WARNING! This interview contains explicit content.
Brendan: Hey, everyone. Brendan the blind guy here, today I'm lucky enough to be speaking with Josh Graham from Sydney acoustic synth pop group, Enerate. How are you, Josh?
Josh: I'm good, man, how are you?
Brendan: Ah, yeah? A bit under the weather but I can't complain too much.
Josh: [laughs] That's the way.
Brendan: Alright, so I want to talk first off about your new sparkly emotive single, ‘Transit Lounge’. I've been lucky enough to listen to it and it gets stuck in your head very easily-
Josh: That’s good.[laughs]
Brendan: -very catchy and very thought provoking. Kind of tell me the story of how you wrote the song and the song came to be.
Josh: Yeah so ‘Transit Lounge’ was written a couple of years ago, I was writing it with T, who’s the synth keys player in the band and we worked on some tracks together. And it was a few years back in our old studio and we were just kicking around, sort of flicking through some old demos that I did. I actually had a folder full of unfinished ideas and we were a bit stuck one day so we were just flicking through them and out came, it was like the first few bars of ‘Transit Lounge’ and I was kind of like, "Ah, I don't know. I don't know about it" and she was like, "No, yes, we have to write on this."
Brendan: Never argue with women they always win.
Josh: [laughs] Right. Yeah so, she was listening to the track and really kind of vibing on it so we wrote the chorus pretty quickly I think, and the chorus was all of Therese and we were really happy with the chorus, we knew we had something there and then the verse just took us ages. We sort of had this humming in it and it wasn't really working and then we actually came back to it weeks later and finally just had something that worked for the verse. But yeah it was quite funny because the hook, the main hook from the song was like, "Da da da da da da da da da." That was just T recording a vocal take and at the end of the take she just goes, "Done!"
And then, for whatever reason I dropped it into a sample and we were just playing around with it on the keyboard and it became the main hook of the song.
Josh: Yeah it’s a nice song. I think we were sort of both me and her quite, I don't know, at hard stages at life, I think. I don't know. I really think we both needed a change. And that was definitely a sort of constant, we bonded over that. And so we're both writing the lyrics and we're both sort of needing some kind of change in life and to grow and to go and do something new. And so, I think we both felt that just as passionately. So, yeah it just worked really well and that's what the song is about.
Brendan: Cool. So about changes in life and moving onto new things.
Josh: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I was about to move overseas and I think she changed some stuff up in her life after that as well and I think there was sort of a big turning point that song. Yeah it's funny sometimes when you're writing music you think you're writing, I mean, you're writing music because it's what you're feeling in time but sometimes it's like, in life I think I get inspired by what I write and I'm sort of like, "Oh, actually, like you know maybe I should make a change, you know?" It's kind of weird. Kind of reverse.
Brendan: Yeah well I kind of get that, yeah I'm a songwriter myself and sometimes you know I'll write the song and be like, this kind of provokes something and it's just kind of evolves from there, it comes naturally and you go, kind of where on earth did that come from? You know?
Josh: [laughs] That's it. I know. Sometimes the most unexpected stuff comes out and you're kind of like, that gives me a little push to do something in other areas of life.
Brendan: Yeah, nice! So the video clip to go with this is very fun, vibrant, psychedelic, colourful video clip and it's quite funny. And definitely a creative clip. You know, one of the more creative ones I've seen-
Josh: Thank you.
Brendan: -So tell us about the story of making the video and the kind of intent behind it.
Josh: Well, we always try and be quite fun and light with our videos, well, maybe not always light, they usually end up being pretty light but I don't know, we just want to have fun with it, you know and make it colourful and just enjoyable and funny. This particular clip, because basically our new record is coming out in an interactive video album so, basically every song on the album has an interactive video and this one actually, we came up with the concept before this video so this one was meant to be just completely interactive. And so the linear video came after that.
So, the initial idea was sparked by Therese, who was walking through, I think it was Hyde Park, whilst listening to this new demo that we recorded for ‘Transit Lounge’ and the song was brand new and she saw this little kid, just like dancing in the park near the fountain and she just goes, "This just works, you know?" This little, groovy kid who is just like grooving away and apparently sort of doing this like hiphop style dancing and she was just like, "Yes, we have to make that the video." [laughs]
Josh: Yeah, so we went on our way and just started asking friends if they knew any young hiphop dancers and you know, they're only so much younger than us so we didn't really know anyone and finally we came across a friend who teaches hiphop dance to kids as a job and she's like, I think I've got just the person. And this little kid called Joshua McCrossen, he came up on the day, he had no rehearsal or anything, it was like on the spot, learning on the fly, and we had the choreographer there just working with him and he did so well. It was so cool.
