Tetsuians are celebrating the release of their latest single, Bloody Chieftain in anticipation of their sophomore album, Elephant Hexagon in August. Tetsuians’ self-titled debut album was recorded between Melbourne and Maroochydore in the respective homes of Amber Craske (bass/vocals), Trent Price (guitar/vocals) and Andrew Jackson (drums/ former US President) and was voted in the top ten albums of 2019 by 4ZZZ’s Ozone presenter, Billie Letts. The band hopes to build on this promise with their punchier second effort. Trent, Amber and Andrew swing by Hi Fi Way HQ for a quick interview.
How is the band navigating its way through the current health crisis?
Trent: We’ve been operating between two states for a few years now – with Amber residing in Maroochydore and Andrew and I living in Melbourne. So, in some ways the COVID situation has been business as normal for us other than not being able to play live gigs. We even live streamed our album launch from Bakehouse Studios last year, so what seemed like a weird idea at the time has become a bit of a trend now!
Amber: It’s definitely impacting Trent and Andrew more than me on a daily basis. With Queensland feeling almost back to normal, it’s strange to think how different things are in Victoria. But ultimately COVID hasn’t affected the way we record or work together.
Is it hard for the band to try and maintain momentum?
Andrew: Not entirely. Even though Trent and I completed our guitar and drum parts before COVID hit, its been exciting hearing Amber’s bass tracks come though. You wouldn’t pick they’d been recorded remotely. Our previous album had songs that we had rehearsed together and bounce ideas around, but this time it’s a bit like receiving a surprise present – you know roughly what it is, but you don’t know how it will sound.
Amber: Personally, I find it extremely hard to stay motivated being away from the guys and frustrating recording alone. Jamming and instant collaboration is such an integral part of making music so I lose a lot of passion for working on songs because of the forced autonomy, which is why the guys are forever waiting on me to finish my parts of songs!
Trent: Staying sharp has had its difficulties. We hit a bit of a stride playing live before the lock down hit and literally played our last gig supporting AM Reruns at the Pinnacle Hotel the night before lock down. I remember running to see the Schizophonics at the Tote the same night. I figured I mightn’t be able to see live music for a while so wanted to make the most of it.
Congratulations on the single, what’s the story behind Bloody Chieftain?
Andrew: Thank you so much. I honestly couldn’t tell you as Trent is the lyricist so you would have to ask him. What I do like about our songs is there is really no definitive description, it’s really up to the listener’s interpretation.
Trent: Thanks! Well as Andy said, we like to keep things obtuse as it hopefully gives our material a bit more shelf life, but the track is probably a commentary on the current political climate. That sounds naff saying that, but I wouldn’t say it’s directed solely at one individual (or even time period) though.
History tend to overlap, not just because we don’t learn from it, but just because there’s so much noise now. Sacha Baron Cohen recently joked about a scenario where Facebook would allow Hitler to buy ads, but it’s kind of happening. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are great propaganda tools and I honestly don’t see how they’re going to put the Jeanie back in the bottle. But if you don’t like commentary just nod your head and tap your feet!
How would you describe the Tetsuians to the uninitiated?
Andrew: I feel like we are a band that’s a square that won’t fit in a round hole. We all have such different tastes and inspiration in genres of music and we all bring that taste into our songs. I Guess you would say indie rock, but I personally think we are more avant guard/art rock – of this time but not what we imagine it to be.
Amber: A mishmash of music genres with an upbeat, jovial delivery
Trent: That’s tough because we’ve been described in some pretty contrasting ways! I think art-rock is a tad extreme because I like to think we use traditional song structures and play with the ingredients a bit. If you’re going to bend the rules you need to know how they work first.
Is the band building towards an album?
Trent: Yes we’ve basically recorded most of the album. Andrew and I tracked drums and guitars in February so Amber is working remotely on her bass parts. She’s done an incredible job without the benefit of having us in a room to bounce ideas off of. Admittedly it has put a lot of pressure on Amber but she’s delivering – the silver lining is she would now make an excellent bassist for hire in a COVID-19 environment!
What bands would you consider as being significant influences for Tetsuians?
Trent: For this album I think the influence of Quasi and Sleater-Kinney hovers in the background – mainly from a drumming perspective as Andrew has taken some cues from Janet Weiss to augment his style, which comes very much from a songwriting background. That said there’s more strings to this album than the last as Amber is contributing lyrics and lead vocals on half the tracks. That’s a big shift but it’s allowed us to grow a lot as a band.
Amber: Speaking only from a bass point of view, I like to create drama, which is probably inspired by my love of movie scores and composers; namely Hans Zimmer.
Your bio says to ask about personal life coaching – what is your number one tip?
Get tour shit together early! We spent eight years together without releasing an album so we’re frantically making up for lost time! That and don’t eat the yellow snow!
What’s the next challenge for the band?
Trent: Getting this album out and setting to work on the next. We already have enough material to start work shopping album three, so hopefully we can do that together as well as start playing some tracks off the 2nd album – some of which we haven’t played live yet!
Amber: Finding a time and cost effective way for all three of us to tour the new album!
How much are you looking forward to touring resuming?
Andrew: I can’t wait to be playing with these two amazing musicians again. Trent and I did some gig as a two-piece leading up to March, while Trent and Amber played some quieter gigs up north, but I really want to play as a trio once again.
Amber: Seems like a pipe dream at the moment so it’s hard to get too excited about it. But obviously it would be awesome to do some live shows with the full band again. It’s been a very, very long time!
Trent: As Amber mentioned, Queensland appears to be getting back into the swing of things but given the restrictions down here Andy and I won’t be able to take advantage of the warmer weather. Hopefully by the time the album is released we won’t have to resort to illegal border crossings!
Interview By Rob Lyon