It’s hard to be a band in Australia, even harder to make a living. It’s the 6th biggest country in the world by area, but only the 52nd biggest by population, with a people count only just above a third of that of the UK. It’s a country where weekly sales of 6000 will get you a number one album as Bring Me the Horizon and Bullet For My Valentine can testify. And, perhaps appropriately for a former penal colony, it’s hard to escape from. Playing overseas takes money, and even 6000 sales won’t enable you to give up the day job, let alone the handful of records a less established band can hope to move.
One of the joys of being an exiled Brit here for the last 5 years has been discovering the enormous talent that exists on these beautiful shores, talent that deserves to be heard. Louder Than War has already picked up and actively promoted DZ Deathrays and The Smith Street Band. Metallers Northlane and Parkway Drive both played Download recently, with Northlane also hitting Number 1 here with 3rd album Node.
So, for your viewing and listening pleasure, here are 10 Aussie gems you absolutely NEED in your life.
A (small ‘s’) supergroup comprising such Brisbane scene bands as Jungle Giants, Moses Gunn Collective and the excellent Belligerents, Orphans Orphans appeared before me fully formed and immediately worshipped at 2014’s BigSound conference. Yes I’d been imbibing, and yes I caught them while waiting for someone else, but isn’t that the best way? They owned the room, all Jagger hips and Dandy’s swagger, and with their subsequent debut EP (Amplifire Music) delivered the outstanding Lighten Up Your Day which does exactly as it says on the tin.
More from the deeply incestuous, garage rock loving, Ramones worshipping Brisbane scene, this time featuring the all round godfather, lynchpin and centre of the Fortitude Valley universe himself, Mr Jeremy Neale.
First up, In Stranger Times, his collaboration with the sadly defunct Go-Violets, whereby Jeremy, in turn, educates (Hugs Not Drugs kids), fires off tai chi pop hooks, and yet finds humanity once again in the best and brightest pop song since Carly Rae’s Call Me Maybe.
Meanwhile, in his other guise as frontman of Brisbane’s premiere garage punk party collective, Jeremy herds anywhere between 8-15 neolithic cats onstage at any one time, including (founding members) DZ Deathrays’ Simon and Shane. Velociraptor are, hands down, the most fun you can have live. Gang vocals, 10 guitars, and a token drummer delivers a Ramones edge but with extra grins, and a pain in your jaw the next morning. All the more surprising then when Ramona, taken from the debut full length (on Dot Dash/Remote Control), displays such sophistication, and genuine chart bothering potential. Take note of Mr Neale, you have been warned.
Equal parts Springsteen, AC/DC, Cold Chisel and The Cure, Bad//Dreems are an amalgam that shouldn’t work, but gloriously do. It’s all about the contrast you see, a melancholy at the heart of Benny’s voice that draws you deep into what seems the hardest of Bad//Dreems’ vignettes of Australian masculinity, but ultimately showcases a gender sensitivity, and sense of irony that marks Bad//Dreems out from the typical beer swilling, Aussie pub rock.
I found choosing the song to showcase hardest of all here. Do I choose the Bon aping Cuffed and Collared, the bruising Dumb Ideas, or the catchy as all hell Hiding to Nothing? In the end, it was none of those. My Only Friend might be a ballad, but the video brings home the passion of a Bad//Dreems live show. They’ve made it to the UK once already, make sure you catch them when they make it over again.
Anyone that listens to radio dominatrix Triple J would think that tepid hip hop, landfill indie, and the afore-covered outstanding punk and garage rock missives are all that Australia has to offer. Yet this is a country that has had number one albums recently from Bring Me The Horizon, Northlane and Bullet For My Valentine.
Yes metal, as evidenced by the Donington rivalling Soundwave festival, is very much present and alive in Australia. You all maybe know Parkway Drive and Northlane, but the most inventive punk metal crossover band in Oz at present are High Tension, fronted by the banshee queen Karina Utomo.
Fans of Killing Joke, Therapy?, Napalm Death and all points in-between will find something to love in this band. Karina’s bowel draining growls juxtaposed against her revitalising clean vocals delivers brutal, yet rapturous punk metal anthems underpinned by Ash Pegram’s always inventive riffing.
Check recent single Bully for it’s empowering fight club video and foray into grinding tempos, then lose yourself to 2012’s debut single, and still their anthem, High Risk, High Reward
With influences like The Bronx, Social Distortion and Clutch, Tasmania’s Captives have set the pedestal they seek to clamber upon high. Just two EPs in (which can be bought in one single, beautifully wrought 180g vinyl package from Heart Of the Rat Records), it’s fair to say that they are solidifying their sound in their self-proclaimed Tasmanian Forest Horror genre of one.
EP1, Track 1 Zombie Dog delivers the same visceral kick to the gut I first got upon release, all Bronx licks, Rocket From The Crypt horns and Motorhead tempos kept wonderfully raw by producer, and all round Melbourne band godfather, Shihad’s Tom Larkin
Born in South Africa, of Sri Lankan Heritage, before ending up in Melbourne, Ecca Vandal has with the release of just 3 singles shown herself to be the most significant antipodean talent since someone called Lorde released Royals.
Though often lazily compared to MIA due to the Sri Lankan emigre link, a better comparison would be Gwen Stefani fronting Skindred or MCing for The Prodigy. Indeed it was while opening for Liam Howlett’s crew in Sydney (just her second show) earlier this year that demonstrated her punk ragga hip hop soundclash had more bangers to live alongside the outstanding White Flag or Battle Royale 7” that’d been heard to date.
Like London buses, another Tasmanian punk bank arrives hard on the heels of Captives, although we really should flip the order around as Luca Brasi have been around since 2009, and in last year’s By A Thread (Poison City Records), released one of the highlights of the Aussie rock calendar.
More akin to the soaring, melodic americana end of the punk rock spectrum than their harder riffing island mates, Luca Brasi shows are a riot of passionate communion, shows that value feelgood and camaraderie over aggression. Its the lasting memories and word of mouth relaying of these that are driving more people to Luca Brasi’s welcoming embrace.
Something a touch more anthemic, more mainstream now than our garage psych punk rabble to date. Brisbane’s Holy Holy aim firmly for the chilled, folkish yet rock vibe of Fleetwood Mac, Midlake or Neil Young.
Indeed, check out recent single You Can’t Call For Love Like A Dog for some fine Young-like soloing of the outro, and excellent introspective beards.
Psycho doom metal ska punkers and premiere party band The Bennies have created quite a buzz with genre smashing to a level not seen perhaps since the original heyday of Faith No More themselves.
Playing this year’s Soundwave, and touring with likes of NoFX, Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake and Dead Kennedys, as well as Poison City label mates like Luca Brasi and The Smith Street Band, has certainly sharpened them up and won them new fans, but still does not quite ready you for their headline show high on fire and effortlessly moving from Marley to Sabbath to Lemmy, with a perfectly synchronised moshpit.
You’ve probably seen The Peep Tempel’s Blake Scott, but never actually noticed him. He’s that bloke sitting at the corner of the bar with a pint and a paper, the fella nursing a coffee in your local greasy spoon, the form studier at the bookies.
You can bet he’s noticed you though, for Blake is a people watcher par excellence, and a songwriter par excellence who brings Aussie characters and “Characters” to life, particularly on last year’s outstanding Tales album (Wing Sing Records).
Imagine Future Of The Left’s Falco writing Jilted John and you’d have Carol, a left field nominee for Australia’s Song Of The Year in 2014. Listen to it and you too will end up hating Trevor, despite never having met the poor bloke.