Track By Track: Spirit Bunny take us through their weird/wonderful self-titled debut LP
The Brissy-based outfit kick off their launch tour in Canberra tonight!
Brisbane experimental pop three-piece Spirit Bunny today release their rawkus self-titled debut LP, immediately heading into a six-date launch tour starting at Canberra's Lowbrow Gallery tonight.
To celebrate the incredibly fun 12-track record's release, the group sent us through an awesomely in-depth track by track, giving us some insight into the chaotic world that is Spirit Bunny. Tuck in below, and check that full run of dates down the bottom:
PERSONNEL: Cameron Smith - drums & loops / Joel Saunders - circuit bent casio SK5/8 / Kate Thomas - Commodore 64, Cynthcart
VOCALS: Joel, Kate, Cameron
RECORDING PROCESS/STUDIO: Cam (Smith, drums) owns a recording studio under his house - Incremental Records - so we recorded the album there. Having a studio available to you at any moment is mostly good, but not always great for motivating you to get things finished, so the album probably took a bit longer to complete than it could have if we’d had to watch the clock a bit more. Still, it meant that we could make everything sound exactly how we wanted it to. For the most part what’s on the record is what we play live, there’s not much on there that you won’t hear coming from us from the stage of your local rock’n’roll establishment.
DISCO HORSERIDE MONTAGE
J: We have an unusual creative process in Spirit Bunny that the song titles often come before any lyrics are written. This means that either the lyrics are written to fit a title, or the title has no relation to the lyrics, and is actually a reflection on another aspect of the song. That’s the case here. This is not a song about riding a horse into a discotheque in a montage sequence. It’s about Pachinko, the Japanese ball bearing gambling machines. The noise from them is deafening when you walk past early in the morning on your way to get a coffee in a can from a vending machine.
C: For the record, the song title came from the vibe we got from the song when we first wrote it. It seemed like it should be soundtracking a montage scene in a film where a posse of riders rode out to battle… wearing flares, I guess.
K: A clockwork cavalry hiccupping their way into an 8-bit sunset. Or Gods playing pinball with meterorites in the Grand Canyon. Could go either way really.
C: Every band needs a theme song. The title was based off of Joel’s keyboard sound, which reminded us of Battles. We’re nowhere near as tight as Battles though, in fact if anything we’re proponents of ‘intentional looseness’, where everyone pulls and stretches the beats to make things a bit woozy and more interesting. Or at least interesting for us.
J: If we were in a battle with Battles I imagine we’d come out fairly injured. Those high cymbals look awfully dangerous, and all their cables going everywhere.
K: Ha, Joel if you were on stage with any other band your incredible dance moves would most definitely put at least half of them in the A&E department. (Potential song title…?)
J: For a day job I teach primary students. Each day we have this thing called ‘fruit break’. Without fail the kids will remind you if you forget to stop at 10 o’clock to let them have their grapes or cucumber. Fruit is a fluid concept these days. While some students consume their fruit to the very core, most try to bin a twice-bitten apple. The same students continue to use a pencil they’ve sharpened continuously, writing with just a stub left. This song is about them.
C: Amen Skew was our attempt to write a song around the ‘amen break’ drum beat. What we ended up with was a bit off kilter, hence ‘Amen Skew’. This kind of ended up as ‘Spirit Bunny go drum’n’bass’. We wrote it by editing down a jam (captured on the ever helpful smartphone), hence the weird, overly long chord progressions and messy keyboard melodies. In the original demo Joel played a cheap toy phone that he’d circuit bent in the breakdown section. Unfortunately that instrument/toy died an early death, so we weren’t able to use that particular sound in the final version. As luck would have it, we happened across another toy (this time a monkey on a bicycle) that made a similarly cool sound, so we sampled that and used it instead.
K: I’m learning so much about the band from this interview process. Tell me more fellas…
J: I had like an eight hour layover in Hong Kong while heading to the Philippines, so I left the airport and went for a walk. It’s not the best place for a walk. There is rarely a footpath and no people around, just lots of concrete buildings and construction. There was a nice park though. I jotted the lyrics for this song down along the way.
C: The initial idea for Spirit Bunny was that we wanted to make some form of hip hop, but bent and skewed and distorted. We called it ‘grit hop’. In the end things didn’t quite work out that way, but you can still hear the core of that idea in this song, even though it was one of the last we wrote for the album.
