Dead Farmers: ?This Is Just What We Do
Veterans of Sydney’s rock underground almost by default, Dead Farmers channel their electrifying live show into their first album in five years. MAX EASTON corners two-thirds of the band to talk about growing up, being content and a rapidly changing music scene.
2015 marks the ninth calendar year of Dead Farmers? existence, a remarkable lifespan considering the defunct status of essentially all their former contemporaries. But despite being elder statesmen of Sydney’s underground, their second LP on R.I.P. Society possesses as much exuberance as their first. Titled [Wasteland](/news/4683194), the record sees the trio go defiantly back to the well, resisting the urge to alter their format and releasing something that feels as though it could have existed in any era of the band’s existence.
As a live act, Dead Farmers possess an electricity that hovers over even their most relaxed songs, and Wasteland amiably captures it. It’s a record of thrashing resolve led by the inexorably tied vocals of their two frontmen, David Akerman and Daniel Grosz, whom I sit down with at Newtown’s Carlisle Castle on an exceedingly loud Tuesday night. With drummer Daniel Kawalsky absent, the two talked of the band’s long-lasting connection, the aspects of outlasting the city’s once-unified DIY scene and the feeling of releasing music to a world that has, at times, cared little for what they have to say.
How did you approach this record relative to the last couple of releases [2010?s LP [Go Home](/releases/2000611)* and 2011?s 7? *[Never Enough](/articles/4482056 )]?
David Akerman: About half of this album’s songs were already written when we did that 7?, but we thought those two songs sounded different enough to release as their own thing. All the other songs sounded like something different again, so we knew they’d become the album.
Daniel Grosz: We started singing together rather than having our own parts, which changed the sound too. At some point, we just made that very clear decision to not have our own separate vocal melodies.
The vocals are recorded much cleaner on Wasteland than they have been before. Was that something you had intended?
DG: Before we recorded we actually sat down together to put all the lyrics and melodies together to make sure we were on the same page.
DA: It’s obviously something that most bands do, but when we started as a band we had the idea that what was being sung didn’t matter, that it was more about how you were doing it and the sound of the words rather than the meaning of them.
DG: We discussed what the songs were about, which we had never done before.
?A lot of our old songs used to feel like they were falling apart all the time.?
Did you used to hide those kind of things from each other?
DA: It can be embarrassing – if you’re writing about something you care about, it’s confronting to talk through that with someone else.
DG: Not that we discussed it in-depth. I know that independently of each other, we figured out what the record was about, and we’re on the same page with that. So it felt that we were doing the right thing together.
What’s the record about then?
DG: I would say it’s mostly about the anxiety of becoming an adult, being in your early 20s and trying to be a grown human being.
DA: And indecision, coming to terms with the realities of things?
DG: I feel like there’s a lot of anxiety around being that age that’s in the lyrics.
I think there’s that sort of nervous energy to everything to the band that shines through on the album too.
DA: A lot of our old songs used to feel like they were falling apart all the time. They weren’t, but it felt like they could, and I think the new songs are a bit less like that.
You feel more in control?
DG: It just feels more solid.
DA: That’s at odds with the point we were trying to make about the record feeling like it could fall apart though – But we’ve been playing for nine years – since we were 18 – so we’re a bit more in control, yeah.
In being around for nine years, you’ve outlasted most of the bands that you used to play with, and the places you used to play in. How different is it being around music now to then? It felt like there was more optimism to playing and releasing music in 2009 than now.
DG: I think what you say is true of bands with younger people in them who have this idea of ?making it?, but you get a bit more realistic about shit when you get older. Though I don’t think we ever approached it in that way. I wouldn’t say that our approach to doing it in a non-musical way has changed with time. This is just what we do.
DA: We started playing at a time when the old paradigm was still in effect, but it was on its way out. Also being 18, we felt we could be a band who toured and made money and lived off it, but then that all changed when we realised people aren’t buying records any more. That attitude changed too: the idea of feeling like you wanted to do it for a living became a feeling that it might be better not to do that.
One of the things that I always come back to when I think of Dead Farmers is the group photo on the album insert of Go Home. I find it bizarre now that any of those people were ever in the same room, and that change in the community would have happened relatively quickly. How has your sense of that community, or your idea of it, changed with time?
DG: For the first few years, it felt like ?These are the bands who are around, and these are the people who will always be around.? I find it pretty interesting – not in a chin-stroking way, but in a funny way – to see who has stuck with it and who moved on with their lives. It’s weird, because some of these people were so involved with that idea of a lifestyle and now they’re not at any shows at all. But that’s what I do, that’s what you do: our lives are based around going to shows on the weekend.
DA: A lot of people our age stopped being involved and I can see why, but it was very sudden. Around two years ago, the whole crowd was totally different, and the people going to shows weren’t our friends any more. It’s funny how quickly it changes. I think we felt pretty comfortable with all those bands we were playing with back then. We used to play with Eddy Current all the time and played with My Disco whenever they came here. We felt like we were part of this wave of things.
DG: But all of those bands were older than us, so we felt like little kids. We were like babies the first few times we went to Melbourne.
?I think people used to care a little bit more.?
