THE MERCURY: INTERVIEW W/ CHRISTOPHER HOLLOW 8.12.2011
MUSIC FEEDS: INTERVIEW W/ BEN MICHAEL X
Now on their fifth album, entitled Dark Magic, Melbourne’s Sand Pebbles are a band whose members span almost all of the period of rock and roll’s expansion, with a member born in every decade of the genre’s heyday, from the 50s to the 90s . This smorgasbord of generations within the band has informed their work on the new record, which sees the band fusing together their various voices and influences to craft an album that speaks across the full stretch of rock and roll, having recruited the likes of Galaxie 500′s Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips, Tim Holmes from Death In Vegas, Will Carruthers from Spaceman 3 and Spiritualized, even Malcolm McDowell.
MF: So, there are some pretty impressive names on the record; how did you get all these great people involved?
SP: Our Drummer and twenty-year-old dynamo Wes went on a wild trip overseas armed only with a 7 inch vinyl we’d made. He ended up at a bunch of parties and gave it out to some of our musical heroes and they, in turn, offered to do some mixing. It has given the album a sonic edge. Playing with people you admire is one of music’s true joys.
MF: It seems that collaboration was central to this album, both between individual members of the band as well as the various collaborators you brought in; can you tell me about that?
SP: Alfred Hitchcock would have a film in his head, everything worked out, and he’d make sure it came out just like that. Francis Ford Coppola gets a bunch of creative people together and goes on a trip. Many minds make light work (better). While I dig both of my fatties, I’ll take The Conversation over Rope any day.
MF: The theme to this was, and stop me if I’m wrong, to try and draw from the collective experience of the band members to present a sort of slide show of the history of rock ‘n’ roll, more in terms of drawing inspiration rather than blatant imitation. Can you tell me how yoU think that came out in the music as well as how you came to try such a task?
SP: It just happens naturally; we’re all at such different stages of our lives. It’s one of the keys to the band. Some of us are tripping, some changing nappies, some awaiting grandchildren. That has to come out when you play. And we’re the better for it.
MF: How did the writing process work with this album? Did you all bring in ideas individually and work on them together or were all the ideas work-shopped as a group from the ground up?
Spring Time was a real group effort. The others are more a band member bringing in an idea type situation. That said, we all share writing credits, which is as it should be. A beautiful guitar solo is as important as the lyrics. A drum beat as cool as a melody. Let’s be honest, singer songwriters are kinda square. It feels very old fashioned. Everything changes, everything can be made better.
MF: How would you say this album compares to your earlier work?
SP: Every album has its charm, and they are all very different: different personel; different moods in the band at the time. I think it feels like a Sand Pebbles’ album but with a softer side showing. It’s more concise. Like a stock: boiled down to is essence. It compares wonderfully. But I think all our records, with the exception of our debut, are brilliant. The debut is just plain old great.
MF: You’re about to set out on tour; are you guys a band who loves touring or who tolerates it?
SP: We’ve never really done it, so who knows. We are a band insanely dedicated to the music with pretty much zero dedication to pushing ourselves; it seems kinda tawdry. But that said, it may be time to spread the word a little further. One thing’s for sure, it’s going to be an adventure; and life without adventure isn’t life at all.
MF: With the live show do you set out to recreate the album or offer something different?
SP: No. Never! A live show is a one off, in the moment, thing. It must be a roller coaster. It should always feel like it’s about to come off the rails. Tension. Bands who sound like records are actually evil and against nature. We are naturists. The natural state of being is unpredictable. Live shows should capture that feeling.
Sand Pebbles 2011/2012 Tour Dates
Friday 2 December - The Front Canberra (album launch), with The Sun Blindness
Saturday 3 December – Goodgod Sydney (album launch), with The Sun Blindness & Astral Kaleidoscope
Friday 9 December – Byron Bay Brewery, Byron Bay (album launch), with Black Cab and The Windy Hills
Saturday 10 December - Eight Miles High Festival Brisbane, The Zoo, with Black Cab, Richard In Your Mind + more
Saturday 17 December – Grand Pooh Bar, Hobart (album launch), with Hey Mook!
Friday 23 December – The Espy Front Bar, Melbourne, with Matt Sonic and The High Times, Buried Feather + more
Friday 6 January 2012 - The Nash, Geelong, with Black Cab
EchoNetDaily: Interview w/ Ben Michael X - 07.12.2011
Sand Pebbles roll our way
To coincide with their forthcoming tour, Sand Pebbles have released their second single, the Hell Broth & Bubble remix version of single Dark Magic. The wait is almost over for interstate punters. These Melbourne flower-punk luminaries will embark on a national tour next month to launch their acclaimed new album Dark Magic in Canberra, Sydney, Byron Bay, Brisbane and Hobart.
