Tropical Fuck Storm's ringleader Gareth Liddiard reflects on the dangers of conspiracy theories, his band's new feature-length film, and the recording behind the twisted, rambunctious whirlwind of his band's latest album, Deep States.
When it rains, it pours, and Melbourne legends Tropical Fuck Storm have been dishing out an array of turbulent projects over the past few months to keep audiences on their feet. Following the release of their third studio album, Deep States, released in August 2021 through Joyful Noise Recordings, Tropical Fuck Storm released a hectic music documentary called Goody Goody Gumdrops last December featuring unique live performances and an absurd, comical glance at how the band operates at their home base in Central Victoria. And just last month, they released a demonic three-track EP in collaboration with King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard called Satanic Slumber Party. Additionally, the post-apocalyptic acid punk disco scuzzheads will be embarking on an international tour, playing shows in the United States, Canada, Europe, and the United Kingdom for the first time since 2019.
Composed of frontman Gareth Liddiard (The Drones, Springtime), bassist Fiona Kitschin (The Drones), guitarist and keyboardist Erica Dunn (Mod Con, Palm Springs), and drummer Lauren Hammel (High Tension); the supergroup have not stopped since stepping foot out of COVID-19 lockdown. While interweaving amongst their alternative band commitments, Tropical Fuck Storm have yet again pierced their listeners' eardrums with incredible tales of conspiracies, politics and destruction. Deep States is an album that could be listened to hundreds of times, and each separate rotation would reveal something that you hadn't noticed before — with its twisting rhythms, hypnotic distorted guitars, and thundering vocals amongst clever witty lyricism.
Satanic Slumber Party takes on a more diabolical sound, with whispers and ghostly laughter haunting the atmosphere. Although not far off from Tropical Fuck Storm's usual audible vision, the EP takes on a slightly more experimental route with three succinct tracks in conjunction with King Gizzard. With various industrial sound effects and punchy choruses, comes a mixed bag of unique compositions much like the band themselves. In a press release, Kitschin, elaborates: "King Gizz were up at our house a while ago, recording their album Fishing For Fishies [released in 2019] with Gaz [Gareth Liddiard]. Then after a long day recording and a few too many drinks, the Gizz guys and us all wore hats and recorded a very long jam, which we called "Hat Jam." Gizz took ideas from the jam and made up a new song called the "The Dripping Tap" and we took the recording and turned it into Satanic Slumber Party. It's four guitars, three drummers, two synths, bass, harmonica, electronic sax and lots of singers and silliness. It's like "Love Shack" by the The B-52s except it's evil."
We were fortunate enough to get in contact with Liddiard, to chat about the new studio effort, his band's new feature-length film, and a few cheeky conspiracies about our world.
Paperface Zine: You've been quite busy since the release of the latest Tropical Fuck Storm album Deep States. Tell me all the project's you've been part of since then.
Gareth Liddiard: Yeah, we made a movie! It's called Goody Goody Gumdrops. It was meant to be a regular livestreaming thing, but it got a bit more weird and wonderful than that. We live in the bush with lots of kangaroos, snakes, and strange birds so we included that kind of shit in it. It's us playing a bunch of songs in different ways in different places around our big property in the bush. It’s like A Hard Day's Night except no one has ever heard of us. We streamed it, we'll probably release it somehow, somewhere, sometime. Then we turned that into a live LP and have been busy playing shows. My other project Springtime — with Jim White from the Dirty Three/Xylouris White and Chris Abrahams from The Necks — released a new EP last month. Me and Jim and also Dan Luscombe from The Drones made the soundtrack for the new streaming show Fire Bite on Amazon Prime. That was fun and meant we didn't all die in the gutter. And by the time you publish this TFS article, we will have a limited edition double A-Side 12-inch King Gizzard, a wider vinyl release will come later. I recorded one of their records at our HQ in Central Victoria where we live. We all got drunk and made up a cool song that's about 17 minutes long. Gizz/TFS which is three drummers, four guitarists, four singers, keys, harp, and lots of other mad shit. Then they recorded something 18 minutes long recently ["The Dripping Tap"] and that'll be the two sides of the LP. We've done a tons of other shit too and have a tour coming up, but I’m getting tired just explaining it all.
You've mentioned that your aim is to steer away from trope and convention when writing new music. What does this process look like? Do you spend a lot of time experimenting with sounds, and how do you write something that is so unique?
