Melbourne-based musician, Maxine Gillon will release a new single, ‘American Coffee’ which is the lead single off her third EP, ‘Ultra Lounge’ on the 11th November.
Pre-save ‘American Coffee’ HERE.
‘Ultra Lounge’ will be released on the 25th November and will be available for digital and cassette pre-order through Bandcamp.
Gillon has spoken about how American Coffee is about the Americanisation of our own perception of our lives via the media we’ve grown up on and that surrounds us.
“I heard or read “American Coffee” somewhere, which struck me as an interesting juxtaposition of words. To me that’s black, cheap, instant and strong coffee. Some capitalistic abstraction of a traditional process, devoid of taste or care.Maxine Gillon
The new track features some chill keyboards and deadpan vocals from Gillon who recounts her observations as she passes through the streets of Melbourne. The song demonstrates Gillon’s versatility – she has ditched her usual scorching guitar work for a cooler, voyeuristic walk on the wild side that is utterly captivating.
I moved to Melbourne and very mundane cultural differences to Sydney all seemed so Hollywood to me. Social classes intermingling in neighbourhoods, different attitudes to drug use, rubbing shoulders with icons of the music scene, mobster movie posters aligning the walls of a strip club, tram cops, neo-nazis etc. It’s journalistic, it basically lists things I saw or experienced through the lens of American media and thoughts, feelings and connections made about it.”Maxine Gillon
According to Gillon, ‘Ultra Lounge’ is a filmic exploration into the character of a lounge singer, down on her luck in a wintery urban milieu, plying her trade in dingy underground nightclubs. It was inspired by 80’s New German Cinema and Nan Goldin photography. Across six tracks, it straddles a balance between driving and catchy rock numbers and more introspective ballads, retaining the same lush and expansive instrumentation throughout. It features guest vocals from Jonnine Standish (HTRK, Jonnine).
The previous singles from the forthcoming EP, ‘Grief Filled Avenues’ and ‘Genuflect’ received radio airplay on 2ser, Fbi, NTS (UK) and RRR. They were playlisted on The Australian Music Scene, Good Friday by Good Intent & Best New Music on 2ser.
Maxine Gillon will launch the ‘Ultra Violet’ EP with a show on the 8th December at the Cactus Lounge, Thornbury, VIC
Backseat Mafia was lucky enough to speak with Maxine.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself, where did you grow up and how did you get into music, especially the music that you like and now make?
I grew up maybe 2-3 hours out of Sydney in a place called The Oaks in Wollondilly shire. I guess it was pretty rough and alienating as a queer arty kid so art as a whole was definitely my safe haven or something that I felt was for me in life.
My mum (Meredith Wattison) is a published, awarded poet so my interest in art was definitely encouraged and fostered by her growing up. Obviously I venomously rejected poetry at first because my mum did it but now it’s pretty central to my life and we write about similar things.
I wasn’t really interested in music much at all until I was 12 and heard things like Nirvana which turned me onto things like the Sex Pistols and The Velvet Underground and then I guess I just went forth and absorbed anything related. Patti Smith was a big discovery and brought the whole poetry thing, it was cool when she did it.
Whenever I see your Instagram posts I am impressed by your literary references. You must be an avid reader. Who are your favourite authors? How have they influenced your music?
I am! I think when I started writing songs I was more interested in guitar but lots of peers and mentors I respect always encouraged my lyrics and saw that as my main strength, which I’ve sort of went with and definitely comes from literary influences. Historically some key inspirations are Eileen Myles, Adrienne Rich, Jim Carroll, Dorothy Porter, Kathy Acker, and JG Ballard. Also this one book ‘Zipper Mouth’ by Laurie Weeks was such a huge lightbulb moment, it’s basically a Maxine Gillon song.
I think literature is an arena with absolutely no constraints on taboo, frankness in subject matter and a playground of the potency of words which is how I try to inform my lyrics.
Which artists/bands have been your most important musical influences?
I guess it’s hard to place somewhat because some are so formative I personally don’t even clock the influence anymore, because they’re just so ingrained. I’d say the obvious ones would be Lou Reed, the whole 70’s New York CBGB’s thing, and Australian post-punk like The Triffids. Right now I’m really inspired by Laurie Anderson, Brian Eno and the whole cosmopolitan weird pop scene that came out of post-punk like Talk Talk and The Art Of Noise.
You play a mean guitar Maxine, do you play any other instruments? Are you self taught or did you take lessons? Who is your favourite guitarist?
I did lessons for maybe a couple of months when I was 12 but it never really stuck. I started teaching myself again at 16-19 and then more seriously at 23. I just taught myself from learning open chords, studying effects pedals and sculpting my own sound. My favourite guitarists include Johnny Marr, Elizabeth Cotten, Rowland S. Howard, Vini Reilly & Cate Le Bon. I also play keyboards and produce which is my main focus on getting better at for whatever I do next.
