Perth’s Statues are already making a name for themselves among those who enjoy chaotic stage antics, discordant thrashing chords and an unconventional approach to making noise. Starting out in 2009, the band have already cut two demos and have just released their debut 7", Wait For Calm. Having play several shows supporting The Chariot (US), expect to see them destroying stages across the country in the coming 12 months. I had a chat to their frontman Mike about some heavy shit, you’ll just have to read on to find out the specifics.
Name and your role in Statues.
My name is Mike and I yell and flail about and type long-winded responses.
How would you describe Statues to someone who has never heard you before?
It sounds like being really panicked and frustrated about something you care about deeply. It’s also extremely noisy and a lot of fun to perform because it’s passionate and honest and we tend to lose control of things a lot. Particularly instruments and mic-stands.
Do the band members have any previous projects? How did the band form?
We’ve all been in other bands across many other styles, but not in a super-group sort of way on any level. Scott, Matt and myself were in a prog-metal band together a few years ago called Slowlight where I played keyboards, and then we parted ways and I played in a post-hardcore band called The First Snow with Duncan for a while also playing keys, then we all came back together again for this at the end of 2009. Scott’s been in Screaming Life, currently playing guitar in Voyager and working on Absent Hearts, a duo with Dan Tompkins of Tesseract. He’s been involved in too many things for me to remember. Matt was in Skyshark for a few years on top of Slowlight and is now a sound engineer and producer, and Duncan grew up in Brighton in the UK playing in bands there while studying drums at college, as well as short periods in bands here. Statues started as an idea between myself and Scott in early 2009 and at that point it was going more towards sounding like Sikth mixed with Thrice but when we all came together it ended up sounding completely different and nothing like we had intended originally, but in a good way. Originally, Scott was going to be playing bass as that’s his main instrument and we were looking for a guitarist, then Matt (our bass player) said "So when are we practicing?" He was so excited, like a puppy, and we didn’t have the heart to tell him we didn’t want him in the band. And now he’s irreplaceable and we love him dearly, go figure!
What are your main influences as a band?
The Chariot is probably the most obvious one and something we all bonded over early on, as well as Norma Jean. It’s more of their attitudes towards music that we take influence from; that creative freedom is important to us and the way they approach their art is extremely influential. I guess we do also like a good panic chord. Apart from that though, we all listen to different sorts of music and enjoy different aspects of music as a whole, so we all bring something different to what we’re doing as a band. Sometimes that works really well and other times it can be a little like smashing heads together, but I’ve always believed you need that creative tension for something to work. If we all liked the same sorts of things, it would end up being a carbon copy of those influences and thus not nearly as artistically fulfilling. That said, some things definitely do not go well together! Some bands that have been thrown about while writing over the last six months have been Defeater, The Dillinger Escape Plan, La Dispute, Converge, Touche Amore, Dead Swans, Mother Of Mercy, Brutality Will Prevail, as well as a bunch of others. That probably doesn’t help or give any indication of what we’re doing… we don’t really know either just yet so we’ll both have to wait and see.
What has been your highlight playing with Statues so far?
Definitely playing with The Chariot a few weekends back as they made their first stops in Australia. We’ve been so incredibly lucky to have played and made friends with a lot of incredible people in incredible bands, but I’m not sure anything will quite compare to that weekend for a long time to come. Being a part of all three shows and hanging out with them and getting to know them was just an absolute privilege. And of course the infamous pear incident made it all the funnier and more memorable. Performing for our favourite band and having them enjoy it will be hard to top for a while yet!
Tell us about your choice to release a 7" and the accompanying artwork.
We put out our second demo ‘A Human Work’ in May last year, and as we started playing shows and going through the process of earning our way into the local scene here, we started throwing ideas around as to what to do next. Given some of those influences up there, we all have a pretty big interest in vinyl and putting out records in that medium, and we felt at the time that we didn’t have a long EP or LP in us just yet, so we decided to just write the two tracks and put it out as a 7". Initially we were going to be doing it as a split with our friends Vanity, but a bunch of time-related issues meant that didn’t work out. There was also the fact that we recorded the demos ourselves and they don’t really capture the way we sound live, so we also wanted something that would capture more of what we’re about. The artwork reflects the lyrical content of the release; it’s lonely, bleak and harshly man-made. There’s a lot in there about how I feel about technology and where things are at in Western culture, as well as how I was dealing with those things at the time, but I’ll let the songs do the talking.
Why did you choose to put the 7" up for free download prior to release?
