We’ve tried to reach them since our trip to Berlin in may. They did a great gig in Lido and few days later announced they will come to Off Festival. And even there – few months later – we almost lost any hope, that we would get a chance to talk to them. “They’ve chosen only a couple of pages to talk to” – we heard. Well, Undertone was one of those. Here’s our interview with Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever.
So, you’ve got your contract with legendary Sub Pop before your very first release. How did you manage to not go insane?
Joe White [guitar/vocals]: I had to pinch myself. It was a good day. I remember it well. We send them some recordings of the music that we released only in Australia and not anywhere else. They heard that and then we send them some new demos, we’ve been working on. It was a good feeling. I remember walking down the street and feeling fine. Walking on air.
Tom Russo [guitar/vocals]: We didn’t meet them or anything before. It was all through e-mails. We met them later in Seattle and they’re like friends with us now. It’s very great. Great label and great people.
Wait a moment. So it’s still possible in 2010s to send a demo to a huge label and get a contract?
Joe: I think our managers had a few connections, so we’re quite lucky. We didn’t know they were doing that.
Tom: Yeah, we didn’t chase after Sub Pop or anything. They kinda came to us and we were like “Oh, OK, Sub Pop, that’s cool”.
Joe: I don’t know how. But it’s a cool thing.
I guess it changed your lifes.
Joe: Absolutely, yeah. In example – we’re here now. I know that Jonathan Poneman [founder and boss of Sub Pop – red.] has some connections to this festival. It’s pretty much the reason we’re able to travel the world and make music.
Isn’t it more stressful when you have that huge label behind you?
Tom: I think that helps. Before that we had no expectation of anyone listening to our music. Actually, we’ve released one EP on our own and then Sub Pop came onboard for a second EP and then we’ve just released our first proper album. I think of it as a good pressure. It’s good to have a machine as Sub Pop behind us. They put a stamp of approval and pretty every of their releases is so good. I think it helped us get out, be more active. I think we were – I don’t want to say “lazy” – but very casual and after they came, we were like “OK, we’ll work on this now”.
Joe: Yeah, once we knew that just because of that label, there will be more people listening, we kinda thought about things a little bit more. And it certainly was a good thing rather than a stress. There’s no stress. More like…
Tom: A kick up the arse – as we say in Australia. You gotta work hard now and make this good. And that was good for us.
So, do you consider yourself as a full-time band now? I remember that in Berlin you said that “Career” song is about you and your day job.
Tom: Yeah, it’s funny. That’s an old song. It was on our first demo. I was basically making fun of myself or all those other people who kinda have artistic things when they’re young and they think they really are cutting edge and then they go to something more comfortable, because art is hard to make money. I guess we’re at the point where we’re juggling for a moment. It’ still very hard where we’re from. It takes a lot of money to get over to Europe and the US. Right now, we’re spending most of our time touring, but every now and then we go back and do a bit of work. We’re not there yet to be a full-time band.
Joe: We’re not making a living out of that.
Tom: Yeah, we’re at this point just before making a living out of that so that makes us a little busy. There’s a lot of juggling. It’s a reality today. There’s less money in the industry but that’s fine. That’s the way it goes.
Those distances are the reason behind Australian scene being so unique?
Joe: I think so. There’s a lot of good music in Australia now. I think there’s a lot of great music in Melbourne alone. There are a lot of good bands and I’m sure that if they had an opportunity, they would do great things all over the world. But there’s that distance and that cost that makes it quite prohibited. It’s hard but music is there. The Internet helps these days.
Tom: It’s good as well because if you’re a band inside of London or New York a lot of the hype-machine will jump onboard when these bands are still young. In Australia you have a bit of time to experiment and get your act together before the worlds eyes get onto it. And it helped us. We took our time, you know, playing in other bands and stuff. It’s like a little incubator. And it’s a very supportive scene. Melbourne, where we’re from, is a very big city and has a healthy music scene. It helps in a way, because you can make sure you’re good, before you go and take that leap. In some other big cities in Europe or US there are people always looking for a next big thing or whatever. Some Australian bands really helped – Tame Impala and Courtney Barnett were the trailblazers and there’s a bit more international attention on Australia. It certainly helped us.
Speaking of Courtney Barnett. Your debut LP – just as her new album – is pretty much darker than your previous stuff.
Joe: I think the lyrical content has a bit more darker edge. There’s a little bit of cynicism, being aware of the world situation, but the music is still quite poppy and happy. The lyrical content took the dark turn, but I think it was hard not to. The things were sort of turning upside down and we didn’t really know what was going to happen… We wrote songs from the point of view of characters that were living in that world and – I’m sure – dealing with that issues. So yeah, it’s certainly a little bit darker. There’s still some hope in there, though.
Tom: Yeah, ultimately, we’re a hopeful band because it’s very easy to be cynical with all those things that are happening – the bigger things and also that in our little world around. We really enjoy that opposition in happy songs with sad lyrics or vice versa. That’s a very interesting mix.
interview by: Agata Hudomięt & Krzysztof Sarosiek
Find more interviews from Off Festival (and more) in our “English” section.