I went to 153 shows in 2020. These were the best ones:
50. Laurence Pike @ Old 505 Theatre, 13/8 49. Not A Boys Name @ The Lansdowne, 10/9 48. Bloods @ Crowbar Sydney, 6/11 47. Sally Seltmann @ The Lansdowne, 12/11 46. Caitlin Harnett & The Pony Boys @ Petersham Bowling Club, 12/9 45. Lisa Caruso @ The Vanguard, 16/10 44. Tim Freedman @ Camelot Lounge, 24/11 43. Fanny Lumsden @ Red Rattler, 6/11 42. Sarah Blasko @ Old 505 Theatre, 14/11 41. Andy Bull @ Mary’s Underground, 29/11 40. Jack Colwell @ Oxford Art Factory, 2/10 39. Totally Unicorn @ Crowbar Sydney, 22/8 38. Shady Nasty @ Mary’s Underground, 3/12 37. Jack Ladder @ The Lansdowne, 17/7 36. Baby Beef @ The Vanguard, 20/6 35. Ruby Fields @ Wombarra Bowling Club, 17/10 34. Shogun & The Sheets @ The Lansdowne, 24/7 33. Party Dozen @ Mary’s Underground, 10/10 32. Mary’s Loves the Bush @ The Lansdowne, 27/1 31. The Buoys @ The Lansdowne, 22/8 30. E^ST @ The Vanguard, 2/8 29. Terror @ Hamilton Station Hotel, 19/1 28. Gordi @ Factory Theatre, 22/10 27. Nick Lowe @ Enmore Theatre, 16/2 26. An Horse @ Old Bar, 24/2 25. The Presets @ Factory Theatre, 21/11 24. Ben Folds with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra @ Sydney Town Hall, 6/3 23. Fatboy Slim @ Sydney Olympic Park, 31/1 22. Amanda Palmer @ Enmore Theatre, 20/2 21. Kwame @ The Lansdowne, 29/10 20. Hockey Dad @ Bulli Showgrounds, 9/10 19. Polaris @ Enmore Theatre, 28/2 18. The Stranglers @ Enmore Theatre, 8/2 17. mclusky @ Oxford Art Factory, 12/1 16. A Sunny Afternoon @ McCabe Park, 1/3 15. Vampire Weekend @ Enmore Theatre, 9/1 14. Private Function @ The Lansdowne, 13/12 13. The New Pornographers @ Metro Theatre, 26/2 12. Sleaford Mods @ Metro Theatre, 4/3 11. Invasion Fest @ Metro Theatre, 18/1 10. Urthboy @ Lazybones Lounge, 20/11 9. A.B. Original @ Factory Theatre, 14/11 8. Dune Rats @ Big Top Luna Park, 7/3 7. Laneway Festival @ The Domain, 2/2 6. Violent Soho @ The Lansdowne, 14/2 5. Knocked Loose @ Dicey Riley’s, 16/1 4. Elton John @ Qudos Bank Arena, 14/1 3. Farmer & The Owl @ McCabe Park, 29/2 2. Pagan @ The Curtin, 22/2 1. Genesis Owusu @ Mary’s Underground, 22/10
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Jesus Piece @ Burkedin Hotel, 18/1; Cry Club @ La La La’s, 1/2; Tool @ Qudos Bank Arena, 17/2; Tyre Swans @ Stay Gold, 22/2; Julia Jacklin @ Enmore Theatre, 5/3; Dyson Stringer Cloher @ The Vanguard, 15/3; Hard-Ons @ The Lansdowne, 3/7; Phil Jamieson @ The Lansdowne, 7/8; Elana Stone @ Old 505 Theatre, 16/10; Brad Cox @ Wollongong UniBar, 23/10; Maddy Jane @ The Lansdowne, 24/10; Josh Pyke @ Factory Theatre, 29/10; Jack R. Reilly @ The Vanguard, 10/11; Middle Kids @ Factory Theatre, 11/11; Donny Benet @ The Vanguard, 12/11; Polish Club @ Factory Theatre, 17/11; Annie Hamilton @ The Lansdowne, 18/11; We Lost the Sea @ Crowbar Sydney, 21/11; Imogen Clark @ Factory Theatre, 9/12; Post Truth @ Hamilton Station Hotel, 17/12; The Vanns @ Wombarra Bowling Club, 23/12.
