Live Reivew: Decoder Ring

DECODER RING, EXPATRIATE, SCHVENDES
Fly By Night Club
Saturday 15th October 2005

Review by Rohan Hewson

Schvendes are one of the most unique bands in Perth (there’s not too many bands around with a cello and a Rhodes piano), and consequently also really hard to describe. Their music is dark and often emotional, and has been compared to artists including to Tom Waits, PJ Harvey and Nick Cave. Schvendes opened this night on the stroke of 8.30, as they were playing another gig in Northbridge later that night, and played to initially about a dozen people, although that number grew as more people started arriving. They looked very noir, especially the drummer with his impeccable suit and fedora hat. They played a fairly short set, mainly songs from their EP ‘Turn Out Your Lights’ from earlier this year, and played them typically faultlessly. It’s a pity they didn’t have more of an audience, but that’s the lot of supporting bands sometimes.

The next band, Expatriate, I’d never heard of before and therefore didn’t expect much of, but by a few songs in I was out of my chair and up the front dancing. They’re from Sydney, they sound like the Cure or Joy Division, or to be cynical, they sound like any of the bands in the last couple of years or so that sound like the Cure or Joy Division, ie Interpol, the Killers etc. ‘In’ sound or otherwise, they were good fun to dance to. However, due to the layout of the Fly By which sometimes looks more like an aircraft hangar than a live music venue, there was about a dozen people up the front dancing, and everyone else (there was a good hundred people there by then) was up the back sitting at tables and chairs, or sitting cross-legged on the ground. It must have looked like a pretty dodgy audience from the stage, a dozen people watching; they still put on a great show though.

Decoder Ring were incredible, it was almost impossible to look away. They were a noisy mixture of electronica, distorted guitars and drums, with occasional vocals that were basically just another instrument. Their music sounded like a soundtrack to a film at times (not very surprising considering they did the soundtrack for ‘Somersault’ last year). The film projections on the wall behind them were quite cool too… three film projectors, all synced up to play three different copies of the visuals simultaneously, next to one another behind the band. All the people who’d been sitting up the back, or not there at all, suddenly flocked to the front, and where there was nobody before, suddenly you couldn’t move for people.

They played almost non-stop for an hour, and when they left the crowd called out for an encore, so they came back and did three more songs before leaving for good. I haven’t heard a crowd cheer like that for a while, at any kind of gig… Decoder Ring’s music may be quite abstract but it’s still very popular, and it made a lot of people very happy tonight.

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CD Review: Steve Parkin – Sandytown



Steve Parkin – Sandytown
Review by Dylan McArdle

Mention the name STEVE PARKIN to me and it brings back memories of two long since fallen Perth music icons – Autopilot and the Grosvenor Hotel. I still can recall walking into the Grosvenor Backroom and hearing the Beatle-esque sounds of this three-piece belt out the classic “Funeral Morning”. Autopilot were very much a love them or hate them sort of band, but five years on and “Pure Gold Baby” still ranks as one of my favourite local CD’s. I wished I’d seen more of Autopilot’s live shows.

I guess Steve isn’t the sort of person to rest on the laurels of previous successes, hence his debut solo release of last year “Sandytown”. I’ve only recently got my hands on this, and it’s definitely an album that has grown on me as I’ve played it more.

The CD kicks of in a rocking fashion with “No Wonder You’re A Star” and from the opening “oooh, ooooh”, you know that this could only be Steve Parkin behind the microphone. The poppy-rock beats continue on with “Picture of a Boy and a Girl” and the song I remember most from Steve’s live gigs “Hello Sandy” (with the almost ‘psychedelic’ opening backing track).

My favourite track is most definitely track #2 “Goodbye Sandy”, from the opening guitar riff to Steve’s iconic vocals and that chorus you can sing to; “I know it’s hard, it must be hard, I know it’s hard, so very hard”. It wouldn’t be a classic Parkin track without a “la la la la la” thrown in, would it?

