By Poppy Tohill
Birthed in 2009 from the corpse of something that kicked and screamed until it died, the monster rock and rollers that are Gay Parisentered this world running with wolves and howling in the hills. Spending their time loping around the dimmest haunts of the Australian music scene, Gay Paris have shaken of the dust of sleep, flexed their muscles and are now gearing up to release their third studio album, ‘Dark Arts.'
Recently releasing album number three's first single ‘The Sackcloth Saint of the Cornfield,' I had the privilege of catching up with vocalist Luke ‘Wailin' H Monks' for a chat about the single and upcoming record.
Somewhat flustered by difficult and uncooperative telecommunication devices, Luke & I eventually connected and sat down for a chat and a brew, over the phone.
While popular bearded, drinking, jumping and screaming men in our big brother country of Australia, if you've never heard of Gay Paris and are sitting there trying to connect their name with a sound or specific genre, don't. Because chances are you won't get it right.
"Our sound is a cynic, philosophy, dressed up as soulful heavy metal," Luke kindly described to me. "It nearly killed us!" he chimed, moving on to talk about their upcoming record. "I don't know if the band would have died but we might not have been able to keep moving for quite a while," he admitted. "We recorded everything bar vocals in the US only to come home and realise that we could only use the drums! Oh, we kept one of the guitar lines," he added laughing, "but that was it from the whole three week recording session."
"What happened... well, I'm not going to tell people not to do drugs, but maybe some people shouldn't... I'm not pointing any fingers, certainly not at my band mates and I really mean I'm not pointing at them and I don't want to give anyone else a bad name. So what happened is we came back home (to Sydney), re-recorded and then re re-recorded the whole thing. We did a lot of vocal re-writes on the spot which was actually lovely too," Luke continued. "We worked with a fantastic man named Daniel Antage, who we worked with on our first record. But, it was monstrously emotional," he confessed. "We've known each other for so long already we basically thought Jesus, we're already done. I'd just need to do a few ra, ra, ra's with my monster voice and then we could have some drinks, relax and maybe not see each other for six weeks. But it dragged on so long that by the time the record was done, everyone was happy and poor Dean (bassist and vocalist also referred to as 'Slim Pickins' Podmore) had to do the bass for the third time, the tour had already started! We were on the road and I was doing vocal tracks the day after the first show of the single tour, so it was pretty rugged and brutal."
"Here's the thing," Luke continued. "Being the resident hobo and useless neigh-unemployable, but having a possibly illegal job, I didn't go to the States with them, because I can't take time off from doing my possibly illegal job to get over there," he replied when asked about recording the album in San Francisco. "So the plan was I would do everything here while they took off over there. We worked on the record with the same guy we did album number two with, Sam Pura. We loved him. We brought him over for two weeks and went to the Gold Coast, which was fantastic. We were so happy, there was a pool with a flying fox into it and it was great! The recording was a bit slow going though," he admits. "We didn't get much done, when we thought we would, so we thought - lets go to the US where Sam lives and works, in his studio and we'll get everything done, we'll have plenty of time, we'll put some piano on the record and it'll be fantastic. But we didn't get that."
"Apparently it went very slowly and no one was happy. I said I wouldn't point fingers but I guess I just have," he laughed. "Working there just wasn't a happy combination for the three guys, plus the producer. We didn't get done what we felt like we wanted to get done."
"But then when they came back it gave us all perspective that maybe we don't need to flee the Antipodes. Maybe we need this terrible isolation and is this end of the world, New Zealand included really a cultural backwater or can we do everything ourselves?" Luke proclaimed. "So it twisted out heads back straight and we realised that we own rock and roll. We don't need some US stamp of approval."
"Oh god yes!" Luke replied enthusiastically when asked if they're patiently awaiting the release of the record. "We've done two single tours now, shot two music videos and I've played the songs 100s of times. People have already pre-ordered the record and well if they're complaining they haven't got it yet, just hit us up and I will secretly email it to you," Luke chuckled.
"So yeah, I do just want the damn thing to come out. I'm tired of people saying - ‘what are you saying in that song?' If you have the lyrics you'll be able to read along and realise I'm not just a swaggering bohemian," he laughed. "I have a decent vocabulary on me which would be lovely if you could understand what I'm saying. But again, we do just want the record to come out because I'm already getting the writing sheets out and wanting to write album number four."
Recently releasing the music video for the first single, ‘The Sackcloth Saint of the Cornfield,' from the upcoming record, Luke went on to tell us a little bit about the story behind the song and video for the track.
