“I guess we’re all coming from different places and now people checking in and starting to be more aware of what we do sound like, I guess I don’t know how to describe what our sound is, it’s a bit rock, it’s a bit noisy, it’s a little bit metal in places, it’s bloody confusing.”
From Bio: In early 2013 – almost out of nowhere – a music video landed on the internet and furiously peddled its way around social media, with the speed of a Lolcats meme circa 2010. ‘High Risk, High Rewards’ was an unexpected uppercut straight outta leftfield. The riffage was demonic, demanding and frankly, hooky as shit. The vocals? Gloriously guttural… High Risk, High Rewards demanded attention, respect and an instant Triple J add. With one song, Melbourne’s High Tension revealed themselves to be a powerful new force in Australian music.
We dig the sound of High Tension, so they are worthy of being one of our ‘Best Things…’ so check out our chat with Matt telling us what the band is all about.
Give us the quick story of how the band came together and up until where we are today…
‘Young & Restless’ and ‘The Nation Blue’ were friends, we played with each other probably in the early 2000’s and I stayed in contact through various means, and Karina was looking at starting up a band doing something noisier, and I think basically had just been living vicariously through my facebook page and pretending she had a Rottweiler as she wanted one and I had one. So I think she thought if she started a band with me that she’d get to hang out with my dog. That’s kind of how the band started *laughs* so now we actually live a couple of blocks apart from each other and I travel a lot, so she’s my default dog carer and it comes in very handy.
You’re just about to release your debut album, how agonising was putting it together to get it just how you wanted it?
It was actually really easy, I mean this is probably the equivalent of the sixth album I’ve done, or that me and Dan from The Nation Blue have done together, and Karina and Ash have both had a lot of recording experience, so it was pretty much all done live, the whole thing was tracked in a day and a half, and then you know, overdubs are what they are… getting the vocals right is one thing, but it was all a pretty and pleasant experience. Especially with Tom Larkin who produced it.
Are you nervous to unleash it?
Not nervous, I still get nervous before we play a show, but that’s probably more to be with ‘I hope I don’t fuck up’ *laughs* I think I know how these songs go… especially with High Tension, the whole idea from the get go is this is just something we want to do for fun. The idea in the first place was potentially to not even tour, there was this whole protective thing. I mean at the time when we were talking about it, Nation Blue wasn’t doing anything and before the band all the discussions were about, no one wants to take time off to work and let’s not even leave Melbourne if we do a show. Then once we started writing songs it was like ‘let’s play everywhere as much as we can cause this is fun’ and the approach to the music is a lot different to what I’m used to, as Nation Blue is the only band I’ve ever known in a way, I joined when I was 19 or 20 and I’m 33 now, so I haven’t really ever written with other people and that all began with a different drummer, Damian from Love Like Electrocution who ended up moving overseas for a bit and left the band. The song writing style, the whole thing about it is a lot more simple in a way, which is nice, a nice change.
Tell us about the title, why call it ‘Death Beat’ and what does it represent to you?
The deep meaning behind it, is that Ash refused to be part of another record that was self-titled, so we said ‘well, what’s the bloody thing going to be called?’ and after many discussions and finally caving in it was fine that was the coolest song title or ambiguous title that didn’t necessarily represent what the band was about but it sounds cool and tough.
Who or what inspired the tracks that ended up on it?
