Words: James Frostick
Band photos: Anita Shao
Some familiar faces from Naarm/Melbourne’s musical melting pot have thrown their talents together to form Skid City, an eruptive and disruptive quintet specialising in no-frills rock ‘n’ roll. Ahead of the April release of the group’s debut LP, Skid City are gifting the world a teensy taste in the form of ‘Blue’ – a masterclass in haywire, white-knuckled ruckus that sounds timeless and essential.
I think it’s gotta take a bit of talent to make a spot-on rock ‘n’ roll track. To the ears it all sounds pretty straightforward (rock is, by nature, supposed to be direct and to the point) but something that sounds so easy is, by-and-large, not always easy to execute. What I’m saying is, Skid City’s new track ‘Blue’ is a two-minute(ish) masterclass in nuts ‘n’ bolts rock fundamentals, but I’m not sure a cluster of lesser musicians could make it look and sound as effortless. The crew boasts members of bands like Rot TV, Peak Twins and Summer Flake, which is a super solid pedigree. They released a four-track EP about five years back (when they were known as The Skids) that clocks in at around seven minutes total. It showed the group’s knack for honing in on punk-laced rock’s essential elements – hooks, tempo and a fistful of grit. It was simple, yes, but everything you needed was there.
Next month they’ll release Greetings from Skid City through Shipping Steel Records, upping the song count to ten and adding a bit more spit-shine polish to the sound. One of the spiciest cuts from the record, ‘Blue’ is out today and it certainly has all the hallmarks of a hard-rocking classic – dextrous licks, a bristly rhythmic chug and nimble but disciplined drum work. There’s perceptible genuflection to heavy-hitting progenitors from the 1980s and a kind of humid urgency that is a common trait shared amongst Skid City’s sweaty-browed stylistic peers. Beer-soaked vocals are hoarsely rasped over the din, regaling us of emotional downswings and romantic neglect. It’s hard to find a fault in this track even though perfection was never part of the exercise – it’s just always satisfying hearing some heart-revving rock that ticks all of the boxes. The record seems to follow suit, which should some as sweet news for the leather-and-denim clad contingent out there.
Before listening to the track, here’s a quick Q&A with Skid City guitarist Harriet Hudson-Clise about the band and album’s formation:
To start, I’d love to talk personnel. Who is in Skid City and where might music-lovin’ folks recognise some of you?
Zeke’s the singer, it’s his first band but people already knew him from being a friendly face at punk gigs. Steph aka Summer Flake is responsible for all lead guitar parts. Sweet lil’ Sophie’s on bass and used to be in a band called Toothache. Then we’ve got Joel on drums (he’s also in Peak Twins and was in Toothache with Soph, they’re also a couple) and lastly there’s me, Harriet on rhythm guitar. I also play in Rot TV and was in Miss Destiny. I’m actually not an OG member but Soph and Zeke are sick with Covid so you’re stuck with me for this interview!
It’s not uncommon for Melbourne bands to intersect and cross-pollinate, but I’m keen to know how this particular configuration of talent came to be and if there were any shared ideas, common tastes or goals that proved significant at the time of the band’s inception?
There’s no real fascinating origin tale, it’s just a group of friends who liked each other’s company and the same kinda music so ended up playing in a band together. The rest is Skidstory.
I gather Skid City prefers not to concern itself too much with comparisons and labels within rock ‘n’ roll, but I’m interested to know how you’d describe the band’s spirit and personality?
Individually we have our highly strung moments but as a collective we have a very “kick back and relax” vibe. By the way if anyone doesn’t want to be labelled as a rock ‘n’ roller they’re probably no fun to be around.
As with any musical realm with such a lengthy history and malleability, rock ‘n’ roll has a whole lot of good and a whole lot of bad. What are some aspects of the genre that Skid City actively embraces and what are some you collectively seek to sidestep?
We really don’t think this deeply – it’s more like, “Hey, that riff sounds a bit catchy – who has some lyrics?”. I think being too concerned with the specific vibe of the band isn’t a fun environment and makes people more wary about suggesting an idea for a song. In Skid City, no idea is too daggy.
Additionally, are there any singular quirks or intentional subversions of genre that Skid City weaves into its music?
It’s really just a no frills, 2022 version of a cruisy punk-meets-rock band. We have a pretty loose style and try to do our own thing but I’m sure people can tell by the songs we like Black Flag and a bit of classic rock.
On an individual level, what does Skid City offer you all in terms of creative satisfaction? Was there a particular itch that you sought to scratch when you each elected to explore this gritty and sonically abrasive style?
We’re happiest when we’re out to dinner or having a cocktail together, so it’s mostly the fine company that satisfies us. The fact we have a band and an album is just the icing on the cake.
Your LP, Greetings from Skid City, comes out in late April. Can you shed some light on the creation process of these tracks and how long they’ve been in the oven?
Many songs existed before I joined a few years ago, then we wrote three additional songs on the new album from scratch. Blue is one of those. We recorded the LP with Adam Ritchie at a rehearsal space. Pretty DIY setting if you will. We actually initially recorded it with my husband Graham but his laptop got stolen so we lost the whole record and had to start again. It was a bummer but meant we knew the songs more intimately when we had to do it all again, ha ha.
While the record boasts swagger in spades, I get a sense of weathered self-awareness accenting the snottiness. Without giving it all away, are you able to elucidate some of the themes underpinning the record?
It’s all love songs, beer songs, songs about movies we like etc. Maybe the theme is just trying to have a good time in a chaotic world.
Greetings from Skid City is pretty breathless and savage in terms of pace and intensity, but the tracks are all tight as hell. Despite the genre’s propensity for encouraging maximum power, a light touch and sense of restraint seems key to crafting rock-solid rippers like these. Does the overall directness of Skid City’s sound belie a level of considered craftsmanship and tinkering to get right, or does the group have a canny knack of striking that balance with relative ease?
I’m glad you like it! We don’t rehearse very often or for that long to master our craft, if that’s what you’re asking. Bottom line is we got our shit together just enough to make an LP we’re happy with and proud of.
Okay, without further ado, here is ‘Blue’ for your listening consideration:
Greetings from Skid City will be officially released via Shipping Steel Records on Friday April 29. Pre-orders are now available, with the first 57 records purchased printed on blue vinyl. Click here to get buyin’!