Over the last couple years, Kel Mason's maniacal bedroom recording venture Gee Tee has fully fleshed into a powerhouse garage band that's made up of some of Sydney's best rockers. Back in March, Gee Tee released their anticipated second album Goodnight Neanderthal, an ultra addictive lo-fi attack of blown out guitars, earworm synth melodies, and bubblegum scuzz that showcases Mason and crew ahead of the pack. Shortly after his set at this year's Jerkfest, we caught up with Mason who tells us all about the moniker's origins, how it evolved into a band, and what it was like earning a top headlining spot at last year's Gonerfest.
With his iconic pink ski mask, spiked up gloves, and worn out distorted vocals, the Sydney weirdo punk Kel Mason's once bedroom recording project Gee Tee has blasted off over the last few years, earning headlining spots at Gonerfest and Anti Fade's Jerkfest, all while backed by a top-notch supergroup of sorts live band. On the frontlines, Mason is joined by fellow weirdo punk guitarist Ishka Edmeades (Tee Vee Repairmann, Satanic Togas, Set-Top Box), keyboardist-guitarist Michael Barker (1-800-Mikey, Bleeding Knees Club), bassist Cam Payne (Concrete Law), and drummer Ryan Ellem (Draggs). According to Mason, everything changed for the moniker after recording the considered classic Chromo-Zone EP with Edmeades in 2019, making the caveman noise a lot more tighter and faster.
Back in March, Gee Tee returned with its long-awaited second album Goodnight Neanderthal on Goner and Urge Records — ten blasts of wonderfully demented power pop and maxed out garage punk that's been tossed around the grease pit a few times. From the rapid fire hooks and cheap synths on "Bad Egg" to the blazing caveman stomp on the title track, Gee Tee offers sharp-edge hooks and ruthless uppercuts from every corner of the race track and his blink-and-you'll-miss-it style carries through the whole record which blasts by so quick you might accidentally let it play through twice before realizing it. And then you'll listen again 'cause you wanna.
With a European tour coming up in July with Satanic Togas, we caught up with Mason who tells us all about the moniker's origins, how it evolved into a band, and what it was like earning a top headlining spot at last year's Gonerfest.
Paperface Zine: It's been a long time coming with your new album, Goodnight Neanderthal, so what is it like to finally have it out?
Kel Mason: Good as, took long enough to record, rockin' that it's finally out. I dig all the tracks on it still (for now), and everyone else seems to be givin' it a hot go. I'm glad it delivered [laughing], lotta hype around it!
PZ: This is your second full-length album since 2018's self-titled debut. How has Gee Tee progressed since that release? You were doing everything yourself before you started recording with Ishka on Chromo-Zone and then eventually forming a band.
KM: I did the Chromo-Zone EP with Ishka when I moved to Sydney and that was a turning point for Gee Tee. That record progressed the sound into something faster and tighter. It sounded more like an actual band than a bedroom recording project. Listening to that first album back-to-back with the new one, to me is night and day when it comes to songwriting style and hooks. I still like most of the tracks on the S/T album but, I find it hard to listen to any releases before it.
PZ: You know even with the ultra addictive, dizzying garage punk and bubblegum wreckage, some of your lyrics are dark and introspective especially on "Within The Walls," "Rock Phone," and the earlier cut from last year, "Someone Else." How do you approach your songwriting and what sort of themes do you like to write about?
KM: Depends on the song, but usually it's the chorus lyric/song name first. The chorus hook's got to be red hot or at least the verse/synth line has to be to carry a more low-key chorus. The songwriting is pretty broad, yeah I got the car track on the album plus other stupid ones about cavemen and losing brain cells [laughing]. As for dark and introspective lyrics though, that's open for interpretation.
PZ: Talk to me about what it was like putting this record together. I read that you re-recorded it before sending it off to Goner Records.
KM: It took ages and pissed me off [laughing]. I started writing the album in late 2020. My drums were set up at the place I was living during 2020/21 so the song output was high, but the song quality was debatable. So on and off, I would have enough tracks for the album throughout 2021 and early '22. I'd sit on the tracks for a couple weeks though, then chuck in the reject bin. As for the re-recording of it. A lot of the album was recorded in the months before I finished it in July '22, but the tracks weren't ones I had final recordings of. A lot of them were demos I had sat on for weeks or even months (e.g. "Grease Rot Chemical") before finally going over to Ishka's house and getting him on the kit. You can make out what tracks were recorded at the same time if you listen to the drums.
PZ: I've read in past interviews that you've described your music as "real Neanderthal" sounding. Did that inspire the album's title at all?
KM: Yeah the music's Neanderthal since it's easy stuff to play. As for the album name, I came up with the song first. I thought "Goodnight Neanderthal" as a track title was funny and it works for an album name. It's stupid in the sense of yeah a caveman getting belted with a club and being kicked out of his cave, but then you could think of it as saying goodbye to a simpler time maybe.
PZ: You put together a tape release for Total Punk in correlation with last year's U.S. tour and Gonerfest 19 appearance. I'm seeing right now that the tape goes for $60 on Discogs! [laughing]
KM: $60? That's demented, it's only the tracks from the album on it. I don't even own a copy [laughing]. I got too belted and forgot to put a couple aside for the archives. Do'h!
PZ: Any favorites off the new album? Every song here is a classic ripper, but I think my favorite right now is "Bad Egg." As a bonus, tell the people your favorite one to play live.
KM: "(I Hate) Drivin' in the City" and "Cell Damage" are my favorites. Best ones to play live? "Grease Rot Chemical" and "Within the Walls."
