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Nuggets: A Psychedelic Journey

As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Lenny Kaye’s iconic psyche-rock compilation, Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 18 of our finest garage, indie and new-wave acts have stepped up to pay homage to some long-lost gems from the ’60s. Despite the long title it boasts, Nuggets: Antipodean Interpolations of the First Psychedelic Era, 1965–1968 is a collection of tasty garage-pop morsels featuring Pond, King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard, The Laurels, Step-Panther and tons more putting their own spin on some psychedelic classics. We caught up with members from three of the bands on the album: Straight Arrows, Velociraptor and The Gooch Palms, to find out just why they dig that tinny ol’ lo-fi sound and why the style of decades past still resonates with our modern scene today. A bunch of the bands from the compilation will be showcasing their talents at the 2013 Sydney Festival, so head to the bottom for all the details on the show!

STRAIGHT ARROWS

I’ve been told that you’re the resident expert on all things Nuggets! For the uninitiated, could you tell us about how the original compilation came together?
It was a couple of guys in 1972 who were sick of the garbage permeating the airwaves deciding that things really were better back in the 1965-1968 timeframe. Which, looking at what was happening in 1972, was totally justified. Thanks for NOTHING, Woodstock.

There’s a pretty stellar collection of artists involved, both past and present. What was it that made you want to get involved with the series?
I couldn’t really resist. When they showed up with a sports car with a built in TV AND an eight-track player I was sold immediately. This is Warner Bros. we’re talking about. Those guys invented the ROADRUNNER!

Not only that, but you also produced a selection of tracks on the Antipodean Interpolations release. What kind of sound were you looking to capture?
I guess the primary concern here was not screwing up a bunch of tracks I’ve been repeatedly spinning for aaages, so we split recording between a friend’s studio called Hanging Tree that has a whole heap of ’50s and ’60s equipment, and did the remainder in my lounge room and kitchen in a terrace house near Redfern where the neighbours are pretty tolerant. Having my recordings come up sounding ‘modern’ is not a problem that’s happened yet.

Was there then a feeling of responsibility or was it a gruelling task trying to get everything right and do it justice?
It was a pretty laidback time; I think we knocked out the recordings in about four days and then spent a casual week mixing it. I’ve been quite influenced by these original records so I reckon my recording methods would be inextricably similar to a lot of what was happening in the period so there was no real need to change anything up. We’d just go into the studio, set up a minimum of equipment, hit record on the tape machine and get the band to play it right and well.

When were you were first introduced to the garage, psychedelic and punk-leaning sounds of the ‘60s?
My folks probably influenced my taste in this stuff by listening to the complete opposite while I was growing up. A friend lent me the original Nuggets boxset when I was 17 and working in a shitty corporate pizza joint, so I’d sit out the back and blast the CDs and ignore customers until they took the CD player away. Dicks.

Looking at the significance of the Nuggets records, do you think it’s important to recall the historical roots of music and where these newer subgenres came from, especially now in the wake of “Gangnam Style” and more commercial releases?
I reckon modern music will always be entangled with the music of the ’50s and ’60s, so long as guitars and drums remain. Either way the pop sensibilities of what was happening back then are permanently entangled in almost all popular music proceeding it.

I read that you didn’t get a choice of the track you were going to cover. Despite that, did The Knickerbockers’ hit hold any special meaning to you before you recorded it and even after you worked on it?
We always dug the Knickerbockers’ track, but it’s just not the kind of tune you can really spin at a party ‘cos the beat isn’t really heavy enough, so we just went in a fixed up a few things. It was like surgery, on a pulsating corpse, plus a facelift, and some more electricity.

VELOCIRAPTOR

There’s a pretty stellar collection of artists involved, both past and present, with the Nuggets compilations. What was it that made you want to take part in the series?
Nuggets meant a lot of different things to all the members of Velociraptor so we’re very honoured that we were offered to be a part of it. We all love the music of the ‘60s, so a chance to recreate a classic and to be involved in a project with so many other Australian bands that we respect so much was an opportunity too good to be true.

When were you were first introduced to the garage, psychedelic and punk-leaning sounds of the ‘60s?
My parents had a fine collection of ’60s pop vinyl, so I was generally just raised on stuff like Gerry and The Pacemakers and The Hollies. It wasn’t really until I started playing in bands that I came across the Nuggets stuff through friends, which has been invaluable in its influence on all of our songwriting.

Looking at the significance of the Nuggets records, do you think it’s important to recall the historical roots of music and where these newer subgenres came from, especially now in the wake of “Gangnam Style” and more commercial releases?
I think “Gangnam Style” is a lot better than a lot of the music we have to deal with in the pop world these days. At least that guy is just taking the piss out of pop music and making millions of dollars in the process. I think it’s really important to give credit to the artists that have really pushed music to evolve. Psychedelic music was so important in pushing pop music to the next level and the trajectory it took music on post-’60s is incredible. The world owes that era and the bands involved a lot of thanks.

