BRIGHT FUTURE | City Calm Down

Article and Interview : David D. Robbins Jr.
City Calm Down/EP

CAN’T-MISS BAND: Okay, get on the bandwagon now. The Melbourne quartet, City Calm Down, finished putting the final touches on their self-titled debut EP, and it won’t be long before throngs outside Australia begin to take notice of their music. They combine heavily hook-driven electronic dance-pop, techno and old-school synth with strong rhythmic bass lines. Jack Bourke’s voice balances the band’s pretty spacial grooves with a darker edge, his vocals sometimes sounding a bit like Peter Murphy or Ian Curtis — with more range and softer appeal.

You’ll hear a bit of Joy Division/New Order in “Lost. Trapped” — one of the best songs on the EP, and one of the coolest tracks released this year. This isn’t some run-of-the-mill electronic outfit. City Calm Down’s EP is a beautiful bridge between the memorable anthemic sensibilities of the 80s, modern instrumentation and introspective lyrics. “Lost. Trapped” aches like “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, but offers a vision of things getting better: “Give it space /And give it time / We told ourselves / We knew how to do this / Empty ourselves of whatever’s left / Maybe one day we’ll get through it.” It’s hard to listen to “Lost. Trapped” and not hear it as some cool hybrid of Curtis and Jim Kerr.

City Calm Down’s “You Can Have It So Much Better” begins with a speedily-paced spacey rhythm and these chilled, altered vocals, “You are running out of time now.” But it transitions into a driving bass beat, and this verse, “Life’s not passing … / Passing me by / But you wanna know … / You wanna know my secret / So you can tell everybody else.” The song builds with a shouting background vocal, and a saxophone solo that threads throughout the end of the song. Yes, you read right — a saxophone solo begins at the 2:33 mark. It’s highly creative. It’s unique. And it’s gorgeous. City Calm Down joins the list of newer bands like the xx, Dark Mean, Braids, and Uncles as groups with glowing futures.

City Calm Down “Lost. Trapped”

City Calm Down “You Can Have It So Much Better”

City Calm Down’s lead singer, Jack Bourke, was kind enough to answer some questions from Their Bated Breath. This is the very first question-and-answers session on this blog. And I’m pretty excited that it’s with a band whose music I really enjoy. The hope for this feature, is you’ll get to know a little something about some of the best musicians around, and they get a chance to talk directly to you about life, music and whatever is on their minds:

Q: So, how did you and your bandmates get together?
A: Jeremy (bass) and I had played together for a number of years in a previous band and when that dissolved as a result of musical differences, Sam (Synthesizer/Saxophone) and Michael (drums) joined us.  Sam, Michael and I all went to high-school together. However, Michael was in the year ahead, so he didn’t know any of us when he came along to the first “jam” (for lack of a better word).
Q: If someone wanted to know what you think your band sounds like, how would you describe it?
A: I think this is always a hard one to answer because as a writer you tend to hear your own influences a lot more than other people may. Our sound is essentially melodic synth-pop, however there’s also a lot of post-punk influence mixed in there — and Sam and Michael both studied jazz for a number of years — so I think that definitely comes through a bit (particularly when Sam plays the saxophone).
Q: What’s the most strange comparison anyone has ever made about your music?
A: We seem to get quite a lot of “acid house” remarks in reviews which always perplexes us, as we have never perceived ourselves to sit anywhere near this genre of electronic music … and none of us owns a Roland 303 (unfortunately) … But we were all born in the year 1988 so maybe this is somehow symbolic?
Q: What bands impress you right now?
A: Locally, White Birds and Lemons, Northeast Party House, The JSB’s, The Raffaellas and Big Scary. On an international level, Foals – the new album is superb; The Horrors; Miike Snow and a friend of mine recently introduced me to Pantha du Prince, his music is amazing.
Q: What are the band’s future plans?
A: We’ve just finished recording our debut EP so after a short tour interstate we will be looking to begin writing and recording another release almost immediately. We’re unsure as to whether it will be a full-length LP or another EP, but I think that will be decided once we have a lot of our demo ideas consolidated in the studio.
Q: What album have you listened to the most?
A: There are three or four albums that I have obsessively listened to over the past couple of years: Fleet Foxes self-titled LP, “Silent Alarm” by Bloc Party, “Nite Versions” by Soulwax and “In Rainbows” by Radiohead.
Q: What’s the Melbourne music scene like for those of us that don’t know? Cool clubs, bands?
A: At the moment Melbourne is bustling with young talent. There are so many different venues around for young musicians to perform at and there is such a huge variety of music that one can listen to. If you head north of the city (Fitzroy, Brunswick, Collingwood, Coburg) you will be able to find a place to see a band any night of the week. A personal favorite of ours is The Grace Darling Hotel on Smith Street, Collingwood. A few of the bands we regularly play with are: White Birds and Lemons (who now reside in Melbourne after moving over from NZ), Northeast Party House and The Raffaellas. Melbourne band Big Scary are also generating a lot of hype at the moment and will definitely be worth watching over the next few years.

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