Captain Kickarse and the Awesomes are the perfect proof of the old adage that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. You’d expect them to be a high school band playing enthusiastic but slightly misguided pop-punk – and that couldn’t be further from the truth. The Sydney prog-rock trio are back after nearly six years on hiatus to present their debut album Grim Repercussions, and what a triumphant comeback it is.
Their messy, abrasive and skittish riffs underneath complex drum lines and indulgent melodies are a treat to listen to. The band have also put their live show boots on again, promising an absolute treat. We had a chat with Kickarse guitarist Phil McCourt about what exactly happened over the past six years, track titles like A Beard of Bees and the album’s title track – a 12-minute epic journey that’s been a long time in the making.
Listen: Captain Kickarse and the Awesomes – Grim Repercussions
Music Feeds: So, it’s been close to six years since your last EP came out – welcome back! What have you been up to in the past half-decade?
Phil McCourt: Well, we went on a bit of an extended hiatus and essentially split the band up for a few years due to various different reasons, and had a long time where we didn’t do anything musically together at all. In 2012 we were offered a gig and got in touch with each other, our original bassist wasn’t keen to pursue it anymore but myself and Alex decided to get it going again and work on a full album.
So we spent a while jamming and writing and doing demos before recruiting Alex Wilson from sleepmakeswaves to learn all the bass parts and join us in the studio. Then we spent a while mixing the record and recruited Simeon Bartholomew from SEIMS and Godswounds to join us on stage. So we’re finally a functioning three-piece again with a new record.
MF: Now we’ve got the release of your debut album Grim Repercussions. How are you feeling about this comeback?
PM: We’re feeling great about it. We left a lot of material unfinished when we split up and so it’s been really great to finish off writing a lot of that, and to spend the hours getting it right in the studio after all this time. And then the record’s got a fair bit of brand-new stuff where we’ve been able to push ourselves musically and really develop the band’s sound. Taking the time to focus on details in the writing and production process for this album has helped to step things up a notch.
MF: How long has the album been in the making?
PM: It’s a sequence of tracks that we’ve written over the course of about 10 years in total, and the recording process has probably been about two and half to three years on and off in production.
MF: In terms of influences – for the album, did you find they’d changed a lot over time? Did you find yourself listening to particular artists or records in the making of the record?
PM: They didn’t really change, more time just means more influences and more ideas to develop. We didn’t really listen to much at all while working on the record. By then, we knew what the record was and what it had to sound like.
MF: You’ve been playing live a little bit over the past year and a half – has that been new material? How has it been going down?
PM: Yeah, it’s been a mix of new and old and it’s been going down really well. We’ve had great responses to the new stuff in both Sydney and in Melbourne recently which we’ve been pretty happy about.
Watch: Captain Kickarse And The Awesomes – Immaculate Consumption (live)
MF: I heard that around the time you made those two EPs you actually did have a singer. How did that go down?
PM: The singers were a while before that. We made one demo once with a singer and he was actually the second singer in the band. There’s a live video of us playing Manly Fisho’s with him. But that’s way back.
We’ve been playing live for over 10 years now. Alex and I have been playing music together for over 15 years. Heaps of weird shit has happened. We’re just back to how we started now, writing instrumental tunes together as a two piece, producing the recordings ourselves, getting a good bass player in to finish it all off. That’s the way our band seems to work the best.
MF: Have you experimented any more with vocals, or was that the end of the singer era for you?
PM: Nah, that’s lame. We don’t really do that anymore.
MF: I’m interested in the track names on the record – there are some good puns and just some funny imagery in there. Do you think of the names and kind of write the tracks around them, or do the titles come after the tracks are done? They all fit so well!
PM: Thanks, it’s always a mixed bag with titles. Our band name should suggest we don’t take naming things too seriously, but we sometimes try to get a bit pretentious and arty with some titles and then just a bit silly with others. I think there’s a dark sense of humour through the titles on this record that vaguely touches on things like death and religion and fear, but then also a few random images that just seem to fit with that tune.
We’re both always writing down quotes from books and films and scribbling silly puns to use as titles for tracks, then as writing the music develops we just try to match up which name suits which bit of music.
MF: I really love the title track of the album – at 12 minutes, it’s definitely the most lengthy song! Is there a story behind that one?
PM: That’s the epic. I honestly couldn’t tell you how long we’ve been piecing that monster together, it’s been years now. All the different riffs and bits to that song took a long time to construct. It became the centrepiece of the record, showcasing all the dynamics and elements of the rest of the album in one piece.
We try to play that one at most gigs at the moment, the last three times we’ve played it onstage I’ve broken guitar strings. So it can get a bit intense.
‘Grim Repercussions’ is out now.