Interview: MID CITY on “Liar Liar”, hot sauce and intense AirBnBs.

MID CITY are your Good Time Guys. Song after song, they simply make you want to jump around and dance with overwhelmingly positive vibes that nowadays come with a tinge of longing for a solid dance floor.

With a surprisingly large German fanbase, the four-piece was set for a year of European tours and non-stop travel. But now the band is in lockdown in Melbourne – a stark contrast to what they had planned for 2020.

Despite the halt of tour plans, MID CITY isn’t slowing down their music, having just released their latest single “Liar Liar” in anticipation of their forthcoming EP.

In celebration of their release, we chatted with Ben Woodmason (guitar) and Joel Griffith (vocals) over a Zoom call to their Melbourne digs to talk about their single’s creation, creativity and mid-strength beer.

Joel, Ben. How are you guys doing?

Joel Griffith: “Feeling great”, in inverted commas! We’re doing Victorian great…

Ben Woodmason: This is weird, Joel is actually not supposed to be at my house but he’s at my house.

This is an essential trip in my books. Congrats on “Liar Liar”, guys. It’s such a good track and I think the saddest thing about it is that when you instantly listen to it, all I can think about is how much it would just fuel a mosh pit.

JG: Yeah. We’ve been thinking a lot about that too.

Have you had the chance to play this live? You guys were touring pretty much non-stop and had release after release last year. Was this one created back then or was this a pretty recent one?

JG: Yeah, I think we played it once. I think we played it once then everything got shut down. We played it in rehearsals for ages and we played it actually as a rehearsal song for ages just like a warm up tune. It’s very familiar to us. But, it’s different when you play it live for the first time that you get to know that the song is going to work or not. Sometimes you have songs where you bash them away in the rehearsal room for ages and go, “This is going to be epic.” And then you play it and it just goes… Just dies in the ass.

Just doesn’t get the hype you would expect.

JG: Yeah, but this one did. This one had that little ping where we were like, “Oh, good. Okay.”

Is that how you decide on your singles? You’re like, “Oh, that had that ping. We got to release this one as a single next.”

BW: Yes and no. It depends on how much we played it live. This one, we only played once and it got a pretty good reception so you’re kind of like, “Yeah. I reckon that could work.”

JG: Let’s not test it anymore. A hundred percent, it’s one for one. Take it. We also had a thing that where every song you write, you want it to be a single. I don’t know, singles to me are songs that just encapsulate … Yeah, it’s encapsulated in one three minute, 30 bursts. You get everything right in a song. That’s not to say you just want to be a sell out and just write blahdy blahdy blah songs.

You want all of your songs to be noteworthy enough that they can be released by themselves. It would be counter-intuitive to write a blaseé song just like an album filler. I’ve never understood album filler songs.

BW: Yeah, I’ve never understood it either.

JG: The good thing about our band is we really can’t solo very well or improvise very well. So we had to write these sharp, short things which means we don’t have any filler. Or we just have really bad filler and then it’s just really short, sharp fillers. You be the judge.

Yeah, I will. I will be the judge.

Have you guys loved the break of 2020 at least a little bit? I feel you guys are non-stop. You have so much momentum.

BW: We’re just warming up.

JG: Yeah. We had a whole year planned out. You work and then you play and then when you get the play taken out, all you’ve got is work and then you work from home and then you have a dog but, yes.

You guys were going to be on a European tour this year?

JG: Yeah, we were meant to go three times. Then two or three Australian things and none of them happened. I’ll tell you what. It was good because what it made me realise and appreciate was that the fans are super stressful at the best of times. As soon as all the bands stopped, everything just falls away, right? There’s no gigs. We’re a live band. We need people to squish into relatively small rooms.

As soon as I left, I realised how much of a big thing a band is in your everyday life. Girlfriends and wives must f**king hate it. Because it’s like your phone’s always dinging with messages between the group and your manager and your agents and stuff going on, especially when we had a busy year coming up. That just all dropped away. Suddenly it was nice, to answer your question. It’s like, “Yeah, that was nice. Apart from all the crap about why it was…” Made you realise this is a big thing being in a band.

You can be present more, I suppose. It’s hard when you’ve got this admin in the back of your mind all the time.

JG: Yeah, but we went in different directions too. We write songs together. Ben will usually write a band or something and I’ll write over the top of it or I’ll write them something and then Ben will add to that. We went two different directions. I just went dead. Musically, inspiration just gone. Just like, “Nope.” It just doesn’t exist and Ben just kept sending through to the band for the demo.

It’s like beating a dead horse!

