Sydney four-piece ZEAHORSE are one of the few present outfits keeping the spirit of live music alive. Being around for quite some time now, their recordings alone are made of a raw, noisy hysteria constructed in a deep and honest way; allowing themselves a real important footing in our musical world.
This sound is exemplified so much louder in their live show, which you may have witnessed recently during their FBi Turns 10 festival slot at the start of last month.
Their debut full-length record Pools hit shelves just last week through Inertia imprint HUB The Label, and has proved testament to the boys’ style, easily being their greatest effort yet leaving a rush of excitement for what lies ahead in the work of Zeahorse.
Before they hit the road as Wolf & Cub‘s main support act, Morgan Anthony and Ben Howell of the band were kind enough to spend some time with us in the courtyard of Sydney’s Norfolk Hotel to discuss Pools, touring, encounters with musicians and the eased delivery of a British person’s criticism.
How and when did you guys become a band?
Morgan: We were a three piece in 2008 – we’ve been together for about five years. We were a three piece for about a year and a half, maybe two years. And then we got Benny here to play some bass, yeah. And we formed in Lismore.
I read that you guys recorded Pools on an old tape machine. I was hoping you could explain the process behind that.
M: Yeah it was like a two inch tape machine so it was actually like an old tape machine that you would find in – most studios have them these days anyway. You want to take over [laughs]?
Ben: Yeah it was cool. We recorded initially to tape so you get all the beautiful warmth-
M: And all those really nice tones that you get from tape that you won’t get from some digital. But then you just put it all into a digital format anyway for the remainder, like mixing and everything.
B: Just to record you get the initial sounds that you want.
It would be a more raw sort of sound hey
B: Yeah and it was just cool to have the opportunity because if you wanted to do tape at a lot of studios around Sydney, it’s going to cost you an arm and a leg, whereas where we did it, it’s an amazing studio to start with, but they had a tape machine that they were just excited to be able to use.
M: And they had a bunch of tape free.
B: And they don’t make tape anymore, it’s just old stock lying around.
M: As soon as you put it to tape, that’s it, you know? You can’t really go back and redo it. It’s like that’s the tape done. So say you track like three songs, which is thirty minutes per reel, so two songs could be ten minutes. There’s ten minutes pretty much gone. I mean you can go over it but it’s just like, it’s more of a commitment in terms of how you record. We bounced it into a computer, but our engineer compressed it a lot. And tape compression is a complex thing, it actually makes guitar tone sound a lot more clean.. We’re getting too technical, anyway [laughs].
The album deals with quite Dystopian themes. What influenced the writing process?
M: The lyrics I guess is what we’re talking about was written from like a Dystopian view of suburbia. A suburban upbringing and what it kind of breeds in most people. If they grew up in the suburbs, they kind of tend to follow the same ideals as what their parents have kind of implemented. It’s like a stewpot, they end up just either taking a trade or buying a house in the same area and it’s just like this loss of choice. Most of my old school friends all own houses in the same area and have trades and almost married.. It’s almost like they lost that freedom of choice to go “oh I don’t really want to live here anymore and do the same thing that my parents did”, that choice has kind of been taken away for whatever reason.
It’s kind of like a cycle?
M: Yeah yeah, it’s like this stewed cycle. We’re all lucky enough to be out of that world. It’s just like looking back on it, the way I wrote the lyrics, looking back at a negative vein, which is why it can become a bit aggressive.
B: At the same time, it’s not like we’re a bunch of hippy monks that don’t do anything, you know, we’ve all got 9-5 jobs doing the same kind of shit everyday. Music is something we do in our own spare time on top of that, so it kind of feels okay to comment on that kind of stuff. Cause we know it so, hell, we can write a song about it like we’ve been there.
You’re not strangers to it
M: Yeah exactly. I think that’s it as well like you can’t judge anything unless you’ve lived it. And it’s not really about working 9-5 or anything like that, it’s more about the life choices people make.
Which track off Pools resonates with you both the most?
M: I like ‘Pesto’ the last track.
B: Yeah ‘Pesto’.
M: It was just like a jam that we had.
B: It was pretty impromptu.
M: No overdubs, we just sat down and did it. It’s got a real kind of meditative vibe.
B: Cause it was the last thing we recorded. We’d had this beautiful week away recording music with best friends. So I had a week off my job and you know, hanging out with my best mates recording music. And this was like the last day before we had to drive back to Sydney, back to work. So it kind of had this feel of this almost kind of lament, like I really feel it like this sort of melancholy.
M: It was like this perfect come down.
B: Yeah yeah! We had this amazing week of making music and you’re like, “Ohh, here we go back to ugh” so that really struck a chord.
M: And it was named after the guy that owns the whole – it was basically like an old Queenslander [house] that we recorded in – and the guy that owns it, his name’s Whitey, this kinda wizard looking dude, and the property is amongst all these macadamia nut farms. The neighbours would always give him buckets and buckets of macadamias so he’d roast them and salt them, and he made this amazing pesto pasta one night. So we kinda named the song after this pesto that he made for us. It was real fitting, yeah.
