Australia’s capital city’s Super Best Friends have just put out their debut album covering various topical issues in a hard rock fashion. Tomatrax caught up with Johnny Barrington from the band to ask a few questions.
Where did the name Super Best Friends come from?
It’s from South Park. Like all band names, I have a like/hate relationship with it, depending on how serious the other band names on a bill are. I definitely don’t love it. Mum says it’s a nice positive name, not like ‘Killing Heidi’.
You’ve just released your debut album, what’s it like to have it out?
We’re all pretty excited to have it out. It’s been a long time coming for the entity known as Super Best Friends and even the record itself is the product of 18 months of focus and trial and error. Time to start on the difficult second album.
Where did the album title Status Updates come from?
Social media. My habit of irritating friends on Facebook with my opinions and also the fact that young-ish Australians in general seem to be way more mouthy and selectively vocal about politics since the change of government. Conservatives bring out a rage that should really also be leveled at Federal Labor. The album’s not all political though, just like status updates aren’t always political, so the title also refers to social gripes. Over-priced beer in a flash new venue that used to be once a cool, dank dive with heaps of “character”. You know, the important things.
Did you consider putting a picture of a seat on an action bus on the album’s cover?
Haha good Canberra reference. When taking the photo inside the train, I didn’t set out to make it the album cover. I took it on my phone after seeing Kasabian just for the hell of it while a bit pissed, really. The panorama thing actually worked out pretty well, so I then had the idea to get our good mate Vaughan Davies at Stage Left Design in Perth to put ‘Status Updates’ on the train’s LED. He nailed it, so the cover was born!
What was the inspiration behind the video for Out Tonight?
Well, something I wanted to do differently with this album, was bring in the ideas of outside people on the music videos, rather than us having complete control over everything (Super Best Friends’ film clips for Round & Round, No Logo Is A Joke and Karma Karma were all done DIY). Melbourne director Arlo Cook came up with the story for Out Tonight, about a guy being all psyched for the best night ever and then it getting worse and worse. The funny thing that happened before Arlo came up with that though, is that Eleri Mai Harris who illustrated the cover art for the Out Tonight single, accidentally drew a character that looked like Dean “Slim Pickins” Podmore from Gay Paris. He saw it on instagram and said “that looks like me” and then I leapt on it to say, “want to star in our film clip?” and he agreed! Emma Fish who made the Dog Whistling video also had 100% control over the story and ideas in it.
You’ve tackled a lot of topical and political issues in the album, where do you get the inspiration behind the lyrics?
The album title hints at where the inspiration for the themes of each song comes from and that’s social media and Facebook. Obviously also just what people are talking about and what’s going on in Australia, what’s making the news or causing controversy. There’s a risk I’m locking myself into local issues that might also date, but I set out to make an album that was a snapshot of now, and I think I did an okay job. I guess I sit down to write lyrics based on each theme and go from there. Something like All My Friends Are Leaving Town is pretty relatable if you hate politics.
You’ve began touring in support of your album, how has that been going?
So far, so good! This is 100% the best run of shows we’ve ever done as the main band or main support (like in WA supporting our buds Pat Chow who we brought over to the east coast to support us on four dates). We’re getting the best crowds we’ve had in each city. Regional Victoria is next and also Queensland, so that’ll be a challenge, but we’ll see how it goes!
You were previously a reporter for Triple J’s Hack program, how does that compare to being a musician?
Ha! Now I have to be playing on a bill to get a free ticket to a concert. I guess the journalistic thing is present in the music, but it was present in the music before I was a journalist. Music and art allows you to be more opinionated or biased too. I really hold up the need for journalists to be unbiased and independent, so I always tried to be balanced when working for the j’s. But yeah, my experiences at working for Hack out of Federal Parliament for three years have definitely played into the album. I’m enjoying having my say. Hopefully I haven’t shot myself in the foot for a return to political journalism down the track.
What is the Canberra music scene like?
It’s a roller coaster. At the moment, it seems like it’s in a trough for bands, but venues are on the rebound, places like Phoenix or Transit or The Basement or Magpies City Club are doing regular gigs. A few years ago, it seemed to be all house parties and it was hard to put on a big rocking show and get people along to it. We just played our Canberra launch to a pretty packed Transit Bar. Didn’t see a lot of folks from other bands around town at the gig, but that’s always been the experience of Super Best Friends. We’re not from Canberra originally, so we don’t have those deep roots into the different schools and colleges that other bands have. Clicks around bands tend to only support those bands. We had a near full house of people we mostly didn’t know on Friday night. That’s what I prefer anyway. Playing to the same people isn’t what it’s about.
Do you ever listen to your own music?
I do regularly listen to the album just to remind myself that it doesn’t suck. I don’t exactly back myself as the world’s greatest musician or song-writer, and no one would say that either. Happy to carry on doing my stuff in quiet desperation.
What other music do you listen to?
Everything. Everyone says that. But everything.
What do you plan on doing once the tour is over?
We’re starting to pick up a few support offers, which is exciting. Maybe we’ll start work on that difficult second album! And I wouldn’t mind sneaking off the States for a few weeks.
Check out the Super Best Friends Facebook page to find out more!