The extent to which Animaux‘s Alex Lahey has considered the challenges, needs and advantages of being a local band on the up cannot be overstated. She knows what has to change about her scene and what’s left for her band to learn, expressing both without ever taking personal credit for the collective feats of the seven-piece grouping. Animaux recently collaborated with us on a killer live session and we took Alex aside to try and sketch out an early narrative for the young artists.
The Vale Street EP dropped about a year ago and you’re about to drop a new single. What else can you tell me that’s been up with Animaux in the interim?
Since then, we kind of took a break from doing a release last year just because the Vale Street EP really took it out of us and we wanted to sort of let it simmer. At the end of last year, we went and did a studio thing to make the new single which we’re currently mixing at the moment so there’s a lot of back and forth, like, emailing and going in-and-out of the studio. It’s also really exciting. We’re playing heaps of shows and also just announced a residency next month at the Evelyn which is also really exciting. We’ve got some other really cool stuff planned for the rest of the year as well. Lots of interstate touring, festivals, that sort of thing.
Before this year, you’ve always had annual release EPs almost on the dot. Was it becoming difficult to produce music at that pace?
I guess. I think it’s also just that as we’re getting older and more mature as musicians. It’s also about getting more of a sense of quality control. I feel like the more mature you get in anything, especially as a creative, it’s a bit like “oh, you know, we’ve got this song but let’s just take a step back and see if it’s something we’d actually be really proud to release”. I think with Vale Street, it was the first time we’d put something out that we were really, really proud to give out to people as a representation of what we do. That’s such a great feeling and it really validates what you do. We’re really conscious of putting out stuff that we don’t have that sort of feeling towards. I think taking our time was really important in making sure that we were able to release something again that we’re just really proud of and feel is a good representation of what we do.
Vale Street also seemed like something you were much prouder of in terms of lyricism and consistency. Escapism appeared as a recurring theme throughout the tracks, especially in ‘Alaska’. Does that come from you?
I wrote ‘Alaska’, yeah, and I think the cool thing about that song was lyrically, it does have- not so much aesthetic but a feel to it. That’s arbitrary, I know. There is a kind of- yeah, escapism- lots of vastness, isolation-type feeling. I think what happened with Vale Street in general, particularly ‘Alaska’ because most of the time was spent on that track, was that our producer tapped into that feel and that’s what a good producer does regardless of whether or not they’re Max Martin or your mate who’s doing an RMIT course. That’s just what a really good producer does. They’re able to identify those sort of aspects of the songwriting and really bring it out sonically.
“I think taking our time was really important in making sure that we were able to release something again that we’re just really proud of and feel is a good representation of what we do.”
When you’re a band with so many members, collaboration is always a really big element. You also collaborate heavily with other Melbourne based acts and artists. Do you consciously foster those connections with a local scene or is that sort of how it has worked out?
I think it’s just kind of how it works out. I think it’s very characteristic of Melbourne bands as well. The scene can be so small but also really strong. It’s really easy to build those sort of friendships and stuff. At the end of the day, we’re all kind of colleagues and you foster those friendships out of that relationship. It’s really cool working with people like that. We did a double headliner with Cactus Channel which was just really fun and obviously doing stuff with you guys and how you work with feature artists and that sort of thing. You know from doing other gigs, how you end up helping a lot of other guys. Us horn players just worked with a Melbourne rapper called Dylan Joel. We also did a whole lot of stuff with Client Liaison last year as well. I think it’s just all part of the job but it’s so awesome. I think Melbourne really does allow for that to happen than in other scenes. Mind you, you see all this stuff online and it seems like Brisbane also has the same sort of stuff going on. I guess you never really know until you’re in it but we have a really good time.
One thing I’ve noticed about your band is the professional consistency and effectiveness of your social media usage. Is there a challenge in balancing being a local residency band and curating a modern media presence?
I think that Animaux’s band development is more traditional than other bands or artists. There’s a guy we know who was in a band who is now doing a solo project that’s been really succesful. His name’s Danny of The Kite String Tangle and he released a track and it went viral and he had to bring it all back in and that to me is a very 21st century kind of way of going about it. We’re kind of doing the opposite thing where we’ve played like 200 gigs around Melbourne and we’ve got a great Melbourne following and all that sort of stuff but we’re still trying to break the bubble, so to speak. When you have that sort of following in a city as small as Melbourne, it still is a friends-of-friends-of-friends-of-friends affair. It’s about breaking that bubble and making you common knowledge.
“Everyone has a lot of talent and we’re always willing to listen to each other’s ideas and I think that’s where that sonic variety comes from.”