How long were you in Second Idol for? Tell us about your decision to leave that band and to move to Melbourne? Was it hard or did you see this as a natural progression of your career?
I was in Second Idol for about 2 years I think. Being in a band can be like being in an entity in of itself and it’s very easy to get swept away in it without stopping to think if it really aligns with your goals, interests and passions in music as you change as a person. Ultimately I stopped feeling that way. I was doing solo music prior to being in Second Idol and had grown a lot as a writer and started to believe in my work more so it demanded my full attention. I can be quite an intense person because I have such a strict neurotically defined vision and I think my musical interests just went in a completely different direction and I maybe would’ve just kept repeating my prior work for it to continue fitting.
A lot of the impetus of Second Idol for me was in touring as much as possible and being a live band, potentially living out some youthful the Birthday Party fantasy, which was fucking great, but it’s also really gruelling. All of the aggression and violence I put into the way I performed maybe took a bit of a toll or exhausted me to it as well, there’s worth in expressing joy or humour as well I’m finding.
Do you ever see yourself being in a band again?
I more frame myself more as a producer or solo artist along the lines of Weyes Blood or Aldous Harding who has a sole sonic vision to execute and is most fulfilled doing that.
The way I play shows now is pretty much just having a coy chat with the audience, demonstrating that I’m quite good on the guitar and really transparently showing emotion and vulnerability which feels a lot more healthy and sincere for me with who I am as a person. I tried a backing band for the live thing with some literally incredible musicians but I think the production and idea of a lounge singer didn’t really translate, at least for this body of work.
I’m in a couple of side-bands in Melbourne as everyone is, mostly a band called Mole playing lead guitar led by my dear friend Siân Stacey (who took the cover photograph for ‘Ultra Lounge’) that are sort of alt-country.
I am really looking forward to hearing your new EP, ‘Ultra Lounge’ especially since you have noted that it was partly inspired by the work of Nan Goldin. Can you expand on how her work influenced your new EP?
I’ve loved her work for a long time. I just see it as so potent and heavy, there’s so much desolation, vulnerability and intimacy that’s really bare and on the table. There’s no moral framing in how she documents any apparently shocking subjects, including herself. These sorts of moments or atmosphere are a lot of what I try to evoke lyrically and sonically. It’s also the scene around her and the subjects too, I also love Greer Lankton and Cookie Mueller.
Can you comment on the differences between the Sydney and Melbourne music scenes as you see them? You have commented on this briefly around how ‘American Coffee’ came about.
I don’t want to cause any dramas or get blacklisted lol but I think there is more of a sense of competitiveness and aloofness in the Sydney music scene. The only people who see bands in Sydney are in bands whereas in Melbourne there is more of an audience for live music from regular people. There’s so much music in Melbourne it’s no use in being competitive, if you’re good and genuine people will see that and you might get an audience.
And yeah the ‘American Coffee’ thing is that sort of quite established musicians in Melbourne still go to smaller gigs or just to hang out and I think that’s less of a thing in Sydney. You can feel more of a lineage here, a lot of the culturally significant venues are still hanging on.
How do you go about composing your songs? How do they come to you? What comes first, the music or the lyrics?
There’s no set formula really. I generally am always writing phrases and verses down that eventually fit some music when I’m walking, trying to sleep or pining for some girl. Sometimes I get a vocal melody and write music or make a beat around that or the more virtuoso guitar songs are usually guitar first. These days its predominantly vocal Melodies and lyrics first, those are usually the instinctual subconscious ones that resonant more with people and are more pop-oriented ie. Genuflect.
What are your plans for the rest of this year and into 2023? Are there any plans to play some gigs in Sydney again?
I am quite burnt out on this year really, a lot of big life changes and finishing the ep. I have a few more gigs in Melbourne for the rest of the year soon to be announced. I was looking into a Sydney EP launch but was organising so much else for the release, but offer me a gig if you’re reading this and I’ll probably do it.
Has Moopie adapted well to Melbourne? (Moopie is Maxine’s cat, for those who don’t know)
I think she’s a lot happier to be honest, my last apartment in Sydney was sort of a tiny damp hole and here she has multiple rooms and surfaces to traverse. There’s inbuilt heating, she’s living it up really. Very affectionate in this arctic tundra of a state too, it’s a bit much.
Maxine is an impressive artist, who draws on a vast array of influences and reimagines them for a contemporary audience. She fuses insightful and revealing lyrics with music that enthrals. I am sure that ‘Ultra Lounge’ will not disappoint.
Stream/Buy ‘American Coffee’ on the 11 November HERE!
Photo Credit: Siân Stacey.