Bachelor of Arts
This weekend, New York welcomes Bachelor of Arts, the ferocious and enterprising three-piece making their American debut from Melbourne, Australia. Recently awarded a $6,000 arts grant from their (apparently solvent) government, the Bachelors are celebrating the release of a 7” split release on EXO Records, which pins them against Brooklyn’s emergent drum ‘n’ drone band Dinowalrus.
At Dead Herring on Saturday, The Forms, Boogie Boarder, Real Estate and Dinowalrus will support; on Sunday at Cake Shop, Mixel Pixel, Motorik (featuring members of Apache Beat), Night Owl, and Dinowalrus, again, will heat up fans with several helpings of spastic and surly tunes.
We interviewed drummer Angus from Bachelor of Arts to unearth his hidden agenda, and then had a brief chat with Dinowalrus about their rapid evolution. Check it out after the jump.
Flavorwire: Have you been to the states before? What are your first impressions?
Bachelors: I came to America last year for a couple months to hang out, so I got a bit of a taste, but this is the first time we’ve come here as a band. I really like Brooklyn — New York is a difficult city, and everyone is struggling to get money, but the music that comes out of here is the most consistently interesting, more so than from England.
The reason I came to New York in the first place is that we became good friends with Japanther when they came to Australia. This time we’re not playing shows with them, but they’ve been really good mentors, helped us figure out where to play. We’ve managed to book three weeks of shows without needing booking agents or anything. Those guys help us out so much.
FW: Has the scene here affected your plans for the future?
BofA: We holed ourselves up for two days in Brooklyn rehearsing, and I think what we realized is that these upcoming shows in America are going to be the last times we play songs off this album that we wrote and put out in Australia. Once we get back to Australia we want to take advantage of some of this stuff that America has been giving us. Our sound is quite sparse, and we’d like to fill it out a little more, go into some sort of psychedelic no-wave thing.
FW: Do you or your bandmates have any formal musical training?
BofA: Two of us studied music at Uni and just finished up our degrees, and I’m starting another one, a thesis on noise music with a drum kit. But we didn’t end up using a lot of what we learned, because it’s one of those things where a lot of the people in those environments aren’t interested in playing the kind of music that we’re putting out – they go along with this high-level jazz sort of line. Though we like playing it and appreciate it, and we like some bands who successfully merge those ideas in punk, low-key musicianship type stuff.
What school really gave us was taste guidelines — we were exposed to so much music that we could figure out what we wanted to do with our own band. We studied improvisation, and we studied jazz history. But our third member has been studying German linguistics, so maybe we’ll do a crazy prog record in German.
FW: People have compared you to the Fall and a number of other post-punk bands. What do you feel is the singular innovation that distinguishes you from your influences?
BofA: I think it’s the fact that a lot of those post-punk bands weren’t that interested in being tight and precise, and we’re not into being jangly. Even the new stuff is super-precise. A lot of those bands, like the Fall — I love them — but we don’t sound like them, we just have the same aggression. We get likened to them because they have really angular guitars (I hate that term, but you know what I mean), a lot of shocks and repetitive bass lines and they never really got it that tight.
FW: What about EXO Records (Japanther, The Slits) — what kind of music are they publishing? Where do you fit in?
BofA: Initially we approached them cold, and they liked our music. We put out an EP with them and then an album, Infinite Jest, and now a 7” with Dinowalrus, which is why we’ve come to America. They mainly have an international roster — one of the guys who runs the label is from Vancouver, and he moved to Australia several years ago. They’re more interested in putting out bands from America than local bands, so we were the first local band they got on board with. There’s been a few more, some New York/Melbourne splits — one involves the band Love or Perish.
FW: What should Americans know about the Australian music scene?
BofA: To tour in Australia, you have to do at least ten-hour drives to get to other cities. A lot of people end up flying around Australia — you might do an entire tour flying, which is weird. But all the different towns you can go to — we’re from Melbourne, and the nearby town, ten hours away, is Sydney, and then Brisbourne further up — all those places have really vibrant communities.
I think all of them want to be like Brooklyn, but they have uniquely Australian things going on there. We’ve heard this stuff from American friends about how to successfully be a DIY band, and surprisingly enough you can do that in Australia.
Flavorwire also spoke with Pete, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist for Dinowalrus.
Flavorwire: Your music seems to be evolving quickly. What’s changed since you recorded some of your earlier tracks, like “Nuke Duke ‘Em” or “I Hate Numbers”?
Dinowalrus: Back then, we didn’t have enough microphones to properly record the drum kit. Some of those tracks we recorded before Josh, our drummer, was even in the band. And at that time we were in a more electronic mindset.
We still use a lot of electronic beats, but they’re more integrated now — the beat thrown on top of live drumming. Usually when I compose electronic beats, I try to do things that don’t necessarily mimic the sound of real drums, so I’ll avoid using a kick or a snare in the electronic beats; I’ll just use clavs or bongo to complement the live drumming, instead of compete with it. These are Powers, Aa, Liars, and UK dubstep have really informed the way we think about using percussion in a more layered, textural manner.
FW: Your music is often described as challenging. Is there something reactionary about it?
DW: I’m just trying to write songs that play to our strengths as musicians and performers. We couldn’t write straightforward pop songs convincingly. We’d get absolutely nowhere if we tried to do that!
I certainly listen to pop music from years past, because it’s like a historic document, and loses its immediacy or accessibility — it’s no longer so loaded, and therefore it’s a bit easier to enjoy in a more personal way. There are a lot of things that I would have vehemently opposed when they were current — now, I feel comfortable consuming them. G-funk, hair metal, italo disco…
FW: Tell me about your interest in metal.
DW: Metal is really tongue in cheek and bombastic — I don’t know if my band mates would share this sentiment, but I like bombastic gestures. I haven’t been into metal until recently, because my background is in proto-punk — Stooges, MC5…I think those bands had the biggest influence on me. But I still see a loose connection between that stuff and metal.
I’ve been really into Judas Priest in the last few years. There’s something really distilled about the music, how tight and metronomic the sequences are. It’s almost like dance music in an alternate world. The hyperreal theatrics — it’s beyond Spinal Tap.
FW: And you aspire to make music for people to dance to, right?
DW: Yeah, but not in a mindless way — not so much dance, but be entranced, and maybe dancing is a positive side-effect of being entranced — experiencing a communal source of energy.
When we perform, we want it to be like a psychological therapeutic experience — all of our favorite bands achieve that at different moments, like Spacemen 3 (on their live tracks), Growing, Black Dice, the Psychic Ills — when they put on a really good show.