slow magazine the revolution will be photocopied
     

slow #1/spring 1998

Straight outta Melbourne! The Paradise Motel are the sound of dreams turning to dust. Almost choirgirlish vocals (Merida has operatic training, so she knows what to do with her voice) and five boys who love a bit of feedback. Their debut album Left Over Life To Kill becomes more disturbing with each listen, strings and solitude giving way to an undercurrent of harsh distortion. I met Merida and guitarist Charics on a hungover morning in sunny Fulham. This is only issue one and they've won the prize for being tile first band to use tile word 'Juxtaposition' in interview already. Before I had a chance to.

At first I thought your name was awful, but now it feels appropriate. What does it mean to you?
Charles: So you heard the music and went "Ah! Shit name, great music. It makes sense". It's from a book by an author called Eric McCormac, and the book at the time we were forming the band seemed to encapsulate a lot of the way we were feeling about the world, and so it was just totally appropriate. We never really thought about it as a selection of words so much as a manifesto, you know? It's supposed to be more of a manifesto than about what the words meant themselves. We haven't thought about it much.
Merida: Our manager was in America and he found a Paradise Motel, with a sort of trashy neon, flickering sign right over it. I think we should maybe sample that one day. Flickering neon, sitting there decaying.

The songs aren't voiced by the writers — is that to put emphasis on observation over emotion?
C: Well, the way I always view our material is like essentially story-driven and perhaps the point of the story is not necessarily to be emotional, but I think that Merida lends it a highly remarkable emotion, and the filter that Merida provides adds a whole other tangent to the songwriting process. I think it's the combination of the two that creates a greater whole.
The songs have recurring themes of loss, sadness and remembrance, but feel more empathetic than personal. Do you write from experience?
C: There's not a lot of songs about people we know. We live this life which seems so completely connected to everything, and if you can feel things with a heightened sense that you aren't particularly related to... all I think that we're trying to do with this band is to capture those stories — peoples' tales — with a certain amount of tenderness. And as you say these stories resonate, just trying to understand that there's a tenderness laying under peoples' pain, of these sad lives. That's where the buck stops.

The images on your record sleeves are very precise. Are you perfectionists yourselves?
C: I'd sort of agree with you I guess, but the person who does our artwork is someone who's been with us since the genesis of the band, and she's more terrifying than anyone in the band. She's very much a stickler for accuracy and perfection, I think that would be fair to say.

The records you're releasing here are a couple of years old now — are you frustrated to be promoting them all over again?
C: They're just songs we love, simple as that. I view life as a line and you don't necessarily always walk in the same direction. I think we've all been getting a lot from playing the songs on this tour. It's certainly reawakened a lot of passion and belief in me in some of this material, so I've actually found it quite rewarding, which is not necessarily what we expected at all. As you can probably guess, you're never too sure about these things going into them which makes it weird in a sense. Travelling twists your sense of time anyway, and I've spent the last couple of weeks without a watch so that could've been any time in the last two years to be honest.
Has this delayed work on new material?
C: We've just finished another album — we've got our own recording studio — so with us it's an ongoing thing anyway, we're constantly recording and yelling at each other. We've got four albums maybe that we've recorded, I'm sure everyone says that, but we're a very prolific band and a lot of people in the band are really growing as songwriters as well, so touring is not even a hiccup. It can provide some inspiration as well — there sure are some hellish tales around.

Are you relocating to England to further your career?
C: We are most definitely interested in moving over here, it was never really an issue with the band. We're all from quite anchorless backgrounds, none of us have ever felt particularly at home in Australia anyway, so we've always in the last couple of years been working towards relocating over here — it's more fun. Australians are so fucking boring. Except for us — we're Australians of course!

The album released over here has different tracks to the original. Why is that?
C: Because of the large body of material we record. The way I tend to see it is — say there were 17 songs and a viewfinder, the viewfinder fits across any of the arrangements. I feet very lucky in a way because when we finished this first album in Australia we'd lived with it for 6 or 8 months and you think about things you'd have done differently. Miraculously we got a chance to change it around and we just leapt at it really. It was a great opportunity to fix things that we thought were broken.
But the other tracks are on the singles anyway.
C: Yeah, I guess looking at it, it does seem a little strange, but it seemed perfectly natural, only because I keep coming down to I think we're really lucky because one so rarely gets the chance to fix things that are broken. I wish we could've done this record in Australia, let's put it that way, but hey... whatever.

Are you happy with your live sound? It must be difficult not to drown out the vocals.
C: It is an eternal problem because we're quite a violent band live, but Merida is a very strong vocalist, it's something we do fight about. Not quite as much as we fight about us not smoking onstage — that's a bigger problem. that's a minefield — but loud guitars can be a problem. We try to listen to each other — it's that balance between Merida being able to hear our songs and the boys being able to get their cocks out and rock. It's very sad.
M: I find it quite stimulating actually (eh?), that very loud guitar.
C: Yeah exactly, once you get the levels right we 're a loud band, with quiet moments.
There's a real opposition on the album between the calm of the voice and the turbulence of the instruments.
C: They're almost like happy accidents and it's beautiful because we're really sort of rank amateurs. We've got all this recording equipment and we just plug things in and they make noises. I'm always aiming to subvert, I'm a great believer in souls with bad currents underneath them. The juxtaposition really thrills me.

There's a lot of repetition in the lyrics — does this indicate an obsessive character?
C: Yeah, I think as much as anything a big driving force in my life is this sense of things going on and on and on and on and on... cars driving by and it's all going on and on and on. I guess perhaps you could draw some idea from that with regards to repetition. I think all members of the band have obsessive natures and when you're sitting in a van for eight hours it comes out. It's interesting that in the three or four years we've known each other everyone's character is developing, we're beginning to realise the twitches.
M: We're all fucked up in similar ways. But that locked groove like "the crying in your head/the crying/the crying", it makes so much sense to me when I sing it live to people. There's some disquiet under everything.

Are you afraid of death?
M: I'm not. We were in a car accident together actually, as a band. We were driving up to a big festival in a 12-seater mini van and we rolled the van. It was in the morning, we were under no 'influences', we just had a really bad accident; completely trashed the car and none of us had seatbelts on — there weren't any in the back. So it rolled. skidded at 110 kilometres-an-hour across oncoming traffic and landed in a ditch. We then climbed out. I remember being in the van with everyone — it was like slow motion, the glass raining down, amps and jumpers going round like washing machines. I got concussion, and it took me about ten minutes to realise that we'd been upside down. But anyway, we were facing death in that moment.
C: It's the cliché where everything happens in slow motion and you see all your friends around you but overwhelmingly I had this sense of calm detachment watching it happen. I was half-asleep and I woke up on my side and there were sparks running along the side of the road and I looked up and saw everything flying in slow motion towards me. I guess that's a very good analogy in terms of what I was saying earlier about our attitude to our songs and peoples' lives in that it's happening to you, but part of you is just sitting back. Death is flying by and it's hurtling towards us but I don't think we feel one way or the other about it.

Are you surprised by the press attention you've received?
M: It's funny learning a bit about how the industry works, the attitude towards journalists as cogs in the wheel between the record company and the public, like they are the machination that put forth the product. We've never had that attitude, like our friends would be writers or journalists so our attitude would be to try and have more of a discussion. It's been interesting to see how it's meant to work on the other side.
What's the most pretentious thing that's been written about you?
M: Oh God, have you got half an hour? “Riding the skeletal groove” was one...
C: I'm not one who will pass judgement on what's pretentious and what's not. but people believe in what they write and that's good enough for me. “They rocked!” – that's all we really want.

 

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