Matthew Hill of Ghyti (Adelaide) chats about the Commodities EP release

Ghyti is a four-piece avant-rock band from Adelaide, inspired by post-punk, Britpop and new-wave sounds. After showcasing Toronto for Canadian Music Week in 2015, they returned to the studio to record their third EP, Commodities. John Goodridge chats with Matthew Hill, lead singer and founder of the band about the release.

Can you tell me about how Ghyti formed?

Ghyti, originally, was just a recording project. I made two EP’s; the second EP got played on the radio and people liked it. I never planned to perform but I got itchy, so got some friends to help out to play the songs off the EP. It wasn’t supposed to be a band, but I kept booking gigs and they kept helping me. After about a year of that, I said maybe this is a band now.

How did you find the other people for the band? Did you simply find them on the street?

Yeah, I just went out and I had a cardboard sign and I stood naked on the corner of Hindley Street and said, “Who wants to join my band?” and the most desperate people came. No, I knew them.

For example. Sam (Henderson), I’d been friends with him for years and I just knew that he was a guitarist. I didn’t know if he was a good guitarist, I’d never played with him. Travis (Duke) had been a drummer in The Flying Squad when I was in the Aunt Sally’s. I knew that The Flying Squad had broken up, so I knew he was available. So I just thought whom do I know and it turned out really well.

Would you say that you prefer the recording process to the live performance?

I wouldn’t say that I like the recording process better, it’s not quite like that, but I think what I do is more suited to recording. The bands I really like are fully realised, bands like Blur. There’s more that you can realise recording than you can live.

It’s the process of recording the music, whereas playing gets you going and is energetic, but you are repeating, you’re playing the same songs again and again. You can’t keep adding new songs every gig, but when you’re recording you’re doing new stuff and whatever you’re putting down is the first time it’s been put down, so it’s creating as opposed to recreating. I like that better, because it’s fresh.

Commodities is your latest EP; you wouldn’t call them happy songs.

No one would call them happy songs. No one that’s heard them.

Could you imagine yourself writing a happy song?

I have written happy songs, but it’s a lot harder. Really good music means that you’re dealing with something. It’s not true that you have to suffer for your art; I don’t believe that at all. You can write happy stuff, but you’re still processing something. If it’s a really sunny day and you’re happy, you’re not really dealing with anything and if you’re writing music for the sake of it, it makes it really shallow.

It’s easier to write about the darker and bleaker stuff, because you’re dealing with something and that makes it work better as a song. Happy stuff is really difficult unless you’re really processing that happiness; you’re really in love with someone for example, but of course I’m too cynical for that. I deal with that stuff in person, but things I’m thinking about, for example, “Golden Touch”, is where the idea of commodities came from. We’re all sale-able products and that’s what society has made us into, we’re commodities on social media.

How do you deal with the fact that you’re releasing music as a commodity?

It’s a comment on that as well. We played in Canada last year and the idea of festivals is that you go there, play some songs, schmooze with people and try to get yourself picked up by a label or promoter, and you’re there in a way trying to sell yourself. The bigger bands were taking it very seriously and they had become these commodities by design.

It gets very cynical where people listen to the first ten seconds of a song to see if it’s worth their time. It’s just the way life is; it’s more of an observation than a negative comment. We all want something from somebody else and we’re prepared to pimp ourselves to make that possible.

It doesn’t bother me that we also do that. Our song “Give Us Your Money”, at the same time as we’re commenting on the politics, we’re also singing a song at a gig trying to sell an EP saying ,“Give us your money”. It’s very self-aware.

In the song “I’m a Landlord”, it would appear that you’re not enamored with property developers.

That song is specifically written because I had trouble with my landlord. I almost got kicked out of my house due a misunderstanding with rent payments and in the process, someone came in and laid down the law, not considering what had happened and the communication breakdown. So they just came in to treat me like a commodity, something that they owned, and they wanted to get money out of me.

I was pissed off and you can’t piss off a songwriter without getting a song out of it. It’s not that I hate property developers per se, I hate a specific type of property investor; the ones who think, “I own this thing, so I also own the person who lives there”. Obviously, there are stories of terrible tenants, but the idea that people are there to prop you up as an income stream.

The other two songs cover relationships and infidelity, so the theme is similar in treating a relationship as a commodity.

It’s a bleak take on relationships and we’ve had some things go down in the band recently. I’m not down on relationships, but that’s my way of dealing with things. I’ve known people where all they wanted is a partner, but it’s not all roses and chocolates. People get possessive. You see a couple out shopping and someone being dragged along by someone else and this possessiveness and ownership, we’re commodities everywhere we turn. It’s bleak in a way, but it’s a theme with me how it pops up in different ways. Everything is just a possession.

You used Luke Eygenraam as your producer, how important was he to the final sound?

A lot. He was left alone with it for quite along time.

So you trusted him enough to let him go?

Yeah we did, we trusted him but he was also a by-product of the process. It was done very quickly, we didn’t intend to do it quickly, but we were late starting to record, and it was easier to leave Luke to go away and mix it. I obviously heard a few mixes along the way, but mostly he was off on his own to bring out the sounds that he heard in it.

We trust him from the point that he knows our influences, he came to Canada with us, he recorded the last single and I like the music that he listens to and is passionate about, so it’s similar and different. So as a producer, Luke became part of the band and put his own sound on.

What things are in the wings for Ghyti?

We’re doing promo, then we have a video coming out for “Golden Touch”, we’re going to the east cost later in the year and we have a couple of songs that we wrote but didn’t include on this EP, so we want to finish them off and they may become part of a larger project. Not necessarily an album, but something fully realised. We went overseas and enjoyed it so we’d like to go back, but from Australia it’s a really hard thing to do, but I think there’s some interest there. Canada seemed to like us.

We want to do a coupe of videos but not all tracks. We did that with Fluorescent Lights in 2014, we did a short film, which was basically just a video for every song stuck together. In Canada that got the most interest. I’d also love to do something in vinyl. We’ve been tossing the idea of doing a Christmas release with Hello Newman. So yeah, busy times ahead!

Check out Commodities by Ghyti on Bandamp, HERE.

 

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