K: I wrote the basic melodic and harmonic parts for this when I was two tallies (or, if you’re in NSW ‘Long-necks’) deep. I recorded it on my phone, I thought I was onto something great but I remember being worried that my boozey-brain was lying to me. I gingerly offered it up one rehearsal and the guys got into it and made it great. I love that about writing music in this band. Everyone brings their own bit and it really feels like the music wouldn’t be the same without each person. I would never consider, let alone be able to play, half the stuff Cam comes up with. Joel’s bizarre lyrical inspirations often straddle verse and chorus in phrasing I could never conceive of. This song is one of my favourites for all of these reasons and more.
J: In the middle of this song is a lyric taken from the title of a collection of Miranda July short stories, ‘No One Belongs Here More Than You’. A really sweet sentiment. So I suppose this is a love song. The verse lyrics are more confused. Just a bunch of negative statements. I was thinking about the meaning behind ‘No Sister’ a Melbourne band. I really liked the clarity and the ambiguity of their title, so this songs starts with a bunch of ‘no’ statements.
C: The way that Kate’s verse bassline doesn’t match up with the meter of the drums and vocals is really cool. I’m also a big fan of the John Carpenter-esque synth line in the chorus.
K: I remember Cam and I nearly coming to blows early in the writing of this one, over whether the bass line worked over drums part. I’m glad we didn’t, and I’m glad it did. It’s one of those tracks where I go into Mystic Mode to play it, splitting my awareness between my own part and little anchor points in the drums.
J: The lyrics from this are plundered from a home and garden magazine from the mid-90s. I was on holidays staying at a beach shack, flicking through things for lyric content. It’s cut-and-paste job. This was the first song we wrote.
C: This song kind of set the basic blueprint for the band. The interplay between the thick synths and circuit-bent keys, the simple, looped beat mixed with overly busy acoustic drums, and the constantly shifting arrangement and 90 degree turns.
K: Spirit Bunny is a pretty Nice band generally speaking. We don’t swear on stage, we aren’t mean or unapproachable. But we do have Opinions and I like that this song, along with CRT Screens could be construed as a critical observation of rampant consumerism and the grotesque ‘Keeping Up With The Joneses’ competitive inadequacy that drives it. Because, you know, a new plastic outdoor suite really IS the gateway to a whole new world of entertainment.
WE ALL SING TOGETHER
C: This is the closest we got to achieving the ‘grit hop’ idea we initially set out with. There’s a space in this song that most of the others don’t have. I really like the way that Joel’s key part sounds like a slightly out of time sample. Whenever I hear this song I have an image in my head of the three of us driving down the highway in a car, all wearing sunglasses, windows down with the wind blowing through.
J: This song was around for quite a while with the only singing being the bit at the start, and at the end. Our pal Ben (Pale Earth) made a comment about it missing something in the middle section, so I got out a pen and scribbled down some more. Initially a song about singing, it turned into, er, a song about the futility of singing. Or something like that.
K: I sing to my pets. A lot. I currently have two cats, but at the time of writing this song I had rats. I had just bought home some new babies and was very happy to see that they were bonding with the older rat I already had - they were all snuggled up in a hammock. So the original lyrics were ‘We all sleep together’. That was never going to work with Spirit Bunny, as for one it is a blatant lie, so I changed it before suggesting that line in a rehearsal. I have at least one EP worth of material for my cats, though it is unlikely to be released by Spirit Bunny as it largely consists of substituting the word ‘cats’ and other cat-related words into well-known pop songs. The latest is a cover of Kylie Minogue’s Shocked. Shocked by the power of Cats. Catsssss.
J: Half this album is about consumerism - one way or the other. It is equal parts criticism and celebration of the excess of manufactured society. Kate plays two Commodore 64s, the most manufactured computer ever. It’s from the early 80s. I play Casio SK keyboards, the type you could buy when you went into Tandy or Radioshack in the 80s for your kid while buying a new TV. These are low-end domestic toys/tools, not state of the art specialised equipment. So this song is about those obsolete technologies.
C: Probably the most straightforward song we have, and the hardest song to play. Weird how that always seems to be the way.
K: I love this song. As Joel said, the instruments we use are old and were intended for domestic/hobby use. They still have so much potential, and it is a pleasure to bring them to life. Beloved Frankensteinian Electric Zombies that they are. (Potential song title…..?)
