LEVITATION INTERVIEWS: Tropical Fuck Storm

Participants:
Keller Welton: Programming Director, KJHK
Maddy Lehr: Assistant Music Director, KTSW San Marcos
Tropical Fuck Storm: Gareth “Gaz” Liddiard, Fiona Kitschin, Lauren Hammel, Erica Dunn

Maddy: How has Austin been for you guys?

Gaz: We just got here! I’ve spent the whole time trying to get you guys in.

Erica: We’ve only been here a couple of hours, I wore my 13th Floor Elevator socks for luck. 

Maddy: Is this your first time at LEVITATION?

Fiona: Yeah yeah, we played Austin in 2019?

Keller: Was 2019 the first time you guys were in the US?

Fiona: No, it was 2017.

Keller: What was coming to the US for the first time like for you guys?

Gaz: I think most of us had been here before. Ya know it’s like being on TV, cause ya grow up seeing all the American TV shows.

Keller: Was it everything you’d hoped?

Gaz: Yeah, it was everything we’d hoped, and less, which is good. It’s better than it sounds. But um yeah, we had only been a band for about three months, maybe even less, before we came to the US. We came with Gizz.

Hammel: We only had, what, two or three original songs, so we filled the set with covers.

Keller: What kind of covers were you doing?

Fiona: Fugazi?

Gaz: Burning by Fugazi, Lose The Baby by Lost Animal, Taman Shud by The Drones, Natural Family by The Nation Blue. A lot of the B-sides of the first couple 7’’s were covers. So covers and maybe like two or three originals. We just didn’t have time to write anything.

Keller: What are some artists that you guys find particularly inspiring for your sound?

Gaz: Wow that’s a big one. We all listen to lots of stuff.

Erica: Captain Beefheart! Roky Erikson…

Gaz: Everything. If it’s good.

Hammel: I think that’s one of the good things about having such diverse tastes in music between the four of us. We’re not all just rock nerds, or punk. We all listen to heaps of different things and we are all constantly showing each other new bands. Ya know I’ll listen to something for a year and then never touch it again. But if I happen to be listening to something weird while we are writing, then of course it’s going to have an influence on our music, it’s constantly changing. It’s not just that we have staples of bands we love that we are always reaching for.

Keller: One of the things I find most interesting about Tropical Fuck Storm is that you guys just don’t sound like anyone else, ever, period. And your Spotify bio is, “music for people who are tired of the same old shit,” how do you separate yourselves from the “same old shit”?

Gaz: One thing that we have in common is that we all like music with spirit. It could be classical music, it could be Hungarian folk music, or punk rock. If it’s got spirit, even if it’s cringy, we like some cringy stuff. We’ve all played in bands for ages, so we’re just trying to do something different to amuse ourselves. It’s fun when you make something new and you’re like, wow. And we try to make music ya want to listen to, but also something you’ve never heard. 

Hammel: And there’s no point in starting a new band if you’re just gonna do the same shit as everyone else is doing. There’s plenty of bands out there. No one needs another rock band, no one needs another pop-punk bank, no one needs another blues band.

It’s just boring to be doing that shit, so just test yourself and try to make some new cool, weird shit and see what happens I guess.    

Keller: Another thing I find interesting about y’all is the writing, the lyrics and imagery you use, and stuff like that. Where does this come from? Who or what inspires that?

Gaz: I mean the main one is Bob Dylan. And then there’s a million others. Marty Sparrow, Jonathan Richman. That’s another thing that we just try to do differently than everyone else. Ya just gotta mess with it until it’s good. Everything starts out as teenage poetry, which is a problem, and eventually you fix the problem.

Hammel: Gaz also has a master list of random things people have said, or things he’s heard. That gives us a thing to look to when we are writing. 

Gaz: There’s a few rules, not many. Leonard Cohen said it’s not a tree, it’s a pine tree or an oak tree. Give the people a little more information. Spruce it up ya know? Like a spruce tree. 

Keller: How did you guys meet the Flightless Record guys?

Fiona: They supported our old band The Drones in Australia back in the day. We met them 15 or 12 years ago?

Gaz: Yeah when they were really young, it was the biggest tour they’d ever done at the time. Which is funny ’cause now they do tours like these.

Keller: Is there a local Melbourne musician you want to highlight?

Gaz: EXEK is really good. I liked their last record, it was really good.

Erica: Teether.

Hammel: All I’ve been listening to lately is Barker.

Keller: I gotta ask ya, the name, where does it come from?

Fiona: It’s just a stupid name, we had a studio called Tropical Fuck Storm Studios, we had a label with our music called Tropical Fuck Storm Records. We needed a name for a new band, and that won.

Erica: I thought it was a joke.

Gaz: The internet is demanding, ya know when I first heard King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard I thought wow that’s a shit name. But ya don’t forget it ya know what I mean? So I thought let’s just do a stunt title so ya won’t forget it. The best part is with immigration because the immigration guys will go, “What’s the name of your band?” And we have to explain that we’re here for gigs and you think they wouldn’t like it but it always makes them lighten up. 

Hammel: And if you go into a store or something people will ask about the accent and we’ll say we’re here for work. Then we say we’re in a band and they’ll ask who’s your band, and when we say Tropical Fuck Storm they’ll be like, “hell yeah!” And they’ll look it up straight away. 

If we were called The Baby Animals or something it just wouldn’t work as well. 

Maddy: If you were a flavor, what flavor would you be?

Erica: Licking a lightbulb

Hammel: Dr. Pepper, sweet but spicy

Fiona: A ducking dipping sauce with soy and chili and cinnamon.

Gaz: I’d be beer. 

Hammel: I’d be petrol.

KJHK 90.7 FM