There's something in the water down under, as Australia's underground music scene continues to dish out out exciting, vibrant new music from each of its sprawling corners. Adelaide alt.rockers West Thebarton are the latest to export their racket to international lands, channelling the sounds of 90s punk rock, post-hardcore and "real Aussie straight-from-the-gut rock".
We catch up with guitarists Brian and J. Healey to find out more about the band, their music and where they're headed next.
Can you introduce yourselves – where are you from, who does what and what are your roles in the band?
Brian: "My name’s Brian and I like to play a little bit of everything. Percussion, guitar and sometimes I sing a bit. To round off the rhythm section, Caitlin’s on skins, Nick’s on bass and Healey chugs on guitar. Tom and JB do most of the lead guitar work. Then we’ve got Ray who occasionally busts out a solo but, for the most part, jumps around a lot and screams louder than the whole band."
How did you guys meet and start making music together?
Brian: "We linked up when everyone started bumping into each other at the pub and local shows. We’ve got a smaller music community here in Adelaide so you tend to notice the same people rocking up to gigs pretty quickly."
What were your key influences/inspirations in getting the band together?
Brian: "Modern guitar acts were the ones for us. Bands like Ty Segall, Wavves and Thee Oh Sees. That’s all we wanted to do straight off the bat. Whilst we’re all still big fans of those acts, the new record tips its hat to Australian sounds both old and new."
How would you describe your sound in three words for people who’ve never heard you?
Brian: "Loud, proud, powerful."
What makes you special/different to other bands out there?
Brian: "We’ve got a wingspan of guitars larger than the wandering albatross and the only Reverend worth listening to in the 21st century."
What’s the story behind the new album Different Beings Being Different?
Brian: "We’ve written these songs over a few years and sit on a wide spectrum of sounds and flavours.
We tracked it with our good friend Dylan Adams here in Adelaide over summer and the guy helped us push out these raw performances which really embody the band. The record’s a timestamp of seven different people coming together and, with eleven songs, forged its own identity. It’s one of the things I’m most proud of."
How did you approach writing the album and how did it come together?
J. Healey: "The album was a collection of songs written mostly after our AA side 7” released in late 2016. We had a few band member changes prior to the release of said 7”, therefore this was the first time we really got together and worked on ideas we had collated from our own personal writing. We, as a band work best where the skeleton of a song has been written, so all of us can add our own parts. From there we essentially rehearse, consistently adding and changing what works and what doesn’t. We recorded our first single Moving Out and album track Gough a few months prior to the tracking of the actual record. The single recording sessions were the first time we worked with Dylan Adams (DMAs, Skeggs) and from our first session, we knew that Dylan was the man for the job. As individuals, as a band, we all grew together and learned so much from him and each other. We flew Dylan down to Adelaide for the recording sessions, spending seven or eight days living out of each other’s pockets (we already do anyway!) producing the record that we have today. We toured Sydney in the coming months post-recording, and jumped into his home studio for a few hours here and there to add final touches."
What’s your favourite story/anecdote from recording the album?
J. Healey: "I spilled half a litre of banana milk in the back seat of Tom’s recently purchased Subaru Forester. We were listening to community radio one day and this music show was on where prison inmates request songs for their lovers, presumably outside, waiting for them. We’d listened to a bunch of Slayer, Metallica and Creedence Clearwater Revival whilst the radio presenter read out inmates love letters to their partners. West Thebarton started playing… we thought some hardened prison inmate dedicated one of our tracks to his lover on the outside, the milk went everywhere. Turned out the show had finished."
What, in your opinion, is the stand out track on the album?
J. Healey: "Set It Straight is my personal stand out track on the album. Our previous releases and other tracks on the record revolved mainly around high intense, balls-to-the-wall rock. To have a track that contrasts our other works, I hope, confirms the versatility of the band. The instrumentation of Set It Straight is a component we worked on very closely, utilising almost every amp and speaker in the studio, finding the perfect tone most suited the track. Our good friend Paige Court also jumped in for subtle vocal overdubs throughout the song. The track is very Australian, which I will always admire."
What do you hope people will take away from the album and your music in general?
J. Healey: "I hope that anyone who listens to this album relates to it in some way. We discuss a lot of different topics and expressed many different emotions on this album, whether it be recognising and relating to the coming of age ideas of Moving Out, or connecting on a personal level to songs such as Reasons or Do You Believe, where we deal with topics such as mental illness or how dealing with grief has affected us or close family members. There is so much more to what we convey in our music than the music itself, therefore I look forward to people hearing, examining and sharing what they believe the track means to them. I personally believe that one of the best things about music is the fact that any given track can be interpreted in so many different ways, allowing the listener to connect on a personal level. I really hope that anyone who listens to this record connects with it in some way that makes it personal for them. The name Different Beings Being Different truly reflects the message we wanted to convey on this record."
What's been the highlight of your time in the band so far?
J. Healey: "The local, sweaty, packed shows are the highlight of my time in West Thebarton. A lot of exciting and amazing things have happened to West Theb recently, but when I think about it, I keep going back to the local Adelaide shows, fitting as many people as possible in a small room and just going for it. We are yet to play a show post-album release, so I think the whole dynamic of our live performance will change from this point onwards because we are going to have a crowd who (hopefully) know our songs better and make our shows crazier than they ever were."
What can people expect if they come to see you live?
J. Healey: "You’ll be having a blast at our show, because we're having a blast too."
What are you most looking forward to about the future – what’s coming next?
J. Healey: "Well, Europe is something I can safely say we are all extremely excited about, and looking forward to the most. I personally haven’t been to Europe before, so the whole time we are over there is going to be a brand new experience for me. The festivals we are performing are huge bucket list experiences for all of us! I remember watching Reading/Leeds and Pukkelpop videos of bands I grew up listening to over the years, thinking that it would be cool to attend the festival, let alone perform! We are all very grateful for the opportunity; it is something that will stick with us forever."