“Kind of unique and a
little bit isolated”: talking to the
Australian twang/surf/rock/noir combo about their debut album, the Down Under
scene, its rich history, and more.
BY FRED MILLS
As previously announced,
the latest selection in our Blurt/Sonicbids “Best Kept
Secret” series of new or under-the-radar artists (www.sonicbids.com/blurtonline)
is The Glimmer, from Newtown, in New South Wales, Australia. This makes our 18th BKS selection since commencing the program of spotlighting new and
under-the-radar artists back in 2008.
The group is described in its bio thusly: “The Glimmer is a 4-piece rock ‘n’ roll outfit from Newtown, NSW, influenced
mainly by the raucous rock & roll bands and sassy girl groups of the 1960s.
With a sound that’s grittier than Best
Coast but prettier than
The Dead Weather, ‘The Glimmer are the very model of a certain inner-west indie
band. Bluesy, some frayed country around the edges, and for some flavour, add
some surf guitar buzz and up-to-four-part boy/girl harmonies. Goes with the
requisite rumble and swagger.'”
A Fire album was released this past June. It was cut with Andrew Beck
(Amiel, Modular Lounge) and the legendary Kramer (of Bongwater, Galaxie 500,
Low, etc. fame) in Australia,
and Kramer subsequently mixed it at his studio in Florida. The press immediately latched onto
the guy-girl vocal mix, not to mention the deep, primal twang that reverberates
through all the songs. And with a pure pop vibe at its core, the group clearly
hearkens back to the mid-‘80s Australian golden age of alternative rock, but
there’s also a distinctive postmodern aesthetic at play too.
When BLURT reached out to the band to
request an email interview, they quickly accepted,
and then upon sending the answers back to us, disclosed that rather than sit
down and type out their answers (a task that, typically, falls to either the
acknowledged leader or frontperson or the most motivated/least slacker member),
they rounded up a friend with a digital camera and proceeded to film the
interview, responding to the questions directly, as a group. As you’ll read
below, this yielded a delightful give-and-take to the dialogue, and as they
have also threatened to post the video online at some point in the very near
future, you just may be able to eventually watch and listen to ‘em talking to
Ye Olde BLURT in the (almost) flesh. Thanks, ladies and gents – this turned out
to be one of the most entertaining “Best Kept
Secret” interviews we’ve had so far.
The Glimmer: Cassady Maddox, on guitar/vocals; Dereck
Cannon, guitar/vocals; Nikki Ponymeadow, bass/vocals; Jules Hernandez,
drums/vocals. Check out their official website or Facebook page for additional
details as well as song samples.
BLURT: I lived in Arizona
for ten years, and if I didn’t know you were from Australia I’d swear you were
from the desert, or at least had spent some formative time there, baking in the
sun and rustling up some Twang-Noir tunes… Giant Sand, Calexico…
CASSADY: Well, Australia is kind of a big desert.
NIKKI: Yeah, and I do a bit of baking in the sun.
CASSADY: Yeah, you do. Not me, I’m too pale and pasty white
to go outside, but yeah, doesn’t it have the most desert…?
NIKKI: Most uninhabitable, arid land of any country in the world.
JULES: At least the Southern Hemisphere.
CASSADY: That’s why we have all those weird animals and bugs
that everyone in other countries are so scared of.
NIKKI: But we also have the desert with the ocean.
CASSADY: Which is why we’re Surf Noir… and [Giant Sand’s] Howe
Gelb, we haven’t met him personally but our friends’ band, Wifey, supported him
at The Factory.
CASSADY: We don’t have rattlesnakes – ‘though, that’d be cool, if we had
DERECK: It’s hot and dry, and a lot of the songs that are on
the album were written in the middle of summer in a little apartment that got
to about forty five degrees.
NIKKI: That’s like what, in Fahrenheit? A hundred and ten?
DERECK: Fuckin’ heaps.
