“I’m actually not sure how intentional Chris Walla was in putting us three specifically in a room together,” Angeline Armstrong narrates to BLUNT in explaining how she met Telenova bandmates Edward Quinn (Slum Sociable) and Joshua Moriarty (Miami Horror). The story making the rounds currently is that the Death Cab For Cutie alumnus orchestrated the union of the swaggering indie trio at a songwriting camp. “It comes up a lot in our press as a bit of a name drop,” she laughs. “In reality, he was kind of just throwing random artists together in a room every day.”
But that’s not the only story making the rounds about Telenova. There’s a tangible hype in the air around their extended play Tranquilize, which lands this Friday. Tickets to their tour in support of the record are already selling fast, and the clip for the eponymous lead single from the release won Gold at the Australian Cinematographers Society Awards. The way that the trio’s work resonates could be attributed to how organic the process has been in piecing together the art that they put out, which Armstrong details.
“We don’t sit down with a piece of paper and go, ‘Okay, what’s this EP going to be about?’” She continues: “Any piece of art or literature that I was in love with merges together with my own experience of the world and that comes out in the songwriting. My background in filmmaking, and those formative years of watching weird and wonderful movies with my family…I’m drawn to the things that I’m drawn to, to music that sounds like it could be the opening of a film or introducing you into a whole new world and a whole story. All of that just comes out naturally.”
As a multi-disciplined artist operating across the fields of film, music, and writing, Armstrong displays a reverence for the works that were so formative to her upbringing while continuing to create something that’s entirely new in and of itself. In terms of what she writes about specifically, she concisely asserts that she’s often trying to grapple with “the internal conflict of the self.”
“I’m a Christian and so I’m quite spiritual and I was raised in a very spiritual household,” she explains. “So I think that interplay of this internal conflict that seems to be at play in all of us where there’s a bit of good, there’s a bit of evil…That tension, that conflict of the self, comes out in the songs on the EP. Like on ‘Lost Highway’, there’s the line where she, the character through which I sing, says: ‘I walk on a tight rope between the girl I am and who I think I should be.’
“It’s this idea of being a human and struggling with regretting doing things or wanting to be better, but not quite being able to do it on your own…”
“I think that one line is probably the crux of a lot of the music that we write. It’s through the voice of this heightened version of myself, I guess, like I’ve never murdered anyone, and that’s what ‘Lost Highway’ is about. It’s this idea of being a human and struggling with regretting doing things or wanting to be better, but not quite being able to do it on your own, and trying to determine what’s good and what’s bad. What makes a human? And what makes a person? So pretty meta and philosophical concepts there, but I think they sneak their way into the music. I can’t help it.”
She hints at her foundation in studying a philosophy and literature minor at university, which holistically informs the notions that she dives into. In that way, Telenova has finally become a vehicle for Armstrong to wrap those influences in with the incredible synergy that she’s developed with her band members, which will hopefully see them scale up in what they’re looking to achieve as the traction builds behind them.
“I think as a band, we have an ethos of growing with where our capacity is at, you know? We’ll play at venues that make sense for our following and we’ll put the amount of money into the videos and the artwork that makes sense for where we’re at, to not get ahead of ourselves. We’re looking to build a sustainable career over a lifetime.”
Bringing the conversation back to the reality of living and working as an artist, Armstrong wasn’t always feeling as creatively fulfilled as she is in Telenova. The pursuit of art in general has forever been a difficult path to take, especially in an industry that continues to veer towards a model of little financial return in exchange for the entire bodies and souls of its creators. She was close to letting her flame burn out when the Telenova project started to take shape, reigniting the fire within her to go another round.
“It’s been a constant struggle of me questioning if what I’m doing is worthwhile,” she admits. “I think the reason I’ve kept doing it, part of the reason, is because every time I tried to quit and stop doing it, usually some massive door would open of new opportunity.” When she met her counterparts in Telenova, the cycle played out exactly like that. “I sort of thought, ‘Maybe this is just what it’s like when you get to this stage, when it’s a job and you just have to give up your own voice’. I was about to throw in the towel. And then meeting Ed and Josh at the camp…That door turned out to be a pretty good door to walk through.”