The Sinking Teeth Go Deep on the Roots of their Punk Sound and More

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I met up with bassist Jules and guitarist/singer Nick at a café in Brunswick on Easter morning to chat about the band, the new single and forthcoming album. I’d love to claim credit for thematically picking the café that’s connected to aptly named The Studios In The City where The Sinking Teeth recorded their first EP and soon to be released album… but this was all just happy coincidence.

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With their single Good Grief doing the rounds on Triple J among other areas, it’s fair to say The Sinking Teeth are climbing a punk ladder all their own

So How’d the band come together?

J: The band came together when myself, Nick and a friend lived together in the same house on Sydney road above a pawn shop, in about 2011, that’s P-A-W-N by the way. There were lots of domestics, like yelling, a dude threatened to shoot us once because we were too loud.

N: Once we flooded the bathroom and it started coming through the light fittings in the shop below and the guy that ran the place flipped, he was like bashing on the door, it was fucking crazy.

Were you playing in different bands at the time?

J: Yeah that’s how it came about, we were all doing different things and Ben’s (former drummer) band were breaking up at the time and we approached him and I had my indie-pop-mathy kind of band, everyone had a couple of side bands.

N: And I was playing in Hawaiian Islands but then it was like, cut it and focus on The Teeth.

J: The Teeth came together and all our other bands fell off and this one started to kick off.

How did you guys get into music? What made you want to play and not just listen?

J: I don’t think it was a conscious thing for me, to want to go and play in front of people, I played in a covers band but I was playing stuff before with just like piano lessons and stuff, but then it was a collective thing in the garage and we were just like ‘let’s start playing school gigs’ so we were playing like uni campuses and covers and stuff like that.

N: I got a guitar from this friend of my dad when I was in grade three, there was this shitty little Valencia guitar three-quarter thing, and then I started taking guitar lessons and started a band when I was like 14. We started off doing covers and then our own shit. This is mid-2000’s so every time you plugged in a guitar it was just distortion that sounded like nu-metal, but it wasn’t like that it was like this weird Jack Johnson meets Rage Against The Machine kind of band, it was the worst thing ever but it was good fun and then I just wanted to do it, I loved like Green Day and Blink-182.

Do you remember who your first great loves in music were?

N: Ratcat were my first, they were an 80’s pop-punk type band from Australia, they still play.

Do you still Like them?

N: Yeah they’re fucking awesome man, it’s like really really catchy pop-punk before pop-punk really took off. I was fortunate because I had a really cool older sister and she just hooked me up with heaps of stuff, she gave me a Cure album and would tell me I had to listen to it and would call me up and be like ‘have you been practising your guitar? Practice your fucking guitar, you’ve gotta play’

J: For me I’d say Blink got me into actually playing a Strat really low, you know, they really taught me how to play power chords and got me into rock but before that I was more like Michael Jackson and dancing to it.

And you still love Blink?

J: Oh yeah yeah, love their later stuff but listening back it’s such a nostalgic feeling.

N: Jules was a B-Boy before he was in the band *laughs*

J: No I wasn’t really… actually yeah I was wasn’t I *laughs*

How would you describe the band?

N: We want it to be changing all the time, we want it to be something that’s never boring, so when we talk about the sound of The Sinking Teeth, the sound that it is or was, is meant to be a reflection of whatever we’re doing at the time.

Who would you say is big influence on the band?

N: I love Brand New so I think there’s a bit of that, especially on this album.

J: I’d say it changes, we’d write a song from something that we were vibing off, something that we were listening to at that time, like if I’m feeling like this or like something a bit more mellow. I feel with this album because they’re songs we’ve done over the past two years it’s a big collection of what we were feeling at the time and if we were to actually sit down and write something over a twelve month-period like some kind of concept-album then maybe it would be a bit more focused. But it was a bit more sporadic because it was over different stages of our lives.

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How’s it feel to finally release the first taste of the album after 3 years since your debut EP White Water came out?

J: It’s like when you haven’t taken a shit for two days and that first one is real hard, and the rest just feels real easy you know? It’s like the butt-plug of the poos *laughs*

N: Man it was so much fucking work, just to get that ready, cos we did the video clip and everything and we were driving round for a couple days just to get shit for that, picking up hire gear and getting it to a point where we were happy with the mix and getting it mastered and stuff, it just took yonks. But just to have it out there is like a massive relief.

You must be itching to headline some shows after mainly support slots and mini-festivals?

N: We’re going mental not playing shows, especially Aido (new drummer), we’d play every show we got offered if we had the chance.

Are you happy with where the album’s at?

N: Yeah it’s still not completely mixed yet but it will be soon, and we think it’s an accurate reflection of that time in our lives but we’re definitely not settling on it, it’s not like ‘that’s that’ and then move onto the next one.