JG: Yeah, being slapped by a wet fish just going, “Okay. Okay. Okay.”

Come on. Get creative! I wanted to ask you Joel about penning the lyrics to “Liar Liar” in “this kitsch as hell 1950s caravan out past the Danendongs”. What was going on there? Paint me a picture?

JG: You’d have to ask those people what they’re really thinking. It’s a little bit creepy. You know when someone does an Airbnb fit out and they do it so well in that they match the caravans to the chairs to the crockery to the plates to the bedspreads and it starts getting a little bit creepy. Pleasant builds is something like eerie horror movie. I don’t know. They did a great job of it there and it was a lovely place to stay.

You arrive and this is old wireless playing, wireless radio, seriously old thing, playing old timey French jazz music. It was a nice scene but like I said, we had that song for ages, just to rev up tune, and I’d left it too long as I do with a lot of lyrics where it’s just, “Whatever.” I’m just lazy and we had to get start recording. I booked this place just because it was all orange, it looked amazing, and just took myself out there. I think it was only three days or something like that but three days is a long time when you’re by yourself surrounded by orange everything.

Yeah, I just sat out on those little orange chairs and there was like all the Bush fires were going on. It was out past Danendongs I don’t know if you know that area. It’s fairly close to the city but it still feels ages away and this valley just filled with smoke and the afternoons, when there’s smoke in the air and the sun sets and gets super red and orange.

You were literally in orange!

JG: It was like, “Man. These Airbnb people, they know how to host!” I just sat down there and wrote and wrote and wrote. It was cool. I was inspired by that heaviness that was going on at the time and as soon as that heaviness and wanting to break out of that heaviness and/or take responsibility for the heaviness, what was going on with how the government was reacting to it, how people were reacting to it. Not political but just the general sentiment in the air. The interesting thing is that that keeps repeating itself this year in a whole bunch of ways. There’s sort of like, “Holy shit, there’s some heavy stuff going on. Holy shit, I don’t want to think about it at all. Holy shit, maybe I should stand up and do something about it or say something.”

We live in a world where everything’s hyper, like social media or whatever. Heightened. Everything, TV, Netflix like boom, “Wow, f**k this is amazing!” Amazing sort of some new feature film or some new crazy social trend comes along but then once something real comes along like a f**king pandemic or a bushfire or something huge overflowing racial disharmony, everyone’s going like, “Whoa, I don’t know. Whoa,” a little bit speechless about it. It’s like, “But we deal with this every day in a fantasy world.” It’s just interesting because it’s now in reality and how people react.

Yeah, that’s it. Reality hurts, right? People aren’t used that dosage.

JG: Yeah. Maybe it smacks a bit of stuff out of people too.

Let’s talk about Oscar Dawson from Holy Holy. You guys worked with him on this track. What was that experience like? Had you guys met him before?

BW: Yeah! Our first EP, we recorded that ourselves but Oscar mixed it so that’s when met. Then post-first EP we started recording with him producing pretty much everything we’ve done since then. But we love him. He’s the best. He’s so talented and plays every instrument. Picks up things at the drop of a hat. Just gets what we’re doing and where we want to go and I wouldn’t want to work with any other producer at the moment.

JG: It’s something you take for granted too after a while. He’s such a nice dude and so has that producer use the thing down or the “nice producer” thing down there. He’s very malleable to things and he’ll let you go off in tangents and you go, “Yeah, it’s really great,” and somehow bring you back to what he thinks is sensibly a musical idea that you agree with at the end. You don’t notice that until after the fact you’ve left the session. You’re like, “Hang on. Hang on a second.”

We’re fans of Holy Holy and other stuff, other people he’s writing with and just his writing in general. He’s just a good dude to watch work. Don’t take himself too seriously and likes to work quickly, which is good for us.

I imagine it’s almost like trying to find a good psychologist. That’s a hard trek for everyone, you’re never going to go it the first time around.

JG: Yeah, exactly. You’ve got to do it for the right reasons too. The producer has to be doing it for the right reasons and you need to know that they care just like you need to know your manager cares or your label cares. Because then you can forget about all the business stuff and just focus on making the tunes.

BW: Producers are very much like a fifth member of the band. So you’ve got to have a good relationship with them and we’re just super lucky that we did and found Oscar.

JG: They’ve got to be able to tell you where you’re doing shit.

Yeah, you want the honest truth! That would be horrific. You’re like, “Why didn’t someone tell me this was shit?”

JG: “We just thought you were really into the accordion, we couldn’t tell you that!”

Oh, what do you mean you didn’t love my soprano saxophone solo?

