May 4, 2015

Show Us Yours #26: Hideous Towns

Attentive readers will recall Clicky Clicky turned on to Melbourne shoegaze four Hideous Towns late last year, around the time it released its haunting and textured self-titled EP. We've been revisiting the EP a fair amount lately, and thought it is high time we checked in with the band to learn more about what they do and where they do it as part of our long-suffering Show Us Yours feature, which provides a window into the practice spaces of the hitmakers of the day. This is Show Us Yours' first figurative jaunt to Australia, so we're feeling particularly international right now, yeah. We couldn't resist asking about Hideous Towns' name, as it is -- as noted previously here in these electronic pages -- the title of a tune from The Sundays' titanic full-length debut Reading, Writing & Arithmetic. It turns out Hidous Towns aren't rabidly obsessed with the legendary British act, but guitarist Chris MacLean was hipped to them by his dad and has assumed ownership of his dad's copy of that debut LP. Mr. MacLean and the band were very gracious with their time telling us about their practice spot and answering our questions about the state of shoegaze in Australia and this upcoming weekend's Roogaze festival. MacLean also told us that Hideous Towns has new music in the works and aims to work more quickly to get new music out there, which, as a fan, we were obviously pleased to hear. Click play on the Soundcloud embed of the foursome's eponymous EP at the foot of this piece, set your clocks a breathtaking *14* hours ahead to get on local time, and then settle in to our Q+A below.
Clicky Clicky: So why do you use this practice space? What makes it the best space for Hideous Towns right now?

Chris MacLean: For proper practices we play at [drummer] Ashley's parents' place, which is about 45 minutes out of the city. We figure we have to go to a "Hideous Town" to write songs ; ). Up until recently he still lived there. It's a "granny flat"-type thing in the backyard which is decked out with gear and soundproofing stuff. He now lives near us but, thankfully, [but] it's still "his room," so we go there whenever we like, play until whenever we like, at whatever volume we like for free, with great hospitality from his awesome family. Those are the main reasons that it's the best space! It feels like the perfect place, I suppose, because it's where we first played with Ash, and first played as a full band also, many of our songs were written there or completed there. Also, for most shows we only need to bring a snare and cymbals so Ashley's drum kit lives there.

CC: Is there an idiosyncrasy or quirk to the space that has affected the sound of one of your songs, or even the overall sound?

CM: It strikes us as funny that we love playing there so much despite it being in a town/region that none of us can stand, a really dull urban growth area with shopping centres and fast food as the main features. But if anything I think it has shaped our sound in the way that it's quite a small room and we play very loudly, even with pretty, gentle songs. This has come to be a must for all of us, I think, we don't want to be a quiet band. Although it's quite a drive to get there, it's always good bonding time where we just chat and listen to music on the way. I can't think of any way that the song arrangements themselves are indebted to the space, though, a lot of the ideas come to us at home near the city, anyway.

CC: You walk into your rehearsal space. What's the first thing that you smell?

CM: The first smell is probably Ashley's clothing or just "his" smell, haha. Everyone has one, I think, that just becomes part of whatever room they happen to inhabit. Luckily it isn't so bad, he's a pretty hygienic lad. Actually, quite often his father is barbecuing something in the back yard right on our way to his room so that's probably still lingering in the nostrils as we walk in, yum.

CC: It's been 18 years since the last Sundays record, and we imagine you guys are all younger than Clicky Clicky's executive editor by a good fair stretch. What's a relatively new and young band out of Melbourne doing naming themselves after a song from a sorta-unsung but incredible British band from two decades past?

CM: Most likely yeah, Alana is oldest at 25 (Chris 24, Ryan 23, Ashley 22). That's a hard question to answer, I guess, we really didn't have a name for a long time while we were writing songs and it came at the last minute with a vote. My father had introduced me to The Sundays (I still have his Reading, Writing & Arithmetic LP at our place) and the track "Hideous Towns" had a bass line which I thought was (unintentionally) similar to one Ryan had just written. I thought it was a coolish name and brought it to the vote and it just scraped through really, not all of us are heavily into The Sundays, by any means. I think we share somewhat of a begrudging feeling in some way to our respective hometowns, more so to some of the people than anything else, and I like to think our collective migration to the inner city to see and play music gives the name a deeper meaning than just being obsessed with The Sundays.

CC: There's definitely a bit of the Gavurin/Wheeler feel to your terrific songs "Undone" and "Pets." But Hideous Towns' sound offers more, and we expect you guys are about much more than just being Sundays fans. What's an influence on the band that might surprise people?

CM: One aspect of The Sundays music that we do all respect is their songwriting, so thanks! I think our sound is more diverse, just due to our inherent inability to write songs that sound too similar. Ashley is pretty big on Snoop Dogg at times, haha, and Alana's singing inspirations are more rooted in soul singers of the '60s. We also really like The Drums.

CC: We read with interest the DKFM piece about Roogaze, the Melbourne shoegaze and dream-pop festival that is rapidly approaching and which Hideous Towns will play. Is there any act you are particularly excited to see at Roogaze? We are familiar with Kigo, but the rest of the acts are new names to us.

CM: I'm really excited to see Kigo and the other interstate bands that I haven't seen before (Miners and Blush Response), though Day Ravies are always great to see too. We've played with all the other groups before and are friends with them, but never in one show, so it should be an awesome day! I'm a little surprised you've heard of Kigo but not Lowtide, they are the most well known and established in the list, but every band is really great so you should check them all out! The best part for me is that each band has shoegaze elements, in different amounts, but all the groups sound different and have different songwriting styles so it's pretty exciting to be involved.

CC: So what do the next six months look like for Hideous Towns? What can you tell us about progress on new material, or even new recordings?

CM: We have a song called "Heart Attack" which we [have just finished mixing] and we're going to release it as a single and try to really push it to new ears. We're very proud of it and think it has more instant appeal than the EP tracks. We recorded it with our great friend and genius Matthew Hosking (who also did the whole EP, he has a band called VHS Dream who are incredible, so keep an ear out for them, gorgeous song and video coming soon!). We're aiming to get a 7" pressed, make a video and do some shows with bands we really like to promote it, including some interstate shows most likely. Apart from that, we have a stupid amount of new songs, some of which we've started playing live that would be good to record as soon as possible -- so hopefully this year. I've recently been sold on the idea of putting out more recorded stuff, or as much as possible, because that's what really lasts and reaches like-minded people around the world (like legends in Boston!). So if we have the money and time, I think we'll be recording more fairly soon.

CC: Thanks for doing this, Chris and everyone!

CM: No, thank you, Jay! Your kind words have sincerely meant a lot to us. We can't believe someone rad from such a far away place has taken an interest to this extent, so cheers to you man :).
As noted above, Hideous Towns play this coming weekend's Roogaze festival, and if you have the very good fortune of actually being in Australia (which this writer has keenly wanted to visit for the better part of two decades), hit this link for all the details about the festival.

Hideous Towns: Bandcamp | Facebook | Soundcloud

Previous Show Us Yours episodes:
Shapes And Sizes | Dirty On Purpose | Relay | Mobius Band | Frightened Rabbit | Assembly Now | Meneguar | Okay Paddy | Charmparticles | Calories | Sun Airway | It Hugs Back | Lubec | A Giant Dog | Bent Shapes | Krill | Golden Gurls | Earthquake Party! | Hallelujah The Hills | Seeds Of Doubt | The Cherry Wave | Coaches | Night Mechanic | Kindling | Julius Earthling

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