Erasers Embrace Constraints: "the limitations can kind of like, open up"
Perth/Boorloo-based duo tell us all about their entrancing world of experimental electronic indie sounds ahead of third album Constant Connection
In a time of instant digital satisfaction, the appeal of the analogue and a DIY approach to things wherever possible seemingly, and understandably, continues to increase, and the music industry is no exception.
A duo who have had these ideals since day one - which for Perth/Boorloo’s Rebecca Orchard and Rupert Thomas was just before the dawning of the new decade that was the 2010s - Erasers are still utilising long-loved instruments to craft their hypnotic, psychedelic brand of electronic indie sounds.
Returning with their beautiful third album, Constant Connection (out April 22), the pair show no sign of wavering from their DIY, very “human” approach to creating music and art in general.
To find out more about the new album and the creative world of Erasers, we caught up with both Bec and Rupert.
Reading through the press material, the term CD-R jumped out at me - you guys have been making music for a while now, what have been some major changes you’ve experienced releasing music from your first demos to now?
R: I guess because we’ve had little breaks - we’ve always been making music, but we’ve had breaks in between I guess those technology shifts, and I guess at the start, maybe not for the first release, but maybe for like the second or third release, we did put out a seven inch. So we were already kind of jumping on that, jumping on the vinyl kind of releasing. I think it was definitely easier to move CDRs when we first started releasing music, I mean, we’re only doing small editions of like fifty and stuff, but, you know, definitely saw people on a local level pick up releases, and be interested in picking up releases.
B: And also, we used to like that we've always had this kind of very DIY kind of process with making music and releasing it. and I think those early days were like, there was a lot of handmade elements that went into it - very DIY. So we would like, individually bur the CDRs, and then we had like a little stamp that we would like hand stamp the release as well. And I usually make the cover.
R: I think the physical products, obviously, like doesn't move maybe as fast as it used to and maybe that's changed things. And maybe, you know, I guess the beauty of like, CDRs - I don't know if this is answering question or not - but the beauty of like CDRs is that immediacy that you can kind of record something and put it out straightaway.
B: In a car, like I think a lot of it was really it was accessible at the time, in terms of price point. But you had a lot of ways to listen to CDRs or CDs. Like yeah, driving.
Definitely answering my question! The “car test” - listening to your demo mixes in the car, is that still an important part of the process for you?
R: Yeah, definitely. I mean, we kind of do the equivalent still, you know, we both don't have new enough cars that we have, like, we do run through aux cables and stuff, when I'm checking mixes through the car and stuff like that. We could burn onto CDs, burn CDRs, but we don't really need to because we just use aux cables to check mixes and stuff.
Yeah, that’s what I was assuming, same process but really no need for CDs anymore… and back to what Bec was saying about the DIY approach, the handmade touches - I know it would be a lot more work, but do you miss that side of things at all with making the CDs?
B: That's an interesting question. I don't know if I miss it, but I think I do feel quite fondly when I think back on that time. Yeah. And we would always also get CDRs that had like, the white surface on top, so you could kind of like draw on it or something, or like, yeah, do art on it or stamp on it. So it did have this lovely, like, handmade quality to it, even though it was something you were kind of like burning on to a disc. But yeah, I think I guess I feel I think about it fondly, but I don't know if I miss it, because I feel like we have the same kind of tangible quality in vinyl as well.
R: And there's still I mean, you know, like, the artwork for Constant Connection is, is a drawing, like illustration. So everything's kind of still handmade, and we still, I guess, are involved from a design point of view and stuff. So there's still like, it still feels like kind of that same kind of DIY ethos runs through it. And things aren't quite perfect, you know, whether it's the recording or whether it's like...
B: ...still mixing from the car.
R: I think it still feels like we have a connection to that kind of stuff. Yeah.
I guess you could say you have a... constant connection… sorry *laughs*. Can I stop you there and get you to tell us more about the album artwork, the illustration?
