Following their debut EP Electric Party Chrome Girl, the Naarm/Melbourne five-piece Gut Health certified themselves as one of last year's most compelling new underground acts. We caught up with vocalist Athina Uh Oh and guitarist Dom Willmott to find out all about Gut Health, how they encompass varied sonic backgrounds, and the art of self-expression.
Gut Health did not disappoint when they released their faceiticous debut single "Inner Norm" in October '22 and shortly after, they followed it up with their debut EP Electric Party Chrome Girl through Dougal Shaw's Marthouse Records (Dr. Sure's Unusual Practice, It Thing, Heir Traffic). Bringing an LGBTQI+, femme, and non-binary heavy lineup to the front of the stage, Gut Health is comprised of Athina Uh Oh, Adam Markmann, Dom Willmott, Eloise Murphy-Hill and Myka Wallace. Since forming in late '21, the five-piece have built a reputation for their powerful live performances especially with the incorporation of experimental linear movements, unfiltered theatrics, and unwitting no wave nobility that emphasizes a relentless driving rhythm section with angular bursts and raucous melodies that kick down the door. We caught up with vocalist Athina Uh Oh and guitarist Dom Willmott to find out all about Gut Health, how they encompass varied sonic backgrounds, and the art of self-expression.
Paperface Zine: Take us through the origins of Gut Health. How did you all meet and form Gut Health? Also, where did the band name come from?
Athina Uh Oh: Adam and I started writing together during Covid lockdown times. We were lucky enough to share a love for music, and our tastes were intersectional, so we'd just generally like to connect on this and share a lot of music with each other. It was something special, having the chance to create with someone I really respect. Dom and Adam had already been longtime collaborators. I had met Myka here and there through friends, and was super grateful that they, as someone who plays music for a living, were willing to be a part of such a new project. I was recommended to reach out to Eloise by the lovely Winter McQuinn — he was right — they shred. Oh, and Adam and Angus met truckin'. We've all become very close and I love every one of them.
PZ: What's something that you admire about this lineup?
Dom Willmott: More recently, we've been trying things out as a six-piece, with our previously part-time drummer Angus now an all-the-time roving musical force. I'm excited for us to build on the breadth and variety of our sound, something we already put a lot of importance into as a group, only now we have the right number of hands to fully realize our goal.
PZ: Who are some of your musical heroes?
A: So many! Worth mentioning some femme icons — Debora Idyall, Kleenex, Girls at Our Best!, Grace Jones, to name a few. We love Ludus.
DW: I'll just mention a few contemporary favorites from this year — Loose Fit, Atol Atol Atol, Screensaver, and Ripple Effect Band have all given me that re-energizing love for music when I've most needed it.
PZ: How do you approach your songwriting and what sort of themes do you like to write about?
A: Songwriting is a form of catharsis for me. Sometimes it's a matter of pulling out some scribble I wrote years ago, or sometimes it's improvising and going from there. I write about lots of things, from imagined characters, introspection, social issues, to observations of human quirks; what makes people tick.
DW: We tend to have two key sniff tests with any new tune. Nothing gets started without a bassline we really like, and nothing gets finished without a strong vocal idea to bring it home. A couple personal favorites of ours had sat dormant for a while until we were able to find the right combination of these two elements.
PZ: Your debut EP Electric Party Chrome Girl was one of our favorite releases last year. We read that you self-recorded the EP in a storage facility in Brunswick. Talk to us about how the debut EP came together and what the recording sessions were like.
DW: Initially, we started making some demos at the end of 2021 just in our rehearsal space, with the idea of having some fully formed recordings to take to the pros in a studio environment. I think a combination of money, time, procrastination, followed by restlessness, told us to stick with what we had and when Simon Maisch (Bitumen, OV Pain, Telekinet) got involved to mix the EP it all really came together.
PZ: We included the opening track "Inner Norm" on our Selects! Playlist. How did this track come about and what did you envision when initially composing it?
A: Eep, thank you! "Inner Norm" is a bit of a tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating look at Naarm/Melbourne's inner north, observing how over time the self-identified "alternative" residents begin to morph into what many of the same people would proclaim as "normies"/normalcy. I've always struggled with the term "normie" because it comes off as a little high-horse to me. I think a lot of us, particularly young people, find ourselves trying to navigate where we fit in, how we fit the "mold." Humans are strange creatures, we often have a desire to categorize ourselves and others on a surface level.
DW: This was the first idea I brought along that made it past the embryonic laptop-demo stage, and once shared with the group it all came together super quick. I love these moments of reactionary creativity you get with a band, where everyone starts bouncing off each other with ideas and energy. Intuitive decision making often ends up getting the best results musically for us.
PZ: What was the idea behind the cover art?
A: I've been inspired by understanding of Greek history — how we can examine the past to redraw narratives for our future. I've particularly been inspired by the story of Nemasis, as I reckon she's portrayed as a total deviant, and I vibe with that. I talk a lot about modern iconography in my work, but I've learnt to better understand my place in society when examining history. The design is inspired by old post-punk posters, and my love for RGB. The photo of me, taken from a series of press shots by Sophie Gabrielle, was inspired by some fetish photography I had stumbled across. Gabriella Brown is an incredible graphic designer and both brought her ideas to the table as well as our ideas to life.
PZ: How did you get connected with Dougal Shaw at Marthouse Records? Also, what's it like being part of such an incredible and growing roster that includes Dr. Sure's Unusual Practice, It Thing, and Heir Traffic?
A: Adam has known Dougal for some years, and all of us have witnessed the hard work and skill sets that Dougal has applied over the years. We were very humbled that he was happy to take us on - having it be our first release.
DW: Dougal is such a force. The amount of work and support he gave to us and our debut is impossible to quantify into words. He's a modern local legend.
PZ: Your high energy live shows totally make us want to catch a plane and visit Naarm/Melbourne! How important are live shows to Gut Health? Do you consider yourself a live band first?
DW: From the very start we approached things as a live act first. It's basically the inverse of my prior music-making experience as a naturally inclined bedroom-producing hermit, but it's become pretty integral to how we write and develop our sound. We're a collection of people making synchronous noise and we try to lean into the strengths, but also the limitations and boundaries that come from working in that context. Similarly, playing to an audience has a role in the process, either by feeding off of a crowd or from each other on stage, or even having a moment of ego-fueled, improvisational defiance that ends up sticking around.
We're also incredibly fortunate to live in a city overflowing with awesome live music, so playing alongside other amazing Naarm acts is enough reason to get out and perform as much as possible.
PZ: Moving forward, what's next for Gut Health?
DW: We have slowed down a bit to do some writing for our next release as well as a little recuperation. We have some cool gigs on the horizon — local, regional, and interstate, that we're excited to share in the new year. One already announced is in support of These New South Wales' national tour, with our storage unit neighbors down the hall, Bitumen.
A: We also plan to go on a little writing holiday at my sister's property in the country to hang out and create without the impending doom that the city serves to us.
Electric Party Chrome Girl is out now through Marthouse Records.