What is your name and role within The Mean Times?
My name is Tom Morgan and I’m on vocals and guitar. I also do all the shit that no one else in the band will do – like badly manage our finances or lack thereof.
Where are you currently based?
In Melbourne. Rock City.
What’s been happening recently?
You know, mostly just staying at home, ordering beer off the internet and cancelling gigs. Oh, we also released another EP the other day, which is exciting. Spewing we haven’t been able to play it live to anyone yet!
Your new EP ‘Stunned Mullet’ is out now, what influenced the sound and song writing?
We recorded ‘Stunned Mullet’ at the same time we recorded our last EP, ‘Raw Prawn’, which we released last year. We’d originally intended to do an album, but the more we got into the recording process and building on ideas, we realised we had two distinct sets of songs that needed to be split into different releases. We knew that each EP would retain a definite similarity, but that they were very different in style. While ‘Raw Prawn’ is a catchy, punk rock EP showing our lighter side, ‘Stunned Mullet’ is an angsty, dystopian rejection of traditional pop and indie norms, but also catchy, dancey and familiar. So we’ve kind of gone from influences like 70s and 90s oz punk rock, writing about life in general and self-deprecation, to a mixed bag of sludgy, grungy, stoner rock, indie pomp and acoustic ballads that all deal with death, depression, bad influences and dead bats.
How did you go about writing the music?
For this EP, it was mostly me writing the core song and bringing it to the band to make it good and point out what I was doing wrong. I actually wrote the first track, ‘She Lives on Oxygen’ when I lived in Amsterdam about 12 years ago. Most likely stoned. It was performed in a couple of bands I played in over there (Hand Bites Dog and Yakuza Smile), but it never felt finished. It only recently got a rewrite and a new chorus and became one of our favourite songs. ‘Miss Damascus 2008’ was written around a bass line that was looping around in my head for ages and layered from there by the rest of the band. Taxidermist came to me on a bike ride home from work one night when musing over the amount of songs that had the lyrics, ‘If you had wings you could fly’. And Faking Death is a dark one that just instantly came out on guitar when I was really tired and struggling with life. But we’ve moved away from that approach lately and are now really focussing on writing together as a band. It’s much more satisfying and enjoyable.
Where and when did you record/produce and who with?
‘Stunned Mullet’ and ‘Raw Prawn’ were mostly recorded and mixed at Rolling Stock Studios in Collingwood by Nao Anzai, who’s done a bunch of awesome stuff like Cash Savage and the Last Drinks. We actually started it way back in 2017 when we first laid down bass, drums and some guitars at Rolling Stock, but over the following year or two, we added a heap of guitars ourselves – mostly at Eoin’s house. We then sourced horns, strings and more guitar from musicians scattered across the internet, then came back to the studio to do vocals and mix it together with Nao. The whole lot was then mastered by Mikey Young from Eddy Current Suppression Ring.
What programs/instruments did you use?
Heaps of goddam guitars and effect pedals. At one point, when recording ‘She Lives on Oxygen’, we’d already recorded about 5 or 6 guitar layers, but we still wanted more! We asked our mate Cosmic from Brisbane band Death By Carrot to do a mad wah solo, then our former band mate Ant did another solo, then we went full bogan and roped in the craziest guitar soloist we could find in South America. We then changed tack and decided we wanted strings and horns for the second track, ‘Miss Damascus 2008’. We tracked down musicians offering these services on websites and worked with them collaboratively. We’d figure out the melodies or textures we wanted on the keyboard and send them a recording of what we were looking for and they’d make it sound good and send us their recordings to add to the mix. We also added our own keys to pretty much every song.
What did you find most challenging and rewarding during the writing/recording process?
Having no time was our biggest challenge. Having busy day jobs, families and other outside commitments is always what makes it hard for us, especially when recording. If we had more time, we would’ve busted out about 10 albums by now. We’re actually quite efficient when we get down to business. Also, at the time of recording, we didn’t actually have a full-time drummer, so we shipped in our mate Jonesy who’d been filling in for us occasionally to help out. That was a challenge in itself as he also had limited time and heaps of other bands.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
Right now I’m listening to Failure! I’m also liking Rolling Blackout Coastal Fever’s new album at the moment, but the one band I’m addicted to listening to this year is Viagra Boys from Sweden. They sound insane. Expect us to start ripping them off very soon.
What do you like to do away from music?
Outside of music, work and family, I don’t have a lot of time for much else. If I do, then I like to go camping, bike riding and put things in a slow cooker. During lockdown, I’ve also managed to step up an already worrying drinking habit and am becoming even more of a craft beer wanker.
What’s planned for the remainder of 2020?
Hopefully we can go back to the pub! First and foremost, I just want to go to the pub and get on the beers. But then, I want to play some goddamn gigs in the goddamn pub!
We had to cancel our single and EP launches during lockdown, so we’re hoping to put on a massive Melbourne show as soon as things go back to normal. Keep an eye out for that. Then we’ll play as many gigs as we can. We’ve actually been relatively productive with songwriting over the past few months at home, so it’d be great if we could get back to the studio and record it all. Hopefully it doesn’t take 3 years this time.
Favourite food and place to hangout?
Pub feeds and the pub. I don’t discriminate as to which.