B: The artwork was part of a little set of maybe five or six drawings that I made quite quickly. At the moment, I'm studying art therapy, and so I've been using a lot of like art making, which I make a lot anyway outside of studying, but yeah, I made these little set of images that were going to have the specific purpose of them being use for the cover, but I just listened to the album, and kind of responded in art making, I guess. So it's yeah, it’s just nice to have the image. I think the nice thing about vinyl compared to smaller formats of releasing music is that the artwork gets to be bigger, which is a huge bonus, I think, in that the type of art that I feel like I make for the covers are quite subtle sometimes. But yeah, it was made pretty quickly, pretty, like spontaneously, it wasn't super planned.
What’s that process like, hearing back music that you’ve heard you know, probably thousands of times by that point, but then responding to it visually?
B: This is the first time I've like, intentionally done that, I think because we were like, “oh, we need a cover image to put on the cover. So I shall do that”. But it was a really nice way to work, actually, and I think like, we're both pretty proud, I would say if I can speak on your behalf of the songs, and, and like, it's actually quite nice to listen to them as a set of songs. And so responding to that visually, like for me music and art, I guess both have some similarities in the way that we kind of, well I approach them. Like kind of layers and yeah, like a little bit spontaneous, kind of being in the moment or whatever. Yeah, so it's a nice process, actually to try it for the first time.
R: I think also maybe, like, listening back, because between finishing the recordings, and eventually putting the artwork together, there was probably a good six month gap, so maybe that time away helps you listen to the songs.
I’m also assuming you had heard the final masters before you did this?
B: You’re right. I think for me, like I don't have as much involvement in the mixing, Rupert does all the mixing and then I just kind of like - you ask for my opinion. And so I'll kind of listen to it and be like, “I feel like that sounds better than that”, or whatever. But I'm not as involved in that process, which maybe gives me a bit of separation that helps with being able to respond through art maybe.
No doubt having your ears, coupled with that separation helps in the mixing process a lot though! While we’re talking the tech/production side of things, your music is pretty much all made using analogue instruments as opposed to software synths and whatnot - is that an important part of your creative process?
R: I think it's partly because it's what we're comfortable with, like we kind of work within what we can do. But also, I think, like, it's kind of nice to have that challenge of trying to make, you know, slightly different records or slightly different sounds within like a limited kind of framework and be like, “Okay, we're only going to use these synths”. We're kind of moving away from it now, but on this record, and for all previous records, we've used this really crappy drum machine called the SR-16, the Alesis SR-16 that has a bunch of really bad sounds. And it's, it's kind of - I don't know if drum machines are tricky to mix anyway, but it's really tricky to mix because it just like has these terrible frequencies in it. And we only use like a very select palette of sounds from it. But I kind of feel like we've worked within those limitations for so long and you kind of figure out how to make it sound better than it is, you know, when you just have the raw sound and all those kinds of things when you work within a limited kind of range of instruments.
B: Also, I think on that note, you know, we're not musically trained and so I think it's definitely for me a comfort, it's like I understand, to some degree, the keyboard that I'm working with. It's not overly complicated. So I can play with that just in it's like limitations in a way. And I think because we're not like, musically trained as such, in a way the limitations can kind of like, open up. Like, it's quite a slow process and kind of just refining something, and I feel like each record that we make, it sounds slightly different, but it's using the same, like,
R: Core instrumentation, yeah
And Bec for you - because something that I've always thought with your music is, your voice sits so well in the mix with the instruments you've chosen - when does your voice come in? Let me elaborate - Is there a typical composition process for an Erasers track? Is there you know, the crappy drum machine gets booted up first, and then your vocals come last? Or is it different every time?
B: It's usually fairly similar, I would say. Often, Rupert will come up with like a loop, whether that's on the drum machine or with like, the synths or something, and then it's kind of a process of like layering, yeah, a process of layering kind of different synth parts and playing around with how they sit together. It's like a bit of a dance, I feel like, and then yeah, my voice usually does come last. When I heard someone describe my vocals as being like, voice as an instrument as they are, it made so much sense, like, because I do see it as being like another tone or like, layer in a song, rather than it being like a highlight of a song.
And yeah I think you can almost choose if you want to pay attention to your actual lyrics or not, if that makes sense, depending on where you're dialing in.
