Fabulous Diamonds are not your standard Melbourne lo-fi band. Having recorded their latest LP, Fabulous Diamonds II with Mikey Young, guitarist from DIY lords Eddy Current Suppression Ring, the confusion is however quite understandable. Musically though, the band are very much of a different page, preferring minimal tribal drumming, and muddy repetitive organ and sax wailing, to your run of the mill guitar rifferry.
“We find it really hard to put together line-ups,” drummer Nisa Venerosa explains to me over the phone. “When we have our album launches we want a certain vibe on the night and ninety percent of the bands in Australia are guitar and bass orientated, so it’s really hard to find a middle ground for us. When we play a launch we don’t really want a five-piece rock band playing before us, even if we like the band, it just creates the wrong vibe.”
Often playing shows with such bands regardless, Fabulous Diamonds have suffered more than their fair share of abuse at the hands of music fans hoping for a rock show rather than the brooding and hypnotic minimalism offered by the band. “We do get a lot of haters,” Nisa laughs, “but I don’t mind – it happens to everyone. Any publicity is good publicity I guess.”
Bad publicity is not something the band have ever worried about too much, with comments such as ‘the duo’s robotic drumming and obscure organ/synthesizer provided more background noise than anything engaging,’ from soundproofmagazine.com, displayed proudly on the band’s MySpace.
“Well that’s actually Jarrod’s doing,” Nisa tells me, a slight tone of frustration popping up in her voice before slipping back down again. “We’ve actually had debates over this you know, but yeah it’s Jarrod’s idea and Jarrod thinks it’s funny to put up negative reviews of us, for his own reasons.” This self-deprecating self-promotion does serve a purpose though. A bad review from someone with no taste almost amounts to a good review if it falls into the right hands.
What seems to offend so many people about the band is the seemingly improvised style the duo has adopted. “A lot of people think we improvise a lot, but our songs are very structured. There is room to move though, and it’s always going to be different, but we never improvise when we’re recording.”
While they may not exactly improvise, there is still a degree of freedom in their playing. Much like artists such as The Necks or Steve Reich, Fabulous Diamonds make use of incidental differences that come with playing naturally in repetition, allowing parts of the songs to shift and move amongst each other. “We do play naturally,” Nisa agrees, going on to explain the relationship of chaos and control that exist between her and Jarrod. “Jarrod tends to carry on a little more than I do though, with our kind of longer songs he could go for hours whereas I’ll be bringing in the next structural part of the song to move things along.”
While some may see working as a two-piece as a limitation, for Fabulous Diamonds it is precisely because they are a two-piece that they have been able to flourish. In an industry where the eye is most often on the bottom line, Nisa explains that being a two-piece can offer opportunities that larger bands wouldn’t be able to pursue. “It’s economical — we get to tour the world and it not be this huge stress. Also, people overseas are more willing to bring you out cos there’s only the two of you, and we have to pay for less flights and just so many other things that make it more viable in terms of expenses. If we were a five-piece I don’t even think we would’ve gotten to go overseas yet.”
Aside form the financial advantages though, working as a two-piece just seems natural to the band. “It just works for us you know. We just jam and understand each other. We’d never get in another member like a lot of bands do after a while, that’s not something I can ever see us doing.” And why would you? Having toured to America and Europe already as well as playing as part of the Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds curated ATP Australia shows, Fabulous Diamonds aren’t exactly struggling. Currently planning to return to America and Europe over the next few months, the duo are excited to get to play to foreign audiences once more.
Whereas a lot of Aussie bands are making the move overseas nowadays, and with mixed results (see The Scare vs. The Temper Trap), Fabulous Diamonds are happy where they are, the lure of the glittering cities of Europe and America holding no sway with the Melbourne duo. “We don’t really have any desire to ever move overseas, we really love Melbourne and we’re happy to live here and go overseas once a year or twice a year or whatever, and it works pretty well like that for us.”