If you’re craving a slice of psychedelic wonder and grooving charm, then take a gander at the dazzling and freewheeling world of the garage-psych five-piece Nice Biscuit, whose latest EP adds a new sonic dimension to their sprawling brand of sun-kissed psychedelia.
Currently residing in Brisbane, Nice Biscuit is led by the dual vocals of frontwomen Billie Star and Grace Cuell along with guitarist Jess Ferronato, bassist Nick Cavendish, and drummer Kurt Melvin. The garage-psych collective work effortlessly together to build a heavenly world of sonic enchantment and addictive rhythm.
Following another splendid release earlier this year, the enticingly woozy Create Simulate back in January, Nice Biscuit have self-released a second EP called Passing Over. Mixed by Sam Joseph of Mountain Music Recordings and mastered by Mikey Young (Total Control, Eddy Current Suppression Ring), the new EP explores growth through dark periods of existence and life's inevitable changes. The contrast between the meaning behind the four tracks and the tender tone of the jangly melodies, adds another layer to the full listening experience and enhances the sentiment of their intentions. It feels as though you are being wrapped in a warm blanket of noise, a safe space to clear your mind and let yourself surrender to the driving percussion and lavish echoing progressions.
To compliment their kaleidoscopic brew of far-reaching psychedelia, the band are known for their trippy visuals and eclectic fashion sense with Star and Cuell having consistent matching outfits for each show. All hand-made, colorful, fun and striking; it adds a whole other level to the sensory adventure. Paired with their hazy vocals, whirling guitar and the slap of the tambourine; any performance by Nice Biscuit is energetic and unique.
Having supported heroes such as the Murlocs and Babe Rainbow along with even San Francisco psych-rock legends The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Nice Biscuit have become a household name in Australia's radiant neo-psych community for their dreamy vocal melodies and velvety guitar hooks. It seems as though they are only going to get bigger from here, having just announced that they will be playing alongside Harvey Sutherland, Grace Cummings, Stonefield and more at King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard's own curated New Year's Eve Festival, Timeland — a hell of a way to start 2022 off with a bang!
We were lucky enough to have a chat with Star and Ferronato to discuss the process behind the latest EP and how the band has naturally progressed since the pandemic.
Paperface Zine: I read that your first performance as a band was for one of your mum's house parties… Would you say that your mother is a pastry chef baking "Nice Biscuits"? Tell me about how you got together as a band! (sorry for the terrible joke haha).
Billie Star: It started with Grace and I being brought together by our mutual friend Lily as we both loved to sing and play guitar — she knew our meeting would be fateful (and it was). Then we had a jam and we each brought a few people and it kind of evolved from there. My mum was hosting a party and she egged us on to play there — even though we didn't feel that we were ready. It was a special gig and we are so thankful for our beginning!
Who are some musical artists that have influenced the sound of Nice Biscuit?
Star & Jess Ferronato: The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Stereolab, the B-52s, Minami Deutsch, Allah Las, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Mildlife, Wooden Shjips, and Aldous Harding.
You just released your second EP of the year back in September called Passing Over, which is so incredible with its groovy guitar hooks and dreamy vocal harmonies. I read that this EP touches on themes of growth through dark times, can you elaborate on this idea?
Star: Grace and I (we wrote most of the lyrics) have both been through a lot of change and upheaval in the last few years, including many dark moments for us. Somehow each song we wrote seemed to take on this theme of darkness and growth without really planning it too heavily. What we were trying to convey is that surrendering into moments of darkness is vital to heal and transform (i.e. find the "light") in moments of big change or hardship. Each song on the EP deals with a different aspect about the necessity of dark and light and how their relationship sets a cyclic rhythm in our lives. The six-minute title track follows the passage of a sunset, gradually cloaking the landscape in darkness, and with it bringing a sense of relief and separation from the bright light of the daily grind. Slowly as darkness and quiet takes over, we "soak into the shining stars" and give ourselves space to process the days' intensity, giving a sense of renewal and rest. The light filters in and the sun passes over us again, starting the next day anew as the cycle begins again. "The Tower" follows the rhythms of unpredictability and inevitable change that comes with being alive on earth. Based on the Tarot card of the same meaning, this track explores a landscape where change is the only constant and the subject has no choice but to surrender to the unknown. "Round and Round" also comments on the cyclic nature of light and dark in dishing out twists of fate where the only inevitability is change. So one must surrender to the fact that we are going to have dark times in amongst the good times and we just have to face it as best we can. And lastly, "Sweet Surrender" explores separation and loneliness in the process of healing. It is about needing to be alone to find growth — as we are the only ones who can change ourselves, but at the same time knowing that you are not truly alone with friends and family by your side.
