What I Do Is Little of My Own Business (An Interview with Soot)

When hearing Soot, conservative ears may feel like they might have in 1977 when stumbling upon, say, the Sex Pistols, or in 1956 when hearing Cecil Taylor. “What the hell is this racket?” they will grumble. Or maybe they’ll just shrug, impatient to clean their eardrums with some mild goth-punk. An exaggeration? Yeah, right. If I had a dollar every time someone tells me this or that band is “good” because they’re “proficient technicians,” I’d be chilling in a bathtub full of cash by now. What does it even mean, to play proficiently? All I can say is that to these ears, Soot from Brisbane, Australia, are doing this whole music thing right, so if you’re looking for some kind of truth, forget about power chords, and try their cassette on Eternal Soundcheck. Ten tracks of free, nonchalant, playful anti-punk, like The Shaggs if they were featured on both No New York and Yes L.A., or maybe the laid-back, post-punk answer to the falling apart hardcore of that Mozart 7″ on Iron Lung. I asked Tia (drums/vocals/bass), and she was kind enough to answer in a heartbeat.

Hearing your music, it’s hard not to think of a more post-punk/free-punk version of The Shaggs. How long you have been playing for as individuals? Is your cassette a studied attempt to do something “Shaggs-like,” or the result of playing how you can & feel?
We did listen to the Shaggs a lot at the time. Riley would write proper parts and I’d try my hardest to get them right but never really did. Soot is almost two years old so I’ve been playing that long. James and Riley play in another band together, which is eight years old or something… I think it was more a studied/failed attempt to be Beefheart. We enjoy a fibrous diet.

Photo by Marek Rygielsk

Do you listen to free jazz? Something in Soot reminds me of the free jazz tracks by the electric eels. Also of Finally Punk, The Godz, or even a punk version of something like The Shadow Ring. But I bet you’re gonna say those aren’t influences at all…
I only know the Shadow Ring out of those, so you’re right in that you’re wrong… We love free jazz. Riley said to me once that straight jazz makes her lunch come up. I love improvisation more than structure, but I wasn’t comfortable with it yet when we made Pockmarked. The moment passes and I begin to feel insincere repeating myself. Better a yelp or a sqwauck than a rehearsal. But not always… Influenzas at th’ time of making that tape… My rotation was heavy on FF061116 by Housewives and Pharoah Sanders, Ornette Coleman, Art Ensemble of Chicago… Ascension LP with Tony Irving… As well as B**fh*art. And lots of the Pastels. I love spiritual jazz. Alice Coltrane is the best who ever lived. World Galaxy and Divine Songs forever. We’re just banging on compared to her. Someone on my Twitter feed once said something like “the only actual imperative we have as humans is to make jazz.” 2 real. Riley, who’s pretending to have nothing to say, said “Free jazz is the opium of the people.”

I’m trying to understand what you had in mind at the start. Did you agree to start a band that sounded like this or that? Or did you just want to get together and see what would happen?
I think Riley (pop star) wanted to experiment more (than she did in her pop band at the time), so she sent me a text. I think it helped that I lived in a great big attic where mum didn’t care how loud we were. I hadn’t really left the house in two years, so I was up for anything. Actually we started Soot as a zine before it was a band. We agreed that our visions were very alike and to trust each other’s instincts… Then James came over with a trumpet and it felt right. We just wanted to sound energetic and maybe a bit like this or that while we were finding our feet, Hagar the Womb or C’p’n or whatever… Riley’s got a better memory than me.

Photo by Glen Schenau

How long did it take to release the album?
We were pretty quick to release that first cassette because we just wanted to get it out and I didn’t think I’d get another chance. Less than a year?

How do people react when you play live?
What I do is little of my own business.

What about your daily lives? Would you say Brisbane’s a nice city to live in? What would you tell me to do if I was a foreigner about to spend two days there?
Brisbane can be pretty stale. It’s boiling hot and it makes people dull. Queensland is a super conservative state. It’s super white, super insular. Heavy drinking and addiction is pretty normalized, so I struggle a lot here, though I’m not sure I could live anywhere else forever. Like anywhere probably, it’s cool if you put some effort in.
The GOMA Cinematheque is the best in the world. It’s expensive to play in venues, nobody interesting seems to have any money, so everyone puts on shows in their houses every other weekend. There aren’t as many shows as in Melbourne or Sydney but I’m thankful for that, I’d burn out in those places. Go swimming in the Enoggerra reservoir. The city’s music scene is pretty gross and superficial and focused on sucking the artists fervor out and turning it into money matters. I’m not bitter… Or at not least jaded-bitter… The bitterness makes me boil, it’s good, I like it. Probably the same everywhere. What’s Paris like?

In Nagoya

I’ve been living in Lyon for a while, but used to live in Paris. I left because it was too expensive and stressful, but music-wise there are lots of shows, even if they’re probably more “superficial” than in smaller cities. Anything else about Brisbane?
My favorite record store here is Phase 4. At night I think about a record I wish I had and when I go in the next day it’s always there. Donat and Julie are magicians. They put on regular shows there, too. I prefer not to support the bar scene where possible.
Often we go to the Annerly drains. Our house/bandmate/husband Tim Green (he plays in Mystic Fire with Riley and I) puts on noise shows in the drains and they are always surreal. Look out for the snake and don’t fall in.

What does your band name mean?
It’s what’s in th’ skin of our teeth.

Tell us about Eternal Soundcheck. Does it help to be featured on a label Bandcamp/website instead of self-releasing everything?
Money matters… Gotta make a nonliving somehow… Matt Kennedy of Kitchen’s Floor and Meat Thump non-fame and more recently Brick Brick and Sorry Golden State runs Eternal Soundcheck. He lives down the road from us. He said he puts out what he likes and they’re by his friends. There’s a boring answer from old Matt.
We can’t afford to self-release but it’s a dream of ours, we’re putting on an art show at our favourite ARI, Dumb Dumb, in November with our ceramics and paintings to fundraise for recording/pressing to self-release a 7″ hopefully by the end of the year.

If you had to choose one movie that would be the cinematic equivalent of Soot, what would it be?
The high-brow or lo-brow answer… Sade music video VHS (what I was)… The Angelic Conversation by Derek Jarman (what I think i am)… Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer (what I am)… Royal Trux movie (what I wish to be). We’re making a Soot movie soon so that will be…
(Afterthought : I don’t know what I was thinking in writing that, the Sade music video VHS is the ultimate unattainable, Soot can try but could never… A thoughtless answer… Meet me IRL and I’ll vacuum my body in thru my mouth.)

Favorite OZ bands, past and current?
RIP: Cured Pink, Bent, Go-B’s, Sydney2000, Girls Girls Girls, Clag, Sex Tourists, Maestros & Dipsos, Sky Needle…
Future: Scraps, xNoBBQx, Irena Xero, Kitchens Floor, Goon Sax, Terrorist, Ditchdog, Pious Faults, OV Pain, Centre Negative, Tim Green, The Garbage and The Flowers, Snake and Friends, Drunk Elk, Native Cats, Russell St Bombings, Cannon, Placeholder, ™, Unwar, Fabulous Diamonds, Blank Realm… I’ve definitely missed a bunch.

Any last word?
Uh.. gimmme th m’fffc’n mic… Hate fear is an impotence…