When it comes to choosing a band name, there are countless articles detailing the ‘top 10 things to consider for branding’, YouTubers claiming to have the ‘keys’ to go viral off your name alone, and dodgy PR companies hungrily looking to snap up thousands of bucks for ‘consultations’ to help market your project.
Of course, you could also go the way of Melbournian cult heroes Tropical Fuck Storm and pick a name that is equal parts daunting and thrilling to whack on a t-shirt.
A name that no doubt has led curious ears to their Spotify page, Tropical Fuck Storm have become synonymous with the new wave of Aussie psych-rock, with their combination of punk, art-rock and experimental fuzz earning them acclaim and raised eyebrows from the music press in equal measure.
Having released their records domestically via under the acclaimed Flightless banner (founded by former King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard drummer/ manager Eric Moore), completed countless laps of the globe, sharing the stage with the likes of the aforementioned King Gizz, Modest Mouse and Iggy Pop, and even rescoring and performing along to the classic Cohen Brothers thriller No Country For Old Men, the band have always made a habit of making landfall where least expected.
They’ve also earned themselves a reputation as one of the hardest working bands in the country – an ethic that singer Erica Dunn says was instilled in them from day one by power-couple founders Gareth Liddiard and Fiona Kitschin, better known as half of ’90s rock trailblazers The Drones.
“That work ethic stuff has been instilled in us from Gaz and Fe – music is the only thing they do, they have this ethic where you just commit and put it front and centre, it’s your life and it won’t ever leave you alone,” says Dunn. “We wrapped the last album cycle off the back of a seven-month tour, playing hundreds of shows. And after doing that amount of live playing, so much music builds up inside of you when it comes to writing.”
“We had this mega harddrive of mistakes and weird shit we’d come up with over the years, and that stuff formed the basis for some of these tracks…”
The past 18 months of constant lockdowns gave the band the time to release that pent-up creative energy and cut their third LP, Deep States – a loveably jarring mix of experimental art rock and psychedelia, with nods towards ’90s dance music, funk and hip-hop, resulting in a listen that demands countless re-spins.
“We’d scheduled some rehearsals out in the bush – so just weirdly it all worked out, ’cause we’re still out here,” says Dunn. “We lived up here for three months while we made the record… After playing together for so long, you get into this call-and-response psychic territory. This recent record reflects that – everything is recorded live in a room, it’s a real reflection of what we’re performing live.
“We had this mega harddrive of mistakes and weird shit we’d come up with over the years, and that stuff formed the basis for some of these tracks. ‘G.A.F.F.’ was born from a mistake in the drum pattern.”
Like the music, the themes tackled by the band on Deep States draw from the fringe of normality, exploring conspiratorial ideas and the manipulative nature of big tech barons, amongst other things. However, you’d be wrong to assume that this is another band penning songs about Facebook and Twitter news algorithms causing outrage online.
“Theorists have really gotten such a bad name now – they’re being connected with anti-vax, fake news… That new wave of conspiracy theorists is gross to me,” says Dunn. “I don’t identify with it at all, but it’s interesting and weird to interrogate what’s gaining traction and taking off in this new world. Theories themselves have shifted – back in the day, there was this subversive counter-cultural aspect to them, but now it seems to be a sad indictment of people having compromised news sources and having to run with bullshit that makes real life seem easier to handle.”
“We plan to get the record out and just play it in whatever capacity is possible…”
If last year’s video for suicide cult-themed single ‘Suburbiopia’ is anything to go by – the video for it featuring the band dressed as members of Victoria’s cult The Family – Deep States will certainly shine a light on some of the more fascinatingly unsavoury elements of our world.
“A lot of what we explore is just distilled versions of how we see what’s happening on this planet,” says Dunn. “Musically it’s all about what’s engaging and firing us. We always try to push each other’s music and thematic envelope.”
With vaccines starting to roll out en masse around the world, and full-capacity gigs and festivals seemingly resuming in Europe and the US, optimism is high that the band will have a chance to perform the material from Deep States live in the next 12 months. The band have even announced an Australian tour for the Spring – something that, at the very least, gives the usually hard touring machine something to aim for.
“We’re gonna approach it like the shows are gonna happen – we don’t really have any other choice, otherwise you do your fucking head in,” says Dunn. “We can’t really plan much. We plan to get the record out and just play it in whatever capacity is possible – we want to try and get to whatever venue possible and hang with whatever audience wants to come out.
“If we can’t tour, then we’ll just hit the studio again and make another mess.”
Deep States is out now via Flightless / Joyful Noise Recordings. Check out their tour dates here.