Features

Deaf Wish: The Resurrection

Melbourne’s Deaf Wish aren’t your typical rock conformists. They’ll do what they want when they can, writes SHAUN PRESCOTT.


Despite disbanding over six months ago, this month will see the release of Deaf Wish’s third LP Mercy. The album was recorded at Melbourne’s Bakehouse Studios in February while original member Sarah Hardiman was visiting from her home in the UK, and before bassist Nick Pratt had moved permanently to Perth. Technically it’s not a posthumous release, though the conventions of a rock band’s ?career arc? hold little sway in the world of Deaf Wish. They’ll do what they can when they can.

Mercy* finds Deaf Wish returning to the spirit of their debut self-titled CD, which was released in a limited run in 2007 and featured the original line-up of Jensen Tjhung, Sarah Hardiman, Nick Pratt and Daniel Twomey. Those expecting the unrestrained bluster of *[Reality and Visions](/releases/2000546) (a line-up featuring Pete Dickinson instead of Hardiman) may be surprised by the comparative dynamism on display here, born of the brief reformation of the original line-up. Low-key introspection, as displayed on tracks like ?The Beat of Nothing’s Wrong? and ?The Way It Is? (a Fred Cole cover) sits alongside the more familiar, full-throttle outings such as ?Hate You? and ?Elementary School?.

Deaf Wish’s Jensen Tjhung is in a van when I call him, on the way to rehearse for a show he’s performing that coming weekend with Hate Club.

I thought Deaf Wish was over. What’s the go?
We thought we’d made it clear in the press that it wasn’t completely over, but I guess prior to that last gig – and when marketing takes hold and stuff – it probably looked like it was our last gig. When Sarah came back for three weeks (in February 2010) we wanted to get the line-up together. We really loved the first record and the spirit of the group when we first started, so we wanted to get together and see if it was real. And so we ended up making a record.

Is Nick Pratt still based in Perth?
Yep. Nick recorded with us before he left for Perth, in February when Sarah was over here. We were about to go on tour for Reality and Visions and we decided to get together. It was a special line-up. We hadn’t really had the chance to play or do anything with Sarah – we only played two shows with her before she left – so we did one show and got together for a quick recording.

Maybe it was just the [way it was spun](/news/3954131), but Deaf Wish did seem emphatically over. So it wasn’t the real intention to say the group was over?
We never really know where the band is going, or where it is or what it is. People’s understanding of what a band is and how it operates gets in the way of our translation of it, which is that it’s there when it’s there, and if it’s not then it’s still kinda there, and if it arrives suddenly we can do something with it. What’s important to us is that we can record and get evidence of us being together.

Why did you go ahead with Reality and Visions without Sarah?
Sarah didn’t get on the plane for our tour in ?07 or ?08 so we got Pete onboard. We had heaps of fun, and it was a different sounding band. We made a document of the songs we had made with Pete, which is what we do with all our albums. We don’t make an album to sell to people or to promote the band, we want to document what we’ve gone through or the sound we’ve made and put it out for people, and that’s what our records are.

Given your attitude towards the band, are you surprised by how many people got into Reality & Visions?
Reality & Visions was strange because it took a long time – a bit less than a year. We got a good response from people in the States. But I dunno, it’s really hard to gauge how well received the band actually is.

How did Mercy come to exist? You had the window of opportunity, but was the record planned?
The first record, which we had a lot of good feedback from, was the first line-up with Sarah, and we never had the opportunity to do much with it. I guess during the in-between time we romanticised what that band was, or what the nature of that band was, and wondered whether it was real and what was going on to make it happen. The only evidence of that period is the record and some drunken memories.

?We really loved the first record and the spirit of the group when we first started, so we wanted to get together and see if it was real.?

Is there anything special to the operation when Sarah is in the room that you can explain?
Every time we’re with Sarah, she’s always about to leave. In terms of a definition of romance, or something that’s about to disappear or go away, we create a sound that everyone’s in love with but isn’t going to last, or that is going to go away. We’ve spent a total of about two months with her, but we’re lucky the tape recorder is going when she’s here. We know [that line-up is] not going to translate into a domestic idea of a band – a band plugging away in Melbourne. The process is always on the verge of disappearing.

I take it you guys are close friends then?
Not at all. Me and Daniel were in a band for a few years before Deaf Wish. We’d played with Sarah’s other band Motor Vehicle Sundown, and I’d known Nick just from hanging out in bars. Daniel and I thought it’d be a good idea to put Sarah, Nick and ourselves in the room and see what happened. We don’t really see each other when we’re not together to play music.

Who writes the lyrics?
Whoever is singing mostly, but not always. With this band – more than anything I’ve ever done – it is the most collaborative. There’s no ego and every part of the song is shared, the responsibility is shared.

Why did you call the record Mercy?
I was afraid you were going to ask that. There’s a good reason but I think it should stay between us, it’s not something I’d want to share with the public.

It’s funny you say that, given that there is a distance between the members – you’re not close friends – but there are still points of sensitivity like this.
I think that music forms a greater bond than a lot of people realise, especially people that maybe aren’t involved in making it.

?Dance to the Beat of Nothing’s Wrong? sounds like a love song.
It could be, I think it just refers to a general feeling you get, sometimes, if you’re lucky.

A kind of caution-to-the-wind feeling?
Not necessarily. Every now and then you get to a point in life, if you’re lucky, where you feel like you’re in a spot where nothing can harm you and nothing is wrong. I think people will make of it what they will.

Is there a reason you started the album with that song?
I think there’s some kind of narrative with the album, but nothing I can think of right now.

What about ?Song For Aleesha?, who is Aleesha?
That’s Nick’s wife. When we recorded that he was about to marry her.

So that’s definitely a love song?
Yes, definitely. I think ?Hate You? is a love song as well. Have a think about it.

In light of Mercy* and given time to reflect, how do you think *Reality & Visions holds up, personally?
I think we’re all really proud of it. Everything we did with Pete we were really fortunate to be able to do. Reality & Visions is such a beast of a record, it’s really aggressive but really magnetic. I think we’ll come back to that with really fond memories. It’s a freak of a record.

I assume there won’t be a tour to promote this record?
I hope so. I like to think the universe will magnetically draw us together and we’ll play again, but it’s obviously something we can’t rely or bank upon given our history. There are plans for us to go and visit Sarah so hopefully we can get some shows over there, but it’s something I don’t really want to go around talking about.

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?Mercy? is out now through Radio Records Melbourne.