We caught up with the Melbourne-based super group of sorts, Power Supply, to discuss their fruitful progression from Ooga Boogas and the recording of the easy-going, yet urgent debut album In the Time of the Sabre-toothed Tiger.
After the demise of cult favorites, Ooga Boogas, all four members went their separate ways to pursue their other various musical ventures. Guitarist Mikey Young (Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Total Control) recorded with The Green Child while producing underground gems for rising Melbourne bands; bassist Richard Stanley (Onyas) continued to release music with Drug Sweat; drummer Per Bystrom (Exhaustion) played in Voice Imitator; and vocalist and guitarist Leon Stackpole (Sailors, Bits of Shit) performed under the moniker Leon, which carried onto this new project. Eventually all four reunited when backing Stackpole, naturally progressing back into a band and suddenly recording new music together with a fresh identity: Power Supply.
Where Ooga Boogas were more heady and experimentally-minded, Power Supply plays it cool with a perfectly conceived and swaggering rock 'n' roll record. Packed with bright melodies, jangly guitars and chunky bass lines, the debut LP In the Time of the Sabre-toothed Tiger is pensive, cryptic and hilarious, all while adding a healthy dose of garage rock, pub rock and classic rock heroism that's in the vein of Love as Laughter — just listen to the infectious "I've Got Feelings Too :(," which melds crunchy guitars with a motorik groove to create the album's most immediately addictive song. The closing track "Acid Rain" also sounds like if Lou Reed recorded the paranoid "Wave of Fears" while he was still with The Velvet Underground. The band also sounds looser now in comparison to the previous project, whether its on the stomping "Infinity," the light-hearted "Let's Do This and Let's Do That," or the slow-burning "The Time of the Sabre-toothed Tiger." With echoes of Jonathan Richman on the meditative "Swimming in a Bathful of Ghosts" to even Ooga Boogas on the restless "Conservative Instincts," across its ten tracks, In the Time of the Sabre-toothed Tiger is as charming as it is pleasant.
We caught up with Young and Stackpole, who take us through the highly contagious, beautifully ramshackle debut LP and the comfort of recording it in a local pub.
Hey guys! Thanks so much for doing the interview, I'm a huge fan of all your musical projects so this is a bit surreal really. Tell me, what have you been up to since recording the new album?
Mikey Young: Well we recorded it two years ago, so a lot! And nothing. Same COVID blur as most other people I imagine. I've been working too much, not playing gigs and moving house and studio back to the big smoke Leon Stackpole: Our pleasure. I've been thinking what life would be like once the album came out. Now I know.
Now that Melbourne is celebrating its reopening, what was the last lockdown like?
Young: Lockdown was okay for me. Work didn't let up, if anything, it got busier. I have a pretty high tolerance for sitting around in one or two rooms and keeping occupied with movies, books, books records, and instruments. I miss band practice heaps though.
You guys played together in Ooga Boogas then sorta reunited to backup Leon for his solo outing which then became its own thing obviously. What eventually led you to take on the new identity Power Supply.
Young: We've been planning to kill the Boogas and give birth to Power Supply for a long time. We are just lazy and pre-occupied, so it took ages.
What was the vision when reforming as Power Supply?
Young: To slowly move from the garage to the porch.
If somebody asked you on the street to describe Power Supply’s sound and style in only two words, what would you tell them?
Young: Slightly undercooked.
Since you've all played in other numerous musical projects during your career and have kept fairly busy independently over the last decade, what do each of you bring to the table in terms of the sound and style to Power Supply?
Young: I'll bring in a few riffs, limited recording knowledge, and the occasional synth.
Stackpole: Rich brings an entrepreneurial spirit. Per keeps our less-precise natures in check. And I generally suggest one of us gets a six pack of beer just as our rare rehearsals are about to commence.
There's a lot of humor and reflection from everyday occurrences in your lyrics. How do you approach writing and recording songs? What things are likely to inspire you to write and how do your original ideas develop into songs?
Stackpole: Like many bands, the conversations we have in-and-out of rehearsals tend to lead to ideas that come out in the lyrics. For example, we were very keen to ensure this record presented a lot of facts. I think this record has a lot of them.
Your recent debut In the Time of the Sabre-toothed Tiger melds ‘70s-inspired light-hearted pub rock with immediately pleasurable jangle pop that cruises toward classic rock orthodoxy. Take me through the recording of it and what was the process like?
Young: We recorded in the front bar of a local pub after we had finished a month of Sunday shows there. We left our gear set up and recorded it on the Monday when it had all finished and the pub was shut. It was a very comfortable place to be. We set up just like the other shows and basically played our set. Very chill, was all done in a day. Then Leon did his vocals at home and Per came over to mine to add some percussive delights and that was pretty much it. We aren't exactly aiming for the top. Just a nice safe height.
Were there any songs on this release that turned out way different than their initial idea? Were there any that really surprised you?
Stackpole: "PS3" became more and more gentle. I like it this way. It'd be a good one for a live unplugged album and would feature a long acoustic guitar solo. We could even rip-off Puddle of Mudd's version of "About a Girl" and put that on the record.
Young: "Infinity and 90" was a last-minute idea that I threw at the fellas not long before recording, so we just recorded it at the end of the session and it was surprisingly lovely. When we got the email with Leon's vocals and Archie's lyrics on it, we were so bloody happy. I love it so. Also, "I've Got Feelings Too :(" went through a fair overhaul. It was an old Boogas song that never made it and sounded way different, kind of a poor man's Troggs garage turkey stomper. We recorded it years ago, but it was underwhelming. In its current tepid, mid-paced breezy rock style, it finally feels like it has a home.
How was this recording different from your releases as Ooga Boogas?
Young: I'd say not much different. One day instead of two, that's about the only major difference.
Were there any unexpected challenges while recording the new album due to the pandemic?
Young: The initial recording was pre-pandemic, but once 2020 hit, it was really hard to figure out a good time for overdubs so it sat around for a good while. We are relieved to have it out and about.
What are some of your favorite things about the new album and what’s the meaning behind the title?
Stackpole: I like being able to hear what the other guys are playing. Turns out they're pretty good players actually. The album is about survival and evolution. And facts. And having feelings. I think the title sums that all up nicely.
In the Time of the Sabre-toothed Tiger is out now via Anti Fade Records / Goner Records.
Stream the new album below.