On the back of supporting Galaxie 500 frontman Dean Wareham, the Sand Pebbles launched Dark Magic in Melbourne not once, but twice due to popular demand. Out now on Dot Dash / Remote Control, Dark Magic is Sand Pebbles’ fifth studio album and features contributions from Dean Wareham himself, along with Britta Phillips (Luna), Tim Holmes (Death In Vegas), Will Carruthers (Spacemen 3, Spiritualized) and Malcolm McDowell.
When Wes Holland joined the Sand Pebbles a couple of years ago at the age of 18, Andrew Tanner had just turned 50. The band quickly realised they ran a unique age gamut: a member born in each decade in the history of rock ’n’ roll – 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. Far from disowning this unique fact, they decided to use it to inform their next album. The result, Dark Magic, speaks from many minds and many times. It’s hypnotic, cosmic, kinetic and freewheeling.
The Sand Pebbles are singer-guitarist Tor Larsen, guitarist Ben Michael, bassist Christopher Hollow, singer-guitarist Andrew Tanner and drummer Wes Holland.
Sand Pebbles’ founder/guitarist Ben Michael X answers a few pertinent questions…
Sand Pebbles are… An Australian underground band that combines the freak elements of true psych rock with the intensity of post-punk and the blissful transcendent drones of shoegaze. We are flower punks.
We take inspiration from… Harold and Maude. The Tree Of Life and Thin Red Line and Days Of Heaven and Badlands. Hemingway. Sam Peckinpah, Breaking Bad. Mid-60s suits. Faye Dunaway. Fast Times At Ridgmont High, camping in the desert, BMX, surfing, West Indian cricket team of the 70s and 80s, Joseph Campbell and the power of myths (we are trickster gods in case you’re wondering), Spacemen 3, disco, Deliverance (book and film) and the new dried mushroom caps that are floating around.
Our new album is… Dark Magic. Folk beauty, angry guitar, a sense of losing your head and doing something stupid. The perfect soundtrack to summer.
It might surprise people to learn that… We range in age from 21 to 52.
You should catch us on our forthcoming Australian tour because… We are an incredible live band who understand how to jam with intent. Through the beauty of repetition you will transcend. You will float and you will open your eyes at the end of the show and suddenly realise you’ve been on an incredible trip, time has stood still and your life has changed. Sand Pebbles are a good trips band.
Listen to the new single… Dark Magic (The Hell-Broth & Bubble single mix) http://blogrc.remotecontrolrecords.com.au/2011/11/stream-sand-pebbles-new-single-dark.html
The Sand Pebbles play the Byron Brewery on Friday with special guests Black Cab and locals The Windy Hills, with surf film projections by Andrew Kidman.
RAVE MAGAZINE: INTERVIEW W/ CHRISTOPHER HOLLOW 5.12.11
Sand Pebbles Monday, 05 December 2011
CHRIS HOLLOW, bass player for Melbourne’s enigmatic psych-rockers SAND PEBBLES, won’t let the truth get in the way of a good story. He chats with KRISSI WEISS.
Sand Pebbles began their musical journey when three scriptwriters from Neighbours – Chris Hollow (bass), Ben Michael (guitar) and Piet Collins (drums) – decided to join psychedelic forces. The line-up has changed a lot over the past 10 years with the band’s diversity augmented by the fact they have members born in every decade between the ’50s and ’90s. But despite Sand Pebbles’ latest release, Dark Magic, receiving rave reviews, the band are probably more known for the mythology that surrounds them. Normally musicians plead with the media to focus on the music but Hollow embraces the stories that have created this mythology. There’s their unique beginning, the infamous Meredith Music Festival ban (they allegedly stormed the stage during Rose Tattoo’s set in 2006, something that Hollow describes as “the greatest story that never happened”) and now revelations that Hollow went to school with the US government’s most wanted man, Julian Assange.
“There hasn’t been many people who have asked me about Julian Assange,” Hollow says. “I went to an alternative school down here, I had a fair bit of communication with him but it wasn’t as though we were close or anything… We were working as scriptwriters and storytellers so if the story is more intriguing than the music or it provides a way into it, then go with it.”
