Dear Chester, I only realised a few days ago that it’s nearly been a year …
It wasn’t long ago that Luca Brasi were the underdogs of Australia’s punk scene. But after almost a decade, the St. Helens foursome have grown not only into one of the most popular outfits kicking, but one of the most important as well.
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Where most bands that occupy the emo and punk corners tend to wallow in their despair—see: any Fueled By Ramen band that rose in the mid 2000s—Luca Brasi aim instead for a decidedly optimistic angle. Their songs carry quite the punch in how relatable they are in the tropes of the depressed twenty-something, but they never end at the cut; frontman Tyler Richardson implores listeners to keep their chins up, brave the storm and keep building towards a better future. And four albums deep in their career, that’s exactly what Luca Brasi themselves have done.
Stay debuted at #10 on the ARIA Charts, saw Luca Brasi land another feature album on triple j, and will be supported by a national theatre tour come August—tickets for which are downright flying out the gates. Hysteria called the album “big ‘n’ beautiful”, pointing out the stark authenticity that permeates every second of the jamfest.
To dig a big deeper into Stay, we caught up with the full band for a lovely little yard across some couches. The interview went down at Sydney’s iconic Fox Studios, where the band had just wrapped up filming a guest spot for Rage. And if you’ve ever wondered how easy it is to sneak into a studio lot, heed our warning: it’s fucking impossible. I got pulled up by three security guards and an entry checkpoint before I’d even reached the building Luca Brasi were in. There go my plans of crashing the next X-Men shoot.
What’s going through your mind now that the record is finally out there in the world?
Tom Busby (lead guitar): “You beauty!” Relief and excitement and some nerves. You spend, like, two years putting it together—bleeding in the studio, crying in the studio—and now it’s all out there for everyone else to enjoy… Or to hate. One or the other.
Danny Flood (drums): Choose your own adventure!
Tom: Exactly! Nah, we’re all excited.
I feel like the titles of Luca Brasi records have always been very pertinent to a feeling to a hopelessness: By A Thread. If This Is All We’re Going To Be… But Stay feels more uplifting than anything, as far as one-word titles go. What’s the significance of Stay for you?
Tyler Richardson (vocals/bass): The first record was Extended Family, and that was all about drinking with your mates. And then we explored a bit more of a low sort of feeling on By A Thread, I guess. And then the last one, If This Is All We’re Going To Be, was kind of us going, “Is this going to be it for us as a band? Is this as far as we’re ever going to go?” And so Stay was supposed to be an attempt at going, “Well, this is what’s happening in life, this is where we are,” and dealing with that and appreciating it, and actually being happy with it and realising what we have instead of what we don’t. So that was the whole meaning behind Stay. I was talking a lot with our mate Callum about the power of having a one-word title, and he just agreed that it was like a really cool way to put it.
Approaching it as a fan, this album is easily your most impactful. It’s so vulnerable and pained, but almost every track is rooted in optimism. What kind of headspace were you in when you wrote this album? Are the lyricisms reflective of your own personal experiences?
Tyler: Yeah, absolutely. I think writing lyrics is a great way to get thoughts and feelings out, and to process things that are happening. I guess every lyric I’ve ever written comes from that—so it’s all very personal and based on experience, and this was a no different. It’s all about trying to figure out where you’re at and how you got there, and to deal with that in a way that’s actually mindful rather than just feeling simply negative or positive about it; processing things properly, and beginning to realise that you actually have it really good and you should be thankful. So that was my whole approach to a lot of these songs.
So when you’re not making us all swoon in Luca Brasi, you’re a high school teacher.
Does that inform much of the creative wavelength that you’re on when you write? Because a lot of the positive messages in your songs are the kind of messages I think are really crucial for school-age kids to get their heads around.
Tyler: It doesn’t necessarily influence the way that I actually write my lyrics, but it’s definitely the way I try to approach talking to kids and trying to make a difference in that realm—to be positive and try to encourage people to process things properly and talk about things.
Are your students into Luca Brasi?
Tyler: Yeah, most of them are pretty into it. They just take the piss out of me constantly!
Danny: I would. Do they call you Mr. Richardson?
Tyler: Nope, I’ve never been called Mr. Richardson in my whole life. I get Tyler the whole time, and I can’t do anything about it [laughs].
Danny: What about Richo?
Tyler: I get Richo a lot too! And that’s okay, but the deal is, if there’s someone important around, they have to call me Mr. Richardson.
I wouldn’t describe myself as an activist. I’m just someone who gets cranky when people are naughty.
