Melbourne post-punks (or “puke-punks”, as their Facebook page so eloquently labels them) The Sinking Teeth started in a dingy room above a pawn shop in Brunswick. It was little more than an off-time passion project at the start – something for Julien Doan [bass/vocals] and Nick Manuell [guitar/vocals] to exert their raw honesty in a method they could take seriously. Their debut EP, White Water, slid through at the tail end of 2013 to critical adoration and a slew of high-profile touring opportunities (opening slots for Bodyjar, Jimmy Eat World and Kingswood amongst them).
The band has remained fairly hush on the musical front since, though, trickling out singles “Pavement”, “Good Grief” and “Salt & Stitches” in extended gaps between mid-2015 and this past September. In the midst of their quiet period, the group took it upon themselves to restring – drummer Adrian Van Bloom leaped into the hurricane earlier this year – and buckle down to piece together their debut full-length: a sub-35 minute rollercoaster ride through gnawing riffs, shattering drums, and passionate yells as callous as they are vulnerable. As its cover art and title might imply, Songs From The Bottom Of The Lake is a confronting and introspective affair, but its openness only ever bleeds into the scorching punk fold to make it harder, louder and more intense.
Before the album hits shelves tomorrow, we’re giving Songs From The Bottom Of The Lake its first full spin – you can (and damn should) suss it out at the bottom of the page. To guide you through the storm, as well, Manuell and Doan have hit us with a track-by-track commentary so you can tear up and headbang simultaneously.
Strap yourself in, turn that volume dial to eleven, and prepare to go on a fucking journey.
1. “Good Grief” (Nick)
The concept for the lyrics to this song came from the idea that a person grows immensely during a time of grieving. The loss of a significant person or relationship in your life can completely change your perspective, and you can start to look at a lot of the things that you once considered to be paramount as trivial and meaningless. This can be depressing, liberating, or all of the above, depending on which way you look at it.
Everyone in our band (now, and when the song was written) has experienced some form of major loss that has shaped who they are today, and I wanted to create a lyric that bound us together and acted as a theme song for the decisions that we have made over the courses of our lives, that have led to us being in a band together and travelling all over the place, throwing everything we’ve got at this project.
2. “Salt & Stitches” (Nick)
“Salt & Stitches” came from a conversation I had with Mitch from The Love Junkies, when we were on tour with them a couple of years ago. We were talking about how writing serious music is like cutting yourself open and exposing your insides to people who either rub salt in the wounds, or stitch you back up again.
It can be super difficult to expose everything in your head to a world full of critics. I find that everything my friends say about what they like and don’t like works its way into whatever I’m creating – whether it’s music, or photography, or whatever I’m making. I’m the kind of person who is super influenced by other people, and sometimes I find it hard to push beyond ruts that I’ve created in my own head due to other people’s opinions (“Is there a place for us / Somewhere beyond this rut?”). I really don’t want to be controlled by that, so this song is more a reminder to ourselves that “It’s okay to grow beyond the mold.”
3. “Saigon” (Julian)
The song is about my mum escaping after the Vietnam War to live in Australia, and the irony of her wanting to move back home. She left her family and friends to build a new life here, but due to her difficulties integrating here, she rarely made any friends. Recently, she was diagnosed with depression – it was the main reason she had difficulty socialising and keeping friends. There was only so much my brother, dad and I could do whilst working full-time. It was a constant fight between her being alone at home during the day, or working tiring low-pay jobs to keep her busy. In the end, it was easier for her to move back with her family in Vietnam where the cost of living was less. So, it’s about the time she left and how much I missed her.
4. “Raymond Island” (Nick)
I grew up on a small island called Raymond Island in rural Victoria. It’s about 3km wide & 7km long and when I was living there between the ages of 3 & 18 there were about 350 residents. It’s connected to the mainland by a chain ferry.
It’s a super small town & everyone knows everything about everyone else. My dad was hugely active in a lot of community groups and spent a lot his life fighting to keep the island the special place that it was while developers and people who cared less about the environment would come and try and build hotels on wetlands & a bridge to the mainland etc. He passed away when I was 13 in our living room from a brain tumour with my mum, my sister, my grandmother & myself beside him. Now that I live in Melbourne and my family and friends have moved away too (the streets are empty now // every home feels like a grave) I find returning to the island pretty raw. There’s a million memories and if you walk to the end of the boardwalk to the left of the ferry theres a stone with a plaque for my dad.
5. “Pavement” (Nick)
Pavement is about moving to the city and finding a place for yourself within the maelstrom of personality types, cultures & belief systems. It’s about tapping into subcultures and falling in love with the diversity of the place. We all became friends by going to shows and watching each others old bands play. Pavement was written as a sort of high five to the Melbourne music scene.
6. “Cope” (Nick)
Cope is about the difficulties of having serious feelings about a person who lives really far away and thats all I’m going to say about that one.
7. “Like Glue” (Nick)
Sometimes relationships are good & sometimes they suck. This song is about feeling like you’re stuck in something that’s pretty turbulent and you’re tearing each other to bits even though you care for each other. It ends up consuming heaps of your life and you can be just lying there in bed trying to sleep but you can’t get all the angst and stuff out of your head (I can’t sleep or count sheep coz you lead them down your tongue into your mouth).
8. “Heavy Rage” (Nick)
This song is about that moment when you’re lying in bed beside your partner post fight and all the air in the room has been consumed by words. You’re looking out the window and you’re begging for daylight because you know everything is a bit better in the morning.
9. “Bad Blood” (Nick)
Bad Blood is about how gossip spreads in a small town. I went to high school at Bairnsdale Secondary College which is about half an hour drive from Raymond Island. Normally if something goes down at a high school everyone at the school knows about it but sometimes it felt like if something went down at this school the entire town would know about it.
10. “The Bottom Of The Lake” (Nick)
The McMillan Straits is the passage of water that separates Raymond Island from Paynesville (the town on the mainland). Everyone that lives on the Island has to cross it daily on the Ferry because there are no places of work or schools on the island. It’s only about 250 meters wide at its thinest point so people often swim across.
Unfortunately there were multiple times during my childhood where older guys who lived on the island would get drunk at the Paynesville pub and miss the last Ferry (which was just before midnight). They would then attempt to swim across the straits and drown. Everyone would show up to the Ferry terminal the next morning to go to work or school & there would be police divers there looking for the body of the deceased.
The song is written from the perspective of one of these men and is pretty literal. I’d like to apologise to anyone that reads this that was affected by that in any way. It’s just a bad memory for me that became a song but I know it was a horrific life changing moment for the families and friends of those people.
Suss out a full stream of The Sinking Teeth’s new album, Songs From The Bottom Of The Lake, below!
Songs From The Bottom Of The Lake drops November 11th independently
Pre-order it: Webstore | iTunes | Bandcamp
The Sinking Teeth
Friday November 18th – Edinburgh Castle, Adelaide
Saturday November 19th – Crowbar, Brisbane
Wednesday November 23rd – Frankie’s Pizza, Sydney
Thursday November 24th – Hideaway Bar, Sydney
Friday November 25th – The Basement, Canberra
Saturday November 26th – Yah Yah’s, Melbourne
Thursday December 15th – Amplifier, Perth
Friday December 16th – Badlands Bar, Perth
Saturday December 17th – The Odd Fellow, Fremantle