be good about it would be getting along with other bands and having fun, that’s what I enjoy.
M+N: Would the band go overseas?
A: Yeah definitely I want to get over there as soon as possible.
M+N: Do you think the others would?
A: Yeah definitely. Something that’s always in the back of my head is relocating. Once we get a little established here. Cause I think I’d be really pissed off growing old here. When there’s all that opportunity to go and see things. Not just go and do a few shows but a few years. You can always come back and I think the music really lends itself to being overseas. I feel it would go well, maybe a bit better than here. Maybe I would just like to think that because I want to be overseas.
5pm – Daylesford is getting tiring. I understand now why there’s so many Bed & Breakfasts here. Shops selling tea cakes nestle between hardware stores, bearded hippies mingle with silver-haired grandmothers pawning Coca-Cola retro clocks, next to amethyst stone’s and palm readings. Anthony and I enquire about him getting his palm read thinking it’d spice up the task, only to be told it costs $80. A lady at the counter is seriously enquiring as to why her stones don’t work. Everything’s white and it smells like the elderly. The car hums along the highway.
6pm – The only noteworthy event on the way home is seeing a sad, hand drawn poster for a lost horse in a servo. With an arrow pointing out specifically its grazed knee. You remember in these sort’ve places that no-one outside of a 10 kilometre radius of the CBD really gives a shit about your band. There are farms to run, scones to bake and horses to find. We unceremoniously arrive back at Anthony’s to begin loading his car with equipment.
7pm – Brent’s house is just off Brunswick St in Fitzroy. A two storey, five bedroom terrace filled with muso friends, creaking archways, cracks in the floorboards and drums and amps stacked in the hallway. Brent himself is the laconic and gangly drummer for SOULS ON BOARD, THE SPECIMENS as well as being Anthony’s longtime collaborator. Once his car is loaded up with equipment we start the drive towards the Espy in St.Kilda, where they’re playing tonight. The tape in the stereo is of some ridiculous country singer whining out songs of lust. ‘When your body’s hard and I’m a man / and I’m laying flat out on the floor/ and you think I’ve loved you all I can / I’m gonna love you a little bit more.’ The floor smells like petrol.
8pm – The gear is loaded into the back of the espy, and we head out the front to sit at the top of the stairs. It’s fucking cold and our conversation and beer sipping is broken by the occasional tram shrieking around the corner past the Esplanade. Brent comes out with a jug of beer and joins us.
M+N: What do you do for a job?
Brent: Maintenance. At Princess Park.
M+N: What, like the footy?
B: No all the areas around it, around the entire park. But I haven’t been working there long.
M+N: Is it good?
B: Well I like outdoor work, plus I work with really old guys. They set the benchmark, I follow the benchmark. Which is real laid back. They pick something up and go (scratches, looks around) …pick something else up. Easy.
9pm – The bands have started but the going is tough. It’s PBS’ annual Anzac Day Anarchy, but whether it’s the freezing cold or just the Monday night factor, the turnout is sparse. ‘It’s shocking how many people are here’ says Brent dryly. The other band members Jono and Mark arrive and join us. Food is had and rounds of beer are beginning to appear. Conversation turns to the fact that we’re only at the halfway point of this god-forsaken experiment. ‘It’s more about your state of mind during the 24 hours I guess’ suggests Brent. I say I don’t know whether to have just a long interview or shoot my mouth off about the night.
M+N: Are you excited about your new EP coming out?
A: I’ve been talking all day. I’ve had enough.
Mark: I don’t give an opinion without Anthony’s approval.
M+N: Did you play on it Mark?
Mark: I play one note.
A: No you played many notes.
Brent: All at once.
M+N: Well that’s all you need for your name in the credits. Brent did you record the drums to 4-track?
M+N: Didn’t it sound like shit?
Jono: The high-hat sounded like a deodorant can spraying. (laughs) PSSSSSST!!
A: Which is ironic considering Brent hasn’t showered today.
B: And also refuses to wear deodorant.
10pm – SOULS play in the front bar. The band is tight and throwing themselves into it, and it feels like night has started proper. But despite a crowd gathering and them being FUCKING LOUD…it’s palpably underwhelming in here. Non-weekend nights are difficult enough without it being at the end of a three day weekend.
11pm – Another band sets up and plays. We swing in and out of the venue keeping an eye on the stage, as the crowds, walls and lights begin to fuzz at the edges. I have a red bull out the front while someone who saw SOULS at the Melbourne Big Day Out pesters them about whether they need a film clip done for them. Band talk of who was too loud on stage, playing times and the guy up front who appeared to be waving a camera at Anthony’s crotch.
12pm – The last band plays. Jono has left and Brent has evidently decided he needs to be sober for work tomorrow. The pub is a bit empty. Words are blending together, stretching out, staring back at us. We play pool out in the back room til we’re kicked out. It’s really, really fucking cold, and we tighten our collars as we head around towards Fitzroy street and hopefully some warmth.
M+N: So on a scale of 1 – 10 was it a good gig?
Mark: It was good. An 8.
Anthony: Yeah it was 8, I would agree with that. I think we did really well with what we had.
Mark : It felt like we pulled an audience from a crowd that looked like they didn’t want to commit.
M+N: It felt like the night ‘started’ a bit.
A: Well that’s very kind.
M+N: Well that’s my job.
Mark: It seemed like that once we finished people kind of left…and it wasn’t their fault we were just so loud by the end.
Anthony: People needed a sit down, a rest.
Mark: They needed a little bit of a…a pat down from their grandpa.