1. Ashley McBryde – Never Will 2. Spanish Love Songs – Brave Faces Everyone 3. Banoffee – Look at Us Now Dad 4. Sports Team – Deep Down Happy 5. Blake Scott – Niscitam 6. Gil Scott-Heron – We’re New Again: A Reimagining by Makaya McCraven 7. The Beths – Jump Rope Gazers 8. Miel – Tourist Season 9. The Avalanches – We Will Always Love You 10. Polaris – The Death of Me 11. Gordi – Our Two Skins 12. Azim Zain and His Lovely Bones – Be Good 13. Pillow Queens – In Waiting 14. Sorry – 925 15. Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia 16. The Chicks – Gaslighter 17. Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant 18. Gulch – Impenetrable Cerebral Fortress 19. E^ST – I’M DOING IT 20. Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters 21. Party Dozen – Pray for Party Dozen 22. Tame Impala – The Slow Rush 23. Dune Rats – Hurry Up and Wait 24. Miiesha – Nyaaringu 25. Run The Jewels – RTJ4 26. Hockey Dad – Brain Candy 27. HAIM – Women in Music Pt. III 28. Jack Colwell – SWANDREAM 29. Hayley Williams – Petals for Armor 30. Something for Kate – The Modern Medieval 31. Cry Club – God I’m Such a Mess 32. El Tee – Everything is Fine 33. 5 Seconds of Summer – C A L M 34. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher 35. RVG – Feral 36. illuminati hotties – FREE I.H: This Is Not The One You’ve Been Waiting For 37. Headie One x Fred again.. – GANG 38. Touché Amoré – Lament 39. Neil Cicierega – Mouth Dreams 40. Waxahatchee – Saint Cloud 41. Jeff Rosenstock – N O D R E A M 42. Tired Lion – Breakfast for Pathetics 43. Haiku Hands – Haiku Hands 44. Jack R. Reilly – Middle Everything 45. Diet Cig – Do You Wonder About Me? 46. Covet – technicolor 47. Frances Quinlan – Likewise 48. Violent Soho – Everything is A-OK 49. Shopping – All or Nothing 50. Paradise Club – Paradise Club
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Jaime Wyatt – Neon Cross, Colter Wall – Western Swing & Waltzes and Other Punchy Songs, envy – The Fallen Crimson, Adrianne Lenker – songs, Car Seat Headrest – Making a Door Less Open, Protomartyr – Ultimate Success Today, Soccer Mommy – color theory, Good Sad Happy Bad – Shades, Cub Sport – LIKE NIRVANA, Snarls – Burst, Laurence Pike – Prophecy, Taylor Swift – folklore, Bright Eyes – Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was, Laura Jane Grace – Stay Alive, Polkadot – Feeling Okay, Ratboys – Printer’s Devil, The Streets – None of Us Are Getting Out of This Life Alive, Turtle Skull – Monoliths
I went to 233 shows in 2019. These were the best ones:
50. Youth Group @ The Foundry, 15/11 49. Seeker Lover Keeper @ The Lansdowne, 12/7 48. Anberlin @ Enmore Theatre, 26/5 47. The Magic Numbers @ The Triffid, 21/3 46. Bugs @ North Wollongong Hotel, 17/11 45. Florence + The Machine @ The Domain, 26/1 44. La Dispute @ Cambridge Hotel, 19/9 43. Allday @ Hordern Pavilion, 24/8 42. Two Door Cinema Club @ Enmore Theatre, 28/11 41. Frenzal Rhomb @ Cambridge Hotel, 21/12 40. Dune Rats @ Metro Theatre, 13/9 39. High Tension @ The Lansdowne, 10/8 38. Rob Thomas @ ICC Sydney Theatre, 13/11 37. Splendour in the Grass @ North Byron Parklands, 19/7 – 21/7 36. Underoath @ Hordern Pavilion, 12/9 35. WAAX @ Cambridge Hotel, 23/8 34. The Story So Far @ UNSW Roundhouse, 19/4 33. Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals @ Hordern Pavilion, 9/1 32. Paul Dempsey @ Oxford Art Factory, 15/6 31. JPEGMAFIA @ Oxford Art Factory, 2/10 30. Ms. Lauryn Hill @ Qudos Bank Arena, 7/2 29. Pianos Become the Teeth @ Rad, 16/2 28. Laneway Festival @ Sydney College of the Arts, 3/2 27. The Barking Spiders @ Factory Theatre, 28/12 26. Gang of Four @ The Zoo, 7/11 25. Turnstile @ Factory Theatre, 16/1 24. Dispossessed @ Greeny’s House, 1/11 23. Mitski @ Oxford Art Factory, 4/2 22. Phil Collins @ Qudos Bank Arena, 23/1 21. Making Gravy @ The Domain, 14/12 20. U2 @ Sydney Cricket Ground, 23/11 19. The 1975 @ ICC Sydney Theatre, 21/9 18. Azim Zain and His Lovely Bones @ The Front, 6/6 17. Download Festival @ Parramatta Park, 9/3 16. The Monkees @ Sydney Opera House, 18/6 15. Kacey Musgraves @ Enmore Theatre, 12/5 14. The Chemical Brothers @ The Dome, 2/11 13. Fleetwood Mac @ Qudos Bank Arena, 27/8 12. The Flaming Lips @ Sydney Opera House, 30/9 11. Yours & Owls Festival @ Stuart Park, 5/10 – 6/10 10. Charly Bliss @ The Lansdowne, 23/7 9. Deafheaven @ Manning Bar, 28/2 8. Four Tet @ Enmore Theatre, 7/3 7. Totally Unicorn @ Rad, 11/6 6. The Cure @ Sydney Opera House, 28/5 5. Death Cab for Cutie @ Sydney Opera House, 11/3 4. Childish Gambino @ Qudos Bank Arena, 24/7 3. Iggy Pop @ Sydney Opera House, 15/4 2. Dear Seattle @ Rad, 16/6 1. IDLES @ Oxford Art Factory, 28/1
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Kylie Minogue @ ICC Sydney Theatre, 6/3; Eagles @ Qudos Bank Arena, 14/3; Tropical Fuck Storm @ UOW UniBar, 30/3; Party Dozen @ Oxford Art Factory Gallery Bar, 25/4; Post Malone @ Qudos Bank Arena, 8/5; Midnight Oil @ Anita’s Theatre, 23/5; 5 Seconds of Summer @ Factory Theatre, 3/7; Foals @ Hordern Pavilion, 17/7; Friendly Fires @ Metro Theatre, 22/7; You Am I @ Annandale Hotel, 6/9; Troye Sivan @ Hordern Pavilion, 20/9; girl in red @ The Lansdowne, 8/10; Fucked Up @ The Gasometer, 9/10; Northlane @ UNSW Roundhouse, 11/10; Courtney Barnett @ Howler, 22/10; Grinspoon @ Waves, 31/10; DZ Deathrays @ The Triffid, 8/11; Slim Set @ The Lansdowne, 23/11; Genesis Owusu @ Vic on the Park, 30/11; Spacey Jane @ Wollongong UniBar, 4/12.
