Written by Fin Marx
Sydney’s latest post punk export Spike Vincent recently released his debut self titled full length LP. A recorded performance at Sydney’s Damien Gerard Studios, the album presents a classically Australian new wave/post punk sound rich with chorus, flanger, synth and gated reverb, expertly layered beneath Vincent’s deep and forthright vocals.
Musically, the album opens up more and more with each listen. Songs which at first can almost blend into each other prove their worth as ear-worm reprises and choruses get stuck in a head for days on end, like the no holds barred confessions of single Faded or the dramatic rhythm of Lie in the Dust. Much of the instrumentation, particularly Spike’s guitar playing, exhibits the energy and semi-improvisatory nature of a great live show. The bass and drums combine into a beautifully minimalist backdrop for the synth and guitar to wind around and experiment over, each sharing the spotlight when Spike’s vocals step from centre stage.
With relatable themes of heartbreak, loneliness and unrequited adoration, the record’s lyricism maintains a melancholy edge, broken only by silver-lining moments smoothly spread throughout the duration of the album. Vincent’s honest and up front lyrical style walks a thin line between poetic and matter-of-fact, a balance which keeps ears attentive to the song’s storylines with each listen and rarely lets a song’s inspiration go overly obscured.
All in all, Vincent’s debut album is yet another post punk gem to come from Sydney’s Dinosaur City Records and an excellent example of the potential energy residing in a recorded live performance. With an upcoming U.S. release on Burger Records and new songs already in the works, Spike Vincent is an act to keep an eye on in 2018.
To get a little more insight to the production and writing process for the record, we caught up with Spike to talk production, inspiration, release and Sydney.
Hey Spike, thanks for speaking with me today!
No worries man, thank you.
So as the name suggests, your upcoming album, ‘Live at DGS’ was recorded on stage. How did the decision to record the album live come about? And was it nerve racking having to nail all the songs knowing they’d end up released?
I had known that I’d wanted to do it live for a while when Cody and Jordanne got hit up by this studio that a bunch of Dinosaur City Records (DCR) artists had worked with, like Big White and Cody Munro Moore, and the studio wanted us to play one of their live nights where we could pay like $500 to have it recorded so we jumped on it as the time worked. We didn’t quite know how it was going to turn out, and I wasn’t convinced we would want to release it, but when the songs came back we thought they were great and needed to be out!
I wouldn’t say it was stressful as the band had been in that live incarnation for at least a year so we were pretty comfortable with the songs, plus they’re kind of loose and different anyway and that’s what we wanted to capture.
That sounds awesome! It’s great that you were able to capture the music’s improvisatory nature. Was there much that needed fixing up or overdubbing?
It’s all what we played right there and then, no overdubs. The whole record is one take.
That’s amazing, you wouldn’t guess from the crisp production. You said that you’d been playing the songs for a good while, are a lot of the songs on the album from the same time or are there some older/newer ones on there?
That’s the thing, some of the songs are around a year old but have been through so many incarnations. I guess the band versions have been around for about a year but some have been floating around for a long while, even in earlier projects.
You’ve spoken of the album’s lyrical themes of loneliness and heartbreak in previous interviews, is there any more that you can elaborate on in terms of your lyric process for the album?
Some of the songs just came straight out in a moment, like ‘Like You’, which I wrote in a day and recorded the demo that afternoon, so that was a really quick thing that happened. I think it was boxing day and I’d had a big one on Christmas so I was pretty wrecked and the song just poured out, maybe because I didn’t have any inhibitions or anything. A lot of the songs are about love in one way or another, some about death and things that we all tend to think about, or artists write about. The themes come across in different waves. Get over it is a little more hopeful, but I almost can’t bring myself to sing a straight happy song.
Hahah yeah, writing something really poppy and happy can almost feel like cheating sometimes.
Yeah, I suppose the songs are all pretty honest in that way.
You and the band are obviously channeling a lot of eighties post punk sounds, and up here in Brisbane we’re starting to see that as a real ‘Sydney’ sound between yourself and bands like Big White and Phanosland. How would you say you’ve all landed on the synth-chorus-gated reverb style of production?
Well, I sort of grew up listening to that kind of post punk music, my dad was in a band in the early eighties called The Kelpies and they were a real post punk band with lots of flanger and chorus, so that sort of thing has always been engrained in me, its like tradition to go for the post punk sound. It especially comes out on ‘Faded’. I’m not sure how a lot of the other bands came around to it but I guess there is a lot of common ground in our sounds. Maybe it was more underground at one time but now with social media it’s come to light, but it seems natural that everyone has a chorus pedal now. Guitars don’t sound right without it. I’d like to see people play with less effects sometimes, but they do seem to work.
From afar it also seems that being a musician in Sydney has become a real uphill battle, what with venues shutting down, skyrocketing rent prices and scarce employment pushing lots of people to Melbourne and Brisbane. Would you agree that this has left Sydney with a really motivated, passionate discourse of musicians who are pretty dedicated to keeping the city alive?
Yeah definitely, I’ve been going out to gigs a lot for the last ten years or so in Sydney and there’s always been amazing and very unique bands that didn’t always do too well, but they were all very original acts and had their own thing. There’s still a lot of music and a lot of different kinds of bands, but there is that thing with the rent and all the venues closing in a large part of the city. You can’t even go there any more as it’s locked out from like one in the morning. It’s definitely more of a shit fight, but I think that has pushed a lot of people to try harder and work together, that’s definitely how its worked for DCR. All these bands with different genres and all different types of people came together and started working together, and all the bands on the label sound amazing and play great.
So the album is being released on Burger in the U.S! That’s exciting. How did this come about?
Yeah, it’s great. I’ve always loved burger and they were really my first choice in a lot of ways. Big White did a tonne of tapes with them for their first album a few years back, so I got Jack to do a little intro for me and I sent them some songs. They loved it and said they’d put it out on tape, no dramas. It’s really easy working with those guys, if they like something they’ll go for it and put it out. They seem to be pretty proactive, always working at something. I think they even put out like five releases this week? It’s like music blitzkrieg. I’m pretty excited to be a part of their collection.
Any chances of getting over there to play some U.S. shows any time soon?
Yeah for sure, I did make it over in 2016 opening for Big White at a bunch of their shows in New York, but I definitely want to get back over with the band as it is now. We played with a few burger bands on that leg of the tour too and I could definitely feel that same sense of community in their scene that we have at DCR.
It can be a bit of a headache to get over there, but with labels like Burger taking more interest in Australian acts there could be a lot more opportunity with their shows like Burgerama and stuff.
Awesome! Well, thanks for having a chat Spike, I’m looking forward to seeing how the album does and hopefully we’ll have you on stage in Brisbane soon!
No worries, thanks man!