The basics: Tell me a
little about your respective musical backgrounds – notable collective
influences, previous bands, etc. How and when did the bandmembers meet, and
what were the circumstances that led you to put the Glimmer together?
CASSADY: I made Nikki let me be lead guitarist in her band,
that’s how I met Nikki.
NIKKI: Our old band, Ruby Sue… and a lot of substances,
both legal and illegal involved in the stage shows, too much tequila.
DERECK: Tequila is not illegal, it’s performance enhancing.
NIKKI: But then I was also The Charles Manson Experiment’s [Cassady and Dereck’s old band; also check The Mansons] biggest
fan and I went to all their gigs, and luckily I like to say I did away with
their bass player.
DERECK: And that’s probably where a bit of the desert rock
stuff comes from, because The Charles Manson Experiment was a very stoner,
desert rock kind of grungy band.
NIKKI: And we knew Jules through another friend’s band that
Cass and Dereck had moonlighted in, and so we poached him.
JULES: Yeah, you poached me, but I was willing!
DERECK: We’ve played around the scene together in many bands.
JULES: We met on a similar kind of influence.
It sounds just like you’re talking about drugs.
JULES: Drugs, music, whatever…
CASSADY: Rock ‘n’ roll. Party atmosphere, you wanna go and
have fun at a gig. Sometimes you want to stare at your shoes, but you still
wanna have a good time.
NIKKI: And we all seem to have a similar direction when
we’re writing stuff together.
JULES: And when we do jam a new thing, it does tend to
definitely have some kind of a sixties kind of feel.
CASSADY: It’s good if you can dance to it.
DERECK: Get guitars that sound cool, learn the blues, and
play rock ‘n’ roll. That’s something there.
Was it easy getting
the band off the ground? What was the reaction from fans and the media? Is
there any kind of “scene” of likeminded groups – musically, philosophically, or
otherwise – you feel part of?
CASSADY: We wish. We don’t have enough tattoos to be a part
of the rockabilly scene.
NIKKI: Ad we’re not really a kind of indie jangly type of
music, and we’re also not kind of hipster electro-y whatever the hell.
CASSADY: Our wrists aren’t limp enough.
NIKKI: We’re kind of unique and a little bit isolated, but
there’s no shortage of gigs.
CASSADY: We’re not lo-fi either, which is the other thing
that’s popular at the moment and gets mixed with surf sounds. Very much washed
out, cheap reverb, recorded in someone’s garage. We don’t do that, we like to
record properly because otherwise it becomes a struggle, it might be a really
good band but you’ve gotta listen through all this rubbish.
NIKKI: The media and fans have been responsive, we’ve gotten
good feedback, so it’s just for us to really push on and try and get the music
out there as much as we can.
CASSADY: We have kind of a weird thing as well, sometimes we
get pulled into the raucous crowd, the biggest scene that we’re a part of is
the pub scene. But then we get pulled out of our hometown to go and play at
rock ‘n’ roll festivals.
JULES: And it’s a really different crowd, dare I say it,
maybe more appreciative.
NIKKI: I think we take some people back to another time,
maybe a more innocent time.
CASSADY: A more passionate time, I think. Now it’s all like
“Oh, no, I didn’t get an iPhone for Christmas,” but back then it was like “It’s
Christmas and my husband is at war” – y’know, it’s a more emotional time.
JULES: And cars looked better too.
NIKKI: Yeah. And guitars.
Tell me a little
about recording the Start A Fire album. What songs on it do you feel are
NIKKI: That was an incredibly fun week.
JULES: Lots of fun.
CASSADY: We didn’t wanna leave, we wanted to stay there.
NIKKI: We could have just done that every day, really.
CASSADY: Still be doing it now.
NIKKI: We had Andy Beck on board, engineering it, he’s
CASSADY: He’s a really great dude. One of yours actually,
from near Seattle.
NIKKI: And he really made the whole thing just, I don’t
know, a really enjoyable, awesome week.
JULES: It was a fun week but it was a real learning curve.
