Interview: Blank Realm

A-1090242-1240050086I love words and phrases that can be interpreted multiple ways, which is what leads me to adore the name of Blank Realm‘s latest album Go Easy. Nothing on this album seems necessarily laid back, nor does it give the impression of being forceful as if the title were a demand. The eight songs on it have a laidback sensibility that is constantly being agitated by the intrusions of guitar crackle, keyboard melodies that fall just off center from the rest of the track, and firehose bursts of reverb and distortion.

The Australian quartet – made up of siblings Sarah, Luke, and Daniel Spencer along with their friend Luke Walsh – have been perfecting this sound for decades, starting as Sarah states below in our e-mail interview when the Spencers were all kids. But when they fell under the sway of rock, they injected it with the weirdness and youthful energy of their early sonic experiments.

They’ve released an array of recorded material since 2007, all of it as potent and joyous and off-kilter and noisy and expressive as anything you’ve heard in the noise pop universe. And when the play their songs out – as they will be doing tonight at Rotture along with Focus Troup, Cool Meiners, and Pacific City Nightlife Visions – they amplify those qualities in a huge way.

Take a listen to a track from Blank Realm and then check out the little e-mail chat that I was able to have with Sarah Spencer during the band’s current spate of U.S. tour dates.

Was it always a given that the siblings in the band would end up playing music together or did one or more of you take some convincing?

I think so, right from when we were little we made funny tape collages using our cassette decks and made up goofy songs, I think we were always gonna do something.

Was there a pretty strong music scene in Brisbane that helped inspire you to play music or were you looking outside of your hometown?

I think we definitely listen to a lot of records from America, but it’s the stuff that you get to see live on stage that really inspires you. Brisbane has, has always had, a pretty strong scene for such a small place. The best time for us was when stuff like Kitchen’s Floor, Slug Guts and the Negative Guest List zine were just getting started, but stuff is still going down, it always is.

Did it take long for you to hit on a particular sound that you could call your own or did that come together naturally?

It took a really long time. We’ve practised so much, and discarded probably about a hundred songs to arrive at what we do now. I doubt anyone would ever call us polished or refined, but it’s taken a long time for us to just find a voice that is our own, or that we feel is our own.

According to one interview I read of yours from 2008, you were considering moving to Melbourne…did that happen?

Not yet, but Daniel is in lurve with a girl who moved there, so soon we’ll be a Melbourne/Brisbane band I guess!

So much of what informs your records is the loose, improvisational quality of certain songs…how does this bleed over into when you play live? Do you stick to a pretty set setlist or do you mess with things over and over again on the road?

We have a set list, but we extend it out, and the songs basically just go on for as long as we feel they should, hopefully not too long. We never play songs quite the same way twice, there’s a lot of room for improvisation.

You have a new album recorded (according to your FB page)…what can you tell me about that one – where it was recorded and with who, the sound of the new record, etc.?

Like all our records, we recorded it ourselves. Luke our guitarist does all the recording, we record everything we do, until we hit on the version of a song we feel is the one. I would say the new album is more pop, but it’s also weirder, it’s a bit more creepy.

How do you like touring the States or getting outside of your native country to play shows? Do you find a more receptive audience than you do at home?

America is great, we have so much fun here, and the audiences have been great. I guess our hometown, Brisbane is the best though, just because it all our friends and everyone is drunk and going nuts, you can’t really beat that.

What is next for the band after you finish up with this run of tour dates?

I think some kind of juice detox, we ate a lot of insane food out on the US interstates, Waffle House I’m looking at you.

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