This is something that everyone has a different opinion about and those of us directly involved with the music industry all over the world will naturally be the ones with the strongest ideas. It’s also something that I’m finding can tread on others toes fairly easily when it comes up in conversation. From a business point of view, I think that young, new bands like ourselves benefit far more from simply releasing as much for free as possible early on in their careers when the costs are easily manageable, making it as accessible and easy to get a hold of as possible. More listeners is an investment in the future and the best way to get your music into people’s music libraries is to provide it for free download. When you reach a certain point, which is up to each band, then you can change what you’re doing as you’ve won over enough people to do so. At this point, we’re more interested in having people share and enjoy our art than anything else, and that sharing gives it meaning. What good is a release no one knows about and then asking them to pay to have it in their libraries? We have physical copies if people would like to purchase one, but I don’t believe in making people pay for an intangible product like a digital release. Especially a ten minute 7" or a demo. Of course, if we were on a label things would be a little different for a lot of reasons, but while we’re able to handle things in whatever way we choose, we will do things in the most positive, constructive way we’re able to within our means. I think this attitude towards releasing things for free can tread on toes because people may interpret it as disrespectful to those who go the other way on it, and they might feel like you expect to get things for free because of that attitude. Not at all; I and the others have nothing but respect for the way other bands choose to do things, as that’s their decision not ours.
How has the response been to the release of Wait For Calm so far?
It’s been fantastic thus far, and we’re all extremely proud of how it’s all turned out as far as the way it sounds and how the vinyls look and feel as a product. It’s a short release but I think that the effort we’ve put into it has made a good statement of how serious we are, rather than just having an online demo floating around. We’ve had a lot of compliments on the physical package as well, and it really does look and feel amazing, far better than I had anticipated, to be honest! Pirates Press did an incredible job. And a lot of people are already singing along at shows which is incredible as well. Overall, we couldn’t be happier!
How did the release shows go? Why was the house party show cancelled?
Also fantastic! We’re very much a band that thrives on a lot of crowd participation and we’d not seen quite that level of intensity at a show before then. That’s entirely what we’re about, singing along and going wild. I said in between songs that the energy in the room was absolutely incredible and I really hope that continues here, and that we see a little bit of that when we head over east. We managed to sell copies of the 7" to nearly a quarter of the attendance too, which legitimately blows my mind. We have a lot of love for this city, the people here are so unbelievable and I’m glad so many bands are coming over to experience that as well. As for the house show… Peter’s house, which is now internet-famous for The Chariot playing there, is being demolished as we speak and the owner was there on the Sunday we intended to have the show to inspect it. It’s pretty heartbreaking but I’m sure we’ll find somewhere else that has the same incredible, warm atmosphere. And our friend Jeremy was under police watch after they came and told him to cancel the house show at his house the week before. It was tempting to just do it anyway, but common sense got the better of being punk. We’re planning something else soon to make up for it.
Wait For Calm only had two tracks (although your demo had four obviously) What’s next, an EP or LP? How many songs do you have that are yet to be put to tape?
We’re working on an LP already that we’re hoping to record over Christmas this year, and we have two songs finished for it at this point. Before that happens though, we’ll be putting out two tracks off that LP as a split in Spring with our friends Mom Dad and the Kids, which will be a lot of fun and will keep some momentum flowing towards releasing that LP. Scott found his old trombone the other day, expect that to make an appearance.
What’s your favourite way to ingest caffeine?
Hourly, via coffee. So much coffee is consumed in this band, and I’m drinking one right now as I type this. None of us really drink alcohol, but I think we replaced getting drunk years ago with drinking coffee in similar amounts. I can’t tell which is worse, to be honest.
How did you come up with the name Statues?
This story is depressingly simple. I had a list of hundreds of different band names, and in that list were a bunch of words I’d picked out of an architecture magazine at work that I thought would make good names. We went with Statues because it’s so relentlessly plain and doesn’t suggest what we sound like on any level, and we wanted a name that allowed us to do whatever we wanted. There’s that, and also it’s kind of ironic, which will make more sense when you see us play. At some point I’m going to sit down and work out a more exciting story to tell people.
How does the song-writing process work for Statues?
It’s not so much a process as a lot of yelling at each other and getting sidetracked talking about things that are completely irrelevant. We aren’t a GuitarPro band and, for better or worse, we write in an improvise-memorise style, which probably makes it a lot more like hard work than it could be if we did things differently, but it wouldn’t be the nearly same if we did it that way. If we all wrote a song individually, it would sound like four completely different bands, so in sitting down and throwing ideas around and improvising things out, everything is a combination of all four of us. Writing together definitely works well, even if it takes a while to get there sometimes. We have a habit of rewriting songs three or four times each, discarding sometimes all but one or two ideas and working from that all the way back up. I think that keeps the quality control pretty high but sometimes it’s a little counter-productive; we just threw out a song that was initially good, but we rewrote it and made it really average. It really is a lot of fun though, and that’s the most important thing and that comes through in the eventual live performances. We can only do an hour and a half or two hours of writing before we’re all too stressed out and wired, probably because of the coffee. It’s a productive two hours though. Sometimes. I sit and try and make suggestions for parts and composition based on the whole sound going on, where the others may miss something due to focusing on what they’re doing with their own parts. I generally write my lyrics and vocal parts once we get to preproduction for songs because of that involvement in the music writing, as well as not really knowing what sort of mood will come out until I can sit down with it properly. I’ll have ideas as we write though for vocal breaks and similar ideas.
