Melbourne’s Eddy Current Suppression Ring aren’t letting success get to their heads, writes DARREN LEVIN.
Today’s lug is not for the faint of heart. A rooftop carpark, 10 flights of stairs and a bootload of gear that needs to be carted across Melbourne’s Elizabeth Street – Frogger-style – during peak hour. Eddy Current Suppression Ring’s alliterative bass player Brad Barry draws the short straw: guitarist Mikey Young’s vintage Goldentone amp.
?I just love it. It’s got that great weedy tone,? Young tells me – although I’m certain it’s the Goldentone’s girth, not its weedy tone, that his bandmate is thinking about.
In less than an hour’s time, Eddy Current will play songs off their new LP Primary Colours at perennially-cool record store Missing Link with labelmates UV Race. The album – the follow-up to the band’s much-lauded 2006 debut – sounds just like the people who made it: unaffected, rough around the edges and genuine.
When I first encounter Young, he’s slouched over in a corner booth of the Victoria Hotel’s lobby bar. Wearing a hoodie, he’s exactly how he said he would be: ?slightly scruffy and normal looking?. To his right is singer Brendan Suppression (not his real surname), the younger and more effervescent of the pair. He’s sporting a knitted golf vest, presumably to match the gloves he’ll Velcro on later today.
?It’s always quiet and no-one comes here,? says Young of the hotel, a 125-year-old Flinders Lane institution. ?The only time it’s busy is if it’s a Friday night and a team like West Coast is playing. You get a bit of the footy crowd who are staying at the hotel.?
The same can’t be said of the band’s in-store.
While poorly advertised, the 25-minute show will see hundreds packed in among shelves of screamo records and proto-punk LPs. Others will have to eavesdrop from the staircase.
?We’re surprised that we’re still in a band four years later and that people still actually care,? Young explains. ?We didn’t start this band with any sort of forward thinking.?
Did you guys feels like there were expectations on you for this record? You’ve built quite a devoted following since the release of your first album in 2006.
Mikey: When we put out the first record no-one had a yardstick. Now there’s a point of comparison.
Brendan: We weren’t writing songs for a second album. There wasn’t a pressure in our heads that we have to write songs that were better or as good as the first. They were all just coming. You just get what you’re given. That’s how I felt about it. Now, you read a review or something, and you realise that people are digging it.
Do you read your own reviews?
Brendan: Sure, if I come across one.
Have you ever had a negative review?
Mikey: We’ve been pretty spoiled. There was only one bad review of the last album and that was from the Buzz streetpress in Frankston. It was pretty awesome. It said we sounded like the Sex Pistols and nothing better than a third-rate band they could hear at [Melbourne’s] the Arthouse on a Wednesday night – It was almost like people had been too kind to us, so it was refreshing to read that.
Brendan: There are so many people on this earth, so it’s almost good if people don’t dig our stuff. We’re not clones. It’s good to know that people are into different things.
But you guys seems to be that sort of band that most people can agree on ?
Mikey: We’ve been really lucky.
How are you dealing with that sort of attention?
Mikey: We’re surprised that the Corner launch has sold out already. It’s ridiculous. We thought maybe we’d sell it out the Corner on the night, but we’d be safe with that size of venue [850 capacity]. But I don’t think the attention bothers us.
I think it’s refreshing that you don’t seem to care about the stuff outside of making music.
Mikey: The more you shield yourself from anything that isn’t why you started a band in the first place, the better.
Brendan: You gotta keep going back to, ?How did this start again? What was that feeling I felt when we had that first jam??
Mikey: I’m sure it’s way more intense for other bands. It’s not as if we have dudes in suits rolling up and offering us cash. There’s no real pressure. We’re just a band that managed to get a couple of songs on Triple J.
Is it more satisfying that you’ve done it all at a grassroots level?
Mikey: I’m proud that we do it all ourselves. We don’t have bookers and we release it all in-house as much as we can. It’s definitely satisfying.
Do you care about extending your reach?
Mikey: If more people like your record that’s pretty nice. You want it to happen naturally. You don’t want people to like it because it’s being forced upon them. You want people to discover your band and just like it because of the music and for no other reason.
Brendan: I don’t mind the idea of it being played on Triple J, because people who are out in the suburbs, or who are not linked with a certain scene, can actually hear the music – I love the idea of something discovering us like that.
Mikey: I was in a weird coastal town once and Triple J was on in a shop and we came on. It freaked me out. I can’t actually stand listening to it [Triple J] a lot of the time, but the fact that someone in some place that you’d never go to can actually hear it, it’s pretty good.
