Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Motifs, Melbourne

Current band rollcall? (Members and instruments?)
The Motifs live band is...
Chris - keyboard, glockenspiel, hand claps and singing
May - keyboard, glockenspiel, hand claps and singing
Neil - drums, percussion, random instruments and singing
Alexis - guitar, singing
(The others swap instruments a lot, so the gaps between songs can be longer than the actual songs.)

The Motifs have been around since....
The Motifs have been around since I (Alexis) started recording songs at home, a few years ago. We played live for the first time in our friend's kitchen in Sydney, as a one-off show with a four-song set. Last year we started playing live shows more often with a more permanent band.

First song ever written?
When my sister and I were little and got bored on car trips, we made up songs. I don't know if they count, but there probably wasn't much difference in my songwriting then and my songwriting now.

Music making for you began when....
Other than singing in the car, I also had a toy glockenspiel when I was little, and I spent a lot of time pretending I could play the piano to my friends. I guess I still do that...

Most unusual sound/instrument you've used in your music? In my really old songs, I recorded lots of different sounds - chickens, mortars and pestles, rain on the roof, ice cream vans, mathematical equations, ranting on the train, squeaking gates... though fortunately none of these songs were released to the public.

Strangest gig you've ever played? On the back seat of a bus at a music festival in Japan. It was a mobile live venue called 'Mobium' and they had turned all the seats around to face the back and made the middle doorway into a bar and mixing desk. It's good having those hanging handle things to hang on to if you're standing and watching a band - I wish normal venues had those.

Do you pin up images when recording to help inspire your songs? (Or put up other things in the studio for the same effect?) With recording or songwriting I'm just thinking about the music, not really what I'm looking at. In fact, I think it's probably easier for me to be imaginative if I have nothing visual to distract me, so maybe a blank wall is best. Maybe if there was a picture of something right in front of me, I'd manage to make all the songs somehow about that thing. Could be good for a theme album though.

Unlikeliest thing to influence your music? TV theme songs? Some of them are so good- I especially like Postman Pat, Noddy... Wait, that's not surprising at all, is it? I don't think any of my musical influences are unlikely. I like lots of kinds of pop music, especially songs with lots of ideas and not much repetition.

Most unconventional topic you've covered in your lyrics... Probably most of my lyrics are about somewhat unconventional subjects. I think it's easier to write about things which haven't been written about heaps before (for example, hilarious knitwear) because you don't encounter so many clich├ęs. Or if you do, they are kind of funny, given the subject matter.

If you had to offer any of your lyrics as love advice (or life advice), you would offer... "Stay away from that trapdoor." Sorry, that's not really my song. How cool was that show though?

Most useful lyrics you've heard in a song? We learnt this song in primary school called Minestrone which was basically the recipe for minestrone in Italian. So you gained multiple skills from singing it.

You would love to record with... A nice microphone. And an SK-1. And every type of Casiotone ever.

If record stores had to come up with a new genre name to file your music under, it would be called... Knit-core

Next for you is.... More recording, more records. We aren't playing live for a while because Chris is going overseas. But the rest of us will be cluttering up venues in other bands I'm sure.

Five things you currently love

Rouge No Dengon by Yumi Arai.

In Print?
Educational Origami Activity Instruction Book

A tie between Sydney Road and Northcote Shopping Plaza (for the bargain shops and general ambience).

My 'Animals of the World' camera-Viewer' and 'Dazzling with Glamour' light-up glasses, both from Sydney Road.

Anything on VHS.

The Motifs write cute and wistful synth-acoustico-pop songs about everything from umlauts to pine cones. Most songs sneak in under the two minute mark, meaning you could time the making of ramen to go with a track of theirs and have a nice steaming bowl of noodles by the time the song's done. You can check out news of their upcoming vinyl record, Cross Paths, and their latest adventures here.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Faux Pas, Melbourne

Music making for you began when... My friends and I started a grunge band in high school. None of us knew how to play our instruments so we just figured it out as we went along. I guess I learnt to trust my gut instincts first and think about musicality and structure later. I used to record all these cassette tapes at home, just with a microphone plugged into a cassette deck, recording loops of guitar chords over the top of each other, just keeping records of chord progressions and fragments of ideas and melodies, so I think there was a lot of trial and error. There are hours and hours of tapes. Then I started recording things on to the computer, and then samples, and then synthesisers, and eventually I got to what I do now.

