Interview: Them Bruins are sexier and silkier
Melbourne-based Them Bruins have just completed a triumphant spell in America and a month of hometown gigs. We chat to guitarist Woody and vocalist Joel:
Thanks for taking the time out to talk to us at Something You Said. You have just had the pleasure of playing The Aussie BBQ and CMJ Music conference. How did you find the experience?
Woody: We had an absolute blast! Playing dive bars in NYC was definitely a bucket list type situation for us. It was super exciting just engrossing ourselves in the scene for a couple of weeks. All the crowds were really receptive; we made some rad new friends (check out a band called ‘Slow Caves’), made some encouraging connections and most importantly bought some sick new threads. Definitely keen to go back!
You have a new album coming out early next year. What can punters expect to hear?
Woody: We recorded the majority of it in the same session as ‘Walk a Line’ and ‘Heading for the Harrows’ so in most part the vibe mimics those sorta tunes. A little bit of punk rock, a little bit of fuzz pop and a lot of warm hook laden hugs. Ha! We’ve still gotta record a couple of outstanding tracks, which we hope to do as early as possible in 2016. Fingers crossed, we’re aiming to have the album by April.
Do you approach song writing and musical creation with a worldly view or prefer a uniquely local (Melbourne) Australian sound?
Woody: Ummm I’d like to think we’re uniquely Australian but then I think about bands like Courtney Barnett and Bad Dreems, and realise we don’t really fall into the uniquely local category. Those acts have an immediate Aussie sound (which I love by the way) but don’t think that really comes across in what we do. For us, influences and inspiration come from all over the place.
When setting about writing/recording new material, was there a deliberate intention to try and strike a balance on the record with one part slowed down tracks and two part balls-against-the-wall rock?
Woody: A little bit. I wouldn’t say slowed down tracks but we definitely wanted to bring a slightly different aesthetic to some songs. Our EP was balls to the walls the whole way through. We didn’t want to make another 10 songs like that. We wanted to keep the punk rock ethos but add some sexier/silkier grooves.
What personal experiences or ideas went into the lyrical content for your new tracks?
Joel: Girls. Girls. Girls. Though as much as getting dumped is a pretty strong marinade for any lyricist to ignore, I tried to at least imbue them with a variety of vibes and characters so you don’t just hear a privileged white boy moaning about someone not wanting to go steady anymore. It got me thinking about high intensity emotions and their kinda universal applicability to all phases of life. Next I’m going to write the complete opposite. Nihilistic instructional manuals.
You always have interesting video clips and as for your latest, Walk a Line, can you explain to me the reasoning behind the slowed down footage from a passing (I presume) Shinkansen and why you choose Nagoya for the shooting?
Woody: Well…Walk a Line actually isn’t our latest. We did a clip for Heading For The Harrows (insert click bait here, ha! – www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0YAThpYtPg) a couple of months ago.
The Walk a Line clip though was a bit of a fluke in its making. A friend of ours was in Japan on a holiday and he had just got a new phone and was testing out the slow mo effect. Anyways he took the footage on a bullet train leaving the station. He showed it to me on his return and I was like “Gimme that”. Easiest clip ever made!
How would you say your sound has evolved during the transition from a two-piece to a four-piece outfit?
Joel: Some would say it devolved. Purists unite! No, really it went from a flat piece of paper to an ornate origami’ed cube with Timmy and Jimmy. Woody and I spent 12 months jerking around in rehearsal rooms as a two-piece, and while it was easier to get an agreement on tunes that way, we always knew it wasn’t going to stay like that. There’s a musical brotherhood in a three or four piece that doesn’t exist in a two-piece. Two pieces are like twins who finish each other’s sentences. Cute for a bit but in our case would have become irritating, and one-trick after a while.
Your live shows have a reputation for being intense and bristling with energy. What artists did you see when attending shows as a punter that made you think, yes this is how a live act should play?
Woody: When we formed we were really into Future of the Left, well actually McClusky more so. Seeing At the Drive In at the BDO when I was a sweaty little pre-pubescent teen set the benchmark for energy on stage. I’ve never seen The Stones or Midnight Oil live but the sort of energy Mick and PG bring to a live performance is what makes their respective shows so engaging.
Joel: If I really think about it probably the Rocky Horror Picture Show musical my mum took me to when I was about seven. They had people crawling the aisles and creating a super scary/sexualised atmosphere that really makes you feel the power of ignoring the wall between ‘artiste’ and punter. If I had my way gigs would be one circle pit of high fives, group sing-alongs and hugs.
Melbourne has a very vibrant music scene, bursting at the seams with bands. Have you found it to be a competitively beneficial environment that helps you push your own artistic boundaries?
Woody: I don’t think we worry so much about Melbourne in isolation. Listening to any good music, no matter where it comes from, pushes us to try and keep up and write tunes that can maybe/hopefully sit beside bands that are influencing us and not be too outta place. In saying that though, my favourite band at the moment is Melbourne band ‘Northeast House Party’ so we definitely don’t need to look too far from home to be inspired.
What has been your most memorable gig to date and why?
Joel: We supported Harts at one of his sold out Ding Dong shows mid year. The majority of the punters showed up early and seemed to really dig what we were doing. Vibes were definitely up. It’s amazing the difference a crowd makes. Ha!
It is hard for any band to financially get off the ground let alone keep it afloat. What hard lessons have you learnt from these experiences that have helped you sustain your on going work?
Woody: Money pressure is without doubt the shittest thing about playing in an indie band. At every turn there is someone waiting to tax you of your hard earned. The key for us has been making sure we stick to budgets, make the right calls on where to spend, and under no circumstance go into debt.
Interview by Courtney Dabb.