JuliaWhy? is a Sydney-based garage/punk three piece led by Riot Grrrl wannabe Julia Wylie. Julia also plays bass in The Cathys, plus sings/screams in Snotty Babies. Peter Beringer (drummer) also plays in punk outfit King Tears Mortuary, and Mathew Frederickson plays bass/guitar/back up vocals. Their first single ‘Just One Night’ won the 2014 triple j Unearthed NIDA competition in October last year, and Triple j Music Director Dave Ruby Howe named ‘Painkiller’ as one of his Top 10 songs of 2014. After dropping their ‘Wheel LP’ release last month, the group have been accepted into Canadian Music Week in 2015 and will tour Canada in April and May. Our Education Officer Jake Stone caught up with them with for a chat!
Q) What got you started as a songwriter and performer? What has kept you at it?
I started writing songs when I was 10 and haven’t been able to stop. Same with performing – I just get a kick out of it. I’ve tried to stop but I can’t. It’s the “fire within” as they say.
Q) Your style has changed since you released your ‘Part One’ and ‘Part Two’ EP’s. Your songs have gone from being atmospheric to being more punk and guitar-oriented. What inspired the change?
It was a combination of a few things – new band members, a new lust for life, and living in a new share house in Marrickville filled with bands that play music that sounded how I felt. A new love interest also helped.
The first two EPs were recorded with a different drummer and bassist. We drove to Melbourne to record with Lachlan Wooden who did Eddy Current Suppression Ring’s ‘Primary Colours’ (one of my favourite albums ever). It was the first time I’d ever recorded professionally and the band was sloppy. I ended up having a mental breakdown by the time it was released and never actually even toured it or sent it out, which was a bit sad. It just sat in my room growing moldy. With the new record, I was determined to never make that mistake again.
I started making music with one of my best friends, Matt Frederickson, who also happens to be one of the best guitarists I know. Then I saw Peter Beringer play drums with Sleep Debt and was like, “holy shit – that is the best drummer I’ve ever seen in my life.” He still is, maybe apart from Death Grips. With him on drums, Matt mainly on guitar and me on bass, the whole sound changed for the better. Peter is also Sydney’s version of Martin Hannett. He recorded this LP at his studio in Marrickville, Audile Design. Then there was the sharehouse in Marrickville I lived in for two and a bit years. A different band would rehearse in the living room every day. Listening to them influenced my songs.
Q) Who do you most admire in music, and why?
PJ Harvey springs to mind. Her music is strong, intelligent and it cuts to the bone. I like the way she plays with gender. She seems to do things because she wants to and doesn’t care whether or not anyone else likes what she’s doing. That is the definition of cool.
Q) How did you begin recording?
It was Jeff Harwood, who used to play bass in JuliaWhy?, got me into recording. We just used to drink and fuck around on this old 8 track he had that had all these funny effects on it. Jeff was really good at recording my first demos. My old housemate Lincoln Brown also recorded demos back in the day in his Dad’s attic. But now, JuliaWhy? recording is the domain of Pete, our drummer. He brings it all to life.
Q) How do you find Sydney as a place to start playing your first few shows? Is there a supportive environment here?
I think it all comes down to the people you hang around with and make music with and connect with. When I was really young, I hated “the scene.” I was so insecure I didn’t feel part of anything. But the Marrickville sharehouse I lived in plonked me right in the middle of a bunch of really talented people that were making music I really liked. I think Sydney has a really good thing going on right now. The only thing I get annoyed by are wankers and assholes. But they’re everywhere, and I just do my best to avoid them.
Q) You’ve made some connections with overseas acts like Madrid quartet Hinds. Are overseas connections increasingly important for you to explore?
I fell in love with HINDS when they were here – actually, everyone in the band did. Their performance actually made me dance. I don’t dance, ever. I was really happy we got to play shows with them. It’s just fun and exciting meeting new people from new places that play music you like and they happen to be awesome humans as well. I hope that happens when we go to Canada in April – that’s what I want to find – new music that blows my mind and new people I connect with.
Q) You seem to write about love, and its various complications. Do interpersonal relationships inspire you to write? Are there other factors?
My lyrics are just feelings I turn into words but the feelings are always triggered by events. For example, the song ‘Gender Bender’ on the new album was sparked when a past love interest of mine told me he’d had sex with a transgender woman – when he told me – It got me thinking. ‘Just One Night’ was written when a friend of mine killed himself. It’s not really about suicide though – more about having a lust for life. I discovered Endone and wrote ‘Painkiller.’ ‘La La Love’ was written after dancing with the love of my life at a UV Race show.
Q) You’ve had some success through Triple J Unearthed, and seem to be making a move to gig, tour and release more professionally. What motivated you to work harder and more professionally at music?
Winning that triple j Unearthed competition for Just One Night motivated me – watching the music video come to life and seeing it launch on RAGE, I was like “woohoo! Childhood dream – tick.” But what really motivates me is knowing we can do better than that, song-wise. We have some songs in the works that I’m really excited about. I know we just released the 12″ but now all I want to do is work on more material. Get that recorded. Release another record. Do it all again. I just want to keep making music together as long as we can. It seems to be working real well.
Q) What’s next for your band? What kind of music would you ideally like to make?
Ideally, I want us to make music that sounds like the perfect fusion between Happy Mondays and New Order but played with guitars instead of synths, with the songwriting ability of Serg Geinsborg mixed with the attitude and stage presence of Kathleen Hannah. BOOM.
Q) Got any shows coming up?
17 April – Sydney – Brighton Up Bar – main support for Lia Mice (France)
1 – 11 May – Toronto – Canadian Music Week