One of the most energetic and raw bands coming out of Melbourne is Press Club, the rock band causing a scene and making some sweet, sweet noise. After releasing their debut album Late Teens in March this year, the four-piece have been touring Australia with the Smith Street Band and BEC SANDRIDGE to sold out shows.
Backyard Opera caught up with bass player Iain Macrae to chat about gentrification, bananas and everything in between.
BYO: Who are Press Club in a sentence?
IAIN: Um, four musical mates! Hahaha.
BYO: How long have you guys been together as a band making music?
IAIN: As Press Club, we started mid way through 2016; we started writing around July I think. We’ve all been playing with each other for the last 13 years. I’ve been playing with Frank our drummer in a dodgy ska band and Natalie and I studied music together at MIT, so we’ve done a bunch of little projects there. So we’ve got a healthy musical history.
BYO: What prompted you all to get together and start Press Club?
IAIN: Not quite sure! We had a mutual desire to create whatever music comes out really. From the outset we didn’t really say ‘let’s start a rock-y, punk-y garage whatever’, we just decided we’d write as many songs as we could and see what they sounded like, and let the songs themselves kind of determine what the band is. It’s a real organic process.
BYO: In an interview with Richard Kingsmill on Triple J, you guys said that your song writing process is really collaborative; are there any serious clashes of musical taste when writing music?
IAIN: Never been any real clashes, we’re all pretty democratic. If someone cares really highly about something or really want to get something over the line then we all kind of let it through. We’re all mates so we try to keep everyone happy and not step on each other’s toes. If someone cares enough about an idea or lyric or song to bring it up, then we leave it in there.
BYO: Even though the process is collaborative, do you all favour a certain aspect of the writing process?
IAIN: Usually someone will bring a little motif to the table; it could be anyone that will bring a guitar part or a little bass part, but from there everyone has their own stuff.
I’ll do all the bass stuff, Greg will do all the guitars, Frank the drums. We know each other well enough and each instrument well enough to give each other tips and ideas, but predominantly one idea comes to the table and we all embellish it.
Does living in Melbourne influence your sound/ lyrics/ band image at all? Do you try to capture it in your music?
IAIN: Where we live probably influences every facet of us, I’d say. If I tried to pin point what exactly about it influenced our music style, it would probably be easier to look as a third party and draw a line between certain things happening in Melbourne and what Press Club does.
We’ve also always been a part of a pretty tight musical community and all our friends are musos. So music has always been part and parcel of all our lives and all of our friends lives; with people working in music venues, managing bands and playing in bands, so it makes up our entire social circle. I guess that would have had some sort of influence in us pursuing music to the lengths we have.
BYO: What are the main themes and messages you try to convey in your music?
IAIN: With this album in particular, Natalie writes a vast majority of the lyrics, so we only put our two cents in at the end and try to round out the close. But lyrically the content is usually based on stories of our friends, family and ourselves. I don’t think there’s any one message to each individual song; I think it’s more of a patchwork of each individual we’ve come across over the years.
I think there is an overarching theme, though, that’s included the album artwork and the promotional work. We’re living in Brunswick heaps, so there’s a lot of gentrification and structural change in the area, old houses going down to make way for big 750 dwelling apartment blocks, and I’ve been displaced a few times because of it. So there’s a bit of frustration about the impermanence of inner city living; specifically rapidly gentrifying suburbs where there’s a bit of a glutton of development. So yeah, thematically that’s probably it.
BYO: So there’s a bit of a political stance in your music?
IAIN: It’s not the cornerstone message of our music, its just something that influences the way it sounds and the frustrated energy of it.
BYO: You’re in the middle of a massive Australia-wide tour with the Smith Street Band! How is that going?
IAIN: We’ve done the NSW and WA leg, we just flew in this morning on an early flight to Victoria. The tour is going fantastically, every show is sold out, it’s a real rush to play to such big energised rooms. The Smith Street Band have a real loyal following of fans that are eager to listen and keen to get their hands on new music, so it’s real good for us.
BYO: You guys must be tired from all the travelling!
IAIN: We’re spending a lot of time in buses; in 12 seater buses. So yeah, haven’t spent a lot of time at home. There’s 5 weeks left though, still more to come!
BYO: Is everyone on tour fun to hang around with?
IAIN: They are! They’re all really nice people. It’s a big operation, there’s 7 people on stage now in the Smith Street Band, and then there’s all the tech crew and sound guys, but they’re all really nice people and it’s a nice environment back stage. They’re not the sort of people to just talk to their own, they fraternise with everyone else; everyone’s back stage chatting. It’s a good atmosphere.
BYO: What’s it been like, making your way through the live music scene in Melbourne? Is it harder these days to ‘make it big’ do you think?
IAIN: I don’t know, Melbourne has a really vibrant music scene and there is plenty of availability to get a gig if you wanted to get one. You have to be pretty bad to not get a show somewhere in the city.
As far as success is concerned, I don’t think there is any recipe for that.
BYO: In Sydney, lock out laws have restricted the live music scene, so it’s great that Melbourne is fostering up and coming musicians.
IAIN: Yeah, in Melbourne it’s very open still.
I think maybe I’ve been in a bit of a bubble where everyone is a musician, but I feel like even in the broader community, everyone knows a musician. One in five or one in ten people will be in a band which is a pretty high number, which is good.
BYO: Main musical or life influences for yourself and the band?
IAIN: Personally, over the years my influences have changed real rapidly. I don’t really listen to the same thing for more than a few months. I was really into jazz once upon a time, when I was kid I listened to a lot of punk and old Jamaican music.
More recently, in the period leading up to the writing of the new record, I went back to a lot of the stuff I used to listen to when I was 15 and 16 years old. Back to the crappy old dodgy punk bands like the Misfits and the Replacements. Which is funny because the Replacements is a band we get compared to a lot; with this album at least.
BYO: Your live shows are pretty energetic; How do you guys get energy for the live shows? What’s the secret? Coffee? Bananas? Energy Drinks?
IAIN: We really just sit around talking crap and keep the ride going on stage. There’s no real pregame and its not pre-meditated. The lights are on, the curtains are back. Natalie always bounces around. I wish there was a recipe.
BYO: So pure excitement is the key?
IAIN: For Natalie yeah. She can’t contain herself! She always bounces around and interacts with the crowd a lot so she makes it exciting.
You can listen to ‘Late Teens’ now on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/artist/7x6qYdGPScBRRz5lOPeHnG
Or buy the disc online here: https://pressclub.bandcamp.com