[sic] Magazine

Interview – City Calm Down

City Calm Down are a four piece band from Melbourne who blend moody synthpop with alternative rock. After an EP and debut album In A Restless House, the group now unveil sophomore long-player Echoes In Blue. As the European leg of their tour brought the boys through Holland to the UK, Brett Spaceman got with lead singer Jack Bourke to discuss all things City Calm Down and the new record.

Enjoy the interview.

· How (where) did you meet and get together as a band?

Sam, Jeremy and I have known each other since high school. Jeremy and I have been playing in bands since we were about 14 years old and we then starting writing/jamming with Sam when we were at uni. Lee joined us in 2012 after our former drummer, Michael, left the band. We found Lee through an online classified ad!

· Can you say a bit about the name City Calm Down? A message to Melbourne?

City Calm Down is the name of a song by Melbourne band Architecture In Helsinki. Shortly after we started writing/jamming together we were asked to play a show and didn’t have a band name, so I pulled together a list of song titles by other bands as potential band names and City Calm Down jumped out to the other guys and it stuck!

· Is there a Melbourne ‘scene’? Do you feel part of something there or outsiders?

Melbourne has quite an eclectic music scene – artists like King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Courtney Barnett and Chet Faker are from Melbourne. There aren’t many bands making new-wave music though, so we’re kind of on our own there.

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· What was the first song you recorded?

It’s going back a while (to 2008) but I think it would be a song called “Everyday” which we released on an EP in 2009. It wasn’t particularly good, hence why you can’t find it anywhere!

· Wiki has you pegged Alternative – pop – electronic. I hear 80s new wave, synthpop and nods to post punk. Who’s right?

Yeah, I noticed that. You’ve nailed it on the head, although I guess “alternative pop” could be a pretty broad genre encompassing those sub-genres.

· I’m guessing someone’s parent was an Icehouse fan?

I think Sam’s folks are fans of Icehouse. I guess what you’re hearing in our music is an entrenched Australian feel. I always find that Australians hear a lot of international influence in our music whereas our international audience hears a lot of Australian influence (such as The Triffids, Nick Cave, Icehouse, The Church).

· What were your plans? Did you set out to make the sound you have created or did it just come together that way?

We never really planned or deliberated on what we want to sound like – we’ve always just relied on our gut response to the songs we write together. That may change in the future, but at the moment we really just let the songs lead us.

· How did the Spanish Sahara cover come about?

We were invited to do a cover version for Like a Version on Triple J (Australian radio station) and after messing about with a bunch of cover ideas (songs by Elvis and Tame Impala were in the mix) we felt that our live sound would compliment Spanish Sahara the best. Also, each of us love Spanish Sahara, so it felt like a very natural choice.

· What can you tell us about the new album? Is it a continuation or progression from the debut?

Lyrically, Echoes In Blue is a time stamp of my life at the time we were writing/producing it. I was going through a bit of a bleak phase where I was feeling very overworked (between band and my job) and the lyrics were a way for me to process that. The narratives in the lyrics aren’t strictly autobiographical but stem from the way I was feeling at the time.

Continuation or progression? Both – there are numerous sonic elements that connect the two records but some of the songs on Echoes In Blue are a clear departure from In A Restless House (such as the title track, Echoes In Blue, and Blame). We wanted to keep the melancholic tension present on In A Restless House without replicating what we did on that record.


· Was it easier or harder to make album No2?

The writing came more easily but the production was a lot harder. The production was more difficult because we were more fastidious with the sounds. The Echoes In Blue sessions were broken up over a number of months which allowed us to revisit songs and re-record parts of songs and certain instruments. When we recorded In A Restless House, we went into the studio and tracked the record in 20 days straight, so we didn’t give ourselves the opportunity to revise the recordings.

· How is the tour going? Some good nights so far?

It’s early days (we’re 3 shows in) but the shows have been great so far – the shows in Brighton were packed and there was a great turn out in Leeds. It’s exciting to visit new places and find we have fans there.

· What’s your fan demographic? I imagine several generations for some reason. (Probably because I like it, lol)

Yeah, our fan base is quite diverse age wise. We have 18 year olds and 55 year olds attending our shows, which is bizarre but great. I guess it suggests our music is connecting with a broad audience.

· Gigs or albums?

I don’t prefer either. Performing live is such a cathartic experience for me, whilst writing music is quite cerebral and I need both to be in balance.


· Is it still possible to make a living from music?

It’s possible, but it’s incredibly difficult (as it’s always been). Realistically, you need to be very successful to have a sustainable career in music. Even though we’ve had a fair bit of success in Australia and have achieved far more than we’d ever anticipated, we’re still a very long way off making a living from music. But it also depends on the type of band or artist – there are 7 of us on stage which means travel costs are prohibitive whereas a solo artist may be able to do quite well playing the same venues as us.

· Name three influences

David Bowie, The Smiths, Lou Reed

· With whom would you most like to collaborate, if you could? Dream big.

Tony Visconte (Bowie’s producer). His production on Bowie’s Berlin records and Black Star is incredible – he has such a deft touch and was able to enhance the energy of Bowie’s performances.

· What next for City Calm Down?

After our tour wraps up we’ll starting writing and producing album number 3. I’m really excited about getting stuck into it.

[sic] wishes to thank Jack Bourke, Simon Hargreaves and all the City Calm Down members. Echoes In Blue is out now on the I Oh You label. Photographs with kind permission and may be subject to copyright. Not for reproduction. Live photo by Kay Cann.

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