Man, I have interviewed Every Time I Die somany times. I never would have guessed how many times I’ve done it before going through this archive, but it’s a lot. I guess it makes sense, really – they were touring a lot, and they were churning out records. They have to be one of the most scarily consistent bands in heavy music. They have a sound that’s theirs, but they’ve never gotten samey or stale across their career. Here, we’re talking about Ex Lives, which remains one of my favourite albums of theirs. The interview isn’t too bad either, considering I was still figuring out a lot about feature writing in these first few years.
When you’re after a good time in the field of rock, punk, hardcore or metal, it’s rare that you’ll go past EVERY TIME I DIE. With a discography and list of achievements as long as your arm, the band have finally dropped their new album Ex-Lives after a nearly three-year wait…and, just quietly, it might just be their best work yet. Vocalist KEITH BUCKLEY got on the line with Australian Hysteria Magazine to shoot the shit and discuss the making of this stellar record.
“The Sabres won!” exclaims Keith Buckley as cheers erupt from the bar which he is standing out the front of. Ever the professional, Buckley has moved away from the noise in order to speak to Australian Hysteria Magazine. He may have missed the final moments of his beloved Buffalo Sabres taking out a huge NHL victory, but it doesn’t seem to concern him that greatly. After all, he is bursting with excitement to talk about Ex-Lives, the sixth studio album from his band Every Time I Die and his return to the ETID fold after going on tour with hair-metal supergroup The Damned Things.
Buckley spent most of 2011 working as a double agent of sorts, hitting the road with TDT in support of their debut, Ironiclast; as well as working on Ex-Lives in his time off. Both bands were on the line-up for the Soundwave Revolution festival in September of 2011, but fate was not kind to the festival and it ended up folding before a single stage had even been set up.
Thankfully, both ETID and TDT toured, the former doing a handful of headlining shows and the latter joining the consolation-prize Counter-Revolution line-up. “The fact that I can say that Van Halen screwed up my year is actually kind of awesome,” says Keith with a big laugh. “That said, them cancelling actually worked out for the best for us. The Damned Things got to come out and play, which was awesome, and all the shows I got to play were really, really fun.”
New songs were premiered on that tour – including the pulverising first single “Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space” – but Ex-Lives had not reached completion at the time of the September tours. Regardless, Buckley was hugely enthusiastic about the album and its sound: speaking to AHM at the time, he emphasised that Ex-Lives was “not just another Every Time I Die record” and that the material was “honestly some of the best stuff we’ve written.” Even with the album finished, however, Keith is still as excited about the record as he was back then.
“We’ve been sitting on it for months, which is crazy,” he says. “We’ve had time to really build up some hype for it and put out the video [for “Underwater Bimbos”] and stuff like that, so it’s kind of like we’ve gone into training to generate interest for this record before we tour it. We’re very excited. I still love it just as much as I did when we were recording it, and it’s crazy to me that we’ve been sitting on it for so long. Normally, when we’re done with a record, it’s straight out so we don’t have to worry about it leaking.”
Naturally, this perceived break from tradition leads the discussion to the topic of album leaks. Both Ironiclast and the band’s previous record, 2009’s New Junk Aesthetic, leaked online prior to the official release date, and so Buckley is questioned as to what a leak means to both him and to the band.
“It honestly depends on how close it is to the release date – because, sometimes, it can actually help a lot,” he responds. “When you get to the point when you’re worrying about record sales… I mean, that’s not the kind of band that we are. We’re not Katy Perry. We’re not Rihanna. We’re just a hardcore band – record sales don’t really justify anything for us. We still go on tour and play to kids who know the words to our songs – whether they downloaded it or bought it, they’re still coming out to the shows to hear the songs live. That’s kind of the point, huh?”
Talk then returns to Ex-Lives – a record which, for what it’s worth, sounds as though it will absolutely thrive in the live environment. With breakneck drums, howled vocals and punishing guitars left, right and centre, it’s an album that expands to new horizons for the band without losing sight of what made them an excellent band to begin with. The album, tellingly, was very rawly recorded, and presented quite a different style of recording process for Buckley in comparison to New Junk Aesthetic. “I was working on the vocals with everyone else in the band watching me while it happened, which is something I’d never done before,” he says.
“Normally, I’d do vocals for the song and then hear the band’s critiques of it later on when they came down. I’d take their comments on board and then go back in without them and do it again. This time around, though, I was doing the takes with all of them watching behind me, which was really weird. I was making all of my mistakes right in front of them. It’s weird, because a lot of people seem to think that if you’re going to perform in front of an audience, that you must not be that self-conscious. But I am. Extremely. Doing that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. They’d never heard me make those mistakes before. It was good, though – I’m very open to input from the others, and I’m not a diva. It’s a band. It’s a democracy.”
With Ex-Lives finally ready to go, Every Time I Die are finally preparing for a full-scale tour, starting in North America and quickly moving onto the rest of the world. Quizzed on a potential Australian tour, however, and Keith is somewhat hesitant. “Oh, man, I really don’t know,” he says with a laugh. “Honestly, with so much going on I really don’t know when we’ll be able to get back down there. At a stretch, we’re gonna aim for November and see how that goes.” It might be awhile off yet, but do yourself a favour while you’re playing the waiting game and go give Ex-Lives a spin. There’s a very strong chance you’ll like what you hear.