After the first couple of listens I thought “hmmm…the first four tracks are great, but what about the rest?” I guess they didn’t grab me as instantly, but what it DID illustrate is that Steve can deviate from the well trodden pop forumula and that he’s a man of many tallents. There’s a bit of everything here, from the sombre and moody balad “Vacuum Man” to the quirky “Golf Ball on the Moon”. The classical sounds of Autopilot can still be heard from time-to-time as well, like in “Make It Tonight”.

Parkin also illustrates he can play solo (as he often does in some shows) or in a band. This album is very much a ‘with a little help from my friends’ sort of album, reading the inner cover of the CD is like a who’s-who of Perth music – there’s Rodney Aravana, Andy Lawson and some of the Eskimo Joe crew amongst the list of contributors. That allows a “wider” array of sounds, piano, keyboard etc and “The Maths” is a good example of a track that’s benefited from having the extra musicians on board (as I can imagine this started off as an acoustic track).

If there’s anything I don’t like about the album, it’s probably only the melow track “Just four words”. I much prefer the up-beat nature of the rest of the album and I usually skip this track. But overall, this is a great debut for someone that really not new the Perth music scene or music in general. I look forward to seeing more of Steve Parkin, both live and on his next release (which he’s aparently already working on).

Live Review: Campus Bands Final

National Campus Bands Final
Rosemount Hotel
Saturday 15th October 2005
Review by Leo Abbs

First up tonight was the wildcard entry, Insidium. At first I thought they were going to do a retro-rock kind of thing, but later in the set they attempted to be a bit more experimental. The fact that the third song sounded a lot like they were imitating local group Snowman meant they’re not as different as they were trying to be. Perhaps a band to keep an eye on.

Disguise, on the other hand, concentrated on some song writing of the pop/rock flavour- which they did well. Many people, including myself, compared the vocalist to Paul Dempsey from Something for Kate. The music, however, sounded very similar to the usual ‘indie’ bands playing at the Hyde Park. The band tended to speed up tracks towards the end of their set and lacked stage presence, but they were very unlucky not to take off the winner’s prize tonight.

Merchanism were the first of the bands tonight to do the funky thing. A mixture of funk with hip hop vocals, they tried very hard to get the crowd involved- perhaps a little too much. Still they were full of energy, and their band is full of shit-hot musos. Are they the shortest hip hop group around?

Hardcore with a violin- who would have thought of it? Streetlight’s violin addition made them stand out. But the violinist nicked off after a couple of songs so it was hard to tell if it was just a gimmick for this competition. Apart from that, they were just the standard hardcore act that is very popular at the moment. Despite the vocals been irritating from time to time and the band playing populist, flavour of the month music, they put on a good live show.

Every year in the campus bands final, there’s always the ‘funk’ band. To put it simply, they enter these competitions and get through on the basis they are shit hot musos. Rat in the Brain put on a very inspiring set – always great to see virtuoso musicians- but I’d dread the thought of sitting through an hour long set. Reason being they didn’t stop once – a 20 min set and the band seemed to make it all up. I have to say, full marks for improvisational ability but that ain’t going to win a competition like this.

Preytells were one of the two bands I predicted to win tonight. They put on a solid set and well deserved winners. Their blend of pop/rock, while not overly exciting, had the radio-friendly formula that will grow on listeners with airplay. The band didn’t have a huge support base tonight and it goes to show it’s not all about bringing mates.

When someone told me that Flesh of the Lotus were an ‘excellent instrumental funk band’ I groaned.‘Not more funk!’ But they turned to be out a pleasant surprise. Crowd response aside- blooming rent-a-crowds- they have obviously put a lot of thought into their material and seemed more prepared (compared to the improvisation of Rat in the Brain). With a 5 piece line-up, including 2 guitars and keyboards, the band achieved a much fuller sound.

It’s harsh to say, but despite previous winners going on to bigger and better things (Jebediah and Eskimo Joe), I’m not convinced anyone on this line-up will reach that kind of popularity. Though if any of these bands get somewhere, it seems destined to be the Preytells.

Live Review: Kisschasy @ The Foundry

Kisschasy, Horsell Common, The Critics
Wednesday 12th October, 2005
The Foundry
Review by Dylan McArdle

Wednesday night saw Melbourne punk outfit KISSCHASY kick of the Perth leg of their tour. I got to The Foundry before 9pm and there was already a huge crowd inside and the guy on the door said I was lucky to get in. It was a really, really young crowd, so much so it felt almost like an all-ages gig.

