Tassie Punk: Your Arachnids Are Safe In Launceston

“I know when you said that you wanted to die that you meant it

And you know when I said that I ’d be around that I meant that too
but when you say ‘are you in or are you out?’
I’ll tell you with a smile on my face,
‘Not here to fuck spiders anyway’”

Artwork by Robert Frost
Artwork by Robert Frost

 

That’s the opening lines to Launceston four-piece punkers, The Sleepyheads' song “spiders”, a little gem I discovered the other night as I traipsed through the flotsam and jettison of listless Google searches, sniffing out new music in Tasmania. Like a beachcomber I wasn’t fixated on one particular treasure or the other. I was only certain that I should encounter something that would surprise and intrigue. What brought me across the web and to the surf-shackled shores of Tassie in the first place is vague to me even now. It was a bizarre tangent of a tangent - something like hearing that The Bennies were coming to visit my town, giving them a listen, smirking quietly to myself, then discovering Aussie punk bands which eventually led me to Luca Brasi, which led me intrigued with a world I never previously thought to contemplate: Punk in Tasmania. Then with a smile on my face, I pondered what I had achieved through a myriad of searches which had by then consumed an entire evening, which had in turn not passed without consuming a gorgeous bottle of pinot noir from some rich bastard’s hobby vineyard in the southern highlands of New South Wales. I was smiling because [I was partially drunk and] I knew Streamhear would be a fun and sociable means to achieve what I ended up with: a new discovery of independent music. Specific independent music. Music I choose to listen to.

 

What initially drew me into The Sleepyheads’ song were those opening lyrics which paints an image of a friendship alit with the hope of committed intimacy, aptly explaining oneself (with a classic Aussie idiom) as not being in someone else’s life just to fornicate with spiders. The tempo ramps up a notch at “not here to fuck spiders anyway” and the song’s structure seems to really compliment Pat’s lyrics, which makes it feel like it would be a great sing-a-long song in a live situation. This is good, mellowed-out Aussie punk, with nothing too tricky to divert your attention and ample energy in both the riffs and the story telling to keep you hooked.

 

I contacted Pat because my curiosity gnawed at me on a few things. Firstly, I had to know if they even considered themselves “punk.” Just some days ago in the developmental stages of Streamhear, genre’s had been hot topic. I’d been trawling through “punk” as a form of music since my recent findings and noticed a wide diversity of styles and takes. Pat explains:

 

“I think a few people have placed us in that bracket [punk] and we just kind of ran with it. I think the term "punk" has kind of evolved a bit anyway, from bands like the Sex Pistols in the 70s and 80s, to bands like the Smith Street Band these days. It's sort of shifted from that whole "fuck the system" vibe, to be open to a much more inward approach to song writing.”

 

I further enquired on the Tassie punk scene in general, and Pat replies:

 

“There's actually a pretty wide array of "punk" sub genres down here. We obviously have Luca Brasi, who are killing it with that super hard hitting, emotional vibe that they have.
There's a few mellower style bands like us, a lot of cool Folk Punk stuff too, Brodygreg and Squid Fishing are rad.”

 

Squidfishing. Photography by Silent Hymn Photography.
Squid Fishing. Photography by Silent Hymn Photography.

Luca Brasi are big on the scene nowadays, so I’ll just leave you the link and move on! Squid Fishing have a cool vibe from what I’ve heard off of their Soundcloud page, and have helped me to understand folk punk as a genre. At first the concept of merging punk and folk appeared absurd to me, but if you volunteer your time to listen closely to their angst and vigour, the songs express themselves largely in "punk" - while vocally and sonically, they might remind you of The Waifs. In this regard folk punk suddenly makes a lot more sense. Pat has also mentioned The Saxons, who’s songs have reminded me a little of Augie March, though admittedly my history with folk music isn’t as arrayed as it could be (so please excuse any inaccurate comparisons). These guys gig frequently with The Sleepyheads and I am finding that their full and mature sound both addictive and uplifting. Further in my searches I found something else: The Dead Maggies and their song Jorgen Jorgenson. This really is niche punk but their video to this song is incredibly well done and deserves your attention and good humour. I’d call it Pirate Punk, but it really is up to your own ears to discern - such is the joy of music!

 

Initially, when I contacted Pat Broxton, all I wanted to ask were was this question: what are the advantages and disadvantages of being a Punk band in Tassie? Since my article on Like A Thief I’ve been more curious about the in’s and out’s of bands dealing with that separation from the larger cities. Pat’s outlook is refreshingly positive and informs me that the punk scene in Tassie has began to really regroup after an apparent collapse, and that everyone is super supportive of one another (this sounds familiar to the music scene I’ve found myself in over the past few years in Darwin. Is this a remote scene trend, perhaps? Is it that communities in smaller places tend to be a lot friendlier to one another? More closely knit? No doubt I’ll have to follow the trail and trends and investigate this peculiarity). Expanding on the perks of being involved in the Tassie music scene, Pat wisely explains:

 

“…when a big touring act comes to town, you've got a better chance of jumping on the show as a support.”

 

Ah. Maybe that’s it? A quainter slice of toast over which to spread the love jam. Mmmm. Yes. Love jam. I said it. But if you can navigate your imagination away from the crass imagery, love jam is kind of what makes us tick as musicians on the extrinsic level. It's landing those awesome support gigs, being showered in praise, or selling a stack load of merch. That is of course after the intrinsic, the bread and butter if you will, which are things like making fantastic friends, or quietly and confidentially creating awesome music within the intimate confinements of a rehearsal or bed room.

 

In a roundabout, half pissed way, what I’m trying to get at is that music is fucking awesome and you should really give exploring the dark underground of Aussie music a serious go. You’d be so surprised what you might find. Give Streamhear just a little bit more time, and you’d find you can do exactly that with the App. Period.

 

On behalf of Streamhear, thank you to The Sleepyheads for your part in contributing to great Aussie music. I hope the rest of the country can hear more of what is brewing in the cold streets of Tassie.

 

The Sleepyheads. Photography by Cameron Jones.
The Sleepyheads. Photography by Cameron Jones.

 

In the words of your devious neighbourhood hippy: enjoy your home grown products. Peace out and kudos to the crafty bastard who produced this pinot. Spectacular performance, Australia!

 

Yours etc.,

 

Shane Jovanovic

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