Track By Track: Split Seconds
As if his songwriting wasn’t enough, SEAN POLLARD truly proves his observational chops while exploring at length the everyday scenes behind songs on Split Seconds’ ‘You’ll Turn Into Me’.
I had a lot of jobs in Perth since I finished high school in 2002. The first one was washing taxis at 4 in the morning at the Midway taxi rank on Oxford Street. I was working for a guy named Tony who always wore a Home Improvement cap under his hooded jumper. He was a bit of a prick sometimes, but mostly seemed like a nice sort; you'd imagine him kicking back with his massive Italian family on Sundays smashing gnocchi. I remember it being a good job because I was done by 7 am, at which point I'd go play golf at Collier Park golf course in South Perth with my mate Vernon. I also manned the docks Frank Sobotka-style at Myer, worked construction once, flicked DVDs at Video Ezy for a while and eventually moved into administration working for the Rottnest Island Authority.
Then I travelled for a while and landed back home at Royal Perth Hospital, working for a bunch of super nice social workers. One afternoon my friend Adam James and I were skiving off (he also worked at Royal Perth and coincidentally had also been at Myer and Video Ezy) in the café next door and discussing how odd it was that all these qualified types – people who spent years at uni and are now doctors, nurses and psychologists – are forced to put crazy, daily amounts of faith in people like me to run their lives at work. RPH was the kind of job in which, if I fucked up a document, someone could get the wrong medication or miss a crucial appointment. And the only training I had was how to wash the crud from the top of a taxi.
‘All You Gotta Do’
I knew a girl who was living in a house out near the Leach Highway, and her housemate had one of those ‘27 club’ wall mounts with Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain on it – the kind you'd see on the back wall of St Vincent de Paul. One time we watched In Bruges. My housemates and I were living on Charles Street in North Perth at the same time. We had this 'shit shirt' party (pretty self-explanatory) and the lass brought over the guy from Philadelphia Grand Jury, who were in town for shows. Nobody really knew why she'd brought him, but he was a nice guy and seemed to get along with everyone. We didn't know if he knew about the theme or not: his shirt could've gone either way. I have vivid memories of waking up the next morning to the chaos of a destroyed house – shit EVERYWHERE – and asking myself what had happened and not really being able to locate my moral compass.
I used to live out in Bayswater with my girlfriend of the time and some other housemates – this would have been the summer of 2010. It's this big, lovely house that her sister and her husband bought a few years back before they moved overseas. There's an actual white picket fence. This was just after I quit at RPH, when the band was first starting to do okay and I wanted to focus a little bit on writing the record. So my life became almost exactly like that Dan Kelly song 'I Will Release Myself (Unto You)', in which he paints himself as a fairly useless protagonist who spends his days waiting for his much more successful and motivated girlfriend to come home from work while he sleeps in and lies around on her Ken Done quilt. I'd barely register her leaving for work in the morning and then spend all day in this self-obsessed haze, listening to Blur, worrying and feeling guilty about being way too lazy to do any housework or make an effort on any of the things that would score me the boyfriend points I sorely needed at the time.
We bought a cat too. This crazy, amazing critter we called Batty who could not be tamed, no matter what we tried. I spent a lot of my days hanging out with Batty, trying in vain to keep her inside so she wouldn't chase a butterfly across the road or something. When we were recording ‘Maiden Name’ in the studio (I remember Rhys [Davies] playing the guitar riff when my phone rang), I got a call [to] let me know that Batty had chased a butterfly across the road and been hit by a car. (She actually lived, but unfortunately did the same thing again on Boxing Day last year.) ‘Maiden Name’ is actually about a family drama that I fabricated based on some stories I heard from a mate at the pub, but I'll never hear it again without thinking of poor old mate Batty.
I lived in London for about 10 months back in 2008/09, just before things got started with Split Seconds. I lived with a revolving cast of Australian characters (although there was one Spanish girl), many of whom are good friends to this day. We were in a house in Kensal Green, which is about 15 minutes up the Bakerloo line right near Queens Park, and used to go to this pub in Soho called the John Snow. The pub sold ridiculously cheap pints and was apparently named for the chap who discovered cholera. I went there one time around Christmas with my friend Joe McKee, had a few too many and ended up ditching scissors (don't ask me where we got scissors) at the gigantic inflatable snowmen that hung above Carnaby Street. Christ knows what we would've done if we had popped one, and the irony of trying to destroy snowmen with Joe has dawned on me since, but I guess at the time it just seemed like a bit of reckless abandon.