1. LCD soundsystem – american dream
2. Toby Martin – Songs from Northam Avenue
3. Gordi – Reservoir
4. Paramore – After Laughter
5. Charly Bliss – Guppy
6. IDYLLS – The Barn
7. Holly Throsby – After a Time
8. Gold Class – Drum
9. Two Steps on the Water – Sword Songs
10. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
11. Jen Cloher – Jen Cloher
12. Thundercat – Drunk
13. Neil Cicierega – Mouth Moods
14. Tigers Jaw – spin
15. Spoon – Hot Thoughts
16. Randy Newman – Dark Matter
17. Sampha – Process
18. Mere Women – Big Skies
19. HTMLflowers – Chrome Halo
20. Cloud Nothings – Life Without Sound
21. Sports Bra – Sports Bra
22. Jeremy Neale – Getting the Team Back Together
23. Corneluus – Mellow Waves
24. Lincoln Le Fevre and the Insiders – Come Undone
25. Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile – Lotta Sea Lice
26. DEAFCULT – AURAS
27. Julien Baker – Turn Out the Lights
28. Paul Kelly – Life is Fine
29. The Smith Street Band – More Scared of You Than You Are of Me
30. Code Orange – Forever
31. Tired Minds – Loom
32. Taryn La Fauci – Cycling
33. The New Pornographers – Whiteout Conditions
34. Batpiss – Rest in Piss
35. SZA – Ctrl.
36. Cayetana – New Kind of Normal
37. Frenzal Rhomb – Hi-Viz High Tea
38. At the Drive-In – in•ter a•li•a
39. Worriers – Survival Pop
40. Gang of Youths – Go Farther in Lightness
41. Oslow – Oslow
42. Jess Locke – Universe
43. Turnover – Good Nature
44. Clowns – Lucid Again
45. Naif – PLZ ALTER THE ANIMAL THAT’S INSIDE OF ME
46. Harry Styles – Harry Styles
47. Diet Cig – Swear I’m Good at This
48. Yes I’m Leaving – Pure Joy
49. N*E*R*D – NO_ONE EVER REALLY DIES
50. Party Dozen – The Living Man
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: ’68, Allday, Citizen, Cloakroom, Death Bells, Full of Hell, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Manchester Orchestra, Michael Crafter, Miguel, Polaris, Priests, Queens of the Stone Age, Quicksand, Ratboys, RVG, Sleaford Mods.
In October of 2015, I was asked to be a guest on Out of the Box, a one-hour lunchtime program every Thursday on Sydney community station FBi Radio. The premise of the show, which was hosted at the time by the absolutely delightful Ash Berdebes, is to look at a person’s life through the music that they love; with the guest programming eight songs that mean something to them. I was honoured to be asked on the show – which has also featured really cool guests like Paul Mac, The Umbilical Brothers, Ólafur Arnalds and Evelyn Morris aka Pikelet – but I was fretting quite a bit over what to choose. I think I put together a fairly solid and diverse list; all songs that meant something huge to me at different parts of my life.
Here are the songs I chose. You can also listen to the entire hour, which features a pretty honest chat with yours truly, by streaming it through FBi’s Radio On Demand by clicking here.
A huge thank you to Ash for asking me on and for her producer, Rachel, for doing a great job. I worship this station, and couldn’t believe my luck that I got to be involved with a show.
Sesame Street – Imagine That
I picked this song for two reasons. The first is that it is the first song I remember truly loving and knowing all of the words to. I would have been three, maybe four when I first heard it. I was fascinated by all of the music on Sesame Street – Jim Henson would go on to become one of the biggest parts of my upbringing, through both Sesame Street and the Muppets. I think the reason that this song stuck out to me was that it was about using your imagination but also remembering that being you is the best because no-one else can be exactly like you. Ernie sings it, and I’ve always loved Ernie almost entirely because of this song. There’s also “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon,” which also clocked me square in the feels. I forgot about this song for a few years and then rediscovered it. The day that I did I cried and cried and cried. It all came flooding back to me. I also picked this song because I knew for a fact that it would have never been played on FBi before.
The Cruel Sea – Takin’ All Day
The Cruel Sea were the first band I ever saw live. I bought Over Easy when I was eight years old because I liked the cover. I later saw this video on rage and felt very grown-up for liking an “adult” band playing bluesy rock music. I wanted to play drums, so I wrote to Jim Elliott, the band’s drummer, via their PO box. He wrote back and we stayed in touch for many years. In 2002, they announced a show in St. George’s Basin. My dad took me – even though it was an over-18s gig – and I got to meet Jim and had a poster signed by the entire band which is still on my wall to this day. James Cruickshank recently passed away, and I know a lot of people are rediscovering The Cruel Sea – I hope this helps.
The Forest – The Bear
Flash forward to 2008. I’m in my final year of high school and a lot is going on – I’ve discovered that I have Asperger’s, having been diagnosed as a child but never told; I’ve ostensibly come out as bisexual at a Catholic high school and I’m angry, confused, lonely and trying to find sense in what’s happening in my life. Around this time, I see a band play at a local community hall called The Forest. They’re a “skramz” (emo/post-hardcore/indie) band from rural Queensland. Although they identify as Christian and I was quite outspoken against Christianity (high school rebel!), their music was so intense and passionate that it got through to me. As long as I treated the imagery as just that, we had an understanding.
I bought their self-titled, homemade EP that night. Every day before my final HSC exams, I would play it as loudly as I possibly could – somedays I’d even scream along if I was walking by myself. Javed, the band’s lead singer, works in video games now and lives in Sydney with his wife and his beautiful daughter. He may be done with this band, but I’ll forever be grateful to him for that EP and getting me through that time in my life.
Parades – Hunters
I loved Parades. More than I’ve loved a lot of bands. To this day, I have no idea why they put up with me – I was probably so annoying and so clingy. Still, they became friends – really good friends. People I trusted and cared about and wanted to hang out with. foreign tapes was another album that got me through a lot – a major break-up, more struggles with anxiety, the utter loneliness of my uni degree. The hours of travel I undertook to see these guys play – eight times in total before they split – was always made worth it.
