Nic Mckenzie sounds upbeat. He has good reason to be, given his band Deep Sea Arcade recently won the Homebake Incentive at the Hopetoun hotel, securing them a spot on the bill at the all-Australian festival.
“I was just talking to Nick, my co-writer. We’ve been best friends since primary school and we write all the songs together. We were talking about when we were fourteen we used to go to Homebake and dye our hair blue and go for the day and always imagine that we’d one day play at Homebake, and now we are.”
A bit of a dream come true then. It’s not often you get to satisfy a desire you’ve had since your early teens. I still haven’t managed to become a superhero.
“It’s really nice when you can go ‘Wow, I actually wanted to do this when I was fourteen and now I’m doing it.’ It shows that we’ve been writing for a while and we’ve stayed together and that’s kind of rare I guess.”
The desire to play at Homebake is nearly as old as the creative team that underpins the band. The name Deep Sea Arcade may be relatively new, but the songwriters have been working together for quite some time.
“Essentially Nick, the bass player, and I have been writing songs for years. Maybe not the songs we play in our lineup, but we’ve been writing music since we were about twelve and we’ve known each other since we were five.”
This history has given their dreamlike psychedelic sound time to develop “at home, recording on old four tracks and tape decks.” It was an organic process, with the two only deciding to look for collaborators when they were confident they had enough material to work with.
“When we had enough songs and demos to get a band together we did that, about two years ago. We rehearsed for a year without playing shows and then suddenly started doing shows when we felt confident that we were all sure where the music was going.”
That confidence has been tested with a grueling series of performances at the Hopetoun hotel. The past six months of competition have given Deep Sea Arcade a strong working relationship with the venue.
“We’ve been playing the Hopetoun for the last six months or so and they’ve been very positive and encouraging about what we’ve been doing there. It’s been really great for us and really great because the Hopetoun is such a community as well. Not only the Hopetoun themselves, but the community are very supportive of the bands that play there.”
In the midst of recording already, the winning package will give them a chance to record at a renowned studio.
“We’re currently recording at Big Jesus Burger studios in Surry Hills, so we’re putting that together. Also we’re gonna have the opportunity to record at 301 at Byron Bay, which is part of the Homebake incentive. We’ll be doing a lot of recording and mixing.”
“We’ll continue to write because, for us, we love performing and it’s great but it’s always been for us about writing music. That’s why we spent so much time writing and that’s what we get a lot of our joy from. The performance stuff is great too, but that’s kind of what we do as a band, that’s our major focus.”
There are advantages to playing live, however. Nic embraces the instantaneous reaction an audience brings. Playing with other musicians allows for an organic development of their sound also.
“You get to play and get that kind of positive affirmation I guess.”
“The best thing about playing live for us has been that although Nick and I wrote the songs, we’re kinda looking forward to writing with the rest of the band as it moves on because we all kinda really feel where we’re going with it.”
It’s a development that is welcomed by the band. Nic reflects that it has been a positive move.
“Definitely for the better. Just in terms of leaving it in the hands of people who really know their craft. Playing live has transformed the music and it’s been an amazing thing, something that we just couldn’t have done by ourselves.”
“In terms of the people we play with, we all get on really well. We’ve got a really established direction of where we want to take this band and what we want to sound like. I think there’s no room for dispute. All suggestions are always met welcomingly.”
So what can you expect to hear from Deep Sea Arcade on the big day? Musicians are often reluctant to try to describe their own sound, so Nic instead shared an anecdote about a not so keen listener.
“Our guitarist’s neighbours told us that it sounded like spooky reverbs trickling down the wall cavity. It was kind of like a complaint, asking him to turn it down a little bit, but we thought that was a great way to describe the music.”