PZ: Let's backtrack now. What inspired you to make and record your own music? Also, who are some of your musical heroes?
KM: Useless Eaters, Jay Reatard, and the Spits, straight up. I got into those three after getting into Ty Segall when he had just put out Melted. I was already into the Buzzcocks, Clash, etc., but hearing music from Jay Reatard, Useless Eaters and the Spits which mostly, at least the early stuff, was done all on four tracks, which opened up the possibilities of recording music myself. I thought If these guys can make this at home then maybe I could too.
PZ: You were in the Draggs before focusing more on Gee Tee. How exactly did the Gee Tee character start?
KM: I was burnt-out on Draggs and the direction of it. Doing Gee Tee to me was something less serious and more of a muck around project at the time, and it shows in the earlier releases [laughing].
PZ: Then there was the Rubber Room release in 2019 that you did alongside Adam Ritchie, who now plays guitar in Smooch. Tell us a bit about that project.
KM: We're both Screamers fans and I wanted to do something in that vein. I would record the music then email Adam who would chuck the vocals on it. We've been meaning to record a Rubber Room album, but it hasn't happened yet. Maybe this year? It's fun to do just making the music.
PZ: Now talk about the ski mask and the obsession with cars, Ratfink, cheesy old horror flicks, and The Flintstones.
KM: The white ski mask on the Chromo-Zone cover was supposed to imitate the flame proof one's drag racers wear. I changed it to the purple/pink one cause its more like a budget cartoon character you would see in a crappy spin off of Wacky Races. I'm a huge Mummies fan too. I got the name Gee Tee off a Odd Rods card so that's kind of a connection with Ratfink. Ed Roth didn't illustrate them, but the style is heavily inspired by Ratfink. Can't go wrong with cartoons and crappy B-movies.
PZ: What's it like being part of such a tight-knit crew with Tee Vee Repairmann, Research Reactor Corp., R.M.F.C., and 1-800-Mikey? Outside of Sydney, you're becoming more known here in the states.
KM: I don't think about it much to be honest. We're just all mates who hang out and drink beers and go to shows. It's good being around other people who are great songwriters though, it's a motivator. I remember Ishka showed me the new Tee Vee Repairmann album like, must of been early last year when he had finished it, and I was blown away by how good it was. I thought, "shit, I'm gonna have to kick this fuckin Gee Tee one into gear!" [laughing].
PZ: Talk a bit about the G.T.R.R.C. comps and Gee Tee Vee Halloween 21 7" with Ishka. Do these releases just come about when you're all goofing off? I really dig that Boys cover!
KM: Pretty much. The covers comps are fun to do. The second one was done out of boredom during the pandemic and the third one happened as a follow-up since the second one turned out so well and a lot of people were keen to be on one. Turned into a headache to organize it though, I never thought it would blow up and end up having 46 songs on it. That being said, it turned out well and has a lot of smokin' covers on it. The Boys cover on that Halloween 7" is great, but my favorite track is "Buddy Holly Lives In My Basement." That's a premium bit of Ishka songwriting [laughing].
PZ: You guys all do your own and sometimes each other's artwork. Do you just have stacks of old monster and motocross magazines lying around specifically for Gee Tee?
KM: Yeah I've got piles of motocross and car magazines mostly from my dad. I got a late '80s Ninja magazine off him recently that's crack up, has the photo submissions page with the magazine's fans rockin' the ninja gear, plus a how to use a giant mallet as a weapon article. 1970s-80s magazines have the best stuff to collage usually. Hard to find everything in magazines though, there's heaps of stuff online obviously too. Scanning and assembling images on the computer is mainly how I make collages now, with ease of resizing, color changing, etc. You can always print stuff off and re-scan it if ya want to make it seem like it's from a magazine.
PZ: 1-800 Mikey and Tee Vee Repairman are going to be coming to the states next fall for the 20th anniversary of Gonerfest along with a mini tour. Will you be joining them to sling the guitar?
KM: I wish I was coming over this year since that Gonerfest lineup is smoking hot too. The ticket prices to catch a flight to the U.S.A. are fucked though.
PZ: One of my favorite Gee Tee moments was when you covered "Born to Lose" at last year’s You Too Fest in Philly and shit went completely off the rails. Was that a memorable experience for you at all especially during your first ever U.S. tour?
KM: [laughing] Yeah it got pretty loose at the You Too Fest. All over it was a really memorable experience, but in particular the New York City shows were wild. It was sick to see Prison Affair live and in the flesh blow the stage apart. Of course Gonerfest too. Great to hang out with everyone and piss it up. Only thing I got bummed on was losing my voice early on in the tour, do'h!
PZ: The new album was recently reviewed by Pitchfork. What's your reaction to that?
KM: It's cool, fair to say Pitchfork holds a bit of an influence over how a release is perceived. So I'm glad they didn't shit on it [laughing].
PZ: You recently played a set at this year's Jerkfest. How did that go and who were some of your favorite bands you saw that night?
KM: Jerkfest 9 was rockin'! Really stoked we got to play it this year. My favorite bands I saw were The Vacant Lot and Geld.
PZ: Following the new album, what's next for Gee Tee?
KM: There's the Satanic Togas/Gee Tee Europe tour happening in July. Never been to Europe before so that'll be rockin'. Heaps of smoking hot bands over there. Plus a couple splits with bands lined up I have to record tracks for and of course the difficult third Gee Tee LP [laughing]. Who knows how long that one's gonna take, hopefully not as long as this one!
Goodnight Neanderthal is out now on Goner and Urge Records.