Ages 21 & Over
A Bowery Presents Event
Jade Imagine are about to hatch a love letter to low-fi, slacker-fuzz-dream pop bathed in the glow of ’70s surf-music with their debut EP What the Fuck Was I Thinking.
Jade McInally, Jade Imagine’s front babe and brains, has been a stalwart of the indie scene since circa 2004. After wending her way to Melbourne from somewhere consistently sunny, McInally cut her band teeth with her own electro project Tantrums. Since then she’s fleshed out scene favour-ites like Jess Cornelius’ Teeth and Tongue and backed the best on bass (you can still catch her onstage with Jess Ribeiro).
With some urging from mates in the know, at the end of 2015 McInally flexed her songwriting mus-cle, deciding it was time to play ringleader to her own band of musical-mischief makers again. “I’m a songwriter, and it took me so long to realise that,” McInally says. “I need to be writing, because that’s how I feel good.”
Picking up a loaner guitar from Dan Kelly, McInally set about writing all of the tunes for Jade Imag-ine’s six-track debut EP What the Fuck Was I Thinking. “I think that guitar had some kind of good juju in it,” she reflects. “It’s got some amazing vibes. I picked it up and it made me feel like I was sitting on a beach somewhere,” which touches on one of McInally’s obsessions. McInally is almost always California dreaming, albeit via Melbourne. “In my mind, all of my songs are about missing the coast and wanting to go surfing everyday, even if they’re not actually about that.”
After a spot of bedroom recording, McInally sent a bunch of demos to Dave Mudie (drummer with Courtney Barnett). Mudie not only gave them the thumbs up, he took the liberty of laying down some drums and steered pre-production. Buoyed by the outcome, McInally set about acquiring her band members, Pied-Piper style. The fluid line-up revolves around Liam “Snowy” Halliwell (The Ocean Party, Ciggie Witch) on bass, producer/guitarist Tim Harvey (Emma Louise, Real Feelings) and Jen Sholakis (East Brunswick All Girls Choir, Jen Cloher) on drums.
Despite the fact that McInally’s out front and had the bones of the songs for What the Fuck Was I Thinking under her belt before the band came onboard, Jade Imagine’s no autocracy. “I’m kind of a chill personality when I’m playing music with people and I don’t like to tell people what to play: I’m a vibes guy,” McInally explains. “I just like playing with people in rehearsal and when we come across a cool sound, it’ll stick and I’ll point it out, but I’m not one to say, ‘you’re playing that and you’re playing that’. All of my bandmates are so distinct in their style and playing, so I never got them to join the band with the intention that I’d get them to play differently.”
Recorded over a six month period at Mudie’s house and in an epic-DIY effort in McInally’s bed-room (it involved a lot of blankets, other people’s mics and a “control room” in the hallway) with both Mudie and Harvey driving production at various points, What the Fuck Was I Thinking is melt-ing pot of mid-sixties Cali’ vibes, the Church (McInally’s favourite band), surf music (of course), T-Rex, Fleetwood Mac, the Triffids and the Go-Betweens. “Whenever I record with Tim [Harvey] we have a little session beforehand and listen to songs from other bands and talk about what sounds we want,” McInally reflects of the experience. “It’s all very measured with him. For instance, on the drums for ‘Walkin’ Around’, Fleetwood Mac was a reference, but so was Neu and that definitely doesn’t come through. With Dave [Mudie], it’s more, ‘like let’s throw some things at the wall and see what sticks’, in a good way.”
Already, the EP’s first two singles ‘Stay Awake’ and ‘Walkin’ Around’ are earning big props: Rol-lingstone pegged lo-fi gem ‘Stay Awake’ as “a shimmering summer-invite track”, putting us right back in mind of surf, sun and sky.
What the Fuck Was I Thinking comes out on Milk! Records in April.
When RVG first self-released their debut LP, A Quality Of Mercy, there was no press release. No one sheet. No music video. No proper band photo. No image to uphold. No narrative to forward.
Instead, there were just two guitars, bass, drums. Eight songs. Classic songs. Songs recorded by the band, live off the floor, at Melbourne’s iconic rock’n’roll pub, The Tote. Songs that leant on the band’s heroes —the Go-Betweens, the Soft Boys, the Smiths— whilst never sounding like homage or pastiche. Songs hitting that sweet spot between light and dark, employing guitars both angular and jangling. Songs passionately sung by Romy Vager, the eponymous leader of a band once called, in full, Romy Vager Group.
Vager had arrived in Melbourne, from Adelaide, in full Goth wardrobe, as a teenage runaway. Her first band, Sooky La La, was built on anger, discordance, screaming. They found no following, and routinely cleared rooms. In the wake of their demise, Vager committed to write songs that people would actually like, and want to listen to; to match alienation to melody, introspection to big refrains.
She was living upstairs at The Bank, an erstwhile recording, rehearsal, and performance space housed in an old bank building in suburban Preston. The Bank was a scene unto itself: Jaala, Gregor and Hearing, all played there, practiced there, lived there. Dwelling in this big house, surrounded by musicians, hearing their songs coming through the walls, Vager couldn’t help but be inspired.
