The Australian Government isn’t the only entity that puts people through a rigorous cross-examination to prove their loyalty to a bunch of stars and a Union Jack. Each week at 'M+N', we make an Australian act kiss the flag by asking them questions about their favourite local acts: who they’ve been listening to recently, their underground heroes, or whether they prefer Kylie or Danni.
Taking the test this week is cellist Peter Hollo from Australia’s greatest indie-rock string quartet FourPlay. Their new album, Fourthcoming, features covers of Rage Against The Machine (‘Killing in the Name’), Leonard Cohen (‘Famous Blue Raincoat’) and Sufjan Stevens (‘The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out To Get Us!’). Tour dates here.
Part 1. Geography
a. Tell us about your hometown.
Sydney is a small town on the east coast of an island in the southern hemisphere. It’s famous for its bushrangers, its comically close airport and its warehouse venues.
b. Name your favourite bands from your neck of the woods.
If the Central Coast/Newcastle were allowed to be part of my neck of the woods, I’d name Crab Smasher and Polyfox. From closer to home, Underlapper are pretty awes, as are Telafonica.
c. Where’s your local and what’s it like?
Mine and my bandmate Lara [Goodrige’s] local happens to be the Carlisle Castle in Newtown, which doesn’t have live music, but does boast the best pub food in Australia. Seriously. Unbelievable steak, rabbit and mushroom pie, gnocchi. It’s quite a local!
Until recently my local venue was the Vanguard, a charming (albeit narrow) cabaret outfit, also with great food, which hosts many an excellent acoustic(ish) act. I saw two fantastic violinists with looping pedals there while I lived round the corner: Andrew Bird and Final Fantasy.
Part 2. History
a. Which Australian bands did you grow up listening to?
As a wee lad, I was introduced to Split Enz around the time I discovered pop music (call me “classically trained kid comes good”) and progressed through early Icehouse and Midnight Oil (those early-to-mid-’80s albums) to a ’90s indie music fan. I was obsessed with the Clouds for the entirety of their career (first EP came out when I was in year 11), and was mighty proud to end up playing on Jodi Phillis’ debut album. Around a similar time I discovered Severed Heads, who can probably take some responsibility for perverting my musical tastes in just the right way. I was unsuccessful in convincing the rest of FourPlay to cover ‘First Steps’, so I may have to do it solo one day.
A little later I discovered Not Drowning, Waving, whose casual use of cello and field recordings made a big impression.
b. What’s the first Australian record you bought?
If the aforementioned Split Enz count, it’d be Enz of an Era (on cassette, although I harbour no nostalgia for the damn things). Otherwise we may have to go with Icehouse’s Measure For Measure.
c. Who’s your favourite Australian band/artist of all time?
Once upon a time the Clouds would’ve been a shoe-in. If I’m looking for perfect songwriting this is where I’d be. I’m not very good at definitive statements though, so Severed Heads, Birthday Party/Nick Cave, NDW, Pimmon or Part Timer may serve the purpose too, depending. And sometimes Foetus’ ‘I’ll Meet You In Poland Baby’ is just the nihilism I need.
d. What’s the most “Australian” record ever produced?
Cold and the Crackle by Not Drowning, Waving.
Part 3. Current Affairs
a. Who are some of your favourite new Australian bands?
How new is new? Spartak, 3ofmillions, Crab Smasher, Underlapper, Part Timer, The Middle East, Buttress O’Kneel, Telafonica, Comatone, the list goes on.
b. If you could collaborate with one current Australian artist, who would it be, and what would it sound like?
I’m very lucky to play an unusual instrument that seems to make people want to work with me, so I’ve played with many of the artists I greatly admire. If I could, I would collaborate with Buttress O’Kneel, and it would sound more fucked up than you could possibly imagine.
c. Last great local gig you saw.
Pimmon’s album launch at UTS. The sound was amazing and Paul [Gough’s] dense wall of glitches was wonderful – and he sang! Transcendent.
d. Do you think an Australian artist needs to go overseas to succeed?
Absolutely not, but it depends whether success is charting records and deposits on houses or creating something awesome.
Part 4. Multiple Choice
a. Birthday Party or The Scientists?
Birthday Party. Controlled mayhem, raucous and terrifying. Wish I’d been born early enough to see them live.
b. Pot or schooner?
I don’t drink, but I believe this has something to do with beer.
c. ‘Advance Australia Fair’ or ‘Waltzing Matilda’?
‘Release The Bats’ (a member of Hunters & Collectors suggested this for the new Australian national anthem in the street press years ago, and I can’t fault him on it).
d. Sydney or Melbourne?
Been a Sydney feller most of my life, but I’ve always loved Melbourne. My impression is that Melbourne’s a lot more touchy about the “versus” factor. I could easily live in either city.
e. Hill’s Hoist or the two-stroke mower?
Hill’s Hoist. It’s an icon, and it doesn’t run on petrol.
f. Neighbours or Home And Away?
Kill your television.
g. Picnic at Hanging Rock or Puberty Blues?
Um ... The Year My Voice Broke?
h. Ford or Holden?
Ford (because I prefer Douglas Adams to J.D. Salinger).
i. AFL or NRL?
FBi. Or SER, RRR, PBS, ZzZ etc.
j. Kylie or Danni?
The advent of Kylie signalled Nick Cave’s long dark years of crappitude, but Danni hasn’t even achieved that level of infamy, so I’ll have to go with Kylie.