Local punk rockers THE CRITICS were unfortunately already midway through their set when I arrived, but I still enjoyed 4 or 5 songs from their set. The guys have a new 4-track single out and they played some of the songs from that – including Patent Pending, which is a favourite of mine. A LOT of people have labelled the band boring or repetitive, but I enjoy their music and tonight was no different. It WAS nice to see the large crowd showing appreciation for a tight and entertaining set, which is not always a given for the opening support.

The next band up on the line-up was Melbourne band HORSELL COMMON. I always like to see a touring band bring another touring band along (as opposed to filling the opening slots with different local bands in each state), so I was looking forward to seeing another unfamiliar band. Unfortunately I was quite disappointed tonight. Sure the guys looked like they were enjoying themselves on stage, with all the jumping and twirling the bass in the air. But they sounded like a really rough version of Gyroscope – lots of shouting but not a lot of rhythm. It may just have been because I was standing on the far side of the stage, but the sound was really off and it was hard to hear the singer over the guitar and bass. They DID receive good crowd support, so obviously there were many people that didn’t share my views.

Of course KISSCHASY was the main attraction on tonight’s bill. I guess you’d label this band as “radio friendly” punk, especially considering the amount of commercial airplay they’ve received lately. And for all the hype, this four-piece put on a show worth waiting for. It was lively and exciting and really captured the essence of true pop-punk. Not only did the band play tracks from their new release “United Paper People”, but they also threw in a number of older tracks (and yes, parts of the crowd were familiar with these tunes). The crowd really got behind the band, so there was a LOT of atmosphere. There’s no surprise in that the biggest cheer came for current single (that’s been played to death on radio) “Do Do’s & Whoa Oh’s” and a whole bunch of young girls standing next to me charged through the crowd to the front of the stage as they played this. What was surprising was finishing with the classic “Hey Jealousy” by the Gin Blossoms. As that wasn’t enough to satisfy the hunger of the crowd, the band came back for a two song encore – a rarity for a Wednesday night gig.

I don’t think any of the sell-out crowd tonight would have left with anything but a smile on their faces.

Cd Review: Roly Sender ‘Free’


Roly Skender – Free E.P
Review by Susan Clark

Lounge, lounge, lounge- electro-lounge, Latin jazz-lounge, phat-lounge…whatever. Roly Skender makes me want to slip into my sexy little cocktail dress and dance madly, yet with a touch of sophistication.

‘Free’ is Skender’s latest offering and is one of the surprise little gems of this years’ releases. I was impressed a sound like this came out of the indie pop/rock dominated local scene. It’s a brilliant little package, the art work is amazing, and as a bonus, the award winning video for the single ‘Free’ has been included for the listeners’ viewing pleasure. Skender recently picked up ‘Best Achievement in Music Video Animation’ in the Sounkilda music video awards at the St Kilda Music Festival for his self produced video.

How to describe Skender? Cool, very, very cool. The vocals are mellow and sexy- his use of loops and samples is masterful. The four track E.P. journeys from a nordy b-grade porno in Indonesia, to hooking up and breaking it off. This is a fantastic release – I can’t really criticise it too much. Now please excuse me while I just go and shimmy around the floor a bit more with my pinna-colada.

For more info including gigs and other info, check out Roly Skenders website at: http://www.rolyskender.com/

Cd Review – The Waifs – A Brief History

The Wiafs – A Brief history… (live)
Review by Leo Abbs

Normally I hate live CDs, but I love this one. A double disc featuring songs recorded live between 2002 – 2004, this is a great collection of tunes, spanning the entirety of The Waifs’ career. As such it makes a great companion to the bands’ most successful album ‘Up All Night’ which for many fans would have been their introduction to the band. As for those who’ve been supporting the band for years, this is a top collection of favourites from over the years.

The Waifs are a talented group, particularly in regards to the lead guitar and harmonica playing. The female vocals go down well with the uniquely Australian accents. At times the male vocals sound like he’s just talking, but somehow it’s still lovable.