– Tom Busby
I think in genres like those Luca Brasi fits into, like punk, indie, emo, et cetera—there’s a very ingrained negativity to them. So many bands are like, “Well, you’re sad and you’ll always be sad.” But you’ve got songs like Got To Give and Anything Near Conviction that go directly against that narrative. It almost feels like Luca Brasi the antithesis to emo. Do you think it’s important to disrupt that melancholic aesthetic and offer a brightness that other bands don’t?
Pat Marshall (rhythm guitar): Not deliberately I think it’s just reflective of who we are as people, really. We haven’t gone out of way to not be like other bands.
Tom: I think we exist in our own little bubble. We’re not too fazed with what’s going on—we have bands that we like and that influence us in what we do, but we just make what we want to make.
Tyler: We love bummer music, too! But as far as lyrics go, it’s kind of hard to leave a song that’s completely negative. When you write a song, it’s always nice to have a resolve and a bit of hopefulness to it.
Danny: A nice happy ending!
Tyler: Yeah. Or rather than just, “Ugh, fuck this,” it’s like, “Ugh, fuck this… But we could get out of it! We can find our way out of this.”
Pat: “Ah well, we’ll sort it out!”
Tyler: That’s it! That’s always been the way I write. I mean, if you just wrote that whole negative thing for yourself and read it back, you’d be like, “Oh, fuck.” But if you read it and you were like, “Oh, cool, things were shit, but we found something good in it,” it’s more meaningful. It’s a way to make myself feel better.
You’ve always been very outspoken when it comes to fighting for what’s right in the scene. I know that you know Luca Brasi shows often attract a pretty chaotic crowd, but having taken a stand against things like punter violence and voicing your support for initiatives like It Takes One over the past few years, have you noticed much of a shift in the way audiences are behaving themselves?
Tom: It’s hard to say, because you don’t know what’s not being talked about. Like, someone could have a really negative experience, and it could just not get back to us.
Danny: I think there’s much greater awareness now, at least. I think the majority of people are a lot more aware, but there’s always that minority who might be there doing the wrong thing, and I guess those are the harder ones to target. It’s like anything where there’s an issue—it doesn’t get resolved until it gets made… Not so much more public, but that it gets acknowledged more. That’s the best way to try to do something good about it.
So where do you go from here with that? Is it just continuing to voice the narrative that bands are at the minute, or do you think there’s more that can be done to improve the scene?
Tyler: There’s definitely always more we can do. I mean, continuing the narrative has gotta happen, but if that narrative hasn’t completely fixed it, there must be something wrong with it—but I definitely don’t have the answers to what the fuck that actually is. I mean, it’s fucking amazing that people are talking about it, but it’s definitely still happening. This mindset of violence and the way that young men act is still so fucking huge.
Tom: Yeah, there were some people coming onboard thinking our shows were their playgrounds to be little fuckheads, and it was a bit of a rude shock. Because our shows have been rowdy from the start, but they were fun and they were safe, and everyone looked after each other…
Danny: They were respectfully rowdy!
Tom: Yeah! And everyone was a mate and helped each other out, but now there’s all these new heads coming in and they just weren’t aware of the rules of common decency, so we had to kick and scream a little bit. And y’know, I hope it’s been better… Like I said, it’s hard to be like, “Oh, it’s been better because I haven’t heard of any incidents” because I don’t know what’s going on all the time. But like Tyler said, you’ve just gotta keep fighting the good fight.
How do you feel about being labeled an advocate, or an activist in your community? Do you feel like that’s an accurate title, or would you say you’re just doing what everyone in the punk scene should be?
Pat: We’re just doing what everyone should be!
Tom: Yeah, I wouldn’t describe myself as an activist. I’m just someone who gets cranky when people are naughty. I could be different from the others here.
Tyler: Nah, I don’t think we have enough of an agenda to be activists. We definitely want people to be safe and do the right thing, but it just seems so natural and normal to not be a fuckwit, doesn’t it?
Danny: It shouldn’t be that hard. But for some reason, just because it’s at a show or in a mosh pit or something, people think the rules of normal life don’t apply.
I think if you listen to the three records before this one, it definitely sounds like we were trying to figure out how to get to this point.
– Pat Marshall
So of course, you guys teamed up with Jimmy Balderston again for this record, and he absolutely crushed it on If This Is All We’re Going To Be. But you also brought the one and only Darren Cordeaux into the mix as well. Kisschasy is one of my all-time favourite bands so I have to vibe on that: what was it like working with him?