Brendan: Yeah. Nice. So, it sounds like it all fell into place nicely.
Josh: It did. It's one of those things within this period we were working on the video album and we shot, let me see, it must have been five videos in like twelve days?
Josh: And it was, God, I didn't sleep it was just insane. It just fell into place in time.
Brendan: Yeah. It definitely worked out in the end, so, well done.
Josh: Cheers. Yeah, no, it's nice. I think the way the video films is quite nice as well. It was quite hard to cut down something that's very interactive and just choose only the things that you want to show. But yeah it was hard making those decisions but I think we got there.
Brendan: Yeah, so as far as the production side of things going, because a lot of that, or most of it, is animated and very vibrant and colourful. Kind of ... Tell us about the creation that the whole production side of it.
Josh: Yes, well, so I directed all the videos on the album and that's sort of a bit more of what I do in my day job is TV production and direction and editing and that kind of thing. So, I love to bring that into the music and the animated backgrounds to this were just astounding. That wasn't me, that was my good mate, Darren Arbib, he's just this crazy good animator. And it was one of those things like I met him at the pub one night and was like, "Hey, I would love to work on a music video with you, how do you feel, you know? It's a video clip but it's kind of like doing five video clips because for the whole duration of the song, and it's like a four and a half minute song, they basically need these evolving, changing, quite detailed backgrounds." And he was kind of like, "Yeah, man, sounds cool." Little did he know-
Brendan: All of the best stories happen at a pub-
Josh: [laughs] Yeah that’s it. And I think, probably at the time, he didn't know how long it would take and how hard it would be but he really loves the end result so, hopefully he’s glad he did it. [laughs]
Josh: Yeah. And all of our clips it’s like we're like working with these tiny budgets, I mean, well, you know, we don't have a label or anything as such yet, so it's a lot out of our own pockets so we don't have a great deal to work with so everyone's doing us mad favours, mate's rates and you know I'm just lucky to have such a hugely talented bunch of friends because they certainly helped in every video.
Brendan: Yeah, wow, that's fantastic. Collaborative chip in from everyone, that's great.
Josh: Yeah, 100%.
Brendan: So you're saying, the debut album of yours, ‘Good Times Airlines’, so, I noticed that this was actually expected to be released in 2013 but then-
Josh: [laughs] Yep.
Brendan: - you kept us waiting. You’ve teased us with a few catchy songs and then you're like, "Nah, gonna leave it for a few years." But in the end-
Josh: Yes, that's true.
Brendan: Yeah, so, in the end, this may be a world first folks because, as Josh said earlier, it is going to be a visual, video, interactive album that you can, well, download as an app and, if you're not an app user, you can still download it and buy it on streaming services. But kind of ... pardon me, so kind of take us through how you got down the path of actually creating the interactive album.
Josh: Yeah well so it was tricky, it was just like, I think this was a natural progression that got to that. As you say, it was meant to be released like years and years ago. And it was just one of those things, I guess the timing wasn't quite right, you know we had band members travelling and then like someone would get back and then another person would be off and it was just a crazy busy time. And also like, I kept re-writing songs and probably being a perfectionist, you know what I mean? Yeah and then sort of the project got put on hold just for a little while-
Brendan: Put in the ‘Transit Lounge’ as such.
Josh: [laughs] Yeah, exactly right. And then I just got this burst of inspiration and this was back in 2014. So in 2014, we're like, "Okay, let's get our shit together, let's do an EP." And so we did this EP and then we're like, "Okay this is cool but why don't we just do an album?" So we put a few more songs together and then I was like, "Hold up, let's do a video album." And so we started thinking about that and then somehow it spiralled into, "Imagine if like all the songs had interactive videos? And you could download this app and it was this new sort of multimedia visual album." And at that point, I just fell in love with the idea and was telling the band and well, you know, asking, seeing if they were to do it. I could see their faces, they looked a bit worried. And, like, "It sounds cool but like, how and how long and how are we going to do this?"
And yeah they were right to be choked because it took us a long, long time. But, so it's been 2014, had the idea late 2014. So we started madly writing videos and so we'd map them out doing storyboards and animatics and just trying to sort of process the idea ourselves. And at that point, yeah that was when we had that period of time and shot those five videos in twelve days or whatever it was. And then, we just had to do all this post ... I was like, "You know we'll edit them and put them on an app and we'll be fine."
