As totally chaotic but uncannily flawless as ever, Tropical F-ck Storm return with another record of incendiary sounds which reward the active listener. We spoke to frontman Gareth Liddiard about Deep States.
“There‘s plenty more rules to break, you know what I mean?“ says Gareth Liddiard. “When someone says, ‘It‘s all been done’, it’s like, well, I’m not sure that‘s exactly true. There‘s more technology to be twiddled with.” It‘s quite the hope-inspiring position from a man whose lyrics so often poke at the edges of charred idealism, and brush right up against nihilism. But if you could have faith in any one group to continue plumbing the cornucopia of art-punk possibilities – no matter how sticky the ennui gets – it‘s Tropical F-ck Storm.
The sonic adventures of deliriously excellent new album Deep States had to begin, of course, with the hardware. Are we talking about literally opening up guitar pedals and re-soldering the bits inside? “Yeah, you could do that,“ Liddiard says encouragingly. “And you could just use them in ways they‘re not meant to be used. Which could be as simple as using them on an instrument they weren‘t designed for; or you could feed them back into themselves; or you can just do things that are wrong. It‘s not hard to find out what those are, and if you use them in the context of a good song or a good melody then it‘s fine. It‘ll work, if you just bend the laws of physics a little bit. Which is fun to do.“
All bandmembers have a hand in the method: Liddiard himself; his wife, bassist and ex- The Drones colleague Fiona Kitschin; drummer Lauren Hammel; and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Erica Dunn. “The studio is also our kitchen and our loungeroom,“ explains Liddiard. “So we‘ll sit around with someone tinkering on Protools, and eventually someone will pipe up and go, ‘Yeah, that‘s good that bit, but can we maybe sing that instead of you, because we‘re sick of too much you?‘“ he laughs. Those female vocals are one of the distinctive bits about TFS: Fiona, Lauren and/or Erica‘s voices emerge out of the fog as a kind of Greek chorus of avenging angels, questioning or echoing or dismissing or reiterating Liddiard‘s lead vocal.
Deep States is full of Liddiard‘s signature gleaming wordplay, which he swings around like a swordsman. “It becomes a kaleidoscope of meaning,“ he says, “which is cool, because it means that different people will take something different away from the whole thing. Generally a song will have an overall sentiment, but what‘s in it is up for grabs.“ (It‘s possible to get obsessed with hidden hints: Does the line ‘The peasants are revolting‘ mean the peasants are rebelling, or the peasants are disgusting? Liddiard doesn‘t say, but he seems pleased with the question.)
Of all the ideas expressed, G.A.F.F. (‘Give A F-ck Fatigue‘) was perfectly chosen as lead single; it investigates the frustration and lethargy all socially empathetic people have felt at one time or another. “There‘s a modern obligation to be concerned about every little issue,“ Liddiard explains. “It‘s like you‘re pressed to speak on outrage. If you‘re a left-winger, you‘ll get outraged at Israel; if you‘re a right-winger you‘ll get outraged at the election being stolen. What are you going to do about it? What am I going to do about it? Who the f-ck am I? Like in the song: “I‘m not a kamikaze, don‘t wanna die a martyr/ I‘m just looking for a latte and a f-cking phone charger…“
And while this kind of fractally-evolving invention is key to TFS, there are hidden hints to past pop as well. Bumma Sanga‘s shrieking riff sounds like the lick from Britney Spears’ Toxic (which itself lifts a sample from ’80s Hindi hit Tere Mere Beech Mein), there’s a Wu-Tang shout-out, and lead guitar meanderings recall Mariah Carey’s It’s Like That. “The licks, that’s Erica – she’s from the Mariah Carey generation,” Liddiard smiles. “Or maybe Fiona… no, she’s more Spice Girls. Remember when Lisa Lefteye Lopez or whatever was out there, stuff was just everywhere, so it got into your head whether you were into it or not. And it’s funny, now it comes out. And f-ck it! I don’t care,” he grins. “It’s alright.”
Deep States by Tropical F-ck Storm is out August 20, on Australian exclusive red vinyl (pictured above), via TFS Records.
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