Pat: It was awesome. He’s over in the States, so it was all via internet. Basically, we would send him what we thought was pretty close to a finished song, and he’d type up a bunch of notes—“Maybe you could try removing this section,” or, “Maybe try altering this melody a little bit.” He sent us back a page of notes every time, and we’d jump on Skype with him so he could explain it, because sometimes it’s pretty hard to understand what the hell he was talking about. But he’s got such a good ear for melody, and a lot of the time he was just kind of reinforcing what we already knew, y’know? “Make the quieter bits quieter, make the louder bits louder.” Every now and then he’d throw in like a tiny little melody idea that we hadn’t thought of, and there are a few moments like that on the record which I think probably make some of those songs.
You guys play a little more with melody than you have in the past, and it seems like Darren is the perfect choice given all the melodic mania he’d brought to Kisschasy. Did he have much of an influence there?
Pat: I think we were probably on that direction already, to be honest. We had the majority of the structures down before we got him involved. It was just little things that he’d do that would just make you go, “Oh, that sounds so much better now, why didn’t we think of that!?”
Tyler: We had stuff that we thought was cool, and he’d go, “Maybe try this,” and we’d be like, “Phwoah, now it’s really cool!”
Tom: He put a bit of sugar in the coffee. He was this album’s Salt Bae.
Not to say that your other albums don’t, but I feel like Stay is a little more… It feels like you have your shit together more than you have on your previous albums.
Tyler: That’s so good to hear! Because y’know, we’re quietly freaking out over here [laughs].
It’s very ambitious and you take a few risks here and there, and all of them seem to pay off. For you guys, did it feel like this was the album where you realised the full musical potential of Luca Brasi?
Danny: Yeah. We were talking about it not too long ago—it feels like this is what we’ve sort of been building towards this for the last four, five years.
Pat: Yeah, I think if you listen to the three records before this one, it definitely sounds like we were trying to figure out how to get to this point. I think there’s some elements of this new record on the last one, but we hadn’t quite figured out exactly how to do what we were trying to there.
Do you think this record is where Luca Brasi have peaked, or would you say there’s still ground that you’re left to cover and goals that you’re left to kick in terms of songwriting?
Pat: We’re a blank slate at the moment! We’ve got nothing left.
Tom: I was saying to the boys at the airport yesterday that I’ve been thinking, like, “Oh, I’ve gotta start trying to think about writing some new riffs.” I keep looking at my guitar case at home and going, “Ehhhhh… Nah, not yet.” I can’t even think about it just yet.
Tyler: Well, Pat was playing something this morning that was pretty cool.
Pat: Yeah, I play nothing but fingerpicking on an acoustic guitar now. Maybe we’ll do an acoustic record, just to piss Busby off [laughs].
Tyler: We’re gonna start smoking heaps of chongs and playing psych-rock.
Tom: Yeah, the next album is called Hacky Sack. What’s it called when they put up a rope and you’ve gotta walk across it?
Tom: Yes! It’s gonna be a concept album about slacklining. It’s actually just called Slack.
Our whole idea was to have a more dynamic album, so there are moments where it’s not going to be all wall-of-death-and-circle-pit.
– Tyler Richardson
You’ve also got this insanely massive theatre tour coming up in August. What is it about this tour that you’re most looking forward to? Other than playing these new songs, because this is a generic question, but you can’t give the generic answer.
Pat: Dammit, I was going to say, “Not playing the same songs!”
Tom: The bigger rider!
Tyler: Seeing Tiny Moving Parts in Australia. Being on tour with Eliza & The Delusionals will be amazing too. I love waiting to see how [the new music] infiltrates people’s brains. On that single tour, within a week of a couple of those songs being released, they were already being sung back at us. Just watching people’s reactions is my number one goal for this tour.
There’s a very signature energy to a Luca Brasi show. How are the songs on Stay going to change that?
Pat: I’m gonna lift my guitar strap higher.
Tom: Yeah, the guitars are coming up higher for sure.
Tyler: There’s a bunch of softer moments on this record. Our whole idea was to have a more dynamic album, so there are moments where it’s not going to be all wall-of-death-and-circle-pit… Hell, maybe we aim for that too. I want to see a wall of death. It’s going to be an interesting setlist to write, trying to put lulls and peaks throughout.
Tom: I’ve gotta figure out how to rock out while I’m trying to play songs that are really hard on the guitar.
Tyler: Oh yeah, I’ve gotta learn how to sing at some point too [laughs].
Stay is out now via Cooking Vinyl.
Luca Brasi are touring Australia this August with Tiny Moving Parts and Eliza & The Delusionals. Catch them at the following dates:
Saturday August 11th – Club 54, Launceston
Friday August 17th – The Triffid, Brisbane
Saturday August 18th – Manning Bar, Sydney
Wednesday August 22nd – Rosemount Hotel, Perth
Thursday August 23rd – The Gov, Adelaide
Friday August 24th – The Croxton, Melbourne
Tickets on sale now via oztix.com.au