Little did I know that it would be like two years work but I found this app developer randomly on a forum, just got on the web and started googling for app developers in Sydney and they're all very expensive and very, just, unaffordable pretty much and I found this dude in a forum and he was just like very excited about the project. He loves music himself, he plays music and he's also a web designer and developer and he got just as obsessed with the project as we were. And yeah so Seb Lecocq is his name, he's a French guy now living in Australia and yeah, we just bonded over and started to work on it and it's funny, I think we first thought we would do it in about six months but, you know, I think it was about two years later, like, okay, it's done!
Brendan: Nice! So yeah ...
Josh: Go on.
Brendan: I was just going to say, because it's also going to be a free download when it comes out this Thursday the 16th,-
Josh: It is.
Brendan: - so that's very generous making it free. So, people, the idea here is buy the album on iTunes or whatever else so they can make a little bit of money off this amazing, you know, project, and then enjoy the free app.
Josh: Well, thank you, yeah. That would be nice. Yeah, so the app is free. There is one in-app purchase, which is the Transit Lounge interactive video and that's like $1.30 or something. But, the app itself is free. I don't know, we just wanted to spread the word you know, we wanted as many people to see it as possible and not to have to think twice about downloading it. Because we're pretty proud of it and it is a new sort of concept for an album. I'm just so excited about it like, I love what we've created and I want other bands to you know do this kind of thing as well, I think you know, in the future we could be seeing a lot more of this. It could be like you know the full album experience.
Brendan: Yeah and maybe with the VR eye goggles and everything and you'll be like, "We started this."
Josh: [laughs] yeah well, that's it, I mean there's no VR songs on there at the moment but just with technology there's just like no limitations these days, you know, the devices that are coming out and I don't know and programming is getting so incredible. Really exciting time to make music and visual art as well.
Brendan: Yeah well when you do make a video clip that's VR, I'll take a cut for the initial idea, okay?
Josh: Oh there you go, this is Brendan's percentage.
Brendan: Yep! The blind guy percentage. Yep. So, I was lucky enough to actually have a sneak peek of the album, unfortunately not the app, but the album itself and it really catches your ear and really gets your attention, gets you bopping away at it and like the video, very vibrant and colourful and very dazzling. So, kind of,-
Josh: Thank you.
Brendan: - take us kind of through the story of all the songs on the album and how it came to be, you know, ‘Good Times Airlines’?
Josh: Sure. Sure. Well, we'll start off, I guess, at the start, which is a track ‘Unstoppable', which, as you've done your homework, you'll know it came out many years ago.
Brendan: Yep, in a galaxy far, far away. Yes.
Josh: Far, far away. Yeah I mean, the reason we put this on the record, I mean, it's one of our favourite songs and it's one of our most popular as well. So, we felt like it always belonged on that album. So, I think we put it on the record to sort of give it a home so we could move onto some brand new stuff. But it just fit in with the songs super well. And I think the other main reason was that the video clip, which was already released, it just lended itself perfect to the interactive video album. Because, I don't know if you know a [inaudible] video, that has a section which has like an 8 bit video game and in the interactive video album you get to play that game, so it's a fully playable like Alex Kid style kind of thing and it's one of my favourites to play, it's like super fun. And it just had to go on the album.
That was sort of kind of another formative kind of song for me, I suppose it's quite similar to ‘Transit Lounge’, but it's more like positive ‘Unstoppable’ like you know, if you know what you want, just go and do it. I was sitting in a movie theatre, what was I watching? I can't remember, it was years ago when I wrote 'Unstoppable' and I don't know why but I just got this sudden rush of inspiration and I just wrote a list on my phone of everything I wanted to achieve in life. [laughs] It’s a pretty big list. And this song was about that list and about just like making things happen. Yeah you know do what you want to be happy. So, that's 'Unstoppable'.
'Half Asleep', let's face it, is just a catchy love song. [laughs]
Josh: Yeah, I was driving home one morning after dropping my girlfriend at work and just had this kind of fumbling thing in my head. So I got home and wrote it completely on an acoustic guitar at the time and then, it got transferred into a boppy little synth pop song.
Josh: Yeah and that was one of those song, one of those songs that I'm writing where you know I might put some ideas down and come back and work on it in a few days or whatever but that was a song that I like, I got in my head, I got home and then sat there all day and by 6 pm that was like a full song as it is today. So, that was nice. It was just a real quick one. Yeah and we added Therese's vocals and did a few things to it but it was a rush of inspiration that day. [laughs]
Brendan: Yeah, wow.
