Disclamer: In the interest of journalistic integrity, I am advising that the show that Usta were promoting is one in which I will be playing. Now, with that out of the way…
On the 16th of September I interviewed Usta, a band that playing live for the first time at BestWurst.
BestWurst is a free event being held at MoshPit on the 26th of October.
The interview was fairly jovial.
Ez: Hello everyone! I’m speaking to Heli of Stomach. I’m speaking to Gene of Serious Beak and I’m speaking to Lachlan of some Fuckin’ band.
Lachlan: Yep. That’s fair.
Ez: And as I understand it, you guys have formed a band called Utsa?
Lachlan: No. Incorrect. Terrible start. Get your facts straight.
Gene: It’s like America. USA. But with a…
Lachlan: U S taaaa. It’s like you’re selecting from a menu of countries. “I’ll take the U S taaaa”.
Ez: Anyway, hello everyone. Tell us, how did the band come to be?
Lachlan: Um, yeah cool. So, Heli and I started kind of working on songs, what, about two years ago?
Lachlan: And we built a bunch of songs at home and then we thought “Fuck, we should put a band together”, and around the same time gene was doing some stuff with his pedals. Doing interesting, strange, sonic esoterica which I’m sure he’ll tell you a bit more about.
And, uh, what that kind of fell into is [that] he asked if he could do some pedal effect work in Godswounds, and at the time Godswounds wasn’t doing shit, so I asked Gene if he wanted to play drums in Heli’s and my band. He joined and then we burned through several of our friends until we got the most recent bassist (laughter).
And that pretty much is the… I guess that’s the starting point of the band.
Ez: Alright. And then from your perspective Gene?
Gene: Uh, well I thought I was asked because they couldn’t find anyone that was a minority, so they were able to get a better kind of jump on the scene…
As a new start you have to have these, um, niche…
Lachlan: Social Quotas.
Gene: Yeah, exactly. There’s all these things they obviously were looking for but they just had to go for mental illness, um, which we’ve got twice now in our band.
Lachlan: Oh, we’ve got it all.
G: Which totals four now.
Lachlan: We’re a rainbow of spectrum at the moment.
Gene: The spectrum definitely goes from high to higher.
So yeah, and I think that’s all that… yeah. Everything’s fitting like a glove.
Lachlan: In spite of [his] gender handicap.
Gene: Yeah I know, I’m very upset. Obviously it didn’t help being a white male. Didn’t have any ticking boxes. Although we are at Newtown, which is nice to be around. Some of my own friends, you know, trust fund hippies are definitely fun to be around.
But yeah, it’s good. It’s good to act different.
Lachlan: It is. quota fulfillment.
Ez: So, tell us about Usta. What do you guys do?
Lachlan: You’ve got to get background from Heli.
Lachlan: Don’t you want to give background on your version of events?
Ez: Oh yeah. Go on then.
Heli: That’s okay.
Lachlan: No, she doesn’t.
Lachlan: Alright. So tell us about what?
Ez: Tell us about Usta.
Gene: Well I think Lachlan really wanted to be liking grunge movement and he just missed the boat.
Lachlan: Slightly too young.
Gene: So I think this is combined effort from both Heli and Lachlan who enjoy grunge could and should be.
Yeah. Bit of Melvins love in there.
Lachlan: Little Pixies.
Gene: Little Pixies? Yeah.
Heli: I have heard [no Melvins] and one song of The Pixies.
Gene: Dude, totally missed grunge. That’s it.
Um, yeah. Kind of dirty-ish things with riffs and bits. Yeah, there’s definitely bits in there.
Ez: And then from your perspective Heli?
Heli: I just wanted it to be something that was aggressive, ’cause that’s whats fun for me. So I didn’t really care what it was as long as it was aggressive.
That’s all I enjoy really, other than noise stuff.
Gene: Uptempo grooves. Something to slap your thigh to.
Ez: A barn-stomper if you will.
Gene: Oh yeah. Our second last song is a bit of a barn-stomper.
Lachlan: There’s actual cow punk [in there].
Lachlan: Yep. Absolutely. Edward Bernays level self marketing intact.
Ez: You guys have been rehearsing for a bit now, right? A few months, at least?
Lachlan: About eight months? Maybe longer. How long have we been rehearsing? Maybe even a year.
Heli: Maybe a year.
Lachlan: We’ve been kind of rehearsing and putting this together over the space of a year.
Essentially Heli and I took the bunch of songs that we made externally, brought it into the room and we’ve been fattening them up and [moving] them around.
There’s been some shaving for sure.
Ez: Fair enough. Is there any particular reason why after about almost a year of rehearsal it’s now time to perform live?
Lachlan: Well yeah. I think we’re at the stage where we want to do something with it.
