Artist On Artist: Native Cats & Batrider
News posted Monday, September 26 2011 at 11:00 AM.
Related: Batrider, Native Cats.
Batrider’s STEPHANIE CRASE and the Native Cats’ JULIAN TEAKLE discuss small town syndrome, international touring tips and band chemistry. Both bands will launch new albums – Piles of Lies and Process Praise, respectively – at The Tote in Melbourne this Friday (September 30).
Julian Teakle: How did you find playing in Tasmania recently? Was it much different to the places you've toured, or does it all blend in after a while? I'm curious of outside opinions and views of my somewhat insular state.
Stephanie Crase: I like playing in Tasmania. Insularity is working for me! I guess because Hobart and Adelaide have similar vibes: we're small, get passed over by a lot of national and international touring bands and festivals, at some point most of the youth will move away to Melbourne, and we make nice wine. It makes the crowds kind of more appreciative and everyone gets really proud about putting on a good night for touring bands. That usually translates into a unique and memorable fun night.
In both Adelaide and Hobart people seem super comfortable having a bit of a heckle, making requests, and interacting with you when you play. You can have a great conversation with someone from Tassie while sitting on the drums. There's no shame in standing at the very front and dancing, singing along and maybe rolling around on the ground a little, and then engaging in funny, boozy, warm and familiar conversations after the show. I like messy, dorky shows where it feels like you're playing to pals in your living room, which I guess it usually feels like for me playing in Adelaide. There's good and bad about everyone knowing each other, but I find that being an outsider in a small town means the locals grab you and pull you in. It's a real shame there are no direct flights between Adelaide and Hobart. I mean, that's just being extra harsh, making it even more expensive to keep kindred loser towns apart.
What I also like about Tassie, and small cities in general, is weird bands. Like in a lot of small cities, you get a real mix of people committing to their favourite shtick and indulging hard out, or gettin' weird with it. I know a lot of great unique bands in Adelaide who don't seem to have the overriding goals of making it big, or making it fast, and these guys will sadly probably never get the attention they deserve. In a funny way I don't think they would exist, or at least be so unique and awesome, if they had any goals other than free drinks and bonding … The Adelaide “scene” is small but pretty fucken broad and wide open stylistically. No one will include or exclude you based on trends. It's the exact opposite of the vibe I got playing with bands in London.
SC: What's your vibe on this stuff? You've been around the block, done the Melbourne ride and gone back home. Do you reckon there's more gestation time for bands in Tassie? How's it go being a label guy from Tassie and trying to spread your stench to the mainland?
JT: I think Hobart is a great proving ground for bands, there’s not a huge music industry infrastructure here to blow smoke up your arse after only playing two gigs. If people dislike you they’ll heckle and give you shit. If people like you they’ll still heckle and give you shit, just with a bit more love thrown in. It’s funny seeing how some Melbourne and Sydney bands respond to the heckling down here – the smart, cool bands get it and use it and run with it, which is pretty endearing to local audiences. The precious, humourless acts who don’t get it kind of flounder and baulk and claim that the audiences down here are “tough” and “rude”, I think they miss out on a genuinely bonding experience with audiences they wouldn’t find in their usual haunts, perhaps.
In Hobart it’s just your band(s) and a core of between 20 and 100 audience members, playing in local pubs. The possibility of signing a real life record deal is a very distant thought for most people so you just plough on through doing whatever you like. Sometimes you get it together to put out your own CD, record or download. Very, very rarely someone else offers to do it but I think Hobart (and I’m assuming Adelaide) bands know that if they’re gonna get amongst it, they’ll have to do it themselves.
I think coming from Tassie or any kind of small town background toughens you up in terms of playing music to people. Getting up and doing this thing is weird and hard sometimes, not like in a “driving heavy machinery through the side of a mountain” tough, but it’s great preparation for if and when you go tour. Having this faith in yourselves and this music you do (girded by this so-called “isolation”) goes a long way.
I try to keep the label [Rough Skies] stuff simple. It’s still pretty much early days and I’m still trying to figure out what the label should be and do. Still learning how to best use my resources to help the most bands, hence the compilations. Having lived on the mainland, playing music and meeting heaps of like minded heads has given me a bit of scope of what this label could do: that there are people “over there” possibly interested what we’re doing “over here”. Labels like Chapter Music are pretty inspirational in terms in that they put out stuff they’re actually fans of. I’d like to also think you work a little harder pushing something that you feel a passion for. I’ve done this music thing for a big chunk of my life and it’s very gratifying if I can further the prospects of Tassie music with it. In terms of getting this stuff noticed on the mainland and overseas I see it as a long term process, not only being done by me but a whole bunch of interested parties down here.
JT: Back to your band Steph, how does it work as a band from the creative side to the organisational side? You guys have toured overseas heaps, lived there. Did the vibe of the band change much while taken away from familiar surrounds? I’ve never traveled with my music much but Pete [Escott] and I are looking at going to America next year, any survival tips?