Do you have a go-to thing when you get stuck, something you do, or a record you listen to?

J: Smoke a joint, listen to music, let it sink in, that definitely gets my inspiration going. We do a lot of short riffs that we record on our phones and if we’re ever stuck in the studio we don’t sit on it for too long, we just get rid of it and move on to the next one, and we’ll find another riff on the phone and jam on that one. That’s how a lot of the songs start off, we just have a riff and build on that.

N: Getting stuck, Spotify was the biggest help, I got a new phone and it had that on it, and I got that halfway through recording and was like ‘this is the best thing ever’ because it meant I had every Manchester Orchestra album at my fingertips so that was helpful.

What’s fuelled it? Both lyrically and musically?

N: The whole album is little stories from either mine or Jules’ past.

J: It’s very reflective

N: There’s one on there that’s about Jules’ mum, there’s one about the place where I grew up. It’s got a real storytelling vibe in my mind. Even one of the tracks ‘Bottom of the Lake’ is about this shit that used to happen on the island where I used to live, it’s just like picking these things that have happened in our lives and turning them into stories.

What’s the single Good Grief about?

N: That song came from the idea that after a great loss in your life it’s a massive time of growth and learning and stuff. So there’s a lot of really deep dark stuff in there, like my dad passed away when I was like 14 so something I’ve always thought about post that happening, is how that’s always shaped who I was, because I was like this wussy little piece of shit prior to that happening and then after that it was like all this shit switched in my head, I realised I had to push hard and do things, it’s about being angry and growing out of that. The lyrics themselves are pretty abstract though, it’s not like exactly how it happened.

In the internet age how does it feel that you can have immediate eyes on you for a debut EP? And do you feel that pressure when making a debut album?

J: We wrote a whole nother EP in the meantime, and released a single and had a name for the EP, and all those songs are on the album.

N: All this shit just got in the way, and I think with that time did come pressure and we wanted to put it all out but what we’d done wasn’t going to live up to the expectations of the people that were waiting for it, but the longer it got we were eventually like ‘who gives a shit, let’s put it out and move onto the next thing’. Then we decided we’d wait but we didn’t think at that time it’d turn into a full album, but it became so long it was like ‘this has to be an album, a full volume of work’. It is something that’s very present in our minds, that we want to put out an album every year and try and keep churning over.

J: We have to now, after this album comes out

N: Also because the songs get real boring, it’s like the hundredth time we’ve played them and we did like five or six national tours off the back of those five tracks as well and some of those were 30 date shows.

Who are your favourite Aussie bands at the moment?

Both: Maids, from Newcastle.

N: I think since we first saw that band they’ve been in my top three for sure.

J: They’re doom mixed with fuckin indie-pop vocals and it’s like, it’s accessible but it’s super weird at the same time.

N: They’re just pushing heaps of fucking boundaries and remaining super interesting and super listenable at the same time, and plus they look tough as fuck when they play and the singer looks absolutely crazy when he plays.

J: And they’re good dudes, so much fun to hang out with.

N: But also The Hard Aches for me, they’re absolutely killing it.

J: They’ve got really good sing-a-long songs and it’s such a huge sound for a two piece, he splits his signal for the guitar and the bass.

N: First time I saw them we were in Tassie we were wasted and we were like ‘fuck is this band covering Luca Brasi?’ and Ben (from The Hard Aches) is a fuckin legend. And he put on Party Party Part-B in Adelaide last year.

J: Other bands for me are Oslow, and I’ll always be listening to The Union Pacific, in terms of like straight-fucking punk-rock it is such a killer album, and it’s so underrated I can’t believe they haven’t followed it up it was just here it is and then that’s it.

N: They’re really good friends of ours, Sean’s (Frontman of TUP) is real busy he’s always doing sound for Smith Street, and then the other dudes are working heaps and the drummer is in Anchors as well.

Do you feel like mini-festivals have much of a role to play in the scene?

J: Yeah they’re real good, they’re a big deal.

N: That’s what we were kind of trying to do with Generator Party (a free, low-key outside line-up powered by just a – you guessed it – generator) as well, we haven’t done one in a while, last years’ was the eighth one. When that started the first or the second one had Smith Street Band, Big scary, King Gizzard, it was the best line-up.

J: It’s just like a taster of acts that we put on and then go big, we had Darts last year.

You’ve put those shows on and you’ve played a couple alleyway shows over the years; do you feel like this kind of innovation is important in the scene?

N: Yeah, we started doing them because we were bored, my old band, we’d played this old venue Blue Tile Lounge like twelve times and it just felt like we were playing Revolver or Blue Tile Lounge like every fucking weekend and we were just getting stagnant and everyone would come and it’d just be the same night again and again, so Jules and I were like yep lets fuckin do this and that band that I was in at the time were rehearsing in the Flemington drains, just because we couldn’t afford to be paying like $60-$70 for a rehearsal room every week and I had a generator so we’d just head down there.

