The Mess Hall
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 The Beasts of Bourbon or Radio Birdman.
Taking the test this week is Cec Condon from Sydney two-piece The Mess Hall, who will belatedly tour their fourth album For The Birds next month. Released through Ivy League in November, it was described by M+N as “an engaging album that reinvigorates the tired two-piece format”. It follows the Australian Music Prize-winning Devils Elbow (2007).
Part 1. Geography
a. Tell us about your hometown.
I was born in Mackay in North Queensland, but grew up just outside of Atherton which is deeper into North Queensland. It’s a predominantly rural area and I didn’t have to wear shoes at school until I was 12 and went to boarding school in Kooralbyn, just outside of Brisbane.
b. Name your favourite bands from your neck of the woods.
I’m going to have to name Brisbane bands here because I don’t know of any “originals” bands from Atherton. Current bands I like from there are Sixfthick and The Keep on Dancins. Then there’s the retired ones: The Saints being one of them, of course, The Standing 8 Counts and Trinkets.
c. Where’s your local and what’s it like?
My local is now The Huntsbury Hotel in Petersham, Sydney. It’s a typical pre-chrome and glass Sydney pub, complete with tiled urinals. It has an hilarious crowd of old men who are regulars, as well as my personal favourite: a middle-aged man who looks like fat John Bonham circa ’79, right down to the terry toweling fishing hat.
Part 2. History
a. Which Australian bands did you grow up listening to?
You Am I were a big part of my youth, as well as The Dirty Three after I saw them at Homebake when it used to be on the Gold Coast. I was also introduced to The Beasts of Bourbon and Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds through one of my teachers. This was all around high school time. Prior to that it was all about The 12th Man and Kevin Bloody Wilson.
b. What’s the first Australian record you bought?
I think it was actually Hi-Fi Way in Year 8, complete with bonus disk. Or it may have been The 12th Man.
c. Who’s your favourite Australian band/artist of all time?
The Dirty Three.
d. What’s the most “Australian” record ever produced?
It’s only a mini-LP, but The Scientists Blood Red River always strikes me as uniquely Australian. The same goes for The Saints’ Prehistoric Sounds. That album is pure Brisbane to me, you can practically feel the humidity coming out of the speakers – even though I think it was recorded in London.
Part 3. Current Affairs
a. Who are some of your favourite new Australian bands?
I guess some of these aren’t so new anymore, but I really like The Drones, Pivot, St Helens, The Necks and The Holy Soul.
b. If you could collaborate with one current Australian artist, who would it be, and what would it sound like?
Renee Geyer and it would sound like Serge Gainsbourg, but dirtier. Also I wouldn’t sing on it.
c. Last great local gig you saw.
The Dirty Three and The Laughing Clowns at The Enmore for the Sydney Festival. The Dirty Three did Ocean Songs and it was incredible.
d. Do you think an Australian artist needs to go overseas to succeed?
No, look at “The Finger”! I think there is a certain type of Australian artist that needs to go overseas to succeed, the type of artist that cannot “penetrate the mob skull” as Dave Graney so eloquently put it.
Part 4. Multiple Choice
a. Dan Sultan or Dan Kelly?
Both of them, at once. I’m just watching.
b. Dylan Lewis or Jane Gazzo?
As far as I’m aware Gazzo was never in a white funk band called The Brown Hornet, so I’ll pick her.
c. ‘I Am Australia’ or ‘Still Call Australia Home’?
Neither. ‘Redback on the Toilet Seat’ for me. Although ‘I Still Call Australia Home’ was in the Great Aussie Shower Songbook, which I had when I was a kid. It was made out of rubber, so you could take it in the shower with you. ‘Redback on the Toilet Seat’ was also in it.
d. Double Dare or It’s a Knockout? It’s a Knockout. No question there!
e. Pie or sausage roll?
I will always take a good quality pie over a sausage roll any day of the week. However, if the choice is between a Mrs Macs servo pie and a sausage roll, I will take the sausage roll.
f. Radio Birdman or The Beasts of Bourbon?
The Beasts for sure. They have such a unique Australian sound. I can’t really say the same for Radio Birdman, probably because they have a yank guitarist.
g. RocKwiz or Spicks and Specks?
Spicks and Specks. Alan Brough is a funny bastard. Also, I never get to see much RocKwiz because it’s on in an inconvenient timeslot.
h. Rose Tattoo or The Angels?
I don’t really like either of them.
i. Presets or Cut Copy?
The Presets all the way! They’ve sold way more albums. Also known as “The Pre-Sales”.
j. Pat Rafter or Pat Cash?
Pat Cash by a mile. Rafter is just too nice.
‘FOR THE BIRDS’ TOUR
Thursday, March 4
University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW
Friday, March 5
Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle, NSW
Saturday, March 6
Manning Bar, Sydney, NSW
Thursday, March 11
Neverland Bar, Gold Coast, QLD
Friday, March 12
Joe’s Waterhole, Eumundi, QLD
Saturday, March 13
The Zoo, Brisbane, QLD
Thursday, March 18
Republic Bar, Hobart, TAS
Friday, March 19
Hotel New York, Launceston, TAS
Saturday, March 20
Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Sunday, March 21
Karova Lounge, Ballarat, VIC
Thursday, March 25
Mojo's, Fremantle, WA
Friday, March 26
Rosemount, Perth, WA
Saturday, March 27
Jive Bar, Adelaide, SA