Category: Music

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Interview: Underground Lovers

As the name of their band suggests, Underground Lovers are an enduring presence on the Australian music scene – possibly not always visible, but always there, hidden away and ready to emerge. Frequently described as a bridge between late-eighties electronica as well as more traditional rock, their role in helping to break down the barriers between the two has guaranteed them an enduring place in Australian music history – cemented by the numerous awards they’ve scooped up during their time together. An ARIA award, Triple J Hottest 100 slots, Australian Rolling Stone’s album of the year. An extended absence from the music industry began in the late nineties and ended with a reemergence in 2009, and the group haven’t stopped since – playing all across Australia and beyond, releasing a best-of compliation and getting ready to release a new record. No better time, then, to get on the phone to singer and instrumentalist Vincent Giarrussio, to provide us with an update on what Underground Lovers have been up to since.

Giarrusio kindly provides a brief overview of the last ten years for us. “Glenn and I started the band and we’ve always been the constant through it – we met at highschool and formed the band at the moment, which was the first incarnation of the band,” he explains. “And then people kind of left to do other stuff, so we had to find other drummers and bass players and stuff. Which we did, but we hoped to start playing again – we hoped to bring all the members back eventually. We’d been playing for ten years and did a lot of touring, put out a few records, and it just got to that point where we needed a break. And we were all branching off into different areas of creative endeavours – we never made a decision, it just sort of happened. And so with coming back together, it was the same sort of thing – we got asked to play a show, and we thought, oh yeah, we will. And that was it, there was no grand plan or anything – it just happens.”

Which they’ve managed to do, welcomed with open arms by Australian fans – making an impressive emergence from an extended hiatus with a string of live shows that began with a glorious return to form with a slot at the revered Homebake Festival in 2009. “It was really good,” he says. “We played a show in Sydney at the Annandale the night before, and that was extraordinary in that we hadn’t played at that venue for a long time, it was a sellout and there were people trying to get in. And it was a very intense show, and all of the shows have been like that – people coming along and being really into it, into the music, and it gets exciting. It’s a great feeling – we haven’t changed, we still play with the same intensity and it’s all about the music – we improvise, we make stuff up in the moment, and we play stuff from the early nineties through to the late nineties, and it all still sounds very fresh to us, and we still get excited by it. We’re playing some new stuff this time, too – some new songs which seem to work well. I love that element of mixing genres – the power and energy of rock music, and the repetition and energy of dance, too. It’s inspiring, it gets your blood going.”

Of course, with a career that extends all the way back to 1990, the group are no strangers to touring with some of the industry’s premier rock and dance acts. Asked about some of their favourite gigs, the list of names that Giarrusso mentions looks more like a roster of the nineties’ biggest acts. “We played with The Cure around Australia, and that was really good – it was great to be part of a really big show and all of the entertainment centres,” he says. “But it also showed us that it can be quite an impersonal process – it sort of becomes something else, and we like that contact with people, we like that one-on-one with fans in smaller venues where there’s more of a personal interaction going on. Having said that, it’s kind of exciting doing big things like that. My Bloody Valentine was a highlight, just because it was only about the music – they were extraordinary live, and the best thing I’ve ever heard. Primal Scream – we played with them a few times, and New Order, we played with them. Australian bands like the Go-Betweens and the Saints, and local bands we love and have played around with – we played in Sydney a few months ago with a band called Underlights, and these young guys were extraordinary – we felt really set off by them, too.”

If you weren’t already familiar with the litany of inspiring material Underground Lovers released during their first incarnation, there’s a new best-of compilation to sink your teeth into, titled Wonderful Things – a title that accurately summarises the wealth of material it contains. It was a difficult project to work on, as Giarrusso explains. “We had a few legal difficulties with some of the tracks – getting the rights back. But putting together the album took awhile, to work out how to do it, how to get songs from all the different albums and make them sound like they were part of one album. We spent a lot of time in the studio mastering tracks so there was an even kind of texture across the whole lot. The opportunity was there to visit some of the older stuff and kind of re-jig it – did a couple of edits and took out some things, too. It was a chance to do that which we thought we’d take on.”

Listening to it, one can’t help but feel that the group have a thoroughly eclectic approach to putting together music – it seems like each track or album takes you in a completely different direction. I point this out to Giarrusso, and he seems to agree. “We always thought of each album as something you’d lose yourself in – that you’d come out of it altered, or feeling different and hopefully, you want to go back into it again and get something different from it each time. We’ve always thought about records in that way. I think it’s a bit different to how you get music these days, with the way people tend to get single tracks a lot of the time. It’s kind of good, as well, though – we’re tackling those issues, those ideas with our new material.”

Music is not Giarrusso’s only creative output – alongside his work with Underground Lovers, he’s put out a collection of lyrics and prose named Rushall Station after one of their albums, as well as his own feature film Mallboy, which ended up doing quite well for itself at the Cannes Film Festival on its release. With such an impressive track record of success in a wide variety of creative disciplines, I wonder whether there are clear boundaries that divide each of his creative outlets, or whether they all blur and cross over into each other. “They do all blur, because they all come out of a writing discipline – I write a lot,” he answers. “So whether it’s writing lyrics, or – I‘m in the middle of a PhD, so I’m writing a thesis, and I’ve got a couple of scripts on the boil, TV stuff. I’m always writing, yeah, so it’s always a writing process – and when you move into production, that’s when the practice changes. It was weird, with Mallboy, I wrote the script and the opportunity came up tio direct it, and I thought, okay, I’ve got to learn how to do it. For me, it always comes out of writing – I work at a university teaching writing, too. It takes different forms, it’s always changing. It always comes from a personal place – I don’t write anything for commercial gain or because I think there’s an audience for it, it always comes out of personal expression.”

