Fronted by the ferocious Jenny McKechnie, Cable Ties are a three-piece from Melbourne who have built themselves a reputation as the saviours of contemporary Australian punk.
With a razor-sharp edge, they deconstruct the ragged aggression of stadium rock bands like AC/DC, the minimalism of post-punk pioneers Au Pairs, and synthesise them into bellowing anthems of discontent that are distinctly their own. Jenny screeches like a bogan banshee (or Siouxsie), Shauna pounds the drums like they owe her money (they do), and the Verlaine-thin bassist Nick Brown boogies like he’s hearing Blondie for the first time.
This simultaneously bright-eyed and jadedly anti-capitalist approach is the first thing you’ll notice on their new record Far Enough. From the way early single ‘Tell Them Where to Go’ harkens back to the cover of Sonic Youth’s Goo: ‘Are you stuck in your bedroom with your stereo on? Why don’t walk out your bedroom? And steal your brother’s guitar!?’ To the way ‘Sandcastles’ jumps back and forth like a fever dream, Far Enough is a stunning sophomore effort.
‘Sandcastles’ is the most concise song I’ve heard from you guys. Given you’re mainly known for stretching out punk songs beyond their limits, that’s a pretty big deal. How come it’s so much more concise?
We wrote that song when we had a weekend away writing, and we spent the whole time doing something which never ended up on the album. It was one of those weekends where it got too convoluted, and we had to start again. And right at the end of the weekend, we had two hours where we wrote ‘Sandcastles’ pretty much in one go. We just had a really good crack at it where… it felt like it was what it needed to be. It was straight to the point. Focussed. Like, when we write a song we start with a riff and if we can’t play that same riff over and over again for like half an hour, and enjoy it and really sink into it, sort of like feel it in our bodies in this cathartic way, we don’t think it’s worth making into a song.
On ‘Pillow’ you sing about feeling like you’ve fucked up and can’t go back. How do you cope with that feeling?
That feeling is something that I struggle with in music a lot, to be honest. Like, I did my undergrad arts degree in politics, and then I tried to go to Law School like, ‘I better do something that’ll get me a job,’ and I dropped out. Then I tried to do honours, and dropped that too. That feeling is me being like, ‘Why do I think that I’m so special that I can spend all my time playing music?’ And really beating myself up about it, which I would never do to anyone else, but for some reason, I still do it to myself. It’s still in my head that art’s a waste of time and that I should do something useful. So, that song was me convincing myself that it’s ok, what I’m doing. And that the voices in my head telling me that I’ve fucked up aren’t actually mine, in a way.
On ‘Tell Them Where to Go’ you sing about the aspirational component of being in a band. Is that your narrative? Are you singing to yourself?
That song was actually written when we were going to play at Girls Rock in Melbourne. It’s this program that gets young girls between 12 and 18 and puts them in bands. And they have to write an original song in one week and then perform it, and we were like ‘that is amazing.’ We were thinking about our own writing process like, it takes us months, we would never be able to do that! So we were like, ‘righto, we’re playing girls rock, let’s write a song for it. If they can do it then we should be able to.’ So that song is written for those kids. And also thinking about myself, and how much I would’ve loved to have something like that when I was growing up.
You sing very unapologetically. Was there any insecurity involved in finding your voice when you first started singing?
I first started playing music in [giggles] folk bands! So the stuff that I used to do was really quiet and sweet and I didn’t think that I could project my voice at all. But then when we started rehearsing we were really loud and I couldn’t get my voice over the sound of the amp. So the way that I’m singing was just a result of me really trying to be heard over the sound of everything. By the time that we were playing in venues where I could actually hear myself, I realised that I was doing this thing with my voice that I’d never thought I could do. Actually projecting and singing loud and high and just going for it. Cutting loose.
At the end of ‘Anger’s not enough’ there’s a sound that sounds like a rooster. Is it a rooster?
Ha! I wish it was. But no, it’s not. I’m very glad that you can hear that though. The sound at the end of ‘Anger’s Not Enough’ is me with two guitar amps, and – I hate to get all spinal tap on this – they’re both turned all the way up to 10 and just pushed into overdrive. I also had this pedal from Newcastle called ‘when the sun explodes’—it’s like a reverb pedal where you can also get some really interesting feedback things going on. So its that looped over and over—I guess about three different tracks of me just messing with the guitar making crazy sounds. So if you can hear a rooster in there, I’m happy.
Heck yeah! Feedback chickens.
Yeah! Feedback chickens.