On the organic locality of your band, another important aspect is the fusion of genres that encapsulates your sound. Is that something you do intentionally in an attempt to innovate or does it come from a more organic place between all of you as artists?
It definitely comes from a more organic place. Although recently, we’ve been having discussions about finding that kind of distinctive sound. You know, something that sounds like Animaux. But I would argue that just because it is the seven of us playing, it’s going to sound like Animaux by default regardless of influences in a certain track. It’s not really a conscious thing and I think that’s testament to Animaux’s collaborative nature. It’s not a front for one person to release all their shit on. You know, like Coldplay.
Or Maroon 5.
Definitely, definitely. It’s not a vehicle for one person, if that makes sense. It’s very much a friendly affair. Everyone gets to put their stuff in. Of course, going back to where we started, there is a quality control aspect that is coming into it more and more. That makes for some interesting conversations and develops our relationships with each other. There’s no one in the band who is the Ringo Starr! [Laughs.] Everyone has a lot of talent and we’re always willing to listen to each other’s ideas and I think that’s where that sonic variety comes from.
“I like the challenge of maintaining people’s interest and putting on a really good show with a point of difference every week and maintaining the energy throughout.”
Where do you see yourselves now in the context of your band’s overall narrative?
If it was a graph, we’re on a bit of a plateau and perhaps on the cusp of an ascent. To use the bubble analogy again, I hope we’re close to bursting that bubble. I don’t know if I’m talking about narrative as much as I’m talking about goals, but I think that’s ideally where we are.
In terms of that plateau and forecasting a peak, would that potentially be a studio album?
Not at this point. Nup. I’m intimidated by the idea of albums and I say that to the guys because they’re like “yeah, let’s do an album, let’s do an album” even though we just don’t have that amount of material. None of us have worked on an album before and I’d love to find a producer who is really committed to the project and would take us through the entire journey involved. I think that would be the first step. We haven’t found that person yet. You give a producer so much trust if you’re working with them.
Especially if you’re making a 12-track release or longer. You want to know that’s the right person otherwise you risk an uneven release which is not what you want for your debut.
Exactly. I think albums are really important. A friend of mine always says you’re only as old as your first release and I think an album is almost more of a first release when it comes to the big picture. Within the next 12 months, hopefully.
Moving from studio to stage. What are some challenges that you’re facing with that?
We’ve done quite a few [residencies] at the [Evelyn Hotel]. The Ev was where we played our first show. I don’t know, we keep going back. We have a good relationship with the staff, it always pulls a crowd. Someone was saying to me the other day that’s it’s just a really real scene and not in a clique kind of way. You’ll go and and end up knowing someone there so it’s really cool and that’s very welcoming. We’re not a band that’s too cool for anyone or anything like that. I think that really appeals to people. The challenges are that we’ve done it so many times. I’ve been told by a few people that we should stop doing residencies but there’s something about it. I don’t understand why people would think that. They’re so succesful and they make people happy.
And at the end of the day, you are performers.
Yeah. There’s something about the venue there. I remember when we started doing it, my goal was to make it a bit of a local institution like Saskwatch at Cherry Bar. I think we’re almost there. I like the challenge of maintaining people’s interest and putting on a really good show with a point of difference every week and maintaining the energy throughout.
“There needs to be a broader dispersion of venues around the city- and good venues.”
Your point of scene as opposed to clique as a positive aspect is interesting, but what is something you’d like to see change in the Melbourne music scene?
Politically speaking, there needs to be more funding. I would love to see the Melbourne scene branch out a bit with more interstate bands here and more Melbourne bands going interstate with stronger relationships between the cities.
What else do I think should change in the Melbourne music scene? Oh, this is number one; there needs to be a broader dispersion of venues around the city- and good venues. Good bookers who know how certain areas work. I think that’s really important.
And good PA systems
Oh fuck, yeah. Good PA systems, Jesus. And you’re not the one on stage. [Laughs.]
I live in the inner south and it’s a complete dead zone. There’s nothing here in terms of music and I don’t mind going to Fitzroy or Northcote to hear a band, but I would love to have somewhere local that wasn’t crap.
And I get it, the whole demographic thing but surely people would come if you put on a good lineup. People schlep out to Footscray for Laneway!
If that isn’t proof, I don’t know what else is.
Yeah! I just don’t get it. So that’s my answer.
Check out the Trumpeters Alcoholic Ice Tea ‘Organic Sessions’ performance we keyed up with Animaux and Melbourne rapper Baro here.