A Blast at 100mph: The Visceral & Auditory Assault of Civic
Civic's commanding frontman Jim McCullough discusses the recording of his band's debut album, Future Forecast, and their collective musical ethos of street-savvy punk sentiments.
Within the first two minutes of Civic's adrenaline-fueled debut album, Future Forecast, you can practically hear the spit flying from commanding frontman Jim McCullough's mouth on the melodically blazing opener "Radiant Eye," the first taste you get from the Aussie punk rockers at the height of their powers.
Since 2018, the Melbourne five-piece have been puncturing eardrums with their impressive rush of unhinged garage punk or "gutter rock classicism," extremely fast tempos, and propulsive noise rock that's tightly wrapped with an unholy urgency and familiarity. Incorporating early strains of caveman pub-wrought punk that evokes the days when The Saints reigned supreme in Australia's underground scene, there's a healthy dose of jangle and melodicism that's wedged in-between the band's heated intensity. Instead of tip-toeing around edges, they annihilate them.
Comprised of vocalist Jim McCullough, guitarist Lewis Hodgson, bassist Roland Hlavka, drummer David Forcier and new recruit, guitarist Jackson Harry. Since the pandemic, Forcier, who's also a respected underground photographer, has been stuck in his hometown of Canada, dealing with COVID-19 border closures and residency hurdles, thus drummer Matt Blach (Beans and The Murlocs) has been filling his role in the band's energetic live shows. Civic is the music of familiar faces from a whole bunch of bands in Melbourne's underground scene including: Cuntz, A.D. Skinner, Leather Lickers, Drug Sweat, Pregnancy Scares, Planet Slayer, The Snakes, Whipper, Barbiturates, Polish and Cobwebbs. Civic first assembled in 2016 after McCullough and former guitarist Darcy Grigg were in a bowling alley in Japan bonding over the conceptual ethos of a band that sounded "all screwed up."
"I'd known Darcy from shows and the pub and I'd run into him and some of his mates in Tokyo when I was on holiday," McCullough said in an exchange through email. "After many Kirin cans from the vendor and a bunch of gutter balls, we got to talking about music. We agreed on the need for more bands in Oz that sound like The Saints, Radio Birdman, Celibate Rifles, you know that sort of thing. There's a formula and sound that we all love, that we feel shouldn't be dead."
Early on, Civic had a space at Irene Warehouse, where one of McCullough's old bands would practice. After a few jams, before they knew it, the band composed "New Vietnam" and "Call the Doctor" — two brutal blows of bristling punk that would be central to their highly sought-after debut EP New Vietnam, released through Anti Fade Records in 2018. The two cuts were patched together even before they even settled on a name. According to McCullough, they played their first show as Diamond Dust, named after the Andy Warhol painting, but to Lewis' suggestion, they changed to Civic. McCullough described how most of their songs come together while jamming.
"Sometimes it's a riff on the spot or someone will have one in the bank that they'll bring to the table. I generally just mumble my way through a new song when we're jamming it, and try to find a melody. Then later I'll sit down with a demo and flesh out the lyrics. We all know what it needs to sound like and what we want to hear. Hence why we started doing it. What we are doing is not a new sound, but we are just trying to keep the flame alive."
Following the reverberating rock 'n' roll of the Those Who No EP in 2018 and the cruising Selling, Sucking, Blackmail, Bribes 7" in 2019, Civic got in touch with Eric Moore, the founder of Flightless Records and former drummer and manager for King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, who expressed interest in working with the band early on. In November of 2020, Flightless released the turbo-charged Radiant Eye 7" that blasts magnificently with its muscular power chords and a ripping brass section from Stella Rennex (Parsnip, Smarts). Its B-side is a blistering run through of The Creation's classic riff-driven debut single "Making Time." Four months later, Flightless would release Civic's eruptive debut album, Future Forecast, a brooding and refreshingly direct first offering that's a full-bodied throwback to another era.
"We wrote all the music for Future Forecast in the jam room and had a load of phone demos. Flightless had something they were working on and asked us to come into the Gizz studio to lay down a track. There was a day of studio time available with Sam Joseph. There were supposed to be two bands going in that day but the others bailed, so we just decided to lay down everything we had. We'd bought an interface after NV so we could track stuff ourselves. We did a bunch in our old jam space we shared with Total control, Terry, and Faceless Burial. We fucked around with it all for way too long, then Dave got deported and the pandemic happened so we had to kick into gear and get it done. I would say that every release we do, we try to make it sound different from the others. Future Forecast sounds like an album, and that was the goal."
Unlike their previous recordings where they would record most tracks on a reel-to-reel with Billy Gardner of Anti Fade Records at the helm, the band had fellow Melbourne multitasker, Mikey Young (Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Total Control, Power Supply), mix and master the new album, to get it exactly how it needed to be. Future Forecast is an album of tightly-coiled propulsion that's big on power pop-laden hooks, siren-like chugging riffs, and searing solos, while exploring the elevating anxieties of everyday life — including police brutality, pollution and television news programs. "Lyrically I'm always just trying to tell more stories, write better hooks and keep shit refreshing. If people want a political punk anthem, they're out there somewhere."
Like many bands from their scene, Civic were forced to cancel performances amid the COVID surge. However in November and December of last year, they were able to launch Future Forecast to a live audience at The Croxton and The Corner Hotel alongside rising punk bands like Floodlights, The Prize, Laughing Gear and Phil and The Tiles. The band also announced an Australian tour, beginning at The Chippo Hotel in Sydney on March 26th, playing a late show with Dick Dudley and Private Wives. They're also playing a set at the Wrapped Up 3 Festival at Phoenix Park in Ballan on April 2nd that'll also include more of Melbourne's best live bands like Parsnip and Delivery. Civic have also been propelling their way into the states — last December, ATO Records, and Goner Records co-released Future Forecast. "I think like all musicians around the globe, we were just itching to play some shows. We're hoping to come over to the U.S.A this year for the first time as a band and hopefully Europe depending on this shit storm."
Aside from the AUS tour, Civic contributed a love song to Flightless' first ever compilation album, Love Hurts, which also features tracks from Traffik Island, Leah Senior, Tim Presley's White Fence, and more. McCullough also released earlier this month his new painting book, Glue Factory, a collection of artworks inspired by his experiences working as an undertaker for several years.
With their music grounded in fierce rock 'n' roll with street-savvy punk sentiments pivoted by a collective musical ethos, Civic are at the top of their game and have plenty of momentum in the tank. Until they release another record, Future Forecast will be on repeat. Stay tuned for more tenacious adventures.
Future Forecast is out now on Flightless Records.