To be honest with you it started with our friend Andrew, who was our bassomophonist two bassists ago. We wanted to kind of create a situation of make-or-break where we’re like “we’ve got this gig, we’ve got stuff to get together for then”. And it went the break direction ’cause Andrew has a job where externally he has to work eight hours and does editing and important stuff so he couldn’t do it.
That was kind of like, for me anyway, why I wanted to do a gig, ’cause it’s kind of pointless to sort of dawdle in this, I guess this social hobbies and staying home and having a bit of a fiddle with your buddies and stuff like that.
I mean, I’m all about performing. I like making albums and things but I know that these guys and me really enjoy playing live.
Heli: I like recording as well.
Lachlan: Yeah, I’m not saying you don’t.
Gene: I don’t. I hate recording.
I didn’t mind the last recording we did.
Lachlan: The last one was comparatively better.
Gene: Yeah. Much better.
Lachlan: There was air conditioning for a starter, wasn’t there?
Gene: Oh, goodness, yeah. I’m not getting into that (laughter).
But yeah, I think everything that I’ve done previously to the last Serious Beak thing, everything prior to that was like extreme, “we have no time, don’t fuck it up”, and just that added extra stress made me fuck shit up heaps good (laughter).
So yeah, knowing how fragile my brain is with stress on top with having to remember [how] our songs go… yeah.
The last one, we gave ourselves four days in the studio to do four songs. That’s ludicrous.
Ez: Yeah, that’s pretty rough.
Gene: No no, that’s good. Before that we had like two days to do twelve songs.
Ez: Fair enough. That’s comparatively much more relaxed.
Lachlan: It’s a bit friendlier.
Gene: It was like “Ah cool, we’ll go have lunch, come back and try it again”. It was a lot more fun.
Everything else has sucked besides that! (Laughter).
Ez: Now Heli, as I understand you’re doing the vocals?
Heli: Yep. And some writing.
Ez: How would you describe your approach to this kind of music?
Heli: I just do what I do. I only do one thing and anything outside of that is out of my comfort zone (laughter), so I just get to do that ’cause that’s kind of my band too. It’s not me playing in someone else’s band where I have to try and sound a certain way. I can just be free to do whatever it is that I’m doing.
Ez: So long as it fits I imagine?
Heli: Yeah. Try to make it fit. I don’t know if it does.
Lachlan: It does.
Ez: And would you guys all describe the songs as more structured, or is there elements for improv in there?
Lachlan: No, not at all. They’re very structured. I mean, opposed to what we all three have done in Violence in Action in the past and some of the other bands and projects.
Gene too, he improvised one of the tracks on the last Serious Beak album and whatnot.
With Heli, where she literally built Stomach in an improvised setting over a thirty-six hour period straight, I believe?
Heli: Yeah. Oh, it was one day.
Lachlan: Maybe closer to twenty-four, twenty-eight hours of doing it straight.
So no, I think this is a very song-based music in the spirit of, I guess what Gene’s alluding to with early grunge and things like this.
This is definitely songs! We’re all a bit funny. We’re not the normal people and we don’t fit in even with people who value not fitting in. So when we say this it’s going through the prism of our weird…
Lachlan: Gotta get our collectivisim and all that shit.
But yeah, it definitely… when we say it’s this it probably is this, right? It’s probably slightly different to what we’re presenting, but yeah, for sure. It’s definitely song based and I would definitely say it’s structural.
Gene: Yeah. It’s strange going back to something that has a singer and short ideas, to the point, from big waffly prog things (laughter).
To the point. Yep. Done. You’ve made your point. Next thing. Make your next point.
“Oh, we can come back to that and wiggle it around a little bit. Re-work it, do the same thing again, but this time with like, a wavy jazz hand in the air.”
Lachlan: (Laughter) quite literally.
Gene: Yeah. I don’t there’s.. I’m sure we could put wiggle room if we felt like we wanted to, but I don’t think anything feels like it… I think it just fits what it is.
Although saying that, I jam over a lot of the things that we are doing. I’m sure that you guys have noticed that I haven’t got a fixed thing on a lot of things.
Lachlan: It tends to happen, doesn’t it? Things naturally move the more comfortable you get with it.
Gene: Yeah, especially like wi0th new bass players coming in, all knowing the songs more just what the song needs. I’m definitely evolving what I’m playing, but that’s hopefully what everyone does all the time. Evolves what they’re doing and gets to the final thing eventually.
If you just go “This is what it is”, you could be ‘right, but you have got no wiggle room for it to be getting better.
And yes, even with our jam today, small things were just tweaked because it just sounded right for that room, that time.
It’s pretty strict form, but without work.
Heli: Without it feeling negative.
Gene: Yeah, without feeling like a fusion band, where every note’s written and dictated out to you.
Ez: So you guys have been rehearsing for about a year now. You’ve been writing songs as well. Um, are the songs written just predominantly individual things or is it going to be like, something more of a whole, so to speak?
