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SONIC KICKS: Witch Hats

Sonic Kicks Witch Hats

With Hats have a few very good albums under the collective belt but their latest, Deliverance, is hands down the best thing they’ve done. It’s a blistering set of lurching rock ‘n’ roll and in our review we said “They’re firmly in the realm of The Clash, The Drones and The Gun Club yet they’ve dug their own hook-laden hole and decorated it with all manner of exceptional dark pop and bruised, gutter-punk blues.” They’re currently touring the album (dates below) and Kris Buscombe kindly took the time to answer our Sonic Kicks Q&A where he talks about Wide World Of Sports, arachnophobia, Bon Scott on the Titanic and the albums that shaped him musically.

  • Aug 19th @ Red Rattler Theatre, Marrickville
  • Aug 20th @ Trainspotters, Brisbane
  • Aug 27th @ The Tote, Melbourne

The first album I bought…

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Shaquille O’Neal – Shaq Diesel

 I used to record stuff off TV to VHS tape and nabbed a clip of Shaq Diesel’s lead single – ‘Shoot Pass Slam’ off seminal music show, Wild World of Sports.

It was 1992 and basketball was massive in Australia. I had baggy jeans and a teal coloured Charlotte Hornets jacket and a folder full of basketball cards. A brief and confused few years for me, just before I became a real man and got into rock and roll. But back in the heady days of ’92 it was just a Teac boom box and a whole album of basketball rap songs.

An album that soundtracked a relationship…

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Live – Throwing Copper

I used to go out with a woman named Kylie.  She worked at a slot car racing track where I was spending most of my afternoons. A scale model racing track. Big indoor circuit with 15cm long cars careering off in every direction. An arousing place.

Kylie was mad for Live’s Throwing Copper. I had to listen to it constantly.  It’s a horrible shit of a record. I don’t recommend it and if you’re an arachnophobe I don’t recommend Kylie either. She teased me and put spiders on my face once when I slept.

An album that inspired me to form a band…

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50 Million Clowns – First Class Experiment

I attended a Foo Fighters concert in ’98.  I don’t recall being a fan but my friends and I were Nirvana obsessives. They mobbed Dave Grohl as he crossed the busy highway directly in front of the Hobart Town Hall and chatted with him for a while. I missed out on this interaction – I was glued to my seat inside the hall having corrective ear surgery as three crumpled and shockingly plain looking men changed my life forever with the most atonally beautiful noise I’d ever come across. 50 Million Clowns and their album First Class Experiment re-wired my brain when I was 15. The fact they came from Hobart blew me out hunting headfirst into a small unique scene taking place right on my doorstep. This album holds up. It’s harsh and powerful rock with a thoroughly unique and individual darkness surrounding it.

An album that reminds me of my high school years…

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Nirvana – Incesticide

I’d come across a poster of ‘Kurt Cobain 1967-1994’ some place and didn’t know who he was (the end of my Shaq era) and asked chef Raymond at my dad’s restaurant.  He lent me a CD of Nevermind. Great songs for a beginning guitarist.  I was a shy angst-ridden musical misfit in an extremely annoying high school getting up to a lot of mischief and smoking pot. I felt an intense connection to Kurt for a while as some kind of delayed grunge kid in the midst of an anti-establishment, regime change inside my body. ‘Aneurysm’ is their greatest song and closes this disc of rarities. I was kicked out of McCann’s Music store when they caught me hidden in the manuscript section, tablature scribbled in biro across my arms, Incesticide tablature book open on the floor.

An album I’d love to hear live and played in full…

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Every ‘band perform album’ gig I’ve attended has failed to please me. There’s too much excitement and spontaneity in a gig if I’m not aware of the set list in advance. It’s a fair-weather music fan’s thing.

To be a good sport I will say The Doors in 67 at the Whiskey doing their first self-titled album. Or Hendrix doing Axis Bold As Love, The Birthday Party doing Junkyard back in ’82, Dylan doing Blond On Blonde in 1955 or AC/DC with Bon Scott playing Surfer Rosa on the Titanic.

My favourite album cover art…

Hans Bellmer – La Bouch

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A guilty pleasure album…

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Most of my favourite music could fit in here.  Cheap Trick’s Heaven Tonight is pretty great.  Everyone I try to put onto it makes a gross face and I have to turn it off. I put on Aerosmith’s Rocks album at a party a while ago and got in trouble. Steely Dan’s Aja record. Dylan’s ’80s albums.

