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Naked On The Vague

Written by Chris Sammut on August 23, 2009

Apocalyptic Sydney psych pop band Naked On The Vague have been hired to bring a bit of much needed Aussie grimness to Flip Out next Saturday. Now expanded to a include a four piece, it’s been a busy year for the original duo of Lucy and Matthew, who are probably now sick of the mention of their appearance at SXSW in Austin, Texas. But they were invited, and it’s better than most of us have done, and no small reward for a hard working band.

Music Feeds caught up with Lucy (and for a second Matthew) recently to talk all things NOTV.

Music Feeds: You’ve got a new 7″ on the New York based label Sacred Bones. The label’s website described the song Chitty Chat as a ‘more danceable version of Whitehouse’ (the sex and death obsessed early industrial / power electronics group). What do you think about this type of comparison? Since that first 6 song CD-R, Chitty Chat has evolved from the foot stomping, crowd pleaser into something much darker. Did things become less sunny around your parts?

Lucy: Hmm… yeah, I find it weird when we get those comparisons to bands like Whitehouse or Throbbing Gristle. I have always thought of our music as more pop orientated than say a band like TG who set out to really deconstruct all of that. Also, Whitehouse has a sadistic feel I think, which I don’t think we have. Yeah, the sound of Chitty Chat has evolved. We actually canned it for quite a while, but then Matthew started playing guitar in NOTV again, it made sense to bring it back; we just fucked it up, made it more harsh. I’m not sure that it is that things have become less sunny for us – that song lyrically hasn’t changed – it’s about having your heart-broken by the ‘big bad fucked up world’… The sound when we recorded it just reflects that brutality. Also, I think compared to a band like Whitehouse, we have a dark sense of humour, which is evident is a song like Chitty Chat I think. Actually I did see Whitehouse once, and I found their antics pretty funny. I think I even laughed while watching them, so actually maybe we are similar after all.

MF: Perhaps. Last years Flip Out Festival could have been considered ‘garage rock’. This year at least half the bands could be described as outsider, weirdo or lo-fi. Do you think the lines between rock and experimental are blurring?

L: I’m totally excited that they’ve expanded Flip Out to include some ‘weirder’ bands, so to speak. Yeah, I think now more than ever people who may have strictly been in either the ‘rock’ or ‘experimental’ camps are starting to open up to other genres maybe.

MF: It seems in 2009 it’s a lot more accepted to use a drum machine, backing track, or some type of non-standard drum set up. What made you want to ditch the drum machine and add a drummer and bass player? Don’t you want to make it big? You could’ve been the goth Animal Collective…..

L: Ha ha. Can we use ‘goth Animal Collective’ in our bio? We haven’t ditched the drum machine entirely. We’re just more flexible about things. For live shows we’ve played lately, mostly it’s gone, but in recording we still use it. I guess we got totally fed up of shitty PAs. For NOTV to sound good with the drum machine, it needs to be BRUTAL!! And when you turn up to a show and the kid that has organised it points to a practice amp to be used for the drum machine, it totally ruins our set. We just got jack of not having total control of that, and unless we travel with a PA, which some bands do, it just makes sense to use live drums. Plus it’s fun having extra people in the band.

MF: So NOTV played SXSW this year. The ‘music industry’ in Australia would consider that a pretty big deal. Were you there to crack the US market or was it just another stop on the US tour?

L: SXSW is really, at least the shows we played, just a big party/ festival, with a tonne of DIY bands playing both official, but mostly non-official showcases. We never had, or have, any pretentions of cracking a deal with a big label by going over there. I think we would be naive to have had aspirations like that anyway. But after going to SXSW two years in a row, I don’t think I’ll be heading back to play in the future. It’s fun, but really hectic!

MF: Have you noticed different attitudes towards you in Australia since you’ve received praise from overseas?

L: It’s hard to say. Maybe… I felt like we got asked to do a few more supports of touring acts in recent years. But most people in Australia wouldn’t know or care about what’s happening for us in the USA would they? Few people in Sydney know of Siltbreeze, Skulltones or Sacred Bones. I guess getting a bit of praise from overseas made us feel a it more confident, because quite seriously, for a while there, we had NEVER had a positive review in an Australian publication. It was always like ‘this is shit’ written by some fresh faced dickhead.