I picked this song from the album because I once screamed the “SO IT GOES ON ENDLESSLY” part so loud I started crying. In the front row. These two other guys thought I was crazy. I lost myself in the moment. Parades allowed me to do that. I wish they were still around.
Lemuria – Mechanical
2012 features the worst thing that has ever happened to me – the untimely and accidental death of my mother to a one-person car crash in April – as well as the best week of my entire life – going to one major international gig a day from Monday November 12 to Sunday November 18; seeing Radiohead, Refused, Beck, Silversun Pickups in Adelaide, Ben Folds Five in Adelaide, Harvest in Sydney and Coldplay. The soundtrack to both of these parts of my life was the album Get Better by Lemuria. I discovered the band through a random blog some years before but had never properly given them a listen until one of their songs came on shuffle not long after my mother’s passing. It helped me through and was there for me whenever I needed it – there were weeks where it was all that I listened to. It made me feel like there were others out there that were just as lost and confused as I was.
Getting to meet Lemuria when the came to Australia in 2014 was such a huge thing for me. Nearly broke down telling them what their music meant to me. One of the highlights of my life was getting to sing “Lipstick” from Get Better with the band at Black Wire Records. I chose the last song from the album because of all the times I have screamed along the “SHUT UP” refrain until I literally couldn’t anymore; as well as it being a highlight of their show at Hermann’s Bar – surrounded by friends singing along so loudly that Sheena, the band’s singer, gave up singing into the mic and just let us carry it.
mowgli – Slowburn
Cameron Smith, Curtis Smith, Dave Muratore, Eleanor Shepherd and Jay Borchard have all been friends of mine for quite awhile. Eleanor, the bass player, I’ve known since we were in primary school. I met Cameron in 2008, watching his old band Epitomes play every other weekend. Dave was brought in as the lead guitarist for a band I was playing with at the end of 2009; a few months after meeting Jay for the first time at a La Dispute show – which is, ironically enough, the same situation in which I met Curtis, Cameron’s brother, in 2011 to complete the set.
I bring up the fact that I am friends with all of them – even though Curtis is no longer in the band – purely because I want to state that the fact I think mowgli are one of the best bands this country has produced in the 21st century is not because they are my mates. It’s because their music speaks to me on the same way that The Forest did all those years ago – they capture my rage and my passion and my disconnect from the world around me. I have seen mowgli play live over twenty times, and each time I am utterly blown away by their talents. This was my favourite song of 2013 by a considerable margin – I still rank it as one of my all-time favourite songs. I think everything about it is perfect.
The Smith Street Band – Belly of Your Bedroom
This was included as a shout-out to Poison City Records, the Poison City Weekender and the remarkable friends that I have made through both. I was almost intimidated by the scale of the Weekender at first – I arrived at my first at the age of 21, incredibly anxious, nervous, excited, overjoyed and overwhelmed. I’ve since felt immediately at home there – I almost feel like part of the furniture. The Weekender is a time when I am connected with friends from all over – some that I see every week, some that I only get to see for that weekend. Once all the shows and the side-tours surrounding it are done, it feels like the end of camp to me.
I have made so many great mates through the community that Poison City has created – the fact they have made the queer, anxious yeti (as I sometimes call myself) feel so welcome and so loved speaks volumes about the environment of it. At the centre of the Poison City universe is The Smith Street Band – I chose my favourite song of theirs, which ostensibly deals with being the weaker part of a relationship (been there, done that, bought the t-shirt) and features the vocals of another dear friend, Lucy Wilson.
Georgia Maq – Footscray Station
Since 2009, I have played solo under the name Nothing Rhymes with David. I’ve been lucky enough to share a stage with some remarkable songwriters. None have challenged me in the same way that Georgia Maq has. I find her music endlessly fascinating, remarkably engaging and uniformly brilliant. I see so much in her that she is often too self-deprecating and unaware to see in herself. I fear that she will never, ever know how good she is. Each time I watch her perform, I more or less sit in stunned silence – when I’m not compelled beyond my will to sing along, of course.
I find the storytelling in this song so incredible – it took me a good half a dozen listens to fully comprehend it. Everytime I’m in Melbourne and I find myself out at Footscray station, I think of this song and I can’t help but smile. The first time I saw her live, she couldn’t believe that I knew every word to this song and that I was in the front row singing along. I couldn’t believe I was the only one.
Another unexpected gem from my time writing for Australian Hysteria Magazine. I didn’t know letlive. from a bar of soap until I was on the line with Jason Butler, who ended up being on the loveliest and kindest dudes I had interviewed up to that point. This is just a quick chat, but I’ve been a huge fan of the band ever since. It was a lasting impression!
– DJY, January 2015
After five years of line-up changes and general turmoil in-between albums, letlive kicked back into action last year with a killer new album, Fake History. Things have been going gangbusters for the quintet from there, with the band signing to iconic punk label Epitaph and planning a re-release for Fake History with three new tracks. Australian Hysteria got the opportunity to speak to the band’s founder and leader, Jason Butler, to talk shop on the album, as well as the band’s live antics and a potential trip down under.
Australian Hysteria: Hi Jason, thanks for chatting to Australian Hysteria Magazine! Whereabouts are you? Jason Butler: I’m actually on Venice Boulevard, making my way down to Santa Monica, California. We’re home free for about a month – we’ve got our release shows, which will only take about three days, and that’s it! I’m actually on my way to a birthday party with my girlfriend.
Sounds good! This article might be the first time our readers may have heard of letlive. How would you describe your band’s music to someone who’s never heard it before?
Something that you’ve wanted to hear for a long time. [Laughs] That’s pretty good, right?
