As part of our irregular series on the important and often silent figures behind the music scenes – the record labels, promoters and managers – we are today having a chat with venerable Brisbane figure Remy Boccalatte of the shining star that is False Peak Records. We here at Backseat Mafia have covered many bands on the False Peaks roster – The Apparitions, Graywave, The Yugoslav Attack, David Rylands, We Set Sail, Spring Skier and Overland Inn – a collection that is highly diverse, eclectic and innovative.
Hi Remy. Thanks for chatting with Backseat Mafia. As with many label bosses, you have had a long and active engagement in the music industry – can you give us your background?
Thanks for your time and interest, Arun. I guess I’ve just been a bit of a stalwart in the Brisbane scene for the better part of the last two decades. I certainly hadn’t been tapping into any upper tiers of the industry, but I have always been a passionate musician with numerous bands on the fly most of the time, which isn’t unlike many of the musicians around these days either. I started playing solo acoustic shows in my teens and then formed bands around those songs more realised, or joined other bands when an opportunity came up.
I have been inspired by many genres, which makes for an interesting discography when looking back on playing in past and current acts. Currently I play bass in We Set Sail and Dänmark, emotional rock bands from the remnants of the post-hardcore band The Paper & The Plane; acoustic in the dreampop act, Spring Skier; vocals in the indietronica An Heirloom, as well as plodding through my own solo stuff. However, I’ve played in 90’s punk bands (Measured by Minutes) to indiepop bands (Hungry Kids of Hungary), and a few pseudonyms for my own tunes for past releases. I’ve had some vocal element in everything though, whether lead or harms.
What prompted you to set up False Peak Records?
Towards the end of 2018, I had nearly finished my debut solo record, Swimming Over Fault lines, and I wanted to have it on vinyl. I mean, of course I had released on cd in the past, but my love for vinyl had taken hold a few years before, when I took a bit of time off playing music due to feeling burnt out from touring. Anyway, I did the usual pitch to Australian labels, like most bands do, in full confidence of their tracks, only to experience that it wasn’t something that any of them wanted to work with; sometimes with minimal feedback, most often with no response though. I was really proud, probably the proudest I’ve been of any of my own material, that I wanted to see it through anyway. I thought about the effort I had put into trying to ship the album around, realising that I could have been on the cusp of a new challenge to do it myself, which was really exciting. During a tax return meeting in the subsequent fortnight, I registered the company.
How did the name come about?
Interesting conception for me actually. I was hiking the Stinson plane wreck track in Lamington National Park in the Gold Coast hinterland with a small crew over a couple of days. It was a huge mission, running low on water, navigating by compass and topographical map with no established track, full bush bashing at times. As it goes in many heightened situations on an unknown path, I could feel the desire, sometimes the naïve expectation, that the destination was just over this hump, just around the next bend, or just over this next tree line. Most of the time though, it never was, and so having to deal with the discouragement was really confronting. I mean, at the time it was downright scary, but I knew I was competent, and just had to rely on trusting myself.
When we made it back, and on reflection afterwards, I likened the situation to my past approach to music and realised there will always be another higher point to reach, so strive for sure, but don’t rely on the expectation to get there to feed your drive. As clichéd as it sounds, the musical journey will always be the reward in itself, and comparison to others walking the same path can be dangerously unhelpful as you don’t need to reach the peak to enjoy the mountain. Hence, False Peak.
Is there a False Peak sound – how much is it influenced by your own personal tastes – what do you look for in a band? How do you balance commercial interests with your own tastes?
Hmm, I’m not sure there is an overarching sound per se, but if you had to categorise the artist roster, I guess it’s centred around rock, shoegaze, dreampop, folk and electronic.
