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About a Million Words: Peabody

On this installment of our highly respected About a Million Words series [Episode One with Unknown Mortal Orchestra here] we didn't need to add in too much Multimedia, as there literally is ONE MILLION WORDS exchanged during this interview. Figuratively? Nah, mate literally.

Big thanks to Bruno Brayovic from legendary Sydney band Peabody for providing approx 0.6 million of them, and Big Ups to us for writing some of the most long-winded, confusing, contradictory questions ever penned and shot across the galaxy/Sydney via Electronic Mailing Services Pty Ltd.

Let's not mess around here. This fucking carbon tax, right?

Err... I'm not sure if you're asking me to comment on it, but I'm going to anyway. The carbon tax is a lot like gay marriage — ie: why are we even discussing it? I think people have to realise that the good times are over and that it's time to pay up. People in Europe are realising that right now. We are an overpopulated, over-polluted planet with food shortages, living on an economy made of monopoly money - something's gotta give and I figure a tax on carbon is not even going to touch the sides when we're living on the set of Mad Max in a few years. Have a shorter shower, don't drive to work once a week, put a jumper on instead of turning the heater on and there's your carbon tax paid for.

Less political, but just as important, was you latest album Loose Manifesto really recorded on the same 8-track that Nirvana used to record their debut album Bleach? If so, how long did it take Tim Kevin [producer and owner of the tape machine] to convince you guys that it was the real deal? Do you still suspect it was just his producer attempt to get you "into the zone"?

We're not in the business of verifying outrageous claims made by Tim Kevin. He once told us he shot down an F16 Fighter Jet flying over Marrickville cos it was getting in the way of recording Toby Martin's delicate vocals. Who are we to dispute that? Do you see any F16 Fighter Jets flying over Marrickville? Do Toby Martin's vocals sound as pure as cupcakes? I think the answers to those questions speak for themselves. As for Nirvana's 8-track, the biggest rort regarding that is that Jack Endino charged Nirvana $672 to record Bleach on it, and somehow we end up with a bill in the thousands. There's a fucking tax for you. The Nirvana Tax imposed by Treasurer Tim Kevin.

Can you explain what you mean when you said that Loose Manifesto "ridicules the meaninglessness of the modern world"..?

Maybe. We have spoken/written ad-nauseum about this, much to the chagrin/delight of fans, non-fans, reviewers, music website trawlers etc. The last song on the record sums it up. When you think about it, life is pretty absurd. Stuff only has the importance you place on it and everything is as inconsequential as you want it to be so just draw your own boundaries and try not to overstep other people's boundaries and be happy...or be unhappy...see, it's a joke. That's what we were trying to get across.

Thanks very much for publishing my Loose Manifesto review/travel diary/brain dump under the 'press' section of your website. In general, how has the record been received? Did many of the comments/reviews surprise you?

That's ok. It was a thoughtful review. The response to the album has been quite entertaining. People are loving this album, and people are hating this album.

There were some amazingly good reviews from people like Bernard Zuel (Sydney Morning Herald) and a few other funny ones (my favourite quotes are "an exceptional collection of songs structured to leave you vaguely reeling. Go with it." from the Wax Conspiracy and "The album starts with a song about the end of the world and doesn't get any cheerier. When it isn't wallowing in a barren drone, it's dredging up its own disaffected bile" from J-Mag. It also got some scathing reviews.

That reviewer (the one who gave us the right-royal panning) had a problem with the title because a manifesto cannot be 'loose' by definition..... um...yeah and Definitely Maybe is also a contradiction so you should probably tell Oasis. And while you're at it, give Robert Plant a call to let him know that there is no such thing as a stairway that leads to heaven (heaven being something which may not even exist).... and don't forget to inform Don Henley that there is no such hotel from which you can check out, but not leave.

Anyway, we tried something. We might, or might not have failed. It was slightly surprising to have riled some people so much, but once we realised we had, we went with it and proceeded to entertain ourselves by pissing people off. You've gotta keep pissing people off, otherwise you lose your touch and end up making a polite album which everyone likes.

