Citizenship: City Calm Down
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 Jack Bourke, leader of Melbourne four-piece City Calm Down. Their new Movements EP includes the brooding, New Order-ish single ‘Pleasure and Consequence’ and will be launched tomorrow (Nov 3) in Melbourne at Liberty Social and next Thursday (Nov 8) in Sydney at Goodgod Small Club.
a. The band is named after an early Architecture in Helsinki song. What is it about that song and that phrase that stood out to you?
We’ve been into AIH for quite some time but, despite being a big fan of the band, it wasn’t any particular motif within the song that caused it to be put forward as a band name. I think we were just attracted to the symmetry of the words and the sound they had to them. There’s a bit of alliteration in there as well, which is nice. We’ve never tried to make music that coheres with the name, either.
b. We compared ‘Pleasure and Consequence’ to a John Hughes film soundtrack. Are the 1980s a pretty big influence for you guys?
Yes and no. There is certainly a huge amount of material from the ’80s that we enjoy and listen to. However, I wouldn’t say that it outweighs the music we listen to from other decades/eras. In fact, for quite some time now I have hardly listened to any music at all ... this obviously sounds completely weird, but I find I produce my best material when I’ve been removed from external influence for long periods of time. I think it enables me to relax into what I’m doing a bit more, without feeling the paranoia of mimicry. And if something happens to have a similar style/mood/feel to another piece of music, then I’m far more willing to put that down to happenstance. This is just me, though: the other guys in the band have their own approaches.
c. The EP is your first release after three years as a band. Are you already planning a proper album?
Actually, it’s probably better termed our first ‘proper’ release. In 2010 we released an EP that we produced ourselves – we just put it up on iTunes and sold CDs at shows and then, at the start of this year, we released a double A-side which, again, we produced ourselves. This release certainly feels far more consolidated and coherent than anything we’ve done before. Working with [producer] Malcolm Besley was a huge part of that. As for the album, we’ve begun chipping away at a few songs already, although everything is still very embryonic. We would like to have a dozen or so loose demos floating around by the start of the new year with the aim to have an album completed and ready to release around this time next year. That being said, I think a holiday and some rest might be quite useful – I finished uni at the end of June and pretty much stepped out the exam room into pre-production for the EP and haven’t stopped since. It has been a lot of fun though!
Part 1. Geography
a. Tell us about your hometown.
[Keyboardist] Sam [Mullaly], [bassist] Jez [Sonnenberg] and I grew up in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. It’s a nice part of the world – it’s quiet and green and there’s not too much going on. We’ve all moved out of home now, though.
b. Name your favourite bands from your neck of the woods.
The Raffaellas, World’s End Press, Geoffrey O’Connor, Northeast Party House, Snakadaktal, Chet Faker, Tehachapi. There’s a lot of great music coming out of Melbourne at the moment!
c. Where’s your local and what’s it like?
The Grace Darling on Smith Street is fantastic. There’s this great band room upstairs (we actually played our first – and last – residency there in 2010), and it feels like you’re performing in someone’s lounge room. It’s got quite a unique feel to it.
Part 2. History
a. Which Australian bands did you grow up listening to?
I remember listening to Midnight Oil’s Diesel and Dust album when I was very young. I think it was on cassette and I would have been about six or seven years old. I have this distinct memory of sitting out in the backyard with an old cassette player and hearing ‘The Dead Heart’ for the first time and thinking that it was fantastic. I then struggled to make the tape rewind so I could listen to it again ... I think I got there. Paul Kelly and Hunters & Collectors featured often as well.
b. What’s the first Australian record you bought?
Internationalist by Powderfinger was the first record I bought. I would have been in year 7, if I remember correctly. My mum gave my younger brother Odyssey Number Five, which I stole and listened to repeatedly (my brother tried to charge me $2 for every listen, actually; he’s pretty good like that). I then went and bought their other albums, Internationalist being the first.
c. Who’s your favourite Australian band/artist of all time?
I love Midnight Oil. Politics aside, the band had, particularly in its early days, a unique and powerful sound. I think their early records have such an authentic Australian feel. Perhaps this has gradually been eroded away from the Australian music scene in recent years, as we are drawn further into the global music culture.
d. What’s the most “Australian” record ever produced?
Hmmm. I don’t know about record, but I reckon ‘End of the Earth’ by Client Liaison is “bloody Australian” haha. The lyrics are fantastic and definitely have an Australian flavour of humour to them. It’s also an interesting bit of commentary too!
Part 3. Current Affairs
a. Who are some of your favourite new Australian bands?
I’ll copy and paste the names I mentioned above in here, with the addition of DZ Deathrays, PVT, Mitzi, Gnome, Olympic Ayres, Mildlife and Rat & Co.
b. If you could collaborate with one current Australian artist, who would it be, and what would it sound like?
Kimbra. And I think it would sound like Kimbra. I would go into a celebrity-induced coma and not be able to contribute anything. That’s probably a good thing, though.
c. Last great local gig you saw.
I saw Tehachapi play a while ago. It was the first I had seen them play and was blown away by Laura’s voice. The instruments and vocals sit beautifully together.
d. Do you think an Australian artist needs to go overseas to succeed?
I think moving overseas helps validate our artists in the eyes of their audience. That’s from an Australian perspective. I also think it’s probably quite difficult to build a genuine career if all you have is the Australian market. Touring around Australia is expensive and, with only 22 million people, it’s certainly a lot harder to make ends meet than it is in other territories. That being said, the litmus test for success is different for everyone. I would be pretty chuffed if I could pay my rent and eat a bit of meat and veg each day just from music, though there is still a long way to go until I get there!
Part 4. Multiple Choice
a. The Voice or Australia’s Got Talent?
Australia’s Got Talent. I’ve never really watched either show but, from what I’ve seen, I think the AGT contestants are far more self-aware than the contestants on The Voice are. Both shows are utter garbage, but at least with AGT you will find contestants who are ready to have a laugh at themselves. The contestants on The Voice appear to be as deluded as those that appear on X Factor and Idol.
b. Hungry Jacks or Red Rooster?
I’m gluten intolerant so I handballed this to the housemates, who came in with a consensus on HJs. I’ve only been unable to eat gluten for a few years, though, and from memory HJs is far superior.
c. Northcote or Brunswick?
To be honest, I’m not overly familiar with either suburb. I’ve been on some form of Centrelink allowance for close to six years now and consequently I’ve lived an almost hermit-like existence ... which has meant not going too far north! But NSC [Northcote Social Club] is an excellent venue and it’s a place we love to play, so Northcote can have this one.
d. Potato cake or dim sim?
Potato cake. But only because they don’t stink out the carriage of the train when someone has purchased one from those dodgy kiosks in the middle of the Flinders Street Station platforms!
e. Dan Sultan or Dan Kelly?
Dan Kelly. I’ve always been very impressed with his work and he manages to produce some very unique music.
f. Kylie or Dannii Minogue?
Which one went out with Nick Cave? Definitely Kylie. Haha.
g. Cate Blanchett or Nicole Kidman?
Cate Blanchett. She’s in The Lord of the Rings and Kidman isn’t.
h. Neighbours or Home & Away?
Hmmm. Home & Away spawned the [NSFW] Alf Stewart clips, so that’s a clear winner.
i. Cheezels or Twisties?
Again, I’ve got to look back to my non-GF days. I think Twisties ... that’s just a hunch.
j. Kimbra or Gotye?
KIMBRA. And not just because she’s a babe. She writes unique melodic arrangements ... Gotye does too, but I feel somewhat let down by the most recent album [Making Mirrors] – I had such high hopes after Like Drawing Blood.