Hobart, the city at the edge of the world, is a unique and fascinating place. I have written about the weird and wonderful Dark Mofo Festival over the last few years, where I had the good luck to catch EWAH & the Vision of Paradise (EVoP) live at the iconic Brisbane Hotel back in 2017. It was a brilliant and mesmerising show from a band that seemed destined for a far bigger stage than the legendary sticky-carpeted surroundings of the pub.
EVoP have just released a new single – ‘Play Hard’ – off a forthcoming album and it illustrates why this band is a phenomena.
‘Play Hard’ is haunting and enigmatic: an electric spine with a driving almost foreboding tone. EWAH’s voice is eerie, soft, brim full of attitude and a swaggering sneer. There is an Arctic chill – or Antarctic to be geographically precise – to the dream pop reverie. Luscious layers of instrumentation shimmer their way underneath the vocals that evokes the Australian landscape in all its forms.
The freshly minted video which we are lucky to preview perfectly captures the tone and themes of the song:
Of the video, EWAH says:
The video features a treadmill which symbolises this pursuit of happiness or of “something”, whatever it is that we’re being sold, that we’re chasing after. But we’re stuck in a cycle, burning up energy uselessly. Caught in an unreality.
EVoP will be launching the single in Tasmania as follows, with mainlanders in Australia getting a look soon:
Sat 29 Feb, The Royal Oak, Launceston. Supports:The Prickly Grapes + Cotton Pony
Sat 14 Mar, Altar, Hobart. Supports: Bert Shirt+ Northern Subs
We asked the enigmatic EWAH, singer/songwriter and guitarist a few questions:
Thanks for agreeing to speak to Backseat Mafia.
Tasmanian is developing a reputation for its gothic edgy atmosphere, incredible food, wine and spirits as well as weird and wonderful festivals such as Dark Mofo. Do you feel that your geographical location is an influence on your music?
Even today, Tassie is pretty isolated. Growing up there as a kid I couldn’t wait to get out. The state was the butt of the nation’s jokes, politics were corrupt and conservative, although from that was born the equal and opposite reaction, The Greens, who are fairly progressive. There was still the pall of convict history and cultural genocide lingering, inverted glorification of one and denial of the other (a read of Richard Flanagan’s essays for The New Yorker will get you up to speed pretty quickly on our dark history).
I moved away to Melbourne for a while to a bigger pond and to live where some of my music heroes had started out and were still living and performing. Eventually I moved back, partly due to an inexorable homesickness and partly encouraged by the exciting art, music and food scene I could see which was growing confidence in itself from across the ditch. So, yeah, geography, that isolation has its pros and cons.
I remember an interview with Peter Hook talking about how isolated Joy Division felt and how that isolation really drove a unique flow of creativity and their sound. Hobart music has a very particular sound due to that isolation. It’s dark and a-melodic vocally and quite punk, experimental and garagey. It’s dark but I think Vision of Paradise actually sit to the side of that. We’re our own thing again and it’s hard to find a place to fit sonically. Though we do still feel very much a part of the music community. There’s a lot of love in the music community across bands and I think that is fuelled by a new sense of confidence, more opportunities to play shows, but also the freedom of not being too self-conscious or self-aware, not worried about not being en pointe or cool, which can be a trapping of bigger cities. Being concerned about appearances or approval is stifling to creativity.
How did you get together?
I moved back and had an album’s worth of electro demos. I was initially going to put Everything Fades to Blue (E&TVOP’s debut album) out as an electro album, having written it all through a midi into pro-tools, but the idea of performing solo karaoke style felt limited and too glacial. It would have been a weird way to introduce myself to the indie pub scene of Hobart too.
So, I approached Chucky (keys) who I’d had guest on previous live projects. He was initially really unconvinced he could recreate what was on the demos with his Juno synth, something he’d almost been saddled with by someone and was kicking around collecting dust. It turned out to become signature to our sound and now he has two! PB said he wanted to be in my band and I told him he could play the drums. He said no, I play guitar. I said, no I play guitar you play drums. But he tells that one differently. Anyway, he’s a fucking amazing drummer! And Stu had played in previous projects and kills on bass, so no questions there.
Tell us about your band name.
I was living in a furnished rental for a short time when we moved back. (Don’t start anyone about the rental market in Hobart. It’s fucked. Pros and cons of Tassie being a tourist destination now.) The bed was like a big cloud with dips and hollows and you’d feel like you’d get lost in it each night. I didn’t sleep well and I was working in the cave at Mona so my circadian rhythms were screwed.
I woke up one night, sat bolt upright and uttered the words “the vision of paradise”. Funny but true. I didn’t bother writing it down because I knew I’d remember in the morning. I lay back down and slept soundly. In the morning I woke and remembered the words straight away. I told the band they were called The Vision of Paradise at the next rehearsal. They looked at each other and laughed and gave me a bunch of stupid jokey suggestions, none of which are decent enough to repeat. That’s why democracy doesn’t work. (I remember Blixa Bargeld dryly saying something about that, and he’s right. A benevolent dictatorship is the way to go.)
What is your song writing process?
There’s no known path when it comes to songwriting other than at some point you’ve got to pick up tools and get on with it. From there it’s a chase, or a long wait like fishing and being ready for the opportunity, and then having the skills and experience to spring and catch it. So, if you’re actively ready and practiced and on the hunt, I guess you’re more likely to catch those songs.
