Citizenship: Royston Vasie
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 Kylie or Dannii Minogue.
Taking the test this week is guitarist and co-vocalist Cameron Mitchell from Royston Vasie. Ahead of their first album’s arrival next February, the Melbourne quartet are touring behind the new single ‘Come On’ with Immigrant Union. The song features harmonies from Courtney Barnett and Immigrant Union’s Bob Harrow, includes an unexpected second lease on life at the end and follows closely on the band’s priceless support slot with Afghan Whigs.
a) The press release says ‘Come On’ has “the greatest bass line ever written.” Are you comfortable with that ballsy claim?
I’m not sure it would sit all that comfortably with our bassist Brad [Hardingham], but after you listen to it through decent speakers, I implore you to find a better bass line. My style of writing is anything but complex – three simple chords throughout the entire song; four if I'm feeling adventurous. This leaves a lot of room for lead guitar, drums and bass in particular to shine through. We played a show with Spencer P. Jones the other night; after seeing our show he went on to say, “Your bass player, he'll set you apart from every other band in the country.” I’m yet to receive any form of acclaim for my guitar-playing prowess.
b) Is the album finished yet? If so, when should we expect it?
It is all but complete. We have a couple of minor edits to take care of and we'll be done. It's quite an experience getting ready to release a debut record, not knowing what course it will take [or] how it will be received. I think most will take to it. In February 2013, Tanah Merah will be out in the ether.
c) You guys have a strong track record with film clips. Are you cinematic geniuses or is it more a matter of working with the right people?
I was lucky enough to happen upon Sydneysider Tim Pass when he needed a place to stay a few years ago. We shared a love of Garth Marenghi's Darkplace and quality music. We became friends. Turns out he was a film editor by day (Go Back to Where You Came From) and a filmmaker with Kick the Bread by night. We have worked together on all the concepts, except for the 'You Want It Now' clip. Unfortunately Tim was at Coachella on an assignment, so we were left to our own devices. Apologies.
Part 1. Geography
a. Tell us about your hometown.
Three of us grew up in the eastern suburb of Melbourne, Mooroolbark. The name of town is of Aboriginal origin and means “red earth.” The title of our debut album Tanah Merah is also Indonesian for “red earth.” It was a safe place for most to grow up: I played footy there, won a few premierships, got a few participation awards, whatever.
b. Name your favourite bands from your neck of the woods.
Twerps, Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Immigrant Union, Courtney Barnett, Mesa Cosa, Alex Hamilton. And that 'Bloody Ripper' song by King Gizzard is killer.
c. Where’s your local and what’s it like?
The Union Club Hotel. It’s exactly what I want from a pub: people from all walks of life mixing together seamlessly. Having no bouncers on the door is testament to the type of place that it is. A couple of cute barmaids doesn't hurt either.
Part 2. History
a. Which Australian bands did you grow up listening to?
I had a forced albeit healthy dose of two iconic Australian songwriters, John Williamson and Paul Kelly. One of which I still listen to and make an effort to see when he's touring. In my teens it was You Am I all the way. That Dress Me Slowly LP doesn't get the credit it deserves; I love that record. If you’re wondering, it’s Paul Kelly I still make an effort to see.
b. What’s the first Australian record you bought?
The record that sticks out in my mind is You Am I – Dress Me Slowly.
c. Who’s your favourite Australian band/artist of all time?
It’s a close one. Nick Cave – I really dig his records, in particular his output with Grinderman, but Paul Kelly would have to be my man. He's got effortless charisma, he's a wordsmith, he is Australia's Dylan.
d. What’s the most “Australian” record ever produced?
I don’t know. Surely it’s one of Slim Dusty's million records or maybe a Midnight Oil record. They both evoke images of Australiana when I hear their names/records. Actually, the most Australian record ever produced is John Williamson – Waratah Street.
Part 3. Current Affairs
a. Who are some of your favourite new Australian bands?
Australia is brimming with great bands; it feels like Melbourne is overflowing. We're from Melbourne so I guess I'm a little biased, but any weekend you can get a great music fix. We're fortunate enough to be on the road with one of our favourite bands, Immigrant Union, this October. It's going to be a hell of tour. Courtney Barnett is well worth a look also. You have to see Mesa Cosa live: they're led by this mad dog Pablo. Check out their soon-to-be hit 'Shoplifter' – think Black Lips crossed with a burrito.
b. If you could collaborate with one current Australian artist, who would it be, and what would it sound like?
Natalie Imbruglia. It would be a lock-in session, one on one, and it would sound exactly the way you'd think it would sound. She's current to me. However, if Natalie was unavailable, I'd love to work with Gareth Liddiard. Both The Drones and his solo work I quite admire, especially that 'Blondin Makes an Omelette' song: just him and a guitar, no pretense, too good.
c. Last great local gig you saw.
Mesa Cosa supporting the Zoobombs at the Tote. They were on fire that night.
d. Do you think an Australian artist needs to go overseas to succeed?
I don't think that it is imperative. But then again, what the fuck would I know? We've been kicking about for four years and we only started to scratch the surface last year. I think if you've got the songs and you've got a good live show, success will ensue. A good friend of mine always says, “Persistence beats resistance.” Although a reference to picking up girls, I feel it is relevant.
Part 4. Multiple Choice
a. The Voice or Australia’s Got Talent?
These shows are both brutal. They build naïve/stupid people up to believe they are exceptional and stars. They are neither of those things. The whole premise of these shows finding the next big star is deplorable. Being famous is not to be commended or sought after. It doesn't make you a great or even decent person. More people know you, that's it.
b. Hungry Jacks or Red Rooster?
I became disenchanted with HJ's when they dropped the Angry Angus.
c. Northcote or Brunswick?
Collingwood: we've got rockers, gays, indies, oldies, babes, great food, great coffee, great bars, N. Lee rolls, well-natured junkies, rich, poor, $1 drinks at Video Busters and we almost have the Union Club Hotel. What more could you ask for? I suppose a football team with more civil supporters.
d. Potato cake or dim sim?
I quite like both, but potato cakes.
e. Dan Sultan or Dan Kelly?
Any relation of Paul is alright in my book, bar Ned.
f. Kylie or Dannii Minogue?
‘Spinning Around’ in gold hot pants, Kylie.
g. Cate Blanchett or Nicole Kidman?
Nicole, untamed in BMX Bandits.
h. Neighbours or Home & Away?
I've never liked the way Toadfish looked with a ponytail.
i. Cheezels or Twisties?
j. Kimbra or Gotye?
I guess Wally is more of an Australian, so Gotye. Congratulations to him. He seems like a lovely guy. I like seeing good things happen to good people.
ROYSTON VASIE ‘COME ON’ TOUR (WITH IMMIGRANT UNION)
Thurs, Sept 13 – Big Sound, Brisbane, QLD *
Sat, Sept 15 – Workers Club, Melbourne, VIC *
Thurs, Oct 4 – Front Gallery, Canberra, ACT
Fri, Oct 5 – Great Northern Hotel, Newcastle, NSW
Sat, Oct 6 – FBi Social @ Kings Cross Hotel, Sydney, NSW
Fri, Oct 12 – Ric’s Bar, Brisbane, QLD
Sat, Oct 13 – The Loft, Gold Coast, QLD
Thurs, Oct 18 – Karova Lounge, Ballarat, VIC
Fri, Oct 19 – Ding Dong, Melbourne, VIC
Sat, Oct 20 – The Nash, Geelong, VIC *
( * Immigrant Union not appearing)