Citizenship: The Laurels
The Australian Government isn’t the only entity that puts people through a rigorous cross-examination to prove their loyalty to a bunch of stars and a Union Jack. Each week at M+N, we make an Australian act kiss the flag by asking them questions about their favourite local acts: who they’ve been listening to recently, their underground heroes, or whether they prefer Tame Impala or Pond.
Taking the test this week is Kate Wilson from Sydney shoegazers The Laurels, who recently released their debut EP Mesozic some five years after forming. The Laurels are one of 80 artists taking part in September’s BIGSOUND Live in Brisbane. The band are also embarking on an eight-date national tour with Richard In Your Mind this month. Dates here.
a. Why’s it taken so long for your EP to come out?
A number of reasons. The studio losing its premises halfway through recording was a big one; overdubs and finishing touches had to be scheduled in between day jobs; Jon Hunter’s housemates being home [Hunter recorded the EP]; and all sorts of those other kind of things that pop up. When it was finally finished we were in such a state of awed shock we didn’t really know what to do with it for a while.
b. Is an album in the works?
Yes, and we can’t wait to make it. We’re aiming to slice a number of years off the turnaround time.
c. Will this be your first BIGSOUND?
d. Any expectations?
The other day, in my considerable excitement, I downloaded the BIGSOUND iPhone app which is telling us we can expect 11 people at the show.
Part 1. Geography
a. Tell us about your hometown.
We’re all originally from different places: Piers is from Perth, Luke from Wollongong, Conor from Canberra and Kate from Sydney. We had a poster a few months ago that said, “The Laurels! Direct from Lewisham!” I guess Lewisham is the band’s home. There’s a bit of town pride, anyway. For those unaware, Lewisham is a small suburb in Sydney’s inner west. Highlights are probably the fact the station has vending machines (rare!) and the secret rainforest in the suburb’s extensive drain system. On a more musical level, it’s home to Laughing Outlaw Records, and there used to be this awesome graffiti that said “The Vines” in metre-tall letters at the train station. This was before they were famous, so I assume it was done by someone in the band.
b. Name your favourite bands from your neck of the woods.
That I know of, East River and The Holy Soul also fly the Lewisham flag.
c. Where’s your local and what’s it like?
The Huntsbury is a great, no-nonsense affair. Well-priced drinks, friendly staff, nice beer garden, footy’s shown, pub food, pool tables, jukebox full of classics. It has a solid contingent of older barflies, who were recently the subject of a photographic exhibition, Regulars, by a very talented friend of ours, Lyndal Irons. The pub paid for the printing and framing of these wonderful portraits, put on a big launch party, and currently has them hanging along the entrance corridor. I really love that this pub has such reverence for its patrons.
Part 2. History
a. Which Australian bands did you grow up listening to?
Anyone and everyone who’d play all ages shows. Favourites included Tumbleweed, The Meanies, You am I, Drop City, Magic Dirt, Sidewinder, Even. I was pretty obsessed with Half A Cow’s roster, which led to the discovery of some older groups like Ratcat and The Hummingbirds too. It’s nice to see most of these guys still going!
b. What’s the first Australian record you bought?
Frenzal Rhomb’s ‘Sorry about the Ruse’ 7” was probably the first I bought, at a gig in a youth centre in Blacktown on a Sunday night. In the interests of full disclosure, I did receive the Badloves’ ‘Get on Board’ for Xmas prior to this. Both are autographed and still sit in my collection.
c. Who’s your favourite Australian band/artist of all time?
I realise I should be writing the name of a “critically acclaimed rock legend” in this space, but I’ve considered Sounds Like Sunset my favourite Australian band for so many years, it would be doing them a huge disservice to flake out on a long term fan commitment now. They also rule!
d. What’s the most “Australian” record ever produced? Probably that “30 Greatest Aussie Drinking Songs” CD you can get at the servo. (Also, why do they sell this at the servo?)
Part 3. Current Affairs
a. Who are some of your favourite new Australian bands? Machete Moon, White Woods and Machine Machine are the ones I’m really excited about at the moment.
b. If you could collaborate with one current Australian artist, who would it be, and what would it sound like?
How about the pipe organist from the Sydney Town Hall? That thing is a monster. I heard they can’t even play the bottom two notes because of the risk the vibrations will cause structural damage to the surrounding buildings. It would sound like the apocalypse!
c. Last great local gig you saw. I saw Richard in Your Mind last week at the FBi social. They were Richard in your MINDBLOWING! (Sorry.) I really admire Richard’s ability to run on the spot, play guitar and sing all at once. They always look like they’re having the time of their lives and their exuberance is so catching. I’ll never get sick of seeing those guys play. Oblako Lodka (try saying that after a few beers – way harder than it seems) played first and I thought they were great. The songs were really clever and executed brilliantly. If you say “quiet band with glockenspiel” to me I’m generally less than enthused, so enjoying them as I did kind of kicked me in the bum a little and told me I need to take a punt more often. The whole night, on many levels, reminded me why I like going to gigs so much.
d. Do you think an Australian artist needs to go overseas to succeed?
I don’t think so. Look at someone like You Am I around the Hi Fi Way/*Hourly Daily*-era. I remember them being absolutely massive, probably the biggest band in Australia, in spite of their well- documented inability to strike (windmill?) a chord with overseas audiences. Bands like Tame Impala and The Drones too. I don’t think the fact that either of them float around Europe on the odd occasion does anything to elevate their status in the eyes of the Australian public.
I guess there have been some bands who’ve been “discovered” overseas and returned to a significantly greater degree of acclaim. Am I aiming low here? I’m not really thinking in terms of world domination. I guess if you want to be successful overseas it couldn’t hurt to head over!
Part 4. Multiple Choice
a. Midnight Oil or INXS?
At risk of deportation, I’ve never been a fan of either. How about The Church?
b. Carlton or VB?
c. Shane Warne or Liz Hurley?
I’m reserving judgment until I’ve seen Hurley’s form on the pitch.
d. Today or Sunrise?
Sunrise. I have an embarrassing soft spot for Kochie and his horrible, horrible dad jokes.
e. Hungry Jacks or Red Rooster?
f. Tame Impala or Pond?
g. Newcastle or Wollongong?
Wollongong, since it spewed forth our Luke from its sandy loins.
h. Puberty Blues or Picnic at Hanging Rock?
Picnic at Hanging Rock. I like that we pass the turn off on the drive to and from Melbourne. I used to think it was so eerie. I also thought it was a true story up until last year. Now driving past mostly reminds me that I’m not the sharpest tack in the box. Great film!
i. Hamish or Andy?
Even though it could only exist conceptually due to the beliefs of the former, don’t you think “Amish and Handy” would be a way better show?
j. Cheezels or Twisties?
Come on. Toobs!