CASSADY: We had a lot of it mapped out when we went in.
NIKKI: But it was almost like Andy was the fifth band member
who came in and had that extra input.
CASSADY: Definitely. We’d worked with him before, he’s kind
of like that.
NIKKI: And we also has Kramer come in and add his particular
blend of mystery and magic.
CASSADY: And reverb.
JULES: Very cool reverb.
CASSADY: As far as songs go, we’re happy with all of them.
JULES: “Dance With Me” is good.
CASSADY: There’s a couple with violin on them on there,
which is cool, we don’t always have a violinist live.
DERECK: Yeah, adding extra stuff like violin, and the extra
harmonies, it sort of crystallized some of the stuff that you don’t get when
it’s just the four of you all playing at the same time.
CASSADY: “Sleepwalk” was pretty much all of our favorite
song, so to record that cover was a bit of a milestone.
Tell me a little
about Kramer’s involvement.
CASSADY: Kramer contacted us back when we were still The
Mansons ‘cause he’d heard some of our early MySpace recordings, stuff that Andy
Beck had also recorded, and he was coming out to Australia and wanted to work
with us but we couldn’t do it then.
DERECK: That was sort of at the end of The Mansons, really.
CASSADY: It was before The Glimmer was born; we realized we
were going in a different direction and kind of needed a rebirth. Kramer
contacted us and we had this song that we’d written with Simon Day from Ratcat
and Kramer mixed that for us. That was a few years back and we liked it, and
wanted to work with him again. He’s an odd genius, he’s got this strange
obsession with tea.
DERECK: He drinks a lot of tea.
JULES: Brilliant guy.
DERECK: He’s really out of left field and he makes a good
record. He took what we’d recorded for the album back to the States and worked
on it when we weren’t there and it added another layer. There were emails going
back and forth; it’s kind of inconvenient working with someone on the other
side of the world, but it was beautiful.
What can you tell us
about your live show? I’m intrigued to hear a little about some of the songs
you cover in concert as well.
CASSADY: Crazy, a lot people dancing.
DERECK: And tambourines.
CASSADY: They’ll drink to anything. Ooops – DANCE to anything – slip of the tongue there.
JULES: We do have some kinda sing-along songs, “Into The
Sea,” “Unhappy Hour.” It’s a matter of including everyone.
NIKKI: We do take songs from the sixties, whatever we like
and think will work well.
CASSADY: Absolutely… We like covering “Bombora,” because
it’s an Australian classic, the alternative national anthem, which everyone
knows the words to… it’s an instrumental… We play together pretty naturally
and we can just kinda jam it. Covers are a fun challenge. We’ve recorded a couple
but they’re not quite finished yet – stay tuned.
And you do everything
from full band gigs at festivals to stripped-down acoustic situations?
CASSADY: I love the acoustic gigs, where everyone can hear
what they’re singing.
NIKKI: And what they’re playing, and it gives a different
spin on the song. Some of them sound completely different acoustic and that
makes us hear them in a different way and play them in a different way.
CASSADY: And all of a sudden people are noticing the lyrics,
which I think is always interesting.
NIKKI: So it’s nice to play both… gigs at full volume, and
the stripped back acoustic gigs; it’s a different musical space for people to
CASSADY: …and it’s a different way of hearing what each
other’s playing as well.
NIKKI: Yeah, like, “Oh that‘s what she’s been
Any plans to come to
Would love to see you at SXSW… It’s traditionally tough to crack the US market from Australia – any thoughts on that?
NIKKI: Sure, buy our tickets and we’ll come!
DERECK: We’d love to be seen at SXSW.
NIKKI: Yep, sure, we’d do it.
DERECK: You don’t know until you’ve tried.
CASSADY: It’s difficult when you’re just a band, when you
don’t have someone pushing you in the U.S. You kinda need – I guess all markets
need hype. I think it’s “pick your place” as well. We have a few people in California and New
York that contact us. And Texas.