If you could choose anyone in the world to listen to your album, who would it be?
M: Ummm, that is a tough one!
B: That is really a spanner in the works! I would have to say Tony Robinson. He’s like a BBC personality. He hosts like all the nerdy archaeology shows and everything. Do you remember like he was Baldrick in Red Dwarf? Anyway, so like some British personality that’s who I would choose. Never done anything musical in his life. Or Mr Bean..
[lots of laughter]
M: I don’t know, that’s too hard. I’ll think of it.
B: They’d have to be British.
M: Yeah, totally.
B: Cause you know when they don’t like it and they tell you they don’t like it, they do it in a way that’s kind of funny? So yeah, they’d have to be British so it would just be easier on everyone.
Going to the touring side of things now, you guys played at Carriageworks for the FBi Turns 10. What does FBi mean to you guys?
M: A lot [laughs].
B: A hell of a lot!
M: They’re the reason why we play shows and people come.
B: They’ve just always been there, playing our music and not asking for anything in return. They’ve just always played our songs. They just do so much for keeping Sydney bands going, purely just by playing their music.
M: And they’re the ones in the music industry in Sydney that just don’t ask for anything back. They just play your music and that’s it. And they do it cause they love it. You know, without them, you wouldn’t have a scene at all in Sydney cause that’s the only reason why people find out about things.
B: They’re pretty much the reason why Sydney’s got good live bands.
M: And they always say, you know, we were the ones that found this band. And they actually are the radio station that finds bands. They find them way before Triple J find them. Triple J could pretty much just pick bands, their favourite bands from the FBi catalogue, and you know that’s what would make Triple J.
B: But it’s the same in every city around Australia. Every community radio station, like the FBi equivalence in Melbourne and Brisbane, even Perth, they’re the same. They’ll just play great Australian music. And it’s always for nothing in return.
M: Cause it’s set up by music fans I guess. Like the major radio stations, the commercial ones, they’re not really set up by music lovers, they’re set up by like business men who are making a buck off the music industry. FBi have nothing to do with that really.
You’re playing a few shows with Wolf & Cub next month. Where are you most excited to be visiting?
M & B: Tassie!
B: And Adelaide.
M: Radelaide. Or Ladelaide.
B: We have to wear polo shirts when we’re there.
M: I’ve got mine ready. I’ve got a bumbag, we’ll be sweet.
You can wear dri-fits and stuff
B: Yeah! [Laughs]
M: Cause Max our guitarist, he lives in Tassie. Cause we wouldn’t of had the opportunity to go down there, and take our own tour down there, so these Wolf & Cub shows we’re playing have set us up with a good opportunity to go down there and play. Yeah, can’t wait.
What’s been your most memorable touring experience? Whether it’s really weird or really cool
M: Mine was offering Jello Biafra (former lead of the Dead Kennedys) a t-shirt, and he knocked it back because he had this pile of t-shirts that’s too big in his house, that he couldn’t add it; followed by us giving him a CD and him looking at the CD – and we didn’t put on any kind of email or contact. Knowing Jello Biafra being the kind of DIY, anti-Facebook dude, we were like “hey you can contact us on Facebook”, his face just being like sucking a tornado. Yeah, I embarrassed myself twice in the space of about 20 seconds [laughs] which I proceeded to go into the toilet and just kinda sulk for a little while [laughs]. So that’s the worst experience during touring, it was embarrassing.
B: I met the bass player from Led Zeppelin, and that was really weird, cause you’re meeting a dude from Led Zeppelin. That was crazy. And he’s just a really lovely, polite guy. It was like having a conversation with your uncle or something. It was really bizarre! But that was sick. But that’s as weird as it’s got. We don’t really get out, we just finish a show and party, drink a bunch of beers.
M: Well it hasn’t yet, we haven’t really been on our first tour yet. Wolf & Cub will be the first like proper tour where we play a whole bunch of shows with the same band. It’s only ever been like supports in Brisbane or Sydney, so hopefully we’ll be able to come back and have some gnarly tour stories.
I was actually going to ask you next if you’ll be launching the album on your own headlining tour?
M: Yeah, we will. It hasn’t been confirmed yet, but that’s the next step after these Wolf & Cub shows, yeah.
And final question, any other plans for 2013?
B: Pay rent.
M: I’d love to play a Summer festival.
B: Yeah it would be nice to play a Summer festival.
M: I mean that’s probably 2014, everything else is pretty much booked out, but I guess that’s the next step to get on a festival bill and um, wear sunglasses on stage.
B: Just keep enjoying ourselves really.
M: Yeah, keep it real.
ZEAHORSE SUPPORT WOLF & CUB AUSTRALIAN TOUR DATES
Thursday, 10th October
Oxford Art Factory, SYDNEY
Saturday, 12th October
The Zoo, BRISBANE
Thursday, 17th October
Republic Bar, HOBART
Saturday, 19th October
Ed Castle, ADELAIDE
Thursday, 24th October
Northcote Social Club, MELBOURNE
Words by Hannah Galvin.