Most unusual sound/instrument you've used in your music? One of the tracks from my first album, Entropy Begins At Home is built around the muted guitar strums from the starts of about 4 or 5 songs from the album, Chutes Too Narrow by The Shins. I remember being in my sister's bedroom, flicking through that CD trying to find the one song I liked - Turn a Square, for the record - and realising that almost every song starts with a muted acoustic guitar strum! So I turned it into a song. Thanks Shins.

You're a musician and a visual artist. What came first? Does one hijack your interest more than the other or do they kind of work together like a two-part harmony?
I'm really not a visual artist so I'd say that being a musician comes first. I design my own artwork, website, T-shirts, not because of any aspirations as a visual artist but simply because it's frustrating trying to find someone else with the time and interest to come up with visual accompaniments to my music. It's something I can do, so I do it, it's pretty much been my attitude with everything I've done so far. I do enjoy it though.

Strangest gig you've ever played?
Haven't played a gig. People tend to find that pretty strange, for some reason.

Do you pin up images when recording to help inspire your songs? (Or put up other things in the studio for the same effect?)
Ahh no, but I do think about doing it... ? I'm in a rental so I get paranoid about sticking things to the walls. I have an action figure of Beverly Crusher sitting here in front of my monitor right now. Also sitting here is the album cover my friend made me for a forthcoming Faux Pas album called 7 wolves 1 shirt. It's a concept album about my favourite t-shirt.

I love the story of how you came to remix Pikelet's Bug In Mouth*. Are you ever overwhelmed by the possibilities when remixing a song? It's definitely easy to get overwhelmed, I try just to follow the first good idea I have to its conclusion, and not think too much about what might have been if I'd gone in another direction. It's meant that a couple of them haven't seen the light of day or haven't been finished, perhaps because I chose the wrong direction right at the start? I don't necessarily follow this approach when it comes to my own music, I've definitely taken some sharp left turns with some of my own tracks while they've been in development. I think it's 10x harder to come up with a good end result when you do that though, when you've gone a certain way down the path and then decided to turn back and go another route. It's way harder to get something that feels natural when you're bucking some of your initial gut feelings, but sometimes you end up with something great.

You would love to record with...
I don't fantasise about making music with anyone - I'm generally way too insecure about my own abilities to ever imagine myself working with the people whose music I idolise. I'd rather keep playing in my own corner of the sandpit.

If record stores had to come up with a new genre name to file your music under, it would be called... I like the concept of "aleatoric music" or chance music. I don't know how much of my own material fits in to that category but it's a nice idea for a genre. It is music whose composition is, at least in some crucial part, random or left to chance. Aleatory comes from the Latin word for dice, which is appropriate for me because I love to play Dungeons and Dragons.

Next for you is....
I'm finishing the second Faux Pas album, which I started working on about 12 months ago. It's basically the best album of all time.

Things you currently love

I've just started listening to the Moody Blues again. They are one of my dad's favourite bands, and I listened to them heaps as a kid, and then even more in high school, but I haven't in a little while. A Question of Balance is a great record. They're all good though.

In Print?
I'm reading the Terry Pratchett books for the first time. They are as good as everyone says! And also I am appraising the just-released 4th edition rulebooks for Dungeons and Dragons, and trying to figure out whether it's worth it for my current gaming group to upgrade our characters or not...

The Title store on Gertrude St is a super exciting addition to Melbourne's record store roster. They only stock good music (and books) which is more than can be said of most stores.

I don't know why, but the comments section on the MySpace page for Melbourne record label, Brothersister Records always has great weird photos.