The last albums I bought…

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Dr. John – The Sun, Moon & Herbs and Lucinda Williams – The Ghosts of Highway 20

 

The next album I want to buy…

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The Aggravators – Dubbing At King Tubby s Vol. 1

I started getting into Dub music about a year ago.  It’s my favourite stuff to listen to at the moment and anything involving King Tubby is the greatest.

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NEW MUSIC: The Lemon Twigs – These Words

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The Lemon Twigs are the brothers Brian (19) and Michael (17) D’Addario from Long Island who I came across online a month or two ago. They caught my attention with this song These Words and another single As Long As We’re Together. Madcap technicolour pop sounds by the pair who write and play everything on their recordings.

I’ve been digging the glam, baroque-pop sound of others like Kyle Craft of late and these guys definitely fall into the same camp (excuse the pun). Awesome 60s production (by Jonathan Rado of Foxygen) on their stuff too. Drums up front and natural sounding and plenty of over-the-top flavours in the mix.

The Lemon Twigs are set to release their debut LP Do Hollywood on October 14th via 4AD/Remote Control Records here in Australia. Hopefully if it gets traction we’ll get to see them out here for some shows. I reckon they’d be a blast live.

NEW MUSIC: Lambchop –The Hustle

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Lambchop have been fairly quiet of late with their last LP (Mr. M) coming out in 2012. In the intervening years the band, among other things, performed their landmark album Nixon in full and head honcho Kurt Wagner released an electronic album (The Diet) under the name HeCTA with Lambchop members Ryan Norris and Scott Martin in 2015.

They’ve now announced that a brand new Lambchop LP will be released on November 3rd via Merge Records. Titled FLOTUS it sees them delving further into avantgarde electronic soul, based on this 18 minute track The Hustle. Below you can also check out a brief album trailer clip.

Pre-orders available HERE

 

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SONIC KICKS: Show Me Where It Hurts

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Show Me Where It Hurts are a Rhodes electric piano, drums and vocals duo from Auckland, New Zealand. Both musicians have been key players on the Auckland scene for the last two decades with Josh Hetherington fronting Thorazine Shuffle and Ronny Haynes drumming with bands such as Pash and Fagan And The People.

The pair have just released their debut self-titled EP (stream/buy below) which follows their 2014 7″ single ‘Show Me Where It Hurts’/’All I Ever Need’ (included on the EP). This time around they’ve built on the one-two punch of the drums/Rhodes combination, adding harmonies, guitars, percussion and keys to the mix with players such as Salon Kingsadore’s Hayden Sinclair on bass, Tom Rodwell (‘Sheffield’s answer to Lightnin’ Hopkins’: NME) on guitar, legendary double bassist Peter Scott, Finn Scholes (Carnivorous Plant Society) on trumpet, and Cam Allen on baritone sax. The results are a richer, more textured and nuanced set of recordings that drip with sweet soul, humid grooves and Hetherington’s voice which soothes and strains in equally rewarding amounts.

Hetherington – songwriter, singer and the man on the keys in SMWIH – kindly took the time to reminisce, enthuse and wax lyrical about some of the important albums that have shaped his musical life.

The first album I bought…

Kiss – Unmasked (1980)

MI0002326466Not their greatest, but as an eight-year old turned on to Kiss by their Australasian pop smash ‘Shandi’ (and Dynasty’s ‘I Was Made for Lovin’ You’), along with an older friend’s encouragement, and, yeah, the make-up, mystique and all-out cartoonish-ness of the whole thing, then you couldn’t go wrong with a comic book cover, the original line-up – at least in name (there was a notable session player in place of Peter Criss on the drums) – and the pop accessibility of many of the harmony laden, yet still riff-heavy, tunes (many co-written by producer Vini Poncia). It all made for a perfect entry point as far as these ears were concerned, at very formative stage. Their concert at Western Springs (Auckland, NZ), in December 1980, was my first and was also highly formative.

Gene Simmons’ standouts ‘Naked City’ and ‘She’s So European’ are big-ass, pop metal tunes, Paul Stanley’s ‘What Makes the World Go ’Round’ and ‘Tomorrow’ fill the same sort of bill, but it’s the Ace Frehley tunes, ‘Talk to Me’, ‘Torpedo Girl’ and ‘Two Sides of the Coin’ – along with several of his killer solos – which hark bark to the grittier era of their early-mid ’70s oeuvre, and which always stood out to me.

An album that soundtracked a relationship…

Nick Cave – Your Funeral, My Trial (1986)

MI0003093418Your Funeral, My Trial is an album I gave to my wife early in our relationship, and it holds a special place for me. The doomed, world-weary romance and weighty carnival-esque feel of the record, with its heavy Hammond use (often played by Cave), not to mention a song called ‘The Carney’, provided a beautiful, dark and contrapuntal soundtrack to a happy and exciting time, and proved not at all prophetic for us in its foreboding atmosphere (16 years on!).

