Blast From the Past: Eddy Current Suppression Ring
This originally ran in MRR #296/Jan ’08, which you can grab here.
Even in this modern age, it took about a year after their first LP was released for word about Eddy Current Suppression Ring to really hit the shores of the North America and Europe. They’re a band Aussies clamor about, throwing around heavy comparisons like X (the Australian band), the Victims, the Scientists, the Saints. By the time those in the Northern Hemisphere caught on, Eddy Current Suppression Ring’s early singles had gone out of print and their debut LP on Dropkick Records was scarce…until a repressing allowed the rest of us to catch up and judge the merit of the hype. The album lived up to the “You gotta hear this” noise and was followed by a heavily anticipated US tour. And by all accounts, the Australians delivered the goods. Great live band to match the excellent records. No doubt their album will make a number of Top Ten lists for 2007 and eyes and ears will be focused on what’s coming next from Eddy Current Suppression Ring.
This interview took place with the singer, Brendan Huntley, at a taqueria in the Mission District, just hours before he was due to return to Australia. Brendan returned to San Francisco for a few days of R’n’R after the short US tour. Hopefully they’ll be back again soon. Interview by Mark Murrmann, with Mitch Cardwell, Dulcinea, and Stacie and Rich from Dropkick Records.
MRR: So why did you abandon your band in America?
Brendan: I just wanted to spend a bit more time away from home.
MRR: And how was your time here in the States? Was it everything you thought it’d be?
Brendan: More. I thought it’d be good, but I wasn’t sure how people would take to us, as a band. And it was fantastic. Everyone was pretty friendly, hospitable. That’s been nice.
MRR: Are you planning on coming back?
MRR: What was the best show, your favorite place you played?
Brendan: For me, the San Francisco show was the best. It felt like Melbourne, but a real quiet version. Because there weren’t as many people there when we played. Playing with The Oh Sees and Kelly Stoltz was rad. That and playing with the A-Frames at Emo’s was pretty top-notch. They were great. And I liked Goner Fest. It was the biggest audience and everyone was just happy to be there. So that was a lot of fun too. They were all fun in their own little ways, really. Seriously. And actually, DC…I’m going to keep rambling…they were all great.
MRR: What about DC?
Brendan: It was at this place called the Velvet Lounge and it was on a Tuesday night. And the other band just got together, they were made up for the night, just to have a gig. A bunch of people came because Mikey’s [ECSR guitarist] girlfriend lives there and she invited them. Everyone was getting drunk and having fun. For a Tuesday night, everyone was pissed. When I say pissed I mean drunk; they were just having a good time.
MRR: Having just moved from DC, I’m sure they probably appreciated having a good show in that city.
Brendan: Yeah, could be. It was a really good night, that one.
MRR: So Goner Fest. A lot of people were there. Were you well received? It was kind of billed as the pinnacle of the tour.
Brendan: Well, because it was a festival and the last show for the tour was the reason it was the pinnacle. New York with the Pissed Jeans was fun too…everywhere was fun, all right? That’s my answer. But Goner Fest, everyone was happy. There weren’t any jerks there. Everyone was there to party and just see some bands play. It was cool.
MRR: Real basic question—how long have you guys been around?
Brendan: About three years. I guess it was 2003. We played our first gig in 2004. We played two gigs then, one in September, one in October. We stopped for a few months because Mikey went away. Then we started gigging pretty constantly in 2005.
MRR: So have you guys built up a fair following in Australia?
Brendan: Well, it’s a nice crowd.
Dulcinea: You were saying you get about 400 people at a show.
Brendan: On a good show, yeah.
MRR: There are a lot of people at that show of you guys on YouTube. But when I saw that clip, the first I thought is, why did you decide to wear gloves when you play live?