In the last few years, the band has become a true success story, inspiring many. They are one of those groups that toured and toured for years, building a following, before really hitting popularity with the release of ‘Up All Night’, and in particular, their hit single ‘London Still’.
There’s plenty of songs to love here, whether it be songs from their latest album- ‘Fisherman’s Daughter’, ‘Highway One’- older songs like ‘When I Die’ ‘Shelter Me’, or fantastic covers like, ‘Don’t Think Right It’s All Right’, (of course originally written by Bob Dylan). There’s even a new studio recording of their latest single ‘Bridal Train’.
Excellent stuff from one of the best acoustic acts in the world.

Interview: Seraphim

‘I think we’re a band that definately takes advantage of the potential to reach people via (the) internet.’

Darrell Sundai (Seraphim)
Interview by Leo Abbs

Where did the name Seraphim come from?
They’re a biblical order of angels with 3 pairs of wings, and they were God’s highest order of Angels. One of the members being Satan, who was condemned for acting against God. Probably the first ever act of rebelliousness against some form of authoratative and commanding figure. He was kicked out for being emo. Although whether you want to debate about the misreadings of whether it was Lucifer or Satan who was the original sinner is another thing. The bible is filled with lots of drama, but not as exciting as The O.C.

How did the band come together?
The original members were the 3 guitarists Joe, Roland and Alex. I was in fact a fan of the band when they were first starting out. Funnily enough, the first time I saw them play live was their farewell gig because the original singer was leaving. A month or so later I heard they got a hold of a new singer, and I came down to their gig. I remember thinking how much better the band was as a unit and the sounds they were doing. I already knew Roland from gigs here and there, and he knew I was a drummer. He informed me of needing a replacement drummer and that’s how it all started. I can remember I had 2 or so weeks to learn an entire set before a big gig and I was nervous as hell, but it all worked out nicely from there.

How much does the band use the internet to promote your band?
I think we’re a band that definately takes advantage of the potential to reach people via internet. I know for a fact that lots of people are sick of Seraphim over-kill on certain websites, and I completely understand that, but it all comes down to how willing and confident we are to promote our band at every opportunity. A huge majority of people I meet who haven’t seen us play have at least heard the name in some shape or form, whether it be word of mouth or on the internet. If it gets one or two more people in the door to see us then it’s well and truly worth it.

Which people in the local scene have been helpful to Seraphim?
Oh man there’s way too many to get through, but one man that stands out is our manager Joel Birch who has always helped when he could. There are a lot of bands too that’ve always helped us in some way, whether its lending us gear or giving us a spot on a bill. Bands like Mochief, Antistatic, Head Filled Attraction plus loads more have always been kind to us. Of course we have loads of crew who are our friends and family that have helped us a great deal. Nic Morien has helped us with transporting gear since God knows when, Mathew and Colsy have helped with amazing photography, Johnny Gillman has helped with my drums, my sister Serena has done a lot of artwork for Seraphim, and we can’t forget our therapist and cheerleader, Lee. The people that have helped us the most are the people who are behind the scenes all the time, and they deserve all the credit they can get.

Are you writing any new material? If so how is it going?
Most of our current set at the moment is totally new stuff. We have about 3 or 4 brand new songs that have hardly been played live, but the majority are still new songs that are going to be in the upcoming EP. The material on the single is actually very early Seraphim material that we wanted to document and get out to people before we could move on. The EP is going to be 6 or 7 totally new tracks, which we’re looking forward to launching hopefully sometime in January, if all goes well.

How was the cd launch?
It was great! Probably one the best gigs ever. There was a 300-strong turnout and we got to play with some of our favourite local bands as well as celebrate the release of the Single. I couldn’t really ask for anything more, except Nando’s on the band rider. That’s about it. Oh, I also stabbed myself in the eye during the 3rd last song. It looked like I was crying blood. I looked very gothic and emo, which is what I’m all about.

Is there one artist that all the band agree on?
You mean in terms of songwriting? I’d say we’re fairly democratic when it comes to writing songs. It used to be guided strongly by Roland and Joe, but even then there was never any one person dictating. Also it was due to the fact that Hannah and I were new members and didn’t want to tread on any toes too early. Its safe to say now that we’re fairly in touch with everyone’s taste and abilities within the band, so its become a much faster process. I have the comfort now of bringing ideas to the band, no matter how outrageous, and they’d still listen.