Going on from that, what’s so attractive about lo-fi recording given the technology that we have available today?
I think the best part about lo-fi recording is that you can do it all yourself. In an age of auto-tuned vocals and highly processed music it’s often a really big relief to hear something that sounds human and organic. Lo-fi recording can often better reflect the live sound of the band too.

Why do you think Australia and Australian bands in particular have come to resonate with the Nuggets series? Do we just dig some good ol’ garage rock?
I think garage is important to Australia because it is such an accessible form of music. Both in terms of gear required and how listenable it is; get yourself a hundred dollar guitar and a shitty drum kit and you’re away. This is important for a somewhat historically isolated country that has resulted in top line gear being more expensive than it is in other parts of the world. As far as musically, we’re talking simple, generally danceable songs based around a solid beat and good melodic hooks – what’s not to like?

I did read that you didn’t get a choice of the track you were going to cover. Despite that, did The Electric Prunes’ hit hold any special meaning to you before you recorded it and even after you worked on it?
Being a total Mersey beat style pop fiend my favourite track before being involved in the project was The Knickerbockers’ “Lies” but after spending so much time with The Electric Prunes track, we’re now super best friends.

And finally, is there any chance you’re joining the Sydney Festival Nuggets showcase?
I’m not sure if we got an invite to play but I’m sure we can either Skype our performance in from Brisbane or we can send James X Boyd down there with a carton of VB and a backing track.

THE GOOCH PALMS

There’s a pretty stellar collection of artists involved with the Nuggets compilations. What was it that made you want to be a part of the series?
We were asked to do “Romeo & Juliet” for the compilation by Owen [Penglis, Straight Arrows frontman and Nuggets producer] and said yes! It sounded like something that would be fun and a good opportunity for the band.

Was there then a feeling of responsibility coming into the record?
We of course hold the bands and songs from the original Nuggets in high regard, but as one of the songs that is maybe a bit lesser known [“(Just Like) Romeo & Juliet” by Michael and The Messengers], we didn’t feel as much pressure to stay too similar to the Nuggets version. We felt quite comfortable taking the song and deconstructing it and putting it back together in Gooch Palms style. We don’t bother covering a song unless we are going to make it our own, no matter how much we respect the original. There’s not much point in covering it otherwise. The whole process was a breeze and we loved every minute of it.

When were you were first introduced to the garage, psychedelic and punk-leaning sounds of the ‘60s?
Both our parents were into regular mainstream music and with both of us growing up in Newcastle, there weren’t many influential people guiding us in the way of cool music. There was one guy that was into ’60s music that I knew and he showed me the Nuggets compilation as a teenager, but he was much older and all I wanted to listen to was nu-metal at the time! A couple of years later I got heavily into Sabbath and then revisited the music he was trying to turn me onto and have never turned back.

Going on from that, what’s so attractive about lo-fi recording, given the technology that we have available today?
The lo-fi sound we have on our recordings reflects our live show, which is minimal and raw. If we recorded in a hi-fi, clean and highly produced way it would be disappointing for people to see us live, to some extent. The recorded songs are not too different from what you get live. There is definitely something that turns us on about most scuzzy lo-fi recordings.

Why do you think Australia and Australian bands in particular have come to resonate with the Nuggets series? Do we just dig some good ol’ garage rock?
We have always had a healthy love of ‘real’ rock and roll in Australia and I think we always will. The Aussies were doing a brutally good job of it then and are still doing it now. Australians have always taken influence from bands from overseas, but the Aussies have been very influential in their own right for bands worldwide, which is awesome.

I did read that you didn’t get a choice of the track you were going to cover. Despite that, did the Michael and The Messengers hit hold any special meaning to you before you recorded it and even after you worked on it, putting your own spin on it?
This particular song wasn’t too dear to us, but it was a good little pop tune that we could definitely put our own spin on. We have a deeper connection with a lot of the other songs on the comp and if we had of been given one of those tracks we definitely would have struggled to make it our own. If we could have chosen, we might have chosen “Liar, Liar”. We could have nailed that one, but we thoroughly enjoyed doing “Romeo & Juliet” and play it live sometimes now too!

Just finally, a few of the bands from the compilation are involved in a Sydney Festival showcase. Are you looking forward to the chance to bring these songs to life on the stage?
We are very much looking forward to playing our little nugget live at Town Hall and are looking forward to introducing some of our original songs to what might be a new audience. Hope they are prepared to see some Gooch!

Catch a selection of the bands from the Nuggets: Antipodean Interpolations record at the 2013 Sydney Festival!

Nuggets: Antipodean Interpolations – Paradiso At Town Hall (18+)
Friday January 25th – Sydney Town Hall, 483 George Street
Tickets are $36 and available from sydneyfestival.org.au

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