Brendan: When we first started making music, we didn’t really plan to play shows, at least I didn’t. We kept writing more songs and having a lot fun. We had enough for a set and Danny and the rest of the band decided we should play a show just for our friends because we already had the 7″ pressed. So they talked me into playing a show and I decided I had to do something for confidence. In primary school I had to do a speech in class. I couldn’t handle it and my legs would wobble. I just couldn’t do speeches very well. The teacher recommended that I use a pointing stick to gain confidence so the gloves come from that idea. It’s like Superman’s costume—it’s my cape.
MRR: So when you guys started the band, you just wanted to play music and fuck around, and you put out a 7″ before you ever played a show?
Brendan: The band started at a Christmas party at Corduroy Records. I’d been working there for about a year just sweeping the floors and pressing records. I was mates with Danny through art and whilst hanging with Danny I became friends with Mikey. Mikey got me the job down there as he was managing the factory and I needed a job. I’d never had too much to do with music before that. I knew what I liked in my subconscious but had no idea that much good stuff existed. So those guys really schooled me on good tunes. Corduroy Records always had equipment down there. Everyone from the party had gone home and Danny and Mike, the brothers, were messing around on the instruments.
Rich: That’s a really common thing at Corduroy. The main room has recording equipment set up all the time. Lot of bands cut live to acetate singles in this room. They have a stage and multiple guitars. It was nothing for someone to just jam there.
Brendan: Everybody did it.
Mitch: You guys don’t have one of those lathe cutters do you? Do you know what I’m talking about?
Brendan: They have a cutter there but we’ve never recorded live to acetate, not us.
MRR: Any plans to do one?
Brendan: Corduroy’s not a record pressing plant anymore. So when the factory was bought out, the live-to-acetate was never a thing the new owners set back up.
Rich: Although, the place that you guys practice is the cutting room so you could do it there. The Ooga Boogas recorded all of their stuff there.
Brendan: Yeah, but not live to acetate.
Rich: The only thing we would need to do is get Harry in there to get the acetate machine rolling while your practicing.
Brendan: Yeah, that’s a good idea—I’ve wanted to do it.
Rich: Honestly, the novelty has worn off which is why less bands are doing it.
Brendan: Yeah, maybe the novelty has worn off. But I’d still like to do it. Anyway, we got together when those boys were playing their instruments. Danny was banging away on the drums and Mikey on the keyboard with the guitar over his shoulder and it was sounding fun. I had just been dumped by my girlfriend and I was still quite sad about it. I started raving thoughts off the top of my head, just words, sort of free from the mind. Mikey saw that I was singing and the microphone wasn’t working so he got me so that I was singing into the built-in microphone on an old tape deck and hit record. We were having a good time and then we had to get going because our friend that was giving us a lift home wanted to go and eat. She held up a sign saying, “I want to leave” so we stopped it at the end of that song which became “So Many Things”—the B-side of the first 7”. We left it at that. We listened to it on the way home and thought it was hilarious. I had fun getting all my thoughts off my mind. After that I couldn’t stop writing lyrics, so I asked Mikey and Danny if we could do it again and they were keen. We got Brad—a.k.a. Rob Solid—to play bass and wrote a couple more songs. Nick Phillips, the boss of Corduroy Records and the singer of garage rock ’n’ roll band Shutdown 66, was one of the first people to hear “So Many Things.” He would play it over and over again down there in his little office. I also remember Rich coming down whilst it was playing. I didn’t know him too well, ’cos he was quiet and never talked to me. I’d say, “Hey Richard,” and he’d say, “Hey mate.” That’s it. I remember he said it was good and I thought, “Cool, someone else thinks this is good.” Our friends thought it was funny too. Nick at Corduroy ended up releasing a 7” record with the three songs, “Get Up Morning,” “You Don’t Care,” and “So Many Things.” By then, I just thought I would give it to that girl that dumped me and say “Ha!” I wanted to keep making more though. Eventually, when we played live, it wasn’t as scary as I thought.
MRR: This is your first band ever?
Brendan: Yeah, I’m not a musician.
