A Quality Of Mercy has been available digitally for a little while, and garnered a lot of deserved attention, but now it’s available on vinyl and to a wider audience. Does the re-release feel like a coming home, or a leaping off?
Definitely more of a leaping off. We initially released the album ourselves in March and had an amazing launch for it in the venue where it was recorded. It was such a beautiful night but after that we didn’t know what else we could do with it. This time around we have a label and they’re helping us do the things we wanted to do the first time, like print more vinyl and make a video or two. We’re all really proud of the album and it’s really nice to see it get a bit of extra love the second time round. I’m pretty excited that people outside of Melbourne will get to hear it too.
Vincent Van Gogh contains the line “You want to be famous for being unloved” – do you think artists can become obsessed with the romance or theatre of misery?
I think that our culture is very obsessed with the kind of artists that live dangerously and die young. We celebrate it. A lot of people see that growing up and think that’s what you have to do to be to be a credible artist. It kind of gives you a false legitimacy to be reckless and nasty to the people who care about you. It’s a very cold way to live. I only started to write better songs when I stopped being that kind of person. About seven or eight of my musician friends think that song is about them, which is both hilarious and telling.
IBM has some brilliant, hilarious lyrics (“You loved him for his sentience, but now you see he’s just a Pentium”). There are two pauses with sound effects in the song. The first is the old school dial-up tone. What does it signify for you?
Thanks! For me it mostly signifies the frustration at having to wait 15 minutes for a single webpage to load. The internet felt like much more of a novelty as a kid but I’m so grateful it was there. It introduced me to a world outside of Adelaide and pointed me towards all the artists that I really like. I remember downloading a whole bunch of Siouxsie and Sisters of Mercy music videos that would take around 10 hours each to download, provided that no one unplugged the cable. It was worth it.
The second effect I can’t identify – is it a power tool?
It’s a dentist drill. The plan was that it would make people’s teeth vibrate once they worked out where the sound effect came from. It’s always important to make people feel uncomfortable occasionally.
Your presser says these songs are an attempt to “move beyond ego, beyond the simple confessional of the songwriter, hoping to find perspective on both world and self.” Do you think that move from the micro to the macro is necessary if you want to evolve (either artistically or personally)?
I guess when I was writing a lot of the lyrics for these songs I was purposely throwing in lines that my ego was very much against. I didn’t want to write that classic ‘I did wrong this time, but usually I’m perfect’ kinda song again. I was trying to write from all kinds of perspectives rather than just that.
When I compare the lyrics on AQOM to the other stuff I’ve written, I definitely see an evolution there. Having this newfound objectivity and empathy has definitely helped me be the artist I want to be. I definitely think it’s important to have an ego, but it’s also important to not let your ego take control of you.
You’re playing the hallowed Meredith stage in December. Are you Meredith-goers in general?
I’ve never actually been to Meredith but Reuben and Marc have been a lot. Marc is actually a carer for Chris Nolan and so playing Meredith has a greater, more personal significance for him than the rest of us. I think we’re all pretty nervous but it’s gonna be a lot of fun. I need to find something shiny to wear.
A Quality Of Mercy is out October 20 via Our Golden Friend.