Across 25 minutes of warm 'n' fuzzy grunge-pop, the Brisbane babes in Sweater Curse use their debut EP, See You, to convince us they're the next big act we'll spend hours lining up outside theatres to snag a barrier spot for. And if its not the punchy emo vibes that make "Z9" a stunner, it's the ethereal, heartfelt wispiness of "(Hear You)" that seals the deal for us. Because despite being so young that they make us realise how much of our own lives we've wasted, the trio deal in emphatic, heart-on-sleeve anthems that far usurp their years.
See You pits Sweater Curse on the verge of a massive 2019, too, with the band set to spend much of the year touring Australia in its support. Before all that chaos kicks off, we caught up with vocalist and guitarist Chris Lanenberg to learn a little more about how the EP came to life, how the band found their delightfully dynamic tones, and what to expect from the future of Sweater Curse.
Do you like to get amongst the vibe at festivals and catch many other artists’ sets, or are you more of a backstage dweller, chilling out ’til your own set time?
So far we've only played earlier sets at festivals, which means we have the rest of the day to hang out and see everyone play. I love seeing as many acts as I can!
Who are you excited to catch at The Farmer & The Owl?
Snail Mail, Beach House, Joyce Manor, Foxing, J-Mascis, Deafheaven, The Garden, No Mono, Stella Donnelly, RVG, These New South Whales, Party Dozen, Carla Geneve, RAT!Hammock, Sunscreen, Spit Chewy, Dream Dog... I’m not sure how I'll physically be able to see all of these acts in one day, but the fact that it is possible is crazy. Farmer & The Owl have curated such an incredible lineup.
What would you say is the key to having the best time possible at a music festival?
Keeping up with water and food – it's so easy to forget with all of the excitement, but it's so damn necessary.
Let's talk about this EP! How does it feel now that you’re just days away from it being let out into the wild?
It's so exciting! We've been sitting on these songs for such a long time, and we are so excited to finally release them into the world. We've already begun working on new music, but this EP is very special to us. It was the first bunch of songs that we ever wrote together, and it's going to be a great feeling to get them out.
What do you want people to get out of this record when they listen to it cover-to-cover for the first time?
I haven’t actually thought too much about how people may feel listening to the EP. Lots of the songs on it are about a toxic relationship coming to an end, as well as the fundamentals of a friendship breaking down. I guess it's a bit of a sad EP, but I see it as a document of how we were writing songs throughout that period of our lives. Also, the EP as a whole is a little bittersweet for us as writing these songs helped us all deal with and overcome some of the emotions we were feeling at the time.
I don’t think it would be a stretch to say the past year in general has been absolutely enormous for Sweater Curse. What have been some of your highlights with everything that’s happened so far?
It's been so wild! We couldn’t have anticipated how many shows we played or the scale of them. For me personally, I think some highlights would include selling out our Brisbane single launch at The Foundry and selling out our first interstate show in Melbourne. Also we got to play at the Falls Festival with Interpol, who are my favourite band in the world. Another highlight for me was playing at last years’ Against The Grain Festival. It was really special playing to such a big crowd in Brisbane and hearing everyone singing our songs as loud as our instruments.
It’s a generic question, but seeing as though See You is your debut EP, I think it’s a one worth asking: what was the recording process like for you all?
We recorded this EP with Fletcher Matthews, who has worked with Clews, Dear Seattle and a bunch of other great bands. He was incredible and flew up from Sydney to work on it with us. We recorded drums at Underground Audio in Nundah, and everything else in our practice room. I think Fletcher understood what we wanted for our sound straight away, which made the whole process such a breeze and a lot of fun.
What was the most gratifying experience you had in making the EP? And conversely, what was the biggest struggle you had in bringing it to life?
I think writing the EP was such a fun time for us. We still weren’t 100 percent sure what we wanted Sweater Curse to sound like at the start, and it wasn’t until we had the songs together that we really found our sound. When we started the band, I booked us a show well before we had any songs written, and it forced us to write a bunch of songs in a very short amount of time. Some of those songs are on the EP, and the fact that we got them all together in time to play a show is always a nice thing to look back on. The biggest struggle was probably funding everything, as well as finding enough time between playing shows to record and organise releases. We've been very lucky to have an incredible manager who helped us out so much with getting the EP together!
One thing I think makes Sweater Curse such a powerful (and powerfully good) live act is the chemistry that the three of you all have onstage – especially between yourself and Mon as frontpeople. What is your creative dynamic like behind the scenes?
It's very collaborative! Often when we write songs, Mon or I would write half a song and bring it into practice for the three of us to work on. Other times, we just write all together – it always feels very natural putting songs together as a band.
Do you have a go-to guitar at the moment?
I use a J-Mascis Jazzmaster, which is definitely my favourite guitar that I've ever owned. I almost exclusively use the neck pickup, and I really love how full it sounds. I also love making noise by playing behind the bridge. It’s so versatile... I don’t know what else to say about the guitar other than that I love it so much.
What does your live rig look like?
My pedal setup starts with a Zoom MS-70CDR, which I use mostly for reverb, sometimes chorus and as a tuner. Then a Strymon El Capistan, which I had to save up for months to buy but is definitely my most used pedal. I also have a favourite switch that is saved as almost full wet delay, which is really good for making big noises. I use a Hotcake, almost as a lower gain boost, and an OCD overdrive for the bigger, louder parts. And finally a Ditto X2 Looper, which I only use live for one song, but mostly have at home to make soundscapes. Mon plays through a Boss Chorus and Tym’s Big Mudd, which always makes the bass sound super big.
I know this EP hasn’t even come out yet, but have you started to think about where you might head with a proper, full-on album?
Absolutely! I would love so much to have a record out by the end of the year, but it depends on when we'll have enough time to record. We've booked in a bunch of studio sessions to record demos and write new songs, so hopefully we'll write enough songs to put together an album!
What does the rest of 2019 and beyond hold for Sweater Curse?
We'll be touring with The Smith Street Band throughout March and April, playing a couple of shows with Ball Park Music in May, and doing a headline tour for our EP in June!
Anything else you wanna say to the readers of Australian Guitar?
I just want to quickly mention that Brisbane is the best city in the entire world.
Saturday March 2nd - The Farmer & The Owl, Wollongong NSW
Sunday March 3rd - Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle NSW (with Clea)
Friday May 24th - Beach Hotel, Byron Bay NSW (with Ball Park Music)
Saturday May 25th - Panthers Port, Port Macquarie NSW (with Ball Park Music)
Friday June 7th - Rocket Bar, Adelaide SA
Saturday June 8th - The Grace Darling, Melbourne VIC
Friday June 14th - Oxford Art Factory, Sydney NSW
Saturday June 15th - Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane QLD