Ben, I wanted to ask you about the band’s formation because I heard you put out an ad looking for ‘Brandon Flower’s angrier little brother’. Is that true or is that just something you guys have written in press releases?

BW: There’s a little bit of mayo on that. I did put an ad looking for someone to collaborate with.

Where did you post that ad?

BW: Record stores! I think that’s where it was. I literally put it in two places on Brunswick Street and Fitzroy. Joel was the man. Joel was the only one that answered the ad, mind you.

JG: I was a drummer and I was sick of carrying drums around. I was with my girlfriend on the street one day and just saying, “Maybe I’ll have a go at singing.” Then saw this… It was really scary. The first thing he sent me, I had to take a laptop over to my friend’s place and sing along because he’d written some pretty grungy kind of stuff and I had to take a laptop over to a friend’s place for the mic. Then he went out to work, so I had some space to do my first singing thing. It was so funny. I sent it back to him going “Ohh”. It was real embarrassing sending these files because it’s like, “I made this.” Yeah, that’ll be good or something.

I would love to see what you would have said, Ben, if it was absolutely rubbish. How you would have let him down.

BW: Yeah, I would’ve let him down or just said, “Hmm.”

JG: He’s such a nice guy, he probably wouldn’t do it. In fact, maybe he’s such a nice guy that he still hasn’t.

This is what “Liar Liar” is all about! It’s the lies from the very beginning of the band, it’s all coming out now. You guys have created “Liar Liar” as a hot sauce too?

BW: Yeah. Tim the drummer, my brother. During isolation, he just found these little hobbies that he’s been doing and he was posting these things on his personal Instagram account and he was making hot sauce, croissants and doughnuts. Just all this random… Bagels, all the sweet stuff. Then we just came up with the idea that someone called the sauce, Pants On Fire. It’s like, “It works! Liar Liar pants on fire!” We got him to do a batch for the song.

JG: He’s a hilarious dude but he’s just so private about stuff. But it’s just so perfect and it’s good hot sauce too. He’s really technical. As a drummer, he’s very attentioned to detail. So everything he does is like, “Oh, this. Oh, this. Oh, this.” So the sauce comes out, and it’s like commercial grade.

I was going to say, do you have tests that has to go through to get commercialised or certified?

BW: It would if we were selling it but he’s only giving it away.

JG: I think Tim definitely knows what he needs to do to get it up and running.

BW: He did say another one of his little hobbies is brewing beer and he’s got a pretty extravagant brew kit at his house. He was testing pH levels and all this sort of stuff.

You could do like a “Mid City Middy”, like a mid-strength beer.

BW: A Middy City!

JG: Hey that’s cool! You want to join our marketing?

I’m not doing anything else, one hundred per cent. Give me a job guys, I’ll come on your tour. I’ll go. I’ll save you.

BW: Middy City…

You guys can steal that one. Give me just a little cut. Maybe just a free case.

Let’s talk about your upcoming EP, “Wishing for the Best” at in November. What can we expect from that body of work?

JG: Well, lots of long ballads. With burst of Sicilian goat herder music… Look, all right. We’ll be honest with you. We’ve done one EP and then now we’re doing another EP and this other EP is the backside of the first EP.

Give us a B-side flip.

JG: Yeah, except it’s probably an A-side because we like these songs more. Anyway, EP’s are only five songs. We’re trying to make it like a fun little ride through that anyway because we know people don’t listen to albums but there’s also not so much satisfaction in just a single. Maybe EP is going to be the next thing. It’s where it’s just like a commute’s worth of music, 20 minutes.

You could argue that everyone has a shorter attention span now and that people love the instant grat of just single after single like having EP. Instead of just like, “Album, wait a year and a half then get another album.”

JG: Yeah, people ask us about the album thing and we keep having to go, “Oh, we have to do the EP first.” I get it.

Yeah, but in saying that, an album is a great whole chapter of your life just in one body of work.

JG: We’re trying to do the same thing with this EP too. This is the 2020 EP. We had a 2019 EP. Was it right? Just 2018-19, and that’s this chapter done. We’ve written a whole bunch of stuff since then and now obviously, band is just hammering into Dropbox and all these goddamn demos we’ve got to write on. We really feel these songs go together first. There’s five little tunes and a nice little wave but they’re also, out of everything that we had left over or that we were from our set, were the best ones. I don’t know.

BW: It’s going to be good. It’s going to be great.

Bottom line, going to be good. Ben and Joel, thank you so much in chatting with me!

MID CITY‘s latest single “Liar Liar” is out now. Stream it HERE.

Tait McGregor