(Laughs). Saying those back really spans a few genres, so I think it is less about an overall sound, but more importantly, the integrity the artists convey through their individual genre. Oh absolutely it is all influenced by my personal taste, but I feel connected to a wide range of interests, so I feel like if the tracks grab my attention, then I’d like to get to know the artist more and develop a rapport to find out what kind of people they are. Hopefully, they are seasoned to the industry to some extent and are realistic about what they want to achieve. From a musical point of view, melody is a big drawcard, either through motifs or vocals, and energy is another, although this can be translated in a variety of ways.
My day job is in language teaching, so lyrical content is really significant too. Balancing commercial interests is fairly straightforward; it takes a back seat all the time to the artistic direction of the rostered acts. Most of the acts have been playing for some time, and understand that making a living out of original music is really tough, particularly here in Australia, so expectations change a bit. The roster may not be so concerned with ‘making IT’, but instead making something of value that our small combined reach will appreciate, and often, that’s enough to feel fulfilled.
How important is commercial success – do you harbour ambitions for your bands to receive Aria nominations or do you accept this is a different world?
(Laughs). Achieving commercial success is when we can sell out of a short run vinyl pressing so I don’t have boxes in my wardrobe. This answer probably links back to the previous one, but the label is relatively still in its infancy, and is no bigger than the artists on the roster themselves, so we work symbiotically to achieve realistic goals that the artists and label have. Much of the music on the label may not appeal to popular culture or national radio for example, and regardless, I think there are more meaningful connections to be made with listeners on a smaller scale, where the artists are accessible to connect directly, and the listener can take pride in their own ‘discovery’ of the next band that will change their life.
Aria nominations would be great, but I feel that might even take away from the special ownership that an individual can feel when a new band can appear unique to them. I also have a slight aversion to have to Pay to Play (thanks Kurt Cobain).
Tell us a little about your current roster.
I am really excited about all the acts on the roster. Primarily they are mostly from Brisbane, and granted, the label has served as part of my own musical repository. It includes rock band Apparitions, who sound like Sandpit with vocals by Paul Dempsey; emotional rock band Dänmark, bringing back the best of the Deep Elm days; We Set Sail, who keep the dream alive of being a band after 13 years (and counting); Terra Pines, a new, grungegaze addition to the family about to release their second album; Indietronica duo An Heirloom; Make A Montage, and their instrumental electronic shoegaze fusion; the experimental electronica of David Rylands; the 60’s pop throwback vibe of K.L. Mazlin; Spring Skier, the dreampop/dreamfolk duo working through their 2nd album; ethereal lofi dreampop Cloud Tangle, whose debut LP we released. Interstate, we have Melbourne’s indie jazz fusion act, The Yugoslav Attack, who just released their sophomore LP.
Internationally, we have Seattle’s Paul Gonzenbach and his minimal slowcore; and the dreapop-shoegaze, up and coming UK artist, Graywave. Latest international signings include Overland Inn, the French, sexy, trip hop electronic couple; and lastly NOLA, a Swedish singer songwriter flowing between indie folk and Americana, whose album is just about to be send in for pressing.
We also do a Lost Hikers series featuring released that never made it to vinyl (or released at all. The first in the series is Brisbane’s power pop darlings Iron On and the 15th year anniversary of the seminal album “Oh The Romance”. The next release in the series is not too far away either. Finally, of course, there are my own solo musings on there too.
What are your ambitions for the label and the bands you represent?
Ambitions for the label are to continue at the current rate, being able to work on a handful of solid releases each year, hopefully continuing relationships with all the artists on the roster. I get so many submissions daily that there is no shortage of new music being discovered, so when appropriate and with the capacity, I would love to work with new artists too. It’s my discovery just as much as anyone else’s. As for the bands, well, you’d have to ask them what their ambitions are. I mean, I’m trying to help them realise their musical projects, so I would hope that what they set out to achieve is fulfilled.
If you could emulate any record label in the world, which one would it be?