DA: The Sydney-Melbourne bond was a bit stronger then. Melbourne bands would come here more often and vice versa. The bands that we’re involved with now down there don’t come here much these days. The touring aspect of it all has changed but I’m not really sure why. I pretty much feel like I’m just seeing Sydney bands most of the time.
I’m interested in seeing who will respond to the new album considering how many different types of people you’ve come across in your time as a band. I feel like anyone could respond to Dead Farmers on some level, at any age, or from any world?
DA: But what does it mean, really?
DG: You go to a small show for a band like the [Bed Wettin? Bad Boys](/articles/4552611) [around the time of their LP release] and it feels like a big show; a lot of people come and you think something’s starting to happen again. Then the next week there’s nothing. It’s too hard to see on a ground level; you sort of need to see it in hindsight.
DA: With the exception of an occasional thing like [Royal Headache](/search/?q=Royal+Headache), where it was pretty clear people were getting into it – but even then, who the fuck knows if people actually cared?
In that case, it seemed like it brought different people to shows, and brought new people to listen to other bands on the line-ups as well. The thing with the Bed Wettin? Bad Boys and the discussion surrounding their record, it seemed great that people were listening, but still no one was coming to shows.
DA: For a kneejerk response from whoever said, ?This is the best album of all time? – is that actually helpful if the people who are coming don’t really care? That’s something that I think has changed. I think people used to care a little bit more, and it used to feel as though people should care. Now, putting a record out doesn’t feel like it’s a big deal.
DG: That could just be our age though.
You’ve both played in bands that have come and gone quite quickly [e.g. Akerman in [Camperdown & Out](/articles/4579336), Grosz in Family]. What’s the difference between the timespan of those bands, and of Dead Farmers being able to stay around for so long?
DG: We just assume that we’re going to be doing it. I’ve known Dave since I was six years old, and Kawalsky since I was 15, and most other bands haven’t known each other nearly that long. I think that has a lot to do with the longevity.
DA: We never had the attitude that it would be over in two years, or that it was a rite of passage to play in a band. When you’re younger you get into friendships and relationships that last a lot longer. In your 20s a lot of the relationships you have don’t seem like they’re as strong as the friendships you form when you’re a kid.
DG: Dave and I figured out when we were 14 what we liked about music and we were in our own little world together. We learnt guitar at the same time, and as long as we’ve been in bands we’ve been doing it together. We’ve always done it together because there wasn’t anyone else who was interested in the same stuff growing up.
DA: But then we met people like Nic [Warnock] and that put it all into context.
DG: It was like we weren’t on our own any more, as people who were into the Stooges or Ramones or whatever, especially when we were 18. There was a lot of experimental stuff around Sydney and Australia at the time and we weren’t really doing that.
?The visceral feeling, and the sweat, and getting spat on.?
DA: We saw Mike Watt play a show with a local band called Gallucci, and it was more powerful than anything else we’d heard. At the time there were a lot of ?interesting? things happening around rock music, and we fell into that a little bit. We both listened to this band called [Pelican](http://www.hydrahead.com/pelican), who were a heavy post-rock band, and I remember at the time thinking that it was the natural progression of rock music. But stuff like that got too ?interesting?, and the whole thing died into the garage revival, where it was like, ?regular old rock music still prevails.? At that Mike Watt show, the power of simplicity was really encouraging. Playing hard was what we took from it, the visceral feeling, and the sweat, and getting spat on while he sang, and the heat and physicality was really profound. Yet there was nothing trendy about it at all. It didn’t have pretensions. There was a purity about it that made us think ?We want to do that.? From then to now, all that’s mattered to us is to play the best show we can, then make the best record we can. Everything else I don’t give a shit about. If I could make a record that I was happy with, then I would be very content.
Are you content?
DG: You can always do better. When you go further and further into it, you always find something, even if it’s just three chords, you can always do more with it.
DA: You listen back to a recording and go, ?I should’ve done this and this,? but I’m a particularly regretful person. I’m definitely happier with this one though. You’re not supposed to say that though, are you? You’re supposed to say this is the best thing we’ve ever done and I want everyone to hear it, and I do. I don’t know if I’ll ever be happy with anything, but maybe that’s a good thing. I’m happy about not being happy – but I am happy.
##?Wasteland? is out now on [vinyl](http://ripsociety.bigcartel.com/product/dead-farmers-wasteland-lp) and [digitally](http://deadfarmersrip.bandcamp.com) through R.I.P. Society. Launch tour dates below, with more still to be announced.
Fri, March 13 – The Bearded Lady, Brisbane, QLD [w/Turnpike + Tape/Off]
Sat, March 14 – Sonic Masala Festival, Brisbane, QLD [w/Screamfeeder, White Walls + more]
Sat, March 20 – The Valve Bar, Sydney, NSW [w/Red Red Krovvy, Roamin? Catholics + more]
Sat, March 27 – The Metro, Adelaide, SA [w/XY Clinic, Yabbies, Stink Lines + Adolf Sasquatch]
Sun, March 28 – The Tote, Melbourne, VIC [w/The UV Race, Ausmuteants + more]