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Program: "Each Song Has to Stand on Its Own Two Feet, so We Give Them Each a Lot of Care and Attention"

As they know quite well how to read the jangle pop playbook, Program has been one of our favorite rock bands to come out Melbourne since the release of their unflawed debut LP Show Me in 2019. Last month, they announced their highly-anticipated sophomore LP It's a Sign on constant favorites Anti-Fade Records (Parsnip, The Uranium Club, R.M.F.C.) and it contains all the essential components of truly great and serious pop music. Today they've shared with us its latest single, "One on One," a catchy, multi-textured, and thoughtful pop song with prepossessing simplicity and emotional depth. To dig deeper, we chatted with guitarist-vocalist Rory Heane all about the band's prize-winning comeback and how living together with co-founder and longtime friend Jonathan Ross-Brewin greatly informed the new album.

Photo by Robyn Daly

Paperface Zine: What have you been listening to, reading, watching, or spending a lot of time doing?

Rory Heane: I guess we've been busy organizing the release of the new record, and trying to practice as much as we can. I attempt to be a punter to as many shows as I can, but there are just so many good ones and you can't make them all. It's about that time of year that I rewatch all of the LOTR and Harry Potter movies, as lame as that might sound. I'm a big fan of backyard fire pit season. Decent winter behavior.

PZ: What is it like returning with new music this year after not putting out a full-length record in five long years?

RH: Of course it feels really good to have another album down it's definitely time we had some new ones. I guess Covid was partially to blame for the length of time between records, but I think even after Covid, it was hard initially to pick up where we left off.

PZ: What has the journey been like so far as a band and what are your thoughts on what you've accomplished together since forming? 

RH: We're definitely proud of what we accomplished with the first record, and we really made an effort to make this new one a step up whilst still keeping true to the original sound. Our lineup has changed slightly in the last year or so with Charlotte [Stewart] now playing bass guitar, so we're looking forward to fleshing out the next batch of newbies with her. 

PZ: One show I wish I was able to catch was you playing with The Judges, The Prize, and Lost Animal last October. What has it been like playing shows with these new songs and Charlotte now in the lineup?

RH: Charlotte is an old friend of ours and it's an honor to rock with her. She's bringing heaps of ideas every time we practice, and it's a real vibe on stage playing with her in the band. That was a cool show to be a part of, even though I was quite unwell at the time of it. We feel very lucky to play with such amazing bands in our city. 

PZ: How exactly did you meet Jonathan? Your Bandcamp describes you two as "platonic childhood sweethearts." 

RH: Jonathan and I have known each other since we were five years old in primary school. It's quite humorous that as of today we are in a band together, work at the same job, and are currently housemates. 

PZ: Your new album It's a Sign, comes out in July. What can you tell readers about its recording sessions? What were some of the highlights while making it and what did you want to do differently this time compared to 2019's debut LP Show Me

RH: This new album was completely multi-tracked whereas the debut LP wasn't. I wouldn't say this method is something we wanted or strived to do, but it was the most logical way at the time. Most of the guitar parts were made on the fly after the drums were tracked, as they'd never been played by a full band. Again not something we will strive to do in the future, but we were ultimately happy with how it all came together. 

Photo by Assignment

PZ: Did you draw from any specific inspirations when writing the record? Do you believe you've grown and evolved with your writing compared to the debut album?

RH: This record sounds a little more mature than our first maybe. We wanted it to be a continuation of the first rather than a whole new concept. We still draw inspiration from the classic rock/pop genre, but the songs have a touch of whatever we were listening to the most at the time. One song might start sounding a bit country with slow tempo, which as it progresses turns into something completely different. We mix everything we like together to produce something we think sounds original. Each song has to stand on its own two feet, so we give them each a lot of care and attention. 

PZ: Today we're premiering the album's opening cut "One on One." What were the inspirations behind this song and what are the origins of it?

RH: This song started out very different from how it ended up. It was actually difficult to piece together, but once we did, it easily became one of our favorites to play. For the vocal melody, I think I was trying to channel a bit of Blur in the verses, and Oasis in the chorus. I subscribe to the fact that both those bands were as important as each other. 

PZ: One of my favorite earworms on the new album is "Live Without." How did this one come together?

RH: Jonno was playing around with an acoustic in the kitchen one night. I thought it was super catchy, so I pieced it together with an older idea he had, and then I threw a simple beat over the top. Living together definitely makes it easy for us to jump on ideas quickly. 

PZ: Another one I very enjoy is the closing track "The Last Round." What can you say about this one?

RH: I like how this one has a light and dark contrast about it, and seemed to be a suitable last track to the album due its catchy, but chaotic outro. The starting riff was an idea of Jonno's that I adjusted/added to and thought it'd be a great intro for something. Being called "The Last Round," seemed fitting that it should close the record. Simple ideas are often the best. The riff at end was also foreshadowed from the track "Act Natural," which I just pieced together during recording as a fun little interlude.

PZ: What exactly was the vision you had for Rowena Lloyd regarding the cover art?

RH: I'm not entirely sure what I was thinking, but I had an obsession with checkered flags at the time and thought it was really fitting for the album. I think a checkered flag is a good symbol for the lyrical content of the record. 

PZ: What else is on the horizon for Program later in the year?   

RH: We're currently organizing a launch which we're announcing very soon, and a short interstate tour along with a regional one which is a bit further on the horizon. It's been a while since we've been back on the road, but we're all pretty stoked about it. New merch too! It's all coming together, and we're massively appreciative to everyone that's been helping us with it all.

It's a Sign is out June 7th on Anti Fade Records.


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