Ooh tough question. There are labels that hold special places for my musical path from the likes of Polyvinyl, Crank!, Deep Elm, Barsuk, Temporary Residence, Absolutely Kosher, even to Fat Wreck and Tooth and Nail to name a few, based on music tastes at the time. However, the label that has given me the most guidance while running False Peak is Hobbledehoy, out of Adelaide. They have been a realistic example of consistent delivery of quality, unique acts, most of which are in my collection. I hope we can work on a project some day.
Do you think that musical talent exists uniformly around the world and just needs luck, circumstance and the right label and promoter to draw it out, or are there genuinely geographical hotbeds where artists seem to flourish?
Hmm, probably a bit of both. I think musical talent exists uniformly around the world. I mean anthropologically, it’s inextricable from culture, and as such, true elements of musical talent are present everywhere. Of course other factors would need to be taken into consideration for geographic areas that have the luxury of being able to assign so much time to playing music. Any need that is greater than being able to pick up a guitar usually has to be met, so these areas that you might be referring to would be experiencing some level of privilege, not for the artists’ ability to make and perform music individually though, but because of the industry or scene established around.
Granted, the catalysts you mention do play their role. Even though vessels like labels and promoters help to disseminate the music to a wider audience, that’s no causation to talent that might already have been flourishing, and that as labels and promoters, we become the listeners putting on headphones listening to an album for a first time.
Is there a Brisbane sound?
Unless you’re associating that with a particular time, I’d have to say that it’s changing. For some, it might have been when 4ZZZ community radio started broadcasting, others might just nominate iconic bands like the Go Betweens or The Saints as a reference point, and if you’re playing in bands, sometimes that can be a silo in itself. There is so much different music happening all around here and it’s hard to cast a wide enough ear to be able to cover it all.
However, Brisbane is still really small, so the steps of separation, particularly for those making music, are fewer. I feel that this closer connection underpins the music coming from Brisbane, and while this necessarily may not translate to a categorical genre, I think the sound you’re referring to is the 60 cycle hum of the energy feeding creativity and being generated by the same.
In retrospect, is there anything you would have done differently over your career?
Tried to care less about it earlier (laughs). Seriously though, monitoring expectations and balancing priorities better would be what I would have done differently. It takes a lot of sacrifice to give music a shot, with social life, relationships, education and career for example. On reflection, I think I let a few things fall by the wayside, which are actually more important to me presently. It’s important to keep in mind that you should be the one in control of whatever musical path you take, and direct your own goals (whatever they manifest as).
Do you have a favourite signing over the years?
Apart from being able to work with bands of friends that I grew up with in the Brisbane scene, it’s been really exciting to welcome interest from interstate and international bands, and particularly those which kind of tap into musical genres that I have grown into more recently. I love the diversity brought to the label by acts like the jazzy The Yugoslav Attack from Melbourne, who just released their sophomore album, and am stoked to have the French electronic trip-hop duo, Overland Inn, whose album is currently in pressing. It just goes to show how accessible artists can be given the current technological age. I mean, a simple social media message got me working with Seattle’s Paul Gonzenbach, from whom I hadn’t heard any music since the early 2000’s Jim Yoshii Pile Up, a band whose records I love.
Is there a band that you wished you had signed or would like to sign now?
Oh plenty, but that’s because I would like to get to know them more. Maybe something for the Lost Hikers series? There Will Be Fireworks from Scotland would be a great release for example. More locally, Rival Flight (ex Watership Down) was a great Brisbane band. Don’t know what ever happened to them though, so if anyone does, tell them to get in touch (laughs).
You have your third birthday celebration coming up – what do you have planned to celebrate?
Provided that Queensland isn’t in a restricted stage of lockdown, there’s a showcase happening at the Triffid on October 23 with probably our most rock line up: We Set Sail just off the release of their 3rd album, playing with Apparitions, new signing Terra Pines, and other local up comers, Lumens. It’s going to be a great night of local music with a few sweet surprises in store.
Full details and tickets available here.
Feature Photograph: Grace Julia