I spoke to Melbourne-based trio, Destrends at this year’s St Kilda Fest to discuss their upcoming Ep, Lousy Lover and eccentric costume choices.
Brothers Matt (Vocals/Bass) and Nathan Savage (Drums) grew up in Deniliquin, NSW – the country music capital of Australia. Their post-punk sound with a 80s vibe is a far cry from the music their hometown is best known for. “We all went the absolute polar opposite on purpose.” Nathan joked, “I don’t think we could get further away from like a country band!”
“All through our high school years we played heaps of different community events. It was really good because the town was really supportive and that’s how we learnt to play,” Matt says. “We probably failed every other subject playing music all the time, because there was not much else to do growing up there as well.”
After high school, Nathan headed off to university in Melbourne. Matt shortly followed, and it was there where he met guitarist Billy Watts (son of the late Robbie ‘Rocket’ Watts, former guitarist of Aussie-punk legends Cosmic Psychos). It wasn’t until the duo was looking for a drummer that the brothers reconnected.
“When I first came down, I wasn’t playing that much – just kind of doing my own thing – then I met Billy and we started jamming. Then we got Nathan involved – he had been at Uni, but we hadn’t actually had that much contact with each other for a while,” Matt explained.
“We did our own separate thing in Melbourne for a few years, and didn’t really talk that much. Now we all see each other almost every day,” he furthered. “We’ve all been living together as well, so it’s constant. But it’s good – we all get along fine.”
And thus, Destrends was born. The band has been playing together for around two years now and last year released a double A-side (two singles). Their debut EP, Lousy Lover is set for release this April, with a tour to follow. Recording took about six months under the guidance of Finn Keane at Head Gap Recording Studios in Preston.
“[The EP is made up of] songs we’ve been playing for the last couple of years, some of them since we first started, and there’s some new material too. There are songs that were really old and songs that were really new, but it did come together with a certain kind of sound to it,” Matt explained.
“We were going to do our EP way earlier, like maybe six months into the band; but if we did it then, it would have been pretty average,” he furthered. “I’m glad we waited, road tested the songs, sat on it for a while, developed the songs as much as we could. It feels like it’s been a long time in the making.”
“I feel like this is the first release where it’s a collective. All the songs make sense and it’s got a bit of a style to it,” Nathan added.
Describing the EP as relatively “pretty upbeat and rocky”; the title track may surprise fans as it’s the band’s first real slow song. It’s a song they’ve kept in secret, not having played it live yet; with Matt hinting that it will probably be an upcoming single.
Matt noted: “Lousy Lover is the different one that I really like. It doesn’t sound like us either so it’s kind of the weird oddball.”
“Most of the stuff, we have played live [but] we wanted to keep some stuff as a surprise so, people who do come to our shows, haven’t heard everything off the EP before we released it,” Nathan described. “We kind of wanted to have a few new ones that people haven’t heard before.”
After all, they only just debuted Pictures at St Kilda Fest.
Although, still finding their feet a little in the studio; the band are pros when it comes to their stage craft. With over 200 shows in the bag in two years, they’ve shared the stage with Stonefield, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Apes and the Hoodoo Gurus.
Their latest single, ‘Blackout’, showcases the boy’s unique sound (often described as reminiscent of the new wave sound of the late 70s and early 80s, with a gentle touch of gothic hysteria). “Genre wise, we kind of fit in the middle of everything,” Billy says. “Like there’s a bit of everything in our music.” But it’s their eccentric costumes and stage theatrics which really set Destrends apart.
“We’ve been dressing up every gig; it’s becoming a prerequisite that we have to do it,” Matt laughs. “[We ask ourselves] always before our gig, “What are we going to wear this time?””
A new statement they’ve added to their look in what people now refer to as “glittery-war paint”, something Matt insists he doesn’t remember where the idea came from.
“I think we were thinking we needed to do something interesting for some gig, and we thought, “Maybe we’ll paint our faces.” It became a thing and it just stuck – and now we do it every single time.”
I imagine playing to a crowd of people who aren’t familiar with the band’s quirky tastes may come to quite a shock to an unsuspecting audience. The boys’ note that it’s always interesting walking out into a crowd and seeing the reaction, namely their gig the previous night at Cherry Bar in Melbourne, where “some pretty old rock dudes” and they came out on stage “in glitter and capes.”
St Kilda Fest presented them with a bunch of cops mistaking them for magicians, as they were getting ready in the bathroom before their gig.
Today, at St Kilda Fest, they’re wearing some pretty interesting outfits – Matt is bare-chested in a large cooper coloured cape; Nathan has on a shiny gold vest and Billy is wearing a spotted gold dress with a stripped cape; with each sporting their signature glittery war paint.
They’ve made their own costumes when they’ve been short on cash, but usually they stick to rentals. “We’re like best friends with the old women at the costume shop now,” Matt explained.
“We’ve done some pretty weird stuff,” Billy says, in regards to costumes.
Other notable costumes include Matt attempting to make a Christmas tree bra for a holiday gig, and dressing as the Queen of England (with Nathan and Billy as his guards) to a cover of the Sex Pistols classic, God Save The Queen during a Queen’s birthday celebration.
“We’ve been playing this festival called Horror Movie Campout Festival, where everyone goes out into the forest and watches horror movies,” Matt added. “There are bands playing and all kinds of crazy stuff going on – there are scare actors and you get chased with chainsaws and that kind of stuff.”
The band was added to the whole tour after their successful run in Brisbane.
“So I’ve been dressing up as Frank-N-Furter [from the Rocky Horror Picture Show] every gig and wearing the corset, the wig, the makeup, the whole shebang.”
Another thing they’ve known for is their use of props. Matt mentions he once jumped out of a coffin at the start of a gig. But such impressive theatrics have proved to be a blessing and a curse, as Nathan added: “The Horror Movie Campout are like, “You can bring that coffin up to Brisbane, yeah?” “Like what do you want us to do – bring it on the plane?!” That’d be the weirdest thing to check onto the plane ever! We ended up having to [drive it] up to Adelaide as well!”
With such a busy schedule, it’s hard to believe the guys have much down time; but they’re currently writing new material for their next release. They say they’ll be testing out a few on the road soon too – and what costumes do they have planned for the future? You’ll just have to go to a gig and find out for yourself.
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[Originally posted at the AU Review]