The Cactus Channel are collectively the biggest band I’ve ever interviewed; with seven members as of 2017 I got to catch up with one of the insanely talented musicians, Lewis Coleman (guitars/synths). I cannot think of a better way to have spent my morning than delving into the history of the band, their first release of 2017 Do It For Nothing and how Coleman managed to get Sam Cromack from Ball Park Music (BPM) to sing for them on the EP – pretty cool, huh?!
Based in Melbourne, this alt-soul group initially formed in the good old days of high school when they had too much time on their hands. “Pretty much we were all just trying to figure out what to do with our lunch times,” remembers Coleman. “A few worked this out earlier than me, already playing music together, and I’d be walking past the corridor and see them. It was about a year or so after when I started hanging out with them.”
This seems like a great use of time and a logical step for the whole band, with no clear future in mind they were already onto something magical. Hudson Whitlock (drums/percussion) had a family property in the Victorian countryside where the group got to muck around and play music together. “This was the first time I’d gone away with them and officially joined the band.” As the years passed, members came and went from ten at one point to their current seven members, but never has it been too much to handle. “There’s been quite a lot of us from early on, it’s always been a huge amount” adds Coleman.
The release of the collaborative EP in April shows that The Cactus Channel have listened to fans and gone and treated us all to some introspective lyrics by the one and only Sam Cromack. Coleman shares: “We’ve done two instrumental albums but it’s always been in the back of our minds for a vocal edition. We keep getting nagged by people after gigs saying things like ‘See, you’re great but you know what you need? A singer,’ and we’re just like ‘Ohhh thanks… no one’s thought of that,'” he laughs.
You’ll never guess how this collaboration actually came about. Coleman, an original fan of Ball Park Music, was attending one of their shows thinking “‘Awh man they’re cool, such a tight show.'” Once he got home he still had an urge to message them. “I don’t know why I did, I think I had a few beers, but I just sat on my computer in bed and Googled our band name and BPM’s band name wondering if we’d ever been mentioned together,” he explains.
There was an interview for Spotify from a few years back where Cromack had listed The Cactus Channel as one band he’d been listening to; with no prior contact and no collaboration in mind, Coleman and Cromack started talking, eventually meeting up, and the rest is history. “It’s crazy that it’s possible to make music with someone that you really respect and like from just contacting them and doing it!”
The past couple of years has been one crazy ride for The Cactus Channel who have been working and playing hard alongside Sam Cromack in both their hometowns of Brisbane and Melbourne to release the record. “We gelled really well, the creative process being similar to us coming up with music when together.” Cromack’s involvement was not limited to just vocals – he was also a key melody maker. “He came up with probably the bulk of all the melodies for at least four of the songs off the EP” Coleman furthers.
Recorded at Sing Sing South, their new found friendship also brought in Matt Redlich on mixing dutires, who also did BPM’s last record; and recorded by Bob Knob of HopeStreet Recordings. Bandmate Jon DiNapoli (tenor saxophone) also brings his artistic skills to the EP, creating the artwork along with Daniel Sutton (trumpet) who recently left the group but came on board to do the layout of the record. “It’s nice that we can extend the relationship beyond the band,” extends Coleman.
With mutual appreciation for hip hop collaborators BADBADNOTGOOD, Alabama Shakes’ album Sound & Colour and Stax Records as their biggest influences and inspirations for their own buzzing sound, Coleman explains that “as a band our sound is changing a bit, with a conscious decision to wanting to be a band that makes music and what not without having to try please anyone in particular. The sound itself has a lot of funk and soul schoolings – what we’ve grown up on as a band playing music together – describing it recently as an alt-soul, alternative, pop, indie vibe.” Coleman is currently working on a unique word to describe The Cactus Channel because that one’s kind of a mouthful…
I will now leave you with this personal message from Coleman: “Come to the show if you want, have a good time, you know, it will be fun with special things and we’ll be rehearsed really well so it’s worth seeing us play if you want to see us play.”
25 May, Howler, Melbourne
26 May, Hudson Ballroom, Sydney
2 June, The Brightside, Brisbane