We just try anything. It's like Tom Waits said "you're flying, cool, now fly upside down." We have a big hard drive full of crazy shit that we've made over the past three years while we're bored or off chops. It gets fuller and fuller. So whenever we need a starting point we trawl that and find something we missed first time around. Or we just start from scratch. Our friends always come around while we're recording because we live on a river in three houses that we rent for fuck all. They all join in and have opinions or drugs that point us in the right direction.
What does a typical TFS writing session look like? Does each member take on a specific role? How is it different from your other projects?
Generally whoever is singing is the one who wrote the bulk of the lyrics. Everything else is up for grabs. Writing is an act of desperation. You just keep going until it's finished and try to make it fun along the way.
As individual musicians who maintain other musical ventures, what’s something that’s unique you each bring to shape TFS' sound and how do you guys balance the various projects you're part of?
God I don't know. We all like to party. We all have childhood traumas. Trauma is great at putting a rock 'n' roll rocket up you're arse. Apart from that we all have our skills and flair. It's nice that we don't all sing the same. Erica is kind of contralto, Fi is an OG Madonna fan, and me and Hammer [Hammel] are way too loud.
How did TFS form? Was it sorta natural after playing in The Drones?
Yeah it was natural. The Drones got kind of old so we thought it'd be good to do something new. Erica sang on Drone's records and she'd tour with us sometimes so she was an easy choice. I saw Hammer at a show before I knew her and knew that if I ever needed a drummer she'd be it. So we all got together and rehearsed for three weeks then toured the USA with King Gizzard in 2019 and we were off and racing.
Going through the incredibly tough Victorian lockdowns took a toll on your ability to be creative and write new songs. How did you pull yourself out of this rut? What inspired you to get back into writing music?
Necessity pulled us out. The rut was a bitch. It didn't help at all. We don't all live in the same place so most of the time it was impossible to get together. Deep States was a cunt of a thing to make. I've never found it so difficult to get through an album. Which sucks, but it was kind of reassuring knowing that almost everyone else in the world was having a hard time too.
When coming up with ideas for songs, or indulging in some random conspiracy theory about the world, did you ever find yourself so deep into the internet black hole? How far have you gone in your research about conspiracies and news events… or are your stories so wild and imaginary that it's somehow believable?
Well we travel a lot so often things present themselves in the real world before I go and check them out further on the net. Like we were in New York or somewhere like that about three years back and did an Instagram post about our upcoming show at The Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C. and we started getting all these people commenting saying we like fucking and/or eating children etc etc… that's how we first found out about QAnon. Shit like that always pops up. Then you go and do your own research so to speak and write a song about it.
Picking right up from your two previous records, Deep States is such a twisted, rambunctious whirlwind of sonic exploration, packaged in a tight container. Take me through the recording of your latest album.
It was like swimming through a thick wall of dog shit for months on end. COVID wasn't exactly inspirational and the intense lockdowns meant that whenever we got to work we'd get shut down. Two steps forward, one step back for miles and miles. It hurts even thinking about it.
Which track from Deep States do you think is the freakiest? Do any of the stories particularly make you worry about the real world and how wild humans can become?
I don't know because they're all a bit odd. Yeah I worry. Democracy seems to be on the wane. Everyone took it for granted and now they use the freedom it gave them to think up then fight about completely pointless and fantastical bullshit.
I am curious as to how you predict the demise of earth will occur. Do you have any interesting takes? Will humans find a way to occupy every planet in the solar system while earth is left to rot or will we become extinct?
Haha I don't see how we can occupy other planets. Considering that Mars is the most hospitable place after Earth and yet it is more inhospitable than the bottom of the Mariana Trench or the top of the highest mountain in Antarctica or the inside of fucking Chernobyl. Sure we'll visit Mars and other places, but you can't live there. Don't listen to billionaires. Even if saving our species meant going to somehow live on Mars it wouldn't be worth saving humanity. Why live if we have to live in Hell? Fuck that. Dying is way better and we're all gonna die anyway. It's not so bad. Fixing Earth would be much easier and way more beneficial to us and all other living stuff. God knows how we'll go extinct, but we will because nothing lasts forever. What gets me is the question of who will be last. There will be a last person and they'd be as real as you or I. What a dubious honor.
Deep States is out now via Joyful Noise Recordings. Stream the new album below and purchase tickets for Topical Fuck Storm's upcoming tour here.