Work is good for artists, Patti Smith said. I can’t remember whether she meant a day job or Andy Warhol work. I think the former. But day job work limits opportunities to catch those songs. That’s a challenge. Those days of sitting on the end of the bed playing guitar and writing hundreds of songs seem distant, but those hours did good stead. So, these days if a song comes more quickly I trust myself to know that I put in some hard yards and not to disregard it or undervalue it.
Well anyway, so you’ve caught the fish, but the filleting takes ages, you can ruin it, and it’ll never gleam quite the same way again as when you first caught it. That’s the next bit of the challenge, plating up, trying to maintain that feeling and somehow embue that in the final recorded product. It’s a long game. (Sorry about the fish metaphors.)
Names some of your favourite things in life.
Coffee. It feels like a little bit of Christmas. I look forward to it every morning.
No commitments. It’s a total luxury.
I am a total nature girl. Cities can be wonderful and wonderfully fatiguing. Nature is energising. If I’ve been too much in the weird energy of music industry or some sort of hyperbolous atmosphere where things don’t feel quite real, going on a bushwalk or pulling a few weeds in the garden is the ultimate antidote.
Our drummer is a ridiculously obsessed birder. If we’re on the road, we’ll try to get in a bushwalk and pick his brain, point at stuff, ask for its Latin name and quickly forget it.
What musical influences are there on your song writing? Name some of your favourite bands.
The influences are wide and varied across the band. Beefheart, Zappa, Spiritualized, Eno, NYC punk, classical, Australian goth rock like the Seeds and These Immortal Souls, The Triffids.
Sheffield boy done good Jarvis Cocker’s show Sunday Service was a total staple for me. Impeccable taste. Always spot on and transportative. It was the perfect radio show.
Cinema also really influences our music. I’ve always thought about music in a very visual cinematographic sense. It sounds almost comedic, but we do really talk in visuals and characters and scenes when arranging songs during rehearsal. Wake in Fright and Walkabout were catalysts for the feel and atmosphere of our next album.
Your new single is Play Hard. Do you? Does this song reflect your philosophy?
The song is a bit of a dig, the doomish, slavish cycle of consumerism we’re in driven by self-serving, dehumanised, denatured, morally bankrupt capitalism. It’s killing us and our planet. But as a band, we actually are pretty stoic, committed and go hard. I self-manage every aspect of the band, so until recently with a new publishing contract, we’re 100% indie. That is hard graft.
What can you tell us about the video?
The video features a treadmill which symbolises this pursuit of happiness or of “something”, whatever it is that we’re being sold, that we’re chasing after. But we’re stuck in a cycle, burning up energy uselessly. Caught in an unreality. There’s also this mylar blanket, a space blanket, or rescue blanket, which has a really enigmatic energy and movement. It should be the whole video really, but we went a bit bananas. Anyway, I think it’s a nice optimistic symbol in the video and it looks cool too. I shouldn’t explain things, but it’s fun to think about this stuff and ultimately I trust that people are smart enough to disagree and come up with their own interpretations. All of which will be valid. You can layer as many or as few meanings as you like. Up to you.
What can we expect from the new album?
It is a shift from the submerged hazy sound of Everything Fades to Blue. There are still blurring swirling masses of psychedelic sound but there are passages where things snap into sharp focus. Angular and hard. Our last album was a eulogy to female victims of violent crime. Something the world still needs to do more to remedy and recognise early. It’s too frequent and harrowing.
This album looks at a planet in crisis. It is more direct in its language. It is dark and nightmarish in parts, but as always we’re looking for the light and balance that darkness with shimmering, elevating soundscapes. It initially began thinking about places of paradise, purgatory and hell on earth. There are 9 songs and 3 mood pieces bridging that concept together.
Are there any other local bands – Tasmanian or Hobartian – we should be looking out for?
There’s all the obvious ones you probably already know about. A Swayze & The Ghosts are known for putting on a belter live show (Editor: see recent review), Slag Queens are kicking goals, and Native Cats are long time stalwarts of the scene.
But there’s a really thriving lively scene in Hobart with lots of experimentation and breadth of genre. Slag Queens are all talents in their own right, and Slaggy Amber Perez projects are always ones to watch, now defunct Foxie Morons, Dolphin and the electro Slumber project is sublime.
Another person who seems to always be in great stuff is Spiro, Silver Fleet Ships and Teens. (He was in Slaughterhouse Surf Cult who also put on a rip-roaring live show.) Gus, used to play in Bu$ Money (now plays bass in Amyl and the Sniffers) and his former band mate Trent always has some good stuff in the mix. Liquid Nails and one of my faves Bert Shirt who play epic shoegaze underground pop. 208ltr Containers are the funniest band you’ll ever see due to maverick frontperson Richie, and their riffage is splendid. Atomic Deluxe, retro minimal kraut electro.
You can tell I could go on and on. Dig into frontperson for The Pits, Peter Pit aka Peter Macpherson’s youtube channel to see what’s going on in the Hobart music scene. It’s raw and vibrant down here.
‘Play Hard’ is available on 28 February 2020 from all the usual download/streaming sources.
EWAH – guitar and vocals
Charles Donnelly – keys
Stuart Hollingsworth – bass
Paul Brooks – drums