"I don't want to point all the blame on me for what men do, but I'm as bad as they come," Luke honestly confessed. "There's a reflection on this, but I'll address myself first," he continued.
"The Sackcloth is traditionally, what you wear in the sign of penitence, you recognise your wronged, or when the kingdom gets torn down. You know the kingdom does need to fucking come down. Cause, fuck the kingdom. We don't need this obsession with rulership and I don't want to tell anyone what to do, but this is my reaction to having grown up for so long as an unknowing beneficiary of this. But when I turn around and see people fighting to keep this in place it makes me think... well, what are you? Some kind of cyber archilles sulking in your tent defending the honour of the fallen metropolis that is your shriveled little online dick? So there's this angle of suffocation and apology. It's also a fuck you to the men's rights activists out there, cause what a terrible terrible thing to fight for," he explained.
"Well yes and no," Luke chuckled when I stated it looked like the band were having a damn good time in the music video for ‘The Sackcloth Saint of the Cornfield.' "We just played a show in Melbourne the night before and had to get up at 5am, but then again it is rock and roll. They said to us, ‘please don't get drunk,' and for once we said okay and we didn't, which worked out okay because I drunk wine in the sky all the way home which was fantastic," he declared. "Sometimes denying yourself is the greatest reward. But yeah, it's weird cause we've never shot a straight performance like that before. Normally we have to take on acting roles and we're not actors! Maybe Dean could, but I've got about two expressions and the other guys have maybe one. Usually I'm either really pumped or surprised, so it was good just to do a straight performance," Luke remarked. "I ruined the only pair of jeans I really own and they didn't even include any of my sweet knee drops which tore my jeans in the music video! But I let it roll because I respect their art, because if it was me, I would have just filmed Dean's face for three and a half minutes because I love that guys face, after all these years."
"Do you know the NZ band Beastwars?" Luke asked me. "We played a show with them over here in Sydney and I forget which one of them it was, but they pulled us aside and said - ‘If you guys come to NZ you wouldn't get away with this. You've got good songs but what's with all the jumping around? Just play the fucking songs!' and I said, 'But we're party boys. Maybe we're getting a bit over the hill but we still love to party!" he chuckled, talking about the bands energy when performing live.
Revealing that they obviously love a good party and the fact their live shows can get pretty rowdy, Luke filled us in on the craziest thing that's ever happened on a Gay Paris tour thus far.
"So we were playing this Hot Rod festival in rural Melbourne out in the middle of nowhere and we were getting toward the end of the set and I thought, wow, I haven't been hit in the face by a guitar in about two minutes this is weird. So I turn around and Lachlan (Guitarist, also referred to as 'Ol Black Tooth' Marks) is standing up on top of this twelve foot totem pole. He's a tall ungainly dude too, he's clumsy as hell and hurts himself just walking around. Anyway this thing he's standing on top of playing his guitar also shoots fire out the top of it. So I just stand there watching him, thinking ‘okay, I'm the front man, but you can have all the glory you want you piece of shit. The craziest thing for me though was that he didn't get hurt. Like any other time we would've twisted or broken something. He broke his knee literally taking two steps off the floor on stage one time, so I just find it crazy that he didn't die."
"My knees are just constantly bleeding because doing the knee drop and springing back up like you're James Brown. Now, I'm not that agile and I think James Brown at the later end of his life is about 15 times more agile than I am at 35, but I still go at it and I'm pretty badly hurt after every show," Luke declared, filling us in on the most injured he's been during a show. "But it's mostly just low key cuts and bruises. I got taken to get stitches after a show once, but I didn't want to miss the headline band because I didn't have 45 minutes to wait for damn stitches!" he laughed, "so it's really just silly stuff like that, but I've got real rock and roll scars!" he proudly concluded.
"We've got team sensible guy and team party dude," Luke replied when asked about the number of drinks he'd normally have before hitting the stage. "So it's Dean and me who get to drink as much as we want generally, so that's probably I'll say 4 for me and about 6 for Dean. The other guys probably have about 1 or 2. It also depends on whose driving. But if we're talking about a festival, I wouldn't be able to tell you, because if I'm going to be watching rock and roll for six hours I'm going to be drinking a couple of beers!"
"At the moment I'm drinking a big can of Heineken because I hate my job," Luke responded when asked about his drink of choice. "But normally, as mentioned in the ‘Sackcloth Saint of the Cornfield,' I don't mind some wine. I was drinking Shiraz in the studio when I wrote that song which is why I slipped it into the lyrics. But normally, I don't give a damn!" he admits. "Pinot Noir is what I'm drinking at home because I heard it has less calories and I don't want to have to run 10km everyday, I'd rather just run 8 so I can keep it off. Spiced rum is your across the board, we'll all drink it, but normally venues aren't going to give you that!" he remarked. "They'll give you a case of beer if you're lucky or two drink tickets," he laughed, "but we're really not fussy. We'll drink anything!"