Let me rephrase [that]. Will they fit with each other, or are they just their own individual things at the moment?
Lachlan: I think we’ve actually worked pretty hard to make them fit with each other.
Gene: Yeah, I think it sounds to me as an outsider – not a key writer – um…
Lachlan: You are a key writer.
Gene: A key helper.
Lachlan: Key arranger.
Gene: A key instigator then.
But it sounds like the things that are coming forward are like “well we haven’t done this yet and that would fit with that group of songs that we are doing”, so it seems that the song style choices, it does fit..
(We were briefly disrupted by someone providing our food bill)
Ez: Anyway, as you were saying?
Gene: I don’t know what I was saying. That’s my special, uh…
Lachlan: Ezekiel, what was he saying?
Ez: I don’t know, but it was a good point.
You’re a key helper, I believe.
G: Oh yeah. I’m a key helper, but I think combined you two are actively thinking “okay, here’s our group of songs. What can fit that’s different but still feel like a piece.
So things are backing each other up by being different, but not so obscenely different it doesn’t feel like has a place.
Ez: Okay, fair enough.
Lachlan: As I kind of told you in that other fuckin’ thing you put up about that other band that I do…
Ez: What’s their name? Pillow Sleeps at Night, or something?
Lachlan: Whatever. Some shit. Some honky-tonk crap.
I come from an acting background, I was trained in drama school. I was a director and stuff like that, so for me that’s all about choices.
So I think that for me, I always go into a band wanting to make specific choices and that’s not just me wearing a special costume, although that does become a thing at some stage.
But it’s like I go in literally like “this is the sort of tonal world I have. This is the sort of rhythmic world I want to approach.” In the case of this band I’m only allowed to play one certain instrument. I only want to approach that instrument in a certain way.
It’s obviously not to the point where it could get int he way. I don’t want to hit the point where we have to disregard other ideas or directions because of that. But that’s essentially what I’ve always been about. Maybe it’s some fantastic um, abstraction of my own neuroticism, but I want to create a box. I want there to be some compartmentalised views. When I do this, I put this hat on, you know?
That’s sort of fuckin’ what De Bono says… what is it? The seven hats, whatever it is?
Ez: I don’t know.
Lachlan: I think that – doesn’t matter. But yeah, it’s definitely a sense of that for me. I attest to that because I want to be true. ‘Cause I’ve tried hard to make sure that it’s very specific. What about you?
Heli: I just vomit (laughter).
Lachlan: You just vomit. Purge it.
Gene: So Lachlan, do you find it hard not being the ringleader, such as a Godswounds situation?
Ez: Oh wait, he’s in Godswounds?
Lachlan: What’s Godswounds?
Umm, I don’t know. I don’t think so. Like for me, it was fine. I like the..
Gene: The different hat, as you would say.
Lachlan: Yeah, I really do like it.
The big challenge for me was working in an environment democratically as possible. Although that’s bullshit ’cause democracy isn’t a real thing.
Gene: But do you reckon that because of this, putting the Godswounds hat back on and being the writing guy for everyone feels like a better fit because you’ve had time away from it?
Lachlan: No, because I’ve done this before. Godswounds wasn’t the first band I’d been in and the majority of the bands that I’ve existed in existed in the sense of the traditional democratic sense.
Gene: But did you like those bands?
Lachlan: No I didn’t. No. But I like this band because your ideas don’t suck.
Lachlan: And I think that’s the main thing. Or that there’s a constant flow of ideas. Some people defend their point view and their right to have an opinion without having a fucking opinion, and I think that’s the irritating thing.
Today’s classic example; we put a song together with Tim that we’d been working on for a while but we kinda really modified some stuff and I feel that it was really good today. I think we really found some awesome intensity from it, and I think that comes from the part of this situation so I don’t feel more or less uncomfortable for it.
It was something I was excited about, was having less control, to be honest with you.
Heli: That’s true.
Ez: But surely maybe that excitement is because of the tempering of age which means you’re less frustrated with not being in control.
Lachlan: No, no, not at all.
I’m in control in most spaces in my life, and in one way or another, if I go back and I wanna really look at something clinically and psychologically, you’ll notice I do some very clever things to maintain [some control]. I don’t always do it consciously.
Don’t know if that’s true. I think I’m as bad as I ever was. In fact, I think in some ways I’m worse, but to be honest with you, I love working with Gene and Heli, and now with Tim. And previously with Rhett(?) and Andrew as well.
I love opinions. I love… my favourite Bible quote of course, as I annoy poor Heli with all the time, is “As iron sharpens iron, so does one man sharpen his neighbour”, and I think that’s fucking badass. You want to have this situation where everyone can keep tempering and, you know, calving the points of the song, so fuck no.
That answers your question.
Ez: So what…
Lachlan: Does it?
