Loud Noise and Pictures

Music and Photo Blog. It’s a new concept, so bear with it…

Damn The Maps – and to hell with Unicorns.

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Don’t you love it when you end up at a random bar and listen to some band you’ve never heard of before, and discover that they’re freakin’ brilliant?! So much so that not only do you pester them after the gig, buy one of their CDs, listen to it on repeat for the next week, but then hunt them down to do an interview for your website.

Well maybe not so much the last bit – but thats pretty much what I did after seeing the Melbourne trio Damn The Maps play live. I just couldn’t get enough of their debut release ‘Input Output,’ it’s just so addictively great. I dunno which is a more apt description of their work – catchy pop songs that rock, or good rockin’ songs that pop.
Anyway, I got in touch with singer/bassist Martin who was able to enlighten me a bit further on the inner workings of Damn the Maps.

Loud Noise and Pictures: Describe the band as if you were making a trailer for a Hollywood blockbuster.
Martin Green: Nick, Mark and Martin formed in 2005 via a Melbourne musician’s website. Martin had about 80 songs written at the time and had split from two Australian based line-ups. After auditioning many guitarists and drummers, he was delighted to discover that both Mark and Nick could not only play well, but had very similar ideals to his own. Since then Damn The Maps have only gone forward. They recorded several EP’s and in 2008 they released their debut album ‘Input Output.’ They joined with Vent Music and Amphead and released physically in Australia and digitally worldwide. They share a love for a good song, that’s pretty much it in a nutshell.
Sound wise, Damn the maps have a relatively commercial sound with a little bit of distortion here and a little eeriness there. They are most commonly compared to Radiohead, Tool and Pink Floyd. They have an honest sound. I.e. they write about what’s going on around them day to day.
Their hopes are pretty simple, to write great albums and play great shows. Coming soon to grungy stadium near you… 

LNaP: To me, Damn the Maps music evokes the sounds of other notable Aussie pop/rock acts such as Jebediah, Something For Kate, Pollyanna and Eskimo Joe. Do other Australian bands influence your work, or does it come from somewhere else?
MG: Unfortunately I can’t say that we are influenced by much in the way of Australian music. We have been more drawn to international influences and a far more international sound than what I feel is produced in the southern hemisphere.
Our influences go as far back as The Byrds, Beatles, Zeppelin, Sabbath, Neil Young etc to The Decemberists, Deftones, Radiohead, The Shins, and Grandaddy. I’m personally heavily influenced by great lyricists – Roger Waters, Colin Meloy, even Eminem. I just don’t feel that the lyrics coming from our biggest musical exports are as influential as the best internationals. You won’t find any unicorn references on our album sorry.

LNaP: You’ve had a few of your songs get some rotation on JJJ, how hard is it for an up and coming Australian band to get enough recognition to receive airplay? Is it luck, hard work, or simply having the right connections?
MG: I think that it all comes down to a good song. Radio stations like Triple J have staff that are bombarded with hundreds and thousands of singles, EP’s and albums a week and they churn through what they can to try and find the good stuff. I’m sure that many songs make it for many reasons whether it be the reputation of the label, their producer, their artwork, their persistence or simply the quality of the songs. We have a small independent label, are self produced, have independent artwork and we have had a song from all three of our releases played on Triple J. So hopefully I can conclude that we must be doing something that they like and I hope that that something is being able to write a good song. 

LNaP: How would you describe the current Australian musical scene Damn the Maps are a part of?
I think the biggest thing I’ve noticed is the reduction in major signed artists and a huge increase in independent music. Despite our obvious disdain for certain aspects of technology, I also think that the new software based studios and home set-ups along with services tailored specifically for the independent musician have given many artists the chance to realise their dream (or at least be able to release a product) This should in turn reduce the amount of unrecognised genius in the world. (I hope) I think it’s brilliant to see independent artists living off their work and winning awards at the mainstream events. Also I think that the internet has changed everything. It’s making the music industry a lot more interactive. Fans are able to vote online for all sorts of gig line-ups and awards. It’s not so much about who has simply sold the most physical records anymore.

LNaP: How important are websites like Myspace and Triple J Unearthed to new unsigned bands today? Do you think it is a reaction to shows like Popstars and Idol that people now think they can be successful via popularity rather than talent? Do things like Myspace friend numbers translate into record sales/increased numbers at gigs?
Myspace is certainly a valuable tool for us for networking and allowing people to be exposed to our music. Rather than the old days of waiting forever to be picked up by a huge record company that then spends innumerable dollars promoting a band to the world and then waiting for people to come to that band, Myspace allows the band to go to the people. If you have plenty of time to browse people’s profiles and take the time to notice them, they in turn notice you. We get such amazing feedback from ‘friends’ from all around the world, simply because we took the time to find them. Whether this translates into record sales and gig attendance, we can’t yet say as it is still quite early. However it is definitely a great way to stay in contact. Also we notice that people that have seen us at gigs have rushed home and become our friends so as to stay in touch with us. This is very handy.
Some bands/people become very successful simply via exposure alone. It’s what they do next that decides how long they remain popular. OK GO was a brilliant example with their treadmill video on Youtube. Fortunately they could back up their video with a pretty catchy album.