Josh: ‘Transit Lounge’, we already chatted about that one. Sort of looking into your future and seeing who you want to be and making a change for the better. 'Home' was the last collaborative one, it was just like a jam song. We were just rehearsing one night and all of the band were there and we were just sort of yeah just having a bit of a jam really and it just came out.
What's that about? I guess it's kind of a lovey song as well. Trying to think of the lyrics now. [laughs]
Brendan: [laughs] Well, I hope you don't forget the lyrics when you actually do shows and you see the song on the set list and go, "Hang on, wait, what's the lyrics again?"
Josh: Yeah I'm not going to say that's never happened but ...[laughs] As soon as the opening bar plays it all comes rushing back.
Brendan: Nice. That brings me to your live shows. Now, you've toured extensively and done some little shows around Sydney with other artists and you've played at the showcase for Ignite Media Brands.
Josh: [laughs] That was such a weird first gig. Yeah, that was super odd, I was doing some work for MTV doing some work as a designer at the time I think and this company worked in the building and they were like, "I really like that song do you want to play it at this corporate event." And we’re like, "Okay, we haven't played a show yet, but yeah let's go for it." [laughs]
Brendan: Cool. Just played a super formal corporate event and just be like, "Ah, yeah, by the way, this is our first time, you know?" Just stay cool. Stay cool.
Josh: Yeah. Totally it was quite funny, I don't know if it was particularly suited but everyone seemed to have a good time. And we were in the blazing sun as well and it was an odd venue, we were at the Sydney Mint.
Brendan: Wow. Nice.
Brendan: Wow. So, you would have made it rain with all the sweat there.
Josh: Oh my god, we were applying sunscreen and yeah it was very hot. My computer shut down because it got too hot. It's not great to rely on technology as a band.
Brendan: No, no. Well, since then you've done more shows, you've kind of evolved and grown since then with your shows. Now, me being a live music journalist, see I focus on number one, sound quality from you guys and the sound mixers but then I also focus on crowd interaction and the atmosphere you guys give to the whole experience. Kind of what can we expect at your shows, especially the two upcoming shows that you've got to announce the album and present it to the world, one: this Thursday at MTV Headquarters in Sydney and the 9th of December at some unknown secret mystery venue.
Josh: Yes that's right. Well, I mean, there's a launch party at MTV this Thursday for the interactive album coming out. That's going to be like, we're doing quite a short showcase, I guess it's kind of like an industry showcase kind of thing and we're doing a live preview of the app and that kind of thing, but moving forward our shows at venues and gigs like that will be, I guess, just try and keep it as up tempo and as positive and I don't know, vibey, as possible.
We always have visuals for our songs, especially just doing the album we've got plenty to work with and we used to do this thing also, and this was long before we thought of our app, but we chuck a phone into the crowd which controls the visuals behind us. We used to do a few different things, for example, one of them was me and Therese doing, we did like about forty different weird dance moves in front of the camera and we project that behind us and this phone got chucked into the crowd with like forty buttons on it and you just press the buttons and make us do all these different dances in time to the music.
Josh: Yeah, we always try and make everything as interactive as we possibly can. And that was really fun, the crowd used to really get into that and copy the dance moves and all of that kind of stuff. Yeah, we try and make it as great for the music and as great for the visuals and the audience as we can.
Brendan: Ooh, nice. Well, definitely the sounds unique, yeah I'm definitely keen to check out one of your shows myself and I might even bust out a few quirky, dorky, embarrassing dance moves myself.
Josh: Excellent, the moves that we did were definitely dorky and embarrassing so ...
Brendan: Well, as long as it's entertaining, then that's all good and I've got the advantage that I can't see people staring at me so I don't care.
Josh: Right. Oh, so you're actually blind.
Josh: Oh, awesome, excellent. Yeah well you can just bust out then.
Brendan: Hell yeah! you know, as I said, I can't see people staring at me weird so I just bust a move, shake a tail feather.
Josh: Just go for it. That’s awesome.
Brendan: Yeah. Just hope I'm facing the right way towards the stage.
Josh: [laughs] Yeah. I'm so sure you'll hear that.
Brendan: Yep right, so, you've achieved quite a lot in your career so far, from the inception of your career with the showcase at the Ignite Media Brands and then you've performed a few shows and had 'Unstoppable' featured at number 3 on the Triple J Unearthed in 2011 and 2012, which is amazing-
Josh: Yeah, we're pretty stoked on that.