Gene: Oh. I was gonna s- yeah, possibly.
Gene: Yes, but you just said then that you like, um… the hat of the less control thing’s something that you have felt uncomfortable with.
Lachlan: No I didn’t feel uncomfortable with it.
Gene: Or bored with, or-
Lachlan: No, I just saw bad things happen in a band.
Godswounds came out of the fact that, um…
Gene: Other people’s ideas you weren’t 100% on board with.
Lachlan: Kinda. Kinda. And I think for me it was sort of like – And the other thing I’ve got to put into perspective ’cause I was in that same naive place at the time. I’d moved to Sydney and I was like “I’m gonna make money from just being in 20 bands. I’m gonna become so fucken’ rich and I’m going to make $20.00 from each band”.
You don’t roster rehearsal costs alone into that, right?
Heli and I were talking about this the other day as well.
So I was in a bunch of different bands and some of them, I was working quite well in, some of them I was doing a shit job, and one of them in particular I just wasn’t good enough to be in the band for a long time, I think, in my personal opinion.
I never felt like I was uncomfortable in a democratic construct in terms of everyone having an opinion in a band. Although I think it’s actually close to an anarchic construct than a democratic construct, because everyone has an opinion but there isn’t necessarily a unified result, right? So I don’t think that it was ever something that was uncomfortable or frustrating. No, I think Godswounds came out of the fact that I had a set of songs that were rejected from one band.
Gene: Oh, the Battle Pope situation?
Lachlan: Yeah! And it was rejected hilariously and I was like “Aw, okay”, and then I built Godswounds and my whole aspect in that was probably the idea, “I’m going to create a band that’s essentially a gentle autocracy”. And that’s where that came from. The idea of that. So yeah.
I mean, I got to where that had to happen ten years [ago], so I’d be a selfish little cunt I wasn’t open to moving back into it.
But it’s something that existed when I’ve worked with other guys at the same time as Godswounds. It’s generally democratic, y’know?
Funnily enough though, I do have some trouble working under bands with the same political structure as Godswounds. I’ve had trouble with doing it myself so I have a lot of respect for the dudes in that band being able to do it.
Gene: Of course! Definitely hats off to those guys.
Lachlan: That’s way too much shit about that band that doesn’t matter here though.
Gene: That’s okay, you can just delete all that.
Ez: No, no, it all goes in.
Lachlan: He does it long hand. Like you’ll see this thing. It will be fuckin’ pages and pages. And every ah and um and dot dot dot will be there.
Gene: Wizard. All capitals.
Ez: Look, if you really want me to put you all in capitals I can do that.
Lachlan: Actually, I’ve got one for you too, so you’ll have to type this out: Methylenedioxymethamphetamine. There you go.
Ez: No, no, it’s – ah fuck it, whatever.
Um, so what to, wherefore, from… Is everything… Is the band going to continue after this gig?
Heli & Gene: I hope so.
Lachlan: Was this a thing? Yeah, absolutely, this is the start of it.
Gene: Well it isn’t now.
Lachlan: Yeah, no, obviously the bands going to continue. This is just the first gig. Hopefully [there will] be more.
Ez: So is it like a stealth launch gig then?
Gene: Yeah, just in case it’s terrible.
Lachlan: Yeah, this is the test run.
Gene: So we haven’t invited absolutely everyone and burn all our friends’ bridges so they’re never coming to anything that we [do] again.
Lachlan: We’ve already burned their bridges with our previous bands; let’s be honest.
Ez: And like, are you guys preparing music for serious recording at this point as well?
Lachlan: Totes. Yeah, we’re recording in March next year.
G: We’re recording tomor- uh, tomorrow?
H: Next week.
Lachlan: We’re recording next week as well.
H: Our first track.
Lachlan: Scratch the March thing.
Yeah, we’re recording next week. We’re gonna do a little single and we’re gonna- hope to get it out next month.
Ez: Before or after the show?
Ez: Before? Okay, fair enough.
Heli: Hopefully, before, yeah.
Ez: Okay, well this place is packing up.
Lachlan: Should we move up the road?
Ez: No no, we’ll just wrap it up quickly.
Ez: One last thing: Why should people care about Usta?
Lachlan: Oh this question again.
Ez: I didn’t [ask for] Godswounds.
Lachlan: I think you said something similar.
Ez: I didn’t say it about that other band.
Gene: Why should anyone care about anything? Why should I care about an interview? Why should I care about getting to the end of this ten page essay?
Ez: Well you shouldn’t, but it’s…
Gene: I don’t really have anything to say. Like, it’s… everything’s been done before. I’m not gonna pretend that anything’s new. It’s just us doing it. The filter of us doing the thing that everything pretends that they’re the first one to do.
Ez: Well, thank you very much peoples, and we’ll see you at the show.
Lachlan: See you there.
Lachlan: Thank you very much dude.