Truth time! The first time I saw Raave Tapes, I wasn’t hooked. I was at Festival of the Sun in Port Macquarie. It was a bloody hot day and I’d just blissed out watching a fantastic, soulful set from Sampa the Great and was looking forward to chilling on the grass late in the afternoon before a sound came from the next stage that I wasn’t prepared for. What do you call it – Dance-punk? Rock-rave? Experimental? It’s definitely a sound that’s hard to pigeon-hole and I think that’s how the band like it.
The trio from the Newcastle area take no prisoners. Raw and acerbic, sure, but also clever, sharp-witted, tight and as I would discover before the end of their set, fun as hell.
I entered my chat with Joab Eastley, lead singer and guitarist, with a dab of curiousness and a lot of naivety. How was I to know that by the end of the interview, I would be a complete and utter fan.
SUDS is the new single from the group. It’s a song that calls out irresponsible crowd behaviour, particularly from intoxicated individuals. It’s a topic that is important to a lot of musicians, and it’s refreshing to hear it being brought front and centre.
Eastley, taking time from editing their new video, talks about the latest track and the issue of crowd behaviour, “At our own gigs – early in the days – every now and then we’d play shows and you’d have those [intoxicated] people that’d turn up and early – when we started playing – we weren’t sure how to deal with that sort of thing. We hadn’t really had that much of an issue with it, being small shows with just our friends. As we started to build our reputation, more people would come – people we didn’t know – they didn’t know what was expected of them at a show. So I think it’s more about that education and awareness. If people know what’s expected of them at a big-dog rock show – gig etiquette kind of thing – it’ll help everyone out in the long run.”
The topic of feeling safe at a live gig is something that is hugely important at any time and Eastley, along with Lewis Horne (drums) and Lindsay O’Connell (bass), bring to the fore in their brand new clip. Proximity, patience, noise and greed are all represented in their own way, but the simple mantra of ‘Just don’t be a dickhead’ is an easy way to convey what the group are trying to say.
Their unique sound has a certain x-factor to it, but also more, as Eastely explains, “We’re a pretty shocking live band, as in, there’s a lot of stuff going – like a ‘what the fuck factor! There’s so many dumb noises and we’re pretty loud. I can’t really do this over the phone, but if I’m answering this question it’s like me clapping going, ‘Hey! Look at us! We’re doing stuff!’” This certainly was the case if you happen to be going by their stage at a festival and for a band that is working hard to get noticed, it’s probably one of the best methods to do so.
A lot of their sound could be attributed to the sheer amount of pedals they use. If you get to see them live, be sure to poke your head over and check out the boards that Eastley and O’Connell use. Do they have a competition to see who has the most? Eastley laughs, “I’ve actually had to trim down quite a bit in the last six months, because they wouldn’t let us on the aeroplane with how big our pedal boards were! Now it’s just a competition to see who can get the most sounds out of the smallest amount!”
Going back to the topic of music videos, I ask about previous efforts, and Eastely replies, “We love film clips! We’ve done two before for our last two singles. We put a lot of effort in behind the scenes. Myself and the band sit down and think of a stupid idea and then sort of flesh it out completely and take it to the director.” Their first clip for 2 U XOXO featured some extremely intense Oz Tag followed by a Saddle Club rip-off for k bye. There could be a future in acting if the music thing doesn’t work out!
The band certainly has an interesting method with recent song names. New track, SUDS, which could be confused for actually being an acronym for something, started as a simple phone demo. “We had a demo on our phone. We had a bit of a jam over a riff and stuff. There wasn’t any lyrics to it. What I do every time we do one of those little demos on our phone – I just look at one of the people in the band and go ‘ right-o, name that one’. It was actually our old drummer. This was from like a year and a half ago, He goes ‘Oh… suds!’ We couldn’t find anything that fitted for a name, so we just ran with it!”
SUDS is a perhaps a little bit more polished than their previous tracks and symbolises a slight deviation in the sound that the group are moving towards. Eastley explains, “It’s where we’re going – that sort of direction. A bit more polished, dancey but with those really unhinged explosions in the song at points. Out earlier stuff was a lot more punkier and garagey with hints of dance. We’re sort of moving more towards dancey stuff with big, garagey, punk-rock sounds. We’ve got a fair bit of new stuff in the pipeline, so all things going to plan, we’ll have an EP before the end of the year!”
Raave Tapes have just announced a big capital-city Australian tour, along with Wollongong, Thirroul and of course, a hometown Newcastle show. With even more to be announced, Eastley is excited to hit the road. The band are looking forward to spreading their their new track around the country and handing out hugs along the way. “We’re going to as many places as we can. I’m very excited! We love doing that and getting around and seeing everyone. It’s why we do this. Our live show is our favourite thing. Recording is a lot of fun, but we just love being on stage.”
Eastley is a pleasure to talk to and having revisited their songs with a new-found respect and context, I’m looking forward to catching them live again and maybe scoring one of those famous Raave Tape hugs.
On that day in December, I will lay some blame to the curators of FOTSUN for the timing of their set, but ultimately it lead me here, a complete and utter convert to the charm, excitement and joy of a new group that aren’t afraid to try something new and have a great (and safe) time in the process.
2 June, Amplifier Capitol, Perth
9 June, Yah Yah’s, Melbourne
14 June, Rad, Wollongong
16 June, Brighton Up Bar, Sydney
21 June, The Foundry, Brisbane
22 June, Rocket Bar & Rooftop, Adelaide
29 June, Beaches Hotel, Thirroul
7 July, The Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle