After relentlessly touring with some of the biggest names in the business and landing some big time festival slots along the way, Melbourne’s favourite funk/soul ensemble have grown quite a bit in the last two years. As their sophomore album, Nose Dive, hit the shelves, Wes Fahey had a chat with Saskwatch guitarist Rob Muinos to discuss the band’s new maturity, musical honesty and why they just wanted to record “a classic Aussie album.”

How’s it going? You’ve probably had a few interviews already this morning.

I have and this is the second one that I can tell is on this Internet phone thing where there’s a massive delay.

Awesome.

It just makes it really hard because you’re doing that thing where you’re constantly cutting each other off or you have to wait a really long time after someone’s finished a sentence so you don’t cut them off.

Means the conversation will just never sound natural.

How does this one work is it like being played as a voice interview or is it getting written out afterwards?

I’ll be transcribing this one.

OK cool! Oh well, if we sound like dickheads to each other then that’ll be fine.

Plus I can edit it so we don’t sound like dickheads which will be even better.

Yeah, sick!

So it’s been a pretty meteoric rise for you, from residencies at Cherry Bar to playing Glastonbury in about 4 years. Do you want to run me through how that makes you feel?

Fuck. I think it makes me feel sort of proud of the things that we’ve achieved and also, not to sound like an old wise man, but it kind of proves to me that hard work pays off. We absolutely worked our arses off this whole time constantly. This band is like every day people working really hard to release music for people. It’s been a fantastic life lesson in a way.

Your new album Nose Dive is about to drop, are you excited that people are finally going to be hearing it?

Yeah excited. And nervous. It’s always that thing, releasing a new record is kind of like wearing a new hat to a party or something, you don’t know how people are going to take it. We’re proud of the record, we’re really proud of it. If people don’t like it that’s one thing but, I’m excited about it being out there anyway. Maybe at least one person will like it.

Was there much pressure for you guys to create something better than the first album?

There was but it was purely from ourselves. The first record, there’s nothing wrong with it, but we all felt like we could make something better. It’s the classic thing with bands or artists, you always feel like it could be done better. So we really wanted to make something that was a step up from last time.

This record to me sounds more mature but was there a lot of growth musically between the last album and this one?

Yeah I think we’ve all matured as players and as people and, I can’t really speak for everybody but I know for myself my guitar playing on that first record I was really trying to play like a funky soul guitar guy, which I don’t know if that’s really my thing. I really dig the whole funk/soul scene but that’s never really been where my heart lies as far as playing the guitar and the sounds I make. For me this second record feels a lot more natural for me to play. Like I said, I can’t really speak for everyone but I feel like everyone’s a little bit like that on this record. It’s a bit more, sort of, honest in a lot of ways. And the lyrics as well, it’s sort of laying it all out there. The first record had a real particular sound. We were a lot younger and all going for a particular sound and I think this record is kind of like ‘let’s just make the best record we can and it doesn’t have to be a funk/soul record in actual fact, do we really want to make a funk/soul record? I don’t think we do anymore. Do we want to make a rock’n’roll record?’ We didn’t really talk about genre going into this record and it was more like we just wanted to be honest to the songs and to what we wanted and I’m kind of rambling about shit aren’t I.

Well there’s at least a few pull quotes in there that I can use so it’s all good.

[laughs] Yeah. Sorry.

I’ve only listened through once, but my favourite song on the album is ‘Keep Me In Mind’. It’s got such an amazing groove that kicks in straight away and just feels so naturally funky, which almost negates what you were just saying about moving away from funk/soul, but did it come together easily?

That song came together the first time we played it in the rehearsal room, I’m pretty sure it’s been the same structure and everything since then. Yeah that song’s just like classic, party, funky times.

We were really vibing out on that recording and, we did two takes of it and our bass player, Tom, kept missing the end of the song. [laughs] He just kept playing when we all stopped. It was supposed to stop with a really clear, clean-cut ending and Ed, the drummer, eventually was just like “I’ll just look at you. I’ll look at you at the end of the song.” So we did a take and the vibe was going off and everyone was just sort of partying in the room together and we were all feeling really good. But Ed didn’t look at Tom [laughs] and I was like ‘fuck I think this is the end but he’s not looking at him so I’ll just keep going’ but it was the end and everyone stopped except me! So at the end of the song, on the recording you hear the sharp ending then another guitar note and then I yell at Ed “You didn’t give me the fuckin’ look!” And we went into the booth and we were like ‘Wow, that take sounded pretty good. Let’s just keep it all on there.’ So at the end of that song you can hear me yell at Ed that he didn’t give me the fuckin’ look.

[laughs] That’s great! Does it work as well live as I hope it does?

Yeah it’s a real party-time track live, you can’t help but just pretend to be Mick Jagger and dance around. The crowd really gets into it, the whole band just kind of dance around on stage… it’s probably the most fun song of the gig.