I love the title track, and the prototypical, Cave-ian ‘Sad Waters’ which features a character called Mary (no less), with hair of gold and lips like cherries (natch!), who seduces the protagonist’s soul, wading the aforementioned waters with her dress up past her knee, turning them into wine under weeping willow trees, whose vines she plaits.

It still makes me want to drink too much vodka.

An album that inspired me to form a band…

Nirvana – Nevermind (1991)

MI0001996061Nevermind showed the way for rock music post its ’80s nadir, I think, tearing back the curtain to reveal the possibilities of combining a vital and uncompromising, underground punk spirit and sound with the ’70s metal and rock ’n’ roll of this teenager guitar player’s high-school years and the high (’60s-based) art-pop and rock of his childhood (early ’80s Beatlemaniac that I was).

Teenage angst had arguably never sounded quite as raw, exciting, honest, vital, uncompromising or as inspiring as this. Inimitable as it was, it was the intent and the perfectly executed, and infectiously simple idea that provided a way forward, when one had otherwise seemed unforthcoming, much in the same way I’m sure punk in the ’70s did for so many young players and bands.

I got in touch with a drummer I knew from primary school who suggested I bring my guitar along to the rehearsal of a group he was playing with, and I joined my first proper band (Thorazine Shuffle).

Albums that reminds me of my high school years…

MI0002960634Led Zeppelin – II (1969), The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed (1969), The Beatles – White Album (1968), The Who – Quadrophenia (1972), David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust (1972), Lou Reed – Transformer (1972), Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde (1966), The Clash – London Calling (1980), Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True (1977).

I dug pop radio, too, but as a guitarist and nascent songwriter I was immersed in another era, educating myself (in a certain area, anyway), somewhat out of time and out of step with contemporary mores. But I also loved The Cure – and Licensed to Ill and Appetite for Destruction came along at about the right time, too!

An album I’d love to hear live and played in full…

You Am I – Hourly Daily (1996)

Album330_HDr-363x363I’d love to have caught one of these shows in 2013 with all the live horn and string arrangements, when You Am I performed the album and Hi Fi Way (1995) in their entirety.

Hourly Daily is a beautiful, evocative and poignant record, that makes me feel as sad as it makes me happy. Though I’m not Australian, there’s a spirit, sound, sense of humour and sensitivity to this band and Tim Rogers’ songs – as optimised by their mid 1990s output – which has always appealed to me and to which I really relate – making me wonder if perhaps the suburban New Zealand childhood I experienced wasn’t so different from that of many of our Australian cobbers.

The Triple J documentary on the making of Hourly Daily, which originally aired in the early 2000s, was recently posted at the station’s site, and is a compelling listen, with the multi-tracks revisited, and drum, keyboard, guitar and vocal parts re-examined, soloed, marvelled at and celebrated by the band.

Personal note: Having shared Auckland Big Day Out festival bills on a number of occasions in the 1990s, my then band (Thorazine Shuffle) finally got a chance to share a stage in support, on the night You Am I debuted their new guitarist Davey Lane at Auckland’s Powerstation in 1999.

My favourite album cover art…

The Rolling Stones – Exile on Main Street  (1972)

MI0000035025‘They’re gonna love it!’ Mick Jagger was quoted as saying upon seeing the design from beat photographer (and subsequent director of infamous Stone’s verité film Cocksucker Blues), Robert Franks. And by they, he meant the kids, legions of them, Stones fans all, who would understand implicitly, in the monochromatic murkiness of the sleeve and the music, this perfect representation of the marriage of art and commerce, music and money, the band and the record.

The front cover isn’t simply the collage of freaks, strongmen, dancing girls, ventriloquists, b-grade movie stars and billiard ball eaters, which it initially appears to be. Rather, it’s a single photograph of a wall covered in postcards, cigarette cards, snaps from a bygone era (covering all of the aforementioned material and a great deal more).

The distinction is important, as interest lies not only specifically in the strangeness of the images themselves, but in the strangeness of the world they represent in the photograph’s entirety, and the unease and loneliness it (and the realisation of its nature) evokes.

As with the album itself – a sprawling yet somehow highly successful, evocative, moving, inspiring and ultimately cohesive (in its whole) exploration of rock ’n’ roll, Gospel, blues, country and Americana – the photograph is greatest as the sum of its parts.

