Their band title may come from the final monologue in a classic ’90s movie (American Beauty), but this five-piece are so much more than their elaborate name. The group have been rumbling around for a number of years, but their unique sound is really starting to break free of the Melbourne underground.
Lead singer, Lachlan Rose describes the origins of Cousin Tony‘s Brand New Firebird: “It started in maybe 2012; it’s all getting a little bit hazy now! Kieran [Christopherson, guitarist] and I moved into a share house together and at that time he was putting a lot of energy into his own solo music and at that point I’d never written a song – I was just tinkering on a piano, but he kind of showed me the ropes and I was just carrying his amp around to gigs and watching him do it and kind of fell in love with the whole process just through watching him.”
He continues, “I was running this completely separate event called ‘The Fortnightly Fort Nights’ where we would get together every couple of weeks and build these cardboard forts and then invite people to come and perform inside them. The rest of the band all slowly came through various fortnights. Francesca [Gonzales, synth and vox], who is one of the front faces of the band, came to the second ever fortnight and performed and we immediately fell in love with her and she joined the band and the other two guys [Nick Reid, drums, and Leigh MacDonald, bass] joined swiftly after her.”
Despite appearing to be relatively new to the scene, years of work have gone into the project and Lachlan is quick to highlight the solo work that each band member is involved in and the amount of build-up to the band releasing music. Lachlan has become the sole lyricist, whilst the guitar sound of Kieran is just as instrumental in the band’s sound. “Kieran started really focusing on guitar. I think his voice in the band is just entirely in the sound of his guitar, especially if you come to a live show. He’s such a textural player and it’s a really pivotal part of the sound.”
The lyrics from Lachlan really evoke stories of those little things in life that we encounter every day. He elaborates, “It really ties in with the band name, this idea of finding beauty in the mundane. I don’t look necessarily into nature or biblical language or a lot of these traditional kind of songwriting approaches. To me, it’s all about looking at the mundane things around you. Whether that comes through in every song or not, I’m not sure, but to me it’s about looking around at the living room or just looking at people on the street. It’s a very ground level approach and trying to imbue those everyday things with meaning. Songs like Cool Parties and Melbourne Bitter exemplify that.”
“Short towers, they’re tipping me off
Dead flowers, they looked down on me
With a bad break in their heart
‘Cause they’re afraid of losing their touch
And they’re bitter with Melbourne
‘Cause they’ve seen too much.”
– Melbourne Bitter
Like the symbolic plastic bag floating in the wind from their namesake, finding beauty in the things around you is something that the band have always leaned towards, but unless you’re aware of the band’s inspiration for the name, you might be excused for thinking they’re a less-than-serious project.
“The band name’s obviously so long and ridiculous, like, a lot of people, when we tell them – they might not say this – but there’s always this look on their face that kind of just says, ‘Are you sure? Is that really what you’re running with?’” he laughs. “That’s the kind of reassurance I get from it. At least for me, that is at the core of that place that I write songs from. It’s the texture of your grandma’s hands and English breakfast tea.”
The band have been teasing us with tracks from their debut album, including Blaze and the most recent, Morning Person. Lachlan excitedly chimes in, “We finished it a few months ago now. I was doing this pretty intense music composition degree for the last three years which I finished at the end of last year and right towards the tail-end of that I worked out this plan to start recording an album as soon as I’d finished. Even during my degree, I was getting so itchy to start recording, I was even in the studio while I was preparing my final folios for uni!”
Does this album incorporate a lot of what he learnt at the Victorian College Of The Arts? “People always say you learn more in your first day of work than you do in your whole degree and I absolutely had the same thing, even with a music degree. Just being in the studio for like three days after finishing uni, I just learnt so much. All of a sudden, even with all of that theory that I had, I just had these light bulbs going off. ‘Oh, that’s what that means! I get it now!’”
The album was recorded in a tiny studio in the inner-west Melbourne suburb of Yarraville (“It was like a cupboard!”) with producer Matthew Neighbour and through “the magic of the studio”, the band has managed to create a big sound from a small space. The sound of Melbourne permeates through the music that the band creates and Lachlan tells me about how the industrial setting of Northern Melbourne suburb, Clifton Hill inspired the song Melbourne Bitter. “The melancholic, dreary, industrial city” was conveyed sonically through that song and set the tone for the band.
We also had to talk about the infamous Melbourne weather. “When you go to other cities, you do realise how much of a role the weather really does play in Melbourne and people become really synchronous with it.” Lachlan goes on to describe looking out of the window as we speak and it’s windy and it’s dreary. “People just don’t look happy, but as soon as the sun comes out, people flock to the parks and beaches!”
The band expects to release their first album at the start of 2018 and are looking to tour the country soon after. In the meantime, check out the brand new video for Morning Person and catch up on their catalogue.
30 December – 1 January, NYE On The Hill Festival, South Gippsland