Rich: Funnily though, Danny and Mikey have been playing in bands together since they were kids. Brad’s also been in bands with those guys over the years.
Brendan: We all grew up in the same suburb. I didn’t meet those guys til later. Brad has sung and played guitar in everything from thrash metal to soul. Danny was into hardcore and just about everything else. Mikey has messed around a lot with lots of great instrumental solo stuff. He’s into a lot of different music. We all are. They’ve always done something with music.
Rich: It’s weird how they’ve gone and done tons of bands each and then come back together as friends.
Brendan: It was a group of mates, basically. We all felt comfortable around each other so we kept doing it.
MRR: I think the best music happens that way—people just making music for the fuck of it. How long did it take to make the album after the single came out? How did that come about?
Brendan: We pressed the first 7″ around March of 2004 and then we made another single with the songs “It’s All Square” and “Precious Rose.” We did the third single as a split with Straightjacket Nation. By that time we thought, “Let’s record all the songs and then put it out.” So we re-recorded everything except for “So Many Things” and “You Don’t Care.” We did it one day—we went down to Caulfield rehearsal studios with Mikey’s equipment. Mikey is a whiz with setting things up. He set it all up in the carpeted room and we went in the night before recording and got the sounds right. The next day we started recording at 11:00 AM and finished at 3:00 PM.
MRR: 15 songs in four hours?
Brendan: Yeah, because Brad had to go to a barbeque and I think maybe Danny had to go to work or something like that. We had to get it done. Two of the songs we recorded didn’t make it on the album.
MRR: Is this an Australian tradition, like the X Aspirations LP that they recorded in seven hours?
Brendan: Is it? I never knew that.
MRR: You’re carrying on a tradition! Does it annoy you when people, especially in the States, compare you to Australia’s X since you don’t really sound like them?
Brendan: No, I like it because I love X.
Rich: It’s actually something that I said originally, that’s probably where people picked up on it.
MRR: Well it got people’s attention.
Rich: My favorite Eddy Current song is “It’s All Square,” and when I hear it I think it has an X feel. I don’t actually think they sound like X or the Victims or the Easybeats or the Scientists…
Dulcinea: But they have that feel to them.
Brendan: Maybe the vibe.
MRR: To me, I think you don’t sound like very many other bands right now, which I think is good and why people like it. But if I had to peg the sound, I think it sounds somewhere in between FM Knives and Ivy Green.
Rich: I’ve discussed all this with Mikey and his favorite bands in terms of when Eddy Current started are The Monks, The Troggs, and Devo, and if you think about that…
MRR: That makes sense—stripped-down kind of simple sounds.
Rich: Yeah, really simple and sparse. But the people who are into the weird music think they sound like a garage punk band and straight-up garage kids think they’re too weird. They don’t fit into anybody’s idea.
Dulcinea: I think it’s weird because when I watched you, I got that Aussie vibe that I figured might be the way it would have been via X or The Saints or something like that, but it wasn’t overt. It was kind of a quiet like “Holy Shit!”
Rich: Just because it’s like these nonchalant, laid-back guys on stage.
MRR: I think it has a laid-back presence but the music is so intense. That’s how I always imagined X. The music is just like getting hit by a train.
Brendan: I reckon the reason we can’t be pigeonholed has something to do with the way the songs are written. There’s a mixture of sound and variety of styles and maybe that’s why people have a good time at the shows too.
Dulcinea: The guitar sound is insane. I told him last night that it sounds like there’s buried mosquitoes stuck in his guitar.
Rich: That has to do with his Goldentone amp. They sound really good if you get one that is in nice condition. When Mikey got his Goldentone…the whole sound is built on that style. He made the bass player get one too. It’s got a nice hum to it—it’s warm.
MRR: Do you have any more records coming out soon?
Brendan: In July, before we left for tour, we recorded 19 songs over a weekend. We don’t know who is going to put it out.
MRR: Are you guys going to work with any Stateside labels?