Let’s talk Fake History. It’s your first album in five years – what do you think took so long to get this record together?
I believe it was the components of the band itself. It was willingness – what letlive was, it was a continuation on from a punk rock band I formed in high school. We cut a few albums, and – as you do when you’re young – you do what you want and you play what you want. You put out albums to be a part of something. During that time, though, we generated a different idea of letlive and what it was meant to be. So in those five years between, we were just putting the pieces back together. I’m actually the only remaining member from the original lineup. Truly, though, the beginning of letlive as you and most will know it is definitely with the five gentlemen we have now. We came to the realisation that in order to put something out in an overly-saturated culture that will hold water, you’ve got to really mean whatever it is you’re about to put out. So one day, it fell into place and we recorded it.
Epitaph have planned a re-release for the record. Do you feel at this point that it will help in exposing you to a new audience?
Absolutely. We have to illuminate and acknowledge Epitaph – it’s a milestone for us; it’s a milestone for anyone in punk rock. Of course there will be people that are dedicated to the label, and will want to check out anything Epitaph-related. Also, they’ve done so much as a label independently that they’re marked to be so authentic and natural. All these things are things that we really appreciate so early on in our career. We’re all working together.
There’s a very potent mix of both the heavier side of the music and the melodic side. Do you feel that having a diverse sound assists you in being able to play with a lot of different bands?
Y’know, I would love for that to be true. We appreciate and propagate all kinds of music that people don’t immediately assume to associate with our band. We really hope that it shines through and opens up doors – not just for us, but for other acts as well. No matter how you take it, it’s just music – you’re trying to be creative; you’re trying to latch on to something that was so primitive at one point, based on human instinct. It’s just music. I hope it’s transparent enough for people to see that’s how we feel about it. I’d love to tour with Bruno Mars – maybe if B.o.B. wants to take us out, I’ll do a hip-hop tour!
On the YouTube video for “Casino Columbus,” one of the highest-rated comments talks about what you did at a show – you threw a trash can over your head, started your own mosh pit and tried to climb the roof of a tent. Is any/all of that true? If so, when did it happen?
[Laughs] From what I’m told, it’s all true. It’s all a blur to me, but I’ve seen video! That was South by Southwest. We were playing a showcase, and I chased my microphone into a trash can. I thought I’d go for a fashion statement and wear the trash can as a top hat. I found myself outside of the tent at one point, and then climbed up the tent and found a hole and came back in. It was sort of like the tent was birthing me – it was kinda beautiful! [Laughs]
It sounds like there’s quite a bit of energy going on at these shows. How important are letlive’s live performances to you?
I think the letlive live show is just as important as the way we’re presented on record. It’s definitely different. With the album, we just tried to show as much raw energy and emotion – as trite as that may sound – as we could. It’s the exact same thing with the live show. We want people to understand that letlive is more than the five individuals on that stage. letlive is simply a vessel of some sort, and it’s much more vast than we can fully articulate at this point in time. When we can, we’ll let you know what it is; but right now, we just want people to feel something. It’s a shared energy. Even if they don’t know or don’t like what’s going on, all the energy – negative and positive – is feeding into what’s going on that stage.
Finally, when are we going to see letlive on Australian shores?
As soon as possible, man! We’ve been discussing this with our manager. I’ve heard it’s beautiful, and you guys are some of the nicest motherfuckers I’ve ever met. We did that tour with Break Even, and God-damn! You guys are just nice and cool. Not to mention my boy Jona, from Prom Queen and Bring Me The Horizon. He’s one of my favourite dudes to ever exist. As a country, if you’re all like that? I’m all about it, man. Let’s go!
We’re so close! Parts one, two and three… missed ’em? Not to worry? You can revisit them here, here and here. Let’s get down to some top 40 pop hits. Starting now.
40. Fucked Up feat. J Mascis – Led By Hand
Here’s a strange proposition: The best Dinosaur Jr. song of the year did have J Mascis in it, but it wasn’t by Dinosaur Jr. In a standout moment from their exceptional Glass Boys LP, Pink Eyes and co. paid homage to proto-grunge wigouts while still maintaining their hardcore punk roots. There was perhaps no greater yin-and-yang in the year than when Mascis mumbled the song’s chorus as Pink Eyes let out a Roger Daltrey-worthy “YEAH!” atop of it. An unlikely pairing on paper, “Led by Hand” had everything making a whole lotta sense quite quickly. Follow it around.
39. St. Vincent – Digital Witness
What did Annie Clark learn from her time making music with David Byrne? Two major things. The first: Horns. They’re a weapon. Use them wisely. The second: Is something categorically weird in your song? Make it weirder. Taking this on board, “Digital Witness” is one of her finest tracks to date. Whether it was the spiralling pre-chorus melody, the stinging guitar wail or that all-encompassing hook, it was nigh-on impossible to deny the resonance of this rebirth. During one of the song’s many earworms, Clark boldly states “I want all of your mind.” You got it. Anything else?
38. The Kite String Tangle – Words
We’re still learning a lot about Danny Harley, the prodigious figurehead behind Brisbane bedroom phenomena The Kite String Tangle. Tracks like “Words” allowed us as listeners to edge slightly closer in this regard, and it was something to be extremely thankful for. A restrained exploration of post-dubstep balladry, Harley shrouds himself in light-and-shade contrasts, gently coaxing out confessional lyrics as distant lights flicker and glow on the outskirts. It shouldn’t add up that such depth and maturity has been achieved at such an early stage, but one would suppose The Kite String Tangle has always been against the odds.