She committed to playing her first show, downstairs, in September 2015, launching a tape of solo songs that hadn’t actually been pressed. Angus Bell (Drug Sweat, the Galaxy Folk), Reuben Bloxham (Hearing, Gregor and fellow Bank resident), and Marc Nolte (Rayon Moon), were recruited to be a one-off backing band. But once they’d played together, one time, without saying it, they knew all they were a Group.
And so RVG played more shows. Lots of them. Shows with The Peep Tempel, Gold Class, Hollow Everdaze, Gabriella Cohen, Scott & Charlene’s Wedding, Terry, School Damage, The Goon Sax, Suss Cunts, Spike Fuck, Two Steps On The Water, Camp Cope, Alex Lahey, Oh Mercy, Real Estate. They played at Boogie, Dark Mofo, and later this year will play Meredith.
With wit, passion, and commitment, they played those songs. Those classic songs. Songs about the myth of the tortured artist, about the isolation of being trans, about falling in love with a computer, about awaiting your fate on death row. That latter number, A Quality Of Mercy’s title-track, was born from Vager imagining herself in the mind of the Bali Nine, and features the instantly immortal couplet: “Staring at the ceiling, feeling numb/thinking about the readers of the Herald-Sun”.
It’s a song about empathy and perspective; two things in short supply in tabloid newspapers, on social media, in a world turning more steadfastly partisan by the day. Its title comes from an episode of The Twilight Zone (“The Fall had a few songs named after Twilight Zone episodes, too, which I like,” Vager says, chuffed), in which an American GI holds the fate of Japanese soldiers in his hands, then finds himself in the shoes of a Japanese soldier, holding the fate of Americans in his hands. In its call for understanding over moral posturing, the song rings out like a clarion call, and makes for an apt title track.
All of the songs on A Quality Of Mercy find Vager trying to move beyond ego, beyond the simple confessional of the songwriter, hoping to find perspective on both world and self. In such, these songs are at once personal and universal, intimate and grand, timely and timeless. They’re classic songs. And there’s eight of them. Adding up to a perfectly-formed debut that says so much, yet gets out in under half-an-hour.
Melbourne’s Totally Mild write songs that are lush and luxurious, polished to sparkle. Her, the band’s highly-anticipated sophomore album, is full of narrative heart, but with a Stepford sheen. Teasing out a thematic tension between the loving and the lacklustre, the domestic and the deluxe, vocalist/guitarist and songwriter Elizabeth Mitchell’s voice is crystal clear. It weaves through her band’s lyrical, immaculately considered arrangements with a dexterity that speaks volumes of the band’s capacity to let melodies grow, breathe, and take shape.
Beginning as memos, fragments, and demos, Mitchell develops the songs alongside Zachary Schneider (guitar), Lehmann Smith (bass), and Ashley Bundang (drums). Producer James Cecil (Architecture in Helsinki, Super Melody), whose sense for shiny pop production, helped the band track the album live in-studio over a day and a half.
There is a push and pull in the arrangements on Her that signals a truly deft sense of melody and structure; Mitchell cites Schneider’s sense of melody, Bundang’s lyrical playing, and Smith’s affinity for restraint as key in each song. There is never a sense on Her that a part or a melody was added lightly: the songs morph and meander with a kind of breathing life, afforded to them through the band’s musical communication.
Her is undoubtedly a collection of songs that, while diverse and musically complex, cherry-pick from decades of the best of pop music. However, beneath the sparkling surface of each song, there is often a seed of doubt, a slight sense of melancholy. Even an unbridled love song like “Pearl”, which declares “I thought that I would want so many in my lifetime/But now the only one is you”, eulogises the first moments of falling in love: “I will never have you again/Not in the same way/Not with a new face”. No emotion on Her is singular.
Mitchell says of the album’s title that many of the songs meditate on the female experience: of love, of domesticity, of surveillance, of bliss, and of anxiety. The portrait of Mitchell’s mother that hangs in the corner of the album’s cover signals the overarching sense of the feminine that hovers over Her. Mitchell notes that while the second-person address on the record often functions to address a lover or a friend, sometimes the ‘you’ she addresses is an aspirational self: they’re subtle, reflexive bids for self-empowerment.
Mood rises and falls expertly on Her: “Working Like A Crow”, which was originally written for a children’s choir (whose voices are heard in the distance on the track), is simple in its self-sufficiency and assertiveness. It’s followed by “From One Another”, a eulogy for a toxic relationship, where Mitchell sings “Sigh of relief, no grief/But you wonder which of you will end up winning.” The ebb and flow of the album is exemplified by its switch from Side A to Side B: Mitchell’s love for piano balladry is showcased on Side A closer “Lucky Stars”, while side B jerks the listener awake and makes a case for staying home with “Today Tonight”.
On Her, Totally Mild are in dialogue with their debut, the critically acclaimed Down Time. Down Time very much mused on what it meant to be a young person who found solace in ill-advised parties and people, while Her is a wiser record. Album closer Down Together is about leaving those things behind, and it’s no coincidence that in the song’s refrain — “You can only get down together”— “get down” refers to both a collective excess and a collective sadness. Although Her has its moments of melancholy, it’s a reflective, meditative sadness that replaces Down Time’s lethargy. On Her, Totally Mild move through light and shade with smoky, silky finesse.