The newly minted Naarm/Melbourne-based indie label Critter Records have put out some of our favorite underground releases of the past year and a half. Ahead of the launch of the label's newly released demo compilation tape, Demos 2, at The Old Bar later this month, we had a quick chat with Critter Records founder Zak Brown about the origins of the series and the importance of striving for unity in local music scenes.
Naarm/Melbourne's underground music scene traverses the city like the human nervous system, universally connected and pulsating with life. There's no question about its lingering impact especially with labels like Anti Fade Records, Under Heat Records, Spoilsport Records, Marthouse Records, and now newly founded label Critter Records.
Following last year's demo compilation, Critter has pulled the curtain back yet again with the newly released Demos 2 compilation, digging into the bedroom and home recording setups of Naarm/Melbourne-based musicians with 19 nuggets. From Billiam's nervy bedroom punk on "Kinks Panic Attack" to Nathalie Pavlovic's stripped-down, hypnotic blur of dream pop on "It Grows," Demos 2 showcases some of Melbourne's best and unites artists you would never think share a bill. Mastered by DIY demigod Mikey Young (Power Supply, Total Control, Eddy Current Suppression Ring), the compilation also features highlights from Polly and the Pockets, The Pinstripes, Dr. Sure's Unusual Practice, Shelbaby (of Bad Bangs), Ruben Riley, Easy Browns, Metdog, Split System, and more.
In celebration of the new compilation, Critter will be throwing launch party at The Old Bar on July 15 with performances from Polly and the Pockets, Tapdog, EXPO, and Shelbaby. Ahead of the launch, we had a quick chat with Brown about the origins of the demos series and the importance of striving for unity in local music scenes.
Paperface Zine: How did these demo compilations start?
Zak Brown: These compilations started with wanting to throw together a comp of friends doing covers. Cover is Blown was the first Critter release before Critter even existed. We were in the middle of a lockdown in Naarm/Melbourne and it was good to have something to work on and some people to connect with. After that I tried to get Critter started by getting some bands on board for some album releases, but it never came to fruition and I've been happy to take a step back from trying to pump Critter into something spectacular and just use it for some demo compiling, project curation and helping friends get their music out there.
PFZ: How do you get artists to contribute tracks to these comps?
ZB: I just ask! Most people already have a few demos up their sleeves awaiting their day in the sun, I also just love to hear what people do in their own time using their own equipment, it's a special glimpse into their minds. The contributing artists are mostly just friends and people I've met along the way doing things like playing in bands, mixing bands, hanging, booking shows, etc.
PFZ: What's the process of putting it all together? I love especially love the artwork for both of them!
ZB: I do the artwork, graphics organizing and publicity for the Demos releases. It's nice to have some continuity with the artwork despite the mishmash of genres haha. I've summoned the magician Mikey Young many a time to master, these comps notwithstanding. He's always gotten great results with the Anti Fade compilation series New Centre Of The Universe, despite the challenges of blending and creating coherence between an eclectic range of tracks and recording quality.
PFZ: What are you looking forward to the most to the July 15th launch show at Old Bar?
ZB: The July 15th show is very special to me as it will be the first public Tapdog show since before the pandemic. I don't know what it is, but Tapdog always have some ridiculous shit up their sleeves and it's always fun and a bit fucked yet tight and punchy. It is also Liam Tapdog Wilkerson's BIRTHDAY so it will undoubtedly be a grand hullabaloo.
PFZ: Do you think these compilations will ever lead to a festival similar to Anti Fade's Jerkfest?
ZB: I reckon it's on the cards, one of these days! I don't know, a four band lineup is edging pretty close, so we're not that far off.
PFZ: How important is it personally to put these compilations together and unite Naarm/Melbourne acts who play different musical styles?
ZB: I think it's super important. Cohesion is something a lot of similar minded groups lack despite similarities, sometimes people are too busy jumping down each other's throats to see that there are bigger fish to fry. I wrote a piece about community, it's on the reverse side of the cassette cover, I guess you'll never know about it unless you INVEST! Hopefully people meet new friends from this, bonds get strengthened, alliances formed, love exchanged, music discovered, all the good stuff.
PFZ: Any plans yet on releasing more in the future?
ZB: In due time. Ideas for new Critter Records releases are currently fighting for real estate in my brain but I'm currently scheming a compilation that is an FU to corrupt corporate media aka News Corp who own Fox, Sky News, and pretty much have a monopoly on the media here in Australia. Big Fish. In due time.