Track By Track: PERMITS – TIME PERMITS (TENTH COURT, 2020)

Words: James Frostick, Tristan Davies, Tam Matlakowski and Dusty Anastassiou

Today marks the official release of Time Permits, the long-gestating debut album from Naarm/Melbourne “superb-group” Permits. Although described on paper as a band conceived as a way to document abandoned songs, the record’s collection of off-cuts and cast-aside ideas has come together as a remarkably listenable whole. The group has agreed to take us through the album, relaying the journeys and inspirations behind its 10 tracks of sublime strum.

When Permits simultaneously announced the forthcoming release of its debut LP and the arrival its first single ‘It Takes A Long Time (To Be Free Of Society)’, I remarked that the musicians that comprise Permits –Tristan Davies (The Shifters), Tam Matlakowski (Pop Singles), Dusty Anastassiou (Dag) and Rob Remedios (Chook Race) – probably have a Mount Everest-sized pile of discarded material that many bands would kill to have featured on their own best-of record. That’s a testament to the group’s prolific output and their compositional skill – even their unheard tracks are likely gold. The driving conceit behind Permits is centred around giving their collective “almost-but-not-quite” material a second chance – an endeavour most groups probably consider to be meaningless, but in the case of Time Permits this case has resulted in something exceptionally worthwhile.

At its core, Time Permits is ten tracks of sprightly guitar pop – a showcase of unhurried and measured musicality that rarely puts a foot wrong. If you’re after some stylistic descriptors, I’d say imagine a middle point between each of the member’s respective bands – one connecting thread being their innate ability to conjure poetry out of observational musings and introspection. At times effervescent and lively, others languid and contemplative, the record amalgamates each member’s unique voices seamlessly and comes across like they’ve been creating songs together for decades. Yes, the combined resumé of those involved means that there was always a good chance that any half-realised concept – no matter how skeletal – could be given shape and form via committee, but Permits have elevated these ideas into the same strata as some of their respective hits, which is a true hallmark of skill (as well as a showing of faith in the abilities of their musical compatriots). Time Permits not only serves to salvage these disparate fragments and give them new meaning via collective examination and re-contextualisation, but manages to make them stand separately as remarkable works in their own right. It’s an effortless listen and a re-listenable effort. It’s a reminder that sometimes all an idea needs to succeed is a fresh set of eyes.

Permits took some time to share some insight into the record, which you can read below:

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‘It Takes A Long Time (To Be Free Of Society)’
Tristan: The first verse and second verse are about two different people I know. It’s about these two people and how I saw them trying their best to position themselves outside of society. The chorus is in reference to ‘Rock N Roll Nigger’ by Patti Smith. I’m a massive Patti Smith fan, but over time I’ve come to find the lyrics really grating. Anyway, the song is about these two people and how they have to somewhat operate inside of society as a way to then position themselves outside of it, hence it taking a long time. But to place oneself inside of society means there is some sort of stable position to begin with. So to participate inside of society as a way to then live outside of it is really a luxury.

‘Authority’
TamThis song was originally titled ‘Authority And The Individual’, in reference to a collection of lectures I was reading by Bertrand Russell. It wasn’t bad, but I got bored and didn’t finish it. I moved on to a different book called The Rebel by Albert Camus which, funnily enough, ended up influencing the song (and my perspective on things) much more. I love playing this song live – especially when we manage to give it a somewhat ominous, oppressive sound.

‘World in Numbers’
Dusty: I suppose this song is about the busy, busy lives that we lead, striving towards some ideal of success in the information age. We are like little programs, operating on a sequence of numbers. Some of us get the lucky numbers. Sometimes our number is up.

‘They Come Around’
Tristan: This song was written about how people make an entrance, how they hold themselves when walking into a room. It’s a song about people and their confidence.

‘Turn Back Time’
Tam: I probably like the music in this song more than the words. Rob added some great melodic bass lines that I think really made the song. My 60’s psych-pop and 80’s paisley underground influences are apparent here. I like the melodies and the peaceful jangle throughout. Dusty’s synth addition is also really nice – it really twists and turns.


‘Three Years’
Dusty: I have never lived in one area for longer than five years. Three is the average. I believe if you grow up moving around a lot it’s difficult to feel permanently settled anywhere. There is a great saying: “everywhere you go, there you are“. The urge to run away from our past — past traumas, heartache, hurt — is a very relatable one. Sooner or later you have to face your fears and realise that a change of scenery will not fundamentally change how you feel inside.

‘Negative Heart’
TamThis song is kind of like an epilogue to all the frustration, angst and destructive urges that I harboured as a young adult. I still feel many of these “negative” emotions today – however, it is nowhere near as incessant. When we play this song live it tends to have a reckless energy and feels very liberating.

‘Genevieve’
TristanGenevieve is a good friend of mine. She’s more like a sister than a friend. We grew up together. I love playing this song live and never get tired of singing it. It’s really nice to be able to play a song live and get transported by thinking of her and our friendship.

‘Ephemeral’
TamWhen I wrote this song, I was making a conscious attempt to try and “fit in” with the rest of the band. I felt like some of my songwriting was getting overly complicated, but that Permits was asking for a more minimal approach. I borrowed the strumming pattern from ‘What Goes On’ by The Velvet Underground and decided to use a simple three-chord cycle that repeats. It was nice and easy. The lyrics are pretty straightforward and speak for themselves.

‘A Teenager Is Many People’
Tristan: The title of this song was taken from a book I found in a secondhand bookshop. The publisher for the book was a Christian community group. The book was written to explain the experiences of teenagers in the context of Christian faith. I picked it up because it had this amazing front cover which looked like a Riot Grrrl poster from the 90’s. The first verse also borrows lines from Clarice Lispector, Anne Carson and Sun Ra. The song was written while I was looking out my bedroom window watching police officers walk by. The song is about the influences you choose as a teenager and how they forever exist inside of you.

Time Permits is out now digitally and on cassette via Tenth Court