MF: What’s it like playing overseas compared to Sydney? Is it better/worse playing at home?

L: Well, we’ve only played in the States, and I can say it varies a lot between shows. I mean, we played in people’s basements, but also bigger venues like the Music Hall of Williamsburg. I think it’s kinda similar to here: good shows, bad shows etc. I think people can be shy in Australia about ‘getting into’ something… but then again one of the best shows we’ve ever played was in Sydney on New Years Eve a few years back in a squat on Sydney Harbour…

MF: What made you want to go to the States?

L: We really like a lot of aspects of American culture… There are so many good bands to see, people are pretty open minded and also know about music. I guess the size of the population means that there are more enthusiasts for every genre. We also like road trips, drip coffee, cheap hotels, good record stores… There’s also lots of good food in USA, vegan junk food, Mexican, diner food… And is is possible to tour there because there are so many cities withreally awesome music scenes.

MF: Sydney cops a lot of shot about having no music scene, yet bands like you guys and the many other amazing bands around, in my eyes, are miles ahead of what a lot of bands from other cities are up to. What’s your view? Any bands we should check out/crucify?

L: Well yeah, I mean it’s kinda true that Sydney’s music scene is a bit lacking somewhat. I feel like Sydney struggles to maintain a vibrant scene… people get bored, or something, and don’t go to shows that often. Venues open, venues close, many ‘proper’ venues rip off bands. But of course good things come out of here too – you should all check out Holy Balm (easily one of the best bands in Sydney). Another favourite of mine is the Garbage and the Flowers (originally from NZ). I’ve only seen Royal Headache once before, but they were incredible. These questions are hard because you always leave someone out. Matthew does a tape label called Near Tapes. He releases an awesome catalogue of mostly Sydney based music, some Melbourne stuff too.

MF: I hate trying to describe the way a band sounds so do you think you could help me out and tell me how you’d describe your music?

L: Our music varies quite a bit. Some of it is totally bleak and industrial, other songs are almost shoegazey, others are really like awkward pop or something. It’s often got a downer feel, and often a psychedelic vibe too.

MF: Flip Out Festival’s line-up this year is pretty incredible, who are you most excited about seeing? Who would you recommend our readers ensure they don’t miss?

L: Yeah totally incredible! Props to Stained Circles and Arrghtt! I’m really excited to see it all, it’s seriously a killer line up. Zond (from Melbourne) should be a highlight, I don’t think they have ever come to Sydney before. And of course Pink Reason. Everyone should come and see Pink Reason. I’ve seen Pink Reason a bunch of times, and it’s always different, but always good. No bullshit you know?! Psyched to finally see the UV Race, also, the Stabs and Slug Guts should be a blast! But it will be all good. I think people who don’t come will look back in 6 months or so and think ‘why the fuck didn’t I go to Flip Out 2009…?’

MF: True that. So what’s it like working with people who are so dedicated to promoting good underground bands like yourselves?

L: Well of course it’s great. And also it’s good working with people who are organised, straight up and pleasant to deal with. There are so many asshole promoters who think the only payment a band needs is the privilege of playing. So yeah, all my dealings with Dan and Johanna (from Stained Circles) have been awesome, I hope the fest goes well for them.

MF: Outside of Flip Out is there anything we should be looking out for in the future?

L: TINA (This is not Art) in Newcastle is coming up in early October, it should be fun. Lots of good bands from Australia and OS are playing, plus there are workshops, art exhibits and so on. Also, Matthew has art show coming up, it opens on the 19th August at a gallery called Gallery 9 in Darlinghurst. Come along between 6-8 for some strange photos and a video with sound and other bullshit.

MF: Is there anything else you wanted to talk about, be it political, social, musical, scientific, science fiction, whatever, is there anything on your mind you want to get off it?

L: Ha that’s a big one! What to say? I feel like I always go on about bullshit in interviews… but maybe Matthew has something he wants to say…

Matthew: Just to clear one thing up – the acronym for our band is NOTV. People think we are anti-television. We most certainly are not, we love watching TV. We love all the cop/crime shows. I am a big fan of Ren & Stimpy, we love South Park, we also both really like Two & a Half Men.

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