Franks was heralded by none other than King of the Beats, Jack Kerouac himself, who wrote the introduction to the photographer’s iconic collection of photographs, The Americans, first published in 1958. His employment by Mick Jagger was in part testament to the lineage (that bona-fide Beats connection) that his involvement would lend. But it was mostly due to the greatness of his work – Franks clear understanding of, and eye for, the magnitude and unknowingness of his greatest subject matter (in America and Americans), in harmony with the greatness of the singer’s and his band’s own work (and their understanding of their own often overlapping subject matter) – not to mention Jagger’s own impeccable instincts and taste.

The back cover and gatefold spread are balanced with additional Franks images from his ’50s America – a box office showing a Joan Crawford film, a small-town parade of saluting servicemen and civilians, lonely juke joints, a desert road – and augmented with Super 8 stills shot by the photographer of the Stones, surrounded by the decadence of some of the gardens, streets, studios and porno theatres of L.A – Mick, Keith and Charlie, Bobby Keys, Jim Price, Marshall Chess, Mick Taylor, Bill Wyman, a sleeping man (one eye open), an unidentified woman, bystanders, hangers on, mugging for the camera, smiling, pouting but mostly looking bored, yawning, self-conscious – the ennui of the ’70s having well and truly set-in.

‘They’re gonna love it’, and indeed they did. I do, too.

A guilty pleasure album…

Dire Straits – Making Movies (1980)

MI0003515822Another formative album from my childhood, so there’s a strong nostalgic element. That said you can’t really go past the melodrama or whirligig-ery of ‘Tunnel of Love’ for a song.

And how about ‘Romeo and Juliet’? That picked Dobro intro always grabs me, and Mark Knopfler’s film noir, street-wise patter, always impressed me as a kid, too. Come to think of it what am I apologising for? It still impresses me. Plus he plays guitar on Dylan’s Slow Train Coming (another guilty pleasure!)

The last album I bought…

Sly Stone – Listen To The Voices: Sly Stone In The Studio 1965-1970

ListenToTheVoicesSlyA killer collection of often rare, formative-era, Sly Stone produced cuts as Svengali-style producer and hit man.

Tracks include unreleased demos, nuggets and gems from the Family Stone along with songs Sly wrote and produced for artists such as (Nuggets-era) Beau Brummels, Billy Preston, 6IX, Joe Hicks, Little Sister, The French Fries and Sly himself – and many have been excavated and in some instances mixed for the first time for this release, by compilation producer Alec Paleo.

It’s a master class in pop, soul and funk production with heavy signposts along the way telegraphing Sly’s production peak (and personal nadir) in ’71’s dense, claustrophobic, and sometimes downright paranoid There’s a Riot Going On – both his biggest album to that date, and the record which saw the dissolution of the original Family Stone line-up.

Tracks by 6IX, Joe Hicks, Abaco Dream and Sly himself often point the way towards Riot’s infamous and hypnotic, narco-funk minimalism – with tracks often sparsely yet powerfully furnished with early drum machine, direct and extremely up-front bass, harmonica, effected keyboards and guitar, not to mention Sly’s own unique and unselfconscious singing and vocalisms.

Earlier tracks often reflect the more raucous, upbeat R&B and soul of The Family Stone’s earlier breakthrough hits (‘Want to Take You Higher’ and Dance to the Music’) – and the joie-de-vivre of Beau Brummels’ ‘Underdog’, The French Fries’ own ‘Danse a la Musique’ and Sly’s cover of The Kinks’ ‘You Really Got Me’ are infectious and irresistible.

The Paleo’s access to master tapes sees studio banter included on many of these cuts, adding further insight into the fertile, creative and vital period for Sly Stone at the height of his popularity and burgeoning production prowess.

Another, more recent release I’m Just Like You: Sly Stone’s Stone Flower 1969-70 is a more focused look at productions specific to his Stone Flower label, and cuts which more directly point to the iconoclastic minimalism of Riot. Many tracks appear on both compilations and each release is great, though the former offers more surprises and a broader palette, while the latter is also available on vinyl.

The next album I want to buy…

Shayne P. Carter – Offsider

a2976649321_10I can’t wait for Shayne Carter’s new piano-driven album Offsider. In fact I’ve been looking forward to it since I heard about it from Carter’s drummer Gary Sullivan (JPSE, Dimmer) some years ago. So it’s been sometime in the making and on the strength of the first two singles (available to hear at shaynepcarter.bandcamp.com) it’s going to be a cracker!

I’m a fan of Carter from across his career (Double Happys, Straitjacket Fits, Dimmer and solo), and this change of angle in his decision to learn, write and perform on piano promises intriguing new musical possibilities from a true, original and uncompromising composer and writer (and also intrigues and resonates with me in terms of my own, more recent, piano-based approach to writing and performing with Show Me Where It Hurts).