Brendan: -And that song's also been picked up by Sky Digital Radio UK, sorry I was just trying to read my own shorthand and go, "Why did I write Dig?" Digital radio. Digital radio Robin James. That would have been pretty amazing. So-
Josh: Yeah, that was cool to get some play in the UK.
Brendan: Yeah. Wow. So kind of what, out of all the amazing stuff you guys have achieved you know in making this world first interactive album, what's been the highlight of it all and your greatest achievement, you know like your trophy memory?
Josh: Trophy memory, that's a tricky one. I don't know. I think, to be honest, it's just finishing this interactive video album because it's probably been like a four year project since concept to completion. So, I'm on top of the world this week, it's been such a big part of my life and to have the launch on Thursday I'm just feeling super fantastic about it. So I think that's going to be a real highlight on the night just to get to celebrate with everyone there. Everyone who worked on it is going to be there so it's going to be like-
Josh: -A super big career highlight for me I think.
Brendan: Right so, going from trophy memory to another kind of memory. I love asking artists this,-
Josh: Ooh here we go.
Brendan: -yep yep so what kind of is the one memory that comes to mind if I say "Hilarious WTF that really makes you go, oh my god." You know, why?
Josh: [laughs] Okay, WTF moment.
Brendan: C’mon with embarrassing quirky dance moves and everything I'm sure you've got a few.
Josh: Yeah, that's it. Well, one of those dance moves was me naked, which there was just one surprise button on there, that, but of course as soon as everyone found that button they just leave it on the screen behind us playing. There's a pretty funny What The Fuck moment where we played at the Gasso in Melbourne and we were on a bit of a tour high, it was our first tour and we were having a good time and we were just sort of having an impromptu street dance party because all the cast and everyone were packing up, and we put on remix to ‘Ignition', which I don't know why, it's a bit of a band song for us you know it's a total jam and so we were playing that and Matt was sort like twerking and sort of like he was doing a strip tease suddenly and this car had just come to pick us all up. And he started strip teasing all over the bonnet, then he was twerking and like shaking it and he got really low and then he popped his kneecap-
Josh: - yeah and it ended up needing surgery! [laughs]
Brendan: [laughs] Oh wow!
Josh: I can't remember exactly what happened some like joint or something went but he dealt with it fine at the time but then weeks later, it was like, "Yeah, I actually have to have surgery." That was terrible, obviously but pretty funny. That R. Kelly's remix to ‘Ignition' did it.
Brendan: Nice. Nice. One of those “Tucker did it”. Yep. Red versus Blue. Anyway, finally, so what's been happening behind the scenes with the Enerate projects like, you know upcoming shows, a tour, kind of what's happening behind the scenes and projects coming up in the near future?
Josh: Yeah, behind the scenes, I guess, we've just been preparing for this release so like it's been me and the developer like madly, of course, finding bugs in this app and I guess, pretty boring stuff like that, really, but yeah getting ready to do this launch party that I'm putting together.
But behind the scenes, in upcoming stuff, I'm going to take a bit of a break towards the end of the year because it’s just this four year project has been going on for ages so I'm gonna maybe go to the beach a little bit, hang out with my girlfriend who never sees me because I'm always at the studio.
Brendan: Do some of those quirky naked dance moves at the beach.
Josh: [laughs] Well, I could do, I might get kicked off the beach but no. [laughs]
Brendan: Oh, no. You know, it could be worth it.
Josh: [laughs] I did get into the naked camping in Croatia a few years ago. It was the thing to do over there, it was everywhere.
Josh: Yeah, we do have a few different things coming up like, as I say, some of these songs are like quite, we wrote a long time ago now, there's plenty of new Enerate material, we don't want to leave it another four years until the next album comes out. So-
Brendan: Please don't.
Josh: - In the new year, I just want to jump onto some new music.
Josh: Yeah and I'm putting it out there, I don't think our next release will be an interactive video album after this one. But yeah, we'll see how we go but, I think we might just do some purely musical stuff, just so we can get it out there quicker.
Brendan: Yeah, fair enough.
Josh: Yeah, really excited for putting out new tunes.
Brendan: Yeah well, as I said, I had a sneak peek at the album and I absolutely love it so ...
Brendan: I'm very keen to play the app.
Josh: Yeah, thanks, man, I can give you a pre-release download link.
Brendan: Ooh. Yes, please. Yeah dibs. Now, it's been an absolute pleasure talking to you, Josh, and I can't wait to see you on stage hopefully sometime soon and hear you pump that album and play the game.
Josh: Thanks so much, Brendan, it's been great to chat.
Brendan: Yeah, thanks heaps.
Brendan: See ya.
Josh: See ya.