*The story, in Faux Pas' words: I caught Pikelet's Bug In Mouth film clip on Rage late one night and was completely entranced, not so much by the clip but just by those hypnotic looped harmonies and intuitive almost primitive rhythms. Evelyn Morris's voice is pristine, and the melodies in this song are completely captivating.

I actually remixed the song without Evelyn's permission, working from an mp3 copy I had of the track (ie not working with separated parts). Weirdly, it all came together one Sunday afternoon while I was sitting in an edit suite 'working' for an ex-game show host...

I'm glad in the end that I was able to contact Evelyn and that it didn't have to take much convincing for her to let me put the remix out. I'm pretty proud of it, though really all it does is just play to the strengths of the original track, that being the amazing hypnotic melodies and voice of one (actually more than one) Evelyn Morris. The Faux Pas remix of Bug In Mouth is on my EP Changes.

Faux Pas has a couple of records out, the latest being the Changes EP, which mixes his musical DNA with songs by Pikelet, Zeal and Aleks and The Ramps to create some crazy scientic-lab remixes. It also features some wholly original cuts too. He's currently working on his next album and on his entirely understandable desire to become Christopher Willits. Keep an ear out for Faux Pas updates here.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Jane Woody, Alice Springs

Current band rollcall? Jane Woody - plays everything, drums, guitar and bass
Jane Woody has been around since... 2006
First song ever written? 'Sit/Stand', recorded on a dictaphone years ago.
Music-making for you began when... I used to drum for my brother when he'd play Poison songs on his guitar. I'd use two school rulers and hit piles of books (dinting mum's good encyclopedias) in his bedroom when we were really young. We worshiped Poison and Def Leppard and Gunners. I didn't even wear a shirt whilst drumming, that's how seriously rock I was.
Most unusual sound/instrument you've used in your music? I'm always a fan of Casio keyboard beats put through a distortion pedal and guitar amp.
Strangest gig you've ever played?
Swingin Safari on the Gold Coast, it was just strange, there was a 'homely' vibe out the back - like a record player and a book shelf. After quite a few drinks, I found a book called Ten Poems To Change Your Life and I had a really intense reflective moment. I stole the book. When sober it didn't have quite the same impact...
Do you place things in the studio to inspire you?
With this album, Big Breaths, Little Lungs, I ate lots of dried apple and M&Ms and I had a pic up on the wall of a girl line dancing - I really like country music. We had a cat in the studio called Lilly and she was delightful to be around.
Unlikeliest thing to influence your music?
This is hard because absolutely everything that happens to me influences my music. Umm...I'd have to say A Current Affair, or Today Tonight. That stuff seriously doesn't influence my music.
Most unconventional topic you've covered in your lyrics....
Probably this stupid song about a shoe doctor I wrote with a friend when we were a little drunk. What the fuck is a shoe doctor?
If you had to offer any of your lyrics as love advice (or life advice), you would offer "How will you survive if you make it your plight to keep everyone else alive?"
Most useful lyrics you've heard in a song?
Most recently, Kimya Dawson, "I got good at feeling bad and that's why I'm still here."
You would love to record with... Prince
If record stores had to come up with a new genre name to file your music under, it would be called.... "Introverted-lovesick-obsessive-pop"
Next for you is... More recording and more dancin.

Five things you currently love

Musically? The Donnas - I love the simple lyrics about making out in cars.
In Print? Some excellent zines, namely Damki and a Melbourne one about Neighbours called Erinsborough Exploits - and also a magazine called Juxtaposition. Anything creative and interesting.
Locally? A place called the Tea Shrine in Alice Springs. Heaps of great tea and this amazing local coffee.
Visually? Some excellent Aboriginal artists around Alice.
Cinematically? La Vie En Rose - the Edith Piaf film. I loved it.

Jane Woody's sweet DIY synth-pop album, Big Breaths, Little Lungs was recently released on Valve. If you're sonically curious about her music, you can hear it here