Best known for their fiery live show and scuzzy rock sounds, Damn Terran are getting a solid reputation as one of Melbourne’s more incendiary insurgents. Appropriately enough, their latest single is called ‘Rebels.’ Ironically though, its four minutes of agitated stop-start riffage has just been playlisted on triple j’s Unearthed digital radio station. “We were laughing about it the other night,” chuckles bassist Ali E. “It’s a bit surprising. In the past they’ve had a much cleaner sound and have shied away from the punkier, rougher stuff. I reckon the Unearthed station and the whole system is really great. Without it I don’t think we would have gotten as far as we have. It’s just quite flooded at the moment.”
The rougher, rawer sound of ‘Rebels’ is certainly a kickback to the kind of cleanly produced acts that are usually the reserve of platforms like Unearthed, but Ali believes there’s a shift occurring, “there has been a lot of talk amongst the music community. I don’t know if this is a change in direction to the way they originally started with rawer, underground stuff. If we’re helping start that wave, then even better.”
Alongside the inventive bubblegum garage of Brisbane duo DZ Deathrays and the experimental punk of Ouch, My Face, Ali – along with fellow bandmates , the Ewbank brothers Leigh and Lachlan – are offering a similarly vicious but intoxicating rock escapism. Self-described as ‘awash with post-punk fury,’ they could indeed be initiating a seachange towards a more visceral brand of appeal.
‘Rebels’ punches with relentless energy, the pounding of its drums and circular riffing ceasing only for the grizzled call-and-response between Ali’s rough-hewn melodies and singer/guitarist Lachlan’s banshee wails. Capturing some of the energy of Damn Terran’s incendiary live show in the process. “We record live… we do a few overdubs here and there, but it’s still live. If we did it any other way it wouldn’t have the same energy.”
Ali distinguishes “getting the recorded version played on radio and playing a live show” as “two different beasts. I was more into the recording process a few years ago. But the more I play live and tour, the more I love it. I really enjoy watching bands that give their all, that are powerful on stage, that make people walk away with something to think about. If we can replicate that… recording is just a good way to polish songs and finish writing, get your name out there. Playing the live show is the fun, party side of it.”
Their latest party will be a mini-tour in support of the release of ‘Rebels.’ In true rock and roll spirit they’ll be appealing to the counter-culture with a bit of vinyl. Being released as an exclusive 7’’ single, ‘Rebels’ is the first release for T-Recs, the local label of Thornbury Records. “It’s an awesome record shop, run by my mates Clay and Megan,” Ali details enthusiastically, “and when they started it they wanted to get into creating a label. They just asked, ‘Do you want to be the first T-Recs vinyl on our label?” We said, ‘Hell yeah.’”
It was as important to Damn Terran that the reception was as genuine as their music. “It’s been really great working with them. They’ve obviously got a love for vinyl and it’s becoming so much more important in the industry. People are respecting it as a music outlet again. It’s sort of similar to triple j getting back to that rawer sound, people are getting more involved with vinyl – because that’s what it’s all about. Having something to hold, to put the needle on, the little crackles.”
The press release for the 7’’ also teases a special guest vocalist for B-side ‘Pills,’ when pressed to reveal who the secret singer was, Ali remains playfully enigmatic. “I better not, I don’t know what the other guys have said yet. It’ll hopefully all work out, it’s someone who’s involved with a band over in the UK – that’s all I’m going to give away.” Secretive, but all will be revealed just in time for Record Store Day, quite the happy coincidence. “Great timing,” jokes Ali.
Does that mean we can expect the forthcoming debut on vinyl also? “Hopefully yeah” laughs Ali, “All I want to do is vinyl now. We do want to concentrate on finishing the album before the end of the year. I think winter is going to be hunkering down in the studio to finish that off, which is not a bad way to spend winter.”