CITY CALM DOWN
Written by Mark Rabjohns
What were you doing on this day three months ago? I bet I can rightfully assume that the answer to that question is not something along the lines of “selling out venues across the country six months after I released my debut album”. Unless of course you are a member of City Calm Down, in which case you would answer that question with exactly those words. 2016 has already been a massive year for the Melbourne four-piece, and it is about to get bigger. They play Splendour In the Grass in July before getting back on the road for another 8-date national tour in September. I strongly advise that you see them if you are given the opportunity as their live set is nothing short of amazing.
Read on to catch a glimpse of the interview we conducted earlier this year with the band, as well as some top-secret-tour-shit that they captured for us on a disposable camera.
So, you’ve sold out every show during your album tour, did you ever expect something like that to happen after releasing your debut record?
When we put the tickets on sale for last year's 10 July show at the Northcote Social Club in Melbourne I was very nervous that no one would buy tickets or come...so doing a tour like this a little over a year later is utterly bizarre. We're very grateful for the support the record has received from both media and fans alike.
You’re heavily post-punk styled synth pop sound has filled a hole within the Australian music scene right now. I can see resemblance to bands such as The National and Joy Division. Who would you say have been your biggest influences?
When we were starting out as a band we were listening to a lot of Joy Division and New Order and bands of that ilk. So that sound palette has always been present in what we've done. I've always been drawn to the energy of post-punk music and that energy is something we'll continue to aim for in the future. That being said, the influence of bands like Air, Portishead, The War on Drugs, The National and Junip can be felt across the record...all of these bands write such beautiful melancholic pop music (maybe Portishead and pop is a stretch) and the harmonies and tones they create are all very unique. In my view they've all taken such care with all aspects of the music they make .
I was interested to see you cover Foals for Like A Version, especially because I see lots of similarities between you guys and them. Who decided on covering the song?
It took us a long time to come to that song. It was suggested quite early on, but we didn't really decide on it until we moved the vocal down the octave in the verses and moved some of the guitar parts onto the synth. I've always felt a good cover should feel different because the band performing it does what comes naturally, instead of trying to intellectualise or confect the contrast...so we were lucky that it just worked...time was against us when we reached that point!
During your Brisbane show, you mentioned you enjoyed playing ‘Falling’ (which happened to be one of my favourite songs from the night) . What songs do you enjoy playing the most?
I enjoy performing Falling because it carries that intensity and energy I spoke of earlier. Other favourites include If There's A Light On, Your Fix and Pleasure & Consequence.
Jack, you definitely put a lot of energy into each show and the crowd reaction is crazy - Have you ever had any awkward moments with the crowd?
I have no sense of timing or rhythm, so I'm generally just stumbling around trying to dance to the music. I've had a few occasions where I've been standing on a monitor and it's tilted towards the crowd, so I've had to use people's faces/heads to push myself back on stage...I hope I haven't hurt anyone!
Did you feel any added pressure putting ‘In a Restless House’ out after being signed to such a big hype label such as IOhYou and the large time-frame between big releases?
The hype around I Oh You is a testament to Johann's work ethic and his willingness to back bands that no one knows or cares about...with that comes a very down to earth individual who is committed to the acts he signs. At no point were we ever made to feel any pressure with the release. There were times where we were pressed for music while we were going through a considerable period of writer's block, but Johann never pushed further than was necessary and allowed us the space we needed to get the job done.
It was a long time ago now, but how did you go about writing the album? I saw in an interview that lots of your previous releases were written with a computer, was it different this time?
The Movements EP and singles Speak To No End and Pavement were written mostly on the computer. While we were happy with the songs and the sounds we were making, it was a laboriously slow process and by having so many people sitting around a computer it allowed us all to judge every step of the process, which often meant great ideas were crushed before they had the chance to come to life. When we started jamming we started writing in a more intuitive manner. We didn't overdo ideas and we could transition between sections of songs more easily. Writing on the computer was still an important part of what we were doing, as we could get some detail on the tonal qualities of the songs, but it stopped dominating and derailing songs.
Jack, I read that you are in law school. Juggling a band and law school is pretty incredible. Have you found it hard to manage both?
This is partly true. I was at law school a long time ago, which I thankfully finished just before we signed with I Oh You. Sam is the crazy man trying to complete a law degree with everything else going on. I'm not sure how he does it to be honest...no sleep and extra coffee. I've had to go part time at work to fit it all in.
Congratulations on getting on the bill at Splendour! Who are you keen to see?
Thanks! The Cure, The Avalanches, Gang of Youths, Sigur Ros, Matt Corby and Courtney Barnett. And others, of course, but these will be a priority for me!
You have played at Falls Festival and Sugar Mountain Festival, what shows do you prefer playing out of festival or headlining shows?
I don't really have a preference. They're different in their own right. Playing to your own crowd is pretty amazing, because most of the people there know your songs. However performing at festivals allows you to perform in front of such large audiences who still engage.
Are you planning to play any sneaky pranks on Julian Casablancas?
Who? Haha. Nah I think they'll have locked down side of stage when they're around. Although our trumpet player, who at music festivals adopts his alter-ego, Stingray, will surely make an attempt to befriend him. Apparently he was hanging back stage with the Foals guys for a couple of hours at Falls, until he was booted by their tour manager.
Can we expect any surprises on this disposable camera?
I believe Stingray may have taken over, so its entirely possible.