Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Small Hours, Sydney

Current band rollcall? (Members and instruments/other bands they're in?)
Mark Smithers - vocals and guitar.
Harrison Lillis - bass and vocals.
Peter Watts - keyboards and wails.
Craig Lyons - drums (and blog-question-answerer).
Craig and Mark occasionally play drums and bass respectively in Sydney's infamous Quarteracre.

The Small Hours have been around since....
Roughly the end of 2005. But our current lineup was finalised at the beginning of last year.

Let's play Six Degrees of The Small Hours...
Our first ever gig was at our school disco supporting Dappled Cities, and we've played a number of shows with them since. Jake Stone from Bluejuice has always listened to our crappy demos and provided tons of help to us. The guys from John Columbus. Pete Kelly from Decoder Ring. Al Grigg from Red Riders was the first guy to give one of our demos to FBI 94.5FM, so he deserves a big pat on the back for that. And Stephen Malkmus, because he exists.

And as far as a weird musical link, when I was in New York, one night I found myself jamming with Shannon Noll. It was in my friend's East Village apartment, and he played a cover of Silverchair's Shade and then I played bongos and tambourine for a new song he was working on. I played him some of our demos, he said they were nice even though I'm guessing he didn't really know what to think.

First song ever written?
A track called Expecting What's Coming Next From You which floated around the Internet as Track 1 Demo for a while. We still listen to it occasionally, for a laugh. But we haven't played it in years.

Music making for you began when....
We got bored of playing other people's songs. Sometime between the ages of 14 and 15, I'd say. The moment Mark learnt how to play a bar chord was also pretty pivotal. Also when we bought our synthesizer. We realised you could make awesome sounds that didn't come from a guitar.

Most unusual sound/instrument you've used in your music?
In a version of our high school song that we recorded for a triple j competition in year 11, some mobile phone interference got in the middle of the song. We couldn't be bothered re-recording it, so we credited Mark with Mobile Phone Solo and sent it off.

Strangest gig you've ever played?
It's a toss up between supporting Dappled Cities at our school disco, and our first gig in sydney, which was when we were 17 and it was in the Hibernian House in Surry Hills. For a bunch of kids playing their first show in Sydney, that was something of an initiation.

Do you pin up images when recording to help inspire your songs?
In our living room in Petersham where we rehearse, we have a giant Life Aquatic poster, and channel Bill Murray's energy into everything we make.

Unlikeliest thing to influence your music?
The poetic genius and all-round nice guy that is Will Smith.

Most unconventional topic you've covered in your lyrics...
Inefficient night-fillers at Wattle Grove Coles supermarket.

If you had to offer any of your lyrics as love advice (or life advice), you would offer...
I probably wouldn't offer much. We're not a band to preach anything really. But if I was pressed to choose one line, it'd be "It's OK, I wasn't expecting you anyway," from Overlays & Underlays.

Most useful lyrics you've heard in a song?
Probably the entirety of Suzanne by Leonard Cohen. But in particular, "And you want to travel with her, and you want to travel blind, and you know she will trust you, cause you've touched her perfect body, with your mind".

Do you think the country/city/town you live in affects your music in any way?
Definitely - growing up in the suburbs, where not much happens, and having not much to do, and working shitty jobs when we were kids to save enough money to buy new guitar strings or an effects pedal. None of us are particularly well off and don't come from backgrounds with exorbitant amounts of money, and a lot of things we had to improvise, gear-wise. I think that comes through pretty strongly in our music. Also the current music situation in Sydney affects how we approach our music. We're not positioning ourselves as directly opposed to anything, but more saying "Hey, you don't have to wear fluoro and put trashy photos on Facebook to have a good time", if you know what I mean.

You would love to record with....
Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine or Stephen Malkmus, or if we had enough money, Brian Eno. But we don't have that much money.

Favourite person you have performed with/recorded with...
Recording our last batch of songs at Albert Studios with Wayne Connolly was pretty awesome. He's an amazing producer, and he got exactly the sound we wanted.

Outside of The Small Hours, the band members spend their time...
Harrison's life consists of working in a cafe in Bowral, driving there from the city at 6am and never sleeping.
Mark is a sound guy and can regularly be found at the Hopetoun Hotel or a similar haunt. He's also really good at sleeping.
Peter makes websites and is a master of Super Smash Bros.
And I study history, scan groceries in a supermarket and am currently trying to finish Grand Theft Auto 4. We can also often be seen drinking on our balcony and playing guitars in the house that three of us live in.

Next for you is....
Harrison's going overseas for six months, so we're writing and demoing, then when we gets back the plan is to record our debut album.

If record stores had to come up with a new genre name to file your music under, it would be called...
Guitar-synth indie dream-pop shoegazer bubblegum rock. Or alternatively, they can file it under "S," for The Small Hours.

Five things you currently love

A band from New York called The Subjects, and their album With the Ease, Grace, Precision and Cleverness of Human Beings. Really awesome, rough-around-the edges indie rock. I'm trying to get them to tour here.

In Print?
Right now I'm ploughing through a lot of Bukowski. And Douglas Coupland. I think I'm gonna quit my job and become a postman.

Palace Pantry, Petersham. Purveyors of fine coffee, Thai, sausage rolls, overpriced groceries, bread, milk, and fresh cat food. Because it's the closest place for us to get food, and it means we don't have to walk to Coles.

The new guitar rack I made for our Guitar Hero guitars in our living room. I made it by banging some nails into the wall. Then I realised that the plaster walls probably weren't designed for holding Guitar Hero guitars, but I persisted. Four days and they seem to be holding up nicely. I'm still clinging to hope.

I've been watching a lot of Woody Allen films, especially his early ones where there's a lot of slapstick and bad one-liners. It's pretty funny, even though they're really bad historical send-ups, Woody Allen is still wearing his glasses, and still has his Brooklyn Jew accent. Like he's eternal or something.

When I first heard The Small Hours, their jangly strums and melodic twists left this instant brain-lodging effect on me, triggering one of those "who ARE this band?" moments. Like that line in the first song FBi ever played of theirs - "these teeth are so lovely, I'll remember you" - there's something sweetly original and hard-to-shake about their music. Like Jordy Lane, they're another Sydney act I am always keyed up about. Keep by their website to hear what they're doing.

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