Words: James Frostick
Earlier this month, Melbourne gutter-rock outfit CIVIC ushered forth a sublime collection of direct and hard-nosed noise in the form of EP New Vietnam. Chief instigator Jim McCullough agreed to field a few questions about the still-new band’s origins and a quick insight into what they wanted to bring to the table.
It’s only been a few short weeks on from the release of their debut 12” EP New Vietnam, and the name CIVIC is already travelling far. The band’s signature brand of clattering rock and roll is reverberating, and it’s easy to see why. Pitchfork singled out their work, praising their knack for hooks and furious percussion. Noisey spoke of CIVIC’s wild and speedy material, and well as an energetic stage presence that matches the furore note for note. In a short space of time the group has firmly planted itself in the centre of Melbourne’s swirling music scene, which is no mean feat in the live music capital of the world.
One of the reasons I’d say New Vietnam is making such a good first impression is because of its directness. CIVIC comes across as a band with a singular vision – not one that’s overly complicated either. They clearly only want to play rock and roll, like it used to be played. It’s no-bullshit stuff. Cut away the artifice and hard-rock posturing (trappings that often lead bands to become caricatures) and you’ve got CIVIC. Another contributing factor might be because each member of the band has done this before to some degree, performing on stages as members of a plethora of outfits. Whether CIVIC is an opportunity to streamline the vision and free themselves up from everything but the riff or the fill or the line, or simply as a fun outlet to expend pent-up energy, the music speak for itself. There’s no grand story being told, but each retelling of life’s minutiae communicated through CIVIC’s music is just as valid. Hate, love, humour – it’s all relatable, which is why it works.
New Vietnam was recorded by Billy Gardener (Ausmuteants) and released through his incredible Anti-Fade Records. Jim McCullough agreed to answer some questions (which you can read below) about the record (which you can listen to after that, further below).
Let’s start with beginnings! The pedigree of bands that the members of CIVIC also play in is incredible. How did you assemble the cast of musicians in the line-up currently?
The idea came when Darcy (Grigg of A.D. Skinner) and I were in a bowling alley together in Japan in 2016 talking about doing a band that sounded, like, all screwed up. We finally got our shit together about seven months ago when Roland (Hlavka of Drug Sweat, Planet Slayer) and Louis (Hodgson of Whipper, Cuntz) got together to jam. It sounded okay, but we wanted a second guitar like Thin Lizzy, and Louis needed to be behind a guitar again. So we got hot Dave (Forcier) in on the tubs and he was on fire, so then things started happening.
When the band came together, what was the common ground that you all connected on?
Musically, we all seem to like similar things. Most of us agree when songs need working on or if sections are wrong, so I guess our common ground is that we trust each other’s input.
Was there a particular conceptual ethos behind the group that provided a base to build on?
The concept was basically just to do good rock and roll and not to stuff about with it. We just got the songs down and then went and recorded them.
It was just on six months since the band debuted live – was communicating the sound to stage a fairly easy process?
We just wanted to be really loud and tight. We practiced a lot before playing live so there was no worries there. We weren’t too set on having any obvious theatrical aspects to our live performances, we just wanted to play the songs well.
Thematically, what topics provided for inspiration on the songs on the 12”?
Lyrically the songs all have their own stories and themes, but there isn’t one consistent motif. There’s a love song and a hate song. ‘Shackled Man’ is about my dog who passed away at 9. ‘Burning Steel’ is about a guy I knew when I was younger who crashed my car one night when we were asleep, and instead of paying for the damage his dad paid someone off to torch it in my driveway.
Ideally, what do you hope fans of hardcore punk and hard rock take away from the record?
I guess there is a lot of sneaky references to a bunch of Australian and international bands we like, so I hope people can vibe on that. But also would like to think that Civic is a sound that people have wanted for a awhile now. We wanted it. So we made it.