Split System: Primal Riffing That Shreds Deep into the Streets
Following the release of Split System's new two-song single that's full of street-punk muscle and primitive rock 'n' roll, we caught up with guitarists Arron Mawson and Ryan Webb to discuss the band's sudden rise in the Naarm/Melbourne underground scene, their remarkably consistent output of releases, and their upcoming European tour.
Naarm/Melbourne garage punks Split System is a super of group of sorts that made up of vocalist Jackson Reid Briggs (Jackson Reid Briggs & The Heaters), guitarist Arron Mawson (Stiff Richards, Doe St, Legless Records), guitarist Ryan Webb (Speed Week), bassist Deon Slaviero (Grand Rapids, The Black Heart Death Cult), and drummer Mitch McGregor (No Zu). Following last year's well-received debut album, Vol. 1, the band returned earlier this month with their anticipated 7" simply titled SPLIIT SYSTEM, a new two-song single that's loaded with plenty of rich, indestructible hooks and a bit more spit and polish. Released on the ever reliable Legless Records (Stiff Richards, C.O.F.F.I.N., Smooch), the new single explodes upon ignition with its A-side "Bullet" that's griped by its nervy swagger and its B-side "On The Street" that's an unholy pileup of racing dual guitar lines, cycling rhythms, and ragged vocals. The last two years have been big for Split System and to dive into everything we love about the band, we caught up with Mawson and Webb to discuss the band's sudden rise in the Naarm/Melbourne underground scene, their remarkably consistent output of releases, and their upcoming European tour.
Paperface Zine: Take us through the origins of Split System. Also, where did the band name come from?
Arron Mawson: It kind of fell together out of boredom or I guess a lack of excitement over Covid lockdowns in 2021. Jackson was stinging to get a new project going so he hit me up to start working on some stuff together. We booked a jam in between lockdowns, he'd already been jamming some stuff with Deon and we wanted two guitarists so we hit up Ryan to come jump in too. Jackson sat on drums that session and we just went round in a circle and through songs at the wall to see if anything stuck. Everyone seemed to glue really well so we got Mitchy to come in and we roughed out a basic structure for the songs which became the first 7'. There wasn't heaps of thought put into that name but I guess you can attach a bit of meaning to it, we live in a fairly split system at the moment... everything's hot and cold, red and blue, etc., etc.
PZ: What's something that you admire about this lineup? How does this differ from your guys' other bands like Stiff Richards, Speed Week, or the Heaters?
AM: Honestly, the friendship and how well we work together. It's been a super busy year and we haven't had a heap of time to get stuff done, but whenever we get in a room together things just seem to work and we have heaps of fun while doing it.
All the bands we're in are equally as special to us, but this lineup has the flame burning at the moment so why not keep the fire burning.
PZ: Lay on us some of your influences. Who are some of your musical heroes? I definitely hear a bit of Celibate Rifles and Radio Birdman.
AM: Rifles, Birdman, Saints are a given, but I'm not sure if that was exactly intentional, I think growing up in the Australian music scene bands like these are deeply ingrained in everyone.
A side from that, the greatest influence is the scene around us now. I'm constantly mind blown by the quality of music and people we get to play with each week.
The underground scene in AUS at the moment is firing and we're super grateful to be surrounded by it. Rack Off Records, Anti Fade, Shipping Steel, Blow Blood, and obviously our Legless crew are a few of many key influences.
PZ: Earlier this month, you released your new 7" SPLIIT System that includes "Bullet" b/w "On the Street." How did those two tracks come together and is this release leading to the next phase of Split System?
Ryan Webb: Deon had the main riff to "Bullet" floating around for a while. We had a day down at Mawson's place in Rye and fleshed it out together. Mawson brought along the riffs to "On the Street" at the same time. We recorded with Andy Robinson again at Bakehouse Studios. We're heading back into the studio in late April to work on another album. You can expect something later this year.
PZ: C.O.F.F.I.N.'s Ben Portnoy filmed the clip for "On the Street." How did that get put together?
