Music interviews are a funny thing and everyone does them differently. Thankfully, Ben from Verge Collection was a laugh and from the get-go it was casual and comfortable. Releasing their debut album Flaneur on March 30 and trekking from Perth to Australia’s finest cities in April, it was about time I called. From alt-country to class structures, recording in a sharehouse to the future of the band, nothing seemed off limits.
I feel like your latest single Feelin’ Old captures everything that comes before it, does it feel like this is something you’ve built towards?
Not really, no. It captures it in a sense, but that song was actually written before any of the other songs. That and Too Much About You were the first songs I wrote for the band - it’s fuckin' old, but it set a good tone to continue on. Our Place as well - we all liked those songs, so we decided to continue doing those jangly, semi-folk, semi-country sort of rock music. We’ve been playing live now for ages as well so I guess that’s why the album sounds very live.
So why only release Feelin’ Old now?
I didn’t think it was that good! We used to play it to pad out sets, I guess it’s a bit heavier. We always got slammed by music journalists for yelling a lot during our sets because it was kind of incoherent. We thought it was great, but they didn’t and so we thought no one liked it. Then we got a bit of radio play and people were like ‘nah it’s one of the better songs’, so now we’ve just recorded it - our manager also said we had to put it on (laughs).
Do you feel like it’s pretty representative of the rest of the album?
The EP was done in a studio and then this was just done in a house, mixed by one of our friends. It’s pretty live for the most part, pretty raw sounding, so yeah, it’ll probably be slightly different?
How have you found recording in a house, compared to the high pressure studio situation?
Nah, it’s still high pressure ‘cause we had one of the house mates on our back every day to move our shit out of the way; It was a very tense environment for the most part. I dunno, it wasn’t very streamlined, I wouldn’t do it again - and this is my own house (laughs).
Are you glad you’ve experienced both?
We recorded Our Place in a house and everyone liked it, and to a sound engineer it technically sounds like shit, but if the songs good, it doesn't really matter how it was produced or recorded. I think about old thrash albums that are recorded shittily and no one seemed to mind.
Something that I’ve noticed is a larger appreciation for the alt-country sound these days - is that something you’ve taken notice of?
Oh yeah man, big time. My dad and his brothers were always into country music, but it took a while before I really understood it. I realised where it originated from and branched out into and it's all sort of good in its own weird way. Then I found Wilco and Father John Misty and realised country music can be cool, it doesn't have to be country western, which I guess is cool as well. Even Cher is a bit country, but everyone is like ‘Believe!!’.
Your sound is easy going, but it’s driving - how do all the members fit into the picture?
The guys in the band are really cool because they’ve been really happy to follow how I want it all to come out. I think Baz is a stand out because he manages to play these simple driving drum beats that I’ve sent to him in programmed form, and he manages to get a fun live drum sound out of something that's incredibly rock steady. I really like driving music, like literal driving music. It all sort of has the same chug to it, like Creedence.
When you say driving, I think of how your sound has been described as ‘Australian’ - do you think the driving nature speaks to that Australian-ness?
The people of Australia are very different to the music that seemingly represents Australia. Pub rock has always been thought of as quintessentially Australian - like driving, nod-your-head, bogan-beat, four-on-the-floor kinda shit - that’s why Jet was so popular. I mean, I’m still into it, I’d back them, I don’t know why people rag on them. They got a bit thrown under the bus for making good pub rock music, maybe it was the leather jackets?
Tiny Little Houses’ Idiot Proverbs is a great example of an album that reflects being young in Australia - and I’d suggest the same about your music - it’s not the pub rock sound, it’s the feeling and lyrics that make the difference.
I like how Caleb is trying to do something different. It sounds like Neutral Milk Hotel and Pavement and Guided By Voices and stuff like that - it’s out of the norm for the Australian indie scene, which has typically been more bubbly. They’re not the first, but they’re the best to make pop songs.
I read a comment describing you as having a ‘working class’ sound, do you feel like you come from that background?
Yes and no. Andy sort of does, Barry sort of does. My Dad was a financial planner, so not really, but he had many other issues in his own life that made us at the financial status, working class. He had this well paying job but the money disappeared. I’ve had to listen to people talk about money for a very long time and it’s made me a bit jaded about it - I guess that’s why the music is from a working class ideal. Also I’m cleaning carpets at the moment, it’s hell shit, like it’s fucking shit, but like, easy money - gotta do it. I would definitely 100% put myself as working class (laughs).
I had a friend describe themselves as lower class the other day and I thought ‘At what point are you dissociated from your family’s background?’. These are people who have gone to private schools, but because they’re living out of home with a low paid job, that makes them low class?
Well that’s just bullshit. I grew up in a middle class family and we lived alright. It wasn’t incredible, but I’d definitely count myself as middle class. I’ve never really wanted for much, but I went to a public school and fucked around for a bit after and now I’m poor by my own bad decisions. It’s kind of ridiculous in Australia, there’s kind of two classes. You either have or you don’t. I don’t know how I feel about it, young people do get a pretty raw deal if their parents aren’t sorting them out, so I can get behind that, but it’s also just total shit.
Am I correct in saying there’s a broad range of ages in the band?
Bryn and I are the same age, Andy is 22 and Barry is like 40.
Does Barry bring something different to the band, considering he comes from a different musical background?
He’s got heaps of old vintage drum kits and shit, and also he just works hard - everyone else fucks about but Barry just does it.
And how did the deal with Rhubarb Records come about?
I’m pretty sure one of our friends Jack just told Dylan from Rhubarb about us and was like “you should do something for them” - I could be wrong on that one, but I’m pretty sure that’s how it went down.
So it was a pretty obvious choice then?
Oh, totally. He made us an offer we couldn’t refuse?
And you didn’t refuse it?
And how about everything from this point on?
Uhh, I dunno - do the album tour, and I’m trying to set recording dates at the moment. I’m hoping to do it in the evenings some time this year for a release early next year.
The tour is pretty comfortably extensive - what are you expecting this time around?
How about the support bands for the tour?
They’re all bands that messaged us and then I went through and picked out the ones I liked - its a shame because there was a few cities with multiple good bands that I wish I could’ve taken around, but you gotta check out what’s happening in your scene.
Anything else you want to touch on?
Nah, I dunno, just come to the show - that’s my plug, come by a shirt, we’ll have merch and stuff, all that shit.
Verge Collection will be playing at Jive on Saturday April 28th, tickets can be found here.
Their album Flaneur is out physically on Friday 30 March via Rhubarb Records.