Set to play the Northcote Social Club very soon, and the group seem thoroughly enthused by the string of recent dates they’ve played, reimmersing themselves in the thriving live music scene of Melbourne. “We’ve never played the Northcote – it should be fun. This time, these are the last shows we’re doing to promote the Wonderful Things restrospective, but we’re also throwing in some new stuff – so we’ve got some new songs that we’re playing from new recordings that we’ve started doing. We’ve started getting back into the studio – we’ve got about six songs that we’re working on, and we’ve written another ten, so hopefully we’ll have that come out later this year.”

You can catch Underground Lovers when they play the Northcote Social Club on Saturday February 18.

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Attack Decay Sustain Release: Issue 1

They say 2012 will herald the end of the world in December – if that’s true, we better make it a fuckin’ big one, huh? Here’s hoping you all managed to kick off the year in style, whether it was with mates at a houseparty knocking back beers or shaking your arses at one of the many clubs in Melbourne playing host to all manner of international superstars. Personally, I struggled for days after mine – Heavy Innit at Laundry on New Year’s Eve followed up by an all-day affair at Summadayze with the lure of Skream and Benga, Flying Lotus, JPS, Tiga, Pendulum and more proving undeniable. What a weekend!

Hey, before I go on, I’d best introduce myself first. Hi: I’m Miki, and I’m one of two music directors at Radio Monash during 2012, alongside longtime-contributor and show host Bill Murphy. This will be my third year of a Bachelor of Arts double majoring in Criminology and Human Rights Theory, and my third year with the glorious institution that is Radio Monash. I like drinking tea, reading, and the television series Spooks. I’m always first to hit the dancefloor, and my heart beats to the thump of a kick-drum. I really, really like dance music. Bill and I used to run a show called Choose Life together and we used to joke about how our completely contrasting  tastes in music with weird crossovers could cover the whole music industry between us. Well, this year we’re looking to put that to the test in delivering Radio Monash readers with news, reviews and our own unique take on the glorious thing that is the music industry – and I’ll be taking you through the clubbier side of things.

So, what’s been happening? Oh, plenty. Andrew Weatherall, whose fingerprints are all over some of the nineties’ biggest releases as head of the famed Junior Boys Own, including albums by Underworld, the Chemical Brothers and Primal Scream, is slated for a string of shows across the country – no doubt showing off his perpetually-relevant and refined take on the dance music scene in the process.  Check out: his recent remix of fifteen-minute album-closing ‘Sun God‘ from Cut Copy’s Zonoscope, released last year – a sun-drenched throwback to the the sounds of nineties dance. Let’s get ravey: Andrew Weatherall plays New Guernica on January 13.

Daniel Martin-McCormick’s name is many things to different people – whether it’s as part of trip-hop outfit Mi Ami, as lone operative Sex Worker signed to Not Not Fun – or as Ital, his latest guise under his first singles demanded the attention of authorities on house everywhere, including the legendary Planet Mu, on which his debut album Hive Mind is set to be released. Incredible. Ital will be at Buffalo Club on January 25 – get on it!

Not to mention that Big Day Out 2012 is on its way, and with it a few sweet little sideshows to check out. Sample wild child Girl Talk hits the Palace on January 31, followed by Norwegian purveyors of hypercolour disco-pop Royksopp, who’ll have their turn on February 2.

Tickets for Golden Plains Sixxx have officially sold out, as was to be expected from one of Victoria’s most well-loved musical institutions, and with a lineup boasting Bon Iver, Roots Manuva, Seekae and more, who could possibly resist? We’re hoping a number of you have been lucky enough to secure tickets for what will be one of the best weekends of 2012 – and the beats fiends among us would be beyond foolish not to check out what Melbourne’s own defiantly uncategorisable Seekae will have at the ready. Need convincing? I doubt it, but if you do, check out this seriously stunning mix they put together for Beats and Pieces. Yesssssss!

So January’s looking like a pretty good month off uni for us at Radio Monash. In terms of music news, what’s been kicking? A perennial favourite of many a seasoned Radio Monash host, Hotflush Recordings head honcho and man of dubstep, techno and everything in between Scuba (or, to his parents, Paul Rose) has just announced the release of his third studio album titled Personality, set to drop on his own imprint in February. After a hectic but productive year that saw him touring relentlessly on top of releasing EPs Adrenalin (track of the year or what?) and a 12″ under his minimal-techno alias SCB, as well as a deliciously deep DJ-KiCKS compilation, there is no stopping this dude. With a snippet of lead single ‘The Hope’ available on YouTube sounding as deliciously harsh-edged and heavy-hitting as we’ve come to expect from the man, we’re definitely ready to get our hands on the latest Scuba LP.

Speaking of upcoming releases, we hear The xx are planning on dropping their sophomore effort rather soon. Took them long enough, hey! Judging by the sounds of this demo track Open Eyes that’s floating about on YouTube and SoundCloud, we can expect a similarly-mature and refined feel to their debut effort, from one of London’s most multitalented upcoming producers and crew.

A new EP from Burial titled ‘Kindred’ is also slated for release sometime this month. Looks like he’s been busy in the studio these past twelve months – we’ve been loving his collaborative efforts with everyone from Thom Yorke, Four Tet and Massive Attack over the past year, and given the four long years that have elapsed since the release of his last album, the hauntingly perfect Untrue, we’re just gagging to see what the mysterious South Londoner conjures up next.

Summer’s fever’s calling! Welcome to the year in dance – it’s going to be a biiiiiiiiiig one, and I’m sure as hell looking forward to what’s coming.