Saturday, November 04, 2006


It appears that an article I was asked to write about Australian band Devastations appeared in a somewhat truncated form in this week's Eye, no doubt for space considerations. No matter, I didn't really like the band, although I do prefer the original piece--if only because it was strange to interview such a morbid band mere minutes after their first NYC gig while they were walking to the World Trade Center site. Here's the original:

by Michael Barclay

What's in a name?
Conrad Standish has just arrived in New York City for the first time.
The native Australian and adopted Berliner finished an early set about
half an hour ago, and instead of soaking up the sights, he's dodging
traffic on foot while clutching his cell phone and plugging his band,
Devastations. It's a rainy night southwest of Soho, and Standish is
headed to the World Trade Center site—a suitably morbid destination
for a band with song titles like "Terrified," "The Night I Couldn't
Stop Crying" and "What's a Place Like That Doing In a Girl Like You?"
But despite the ghoulish gravitas in which Standish delivers his
vocals, the fact that one of the first things he'll see in NYC is a
mass grave is a sheer coincidence. "The place we played at was around
the corner, and everyone else wanted to see it," he says, in his thick
Aussie accent. "I wasn't really drawn to it, honestly. I'm sure
there's not much to see—a fucking hole in the ground. But why not?"

What's the sound?
Devastations specialize in a noir-ish cabaret style that they like to
refer to as "tropical goth"—which is really just a way to sidestep
comparisons to other black-clad baritone balladeers such as the
Tindersticks, Black Heart Procession and the granddaddy of them all,
Nick Cave. On their North American debut album Coal, they've got the
sound down pat, though—like Cave at his worst— Standish can sound
ridiculous when he's trying to be profound. Sample lyric: "I'll
retract all my statements when you retract all your clothes." No
matter, because Devastations' fan club is also stacked with ringers:
Rowland S. Howard of The Birthday Party, Karen O of the Yeah Yeah
Yeahs, Alexander Hacke of Einsturzende Neubauten, and New Zealand's
biggest homegrown pop star, Bic Runga, who sings on one Coal track.
Not that the latter has helped their mainstream prospects Down Under.
"No, no, not at all," Standish declares. "We've never had any
mainstream attention."

What's the difference?
When you've got the look, sometimes that's all that matters. A
European opening slot for their all-too-obvious influences the
Tindersticks proved to be wildly successful. "We underestimated how
well we would do," says Standish. "We didn't take much merch with us
on the road, and we sold out after our first three shows, and then we
were left high and dry."
Playing with such a similar band provided an obvious challenge. "Every
night, we would walk on stage and say to ourselves, 'Alright, let's
really give it to the Tindersticks tonight. Let's wipe the floor with
'em!'" laughs Standish. "Then, after playing what we thought was an
awesome show, they'd walk out on stage and fucking wipe the floor with
us every night without fail. They are not to be underestimated."
Wow, sounds like you could eat off that floor after all that wiping.
"You're right, it was a very clean floor. Well, there was a bit of



Anonymous said...

at least get the lyrics right, michael.
'claws', not 'clothes'.
good luck,

mmmbarclay said...

fair enough, busted! that's honestly how i heard the lyric, and i listened to that song (and the rest) at least a dozen times before writing the piece. advance copy of the album had no lyric sheet. i guess our collectively colonial accents clashed.