How is the next album
shaping up? What are the plans for the future after that?
CASSADY: We’re writing it together, it’s a bit bluesy – the
blues sped up, as it were.
NIKKI: We’re definitely feeling like we’re finding a sound
that’s more “ours”.
NIKKI: Yeah, cohesive, quite strong in terms of the
atmosphere and the themes.
CASSADY: It’s a vibey way of writing, we just turn up with
no thoughts, no-one’s written a piece, no-one’s written some fabulous, tour-de-force,
great masterpiece of poetry and lyrics and what-not, we just come in and go
“hmmm, jam on E”.
DERECK: If it sounds good, play it again!
NIKKI: And we’ll have input and suggestions for each other.
CASSADY: And then when we’re tired of E, we play… C minor
or some thing.
Here’s a kind of
broad question, but maybe you can run with it: what can you tell American music
fans about the Australian independent scene that we might not be aware of? And
also about being a working band from Sydney,
since Sydney has a reputation for spawning bands
on par with London or L.A.?
NIKKI: Everyone rides
CASSADY: You can fit so much stuff in the pouches! But
seriously, there are some really good, legendary venues that have been coming
under threat. We lost the Hopetown a few years ago, which was one of those.
We’ve just recently lost the Excelsior, where tons of bands got their start,
and The Annandale has been looking for some time now like it might close.
JULES: With those venues, a lot of them are in prime real
estate where developers see that they can put up apartment buildings instead.
They don’t know that they’re buying out a piece of history.
CASSADY: They don’t care. But, that said, a few venues that
have never had live music, or haven’t had music for a long time, have picked it
up, that’s how we get a lot of our acoustic gigs. You don’t need a license
anymore, up until ten o’clock, so there’s a lot of cafes and smaller bars can
just have acoustic music. They don’t have a big stage or a full P.A.
NIKKI: And with the loss of these iconic places in Sydney, unfortunately
there seems to be a bit of apathy about it, people don’t want to fight to keep
CASSADY: I have faith, though; the movie Garage Days tried to predict the end of
the live music scene with its “the pokies (slot machines) will take over and
doom, disaster” and that didn’t really pan out the way they foretold.
DERECK: There are still people that want to make good music,
it’ll still keep happening, there are still good bands.
NIKKI: And there are still enough venues to keep the live…
CASSADY: …and punters. I think you get great bands all over
A good deal of our
info on Australia
is filtered through the media’s selective lens, and then it depends on which media someone is paying attention
to. For example, at one point in time, the only Oz groups most Americans could
name would have been INXS, the Church and Men At Work. Yet at that same point
in time, I know that those of us who read fanzines and bought import records were
crucially aware of, for example, the Waterfront and Au Go Go records bands and
the many little indie labels that were sprouting by the late ‘80s. In fact, I
reviewed a number of Ratcat records, and I know that you folks have an association
with Simon Day from that band. Other favorites of mine included the
Scientists/Surrealists, Died Pretty, feedtime, Cosmic Psychos, but there are
too many to count, really…
CASSADY: Those are all really, really good bands, although I
was surprised to hear the Church as one of the bands that Americans would’ve
heard of from Australia,
and not AC/DC.
JULES: Or even, dare I say, Cold Chisel.
DERECK: From what I’ve heard, a lot of people in the states
don’t know that AC/DC are from Australia.
CASSADY: They’re very Australian.
NIKKI: Bloody Oath.
CASSADY: And can I just say, I’m shocked that people don’t
know who Ratcat are. They were huge here, they were Beatlemania here… and if
you look further back you’ve got The Atlantics, and you’ve got The Easybeats –
I think everyone knows “Friday On My Mind” even if they don’t know where it came
from. We’ve got a really really rich history of influential bands, bands that
don’t necessarily make it big in the U.S. But, like they said about The
Velvet Underground – their album didn’t sell very well, but everyone who got it
started a band. It’s kind of the same here, there’s a lot of bands that just
enough people know about for them to have really made a difference.