Tasmania band the Sea Scouts are amongst the most amazing bands I have seen, their performances memorising with their darkness, feedback and sparing use of melody. They have toured the mainland playing Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne quite regularly. Many people would recognise them from their two tracks on the Wonder From A Quarter Acre compilation.
In December I spoke with Tim after their set at the Globe in Sydney. Thanks goes out to Daniel Ooi for providing some additional questions.
Places like Chicago and Seattle are always commented as having a gloomy sound coming from their weather. Do you think the considerably colder climate in Hobart has given bands their a dark sound? What do you think of the comments that the reasons some Tasmanian bands sound like New Zealand bands is because they're on the same latitude and get the same amount of rainfall and hence same environment to stimulate music?
No, I don't think it is specifically climate that gives a band a different sound, I think its the isolation of these places. In regard to rain fall, the rain fall in Hobart is very different to the rainfall in New Zealand, Hobart is actually the driest capital city in Australia, it doesn't actually rain that much there, where as parts of New Zealand have extremely high rainfall.
Was it hard break-out of Hobart and tour the mainland in the first place?
Yeah it was really difficult at first because you get into a total headspace when you live in small place like Tasmania, constantly surrounded with friends and people you know and its really safe and its cossie, then you move to the big city where no body gives a shit about you and. Basically I am a country boy you know, I grew up in the country, and when I moved to Melbourne it just fucking knocked me on the arse you know. It was fuck all this concrete, all these people who don't say g'day to you on the street, all these McDonalds it's now how I grew up, so its weird at first.
Would you ever move away from Hobart just for the sake of musical advancement?
Yes, if I thought moving away from Hobart would help my creativity then I'd do it but at the moment I think moving away from Hobart would just hinder my creativity.
Was Unstable Ape Records formed specifically to release your own recordings?
Unstable Ape was originally formed purely as some kind of backup to my ego, if you want to be cynical you can see like that for sure but the point it has grown from just releasing things I have done and it has grown to the stage were it is starting to release lots of other things which I am not involved but I think somehow fit into the picture of some kind of larger idea, which is bigger than any individual include myself and that was the idea for me. It wasn't just meant to be my music, I would eventually like it to become a much greater vehicle for lots of other stuff that I think occupies a similar mental space perhaps to what I do but also different because it is different individuals, it is almost like a banner or a flag for a idea that's how I see it.
So would you sign to a label of any magnitude?
I don't know it would depend on specifics, it's hard to say. You can't sit here and say "I wouldn't sign to this, I wouldn't do this, I wouldn't do that" it is not specific enough but its not how it works, obviously your not going to sign to any label if they give you a ludicrous contract but let me just say I don't like the idea of being involved with any multi-national corporations that's for sure.
So does this aspect, even though its personal to you, form any aspect of the band?
Well I am part of the Sea Scouts but there is also two other people in the band, and their points of view have as much weight in the band as mine, in terms of who we sign and who we don't sign with. We were offered a contract from Augogo and we all decided as a group that we would be better off doing it ourselves, it wasn't me to say it was everyone.
The foundation of your lyrics, is it story telling, political or something else?
Well its really complicated, I can't just give you some manifesto saying this is what we believe in. Let me just say that I believe in that people should do no harm to others if they can avoid it, and that's not necessarily what everyone else in the band reckons. So it's a matter of compromise, it's a band, it's a group of people working together to larger goal. What that larger goal is I don't even know, we don't know, I don't think anyone knows.
Does the primitive sound and mood of the Sea Scouts music represent a certain philosophy, in the same way that Devo's philosophy of de-evolution came out in their music?
Well it's funny you should say that about Devo, cause I actually in times of my life have felt that human beings are devolving and I think there is evidence to support that in the way we behave considering we have progressed so much technologically in the last ten thousand years that we have gone backwards spiritually in a lot ways. For example when the Aboriginals first came to Australia they reeked a lot of environmental hazard by hunting out the all big game but then they reached a balance with nature and they stoped destroying the environment and lived in a harmonious existence. I mean we have just come here and fucked everything and we haven't managed to reach that balanced and yet we consider the Aboriginals to be more primitive than white man. Spiritually we are more primitive, spiritually white man is the most primitive race on the face of the Earth at the moment.
Is the belief on aliens an aspect of the bands philosophy?
Not necessarily aliens, I use the symbol of aliens because to me I got to represent somebody completely alone, an outside perspective of humanity, that's why I like aliens. I just like the idea of somebody with a totally outside perspective analysing humanity, what is it doing, where is it going. At times I think everybody feels isolated from humanity and I think if people thought about humanity in those terms they might come to some more productive conclusions about what the fuck we got to do.
Do you feel that the Hobart scene nurtured the band into what it is, or you would be the same regardless of origin?
The band wouldn't actually exist without Tasmania, it would be a different name, different sound, different people, it is part of the Tasmania experience the band. I think we a very "Tasmanian" band but I think in a few years that's going to become more and more obvious as more Tasmanian bands get known over here, then people will start to draw comparisons between like bands from Tasmania as having some kind of similar aesthetic even though its often very different as well, there is some idea there that links it together.
So do you feel the Tasmania scene is still yet to have its time?
The Tasmanian scene is only getting warmed up, I reckon its nothing, there is only a couple of Tasmanian bands that are really known. The Paradise Motel, those guys are from Tassie most of them, I think they are a horrible band but they are just the tip of the ice burg, they are the commercial tip of the ice burg. We're sort of the middle ground, not that were particularly commercial but we have released CDs and I suppose in a way taken ourselves semi-seriously but there is awful a lot of music down there that doesn't even bother trying to get out and that's sometimes because its so far up its own arse it can't be fucked or they are too slack, it is not just case of people against getting out there, its often an excuse made by people who couldn't be fucked to get their shit together.
So you would you say it is a healthy scene in comparison to the rest of Australia?
I'd say it's exactly the same to be honest, the only difference is that it is isolated, so people tend to form their own idea of what sounds right and tend to form their own idea of what's good and bad rather than what everyone else thinks, which is what seems to happen in capital cities, like you don't get one type of band you get ten bands that all sound the same. Where as in Hobart maybe at the most get two bands that do a similar kind of thing.
Through all the line-up changes the drumming element of heavy tom-toms and that tribal beat have stayed through from Sarah to Monica. Is it a tribal girl thing?
Yeah I suppose there is this sort of, you can call it naivety, or you can call it a sort of purity in which some people approach drums, I think there does seem to be some link between that and the non-macho element, to be honest a lot of boys once they get drunk drumming becomes a whole macho thing and a lot of girls get drunk and play shit too but from my experience I have just happened to come across girls that I have thought are more interesting drummers than most boys I know.
Do you have any side projects outside of the band?
We all play with lots of other different people and lots of other different bands, I do this thing called Flying Phallus, I don't know how you would describe it, I suppose it's what most people would call noise, I don't see it at noise I see it as music and I just jam with people at stuff.
Do a feel a sense of community with bands you regularly play with like Ninetynine?
Yeah it's funny that you should say that because I feel a really strong community between basically ourselves, Ninety-nine and the Stickmen, which is really strange because a lot of people see community as bands sounding the same but I think we sound very different but mentally we have got a lot in common. It's a different sound, a different style of music but I get heaps of enjoyment out of jamming with Laura and playing in Ninety-nine, its fantastic for me even though its a totally different type of music. So I suppose that is a creative community working together but often I think the community story with "indie" music or whatever you call it, is a crock of shit, to be honest I feel no sense of community with a lot artists playing because I think there coming from a totally different angle than we are, that's cool there is nothing wrong with that but I can't say I fit into that.
By Matt Attlee