Is there a weakness in the band that you would admit to?
Weakness? Never! Nah…I think we go through strong phases of certain bands we’re heavily into. We’d go through phases where we’d want odd time signatures everywhere one week, then the next week we just want total ambience and minimal drums, and perhaps the following week we’d try something more upbeat and catchy. That’s probably the problem our band has with 5 members each having such eclectic tastes ranging from black metal to trip-hop to indie-rock. We’ve still managed to forge a sound that is pretty unique, and I think the lack of any sort of genre-boundary is what has made Seraphim stand out. There’s elements of a lot of styles that whole range of people can get into.

What’s the best part of being in a band?
I guess its just an output for…everything. Whatever happens to you or inspires you or brings you down, you have that comfort of knowing that output is available, and you’re creating something that maybe someone else can watch and enjoy too. Even if I wasn’t in a band, I’d still have some form of creative output, whether it be playing and composing music alone, or drawing or writing or anything. Its also the bond you create between the band members, and the friends you make and the people that understand what you’re doing and appreciate it. Doesn’t matter if its one person or one thousand people. Everyone’s got their way of touching people, for me its with music…and my fingers.

How far would you like to take this rock’n’roll trip?
I’m sure every band would like to take it to the top. Anyone who is serious about their band would know that there is more money flowing out than in. If you’re lucky you might be able to live off it. I guess you have to have that sort of tunnel vision, where you just do what you do as best as you can and aim a little higher each time and hope for the best. It’s really all about self improvement, and if you aim for the top and miss, you’re already working towards something high. I’m just happy playing music.

What advice can you give new groups out there?
Just work out all your stuff before getting onstage. The first impression is probably the only chance your band has – there’s no real reason to see a band you didn’t like a second time. Also, never settle and stagnate with songwriting, always try something from new angles and basically just aim to write better and better songs. Most of all, stick to your guns and make the music that you want to hear, and have fun.

Live Review: Josivac CD Launch


Josivac Cd launch with Halogen and The Fault
Rosemount Hotel
Saturday 8th October 2005
Review by Leo Abbs
Photos by Tony Issakov

Cd launches are very well hyped up in the local music industry. For some bands it’s the only real appearance they ever make in the spotlight and for others like Josivac, it’s the relief of finally we got the cd out.

The Fault opened proceedings tonight. Last time I saw these guys was at this venue in the next big thing final, where they were obvious winners of that competition. However a band competition requires only 20 min sets, and it was apparent tonight that this band has a lot of work to do to get a full set of competent tunes together. At their best they sound tops but at their worse – usually when they try to experiment they fall down. Stick to what you know and you’ll do well. And please think about screaming less.

Halogen are the complete opposite to the fault in the sense they’ve been around for bloody ages. Their dark and moving tunes were on display tonight and Jasmine’s voice sounded fantastic. However their style wasn’t the best choice leading into a band launching an album – it put a bit of a downer on the proceedings. Fellow reviewers at Perth Sounds said that the band sound excellent on cd, but live they are a tad boring to watch. I’ve always hoped that Halogen would crank it up and go metal, but that’s me dreaming.

Then It was time for the band the crowd had been waiting for: Josivac. With many fine tunes led by two beautiful voices, this is one album that should be fantastic to listen to. The sound of Josivac is a mixture of acoustic (the voices give it that waifs reference) and pop rock.. The songs on the disc are quite old as it took so, so long to get the cd out.

The problem tonight was the band played an extended 90 minute set, fair enough it’s their cd launch, but the new people in the crowd did not last the distance as that’s a long time to take in original music that you are not familiar with.

Which is nothing to take away from the songs, there’s some corkers in there. ‘My Friend’ is one, mainly due to the heartwarming lyric, although it was struggling to stay a float tonight with the fx overdone. The songs that sounded were the stripped back ones like “Over You’ and ‘Owe It To Yourself’

Congratulations to the band on getting the cd out. Now the challenge is to write some more songs…