The 13-track album ‘Dead Beats’ by Melbourne-based synth-pop/post punk duo of Kalindy Williams and Kurt Eckardt is finally out and it’s a strong and thrilling debut. Besides the two already known excellent singles, it’s hard to find a flat or a weak moment: Throbbing bass lines, pulsing synths, explosive call-end-response vocals, punchy drum machine. Freshness, melodies, dissonances, fun, sass, angst, unrest, energy, humor…a sardonic laugh in the face of all the dullness and insanity of our time. A torrid ‘Heat Wave’ has never been so appealing and refreshing, your definitive ‘goth summer party punk band’!
Let’s have a nice chat with them.
Many thanks for the interview. Let’s start from the early days, how did you meet? What attracted you? And above all which are the elements that give you this musical and artistic complementarity so tight-knit?
Kurt: We met in Sydney a little over 10 years ago, our old bands (Le Paper Dolls and Say Cheese And Die!) played together at a house show and we’d always end up at the same warehouse gigs that were happening at the time.
Kalindy: We’ve got slightly different taste in music but have both always been drawn to bands with a pretty lo-fi aesthetic, and both share a love of the Ramones. That helps. We also just both like short, simple songs – it would be easy to overdo Heat Wave with extra instruments and more complex sounds, but it’s always meant to have just been a fun, basic party band.
Was the idea to make your life as a musician purely incidental? Did you already dream of it in your teens and what were your first musical/not musical inspirations and influences?
Kurt: I totally wanted to be a musician from about age 12, I was pretty influenced by my older brother – he lived in Canada and would send me mix tapes of punk bands like Angry Samoans and The Saints alongside stuff like Nirvana and his own band Bodybag. It was pretty life changing and it totally made me want to be in a punk band from that moment on. I also got pretty heavily into grunge in the 90s and it made it seem achievable.
Kalindy: I actually had no plans to be a musician as a teen, when I was 8 I wanted to be a singer but I had a terrible voice. I think I always wanted to be an artist. I have alwayσ loved and been influenced by Lydia Lunch and I feel like in punk music there is a place for people to create even if you’re not super talented.
Why did you both decide to move (from Sydney via Brisbane?) to Melbourne? I mean, it’s not the usual escape from the boring countryside or a lost small-town in the middle of nowhere…
Kurt: We had been planning to move from Sydney to Melbourne for a bit, and were all packed up ready to go when my Dad got sick. He and my Mum and the rest of my family all live in Brisbane, so we went there for what was supposed to be two months. We ended up staying for a year and a half before making the move to Melbourne. Melbourne’s definitely where we’ll stay – it’s such an easy and fun place for us to live. Melbourne is an awesome city to play music in – there are so many opportunities to play, and such a supportive scene, great community radio stations and it’s cheaper to live in than Sydney, too.
Years ago I read a book about the Australian underground rock scene of the 80’s, when the OZ bands were very popular in Europe as ever, where the writer stated that the sound of each Australian main town had its own peculiar characteristics. Ιs it still the same nowadays? Does that heritage of music have an impact on you? Which are your favourite bands of that era?
Kurt: That was certainly true, and still is to a point. It’s a bit more samey now, but in Melbourne at the moment there is definitely a great punk-rock scene with bands like Wet Lips, Cable Ties, Synthetics and Batpiss, and there’s also a really incredible movement of female, non binary and gender non-conforming led punk bands that are ruling live shows at the moment. There’s a brand new label called Hysterical Records which is set to release some really amazing stuff from this scene and Listen Records has been putting out some of the coolest stuff around. From the late 70s and early 80s stuff, you can definitely hear a difference between cities – my favourites would be Scattered Order (Sydney), Pel Mel (Newcastle – about 2 hours north of Sydney) and Primitive Calculators who were part of Melbourne’s Little Band Scene and reformed in the past decade.
In 2014 you founded the DIY record and zine label Psychic Hysteria, did you take any label from the past as a model?
Kurt: Psychic Hysteria was initially created by me to release an album by a Sydney based musician, but it never eventuated, so the first releases ended up being my own Astral Skulls music. There’s been a focus on zines and other items lately, and I’d love to do more of that. There are a bunch of labels that have done similar things in the past, it’s certainly nothing new. Local labels and distros like Eternal Soundcheck and Vacant Valley are certainly inspirations, as well as older ones like Kill Rock Stars, K and Dischord.
What are the label plans and aspirations? I guess it would be easy in our modern society, where everything is for sale and the genuine value of music is a bit deteriorated, keeping and defending a ‘punk’ ethic…
Kurt: I guess people’s perception of the value of music has changed, but there are still people that want collectible things like cassettes and vinyl, and bands still need to pay for recording and engineering and production. Lots of bands now rely on streaming (and download of course) to survive financially, but smaller bands don’t get enough from these places so we have to try and make ends meet with merch and the like. I’d love to be able to put so much more out, but it’s a money issue. At the moment I’m focussing on getting some cool local releases up there that bands or artists have put out themselves- just as a kind of aggregate of cool shit, a distro, rather than a label. If and when I can afford it, I’ll put some more stuff out – we’ll keep doing our own things when they come around. And yeah there’s a political side to everything you do, isn’t there? So it’s a punk label in that regard, but mostly in that control of the music stays in the hands of the artists. Psychic Hysteria is just providing a place for people to find it.
