Earlier this month, Melbourne punks OUZO! returned with their new 7" State of Affairs / Balloons, a full blast of wobbly post-punk bolstered by nervy guitar lines and a brash DIY spirit. We caught up with guitarist Nathan Korver and vocalist Aidan Link-Freeman who tell us more about their beginnings, the new 7" and their soon to come debut album.
It's hard to keep up with Melbourne's busy underground scene and the four-piece punk band OUZO! recently released their new 7" State of Affairs / Balloons to steamroll listeners' eardrums. Released through the Geelong-based label Weather Vane Records (Vintage Crop, Dragnet, Set-Top Box) and overseas on Polaks Records and French Wine Records, the two perfectly matched tracks follow up last year's dynamic debut EP, Dried Tomato, which showed off the band sharpening their DIY ethos, while drawing upon their left-field pop sensibilities particularly on the single "Glorified Junkie."
Consisting of vocalist Aidan Link-Freeman, guitarist Nathan Korver, drummer Josh Peeters and newly recruited bassist Veeka Nazarova of Kosmetika, the Melbourne punks make hyper-speed angular punk with razor sharp edges and a brute intelligence. Mastered by DIY wizard Mikey Young (Power Supply, Total Control, Eddy Current Suppression Ring), the new 7" is an onslaught of nervy art punk influences with fractured shards of garage-punk that's lobbed with a snotty disdain — it's five minutes of frustration and nihilism conveyed with an overwhelming intensity and raw urgency.
We had the pleasure of catching up caught up Korver and Link-Freeman who tell us more about the beginnings OUZO!, the new 7" and their soon to come debut album.
Paperface Zine: Hey congrats on the new release! First take me through how this project started and what was the vision when forming?
Nathan Korver: OUZO! started with myself and Josh [Peeters] jamming when we used to live around the corner from each other. Josh and I never really had much of a vision, we'd jam some really heavy stuff or very '60s garage and psych rock. Aidan [Link-Freeman] joined not too long after we started jamming and we all bonded over that same '60s sort of stuff and that was the direction we were heading in to begin with, but it ended up kind of just being as far from that as we intended it to be.
Aidan Link-Freeman: We wouldn't write a song with the intention of sounding like a Syd Barrett song or whatever. The songs would just be what they came out as and from there that was the direction or vision we followed, it was just a very natural thing.
You recently brought in Veeka Nazarova of Kosmetika to play bass. What sort of energy has she brought to the band and how has it helped?
Korver: It's been amazing having Veeka in the band now, having someone who is so dedicated to practicing and improving. Veeka only started playing bass when she joined OUZO! and to go from just starting to playing shows in the space of a few months is mind blowing. We've also got her doing backing vocals for the live show now which we hadn't had before and it just adds another dynamic to that.
How do you approach your songwriting? What things are likely to inspire you to write and how do your original ideas develop into songs?
Link-Freeman: I suppose I try to keep the OUZO! Songwriting approach fairly natural. So not letting influences interact with the writing on purpose. Whatever comes out will. Whenever I've tried to write or sing like somebody it almost always sounds vein which I think takes away from the energy of the song. I wish I had some super exciting creative way of writing but I think it's just like everybody else, when the idea arrives you take it to lunch pay for it's meal maybe buy it an espresso martini and hope that it treats you right.
Your 2020 debut EP, Dried Tomato, was a great introduction to your tightly-wound rush of rabid garage rock and wiry post-punk. What do you remember about the recording of that EP and how did it help shape where you are now?
Link-Freeman: I remember there was like a giant gap between recording because of lockdown and we had the drums tracks sitting there for a really long time before anything else happened.
Korver: Because there was such a big gap, there was nearly too much time to be able to listen back and change things. I re-recorded the guitars way too many times.
Now looking back just over a year since its release, what are your thoughts on it?
Korver: I think at the time we were all sort of new to playing music and even writing songs. Before OUZO!, I'd never written a song before so it's always good to look back on it as like the start of it all which I mean I guess it was.
You recently released your new 7" State of Affairs / Balloons through Weather Vane Records and overseas through Polaks Records and French Wine Records. What was the recording like for these two new tracks?
Korver: The whole process was exactly the same as Dried Tomato except we probably did the recording a lot quicker. We'd been playing the songs live since we started so we probably felt more comfortable and confident recording them.
Nate, I read that you guys always wanted to release these two songs as a 7" single and you described them as "inseparable." Why do you think they're symbiotic to each other?
Korver: I think it was mainly because we wrote them one right after another and we'd usually play them together at shows. "State of Affairs" was originally going to be on Dried Tomato, but we switched for "Glorified Junkie" funnily enough.
I see that Mikey Young has been mastering these couple releases (that man is everywhere!), so what's it been like working with him?
Korver: Hard to find a band in Melbourne that he hasn't had credit on for at least one of their releases but I wouldn't really say we worked with him, we just send the mixes off and he sends them back mastered.
Aside from the new 7", what have you guys been up to? I read that you're working on your debut album and if so, can you discuss it a bit?
Korver: We are slowly working through the new material and learning them all as a band. Like most bands at the moment, all of the songs were written while in lockdown, so it isn't really until you start playing them as a band you can see how they sound and maybe things you'd like to change.
You've been known for your wildly energetic performances and I know you recently had the State of Affairs / Balloons 7" launch at The Retreat Hotel, but do you have any upcoming shows soon? Also, what was it like returning to the stage and playing live music again?
Link-Freeman: It has been fantastical returning to live shows. We've only played a few so far, but the reception has enhanced my ego to new heights. Aside from this the energy of playing has been unknowingly beneficial. I am no longer yelling at strangers on the streets and stealing the shoes from those of the same foot size.
Korver: Upcoming shows wise as of right now, we are playing at Nighthawks on January 8th with Dragnet and Gut Health as well as playing Wrapped Up 3 in April, but more shows will pop up!
Wrapped Up 3 has such a great lineup! How stoked are you to play that?
Korver: Yeah! So stoked to be on that! A long time coming! Heaps of friends on the lineup too so it'll be an amazing day/night for sure!
Link-Freeman: Pretty honored to be playing with some bands we've been listening to and seeing for years.
Some of the best punk music has been coming out of Melbourne and punk legend Henry Rollins is certainly a fan of it. What's it like being part of it?
Korver: To put in Larry David's words it's "pretty, pretty, PRETTY good."
Buy tickets for Wrapped Up 3 here and snag a copy of the new 7" through Polaks Records or French Wine Records.