Track by Track: POP FILTER – BANKSIA (BOBO INTEGRAL, OSBORNE AGAIN, SPUNK RECORDS, 2020)

Words: James Frostick & Pop Filter

On Friday August 21, Pop Filter released its debut record Banksia. While the album is somewhat of a continuation of the at-ease sound of progenitor outfit The Ocean Party, Banksia listens like a separate entity. The band took the time to share some insight on the album at large, revealing a maturity and composure that can only have been forged through a near-decade of constant collective creation. 

When the members of The Ocean Party put the band to rest, they were wrapping up a formative chapter of their lives.  From 2011 to 2019 the band was a propulsive force of creativity, a never-ending fount of tender and seemingly effortless music that soundtracked the 2010s for countless of twenty-somethings across Australia. While members peeled off for forays into side projects and solo efforts from time to time, a new album from The Ocean Party was always something we could count on every year. Although we still have a substantial discography to revisit when the mood strikes, the thought of no new music from The Ocean Party still feels weird. The creativity hasn’t really stopped though (check out new releases from Snowy and Cool Sounds), and neither has the group’s desire to create together. From the ashes of The Ocean Party rises Pop Filter – a new-ish outfit that the remaining members have created to funnel their energy into, maintaining the group synergy that fuelled much of the collective output over the past ten-or-so years.

Although largely boasting the same members as The Ocean Party, I’m very hesitant to classify Pop Filter as anything like The Ocean Party 2.0. On the group’s new and remarkable album Banksia, Pop Filter harness the natural charm that oozes out of every piece of music they touch, but there’s a newfound freeness at play that shows that they aren’t beholden to their own legacy – a feeling of starting fresh, with the past firmly behind them. While much of The Ocean Party’s back catalogue charted the group’s journey through their twenties, Banksia strikes me more as a decidedly adult effort from the outset. They’re no longer finding themselves, they’ve settled into their own skin. Yes, on some songs Pop Filter do look back fondly on their youthful drunk escapades and the freedom of cramming into a van with pals and hitting the road, but they also reckon with misspent days, indolent lifestyles, the state of the world at large, a gradual accumulation of loss, leaving things behind and pushing forward.  As the guitars weave in an around one another and the group takes turns at the wheel, they point their collective compass in a new direction. Sure, they can see all that they accomplished in the rear-view mirror, but their interest lies ahead, I think. The only thread tethering ‘then’ and ‘now’ is that they’re still travelling together, still creating. At the end of the day, that’s what’s really special about this project and the people in it.

Pop Filter shared some insight into Banksia‘s track list! Read on below:

‘Not Listening To The Same Thing’
Snowy: This one was written very much in the moment – the only idea behind it was to all play F and G (the jangle chords) over and over again and put Mark on the spot by giving him one take to noodle some lead guitar over it. I think the take we ended up with was actually just him practicing.

‘Big Yellow Van’
Lachlan: A song about appreciating the friendship and shared history of the band. (Check out Doug Wallen’s words on this track here)

‘Laughing Falling’
Curtis: This is a short and simple attempt at a pop song, lyrically trying to express the excited buzz you get from walking around drinking.

‘Kit Home’
Nick: We’d recorded the music to this track and I had about 20 minutes to come up with some lyrics while I went for a quick walk around the beach in Broulee. I guess it’s a self-reflective track about spending a lot of years being self-indulgent and lazy, set to a 60s pop tune in 6/8. I’d probably change a fair bit about this track if i had my time over, however I think there is some charm in half-arsing it a bit.

‘Open House’
Mark: Written during the recording process for the album. The lyrics are adapted from a poem written as a kind of goodbye letter to my hometown and past.

‘Romance At The Petrol Station’ 
This is a cover of Stolen Violins ‘Romance At The Petrol Station’, which is a collective favourite of ours. Go check out the original.

‘The End’
Jordan: Music was written during our recording session in Broulee. Lyrics took a few months to get together. The chorus melody betrays a cardinal sin by dropping from the verse melody, mea maxima culpa.

‘DVD (Menu Screen)’
Snowy: Over a decade before we all recorded the album at Mark’s family house, occasionally we’d go there for holidays as teenagers. We’d do cool things like like try to buy alcohol underage, try to play Grinspoon songs together or pretend we weren’t secretly drunk and watch live music DVDs with Mark’s parents. This song imagines a fate worse than death where I wake up in that house hungover on the third day of recording and the seven-second loop of the DVD menu screen of Queen Live at Wembley Stadium plays on repeat for eternity, pounding in my head.

‘Tried It Out’
Nick: Again, written during recording in Broulee, this track is pretty hectic. Believe it or not, everyone actually played pretty sparingly on this track, however we all chose to not really listen to each others parts, so it’s a mess of clashing melodies and creates some real unease. I think it works pretty well in the context of the lyrics, which are about the fucked nature of capitalist working culture. Makes me feel a bit sick to listen back to, which I guess is the idea.

‘Forever Again’
Jordan: Music was written during our recording session in Broulee. Lyrics took a few months to get together. The undercurrent of the song relates man’s tenuous yet intimate relationship with the larynx.

‘Visions Of You’
Curtis: ‘Visions Of You’ is an upbeat but slightly melancholy song with sweet backing vocals. The lyrics are about the feelings of loss, memories, individual experiences and realities.

‘It Never Hurts’
Mark: The first half of this song was written in Autumn 2014, in Brunswick, Melbourne. Then it got picked up and finished with a second half five years later in early 2019. It’s about inertia, rage and pushing through both.

Banksia is out now via Bobo Integral, Osborne Again and Spunk Records.

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