J: You can buy this sickly sweet marshmallow fluff from American stores and then spread it on your toast for breakfast. Pure white sugar spread on white toast. Way to start the day. This song was already written and titled when I wrote the lyrics, so it was a no-brainer to make it about Marshmallow Fluff Spread.
C: When we first started playing shows, this was a song that people would often shout out for at gigs. ‘The white stuff!’. I guess it was probably one of the few recognisable refrains we had at that point in time. For the record, not about drugs. We’re not that worldly, we’d much prefer a nice cup of tea and a podcast about Paul Keating.
K: YES! Keating! I’d go troppo for a cuppa right now actually…
J: Growing up in a small country town I’d travel to the ‘big city’ (Toowoomba) in the holidays to pine over over-priced imported CDs at Sanity. Next to Sanity was the budget jewellery store, Kleins, who have since gone bankrupt and Supre, who continue to churn out under-priced disposable fashion items. This song celebrates that 90s fashion, butterfly clips, scrunchies, plastic bangles, and those hyper-coloured hair extensions you’d plait into your hair.
C: The three of us all live around the inner-city Brisbane suburb of West End, just over the river from the CBD. Historically it’s been a little slice of bohemian resistance against the surrounding ‘progress’. Some Brisbane bands are Valley bands, some are suburban bands, some are West End bands. We’re a West End band, for better or worse. The name of this song came from a flyer I saw in a West End cafe advertising a guru who called himself ‘The Mystic Guy In The Shed’.
K: I remember at one point that the song title was potentially up for grabs amongst several of the bands Cam plays in - I’m glad we nabbed it first. I remember a misspent youth gazing at all the sparkly plastic adornments in Kleins (I’m still a sucker for sparkly things. Walking past a Swarovski shop front is like entering a time-warp; by the time I can drag myself away three seasons have passed and I’ve outgrown my new shoes).
GOLD & BROWN
J: The lyrics for this are lifted from Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody and then processed using cut-up text methods. A call to the dancefloor. I’m sure modernist poets would argue that Burrough’s cut-up method bring whole new levels of meaning to a text. I’m fairly sure the meaning in Whitney’s song and ours is exactly the same. We’re just more succinct.
C: The second song we wrote. Where Living Entertainment defined a lot of the sonic elements of the band, Gold & Brown introduced this dark, bittersweet quality that a lot of our songs share. Joel always says that his lyrics are based on fairly innocuous, often naive things, but often they get twisted into something much darker, and often more universal, than he perhaps intended. That’s something we really like about the band, the way that it mixes naivety and a ‘twee’ quality with darkness and aggression and social awareness.
K: What Cam said.
J: There is this bit buried in this song where Cam plays a child’s toy TV remote. I tried to play that part but my thumbs are too slow. Kate had found the remote in an OP shop and I took the toy home to circuit bend - which is something I’ve done to most of the gear I play in Spirit Bunny - but totally fried it. So ticked about that. Everytime I go into an OP shop I look for a replacement. Hit me up if you have one.
C: I hate count-ins. Live we usually segue into this song from a noise section out of another song, and Kate and I do this thing where we smash straight into this without any warning. It’s a proud little thing for us, that we’ve arrived at that point as a band where we can pull off tricks like that. If you’d seen our first handful of gigs you would not have guessed we’d eventually reach such a point. Hell, even competence would have seemed out of reach back then. Those shows were complete trainwrecks.
K: I can vouch for Cam’s dislike of count-ins. We’ve learned to start many songs with a maximum count-in of 1. I really like that too, though I won’t lie sometimes it scares the sh*t out of me on stage. I can also second that our first shows were catastrophic. I was so excited about the music, and yet when I got on stage my head was completely empty. I remember actually joking to myself about hearing crickets but it wasn’t very funny at the time and I wasn’t sure we’d pull through. Pretty glad we did though.
Friday April 21 - Lobrow Gallery, Canberra w/ Agency & Different Types Of Spiders
Saturday April 22 - Tokyo Sing Song, Sydney
Thursday April 27 - Grace Darling Hotel, Melbourne @ Class Acts #17 w/ Astral Skulls, Lifestrike, Wars
Saturday April 29 - The Rad, Wollongong w/ The Nah, Outskert & There Are No Exits
Friday May 5 - Hotel Metro, Adelaide w/ Ponytail Kink & Business Factory
Saturday May 20 - The Bearded Lady w/ Low Season & Leavings
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