What is your name and role within West Thebarton?
My name is Nick Horvat, and my job is to make rhythm with the guitar with four strings.
Where are you currently based and what is the music scene like there?
In the 5031, west of Adelaide, South Australia. We still rehearse in the same 3m x 6m practice room we formed the band in.
The scene is thriving, tight, varied, interesting and exists outside a lot of the industry noise of the east coast. Small band-rooms like the Crown and Anchor, the Exeter and Jive reign supreme with a thriving DIY punk, rock and independent community. Mid-sized venues are popping up like Lion Arts Factory which is supporting emerging professional touring artists, and then we’ve got the holy cathedral – The Governor Hindmarsh (The Gov) where we’ve all been utterly transformed by the calibre of bands visiting Adelaide, what used to just be a stopover town.
What have you been working on recently?
Touring til recently, then as soon as we took a breather from that, we hit to studio to record our latest release ‘Tops’. Of late, we’ve been writing like mad hoping to strike while the irons hot. It’s pretty hot still, so we’re busy writing and demoing.
Your new single ‘Tops’ is out now, what influenced the sound and songwriting for this track?
‘Tops’ is about feeling anything-but. Rev says it like this, “This song is about those times in your life when you know you should feel so fucking good about yourself, but all you can focus on is negative.”
The sound: the driving bass hook throughout, the big guitar riffs, the gruffness of Rev’s delivery are all pretty quintessential West Thebarton elements. But with this one, we started to try out silences, and tried to reign things in a bit much like we did on the record (‘Different Beings Being Different’) with songs like Set it Straight and Reasons. ‘Tops’ was probably influenced by us trying to add dynamic, and groove, and giving some thought to the textures we could play with on the song.
How did you go about writing ‘Tops’?
It came out of being basically naked (not literally) and vulnerable in front of the nation’s critiquing ears on the national broadcaster, Triple J, where we did a cover of “You’ve Got the Love” (first performed by Candi Staton, and later reinterpreted by Florence and the Machine) for JJJ’s ‘Like a Version’ segment. It is truly an honour to get a shot at the LAV challenge, and such a massive milestone for us as a band. But, of course, despite the giddy heights of the experience and an overwhelmingly positive response to the tune, one can’t help but take personally the inevitable potshots at your attempt, or your appearance, or your voice, or your playing. ‘Tops’ is about taking all that unfounded negativity and trying to live in the sunshine in spite of it.
Where and when did you record and who with?
We demoed ‘Tops’ at Monkey Moon Studios in Dortmund, Germany while we were touring Europe last year. Then we returned to Twin Earth Studios in Adelaide (where we did the album sessions) and got Dylan Adams (DMAs, The Vines) over to produce and engineer it again. Dylan has ears of gold, and knows when the performance is just right. He’s an absolute asset and a truly wired in individual. Richard Bowers was around for the sessions tinkering with some guitar tones too.
Why did you choose to cover Florence & The Machine?
We wanted to attempt a pop song with a huge vocal delivery, to challenge ourselves and also to stretch our ability as a self-professed garage-rock band.
I hear that you all have interesting and varied jobs, what do you do for work away from music?
I was working as a law clerk whilst going through uni and immediately out of it (probably six years total), but when things started moving a bit quicker with West Thebarton I took my leave from the office (definitely miss my old boss Tim though). These days I take photographs for bands’ press and publicity, design websites, labour on festival sites, sell things on Gumtree…you know, an array of interesting things that take my fancy that I can scrounge some coin from.
How do you juggle your day jobs with your music / touring?
Sometimes it’s like juggling 7 rapidly spinning flaming knives – we’ve got a tattooist, a radiotherapist, hospitality workers, a Red Cross employee, a music education and community engagement worker… basically we’re a working band, making it work.
So touring is our release from a lot of those other pressures. Us 7 (plus Nick Astanei our photographer and Michael Ellingford our sound engineer) out on the road is what we really work for, I think. To be able to take music on the road is the dream.
In 2018 you toured Europe (Reading/Leeds/Pukkelpop) what did you find most rewarding and challenging during this tour?
Most rewarding: seeing how far hard work and unity can take us.
Most challenging: sleeping altogether in a coach with earplugs in every night.
How do the European crowds differ to your Aussie fans?
Whilst we are definitely still emerging in Australia, we were pretty much unknown over there. So the fans were new, and it was exciting to be playing to people who may have read about us in a festival program or seen an interview and come out to check us out.
Rock fans are outsiders these days, it’s not as in vogue to listen to or play guitars, but regardless of where those people live, the commonality is that rock fans, especially our fans, are adventurous and are looking for something with less polish. I think that our old fans here and new fans there enjoy the mongrel of our shows.
What do you like to do away from music?
I like to read, and I’ve recently been getting back into it. I read Black Elk Speaks as told to John G. Neihardt the other week and it just kick started my imagination and love of books again. It’s been some time since I’ve had a still enough mind to be able to take anything in. I picked up a copy of The Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru in the airport coming back from India late last year, which I’ve been attempting, and like everyone I know I’ve got a stack next to my bed about waist high of books-in-progress: there’s a few music books like Our Band Could Be Your Life by Michael Azzerad, a Murakami, some self-help books, all sorts.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
Right now I’m listening to: Turnstile, Fugazi, 808 State, Orbital, Mildlife, Miles Davis, Thought Gang and heaps of techno (it helps me concentrate).
But I came across this band today who have one song out I loved listening to, who are from Brighton in the UK and they’re called GURU. They’re really carrying that torch that was set alight by Fontaines D.C. and IDLES who I’m also really into.
What do you have planned for 2019?
We’ve got a tour for ‘Tops’ coming up throughout Australia in May and June, and after that we’ll keep drilling down into these songs we’ve been writing, piecing them together, getting happy with them. And just getting on with our lives – trying to do our best in all aspects, y’know.
Any secrets that you care to share?
I’ve got a whole saucerful, but perhaps another time.
Favourite food and place to hangout?
Thai food, at home.
WEST THEBARTON – THE TOPS TOUR
With special guests: A. Swayze & The Ghosts
TIX ON SALE NOW VIA WESTTHEBARTON.COM
Friday May 31
The Gov, ADELAIDE
Friday June 7
Saturday June 8
The Cambridge, NEWCASTLE
Sunday June 9
The Corner, MELBOURNE
Saturday June 15
The Rosemount, PERTH
Friday June 21
The Triffid, BRISBANE
Saturday June 22
Miami Shark Bar, GOLD COAST