On the way home I hopped on a double decker and, as I always did to get a good view, went to the top deck. I was alone up there with a couple of European backpackers, seemingly fresh from Heathrow with bags and labels and whatnot. In my state I didn't really notice much of anything going on, but it eventually dawned on me that they were actually having sex on the back seat of the bus. I remember thinking it was a shame, because the streets of London looked nice that time of year. That was ‘Top Floor’.
When I was in London looking for a job, I found this ad on Gumtree asking for musicians to play a residency. It seemed like a good opportunity, so I replied and eventually got an email back from a guy named Carlos who informed me that the gig was actually on the Portuguese coast and that I had the job if I wanted it. So I thought to myself "Why not?", booked my Easy Jet flight for two weeks’ time and started working on a repertoire of three hours. I flew on Grand Final Day 2008; I touched down to a text from my Mum letting me know that, unbelievably, the Hawks had won. Carlos met me at the airport and proceeded to drive at about 150kph all the way to Albufeira, which would be my home for the next month. He kept saying, "We are good here, we are all good here," as if something had gone wrong in the past. We had an espresso in his bar (Sir Harry's), he showed me my accommodation (a room above another pub across the road), said "See you tonight, we are all good.”
I took to the gig that first night as if it were a regular show. As in, eight songs is half an hour. Turns out it doesn't really work that way when you're playing really fast and have to fill three, so I eventually had to play my whole set twice. Nobody noticed. The bar itself was an English-themed place, which would fill up every night with the English-themed people using Albufeira as a holiday base. I've never seen more Premier League games than I did when I was there. I spent most of my days swimming, trying to learn Oasis songs and reading Stephen King novels that I'd bought from the only shop in town that sold books written in English.
Carlos would regularly disappear from the pub at about 3 am – apparently to drive into Lisbon (an hour and a half away) to "have the good time." He invited me once but, being a bit of a wuss, I declined. Every now and then he'd sit with me after I'd soundchecked and talk about his girlfriend, who was a dancer back in Lisbon. He said she'd "been with many men" – but he was the one. One time he said he'd love to get her pregnant. I swear that's what he said – "I would love to get her pregnant" – in this thick European accent, and I started thinking about that eventuality. About how he'd almost definitely be estranged from this poor kid, and how he just seemed to like the idea of possessing her through the most ancient technique imaginable.
‘Fill The Cannons’
I lived in this house for a while in West Perth, on a street called Prospect Place, with a guy named Matt, who was learning to play the violin. It was this weird rectangular shape with a big patio thing out the back and wooden floorboards. A few of my friends had lived there before me and when they moved out, I begged them to take over the lease because I was so in love with the house. We had a housewarming party that our mutual friend Mike turned up to. Mike started rifling through the kitchen, eventually finding a pizza maker and becoming immediately determined to make homemade pizza things. He kept screaming, "My only aim is deliciousness!" The day after was a Saturday, the night that Nick Riewoldt tore his hammy to the bone in a game against Geelong. I was listening to the football on the radio when it happened and was struck by how solemn and funereal the commentators were about it. Then I sat down and wrote a song about a combat photographer who was scared of bullets.
The first ever girl I had a real crush on (if you don't count Gwen Stefani circa ‘Don't Speak’) was named Amanda. She went to my primary school and her best friend was named Rebecca. One day, out of absolutely nowhere, my best mate Jacob and I decided that we wanted girlfriends and that Amanda and Rebecca were the ones we'd go for. I recall it didn't actually matter who got who – so long as we both ended up with girlfriends. We ran into a pretty immediate problem when we found out that Amanda was going out with a cool guy named Josh. We weren't particularly cool, so we decided that the only way to fix the situation was to give up and start hating Josh from afar, never telling him about it but always assuming that he knew. That the fact that Sean and Jacob hated him so much was keeping him up all hours of the night, crying about how he couldn't hang out with us.
We'd wander over to Gosnells Football Oval, which was across the road from my house, sit in the grandstand and plot poor Josh's downfall. Hours on end. How dare he steal the lovely Amanda from us – on the very day we had decided she'd be one of our girlfriends? I was reminded of all this recently when my mum told me she'd seen Jacob at the local shops and that he wanted to come down to a show to say hi. He hasn't turned up yet, but I'm hoping when he does we can reminisce about Amanda and Rebecca and Josh and I can tell him I wrote a song about our childhood so he can feel awkward while I perform it at the pub.
