Old rona may be hanging around like a party guest who’s overstayed their welcome, but …
Pow! Melbourne melodic punkers Judo CHOP! have broken out in a big way, unleashing their debut Shelf Life.
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According to the band, it was a long time coming, with the pandemic impacting their grand plans. We wanted to know all about how the EP came together, so once we recovered from the punch in the teeth it delivered, we got bassist Andre Vikas on the blower for a chat.
Hysteria: Give us the Judo CHOP! Story.
Andre: The story is a couple of years old now, nearly three, actually. So we’ve been a little slow to get started, and COVID hasn’t helped. It began with guitarist Johnny Beech, who’d previously played in the band Cash No. That band fell apart, and he wanted to get something new going, so he looked around and tried to get people together. He’s the beating heart of the band. He got our drummer Ollie DW on board, as well as our other guitarist Sam Howard and me. Then our last guitarist, Aaron Braddock, heard I was in the band. He was keen to jump on as well, so that’s how we ended up with three guitarists. We couldn’t say no to good people and good musicians.
The last piece of the puzzle was finding a singer. We just started doing demo versions of our songs and getting them out there. We’ve known Murray McDonald from previous bands. We knew he was a good dude and a good singer. He laid down some vocals for those demos, and we loved them immediately. The big thing about having been in bands before is we know what we really want. That camaraderie, creativity, and freedom to be ourselves and have fun is so important. You don’t join a punk band in 2021 to be a millionaire. You’re doing it to have fun.
We laughed at the band name and the Austin Powers reference, but it’s also so relevant to your sound.
We were just throwing around names. Deciding on one is not the most fun process. We wanted to try to sum up all these things in a succinct way. We just wanted to get the point across that we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We wanted to be a bit different and stand out too. A reference is always a win, and we were definitely thinking about that Austin Powers scene when we came up with it. But also, what’s funny is there is no judo chop in judo.
Let’s talk about your debut EP, Shelf Life. How long has it been in the works?
For a while. COVID took up a year. It would’ve been out earlier. We wrote the songs nearly two years ago. Then, about a year and a half ago, we booked the studio time and got Ollie to lay down the drums in an afternoon. It was very good for the hip pocket (laughs). We recorded all the guitars and bass ourselves at home. There were positives and negatives with it. We were meticulous, but we didn’t have a clear timeline, so we took a year for that stuff. That was longer than we wanted, but we live and learn.
Then we took it into the studio and revamped all the guitar sounds. Then Sam Johnson at Holes & Corners Recording Studio in South Melbourne did his magic and got it to sound excellent. Now we’re just waiting to drop it.
You don’t join a punk band in 2021 to be a millionaire. You’re doing it to have fun.
[ Andre Vikas ]
Was being so DIY liberating?
Good question. I don’t think it’s a process that everyone enjoys, and honestly, For Johnny and I not having done it to this extent before, we discovered a lot about it on the way. We eventually came to enjoy the process, but we did find it tricky at times. But, it worked for us because we had enough structure with the songs demoed that we didn’t feel lost. We knew where to move. Also, having a level of knowledge and technical skill helped. We were able to get exactly what we wanted down, and that does take experience. If I tried to do this ten years ago, I’m not sure I would’ve been able to. Having three guitarists means things need to be even more tight and accurate. I think we’ve definitely learnt to approach that a little differently next time.
Did you dig into personal experiences when writing the songs on the record?
Murray did all the lyrics, so I can’t speak for him, but I know one song is about his experience walking drunk home from the pub. Not ironically, it’s one of the more punk rock tracks on the record. Murray typically writes from his own experiences, things he comes across every day. It’s reflective of all things that make you human, like political values; it’s all in there. I just really enjoy how he puts words together. It’s not overtly political or anything. It’s just Murray.
If you could tour with any bands, past or present, who would they be?
As the bass player, I’d say A Wilhelm Scream. I got the chance to meet those guys a few years back, their music has been a big influence on me, and they were awesome dudes. Propagandhi has also been a huge influence, lyrically and musically. So being able to chat with them for a bit would be incredible. To be honest, any Aussie band that’s having fun would be great though.
What do you want listeners to take from the EP?
I’m a big one for the subjectivity of music. I enjoy the fact that everyone in the band comes with their own ideas when we’re writing. For instance, when Murray joined, we had this song we were writing for a long time, and it didn’t have any lyrics or vocal melodies. So when I heard what Murray put down, my first reaction was, wow, I never would’ve thought of that. I don’t want music just to be my thoughts. I want it to be a combination of everyone. So when someone is doing something different to me, it’s great. I would want someone listening to us for the first time to take that away. That all those different elements are coming together in a way they might not have heard of before.