I’m considering going to Perth for a holiday in the near future. Which venues should I check out?
Regardless of opinions on the all-ages scene, HQ is my favourite venue and a great place to see bands because it’s so friendly and modest, and there’s a lot of great restaurants nearby, which is seals the deal. As far as 18 venues go, Amplifier Bar, The Rosemount Hotel, The Rocket Room and The Den at the Civic Hotel are all awesome venues for live music and generally cater well for metal and hardcore.
How does playing in your home town compare to playing elsewhere in terms of response?
We’ll find out in three weeks when we’re in Sydney! I’m glad we’re playing with good friends Safe Hands, Caverns, Fixtures and a bunch of others as we’ll at least be among similar music. We’ve played a few shows here in Perth, and Bunbury in particular, to crowds that genuinely either didn’t enjoy us at all or had no idea what they were watching or how to react, and that’s okay; it doesn’t affect our enjoyment in performing too much. We’re not that avant-garde, but it can happen occasionally as we don’t have a lot of obviously similar bands to play with. That’s getting better though with bands like Mom Dad and the Kids, Only Hope, Dyatlov, Sail On! Sail On!, Off Broadway and Foxes all getting up and going alongside us. This new tiny community of bands is pretty incredible to see blossoming slowly.
Does Mike do all your artwork / designs? How important do you see that side of things to the overall artist output of the band?
I do all our artwork and visual bits and pieces besides the shirt designs. Those I leave in the more than capable and very talented hands of our friend Damian Audino at this point. It’s nice to have a bit of collaboration on things and shirts are a great medium to achieve that with. I’m hoping to enlist the services of a bunch of others like Adam Vass, Jacob Bannon and Cory Brandan Putman in the future and we’ll continue to keep the shirts on that collaboration level. That aside, I have a lot more experience with print design so I’m more than happy to leave the shirts to those far more talented. Those names mentioned above are big influences on me as an artist, both as artists and in what they do in their respective bands (La Dispute, Converge and Norma Jean), and I think that the visual aspects of a band are an underestimated part of the creative output. The impression that you can leave with a release can be so much more powerful with the right artwork accompanying it. That might come off as a bit art-wanky and pretentious but music is art as much as photography and painting is, and approaching things as almost a mixed-media project where you can pour the feelings from one medium into another makes it more fulfilling for me and the others get a lot out of contributing to that as well. The more ways you can be creative as a band, the better, I say!
Online you are constantly promoting other bands and just general seemed stoked to be playing with other talented musicians and doing these shows, and seem to always have time to respond to fan’s questions. How important is community in hardcore to you?
Art is meaningless if it’s not shared, and bands can’t exist without positive, passionate community, consisting of both fellow bands as well as fans. At the end of the day, we’re all writing music to be listened to and enjoyed, and if we can share music that we love with those who are interested in what we do, then they might discover something new and support that as well. There are no negatives to spending two minutes letting our fans know about a band we like in order to help that band out. We’re all in the same boat, and there’s nothing to be gained from existing as an island. We’ve met so many incredible people already in the short time we’ve been a band and we can’t help but help them out in any way we can because they deserve it. Everybody wins. Likewise with having all the time in the world for our fans. It’s incredible that people even care enough to ask us about things and talk to us and participate in all the stupid nonsense we post on Facebook. What is there to be gained from treating people like anything other than equals when really, we’re all just normal, regular guys ourselves? We are the least cool bunch of people you’ll ever meet, and we’re okay with this.
Are you considering coming to Melbourne any time soon?
Before the year is out, definitely. We’ve made a number of friends from Melbourne who we’ve had the opportunity to play shows with here, so we’ll organise to get our name on some bills over there, even just opening shows, and in the next few months we’ll fly ourselves over for a weekend. I’m pretty disappointed that the Arthouse has closed down, that would have been at the top of my list of places to play. I only ever got to see one show there!
You’ve had a busy 2011 so far. What are your plans for the rest of the year, recording and tour wise?
As mentioned, we’re off to Sydney and Newcastle in three weeks for the weekend, then hopefully we’ll get to Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Adelaide at separate times through the year. We’ll play anywhere, really! We might even rent a Winnebago. And then it’s into recording the LP in December if all things go to plan, then when that’s out, more planes and vans. And from there? No idea. As long as we’re able to play shows and meet new people and make more incredible friends, we’re happy. Thanks for the questions, pal!
– Statues on Facebook.
– Listen to the Wait For Calm 7" on Bandcamp.