It’s a tricky one… I guess we’re all coming from different places and now people checking in and starting to be more aware of what we do sound like, I guess I don’t know how to describe what our sound is, it’s a bit rock, it’s a bit noisy, it’s a little bit metal in places, it’s bloody confusing. I guess the kind of band… Karina’s coming from more of a vast punk inspiration, she doesn’t like scenes, she got pushed in a direction with Young & Restless that she didn’t want to be in, she wants to go in a heavier direction, the world that they found themselves in kept pushing them to dancier beats and stuff, so that’s a lot of feeling where she’s coming from. Riff wise, I’m listened to more stuff like piss jeans and that more sludgier side of rock and roll, I guess that’s where we’re coming from. Part of the secret is that Ash just has a really weird guitar style, when I say weird it’s just not traditional, his taste is not like any of the other guitarists around, so he’s into a lot of bright girl bands and that perhaps helps the guitar tones and the solo things he brings to whatever is otherwise a pretty traditional rock and roll sound, he just makes it a bit confusing which I really love about it, you know what I mean? *laughs*
You’ve released a couple of videos for tracks on the album so far, both brutal, in particular the newest ‘Mountain of Dead’ and I believe you’re the man behind it, tell us a bit about the video and the concept behind it…
I do videos for a living, well, video stuff, I don’t do too many music videos, but the tricky bit is how do you make a music video without spending money that you don’t have and that’s doing a performance video, so we’ve already done a traditional warehouse one and that was our first video. The idea of the second one, we ended up shooting up on Ross from Cosmic Psychos farm, the idea was that there’s a large hill on his farm covered in this prickly bush that he’s been meaning to burn off for the past ten years. He offered to just cover the whole thing in diesel and to quote him “Just set the bastard on fire…” so we just went up there one night and he dowsed the hill in diesel and that was that. Unfortunately it was a lot more damp than expected and it didn’t catch on, but there’s some solid twenty foot flames *laughs* flying out of there, you can see Ross in the background walking around trying to set shit on fire in some of the shots, so that’s kind of fun.
Touring wise you’ve played a few shows in the last month, how would you describe a typical High Tension show to someone who has never seen you before?
Pretty intense, high in the tension *laughs*maybe don’t use that *laughs*… it doesn’t let up, the shows don’t go too long, essentially it’s a pretty full on experience. Karina as a front woman is everything that stresses me out about people up the front, it stresses me out when people get into the crowd and make people start singing, like I always get that feeling of ‘fuck, don’t come near me’ and crowd participation… she does everything I can’t handle when I’m watching a band, which is good, it puts you in an uncomfortable place which is great. Not a relaxing experience, it’s like a snap kick in the junk.
You’ve been out on the road with the likes of Karnivool , how were those experiences for you?
Really cool and interesting Karnivool was a great challenge, we’d played one show at the Gasso upstairs in Melbourne which is like playing in someone’s lounge room, then our second show was in Wollongong in front of 800 people, so that was nice that even though you’re a new band you’re putting together the history of being in a band for the past ten years, so it was no different in some ways except it was new songs. So it was nice to ramp things up quickly and feel like you’re a real band, sort of skipping the years of playing Tuesday nights or whatever it may be. The Kanivool guys are so generous and lovely and I love playing to audiences like that, where it is a bit of a challenge, no one has any interest in theory of seeing who you are or a theory of who you are and you’ve got to try and win them over. So I like that challenge… quite often it doesn’t work *laughs* but that was great.
How for you personally is High Tension different to anything you’ve been a part of before?
It’s like the new hot girlfriend, the Nation Blue is the relationship where you’ve been in close confined spaces with dudes that could be your brothers after that time, you know we’ve done everything from a month long tour in Brazil together to covering most of everywhere in Australia and playing with most of the bloody bands and still being lucky to play to anyone wherever we go when we do our own shows. This is like the new and exciting thing where you get to start fresh and as much as I’ve known those guys for a little while, it’s kind of new friendships and all the original rules that you have with your other band are out the door. New opportunities and it feels like there’s potential with everything that you’re doing opposed to with The Nation Blue where it’s well we’ve done that before, what more can you really do?
What does 2014 have in store for the band?
I don’t know… hopefully all kinds of shit, it would be great to try and get overseas, probably work on another album and we’ll just see how this record catches on.
From: Melbourne, Australia
Sounds like: Rock, or in their words ‘Brudal’
Band members: Karina Utomo – vocals, Ash Pegram – guitar, Matt Weston – bass, Dan McKay – Drums
Current release: Death Beat (Cooking Vinyl)