‘She Makes Her Own Clothes’
Our friend Steve Bond runs a studio on Stirling Street in Highgate called Cazfair Studios. I hope he doesn't mind me telling everyone that he got the name from his ICQ handle. Sorry Steve. Cazfair is a bit of a hub for Perth indie bands and, I think, a hugely underrated part of Perth's music history. The majority of The Panics’ A House On A Street..., The Bank Holidays' first EP and second album, Snowman's first mini album and heaps more were all put together at Cazfair. We did our first EP there too. The house itself is just your average Highgate share house, but the magic in the studio was how you did vocals in Steve's bedroom, drums in the lounge room and almost always had to stop at 5:30 for happy hour at the Flying Scotsman down the road. Most of the Panics guys have lived there and so have three of the members of our band, including me for about six months.
I don't think I was living at Cazfair at the time, but there was one day when I'd finished work and was on my way to visit Steve for a few beers. You can actually set your watch to turning up at that joint to a smiling Steve on the porch, Guinness in hand, ready for a chat. So I was on the bus when out of nowhere the biggest storm in two decades hits the Perth CBD. Massive downpours and huge hail stones just falling out of the sky, denting the shit out of cars unlucky enough to be driving around. My bus was headed down Beaufort Street when it arrived and, needless to say, we had to stop. There was a river in the road in front of us now and heavy rain outside, so we didn't really have a choice but to just sit there and wait it out. Highgate is a pretty nice suburb in parts, but Stirling Street is pretty well renowned for its hookers. They never really bother anyone, but you'd be hard pressed to wander down that street at night and not see one or two ladies leaning into car windows. As we sat in that bus, with my arm propping up my face to the window, I saw one of these ladies braving the elements. Umbrella in hand, fur coat on. Just off a side street up rolls a wet Merc; she leans into the window, has a word and off they go. A few people have accused me of making that up, but I swear it's true.
‘Some Of Us’
St George's Terrace in the Perth CBD is supposedly the second windiest street in the world. I stayed at a hotel there once, during the short-lived One Movement for Music Festival in Perth. It's weird staying at a hotel in your hometown, but also interesting because you get the chance to see it through the eyes of a tourist. I was there at that particular time as my girlfriend was working for the events company responsible for sending hundreds of music industry delegates to Perth for the festival. There were guys from Canada, America, Ireland – all these massively powerful industry blokes and ladies who had taken the opportunity to get a bit of time in the sun in Perth. One Movement was great for us and I think Stonefield were asked to play at Glastonbury as a result, but mainly as I sat in the Hyatt Hotel, looking out the window and watching all the folk with lanyards rush around, I thought about Perth and how young and small and lovely it really is. So I wrote ‘Some of Us’, which is a song with four sections for four streets in Perth: Adelaide Terrace, St George's Terrace, Hay Street and Riverside Drive.
‘You’ll Turn Into Me’
I went to high school in Subiaco on a scholarship to play the clarinet. I'd grown up about 45 minutes away in Gosnells and my sister had gone up to Perth Modern on a similar scholarship, so it was natural for me to try and follow. I was okay at the clarinet, but I never really had any particular drive or talent for it. My personal teacher (he taught all the clarinet kids) was a fellow named Neil Boon. He was this funny, hugely kind man who had been at the school forever. He always claimed to have written the Louie the Fly theme, but we could never tell if he was messing with us or not. We got along well and I always got the feeling he liked me. I remember we found some weird common ground when Radiohead got Humphrey Lyttleton to do some instrumentation for that fancy final track on Amnesiac.
Eventually the social side of high school became way more important than playing the clarinet and I just kind of stopped going to lessons. The individual lesson part of the music program was pretty important and, since I never turned up, I counted on failing it completely. Every time I'd get my reports though, Mr Boon would just give me a B-. This was the first example of getting away with it. The first time reality got the better of expectation. But time is a gift and we do have time on our wrists. That's ‘You'll Turn Into Me’.
‘You’ll Turn Into Me’ is out now through Quelle Barbe/Inertia. Read Jen Peterson-Ward’s review. Split Seconds will play support on the below dates of Oh Mercy's tour, which M+N is presenting. More dates here.
Fri, Sep 21 - The Zoo, Brisbane, QLD
Sat, Sep 22 - Joe's Waterhole, Sunshine Coast, QLD
Fri, Oct 5 - Norfolk Hotel, Fremantle, WA
Sat, Oct 6 - Bakery, Perth, WA
Fri, Oct 12 - The Loft, Warnambool, VIC
Sat, Oct 13 - Karova Lounge, Ballarat, VIC
Fri, Oct 19 - Bended Elbow, Geelong, VIC
Thurs, Oct 25 - The Hi Fi, Melbourne, VIC