Apocalyptic first single, ‘We Will Rise Again’ is as tense as can be in its foreboding waltz-time verses, and almost overwhelming free-time, feedback- and string-drenched refrains, which it dissolves into repeatedly.

There’s no easing of the tension in second single, ‘I Know Not Where I Stand’ either, where strings, synths and Carter’s strident yet delicate piano line marches in lock step with Sullivan’s four-on-the-floor, bass-drum driven groove, which is punctuated by an ever growing crescendo of driving, swinging brush-strokes predominant on the snare, and Carter’s own anxiety ridden vocals, cushioned occasionally in chorused harmony with himself.

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NEW MUSIC: The Tambourine Girls – The Tambourine Girl

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The Tambourine Girls feature 3 ex-members of Sydney band Deep Sea Arcade who are now forging their own winding path through the outer reaches of garage-pop and psychedelia.

They’ve just released the catchy and near-eponymous new single ‘The Tambourine Girl’, with the clip below.

Recorded with producer Tim Whitten (Powderfinger, The Go-Betweens, Hoodoo Gurus), the song itself is captivating, evocative in its execution encompassing the mythology of the muse, a subject woven through carefully as well as the very fabric of pop culture as a whole. Twiggy. Marilyn Munroe. Christie Brinkley. And The Tambourine Girl. “She dances and I follow and when I wake up I am empty, so I fill myself up and do it all again.”

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INTERVIEW: Bryan Estepa

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Bryan Estepa has embraced fatherhood, is approaching middle-age, and now, five albums into his solo career, he finds those life events being reflected in his songwriting and approach to the music business. 

On the day of his launch gig for his new album Every Little Thing, Estepa is surprisingly calm, even when having to be interviewed via video in his car as he momentarily escapes parental responsibilities. That lack of rush and stress marks Estepa’s current mindset, which he refers to as “mid-tempo”.

“You know, I am. I’m nearly 40 and have a family and in our mid 20s we seemed to be rushing all the time and now we’ve got it more in balance. That reference seems to reflect my life now. I’m not wanting to be a rock star or feel like I have to have a punk song or a really quick song on my albums. Once I’d recorded them I realised that there aren’t any particularly big sounding songs, there’s a natural flow to the album and I didn’t feel the need to include anything like a specific radio song.”

The big change on Every Little Thing was Estepa’s realisation, after four albums with a full band, that he needed to mix things up and create a different musical headspace to inspire new songs. “This album didn’t exist in my head twelve months ago,” remarks Estepa. “A year ago I made the drastic decision to change my band setup, stripping it back to a trio with the Tempe Two (Dave Keys – bass, Russell Crawford – drums/vocals). After coming home from a successful tour with the larger band, something was telling me to cut it down and make it smaller. I just knew I had to tell two of my best friends that I was stripping the band back. It wasn’t easy but they understood it was for the music and that it will benefit all of us in the long time. I just felt I needed a change after playing as a five piece for ten years. Then the songs rolled along as I wrote to suit the smaller band setup.”

Those songs found Estepa stepping back and also looking inward to assess his own perspectives on life. “It’s a very personal album. I wrote a song for my children on it. My relationship is very similar to a lot of my friends where we’ve been together for a long time, we’re married with kids and it’s examining where we are at this point in our lives and where we’re going. It is introspective without getting too personal, so it is still universal in many ways.”

Recording the album in the sunlit environs of Bondi Pavilion with producer Brendan Gallagher (Karma County, Jimmy Little, Bernie Hayes) “really relaxed everyone and loosened the playing,” says Estepa. “He records a very true sound and has perfect pitch and so that pushed me to get some of the best vocal recordings that I’ve done I think.”

Stylistically Estepa is something of a musical magpie. He’s been pegged as power pop, indie rock and alt-county and though he exhibits strains of all of those genres he also manages to blend a soulfulness and a classically-crafted singer/songwriter feel into his music. That cross-pollination isn’t something that Estepa feels inhibits his career. “From a record label perspective or for iTunes categorisation it might matter but as a songwriter I think it’s good,” he stresses.

“I really love the term Australiana and when I listen to someone like William Crighton it sounds very Australian to me. Not just in the way he’s singing but the atmosphere makes it like a modern day Triffids album in that alt-country sense. I heard rural Victoria when I heard his album and I’ve never been too rural Victoria. The same when I listen to the new Halfway album which was recorded in Nashville but still sounds very Australian. It shows the roots scene here is growing and getting big enough where people are starting to realise we have our own sound and not just copying Nashville,” says Estepa, proudly.

Chris Familton