Ex-pat Australian duo Civil Civic are on of the most eagerly anticipated acts at this weekend’s 1-2-3-4 Festival in Shoreditch Park. Their instrumentals combine soaring choruses straight out of The Pixies’ heyday with Sonic Youth’s signature guitar melodics and the explosive noise of Fuck Buttons. It’s like having 50,000 Volt live jump cables attached to your nipples whilst sat in a torrential downpour, the electrical surge enlightening then exploding a wall of funfair lights behind you, which then rains down glass in slow motion to look like stars.
Split between London and Barcelona, Aaron Cupples (guitar and noise) and Ben Green (bass and noise) have released a five track EP Less/Unless and the fantastic Run Overdrive Double B-Side single, a track with the rare quality of sounding both retro and forward looking, like being nostalgic for things that haven’t happened yet. Don’t Panic nailed Ben down to find out where they’re from, the best fights on tour and which song they’d teach the world.
Who are you and what do you play in the band?
I am Ben. I play Bass!! Aaron is Aaron. He busts the AXE!!!
You're both Australian, where did you grow up and what was it like there? Did you know each other from childhood and do you remember when you first met?
I haven’t done many press interviews, but dang if this isn’t the first time somebody has literally asked for my life story. Jesus. I grew up in Canberra, the capital. I was moved there from Manchester by my parents when I was three years old, because my Dad got a job at a University. I moved to Melbourne when I was 20 because if you’re in a band and you don’t want life to suck, you move to Melbourne. I never met Aaron there. I knew he existed, and we had friends in common, but hey, it’s a medium sized city. There are people you just don’t meet. He emailed me from London (I got the email in Barcelona, my home) and proposed BANDNESS! I listened to the Less Unless demo and said YEEEHA!
Did you have musical upbringings? What was the first record you bought?
My mother was a piano dabbler in the Bach mode and my father was a guitar dabbler in the Ry Cooder mode. I wanted to play drums, but they made it clear as crystal shit that there would never be a real drum-kit in their house, so I opted for guitar and attempted to emulate Eddy Van-Halen. That was a waste of time and energy. But now I play bass for Civil Civic, so don’t question my methods.
How did you each end up in Europe, London and Barcelona respectively?
I moved to Berlin with two guys I was doing production work with. After two years of fighting with each other in Berlin we decided to move to Barcelona and fight with each other there. It sucked, but it got me the heck out of Melbourne, didn’t it.
How did the band come together, how did Civil Civic start?
Aaron emailed me, out of the blue like. He had this whole thing schemed out before I’d even seen his face. I’m living in his dream.
How do you describe your music?
Fuck, people actually do ask. They say, "Oh, you’re in a band? What sort of thing?" I tell them it’s antsy post-punk stuff with a drum machine. They shut up after that.
Living in different cities the process of writing tracks must be convoluted and a little awkward. How does it work between you? Does having the dialogue of sending tracks backwards and forwards to each other offer, perhaps somewhat paradoxically, more opportunity for innovation, improvisation or inspiration in the songs?
One thing it does is slow things down by a factor of about a thousand. The other thing it does is force you to actually listen to each-others ideas before dismissing them. That’s a bonus. It remains untested whether we can write in the same room.
What's been your favourite moment or story from touring so far? Any classic bust-ups or fisticuffs?
Aaahhh, Gothenburg. When Jonk from Alleycat Records grabbed my balls and told me he was going to fix me up with some Swedish pussy while I reeled around close to retching on that yuppie scumbag rooftop terrace, I thought life was over. There was a next day, though.
What are you listening to at the moment? What's been the tour bus anthem of the recent tour?
Moderat. Dang, I love the Moderat record. Creedence were pretty big in the car there, naturally. Aaron just listens to this Prune Slicker
track on repeat. We generally don’t rely on the stereo for anthems. We just burst into song and pummel each other with our own anthemic themes. Aaaaaaaahhh!
Top five bands that have inspired or informed your music?
Hard to say. But if you were going to try and construct a Franken-CIVIL CIVIC from parts of other bands. These records would be a good start:
Butthole Surfers – Rembrandt Pussyhorse
Isao Tomita – Kosmos
Big Black – Songs About Fucking
Midnight Oil – 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1
Aphex Twin – I care because you do
Which city is better, London or Barcelona? Are you planning on living in the same city anytime soon, or do you need the distance between you?
Barcelona is great if you want to get a tan and be an idiot. London is great if you want to cash in and be a tosser. No plans to live in the same city. I’ll live in the same 500-mile radius as Cupples when someone digs up my coffin and buries it in Aarons´ local park.
If the world was about to end and you had to pick the last song that humanity would listen to, what would it be?
Aaron would say John Cage – 4'33" because he is a splendid wanker. I say Paperback Writer.
What's next for the band, do you have any more releases lined up? You're still unsigned right? Which label would you most like to sign to, if any?
No songs 'lined up' but we hope to write record and release another by November. There are a couple in our live set that we haven't recorded, so we'll just use them if we hit a writer’s block. We'll sign to the first label that buys us two cokes and a Margareta.
For more info see http://www.myspace.com/civilcivic