After a stellar album release in early 2017, Sydney band Bleeding Knees Club have kept a relatively low profile. Aside from a few small festival slots including Sounds of The Suburbs in September, the boys have slowly been cracking away on their next release. But it seems that the media downtime has had them itching to get back on the road. And what better way to remedy this than to plan a little Australian tour to celebrate the vinyl release of their first two records? Without a official new music to promote, Bleeding Knees have rallied local legends Together Pangea and are heading out on the road.
LunchBox caught up with frontman Alex Wall to catch up on the moments of silence we noticed last year and to get his perspective on the changing landscape of punk and its relevance in Australian music today.
How does an all-male band approach the growing feminist conversation in music? Is their voice necessary or even wanted? I was curious to hear from Alex where he thinks bands like his fit into the mix and why silence and disengagement is not the way forward. I could hear that Wall was treading lightly, but also with a quiet conviction in his answer, which to some could be considered somewhat unpopular. “It’s pretty awesome how strong that movement is right now… It’s awesome that now it’s important to have female bands on all tours and shows; it’s super cool and that’s the way it should be. But not just picking them because they’re female but because they are awesome bands. The more people do it the more it will become the norm. It’s important for all male bands like ourselves to lend a hand.”
Bleeding Knees Club are a punk band. From their scratchy garage sound to their messy-hair-don’t-care aesthetic, Alex Wall, Michael Barker, Gio Alexander, and Nick Leighton are adamant that punk is not dead, it’s just transforming. In suggesting that the rebellion and ruckus of punk may be deemed unnecessary in today’s cultural climate Alex mused: “Punk is a weird label now. Because the general public would see punk as bands like NOFX and people with mohawks. Whereas I see punk being more of an attitude, I find DIY and intellectual thinking about ways that you can do things that are going to trigger people’s emotions in positive and negative ways….. I think it’s still relevant I think that the look of it’s changed. I look at people like King Krule to be pretty punk, even though his music certainly isn’t.”
The notion that music bleeds inspiration into the artforms around it is something which I am totally on board with. From fashion to photography, Wall was excited by the fact that his craft was by no means limited to Bleeding Knees, that music can be interwoven into multiple artistic disciplines. “My main job isn’t even the band, I do photography full time and so I’m really into art more than general music. I love art and I want to do as much of it as I can, the band is just a really cool outlet to do heaps of different kinds of art not just the music. Like shirts and designs, I think that it’s a really sad thing which is starting to die in music… People are just doing shirts that are Beavis & Butthead ripoffs on them. It’s not artistic anymore and I really want us to be an artistically-minded band… Having said that, our music isn’t in-depth and arty, it’s just punk-pop.”
So, without a record to back it, the Bleeding Knees Club and Together Pangea’s Australian tour is underway. Having started in Scarborough on 28 March and then onward to Perth and Adelaide, they will be wrapping up in Sydney on 7 of May. From the sound of it the boys could not be more keen. Within our conversation Wall revealed that a new record is on its way and this tour is a chance to loosen up and get the wheels turning again after a fair few months out of the spotlight. “The whole tour is generally about getting out and having some fun… I think our whole thing is putting as much energy as much as possible.”
Their shows are renowned for being savagely wild and to see Wall’s performative style is something to behold. When I asked if we can expect the same thing this time around, Wall reflected on the inspiration he draws from his fellow musicians. In his eyes there is fine line between attention-grabbing and artistry. “I remember when I saw Black Lips play… the show that they were so energetic and raw and disgusting and they were just in their own world on stage. Every time I go to the States and I see all those DIY bands, like the OCs, it’s always a full-force performance for the whole set and that’s what I want to have… There’s a difference over here. Over there [The States] it’s a lot more performance-y and created. Creatively coming up with things on stage, whereas over here it’s really bogan and raw, which is great for some people and a lot of people like that but it’s not my vibe. I don’t think that’s creative… it’s not even artistic; doing a shoey and stuff like that. I’d rather do something different.”
A pretty cool attitude to have in the face of the ‘All Aussie Bloke’ trend that is running wild of late. The likes of Skegss and Dune Rats seem to be following this path and while there is merit in what these bands are doing, it’s refreshing to see a more measured and artful approach to music. The cool factor does come into play however and when I brought up the fine line between being cool and being a nice person in this industry, Wall powered ahead saying, “Honestly I don’t think the general public care if you’re a nice person, but for me I like a band so much more if I meet them and they’re nice and normal people. I respect that so much. The Bad//Dreems guys have to be some of the nicest guys in Australian music.
“Having said that, sometimes it’s rad when you meet a band and they don’t give a fuck and you have to admit that is kind of cool. But then there are people who are just dickheads and I’m not into it, bands who think they’re cool… that’s not cool. You can tell those bands who really care what they look like… sunglasses at the airport.”
One band I can think of who are the furthest from dismissive and too cool are the boys from Hockey Dad, and it would appear that Bleeding Knees are in the same boat. Wall noted that their album has been getting a lot of play from him. “The Together Pangea record is really awesome. There’s a girl from Newcastle called Fritz who I really like…. That new Hockey Dad album was really good… [Blend Inn] was really strong. And I’ve known those dudes for so long and so it’s good to see how far Zac has come and how his voice is sounding now.”
Bleeding Knees Club are a band out on their own. Without any agenda and priorities all of their own, this is a band who will persevere through punk… whatever that word may mean.