It can be easy to forget about all of the great music coming out of Australia, what with it being on the other side of the world and all. But we all have the internet now, and it would really be worth your while to spend some time exploring what our Aussie friends have to offer.
Summer Flake is a three piece band, and also the pseudonym of Stephanie Crase, a musician from Melbourne by way of Adelaide. Songs from their new release Hello Friends have been described as “A hypnotic guitar riff and a steady drum beat [which] create a sound that could lull you to a trance.” (Stereogum).
ATYPICAL SOUNDS had a nice chat with Stephanie on the pleasures of recording at home and the story behind the cover of Summer Flake’s latest album.
I’m sorry if you’ve been asked this before, but where did the name Summer Flake come from? It makes me think of that chocolate bar Cadbury makes.
Haha, that’s nice! Yeah, I originally liked all the beachy connotations, I thought it lightened me up, but now I kind of resent that the word “summer” is stamped on everything, that can really change the vibe of a song. Back in 2007 it was my pseudonym in the band Birth Glow; I was Summer Flake, Nick Walton was Dried Up Leaf, and Ellen Carey, Raven Blue Winter. No spring. The whole Summer Flake project was almost called Pinched Sphinx – I thought that was a cool gag; a bunch of awkward consonant sounds back to back, impossible to convey to someone first go…I’m really glad I didn’t stick with that.
Are you still recording your music at home? What is that process like, versus working in a more “professional” studio?
Home recording is a great way to work out what you like and don’t wanna sound like. You know recording is easy – phones, GarageBand, 4 track cassette recorders are everywhere, all you need is time and a little obsession and you’ll spend evenings on Gumtree and eBay for parts, trying to achieve some unnamed idea you have only in your head that can keep you occupied for days, years.
I think recording is a skill like playing an instrument – you practice, you try new toys, new equipment, new mics, new software, and you make the limitations your strengths. I used a Motu 4pre external sound card plugged into a desktop PC that my brother built, a really dated cracked copy of Adobe Audition, and just played with different mics, pedals, plugins, and made myself comfortable in private and just doing a little bit every day and in no time you’ve got hours of music to edit, and that’s easier than a blank canvas. That was the luxury of living in Adelaide though I guess, less work, more time, cheaper space.
When I moved to Melbourne I lost my spare room and my patience and I felt like shaking it up, giving up some control, enjoying the collaboration. I mean, I gave Geoff O’Connor a hard time I’m sure, but he did a great job. He’s also a self-taught recording type, but nerdier and fancier than me, dreamier microphones. Lately I’ve been writing differently – blank canvas style, acoustic demos, rough and direct to my phone.
Was there anything you learned while recording Hello Friends that you wish you had known going into the process?
Yeah, I shoulda learned not to stress. I always spend so long on the lyrics, but I don’t really change much. Maybe it needs that reflection time anyway. Maybe I’ve learned nothing!
Is there anything you’d like people to know before listening to Hello Friends?
It’s not meant to be easy.
The album cover for Hello Friends is a painting of you putting lipstick on your face. How did that come about? Is it a comment on feminism or consumerism?
You know, I was messing around with a friend for a photo shoot, and I have always been uncomfortable with what is the norm; expectations of aesthetics and behavior of femininity in the world. The never-ending demands, judgements and contradictions – to fit in, be made up, look natural, be innocent, be sexual, be fashion as expression, shun fashion as a facade. Lipstick is this dense signifier and I love it but I feel uncomfortable in it, but I desired it, and it felt like a thousand uncomfortable rejections and embraces at once, to use that blood red gloss as a mask to cover me, and to reveal me as a weirdo, a woman, scared and scary, solitary in the mirror reflected, looking at myself, but also facing the world. I thought that would look cool as an album cover.
You were in a number of other bands before forming Summer Flake. What kind of experience do you feel those other bands gave you?
Creative outlet, camaraderie, confidence, joy, friendship, focus. It was life-changing discovering that other people wanted to do this kind of thing as much as I secretly did. Band practice was the highlight of my week, it was my passion. I never thought I’d ever play solo back then though. It was about the group collaboration, and I enjoyed not being the main decision maker. I think I’m easier to be in a band when I’m supporting, not leading.
Are there any musicians in Melbourne or your hometown of Adelaide you feel deserve more attention?
Yeah lots! Lots of stuff that’s different or difficult or rough around the edges, things that are too loud or too quiet, that’s the good stuff. Sarah Mary Chadwick has just recorded a new album which is devastating and hits the right melodic melancholic notes, that’ll be out later this year. Wireheads from Adelaide are powering on, recording album after album in a short number of years, and they’re back in the US recording again in May. Esther Edquist from Superstar has a new solo thing called Sweet Whirl and is recording an album. She plays bass and croons like someone who likes Neil Young, country, and trip hop. That sounds terrifying, but it’s really cool.
What are your favorite venues in Melbourne or Adelaide for listening to music?
I like small venues. I’m not leaping across stage or putting on a lighting show. If there’s anyone watching, listening, I need to feel like we’re close, in the same space. I like Ancient World, Format and the Metro in Adelaide, and the Tote, LongPlay has a tiny seated cinema which can be cool for gigs, the Old Bar, Dane Certificate’s Magic Shop in Melbourne.
What are your plans for the rest of 2016?
We’re touring Australia in May and I am dying to go to the US – anyone need a tour buddy? Email me your tips please, I’m scrambling for cash, and aiming for later this year. I’ve been to the US twice doing band stuff and it was heaps of fun. Real friendly types.