Brendan: I have mates that work on construction sites that hear our songs. That’s pretty cool.
How about overseas? Is that somewhere you want to concentrate on?
Mikey: We’re getting this album released over there through [Memphis label] Goner, so I’ll guess we’ll see how that goes.
So no immediate plans for a US tour?
Brendan: We’re all kind of busy doing other things in our lives. If we try to do that it’d be forcing things and creating stress.
Mikey: We’ve been concentrating on putting the record out and booking a tour to follow that. It’s good to not get so ahead of yourself so it doesn’t feel like your whole world is caving in.
Brendan: It’s really easy to get caught up in it all. You know, ?Let’s do this, let’s do that.? But then it’s like, ?Hang on. I’ve got to live as well. I’ve got to earn a living.?
There was only one bad review of the last album and that was from the ‘Buzz’ streetpress in Frankston. It was pretty awesome. It said we sounded like the Sex Pistols and nothing better than a third-rate band they could hear at [Melbourne’s] the Arthouse on a Wednesday night.
Could you do this as a career?
Brendan: I guess we could if we wanted to.
Mikey: About a year ago, when a lot of the offers were coming in about touring and stuff like that, you think, ?Man, I can drop everything in my life and have a go at this.? Maybe if we were all like 22? I mean the bass player has a kid and is looking to buy a house and Danny is 36 and loves his job, tattooing. Brendan does heaps of other stuff and I do other stuff. You’d have to really sacrifice your life.
Brendan: I think any half decent band could be a career band. If you’re willing to sacrifice everything and be on tour constantly, then you’ll make money from it. But then you’d be sick of the songs and the mates you’re playing with.
Mikey: And being from Australia would make it even harder.
Brendan: Sometimes I think, far out, how do some of those bands do it?
Well, there’d be a financial pressure to write music too.
Brendan: Yeah, then it becomes a business. And it takes away from the magic.
What’s the starting point for a song?
Mikey: I might have a riff and he [Brendan] will have some lyrics and then we bring it to band practice – If it doesn’t work we’ll probably forget about it. We don’t really perspire and try to make a song work. If it’s instantly good we’ll keep it. The songs aren’t that tricky so you can get them ready quickly. Some songs we’ve played a couple times in a rehearsal and then had them ready for a gig the next week.
What about the stuff that doesn’t work? Do you use it for spare parts?
Mikey: Well, if Danny, our drummer, gets sick of it [the riff], he won’t persist. Sometimes I’ll slightly change it, bring it back a month later and not tell him that he’s already heard it [laughs].
Brednan: [laughing] And I probably won’t remember either so I’ll put different lyrics over the top.
You really get a sense of how you guys write from listening to your songs ?
Brendan: Yeah, I’ll be listening, trying to get a feel for Mikey’s tunes, then I’ll spit something over the top of it until it sounds right, or mess around with it until it does – Sometimes Mikey will have a tune and then straight away I’ll be like, ?I know what’s good for this?, and I’ll flip through my book for that poem or whatever that suits it.
How much stuff is in your book? How often do you write?
Brendan: Well it’s more like a few boxes. [laughs]
Mikey: We’ve gotta keep up with him. I’ve got to start writing more riffs.
Brendan: And Mikey’s got a lot of riffs! I get carried away sometimes. Before I go to sleep I have to write stuff down, so I have a book next to my bed. A lot of it won’t get used — there are boxes behind my fridge of lyrics and lyrics that won’t be anything, because you get over that mood and then, by that time, you’ve got a new thing to get out of your mind. It doesn’t really matter whether Mikey’s coming up with tunes or not, because I just write anyway.
Is there a lyrical thread on Primary Colours?
Brendan: Each song is its own thing. Maybe subconsciously it turned out that way when we were putting it together.
What’s the meaning behind the title?
Brendan: It evolved from one of our songs – Primary colours I see them as the start of everything. Things that start so simple can become so technical as well – I guess music to me is a bit of a rainbow. Our album has so many different colours in it. Mix them all together and you’ve got an album.
How important was cohesiveness when you were making the album? Did the songs have to fit together?
Mikey: I think at the end of the day we just want the 10 best songs we’ve got and the 10 best performances.
Brendan: We do think a little bit about whether they fit together. Time-wise as well – Some [songs] are like a family, but others don’t flow with the rest or would go well on a 7?.
Mikey: We had to keep each side under 20 minutes because otherwise it would sound shit on a [vinyl] record. And that’s the main thing. If it wasn’t for a vinyl LP we probably would’ve put 12 songs on there.