A: (laughs) We need to put that in our press release. ‘After you see us live you’ll need a pat down from your grandpa’
1am – We walk. We may have wrestled a bit. The Prince Of Wales public bar is emanating sweet, warm light and we head inside. It’s a bit sedate in the main room so we head around to the gay bar where the music is pounding and the masses are making party. Conspicuously enough, here in the loudest pocket of the night we have our most intense and meaningful conversations, while Destiny’s Child masks our ever slurring speeches.
M: Yeah so Augie March have a song...and it’s about a prince that is doing a little bit better than he should in theory. But…
A: I think my weeping moment is when he sings ‘His father misses him, his mother misses him, his girlfriend dreams of kissing him’…I weep! And the way the music dips when he says kissing him.
M: I fucken love everything they do. My biggest musical influences are Augie March and Elliot Smith.
A: Have you heard Mark play by himself? It’s really good.
M+N: No I didn’t realise he did.
A: He’s really good, but he’s very down on himself.
Mark: Cause I suck at it.
Mark: I’m not confident in it. I say I suck so people like Anthony will say I’m good. Ha.
M+N: So are you going to release a solo album?
Mark: (mockingly) well I mean if I can find time around SOULS.
A: Yeah you’re going to go solo and clean up!
Mark: You’re just saying that so I leave SOULS ON BOARD and leave you alone for the rest of your life.
A: (laughter) You’re going to take us to the cleaners.
Mark: (To M+N) So you’re stuck with us for at least 7 more hours. You poor bastard. You have sacrificed yourself to journalism.
A: What it feels like is that we’re having fun but the interviewer is going through hell. That’s what I feel like.
M+N: Note to self: Scratch the last ten minutes.
A: Note to M+N: Scratch Mark.
2am – We head out of the prince with a stranger in tow. Mary. Mary has latched onto us and suggests another bar back towards Acland Street that’s probably open. We walk the four of us in arctic winds and behold she’s right. It’s sparse enough inside that we can plant ourselves loudly in a corner and get away with our ever-increasing volume. Scotch and dry. Even more beer. The first time of the night that I wonder what it would be like to not stay out any longer but say I did, and I make the decision to abandon the mini disc from here on in. A tired waiter comes over to say they close at 3am, and if we need to order more drinks then to do it now. We do.
3am – Being a public holiday on a Monday evening and with any bars of repute in St.Kilda town firmly closed for the night, we take the only sensible avenue open to an intoxicated group of humans drained of feeling and emotion: The Casino. Anthony immediately sets to the blackjack tables while Mark and Mary veer wildly about my periphary like marbles on a dashboard. Far from a wild more intoxicating extension of the night before it, the atmosphere in here is like a vacuum to the soul. Shiny faces grimace under the card table and pokie lights while crooked pathways lead us deeper into the bowels of the monstrosity. No cameras are allowed in this den, but I take a photo of the others down by my side for posterity. Later I find that as in many Indigenous culture’s belief’s that the act of taking a photo in a sacred place rapes your soul, it doesn’t work out.
4am – The girl behind the bowling counter is not impressed as we clumsily trade our street shoes for those of the bowling lane. Someone heads off to grab more drinks while we barely punch in fake names on the computer screen and start sending heavy orbs of plastic at breakneck speed down the lane. Why a bowling lane would need to be open at 4am on a Monday morning has always been a mystery to me but now its secret blossoms. Deprived of any well-being, care or sense; thrashing your body around upon a polished wood floor is really really fun. A bitter battle starts up between us four, as our self-inflicted handicap puts everyone on an even keel. With the walls slowly and incrementally blending in colour all around us while we bowl, it soon feels like we’ve placed ourselves inside a pin ball game, inside a concrete mixer that’s just reversed into the tube at the start of Dr.Who. Pieces of paper will show that Anthony’s name had more numbers next to it in the end, but overall a unanimous victory.
5am – Arguments have been had. A second game is played while someone wanders into the maze of video games looking for food. Schooners of beer are left half full on the ball rack. We take off our shoes and manage to swap them whilst asking the girl behind the counter to print out our scores. It’s a fucking mess and we know it and we’re ashamed but then she works here and this is what she does. On the way out we see a sailor standing on his own staring at an unmanned patisserie counter, pining for something warm and delicate to get his hands on. Next to him is a cleaner with a 15 foot pole trying to scrape off someone’s jelly hand-slapper from the escalator wall. The Casino.
6am – The sun is rising outside. I dunno about anyone else but my eyes are pretty much gummed shut. Every sensation in my body has been turned down to a factor of one and sound comes into my head like from underwater. We get a useless coffee. We can barely move. A street sweeper goes past reminding us we’re on Southbank and I wonder who the people are that come to these places. Like house music in clothes shops, TV shows with cash prizes and frosted hair, people accept it because ‘It’s there’. For no real reason other than they’re sure someone else has qualified it. There are fairy lights in the trees as the sun comes up and a flicker of thought says it’s pretty.
7am – Mark has disappeared under the Flinders Street underpass, Mary…I have no idea. Anthony and I are aiming for the first tram home. I try and wonder what my time in the last 24 hours has meant, whether it’s revealed anything about the band or even the experiment that we’ve put ourselves through. But all I can concentrate on not falling asleep. Commuters and street sweepers are out and the day begins springing to life, in spite of us preventing the one before it from happening. We have absolutely nothing to say to each other; can’t even really look at each other. A newspaper headline has the aftermath of a sports event, and we realise that we have been awake before the game involved, during it, while the stories were written, printed, pressed and delivered…and we’re still not home. A hot air balloon drifts over the city. Birds chirp. The smell of bread rolls being made. Empty trams roll past us and we are absolutely numb.
8am – Steps. Key. Door. Clothes.