The album was produced by Magoo, who has obviously produced some great albums. What was the deciding factor in working with him?

Trying to find someone that everyone in the band would respect was quite hard so we were going through all these people, all these dream people to work with, and Magoo came up in the mix. My particular reason for wanting to work with Magoo was that I’d known albums that he’d produced, I know bands he’d worked with and there are a lot of bands where I’m a huge fan of them and I’m a huge fan of the recordings he made with them and a lot of those records he made were albums I’d listened to a lot as a kid and for me, I wanted to just make a classic Aussie album. I didn’t want to make a funk/soul record per se, I just wanted to make a classic Aussie record and he is known for making classic Aussie records.

Was it a Regurgitator album?

Yeah, Unit is definitely one of them. Unit is one record that everyone’s like ‘That is fuckin’ sick. What an incredible sounding record.’ Whether you like Regurgitator or not, or like that album, you put that record on and it sounds fuckin’ amazing. When ‘Song Formerly Known As’ comes on in the club, it’s fuckin’ bangin’. It makes the PA sound twenty times bigger than it is and we were like ‘Shit. If he does this to our music that’s gonna be pretty cool.’

All the recording was done in rural Queensland with him. What was that like?

That was a huge change. Everything we’ve ever done has been super rushed, in a city studio – get in, quickly record as much as you can, quickly get out. Magoo’s studio is a church that’s been converted into a studio and then beside the church is a house where you all stay so you’re there all day and all night, you don’t have to go anywhere. One of the best things about not being in Melbourne was no-one had to go have dinner with their friends, no-one had to see their Dad before he went away, no-one had any of that crap – well not ‘crap’, outside band life – going on. We were there to make a record and we were all really focused on it. It was really relaxing and completely different to any recording I’ve ever done.

Do you have a favourite song on the album?

Yeah, I think it’s probably ‘Call Your Name’. Which is weird because it’s probably the one song that I listen to now and I kind of wish we had of recorded that one a little bit differently. That’s the only song that I feel that way about. I wish I had of played guitar differently on that song, and how we do it live is different to the record as well. But it’s still my favourite song on the album.

You guys are no strangers to side projects, you’ve got a solo thing, Liam’s in Eagle and The Worm and most of the band are also in Dorsal Fins. Is it easy to keep those all going?

Yes. No. Yes. I don’t know. I think Eagle are pretty strong, Liam kind of misses some Eagle things every now and then and they’re cool with that, I think. Dorsal Fins kind of came about as a recording project. Liam had these songs he didn’t think were suited for Saskwatch so we basically had one rehearsal, one morning in Essendon, and then two days later we spent one day in the studio recording two songs and that was it. So there’s not much pressure there to keep doing stuff, we’ve done one gig and that was to launch that recording, so I don’t think that band will ever be a serious touring or performing band unless some kind of amazing opportunity comes up and as far as my own solo stuff goes, I just play songs in my bedroom when I’m bored.

Do you find that working with other people and bands has an influence on the music you make with Saskwatch or vice versa?

I’m sure it does, I’m not sure how though.

Regarding the live shows, you’ve been touring a lot with some pretty big internationals and obviously you’ve got some big festival spots as well at Glastonbury and Bluesfest. Is it more difficult to keep the energy up at the bigger shows than, say, at Cherry?

Good question. It’s completely different, that’s for sure. First of all, at Cherry Bar you can’t move. You’ve got nine people on that stage, you can’t move. The hardest thing for us when we started playing bigger stages was [realising] ‘We’ve gotta move! Because we look stupid because we’re all standing still.’ If you’re playing a huge stage and there’s only 4 people dancing it’s pretty hard to vibe, but on the flipside is when you play and there’s 10,000 people going off – or at least that’s what you think in your head – it’s pretty easy to vibe out and you feel amazing. There was one gig where I was certain that someone had spiked my drink because I was so high on the music, the audience and the whole vibe that I thought someone had put some kind of drug in my drink. So I was kind of yelling at one of the guys in the band ‘Did you spike my drink? Did you spike my drink?’ He said he didn’t, but the feeling you get from the crowd, being up there, sometimes can be absolutely amazing.

Out of those bigger shows, which has been your favourite?

That one I just mentioned then, that was a show at The Hi-Fi we were playing with Clairy Browne. When we played Golden Plains that was a big thing for us, that was our first big outdoor festival and the crowd, we were really surprised, they were going nuts. Bluesfest last year was fuckin’ out of control. We were the nobodies from Melbourne and it was packed and the crowd was going crazy, we were really surprised.

I’d love to see you guys on the Sasquatch lineup. Do you think that would ever happen?

[laughs] I think it would pretty confusing for some but I would love to do that festival.

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