Steph: Yeah, life overseas was pretty different to Adelaide town, but kind of the same general idea of making your life work to facilitate playing in bands, just in a different context/surroundings. In Adelaide, the sacrifice is having crummy jobs so I have the time and flexibility to be in many bands and play gigs and travel on a whim. Overseas, Sam, Sarah and I were all on the same page about indulging in doing absolutely EVERYTHING for the band. We were super passionate about it, in a temporary environment, without those “home” pressures or distractions. We gave up everything else, practiced four days a week, and Sarah and I spent the rest of our free time emailing more than 1000 people about shows across the UK, Europe and America. We did booking ourselves because we had the time, and I guess, the obsession.
We came out in profit touring Europe because we would give up our London sublets, buy 10 pound airfares, borrow a car, and get paid well, fed and housed everywhere on the road. We essentially spent more time touring than we did living in London. We spent everyday together, in our Batrider bubble, and I loved that. The UK was kind of horrible for us for music though. We got ripped off so often by that music industry/venue/promoter infrastructure stuff, and saw so few good bands. And America was up and down.
We got an Australia Council grant for the US tour, which allowed us to get proper Visas, hire a proper van, backline, get insurance, a couple motels, and all that jazz. But I think it would also be doable on a tiny budget borrowing gear and relying on other people to help more. In America we had some misses at established venues, and winners at DIY basement shows (which kind of reflects my vibe about cities with tight music communities making gigs more memorable). In turn, those kids bought more merch and stuck their necks out for us more. Our tours were always at least two months long at a time, and since coming back to lazy old Adelaide, we've done a handful of shows in a year. We needed a a rest so bad.
My tips for booking your own tours overseas are: try hooking up with likeminded bands for info, bookings and advice; check out similar bands' tour routes and posters; and just start sending a million emails and actually keep track of who you are talking to and fleshing out relationships. If you're a nice dude talking to people on the same wavelength, they're gonna do their best.
SC: I wanna know your thoughts on band chemistries, because when I watch Native Cats, I gotta say, both you and Peter are totally different kinda guys but both super charismatic personalities onstage. How did you guys pair up? was Native Cats always going to be a duo? Is it important for you to be “close” to your band mates?
JT: Pete and I are pretty different in age, experience and backgrounds but we connect on the important stuff like trying to write good songs etc. I’d like to think our differences make for some sort of unique experience, or at least a fucken amazing Young Marble Giants rip-off band. Onstage I don’t think there’s a great plan how we present ourselves, I guess we don’t like to stand still but we don’t jive around like zany dickheads. Some of the best footage I’ve seen of a band performing was of Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band playing in about 1970. The way the band members weaved around each other onstage as they weaved around the music. It didn’t seem contrived, they just flowed and ebbed with sounds. Another performer we admire is Dave Graney, that fucker has CONVICTION.
The first time I met Pete was when I was music coordinator at Edge Radio, he dropped off a CD of his piano instrumental stuff to me in the office one day, he didn’t say much but I remember digging the CD. He went to Edinburgh for a while and the next time I saw him was when he played at some show at uni. Hobart is such a small place, especially among people who play music that you just keep running into folks and we had common friends. He tells me that previous to him playing and going to shows he was completely unaware of people doing interesting music in Hobart. My old band, The Bad Luck Charms, got him to write lyrics and sing on a song on our album Rant & Drift. When that band broke up I asked Pete to listen to some demos I’d written and KA-ZAM: the Native Cats. The duo works for now, we talked about getting maybe getting a person to be a singer/guitarist/bassist/keyboardist but none have come up so far. I’ve only played in duos or trios, I’d like to try a five-piece one day.
I think it’s good to be close to band mates, cause you have to deal with shit sometimes and it’s good to have that support. I regard all the people I’ve played with as some of my best friends (apart from not speaking to some for several years) but it can hard because you can be stuck with these people for long stretches, especially when listening to them drum on the bus seat armrests between Adelaide and Melbourne. I’d never live with a fellow band member again but I’d give them a kidney if required. I’ve been lucky in that the people I’ve played music I can socialize pretty easily with. I’d like to leave treating each other as employees to my day job.
JT: Do you guys have anything special planned for the Melbourne album launch? We have a bunch of new songs and gear, it’s scary and exciting because we’re still coming to grips with the gear and we don’t rehearse much. But that’s kind of what has made some of the best and worst Native Cats shows. Just pressing a button and letting it fly.
SC: We haven't got anything special planned for Melbourne. Before the tour, we started running through playing all the 16 songs on the album [Piles of Lies] and a couple others. There are a few that haven't come up yet that we've never played live. Maybe we should both do car-crash sets of weird unknown new shit? I actually love playing new songs - whether they work or not, I get the excitement in me. I don't mind being a bit scrappy if there's energy in it. Sarah's moving to Melbourne the week before the show, and it's the last show we have booked for the year, so it'll be a bit special for us anyway. No costumes or nothing.
Native Cats and Batrider’s double album launch is at The Tote in Melbourne this Friday (September 30). Supports by Absolute Boys and Lady Dreams.