37. Jane Tyrrell – The Rush
Lovers can fall hard and fast for one another, but where does one find oneself when fire turns to ice? It’s a complicated subject, and one that Tyrrell details with an outsider’s eye and an insider’s mind. She may have set up two characters in the song, but it’s safe to say that she sees more than just herself within them. Driven masterfully by the unmistakable drumming of PVT’s Laurence Pike, there are soaring highs and crushing lows that weave through the song’s relatively-short runtime. Tyrrell sees us through to the bitter end. It’s not like it’s her first time.
36. Ken Stringfellow – Kids Don’t Follow
If any song is stretching the friendship for its inclusion in a 2014 list, it’s surely this: A cover of a Replacements song from the 80s that was recorded in 2004 for a tribute album to the aforementioned college-rock legends that ultimately never came to be. This hazy barroom take on the anti-authoritative punk number came from acclaimed Posies and R.E.M. alum Ken Stringfellow; and collected dust until the release of a rarities compilation at the beginning of 2014. So, here we are. You best believe this sucker was worth uncovering. A smart, somewhat-sombre reworking from a truly underrated craftsman.
35. Babaganouj – Too Late for Love
Go Violets didn’t fade away, they burnt out. Their embers remain flickering within Brisbane’s still-thriving indie-pop village, as two of its members have resumed full-time positions in this little jangly garage outfit that could. “Too Late for Love” may have been born in the sunshine state, but it’s more European in flavour – there’s a strong dose of Camera Obscura, a hint of The Wannadies and sprinklings of Belle and Sebastian’s early work. None of this is said to deride the song, of course. It’s a reflection on how it immediately feels like home. May this band burn longer and brighter.
34. Kelis – Breakfast
Her milkshake brought all the boys to the yard, but what happens when one of those boys sticks around? Now in her thirties, Kelis is exploring the concept of finding love in wake of divorce. It’s quite an adult prospect, recurring on perhaps her most mature LP to date, Food. Many went with a helping of “Jerk Ribs” when asked to name the album’s standout, but it would be foolhardy to dismiss this triumphantly horn-laden take on neo-soul, complete with stunning chorus and adorable children’s backing vocals. Much like in life, “Breakfast” is the most important meal of the day.
33. Ben Howard – Conrad
A lot of pitch-black darkness took up Ben Howard’s second album – hell, it even took up most of the cover art. Positioned towards its latter half, “Conrad” allowed the LP to let a glimmer of light into the spectrum. It continues to look at where a past love went awry; and yet the song plays to the pop sensibilities that rewarded Howard such attention to begin with. Its shipmates are his exceptional guitar work, layered to the point of being a battalion front; as well as a hummed refrain that would even garner due respect from the Crash Test Dummies.
32. Luca Brasi – Borders and Statelines
Luca Brasi’s dues have been paid in full and with interest; and many within Australia’s punk community have spent the last few years in particular wondering as to when it would be their time. It was answered not with words, but an extremely loud action. The forceful, crashing drums, the stellar twin-guitar attack and the rousing, spirited chorus they always had in them… “Borders and Statelines,” contrary to its lyrics, will come to define this band in the very best way imaginable. There is a wolf in the throne room, and its name is Luca Brasi. There will be blood.
31. Swans – Oxygen
2014 saw Michael Gira turn 60 years old. He continues to haunt the realm of alternative/avant-garde music after thirty-plus years in the game with unfinished business. Amid an exhausting two-hour-plus release – the double-LP To Be Kind – came this truly terrifying beast. “Oxygen,” already a live favourite, can now officially stand as one of the biggest, boldest compositions to ever come out under the Swans moniker upon its long-awaited recording. Its opening moments are spent picking out one of the year’s most distinctive basslines; its dying moments forcefully hurls everything it has built up into the inferno. The in-between is unforgettable.
30. Death From Above 1979 – Right On, Frankenstein!
Yes, the most hyped new rock band of the year may well have been a bass-and-drums duo; but a vengeful return from the very band that made it cool in the first place made sure we all knew whose yard we were stepping into. “Frankenstein” fires off on all cylinders from its opening seconds, pounding through a barnstorming, breakneck dose of rock & roll that exists purely on Keeler and Grainger’s terms. Plus, it’s gotta be the best false ending to a song from this year: The dust settles, the bass rings out… then, POW! Right in the kisser!
29. Bertie Blackman – Run for Your Life
Another new Bertie Blackman album means another new Bertie Blackman. From the days of her favourite jeans to her flirtations with electronica on later releases, the chameleonic Blackman has rarely allowed herself to get too comfortable within a particular style in her decade-and-change of songwriting. “Run for Your Life” is no exception to this, although it would be wise to suggest she spend a little more time in this specific corner. She sounds right at home with the gated snare, thickly-layered synthesizers and the whoah-oh’d call and response. She may well have just stumbled across her own pop paradise.
28. Kiesza – Hideaway
Fred Armisen may have sung that the dream of the 90s was alive in Portland, but his radar was a little off. The dream of the 90s, friends, is alive in Kiesza, a twenty-something Canadian up-and-comer who dominated dancefloors throughout the entire year with this certified banger in her arsenal. From a crafting perspective, “Hideaway” is retro in the sense that it can appreciate that there was a “What is Love” and a “Rhythm of the Night” for every “Teen Spirit” and “Black Hole Sun.” Its spirit is alive and shuffling once again. Mash it.
27. Coldplay – Magic
In the year that the phrase “consciously uncoupling” entered the cultural lexicon, you could well have been forgiven for forgetting that Chris Martin actually made music this year. Sure, some people would like to forget it altogether, but that’s another story for another time. We’re here to talk about “Magic,” a single that allowed Martin and co. to recall the pop simplicity of their early days while connecting it to the fresh pain of a then-recent separation. If “Magic” proves anything, it’s that we can begin again. That, and Chris Martin can still write a bloody tune.