Do you actively try to come up with these kinds of ideas to shake things up?

N: Yeah 100%, we want to do different shit.

How would you define success for the band?

N: The big thing for me is touring overseas, I just want to do an international tour before I die.

J: Mine is not so much goal-wise, it’s just always been playing to a sold out show, being able to say I sold out of show and having a whole bunch of people there who are singing songs and know the songs.

Do the crowd play a big role at your shows?

J: Yeah, it’s really hard, I think both of us are the kind of people that feed off other people for energy so if you’re in a room and it’s one bogan lady that’s shouting at you to play a Killers song it’s hard to feel energetic, and that actually happened. What did she ask for?

N: She was like “Play Mr. Brightside!” *laughs*

J: This was on the Gold Coast and there was like two people.

Was that the worst show you’ve ever played?

N: No the worst show we ever played was…

J: Maybe when we played Cornish Arms to only our girlfriends? *laughs* Once we played down in Lismore, we were playing to just the other bands and one dude who looked like Steve Austin, he was definitely fired up on rum and cokes and head banging.

N: And he was like grabbing chairs and swinging them on front of the stage.

To counteract that then, what was your favourite gig?

J: Vibes wise would be Ric’s bar at Bigsound, that one went off.

N: It was completely full, you couldn’t even move in there and we got all these big party poppers, the big one’s that you twist, and fed them to people before our set and we got them to release them at the part in Temporary Living (single from White Water) where it kicks in and it was fucking sick.

The Sinking Teeth have a very punky sound put also a strong sense of melody, is it hard to get that balance right? Do you ever feel it going too far to either side? Have you ever had to cut a song because of that?

J: I think that’s what the album is like, we have some songs that are a bit more riffy and some that are more poppy and that’s what sort of makes that flavour of the album.

N: But do we ever go too far? We’ve got this song that’s not going to be on the album but it was recorded and it’s done and it’s called Bad Hand and it’s just too far, it’s like full screamy all the time and then we cut this weird acoustic track that’s like Mogwai meets acoustic.

Three pieces always have such a focus on the individual roles in the band, each member has a really defined and equal role, that makes for an exceptional dynamic sound when done well, do you ever feel the pressure of that scrutiny, self-imposed or otherwise? And does play into making the band tighter?

J: I like it personally, I like having my bass more present and the only time I’d be a bit warmer and tone it back would be if there were two guitarists, it works as a three-piece because we all play an equal role and have to be out there.

N: Sometimes I over-play a bit because in my head I’m like ‘Oh this part’s not interesting enough’, normally we write the music separately to the lyrics so we’ll be coming up with riffs and stuff and it’ll be this riff that’s perfect to sit under the vocals but because we’re a three piece I’m like ‘oh fuck, it needs to be a bit more interesting’ so we’ll go throw some weird rhythmic thing in the middle of it.

J: But then you dial it back because you can’t play it while you’re singing, so it can be hard.

So how’d Adrian, the new drummer, come into the band?

N: Aido has been our friend for years, before he joined this band Jules was playing in Mercians and I was playing in another band and we used to play with Aido’s old band Assemble The Empire and a friend of ours, Mayj from Brittle Bones, was their singer. And Aido’s a killer drummer and we’ve known him for fuckin yonks, he’s so easy to get along with, he’s a total larrikin and tells dad jokes consistently which is awesome, and we were trying to think of someone that could fill Ben’s shoes and he was like the only guy that we could think of that was fit all of the criteria.

How’d the idea for the video come together? I understand you guys had a fair bit of involvement in the making of it.

N: I worked in a photography studio in West Melbourne called Big Door Studios and I do photography for a living so we thought a good way to save some money would be to do it ourselves, and we did our last music video too. So we just hired a bunch of shit, came up with the idea, had this sweet steady-cam. and shot it ourselves. My friend jimmy who owns a studio helped us out with the filming, and Jules did some of the filming too.

What’s it like having Tom Larkin of Shihad and Studios In The City watching over the band, recording the EP, the album, managing the band, like some kind of Batdad?

J: *Laughs* That’s pretty accurate I’ll remember that, that’s exactly what he is, like a Jack Nicholson type more so.

N: He’s amazing, the reason that we’ve agreed to the whole situation is, we went in and recorded White Water with him, and I felt like I personally learnt more about music in that week and a bit than I have in my whole life. He’s done shit, he’s seen things, he’s got amazing ideas and he hit us up and said he was keen to manage us and we were into it.

Rough idea of when the album will come out? Name? Shows coming up?

N: We’re looking around July, no name at this stage. Tours, nothing concrete but we’re organising them at the moment, should be before the album drops in July.

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