Brendan: There’s been interest but I don’t really get into those kinds of conversations. There’s a label called White Denim that is run by the singer of Pissed Jeans. He’s releasing a two-song 7″. His band-mate Brad is helping co-release it—Metropolitan Recluse is his label. It was supposed to be ready for the US tour but the record pressing plant could only get us test pressings. [Ed. Note: This 7″ came out in Oct. 2007, limited to 351 copies]
MRR: Have you toured Australia?
Brendan: We’ve done a bit of touring, but nothing grueling. We’ve been as far as Perth but we’ve only done weekend trips where we’ll play three shows. We keep it pretty chill—this US tour was the longest trip we’ve done.
MRR: So how did you find touring the States versus touring Australia?
Brendan: Well in the States, everything was new. We were playing to new audiences and trying to win them over. It’s exciting. We’ve played to new crowds in Perth but this was a new country, new faces, new venues to play.
MRR: Have you eaten a lot of fast food while you’re here on tour? What’s your favorite place?
Brendan: We’ve had lots of fast food. This place is all right [a sit-down Mexican restaurant in the Mission District]. We went to a good hamburger place in Memphis. It’s run by this old grandma and she brought out chips and cheap, beautiful hamburgers. That was one of my favorites. It had a good atmosphere. We weren’t allowed to cuss or swear because we were told we might be kicked out for that. There’s been some great healthy vegetarian restaurants. But the best joint was in a place called Lockheart. Just out of Austin. It was a barbeque beef restaurant. It was over 75 years old and the walls were black with smoke. The meat was real tasty. The atmosphere was just magic. Like something out of a movie.
MRR: Did you do any record shopping?
Brendan: I did more record shopping than ever. It’s cheaper and if you want something it’s there. It doesn’t feel that way back home, but here it’s been a goldmine. If I had more money and a bigger bag, I would have bought more.
MRR: Do you think you guys are going to get big?
Brendan: Not big, I think we’ll cruise along at the nice pace we’re at for now. I was talking with Richard the other day about how you have your time and you have to ride it for whatever it is and not expect anything because if your expectations don’t happen, then you get down. Also, we are at a nice little pace right now because it’s manageable. Being big could get scary and I don’t wanna get like that.
Rich: You’d end up playing festival circuits and not having jobs only the band…
Brendan: It would take away the spirit—we’d have nothing to write about. We got asked to play a big festival on New Year’s and we said no because we just wanted to chill out and have a good party.
Rich: Rolling Stone had some publicist get in touch with the band. They wanted Brendan to go to an Internet café on tour and answer some questions on a computer—obviously they don’t know this guy. He didn’t get ’round to it. So they put a photo in and took some answers from an old interview they’d done with another magazine.
MRR: Are bigger music magazines in Australia picking up on you guys or bugging you at all? Rolling Stone has gotten in touch with you…
Brendan: Yeah, that would be the biggest.
Rich: Being in Rolling Stone would mean two dozen more kids in the suburbs might read about you and pick up your CD. It doesn’t really change anything.
Brendan: Being in a smaller magazine might be more important. Definitely. As far as the manageableness, you gotta take it one step at a time and not jump into things. It’s like a baby learning how to walk. If you all of a sudden become an adult one day, it might not be as fun. Learning how to walk is the best part. But then you die and move on and have another life.
MRR: It doesn’t seem like it’s in the realm of impossibility for you guys personally. Not that you’re aiming for it but with the sound that you have and the interest, I can see it happening—good or bad.
Brendan: I guess everything has sort of surprised me and at the same time hasn’t. It’s like “cool, we get to play a festival” and everything has been great.
MRR: I think you have the right attitude.
Brendan: You gotta do it that way or else it goes to your head and you turn into a jerk. I don’t want to be a jerk.
MRR: Thanks for the interview.
Brendan: You get to edit it so don’t make me look like an idiot.
Rich: You might have done a good job yourself.
Brendan: Make me look smart—put some intelligent words in there for me.