How important is releasing it on vinyl?
Mikey: It’s all I’m thinking about. I don’t really care about the CD.
Is that from your days working at Corduroy [now Zenith — the vinyl pressing plant]?
Mikey: It’s obviously helped, but ever since I was a kid I never really got into CDs …
Brendan: That’s why he wanted to work at Corduroy! He’s obsessed with vinyl.
Mikey: Especially for our sort of music. I like to listen to rock’n?roll on records. It just sounds better.
Do you think people buying it on CD are missing out?
Mikey: I don’t think so .. But I was in a record store the other day and he [the clerk] was listening to the album on CD and I said, ?Wait until you hear it on record.? CDs sound like they’re coming from the air. When I play a record it sounds like they actually exist. It’s a physical thing ?
Brendan: There’s like a mini band hiding in the vinyl [laughs].
Mikey: Yeah. And CDs just sound like some weird pipe music. But I’m not an analog Nazi. I own CDs and I’m fine with them, but — for what we’re doing — I prefer vinyl.
So I take it you’re not putting anything out on a digital format ?
Mikey: I think Shock wanted an extra song for iTunes. But as if I’m going to reward that! [laughs]
More ?82 than ?76
Mikey, you’ve described the album as ?more ?82 than ?76?. Explain.
Mikey: That’s how I felt after I mixed it. It’s not that it sounds more mature or anything. We don’t just sit around listening to The Saints and stuff like that – I like a lot of bands like The Feelies and The Clean. In my head it had more of that janglier sound than the first one. So that was the easiest way to describe it.
Brendan, were you listening to those bands too?
Brendan: Mikey shows me a lot of stuff so I think a lot of that might’ve come across, but at the same time there may have been other things that I was listening to, maybe on the radio. I actually don’t really know where things come from – I don’t own a Stooges record but I’m sure Iggy’s vocal style would’ve floated through my brain. But who knows?
Your shows have often been quite chaotic, how do you keep a lid on things.
Mikey: As long as it’s a good kind of crazy, there’s no reason to be worried about it. There have been a couple of time, like the Super 8 Diaries launch last year, where we were just stunned at the reaction. We still don’t quite understand it. There were a couple of shows last year where it was a bit too crazy. All it takes is a couple of knuckleheads to ruin a few people’s nights.
Do you prefer the live setting to the recording process?
Mikey: I love recording. I guess I love the end product, I just love documenting stuff. The actual mixing is not so fun, but when you get to the end and you’ve got a record or a 7? – it’s just so satisfying.
Brendan: My favourite would be jamming and playing live. Jamming for me is so much fun – Knowing that magic’s there, it’s just bizarre. It’s what music is really.
Do you look for that magic when you’re recording?
Mikey: It’s usually no more than three takes – It’s not as if we have to do 20 to get it.
Brendan: I think that’s why we went from 19 songs to 10 on [Primary Colours]. There were ones in there that were just as great, but it was about the ones that hit. The ones where we felt it.
Mikey: I also don’t think we’re a perfect band, we don’t try to achieve perfection – When I listen to other records, my favourite things are the things that sound wrong. Sometimes you just have to swallow your pride or what your idea of a song is.
Brendan: When we were recording, I can’t remember what song it was — it could’ve been ?Wrapped Up? — I sung it and it came out different. I thought, ?Fuck. I messed it up.? And I turned around to [engineer] Lachlan [Wooden] and he was giving me the thumbs up. So I kept going and it turned out to be one of my personal favourites – It was a really wrong right.
Both your albums have no images on the cover. Is that about letting the music speak for itself?
Mikey: That was the original idea in my head. I didn’t want visual preconception to have any influence.
Brendan: That happens. People put a face to the music. I’m sure that happens with us too – It’s about keeping it simple, just like our music. We’re not trying to be mysterious or anything, but it [the cover art] fit with the theme.
The track ?Which Way to Go? talks about being directionless. Do you feel that you can go anywhere with your music?
Brendan: I do. I feel like we can do anything we want with our music.
Mikey: I also feel like it’s got its limitations. We’ve boxed ourselves in with the sounds of our instruments. I chose not to play pedals in this band — but that might change. Limitations are good, in that you’ve got to go as far as you can with what you’ve got. Maybe you write songs when you’ve got less to work with, because that’s all you’ve got.
Do you envision a change of direction at some point? There are a lot of new sounds on Primary Colours.
Brendan: We never really envision anything, but I couldn’t see it [the sound] changing too much.