Sand Pebbles have managed to make quite a name for themselves over the past 10 years despite the fact they barely, if ever, play outside of Victoria. “It’s hard to talk about this without sounding egotistical,” he says. “But Melbourne is a big scene and there are so many places to play so we don’t feel like we have to push it very hard. I don’t want to sound like Melbourne is the best or anything but we are able to play here and still have people turning up that have never seen us. Also, heading to Sydney and Brisbane, well, we may as well be going to New York with the amount of organisation that is involved.”
Each time we move onto Sand Pebbles’ latest album, Hollow cuts things short, stating “I don’t want to bore your readers.” As we begin to wrap he tells me that he is much more interesting via email if I had any more questions and he once again reiterates that he doesn’t want to sound boring. We have a laugh about the notion of controversy and how people perceive that as being somehow more interesting. He decides to take a crack at controversy by discussing the latest album of 2011’s golden boy, Gotye. “Well, I lived through the ’80s and listened to Peter Gabriel and Sting so I don’t really need to hear all of that again,” he says laughing. “I am wrapped that he is doing so well though and is jammed up against Rihanna and any of those types of artists.” It seems that Hollow can’t help but be a nice guy, which some people still find interesting.
SAND PEBBLES with be at the Eight Miles High Festival at The Zoo, Saturday Dec 10, with Richard In Your Mind, Black Cab, Grand Atlantic and many more. Tickets are available through Oztix. Head to www.sandpebbles.com.au or www.thezoo.com.au for more information. DARK MAGIC is out now through Dot Dash.
THE CANBERRA TIMES: INTERVIEW W/ BEN MICHAEL X - 1.12.2011
The Dark Magic of Sand Pebbles
”I was wandering around with all these TV people who in general don’t have great taste,” explains guitarist Ben Michael, who was working as an in-house scriptwriter for the show at the time. ”I bumped into this guy, Chris, and we started talking about the 13th Floor Elevators and the Velvets and the Stooges. Then he got in contact with me and said, ‘You should get off your arse and start playing’.”
Before forming the band, Michael and bassist Chris Hollow entertained themselves by dropping obscure musical references into the show’s dialogue.
”A lot of the characters names were taken from underground music heroes and I certainly had characters playing records that, ordinarily, there’s no way they’d be playing,” Michael chuckles. ”A funny one was Mogwai. About 10 years ago on Mogwai’s first Australian tour … they played this absolutely ball-tearing show and came backstage and we’re mouths agog going, ‘My god, that was great!’ and they couldn’t give a shit about the show they just played, all they wanted to do was talk about Neighbours - ‘Imagine if we could be on Neighbours!’ I said, ‘I’ll definitely get your name on the show’. ”Pretty soon after, one of the characters is going, ‘Oh, I just got this great new album by Mogwai’ and the next thing you know the post rocks up with 10 T-shirts delivered to me from their manager. You get your kicks where you can in TV.”
Over the past decade, Michael and Hollow have assembled a motley crew of musicians around them, including a Spinal Tap-esque succession of drummers. The current line-up includes 50-year-old guitarist Andrew Tanner, 27-year-old guitarist Tor Larsen (”the fan who used to come up to us after shows”) and 20-year-old drummer Wes Holland.
Hollow discovered Holland busking on the street and, as the band was down a drummer and due to play a show that afternoon, drafted him in on the spot.
The Sand Pebbles recently released its fifth album Dark Magic, which Michael says was an attempt to strike a balance between the two previous records: 2008’s stripped-back Ceduna and the all-out experimentation of 2006’s Atlantis Regrets Nothing. ”Atlantis was completely insane with how many tracks we did,” he remembers. ”We went seriously crazy! We were putting microphones in coffee cups and recording the drums through that. I mean the record sounds fantastic, but it sent our engineer at the time off the deep end - he left the country soon after.”
For Dark Magic, the band enlisted an impressive array of collaborators. Long-time friends and supporters Dean Wareham of Galaxie 500 and Britta Phillips of Luna both contributed, while Tim Holmes of Death in Vegas mixed the lion’s share of the album and Will Carruthers of Spiritualized and Spacemen3 also reworked one of the tracks. ”Working with people who have had a profound influence on you - or just make your life better, basically - for them to respect what you’re doing and work with you is a real joy,” Michael says.
The Sand Pebbles
WITH: The Sunblindness
WHEN: Dec 2, 8pm
WHERE: The Front, Lyneham
TICKETS: At the door