You’re both interested and involved in other forms of artistic expressions, Kalindy is a fashion photographer, illustrator and designer, Kurt a photographer too, maybe filmakers next, your efforts seem having no limits…Do you consider yourself primarily musicians? Or is the music a vehicle or another way to get your artistic interests and ideas out?
Kalindy: I guess I consider myself in the most general term an artist, music definitely inspires all my different creative endeavours in some way and through making music I have become interested in video making, so yes it is a vehicle.
Kurt: I consider myself a musician first, I really just take photos for fun for the most part. I occasionally do commissioned shoots for bands, but more often than not I just take photos out and about, either of bands or just things that I think look cool or funny in the sky and the streets. We’ve both made a few films clips before though! I love editing videos so much, actually I would love to just do that for a job if I could.
Which are your favourite and inspirational artists at the moment?
Kurt: I don’t get super into following current bigger name artists, but I would like to if I had more time. My favourite photographer is Nguan. I mostly engage with visual art through zines – I love the tangible nature of them and the personality they expose – you find out so much about the artist just by reading their thoughts or looking at their pictures.
How is your approach to the song composition? How the songwriting process is divided between you two?
Kalindy: I usually am inspired by completely random things, walking down the street, at the pub or in the shower and come up with a melody that Kurt will record on his phone, then Kurt will write a drum beat and bass line and I will figure out a synth line for the song, then we just keep playing and changing it till it sounds right.
How important are the lyrics for you? How much is your lyrics writing from personal experience and how much draws from external sources?
Kalindy: Some of the lyrics are from personal experience and the struggle I face being a woman, some of our songs have hidden meanings and a lot are just about our general views on the world – or horror movies.
Your 13-track debut album ‘Dead Beats’ was released on May 16th, please help our readers to better understand the title, the influences, the sound, the recording process and the ups and downs that have brought to the final result?
Kurt: We write and record everything at home – I always call it our studio but it’s really just the main bedroom of our house which has lots of amps and synths in it. I love recording music (another thing I’d love to do as a job), I really enjoy the process. Once the album was written, we did everything in one or two takes really – we wanted to keep it sounding a bit like you’re in the room with us. We got Mikey Young (Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Total Control, etc) to mix and master it. He did exactly what we wanted with it. We had it all ready to go before we even played our first show (mid-2016), so have been sitting on it for ages, waiting for the right time to put it out. The cassettes are here now – we’ve already sent a few of the pre-orders out. We’ve already written half of our next album,but we don’t have plans for that yet (though we’ve started playing a couple of the songs live).
Kalindy: ‘Dead Beats’ is a nod to our goth and horror movie influences, we wanted to convey our tracks are danceable but also spooky.
Kurt already has is own music project under the moniker Astral Skulls with Kalindy’s support just on synth and backing vocals; a brilliant single has been released these days and the sophomore LP is in the pipeline, what are the differences from Heat Wave?
Kurt: Astral Skulls is just a solo project of mine, I write and record everything and Kalindy plays the set live with me which makes it much more fun to watch (and to play). So the process is completely different to Heat Wave. With Astral Skulls I essentially just show Kalindy what to play, though she does help a lot with decision making on the production side of things – it’s great to be able to bounce ideas off her.
Kalindy: Yeah my role in Astral Skulls is a session musician and a second opinion.
What’s your view about the current, Australian underground music scene? In particular is there in Melbourne a scene around venues/clubs/records shop or any sort of community between artists?
Kurt: The community that we’re surrounded by is pretty incredible and supportive. There are a few venues in particular that we really respect like The Old Bar and The Tote, who not only look after artists but also ensure that the venues are safe spaces for people of all genders and from all backgrounds (well, in whichever ways they can). There’s a great gallery space called Aeso Studio which we’ve only played at once, but which is a really incredible space that we’d like to organise more events at. There are stacks of really good record stores. Lots – like Record Paradise and Polyester – have in-stores pretty regularly which is rad.
Which are your favourite new Australian bands around at the moment?
Hi-Tec Emotions, RVG, Summer Flake, Suss Cunts, Chelsea Bleach, Shrimpwitch, Bitch Diesel and B are some of our favourite Melbourne bands. And then basically anyone from Brisbane – there’s something in the water up there…
I believe you still have to undertake a proper tour outside of your region, What do you enjoy most about performing live? Can you remember your 1st gig as a band and your highlights so far?
Kurt: Yep Heat Wave haven’t even played outside the inner-northern suburbs of Melbourne yet! Astral Skulls has played interstate a bit though, and Heat Wave will be doing some album launch shows in Sydney and Brisbane soon. I love playing Heat Wave live, we just approach it with so much fun and try and make it fun to watch. Our first Heat Wave gig was at a house party and I’d broken my wrist so I couldn’t play bass – we just basically played a bit of synth and jumped around and sang loudly and had the best time. That day was the first time I saw a bunch of bands that I have come to respect a lot so it’s a very fond memory.
Kalindy: I am actually really nervous in most social situations but I like getting over those nerve and just playing and having fun. My highlight are usually associated with the bands we play with, I have so many great memories so far of being able to play with some of my favorite bands.
Many thank for being our welcome guest, just the last usual question: Your plans for the near future?
Kalindy: The album launch party is going to be a really fun night! After that I want to finish all the new song ideas I have in my head and get them out to the world .
Kurt: Plus we’d love to tour overseas!