LNaP: Since Input Output’s release in May, the band has been touring pretty hard, how have audiences reacted to it all – and how are you all holding up considering you’re only about halfway through the tour?
Actually we have been doing sporadic touring. I.e. travelling a few days at a time and returning home. However our full tour begins in October when we head to New Zealand. We should then start getting to know how successful things are going. At the recent shows, of the people that have been coming, the response has been fantastic. We now hope that word of mouth allows the Damn the Maps name to spread and in turn pull more people to the shows.

LNaP: The album seems to have a recurring theme – that of a more natural existence or better time. Songs cover topics addressing anti-technology, perceived beauty, and the good old days/simpler times etc. Was there a conscious effort to tackle these themes or am I way off the mark?
There is definitely a recurring theme. A lot of this album was written when I was holding down a corporate day job. I was travelling into the city every day to show up and log on at places that were very different from how and where I grew up. I would find myself surrounded by these 40 something year old suits complaining about their jet skis and wardrobes being too small and how their air conditioning sucks far too much power from their aircraft carrier of a car. I eat in various cafes and watch them systematically install security cameras in every cornice and the ever popular LCD TV screen to distract you with product while you eat. I’m bombarded with meaningless emails and surrounded by mobile phones, media players and computers the whole day, all of which send us into a panic when they break down or buzz with a new trivial trick or text message. I grew up on a farm where I would cycle 18kms to my friend’s house with my $20 bass guitar on my back so we could sit on his deck and try and play Jimi Hendrix songs through his 6 watt champ.
There was not so much a conscious effort to create this theme, it’s more like I couldn’t help it because I was surrounded by it day in day out.

LNaP: Input Output features some beautifully quirky artwork from German artist Mateo, how did the band get turned onto his work?
MG: We were put into contact with Mateo via a very good friend of ours. We absolutely love his work and are delighted that we could use it for the album. We hope this is mutually beneficial as we feel that an album cover provides great exposure for artists of all levels and at the same time good artwork on an album can draw massive attention to a band. Shapeshifter by Marcy Playground or pretty much any cover done by Hypgnosis is a great example.

LNaP: Once the tour is done, what is in store for the band? Get the hell away from the other guys for a bit, or start working on some new material?
Once we finish the tour, we hope to go straight into the studio. We have a substantial amount of album number 2 already written and we are keen as mustard to start recording again.

Thanks to Martin and the lads from Damn the Maps. Try and get out to one of their shows, or grab their CD ‘Input Output’ from JB or iTunes.

Sep 13 2008 8:00P
Idgaff Bar Abbotsford, Victoria
Oct 15 2008 8:00P
The Espy, St Kilda St Kilda, Victoria
Oct 22 2008 8:00P
San Francisco Bathhouse, Wellington, NZ Wellington, Wellington
Oct 23 2008 8:00P
Kings Arms, Auckland, NZ Newton, Auckland
Oct 24 2008 8:00P
Basement, New Plymouth, NZ New Plymouth, Taranaki
Oct 25 2008 8:00P
Brewers Bar, Mt Maunganui, NZ Mt Maunganui, Bay of Plenty
Nov 6 2008 8:00P
Red Room Bar, Qld Uni, Brisbane, QLD Brisbane, Queensland
Nov 7 2008 8:00P
Bon Amici, Toowoomba, QLD Toowoomba, Queensland
Nov 8 2008 8:00P
Great Northern Hotel, Byron Bay, NSW Byron Bay, New South Wales
Nov 12 2008 8:00P
Hopetoun Hotel, Sydney, NSW Sydney, New South Wales
Nov 13 2008 8:00P
Oxford Tavern, Wollongong, NSW Wollongong, New South Wales
Nov 14 2008 8:00P
The Sando, Newtown, Sydney, NSW Sydney, New South Wales
Nov 20 2008 8:00P
Supper Club, Darlinghurst, Sydney NSW Darlinghurst, Sydney, New South Wales
Nov 21 2008 8:00P
Tasmania – details soon Hobart, Tasmania
Nov 25 2008 8:00P
The Espy, St Kilda St Kilda, Victoria
Nov 26 2008 8:00P
The Foundry, Perth, WA Perth, Western Australia
Nov 27 2008 8:00P
Prince of Wales, Bunbury, WA Bunbury, Western Australia
Nov 28 2008 8:00P
The Dunsborough, Perth, WA Perth, Western Australia
Nov 29 2008 8:00P
Rocket Room, Perth, WA Perth, Western Australia
Nov 30 2008 8:00P
The Railway Hotel, Fremantle, WA Fremantle, Western Australia
Jan 3 2009 8:00P
Barwon Club, Geelong Geelong, Victoria

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