Moving back to the topic of touring, having just wrapped up a tour with Australian rock bandSleepmakeswaves, Luke filled us in on how the tour went.
"It was actually great!" he happily chimed. "At first people that know us were like, ‘what the hell are you doing on tour with those guys," he laughed, "But does it matter? We'll tour with anyone! We toured with folk rock bands when we first started out because people thought Gay Paris was a classy name and oh they got it so wrong!
But yeah, it's been cool with these dudes. I didn't know by just listening to them, but they really put on a good energetic rock show. Lachlan and I have both played in math-rock bands before, so it was cool to see this kind of stuff done really well in a way that we never would have been able to do. It's just cool to play with dudes we've never played with before too.
"No we have not!" Luke responded when asked if Gay Paris have ever toured New Zealand. "Not in this band anyway. Three of us were in anotherband that had their last ever tour in NZ, with another group called This City Sunrise, so it was some back in the day stuff, but we were not good at being a math-metal band, which is why we decided to get out. I abused the high pitch falsetto scream I was using back then too, which was on its way out anyway, so that's when I decided to go back to my natural strength which is ‘monster baritone,' a real piece of shit voice!" he laughed.
"I don't want to hold them to it, but at the end of last year we were talking with Beastwars about heading over to NZ and doing a tour with them, like a reciprocal thing," Luke declared when asked if they have any plans to tour NZ in the near future. "I think they've (Beastwars) sort of made big headway in Australia without us now though. They don't need us anymore! But we definitely want to be over there," he clearly pointed out. "Maybe it's the same thing in NZ but in Australia there's not that many places we can play and it's cheaper for us to fly to say Wellington than it is to fly to Perth. So I don't know why we're not already doing it because we go to Perth regularly."
Once agreeing that he'd talk to his people and I'd talk to mine, we're working on making it (hopefully) happen!
Back to talking about their upcoming record Luke filled us in on what we can expect next. "We sort of released a soft single (Draw, You Harlequin Saints) before we put out ‘Sackcloth," Luke began. "Then we're releasing two more singles which will be done the moment we get some money," he laughed. "At the end of this tour we'll regroup and count our little tokens of sanity that are given to us by the world after every tour and then see what our finances are. But we like doing music videos. It's a part of the joy in this band. We're failed actors and idling musicians."
"The record was meant to come out in November to tell you the truth, but we've changed management since then and it's tough to say," Luke responded when asked if there's a set release date for the record. "There's label interest and if the label interest doesn't pick us up really soon then we're just going to release it because we're all ready to go! It's just sitting there mocking us!" he added.
"Well hopefully we'll do what we did with The Last Good Party record, which is just tour excessively for two years," Luke proclaimed when asked what's next for the band following the release of the upcoming record. "The only joy there is in this band asides from having some dear sweet friends who I see far too much of is the touring which makes us see each other all too often. For me, I like writing songs and I like performing them to people. I hate rehearsing and I hate recording. So the only real joy is the touring," he admits. "So the plan is to tour for as long as possible and then hopefully find the strength in our friendship to not murder each other in a dank backpackers somewhere in the deep deep trenches of Tasmania or somewhere," he laughed.
Bringing the interview to an end, we lastly talked about The Snowdroppers - another dirty rock and roll band, also based in Sydney Australia, who like that of Gay Paris spend much of their time loping around the similar dimmest haunts of the Australian music scene. "They're our sweet little babies!" Luke cried in response when asked who would win in a band vs band bar fight.
"We're the wimpiest little pack of party boys in the world," he laughed, continuing. "You know what... I'm going to throw it all on The Snowdroppers, only because London is a legitimate martial arts expert. So if it came to it and people actually had to use their fighting skills I don't know what would happen..."
"I feel like Pauly K and me would go - lets just settle this playing Dungeons and Dragons! The rest.. if this was some face play on face play battle of champions like some homeric on the fields of troy stuff we'd have London vs Dean, and I assume London would just put him in some kind of sleep-a-hold, then we'd go back to drinking, because come on! We're pansy rock and roll boys, we're not tough guys!" he laughed. "Don't judge us or me by the colour of my vest. I know I look tough and cool, but I'm a drunk wimp, what a terrible thing to be!" he chuckled, concluding the interview, just as our cold brews had also come to an end.