Perth natives Methyl Ethel recently exploded with popularity as their 2016 debut album “Oh Inhuman Spectacle” propelled them into fame, producing triple J favourites such as “Rogues”, and the ninety-seventh place in the Hottest-100-of-2015 tune, “Twilight Driving”. After being signed to 4AD records amongst the ranks of Future Islands, and Purity Ring and completing a US tour, the band returned to their home soil to promote and reveal previously unheard songs to be featured on their follow-up album “Everything Is Forgotten” for a show at Brunswick’s The Howler. Supported by similarly dream-pop bands, Quivers and Totally Mild, the night was sure to be a laid-back evening of unique art-pop.
Traipsing on stage, the originally Tasmanian indie-rock Quivers played a diverse and ranged set. After only recently releasing their morbidly pun-based cassette tape “We’ll Go Riding On The Hearses”, the band showed off the cassette’s two singles: “Pigeons” and “Chinatown”, and counselled their invested listeners to pick up their retro merchandise. The audience bopped along to Quivers‘ jangley and bouncing music. Songs like “Chinatown” had exceptional dynamic range, starting as a bare and exposed solo guitar ballad that erupted into a danceable rock tune and simmered back down to its vulnerable and powerful original opening. The band seemed especially confident on stage, with the band’s leading man cracking jokes about their recently acquired sweaters for sale while checking his watch to see how much time they had left. Quivers were immensely enjoyable to watch and set the perfect atmosphere in the slowly crowding Howler bandroom.
As excitement brimmed in the seemingly suspense-filled venue, Totally Mild prepared their gear. The band recently released a full-length LP “Down Time” and an EP “Alive in Denmark“. Fronted by the friendly and warm Elizabeth Mitchell, dressed in high-heeled sport shoes, the group traversed a wide scope of dream-pop sounds. “Totally Mild” is one of the most appropriate band names in recent history, as its a perfect two-word adjective to describe the band’s sound. This claim is of course a compliment, as the band’s wonderfully dreamy and soothing songs created by sugar-sweet guitar sounds, beautiful falsetto singing, and funky drums, lulled audience members into a hypnosis of dancing and swaying. Their show had a gorgeous assortment of either glimmering, and punchy indie-rock colours in “When I’m Tired” or bare, synth-led sentimental songs like “Sky” which was introduced by an angelic acapella performance from the lead singer. The whole set was splendid, magnificent dream-pop bliss which captured the attention of most if not all audience members. Mitchell’s simple chords were layered upon soaring guitar parts improved by a fantastic fingerslide effect. Wrapping up the set by dedicating the show to her wife, Mitchell reflected on the fact that it was their first year anniversary the day following the show. This sentimental and tender end to the set perfectly summarised Mitchell’s lyrics and songwriting which must be commended.
After Totally Mild‘s totally fantastic set, the Howler stage was arranged with Methyl Ethel‘s equipment including a meticulously reconfigured drum set and a spare microphone for a saxophone. The set opened with a reverb-heavy rendition of “Shadowboxing” accompanied by a dazzling light display spelling out the letter “M”. Fan favourite “Rogues” and recent-hit “No. 28” were linked together by carefully noodled interludes which seamlessly connected the band’s set. The Perth trio also exhibited new unreleased tracks off their forthcoming album including “Weeds Through The Rind” as well as “Drink Wine”, the set’s closer. Even older cuts from their 2013 EP “Guts” like the shimmering and glistening “Architecture Lecture” made an appearance in their set, and lead singer Jake Webb paused the song to dwell on the original demo which he had only recently listened to recounting that it was, in his words, “shit”. Recently revealed tracks such as “Ubu” had audience member’s stumbling over its tongue-twistingly complicated lyrics, and “L’Heure des Sorciéres” (“The Hour of Witches” for the curious) utilised a thick, heavy organ bassline married with an animated drum performance.
Webb’s musical conviction on stage was shown in his confident musical performance and vocal acrobatics from head to chest voice. Rarely speaking, Webb didn’t come off as conscientious nor nervous but more as someone who was intensely concentrating on their intricately performed music. The band had a wonderful chemistry with each other on stage which seemed to resonate out into the audience, as fans jumped and sang along to their music. Usually a trio, the band was joined by touring musician Hamish, who enhanced the band’s sound through adding additional guitar and synth parts into the mix. “Twilight Driving”, the group’s biggest hit, had an accompanying saxophone solo that boosted the song’s quality immensely.
Methyl Ethel who have a refined and varied live show which proves their importance in Australia’s music industry. The band teased their upcoming album well, but also saluted long-time fans with their beloved eclectic music.
Methyl Ethel’s second album ‘Everything Is Forgotten’ is to be released this Friday the 3rd of March. They have also just announced a tour in May, you can find tickets here.
Photography Credit: Sahana Kashyap and Paul Waxman