As I’m chatting to Konstantin Kersting, bassist of The Belligerents, the band has just touched down in Melbourne and their cymbals appear to be missing in action. While the remainder of the Brisbane five-piece tracked down the elusive percussion pieces, Konstantin chatted with me about their upcoming album release, their new single “Caroline”, national tours, and making the recorder great again.
Your new single, “Caroline”, has been having a better reception than your cymbals have?
I think so? You can never really tell, but it seems people are liking it, which is cool. It’s a little bit different to stuff that we’ve done before… that’s why we brought it out. We thought that we’d done the rock thing a bunch of times, and we just wanted to do something a little bit different. So far, the response has been really good – I mean, people have been playing it on the radio, people have been listening to it, and downloading it.
This upcoming record is the first full-length record that you’ll be releasing – tell me a bit more about it.
We’ve had three EPs before, but this is our first full-length album… we went away for two weeks to Stradbroke Island, and we hired a heap of gear, just a mixing desk and recording system and that sort of stuff, and we set up [in] a huge farm house for two weeks. It was really awesome- the control room was in the kitchen, the drums were set up in the living room, and the bass and guitars in the bedroom.
We lived there, then after two weeks, we just walked away and had a full finished record. It was just an awesome time because it was in the middle of summer and we’d just get up every morning, go for a surf, do whatever, and then work on the record for twelve, fourteen hours. Then go to sleep, and do the exact thing again. It was heaps of fun…just the five of us having a good time.
That would have been so gorgeous, especially during the summer. Anything to escape the Brisbane heat.
For sure! And it was on this little island, on this farm, and it was just the best time. I think you can kind of hear that we had fun making the record as well, when you listen to the record. There’s kind of that vibe that we had fun making it… I hope so anyway. [Laughs]
I think so, I think what we’ve seen of it so far has been some good, fun tracks – that you’ve been producing and mixing as well?
Yeah, so I’ve been co-producing it together with Lewis [Stephenson], our singer, and I’ve been engineering all of it and then mixing it as well. We started doing that for the last EP that we did [Outside:Inside]. It’s my day job; I just did it, and it worked out, and we were all happy with the end result, so we’re going to keep doing that. It just seems to translate a little bit better from the original idea to the final product; you don’t have anyone else telling you what to do. There’s no sort of fucking around, we just kind of do what we want to do, and at the end of the day we’re much happier with the result.
And I guess it’ll translate nicely for your live show. Did you head to Stradbroke with a fully formed album, or did the tracks come together in the recording process?
Well, most of the songs [were] demos, but we hadn’t actually rehearsed or played them – it was a pretty conscious thing that we did, we wanted something fresh. The songs were kind of written, but then they changed when they were in the studio. Lots of the songs sounded way different before, and came out in a totally different way. Some of the songs came out the same way on the record, as [they were] written.
So I guess there’ll be a diverse sort of sound on this album. How would you describe the sound of this new album?
It’s kind of spacey; lots of psych-y kind of [stuff] in the songs. There’s lots of rockier stuff on there, but there’s also lots of dance-ier stuff; it’s a good cross section. “Caroline” is a pretty good indication of where the record is going to go, as a whole. It, you know, has a pop vibe at the start, goes into a little bit of a rockier thing and at the end it goes to a dance thing. It makes sense to have that as an example of what the record is going to sound like… I think?
That’s definitely a good explanation of your sound. I caught your set at BIGSOUND, and that was definitely the vibe you were putting down.
Oh, I’m glad it makes sense. [Laughs]
It really does make sense. Which is saying something, I mean, there’s a recorder solo in “Caroline”…
Yeah, we’re bringing back the recorder. [Laughs] It’s going to be sick, you just watch. In a year’s time, every band is going to be playing the recorder and we’re going to be like, “Yeah, that’s right.”
“We started that”?
There’s actually a bit of recorder in the album, I think another two or three songs that have recorder on them: ‘Make the recorder great again.’ Maybe we’ll wait until after the election, as long as Trump loses. Then we can use that phrase.
Once the election has passed, I want a Belligerents T-shirt that says ‘Make the Recorder Great Again’. Maybe that can be the merch for your new album release? So far both your singles have been super well received, you’ll be needing some merch.
Don’t steal that. [Laughs] Well, we recorded it in February, so we’ve been sitting on it for ages. But then you know, mixing, recording a live string section, blah blah blah. It just drags out, you know. You want to do it right and you also want to have a couple of songs off the record out before you do it. It’s our first album and we’ve spent six years without releasing an album, so what’s one more year?
You’ve waited this long. And I guess the release will be around festival season?
Exactly. It most likely will be in early January next year. It’ll be summer. We want it to be a summer album, we don’t want it to be a winter album. When we come up with a definitive release date we’ll let everyone know, but for now we’re just saying ‘in the summer’.
‘A summer record’, I like that. And you’ll be touring again to support the album release?
Yeah, it’ll be a big tour. Probably the biggest tour we’ve done so far. Obviously this tour’s happening right now, then afterwards you know when the record is out we’ll go do as many shows as we can to showcase the record, because we want to show people what we’ve done. It’ll be awesome to play all the songs off the album, finally, because we’ve been saving a lot of them for the album tour – we’re not playing all of them yet.
Oh, that’s going to be exciting. Will you be hitting some smaller towns as well?
There’ll be heaps of regionals I think. We really want to do much more regional stuff than we have before; every time we do a regional show it’s heaps of fun.
So touring seems to be heavy in the life of The Belligerents. What are your touring essentials – how do you survive?
Um…. I think a towel is good. [A] towel is really good. A lot of the times at venues they don’t give you towels. And soap. Because, you know, you get pretty stinky after a show. And a toothbrush. Please, don’t go on tour without a toothbrush, it just sucks for everybody that’s on a tour bus. Soap, towel, toothbrush, toothpaste – we’re in business. [Laughs]
That’s a very rock’n’roll answer right there… at least it’s a nice way of telling people who are coming to your shows that you’re not going to smell bad.
Hey, that’s right – ‘The Belligerents are nice smelling band, they’re the nicest smelling band in the country’ … actually I don’t think that’s true at all. [Laughs] We shower once a day at least.
Following discussion of recorders gaining world dominance, and the bathing habits of The Belligerents, the enigmatic cymbals were recovered. The indie-dance group, renowned for their psych-drenched sounds and fantastic live shows, are on the road, and there’s a few more shows left before the tour wraps up. Their first full-length album will be released over the summer, and potentially some very cool T-shirts will be making their debut as well.
THE BELLIGERENTS TOUR DATES
October 21st | Rocket Bar, ADELAIDE
October 22nd | Jack Rabbit Slims, PERTH
October 28th | Woolly Mammoth, BRISBANE
December 30th – January 1st | NYE on the Hill