RW: Benny is a legend and offered to put together a clip for us using his old VHS setup. He's got a bunch of sick stuff online at the moment. We spent an arvo with him filming stuff in early March at Vic Markets, Last Chance Bar, and the drains — where there was a succulent human shit awaiting us. Benny did a great job, we love the way it turned out. Cheers Benny!
PZ: Let's backtrack now. So early last year, you released your debut single "Hit Me." Even though you're still a relatively young band, you're all veteran rockers. What's been the evolution for you guys since then?
AM: As spoken about before, that first selection of songs was literally thrown together in a single jam. It was all energy, but as we've had more time to play together we've definitely thrown a little more polish on some of the newer tracks while still keeping that raw feel.
PZ: Prior to the debut album, you released your self-titled debut EP in March '22. This is the result of recording remotely via email after that only jam session. What was that like and was it difficult at all? Regardless, it turned out great!
AM: It actually happened quite easily. They were only supposed to be demos, but Deon did a rough mix of them once we'd sent all our stems in and we were all pretty stoked with it. I guess when you have no expectations it's hard to be disappointed [laughs].
PZ: You then followed it up with your debut LP Vol. 1 last fall. How did this album come together and what was it like recording it with Andy Robinson? It definitely carries on from the debut EP, but a bit more polished like you mentioned.
AM: Recording the LP was a heap of fun. By that time, we'd actually managed to get three or four jams in and finally able to be in a room together for a weekend. It was nice to develop the songs a little more and produce something that felt more complete.
Andy was a dream to record with and did a great job with the sound. Definitely looking forward to working with him again this month.
PZ: How did you approach the songwriting and what sort of themes did you explore across the debut LP?
AM: It's pretty nice with this band, everyone contributes equally. We usually just send voice recordings to a group chat and fluff things out roughly at home so that when we get to jamming we already have an idea of songs to focus on or what the other band members are thinking. Lyrics wise... I know with Vol.1 Jackson wrote a lot of the lyrics while spending time with his new born. There is a mix of emotions attached to family combined with observations of the world going by. Love and chaos
PZ: What was the idea behind the cover art?
AM: Deon was to thank for the artwork. The center image was taken by Jamie Marcetic from our first gig at the Tannery, a DIY skatepark in Preston which has sadly been destroyed. The tannery crew had thrown some of the best DIY hardcore punk gigs there and being our first gig it felt nice to use that image. Now that it's gone I'm glad we did.
PZ: How have the live shows been going so far? That Blonde Revolver one at the beginning of the year looked wild!
RW: The shows so far this year have been awesome. Heaps of different faces getting out — young and old. We played in Adelaide for the first time which was a lot of fun. We love playing with the Blondies and the Rack Off Records crew. We played at Nighthawks to a packed room with heaps of sweat — the way things should be.
PZ: What's the craziest show you've played so far?
AM: Definitely when we played Chopped Fest back in December which is a custom chopper / drag racing festival in Victoria. We played on the back of this old truck both days. It was stinking hot and we were hardly able fit on the truck bed. It just did laps of the campground while we played and people would jump on and follow while we're surrounded by bikes and cars doing burnouts.
PZ: What's coming up next? Nag Nag Nag right? That's a stacked bill.
RW: We're excited to play at Nag Nag Nag, it's a sick lineup and it'll be the first time we've played in Sydney as a band. We're heading off to Europe from July to August which is really exciting. We'll be playing shows in France — including Binic Festival which will be huge, Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. We've got some fundraiser gigs for that tour: May 13th at The Curtin Hotel in Melbourne with Phil & the Tiles, Stepmother, and Doe St. We're also having an all ages fundraiser in Frankston at Singing Bird Studios with Rot TV, Cutters and Billiam. They'll both be a heap of fun.
PZ: Do you hope to tour the states in the next couple of years?
AM: U.S. Tour would be amazing. We probably need to find some contacts because it can be bit overwhelming trying to figure out visas and routing. Would be sick to experience a Gonerfest or something like that. Nudge Nudge.
SPLIIT SYSTEM is out now on Legless Records.