Early 2015. DEAFCULT release their self-titled first EP. Opens up with the obvious single “BEEMOMUG“. Perhaps the best opening statement of a band this decade. The sound, the structure, the propulsion… it’s like being sweetly slapped upside the head. At our studios, we got the early release, and DEAFCULT won a permanent place in rotation, and in our hearts. Anyone and everyone we shared with had the same immediate reaction: this is special.
Fast forward to June of 2017, and DEAFCULT have capitalized on their early promise. Even with lineup changes and schedule challenges, they completed their first long-player, Auras, for Hobbledehoy. They’ve toured Australia extensively with the support of national media outlets, and garnered much critical praise (including our own Top Five lists) only two months later. We sat down with Innez and Stevie, who were gracious enough to answer our far-reaching questions, and expertly deal with our awkward sense of humor. Press ‘play’ on the album and follow along, won’t you?
DKFM: Four guitars. Surely makes for an immense, epic sound. Do you ever wake up and think, “What the hell have we gotten ourselves into?” Like the old joke says, “Rush did it with only three people…” And do you ever run into each other on stage?
Stevie: I think the four guitars is essential to the way DEAFCULT sounds. There’s four, very simple, almost mundane fractions that equate to a more complex whole. It’s worth the tight squeeze to get that result. It’s a sound that I’ve never personally heard before and enjoy the otherworldly nature of it.
Innez: Earlier this year when Sean left the band, and I thought ‘ok maybe we can just go back to having three guitarists’ but then when we tried it out it just sounded wrong, like that extra element was missing. I think if we were to all go in, plug in and play, the outcome would sound awful! With this in mind we spend a lot of time on the different melodies and sounds and experiment quite a lot to get it to sound like it does. But yes, there’s still a bit of a shuffle around at each different venue to make sure we’re not whacking each other in the head. (laughs)
DKFM: This band seemed to form from the ashes of other quality acts, both in genre and “genre-adjacent”. Some names may not be familiar to our readers / listeners, but Roku Music springs to the top of the list. Do you see DEAFCULT as a sort of “shoegaze supergroup”?
Stevie: Not really, Innez and Kelly are the only people in the band that previously played in Shoegazer bands. To me it’s like my own personal supergroup as I asked the people that I most wanted to play music with to be in the band! I feel very fortunate every time we play that they all agreed cause it’s super inspiring playing with my favourite musicians in Brisbane.
Innez: I only knew Matt and Stevie (and now Kelly) before the band started so wasn’t really sure what type of music we would be creating together. Initially I thought Stevie was just asking me to work on a recording of his, so when we had our first rehearsal it was like, oh this is a thing, we’re a band! Haha. That being said, I think Stevie has a natural talent in writing beautiful shoegaze/dream pop songs with heavier elements and for some reason all the songwriters in the band add different qualities from the genre that work well together. So to wrap up, we are an unexpected supergroup. (laughs)
DKFM: The debut EP certainly caught OUR attention immediately. No surprise, really, as that’s sort of our job. But it didn’t take long for even the “local luminaries” like Triple J to climb fully on board. Are you at all surprised with the love you seem to have earned right out of the starting gate, coming from around the world?
Stevie: Oh without a doubt. Initially it was just a recording project. We never even thought people would actually hear it! It became this other thing though. When we actually heard the first record it was a surprise. “Oh right! That’s what we are?!” It seemed too unusual not to explore what it was further.
Innez: It’s been really surprising and exciting! Shoegaze fans are so passionate about the genre and the music being released. There are so many amazing bands in the scene; I kind of can’t believe the attention we’ve received so far. Thank you for all the love and support!
DKFM: While others focus on guitars, pedals, reverb, building a textural foundation for musical exploration, you start your process on acoustic guitar, writing accessible “pop” songs, only adding layers later in the process. What are the advantages of this approach? I can only imagine sitting around on an Ovation acoustic, thinking, “This’ll be a stomping anthem!”
Stevie: I think the roots of the band is still Pop music. You can stray away from that when you rely too heavily on effects. It’s nice to strip everything textural away and still have a good pop song there! Take away all the feedback and distortion from a Husker Du song and you have perfect pop songs, or add a layer of feedback and fuzz to a Ronettes song and you aren’t far away from the Mary Chain.
Innez: I guess it just comes down to getting the foundations right for a band like DEAFCULT. There’s a fine line between good noise and bad noise you know? At least for a band like us. We need that initial guitar rhythm to write the rest of the song around. Adding in a solid bass line and drums, then we can add the textural guitars, the cream on top. This just seems to work for us and if it ain’t broke, why fix it right?!?
DKFM: DEAFCULT is properly labeled as “noisy pop” or simply “noise pop”, yet many would lump you into both the shoegaze and dream pop categories. Are you comfortable with those tags, with ANY tags, applied to your sound?
Stevie: I don’t really think it’s that important how people categorise music. It’s easier for some people to put things into groups, which is fine! Other people just don’t worry about it. However you want to do it is cool I reckon.
Innez: I think we’re pretty easy going when it comes to tags and being categorised. AURAS is a pretty varied record so could be labelled under a few different genres. Ultimately, if you like it and want to call it shoegaze, dream pop, whatever you like, go for it!
DKFM: How long did Auras take to record and produce, and what was it like jumping from a well-regarded Bandcamp EP to a label-signed full album?
Stevie: AURAS took a long time. We recorded it and then wanted to change it a year later. Hobbledehoy were very good about it, most labels would have freaked out at us. They waited a year for us to turn around and say we aren’t feeling this yet we are doing it again. The album’s complete, out now on Hobbledehoy, burning up the charts.
Innez: Hobbledehoy are an incredible label with heaps of experience (and patience!) releasing records and working with bands so we’ve been really lucky to develop great friendships and working relationships through this release. I think we definitely did the right thing with re-recording the album, the songs are more realised with better performances, and everyone is happy with the outcome. We learnt a lot from the experience, so hopefully the next record won’t take quite so long. (laughs)
DKFM: Your headlining shows are booked (some already played) in Australia… any plans for an international tour, ala Flyying Colours? Probably made more difficult in your case, with six musicians…
Stevie: We talk about it all the time. Sometimes it’s hard to see how we would translate overseas. It feels like we belong to Australia in some ways. We owe a lot to the people who come to shows here, the labels that have released our records and the community radio stations that have supported us since the day we started. But then we also owe a great deal to people like yourself who have helped push us further afield. It’s a beautiful network the alternative music world it’s nice to see that it’s still thriving on its own terms.
Innez: We’d love to tour overseas! It is mostly the logistics and cost for a band of our size. But that being said we’ve had a lot of support from the US and Europe. It would be so awesome to make it over and meet the people supporting and emailing us!
DKFM: Finally, do you have a “band philosophy”, something that unifies the band as a team, gets you through the good times and bad?
Stevie: Communication is important. Telling each other how we feel. Bands are like family in some respects. We are there for each other during shitty times and we make each other laugh the rest of the time.
Innez: Yeah definitely communication, respect for each other and friendship keeps this band going. We’re all best mates at the end of the day!