Continuing on from the response to Loose Manifesto, famous music critic Bernard Zuel said that "if there is any justice, you should see this album on the Australian Music Prize shortlist". Are you disappointed that you guys never received a nomination for the record? Obviously it's not a determining factor in why you make music, but the Australian Music Prize still seems to be a reputable and respected [and worthwhile with the big money associated] music prize. Not only in direction comparision to the joke that the ARIAs, but also given the past winners — The Drones, The Mess Hall, Eddy Current Suppression Ring (overlooking Lisa Mitchell, obviously). More broadly speaking (and loosely tying all this together), what's your view on the local industry's sustainability? More specifically, how it acknowledges and supports those making genuinely interesting music?

Whoa...let's take this step at a time. Were we disappointed? Slightly, but only because we thought that comment from Zuel gave us a slight chance. Slight chance = slight disappointment. But really, it was never going to happen. I was overseas for the announcement but Ben and Jared got pissed at 1pm courtesy of the fine people at the Australian Music Prize and associated sponsors.

As for "local industry's sustainability and how it acknowledges and supports those making genuinely interesting music"...fuck...I dunno. I feel so out of touch answering that sort of question. The landscape has changed so much and to some extent, we as a band are quite removed from that — not so much by choice, but by default.

From an old bastard's point of view, it looks like there is plenty of grass-roots support for local artists in the form of genuine fans of small, local bands, but I'm not sure about industry support. It seems like industry support is more fickle these days and that if you're not shifting digital or physical units or getting heads through the door, then you're outta here. But I guess that has always been the case in one way or another.

What a lack of genuine industry support can do and has done, is galvanise artists and fans (although not as much as I'd like to see) and that's where you start to see things like warehouse venues and self-made scenes. But I guess if you're talking about propping up artists with funding, programs and projects or mentoring, then I think it's the same as it's always been...piss-poor. It's such a sad, boring, stale tale. Support for the arts is not where it should be blah blah blah. I think artists should also take some responsibility and create an environment which makes it difficult to ignore the arts, by working together and not competing as much (see my artists galvanising comment). It's not sport.

Incidentally, apparently that Lisa Mitchell album is quite good. Haven't heard it myself...but just sayin'.

How was the process different with the new record, releasing it on your own label? A positive experience having a greater sense of control? Or did you miss the backing/push from a more established entity?

Everything went really smoothly because we were running it. This is certainly not a slight on our old label Nonzero, but the truth is that for various reasons (some of them our own fault), our last album Prospero was released under a cloud of calamity and it did nothing in terms of building up any groundswell of support. This time, after arranging and paying for the recording, mixing and mastering we dealt directly with the manufacturer, distributor, publicist and bookers (again, not necessarily by choice) and although it was hard work, it proved to be a lot more cohesive.

I've forced myself to cut this seven part question down to just two parts; a) are you disappointed that Peabody didn't get any inclusions in Triple J's recently conducted Hottest 100 Australian Albums countdown? and; b) how do you see Triple J's current role in the local music industry? (I know, a can of worms could explode there)

a) No. There were lots of shit albums on that list, but I think I own at least 100 Australian albums I consider to be better than any of ours.

b) Triple J has branded itself well as some sort of leader in the field, but I see them as having more of a reactionary role. Chicken, egg, anyone? Triple J does a good job in a lot of respects but it is too focused on being an aural version of NME and its scope is so narrow that it doesn't leave a lot of room for diversity. Also, some of their announcers think they are pop stars.

(Kinda) leading on from that previous question, and with your recently acquired "legend" status within the local music "scene", how have you seen the music industry, more specifically, the local music industry change in the last decade? Is it all doom and gloom (venues closing down, Justin Hemmes buying Surry Hills etc) or do you see some light at the end of the trombone?

I don't think it's doom and gloom at all. Again, I reiterate that artists have to take some responsibility for creating an environment that takes up genuine room in a city's/country's cultural landscape. And I think there is more of that going on now than there ever has before.

In terms of how things have changed, it seems that there is more scope and possibility than ever for unknown bands to make some inroads into the skulls of the mob, thanks to social networking, word of mouth from a more informed and interested youth than in previous generations, support for alternative forms of media and importantly, a multi-platform approach to the making of, listening to and performance of music.