26. Tkay Maidza – U-Huh
Don’t let Tkay Maidza’s age fool you, nor the simplicity of her big-business single. MCs twice her age would kill for a flow so tightly syncopated, hooks this high in both quality and quantity and a beat as bright and boisterous as the one that fills the spaces of “U-Huh.” There are constant surprises around every corner in the current Australian musical climate; and Maidza is the latest to make a substantial impact. One hopes the fire spat here leads to a phenomenal debut LP next year. After all, as she puts it, “We don’t tolerate broke behaviour.”
25. Yoke – Jabiluka
A phrase as simple as “I never told her” is what centres itself thematically at the core of “Jabiluka,” so named after a mine in the Northern Territory of Australia. Each time it is uttered, there are further layers peeled back to reveal the pain, the regret and the loss that comes with delivering such a line. It’s conveyed emphatically, almost taking on new meaning with every repetition. Similarly, the song itself may externally feel like a Dev Hynes-flavoured slice of downtempo indie-pop, but further listening will see those very same layers revealing. A smart yet complicated song.
24. DZ Deathrays – Reflective Skull
Who gives a fuck about how many notes you can play? If you can play the right ones, in the right succession, you needn’t worry about a single thing more. The riff that “Reflective Skull” lives and dies by was not designed for any greater intellectual pursuit. It’s a primitive headbanger, locked into an undeniable stomping groove and launched forth with reckless abandon. Ironically enough, with its less-than-more approach, this could be one of the biggest sounding tracks that the Deathrays duo have ever put their collective name to. Altogether, now: DUN, DUN-DUN, DUN DUN DUN-DUN, DEWWWW DEWWWW DEWWWW.
23. Sia – Chandelier
Ten years removed from her previous signature song, the inimitable “Breath Me,” Sia Furler has penned herself a new standard; an anthem which will forever define her as one of not only Australia’s greatest singer-songwriter exports, but as a true mastermind behind pop music in the 21st century. Hyperbole? For Christ’s sake, go listen to that chorus again. Seriously. It feels like that Maxell ad campaign where the guy is being blown away by the sound in his chair. Maddie Ziegler may have given the song a second life, but it was all a part of Sia’s grander plan.
22. The Gaslight Anthem – Get Hurt
Don’t call it a comeback. Don’t even call it a reinvention. What we are seeing here is Brian Fallon and co. going out on a proverbial limb, gazing forlornly at what lies beyond. In leaving their comfort zone and exploring the possibilities of slower, more refined songwriting, Gaslight have undertaken a greater journey all with a single step. The title track from their latest record also served as one of their most striking, honest songs ever put to wax. It’s murmurs and whispers from a band defined by their shouts and screams, and it makes for a remarkable listening experience.
21. Tiny Ruins – Me at the Museum, You in the Wintergardens
The single greatest ode to love in 2014 came from the humble, warm abode of Auckland; where you’ll find the quaint, gorgeously understated sounds of one Hollie Fullbrook on the wind. The story is simply told, beautifully painted and pristinely arranged, as we follow the scent of young love through two uniquely different workplaces that somehow not only complement on another, but serve as a reflection on the resolute power that can come through finding love. Its greatest achievement, however, is its ability to accomplish all of this majesty in a decidedly slim 155 seconds. It just comes and goes.
WHO: Bennie James. FROM: Nowra, NSW, Australia. FIRST TIME: I’m going to say the Tea Club and I’m going to say 2006. Don’t quote me on it. TENTH TIME: Upstairs at City Diggers, Wollongong; January 28, 2012.
There’s a Kanye West lyric that goes: “Lauryn Hill said her heart was in Zion/I wish her heart still was in rhyming.” I wish Bennie James’ heart was still in music. He’s part of an incredible musical family – his father directed a school musical I was in and his sister is a great singer-songwriter in her own right – but sightings of the man are few and far between. I grew up literally down the road from the guy, but we never really crossed paths until my mid-teens when we ended up in the aformentioned musical. My part wasn’t much, but hey.
We bonded over a lot of the same music, and he showed me some home recordings of his own songs that he’d done on his Zune – yeah, this dates the conversation, doesn’t it? I grew up with his music, too – his backing band, The Hesitant Few, all became good friends; and we went through some pretty memorable experiences together. Even some band comps. Shudder. Anyway, the tenth time in 2012 was, sadly, the last I saw of him. He’s not dead, he’s just in hiding somewhere. I hope he comes out again someday.
WHO: Andy Bull. FROM: Sydney, NSW, Australia. FIRST TIME: Shoalhaven Entertainment Centre, Nowra; November 27th, 2009. TENTH TIME: YourFest @ Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle; December 10th, 2011.
Like Michael Stipe, Justin Bieber or even Andrew Stockdale, Andy is the kind of guy that you can track periodically by hairstyle. We first met during a foppish mop-top phase, still going strong from his debut album We’re Too Young. He more or less denies the thing exists anymore, but it’s actually a wonderful collection of songs; if a little naive. Adds to the charm, see. Anyway, these days he rocks a very slick quiff and messes about with synthesizers more than the ol’ piyannah.
What hasn’t changed is how I feel about the man himself – a smart, charming and bold songwriter that I’ve seen go from strength to strength. I’ve seen this guy so many times that I probably know the words to some of his songs better than he does. Seriously, I may well be the leading authority on Andy Bull – I don’t know whether that’s a career path or not, but it’s something. Along the way, he’s introduced new musicians into the mix who have also become good friends, including Alex “Best Dude” Bennison and the similarly-quiffed/stylish Dave Jenkins, Jr. He’s also given me enough musical memories to last a lifetime. He’s a gift that keeps on giving.