HOT TROPIC

IN WHICH ONE OF AUS­TRALIA’S MOST COM­PELLING ARTISTS FINDS NEW IN­SPI­RA­TION WITH YOUNG BLOOD, PITCH PED­ALS AND THE LEAST RA­DIO-FRIENDLY NAME IN THE IN­DUS­TRY. WORDS BY AN­DREW P STREET (ES­PE­CIALLY ALL THE CUSSING). PHOTO BY

Australian Guitar - - Final Note - JAMIE WDZIEKONSKI.

With Trop­i­cal F*** Storm, the clue is in the name. There’s some­thing dis­tinctly hu­mid, car­nal and ag­gres­sive about the band, and de­spite Gareth Lid­di­ard (of The Drones fame) hav­ing been at this rock’n’roll game for over 20 years, he’s clearly not ex­pect­ing this band to be the for­tune-mak­ing com­mer­cial break­through.

And if ALaugh­ingDeathInMeatspace shares a lot of DNA with The Drones thanks to the pres­ence of Lid­di­ard and bassist Fiona Kitschin, it’s DNA in the sense of splat­ter pat­terns around a crime scene.

That’s largely be­cause of the in­flu­ence of drum­mer Lau­ren Ham­mell (High Ten­sion) and Har­mony vo­cal­ist Erica Dunn on gui­tar, who to­gether push the band in strange di­rec­tions. If sin­gle “You Let My Tyres Down” could plau­si­bly be a Drones song, the same couldn’t be said of the ag­gres­sive, night­mar­ish hip hop of “Soft Power or the mosquito riffs of “The Fu­ture Of His­tory”.

“The ap­proach is just to try not to do any­thing nor­mal,” Lid­di­ard ex­plains. “So we’ve used drum ma­chines and just strange kinds of se­quenc­ing stuff, just to get ideas, and then we learn how to play them on our ac­tual in­stru­ments.”

His ar­gu­ment is that “if you sort of make some­thing up on the gui­tar, you end up mak­ing up a stan­dard gui­tar riff, most of the time. Your hands go to those shapes. Some of our gui­tar lines are made up on drum ma­chines, like that riff in the cho­ruses of ‘Soft Power’ – that was made up on a drum ma­chine through a weird Even­tide PitchFac­tor pedal.”

So what were the key toys for the al­bum? “You know Teenage En­gi­neer­ing? They’re a com­pany from Scan­di­navia – they make the OP-1 syn­the­siser and th­ese drum ma­chines, which are like 80 f***ing bucks and they’re amaz­ing,” he tes­ti­fies with the zeal of a re­li­gious con­vert. “They’re the size of a lit­tle cal­cu­la­tor and they take you down strange lit­tle pas­sages that you’d oth­er­wise never go down.”

Packet drum ma­chines are not nec­es­sar­ily the in­spi­ra­tion that you’d ex­pect for a man best known for tear­ing an­i­mal howls out of his Jaguar, but as far as Lid­di­ard is con­cerned, it’s the same im­pulse.

“Back in the ‘90s, we were try­ing to fig­ure out a weird way to do shit, and now it’s be­come eas­ier. It’s just wild: we can make al­bum af­ter al­bum af­ter al­bum of weird and wacky shit, and peo­ple are more up for it th­ese days.”

Why is that? “Well, the up­side of the in­ter­net is that kids are ex­posed to crazy shit, y’know? So if you do some­thing com­pletely left of cen­tre, they’ll be ready for it. In the ‘90s, I re­mem­ber lis­ten­ing to Wu Tang and my rock’n’roll friends were bam­boo­zled. I was like, ‘Man, this is just pop­u­lar f***ing western mu­sic! This isn’t even the Moroc­can shit I lis­ten to, or the 1920s Jazz, or the weird avant garde com­posers that no-one’s ever heard of.’”

The excitement in the band is not merely com­po­si­tional, though. The Drones’ first gig was in 1997, and Lid­di­ard is thor­oughly enjoying re­ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the thrill of do­ing things for the first time through his younger band­mates.

“Han­nah and Erica, they’re 30 and 32. They’re keen and they’re free and it’s all novel for them. Like, if we go and play at the f***ing Fill­more in San Fran­cisco they’re like, ‘Holy shit!’ We’ve done it be­fore with The Drones, and it’s great, but it’s kind of like, ‘Oh, cool.’ They’re just kind of jaded.”

Which leads to the ob­vi­ous ques­tion: what’s the sta­tus of Lid­di­ard and Kitschin’s main gig?

“It’s on hold be­cause Steve [Hes­ketch, keys] and Chris [Stry­bosch, drums] have kids – two kids each and mort­gages and other jobs,” he shrugs. “So it’s just too hard. It’s not im­pos­si­ble, but it takes a lot of push­ing to get the wheels turn­ing.”

Speak­ing as the fa­ther of a 18 month old, I can’t be­gin to imag­ine how par­ents do any­thing cre­ative un­der any cir­cum­stances. “Oh, it’s full on, man. I mean, hav­ing a day job, and then hav­ing proper re­hearsals, and then go­ing on tour and record­ing... It’s a lot. So yeah, it’s def­i­nitely not done, we’ve just put it on ice for a while. We’re just wait­ing for the f***ing kids to move out, and then we’ll get back into it!”

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