What did the writing process look like for Passing Over? Did you write the songs all together or was there one core member who brought ideas to the group?
Star: For this EP, Jess and Nick came up with the initial ideas for the guts of the songs and brought them to the group and they expanded from there. Kurt, Jess and Nick always jam songs out a lot before they are finished, to get the general structure and feel. Then Grace and I come and add our little bits like synth parts, percussions and eventually vocals. We all collaborate on melody and lyrics.
You have mentioned previously that you like to go on a little weekend away from the city to record your music, what does a typical day of recording look like for you?
Ferronato: We wake up, put on a pot of coffee, take turns making a big brekky and while half of us clean up the others get set up in the studio. We tend to begin with getting a good drum, bass and guitar take together and then continue to flesh out the rest of the song with percussion and synth overdubs, typically ending with the vocals. This is out at our good mates studio in Boonah. Ali Richardson, who plays in Clea and Zefereli. It's very calm and quiet, and we are all pretty bummed to have to leave each time.
It is apparent that visuals are a major component of Nice Biscuit, whether it's through your vibrant music videos or fun matching outfits! What do you try to convey through this and how do you conceptualize this?
Star: Mostly we are trying to convey that playing and sharing music should be fun, bright and silly not taken too seriously! We don't really conceptualize or plan too much for our vision, it just naturally flows with what we are into at the time. Nick is behind most of our music videos armed with his '90s tape recorder and just has an amazing brain for meshing concepts into an amazing piece of art! In regards to our costumes — it all started with Grace and I deciding to wear matching dresses at our first gig (at mum's party). Then we got addicted and made it a necessity to match every gig, and started making our own costumes. Our vision for costumes got more elaborate, and with it our sewing skills improved — and it is now one of the most rewarding and enjoyable parts of performance for us. We found power and pride in wearing our creations and really helped with our confidence on stage — it really shaped who we are as performers. Grace and I really trust each others' vision and we kind of just egg each other on to make cool and crazy stuff — a common question when showing each other our creations is "is this good or weird?" — and sometimes they are good AND weird.
You've released two incredible EPs throughout 2021, even combining them to make a double EP on vinyl, and I'm sure that you were working on these throughout the turbulent year when the pandemic hit. How did this impact the band's creativity, were you able to be pro-active throughout this time?
Ferronato: We actually had a big break from playing music together in early 2020 during the first big lockdown and we felt really refreshed and excited once we got back into it, and allowed us to conceptualize both EPs. Time can be great in this way. In saying that, It has been hard to stay motivated at times throughout the two years with so many gigs getting cancelled or rescheduled, but we never put too much pressure on ourselves to be constantly creating and working. This allows us to enjoy the process, and enjoy playing music as friends!
What's the music community and scene like in Brisbane, and how has it adapted to the pandemic?
Ferronato: It's such an amazing city to live and play in. Everybody feels and shows support for one another and we've been so lucky in Brisbane to have played some gigs throughout the pandemic. Not to the full capacity, and some had still been cancelled, but enough to know that we are very lucky in comparison to other states. This has made our performing experience feel like a treat!
Now that live performances are making a comeback and you have a string of a shows coming up including one at Weird Place Fest in January, what can we expect at one of your live shows?
Star: A bunch of very excited friends playing music together! Plus elaborate costumes, fun visuals and hot new tracks.
You've played some incredible gigs with the likes of the Murlocs, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, The Brian Jonestown Massacre and many more! What's been a favorite memory from your time playing together?
Ferronato: Most of those gigs were all epic! Playing at the Metro Theatre (a big venue in Sydney) with The Brian Jonestown Massacre was definitely a highlight too. Our favorite tour was with the Murlocs around Australia — they sure are a silly pack of talented geese. Also, I think we would all agree that the trip to the U.K. was probably the most exciting, and fun experience, both on and off stage. Seeing new places, meeting new people and trying our best to acclimatize for two weeks.
How do you think you have grown as a group over the years? Do you think your music has evolved at all?
Star: In the last few years we have refined our sound a bit. Still love fast and fun grooves, guitar-driven tunes and dreamy vocals! Having one less guitar naturally creates more space for other elements, so we tend to lean towards more percussion and synth! Which is really fun. And with so much music out there to listen to and explore, like many bands, our sound is evolving naturally, and we are always keen to experiment.
Passing Over is out now. Stream the new EP below.