B: I think that makes a lot of sense, and I think it's like, I feel like we, well I personally kind of, we play with that quite a bit in like, a lot of repetition. So it's kind of like, you can easily, like, attach to one particular element throughout a song because it will probably be there the whole time. Or you could kind of notice the flourishes of something coming in and out, and you can pay attention or you can not, like it can be in the background, or it can be in the foreground.
Which is like the best thing for repeated listens. You know, there's some music where, I guess this is more commercial pop music, where you listen to it once and you've got it all on the first listen. So that's really cool. Moving on to the title, I've already made a stupid Constant Connection pun… where did the title come from?
B: Honestly, I think I was probably just reading a lot of art therapy text. I think like, it just was I think two words that kind of stuck with us, and just felt like they fit like, honestly didn't really think about it too much. But I think there is something in it, like, there's something kind of deeper in the meaning of it, I guess. But it wasn't like a super conscious thing to kind of come up with it specifically, I think at the time I was, I was reading a lot about like, I guess like creativity and art making and like connecting with people. And then you know, funnily enough the pandemic stuff kind of came up after that - that was just a coincidence. But, like the importance of being connected whether that's like, other people in community or nature or any of that stuff, so it can have a lot of interpretation.
Speaking of connections (another great segue…), you incorporate field recordings from nature into your music, that I’m assuming you record locally here in south western Australia - how important is where you live to your music?
R: I think it's huge. Yes. Huge. We live like right next to the Beeliar wetlands corridor.
B: Yeah, it's called on the Cockburn Community Wildlife Corridor. So it's like a little corridor of bushland that goes from Bibra Lake to the ocean. And so it's like a huge kind of channel for Black Cockatoos and yeah, like little condors and stuff from our back door, even though our house is like, quite new, like it's a newly built house. Over the back fence, we've got amazing gum trees that we can see.
R: And cockatoos come over and every day at the same time at like, 330 in the afternoon. Yeah, you can kind of, on a day off, you kind of hear them coming over and you're like, “oh, must be that time”.
Oh beautiful, yeah I get white Cockatoos in the morning!
B: Yeah, amazing. Actually, sometimes there's been times where we've thought like, “oh, there's like a fire in the bush” because of their cackling, and then you like poke your head over and it's just them having a feast.
R: Yeah, and the reason we think there's a fire is because there has been fires. Yeah, yeah, I think we do have, like, connection. Yeah just like we went to the beach a bunch of times last weekend, it's just like that feeling of complete calmness and feeling like everything just kind of disappears, grounding, and everything else just kind of falls away when you're in those spaces.
I think I need a bit of that.
R: And I feel like, even when we, you know, like we feel the breeze. Like when we're camping on a bunch of a bunch of different occasions and it's just so nice to be in those spaces. We're not like super nature buffs or like geeks, like we don't know heaps of different trees or wildlife or anything, but yeah, definitely feel connected to it and feel different when we're in those spaces.
B: Yeah, for sure.
And getting to then share that through field recordings, that's so cool.
R: Yeah, totally.
So with the album just about released, what’s next for Erasers - you’ve got a tour booked?
B: Yeah, yeah, we've got a tour, like a little East Coast mostly tour coming up in May, hopefully - that’s the plan.
R: And like, when we said little, like not, it's probably our most expensive as far as going to different places is concerned. So we’ve got like seven or eight dates on that, which will be fun, cool. That's May, and then we should be going over to the UK and Europe in August, September, as well.
Amazing - and a Perth launch show?
R: Yeah, so it'll be at the Rechabite in mid June, which will be fun.
Erasers’ new album Constant Connection is out April 22 via Fire Talk
Constant Connection Australian Tour Dates:
12/5 Meanjin/Brisbane - The Cave Inn
13/5 Yeddonba/Beechworth - Tanswell's Hotel
14/5 Naarm/Melbourne - Nighthawks
15/5 Nipaluna/Hobart - Rosny Barn
19/5 Eora/Sydney - Oxford Arts Factory Gallery Bar
21/5 Ngunnawal/ Canberra - Ainslie Arts Centre
22/5 Thurrural/Thirroul - Railway Institute Hall
18/6 Boorloo/Perth - The Rechabite