What I mean by that is that the biggest breakthrough for bands and musicians is that there is now a plethora of opportunities to perform, record and be heard. Artists are increasingly recording in make-shift home studios, thanks to musicians taking a more interested and active role in recording and mixing (see Liam Judson from Belles Will Ring, Jon Hunter from the Holy Soul, not to mention me. My demos are awesome), and in addition, music is being used in more contexts than ever before. Bands/artists and songs are now associated with brands, blogs, TV shows, movies, ring-tones, websites, other bands. Thanks to the user-friendly interactivity of Web two-point-something, sharing music is common-place. Embedding a video clip into the entertainment section of a newspaper's website or song-sharing via social media is huge. Someone puts up some video/audio of a band on Facebook and hundreds and eventually thousands upon thousands of people hear it and see it. I found out about The Mice this way, only 2 days ago.

Then you've got the physical technology of listening to music. You can't swing a cat without hitting some clown with their iPhone or iPod or MP3 player these days. People are no longer merely listening by, turning on their CD players or record players or radios in their homes and cars. Everything plays music these days. Your mum plays music!

I know I'm not sprouting anything new here, but I'm just saying that in relation to yesteryear, there are countless more ways to make, hear, see, perform, share and find out about music than every before. I know this isn't specific to our local scene, but you can't ignore it when it dictates to a large degree, what local bands are about. That is, the local scene/venue is in many ways secondary to the other shite I've been talking about. It's still important, but the local scene is now globalised and has been bypassed in many aspects. We used to hand out flyers outside venues about gigs. I realise some people still do that, but it used to be incessant. This is no longer needed (or not needed as much).

Some may see all of this as a bad thing in terms of turning music into a commodity or into something cheap...but personally, I'm going with it. Music's always been cheap.

Is there any truth to the rumour you'll be adding a brass section to the band?

Nope. We got rid of one after our first album. Our old drummer Graeme Trewin dubbed them 'The Charisma Injection'. We thought Peabody & The Charisma Injection" had a nice ring to it. Remember when Spiderbait had a brass section? That was good.

What's the future plans for Peabody? New album in the works? Overseas holiday/tour? Kids? Peabody Junior?

Peabody is the brain that never dies. Having said that, I am moving to France in January 2012 and am going to be there for a year, so Peabody will be taking its first hiatus in 17 years from January 2012 to January 2013. You read it hear first. Up until then, however, there will be gigs and other good times.

Ok, say you were to all have sons (or, I guess, daughters, as females have been known to occasionally rock, although less likely to), would you encourage them to form a band and/or venture into the music industry? If so, would you encourage them to play music together? If so, would you encourage them to play cover versions of your songs? If so, and they're versions were superior would you re-write history, buy their songs (or steal them) and then re-release your albums with their recorded material? You made them — the songs and the children — and possession is 7/8th of the law, right?

I could not disagree with you more on the "females are less likely to rock" assertion, but we'll leave that argument for another time. I hope Sarah Kelly stabs you with a butter-knife.

I have a strong policy of not talking about wives, husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends, sons or daughters, but I do like where you're heading with the whole "make your own people and get them to remake the music you've already made" vibe. Very Human 2.0. I imagine by that stage The Singularity would have arrived and we'll all be slaves to robots anyway. So, yes,....why not.

I've noticed you don't quite play as many shows as you used to. Is this by choice? I ask this only because I remember Further once dispelling rumours about their break-up with a quote [paraphrased from memory] "we haven't broken up, people are just not asking us to play shows these days". Furthermore, has the local live music scene turned it's back on established bands, instead look towards flavour of the month bands with more synths on that than actual songs?

Supply and demand, my friend...supply and demand. We would play every night of the week if we could, but there is simply no demand for it. Our audience is as old, if not older in some cases, than us. We've never really fit into any scene too well so that makes it difficult. Who knows, maybe by the time I come back from my overseas stay people will be gagging for it and we'll be the hippest thing this side of the Brag social pages.

Speaking of Further, they are playing at that HUGE show on Saturday. Also, there's Screamfeeder playing a fairly rare show and that goose from Custard giving it another go. What do you think fans can expect? If you were a Selling Man, how would you sell the show?

It'll be better than heroin.

Peabody are playing at Sing Along 2011 on Saturday, July 16 at the Annandale Hotel, alongside Further, Screamfeeder, Dave McCormack & the Polaroids, Jamie Hutchings and many more. Presale tickets are $22 (+ bf) via the Annandale Hotel website.

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