East Brunswick All Girls Choir are singing from a songbook full of visceral, cathartic punk suspended by strings. Actually, suspended describes a lot of their anticipated second record Teddywaddy. Lead by consistently harrowing vocal performances by frontman Marcus Hobbs, each song ebbs and flows between thunderstrike intensity, and the sound equivalent of negative space.
Suspended in awe, I listen through waiting for the right time to exhale. It’s a breathtaking album making concrete that no one sounds quite like East Brunswick All Girls Choir, and I fucking love it.
Marcus, Rie, Robert, and Jen, have once again made something really special.
I chatted to Marcus and Jen at Leadbelly in Newtown – the second show on the Teddywaddy tour. Marcus was optimistic about the tour.
“Last night was good, tonight should be fun. Brisbane will be good. No idea what goes on in Adelaide – no one knows. We booked a gig on a night that our friend has a wedding so people we know in different bands will be going to a wedding instead of our gig so that’s good. And the Brisbane venue got changed, and then one of our supports from Melbourne had to drop out, so I don’t know… Everything’s happening! It’s all happening! It’s very exciting. Now we have to hang out with Nelly getting her norgs out.”
Loose Tooth’s Nelly, one of the supports, was also in the room, getting changed for her set.
The opening track to the record, Steeple People, is perhaps the most captivating and dynamic of the lot. It invokes something primal.Watching it live I felt like a bat on a power line, electrified and unable to move. Despite being one of the less frantic cuts on the record, Steeple People offsets the change of pace with super heavy notes. I asked why they’d chosen to kick off the album with such a massive song, to which Marcus and Jen replied that it just wouldn’t fit anywhere else, live or in stereo.
“Yeah it just felt like the first song. Because we played it last in a show last night just to try it out and it just felt strange because it’s a song that asks a lot of the audience as well because it’s so dynamic. It’s up and down and screaming and them calm… It’s best to do it at the start of the show where people are like, ‘what’s this going to be,’ rather than at the end where they go, ‘up, down, what are we doing?’ when they might just want a straight rock beat or something like, sort or more where they know what it is,” Jen explained.
The record visits a number of real places in lyrics and titles, with its name gleaned from the town Marcus’ Dad grew up in.
“We were going to call in something else originally and then there was a song called Teddywaddy which was about that and then there were a lot of sort of songs about different places and spots… some Bendigo ones and just whatever so it seemed to just make sense. It was kind of nice… a kind of nice reference,” Marcus said.
The album was originally going to be called DOG FM.
Marcus said, “I just took a picture of my dogs talking into microphones once. That was going to be the cover. But yeah, the poor dogs, they didn’t make it. They didn’t get through. They got cut. Culled.”
“It wasn’t representative. Even though we would love to be in a band that could have an album called DOG FM, the music is too serious for it,” Jen added.
The thing that puts EBAGC in a class of its own is is the dynamism of Marcus’ salient voice – at times abrasive, at others like smooth flowing honey. The songs are built up around his vocals, towering edifices full of airless space for his voice to thrash around in, and huge glass windows for us to watch it happen.
I asked Marcus if he constructed songs around the way he intended to sing them, or if it was the other way around.
“No it’s the other way around. I write the music and maybe don’t have any lyrics but just melodies. Or stupidly, I’ll just sing lines which then don’t make nay sense but you like the way they sound, and you’ve got to fit a word in to make it make sense, and it sounds shit. But yeah whatever, it just happens.”
“We just kind of play the song, and if it fits it fits. I mean there’s some stuff… I feel like the cicada song on the record probably should be yellier than it is. It’s a bit weird. We’ve played it live now, and we probably play it the way we maybe should’ve recorded it. Not that it’s bad or anything like that.”
Talking to Marcus and Jen, I notice the way my hands move as we discuss some songs. They make fast circles in the air – big, small. They weave around and into each other, and they flail and flash. It probably looks like I’m describing a star going supernova or the fast motion blooming of a sunflower – such is the vibrancy and range of Teddywaddy.
“When did singing like this become routine for you?” I asked.
“I was in a different band ages ago, and it was kind of like a punky band but we had some slower songs and I think just in the studio one day I tried to sing and was like ‘Oh shit I can kind of sing another way.’ So I started singing ‘properly’,” Marcus said.
“Properly in inverted commas,” Jen added.
Teddywaddy was produced by Anna Laverty, who boasts credits on projects by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Courtney Barnett, Paul Dempsey and Florence and The Machine amongst other names. I asked what it was like to work with her.
Jen replied,“She’s really good. Like, she just works really hard and she’s just like no bullshit. She’s just really good at what she does. And it was really easy.”
In terms of what the future holds for East Brunswick All Girls Choir, Jen reckons it’s “silence”.
“We might try and make a new record this year. We’ll see. I’ve got to write some songs… I don’t know. Everything takes longer than you expect,” Marcus said.
I’m going to hold Marcus to that, and hold my breath, and keep holding it through the inevitable suspense and awe and shock and noise of the new album when it finally comes out. Until then, we’ve got Teddywaddy.