Conor Barton of Perth’s Mosquito Coast on Television Love and success after Unearthed High

Mosquito Coast burst onto the scene in 2015, winning triple j unearthed high, and have since toured the country with huge acts, including Of Monsters & Men and The Rubens. The two piece, of Naomi Robinson and Conor Barton, deliver laid-back, guitar-driven indie pop, receiving critical acclaim following the release of their debut EP Television Love in December last year. We caught up with Conor, the half of the duo responsible for keys and drums, ahead of their Television Love national tour. 

You only won triple j Unearthed High less than two years ago, you’ve done national tours, and now you’re going on another national tour. Is it super surreal?

We’re always just speeding around so quickly that you don’t really have time to think about how everything has progressed kind of thing. But yeah, there are definitely those moments when you’re at the festivals and you just walk past someone that’s like, really big, and you’re just like… ‘Was that, was that that person’?!. [Laughs]

It was only like the other day that we realised its only just been a year that we’ve had our full band together – these are people that we’d pretty much never met before, going out on a whim kind of thing. And now we’re pretty much family – like I couldn’t imagine playing with anyone else.

It was just on a whim that you found the rest of the members to join the gang?

We had to get a live band… sounded pretty trashy with just the two of us. But yeah, they’re both a lot older than us; they’re 24,25? They’re just friends of other peoples’ friends that we know, they were both just such obscure picks. We couldn’t really find anyone our age who was gonna commit hard enough, and now we’ve got Mitch and Nathan … it’s such a good dynamic in the band as well. They’re in other bands and they’ve done this kind of stuff before.

They’re ‘so’ much older than you…. 24 isn’t that old!

It’s not that old… [Laughs]

Thanks for that, I don’t feel old or anything now. I guess you are just so young –you started writing music together in high school obviously? Did you guys go to the same high school? 

Naomi went to an all-girls school, and I just went to the state school, and we met through other people. Like at one stage, me and Naomi had kind of curated [these] Friday nights where there would be like eight of us in her basement, playing music and then as the years went on people just kept dropping off until it was just the two of us who were still actually wanted to do it, and that’s how it kind of started.

That’s a very natural way of letting it come together. And I guess you’ve been writing music together for ages now – and now here you are, having dropped an EP last year. Can you tell me a bit more about it?

It was recorded a while ago in June or July [2016], and we went over to do that with Jack Moffitt from The Preatures, and Carl Fox from Porsches. Carl’s always been a good friend of ours, we’ve always had him producing the records and then it was just by luck that Jack worked at the same studio. We had a lot of time, we recorded it over a week I think, for the six songs. So we had a lot of time to test things out, so if things didn’t sound good we could just ditch it or try new things.

We definitely didn’t want to rush it or anything. It did take a while to get it all together. I went to Europe for three months so that definitely slowed everything down. [Laughs. But yeah, it dropped in December, but yeah. I dunno, its definitely the proudest thing that we’ve made together. I never thought we’d make something that sounded as polished or kind of sonic or clear.

It really is a great little EP, and it’s just been getting great reviews – your music has always been getting great reviews, I think I read San Cisco’s review on your triple j Unearthed page, and it was glowing. Have you had any unexpected or out of the blue feedback about your music?

As soon as I got back the EP had just been released and we were down seeing a gig in Fremantle. The Perth scene is really small, like everyone knows everyone. Like, Vin from Hideous Sun Demon, came up and said ‘Track six, like that’s so good’. Like, this is a guy that makes music that’s nothing like ours and I have so much respect for, it was like, wow. [Laughs]

The Aussie music scene has some great stuff going on, and you are definitely up there in the pop ranks, and continuing on that trajectory. What else are we expecting to see this year?

I don’t really know; we’re playing everything by ear. We’ve got shows booked until the end of March, and then maybe some in the start of April. But really, we haven’t had much time at all to just write, so that might be on the cards … If we can ever fit it in. When we get together next – our bass player is living in Melbourne – so when we do get together we all just kind of rehearse and there hasn’t been much time for writing. I guess it’s kind of good that we haven’t written in so long, because now we’ve got some new ideas.

How does your writing process work?

It’s varied. Sometimes Naomi will have pretty much fully finished songs, and I’ll just put the beat and the keys to it – that’s what happened with “Television Love”. But then there’s other songs that have a riff that she’s played, and we’ll play it over and over in every possible way. [Or] she’s got the basis of a song and I manipulate it and change it a lot… and then other ones, I dunno. I don’t even know how some songs came about.

Maybe that’s a sign that you need to go write some more songs. [Laughs] I guess it’s just natural for you guys?

Yeah, well, it’s always been pretty no pressure, which has been good. But with the EP we kind of put pressure on ourselves to make something really good, but yeah. Writing, it’s never been forced. We’ve never sat down and been like. ‘We’re going to write today’. 

Forced writing would probably take the chill factor away from your music. So heading off on your national tour – what would you say is absolutely essential for your tours?

Our first tour, because we were so young, and hadn’t been on tour before, we were really hard to deal with. But this last summer tour we were pretty on to it, and were never late for anything. What’s essential? Hmm. Headphones. [So] everyone can listen to their own stuff, because we all listen to such different things. Burgers. We eat burgers probably at least once a day. Coffee. And our tour book. Our manager makes this tour book, and it’s just like our bible for the whole tour- if we don’t have the tour book we don’t know what to do. [Laughs]

Does she also give you books for day to day life? That would be the dream manager.

[Laughs] No, but I mean, she’s pretty amazing. But obviously none of us would know how to book a tour or that kind of thing, so she’s been just out of this world helpful.

Do you and Naomi have any secret, non-musical talents?

My secret non musical talent… ummm…… I don’t know. I’m a pretty good cook, I guess.

What’s your specialty dish?

I make a pretty mean Thai red curry.

That’s a valuable skill.

Now that Naomi’s moved out, but I should definitely cook for her at least once, she’s kind of living off Mi Goreng at the moment. [Laughs]

That’s a very important staple in anyone’s diet. What’s Naomi’s secret talent?

Oh, she used to be an acrobat! Yeah, she can still do a pretty mean round-off if she wanted to. I haven’t convinced her to do it on stage yet, maybe I can convince her to next time.[Laughs]

If we don’t see a round off on this tour, I’m going to be pretty disappointed. Make sure you catch Mosquito Coast on their tour, and hassle Naomi to pull a round-off on stage – they’re currently touring, catch them at these dates:

February 15th | SOSUEME @ Beach Road Hotel, BONDI
February 16th | Rad Bar, WOLLONGONG (with Mezko & Tropical Wax)
February 17th | Newtown Social Club, SYDNEY (with Mezko & Morning TV)
February 18th | Mountain Sounds Festival, CENTRAL COAST
March 2nd | PIAF @ Chevron Fest Gardens, PERTH (with Margaret Glaspy & Frankie Cosmos)

Photo by George Foster.





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