SXSW Interview: CALMLY discuss their first trip to Austin, new music and that name change

WA’s CALMLY have been touring and introducing themselves to a wider international audiences over the last year – we last saw them at Singapore’s Music Matters conference and now, we were lucky to catch these talented ladies performing at SXSW. Larry caught up with the band on ground in Austin to see how their American jaunt had been treating them.

We’re sitting here with Calmly backstage, well side of the convention centre at SXSW. Your first ever trip here, your first time in the northern hemisphere as a band. Tell me a little bit about what your experiences have been like at SXSW so far, I know you haven’t played a show yet though, have you? Tomorrow is the first show?

Jane: Yeah we’ve got a couple of shows tomorrow. We’ve been here for a few days and so far, it’s mostly just been kind of stumbling onto as many new bands as possible, seeing lots of old friends and catchy bands from the east coast of Australia playing. I don’t know, soaking it in, there’s kind of too much to do so we’re doing as much of it as we can.

When it comes to bands that have travelled the furthest to get here, I think anyone from your part of Australia definitely wins that competition. Not that it’s a competition, but you’ve won.

Jane: Thirty hours of flying, so that was pretty exhausting.We just slept for like a day and a half when we first got here.

You came straight to Austin?

Rhian: L.A. and then Austin. I like our jobs.

I’m sure you do. You mention that you got to see some local Aussie acts, it’s kind of a great opportunity to see them in front of a small crowd. Seeing Stella yesterday, she’s not going to be playing for crowds like that for much longer. Anywhere in the world, let alone in Australia where she’s already selling out stages. So it’s a great opportunity to get to see those sorts of artists in an intimate environment.

Rhian: Absolutely, we’ve just come from watching Stella a couple of hours ago in a relatively small room, but it was packed all the way through. On the other side of the world and having like a hundred people watching you at one of the showcases you’re doing. It’s pretty amazing to watch bands that you know have been really good for a really long time, and other people are starting to appreciate that.

Next on the rings are you, with your showcases and performances over the next few days. How have you prepared for these shows? Are you going into it with a different mentality than playing a show in Perth or Sydney or wherever you might have played over the years?

Ashlyn: I think we’re trying not to, we’re trying to just do our thing as usual. But also having in mind that it is a showcase and we do need to showcase our best performance and have that you know whole …

Rhian: Definitely our best parts. Showcase our best parts.

Ashlyn:  Yeah. Taking it all seriously, we always take it seriously. Being less Australian about it, I guess.

Well, more Australian.

Ashlyn:  More Australian? Yeah, I guess so.

Set yourselves apart. You’re coming into this as well looking ahead to release your debut album later this year, a long time coming. I imagine you’ve been sitting on that for a little while.


Rhian: We’ve kind of actually been recording it for like three years.

On and off?

Rhian: Yeah, but we’ve only really just finished tracking and sound mixing so it’s still a bit of an ongoing process but it’s super exciting to hear the songs coming together on record the way that they work for us live. How we imagined they’ll be when they’re complete. We’ve just gotta do the fun stuff now like deciding what we’re going to call it.

Any front runners?

Rhian: Captain Buggers.

Would you want to name it after a song or are you wanting to kind of name it something standalone? Which direction are you thinking?

Jane:  We haven’t really talked about it that much, I don’t think. It’d be nice to pick something from one of the songs or something that links back.

Like a lyric?

Jane: Yeah, we’re into that idea, but we haven’t decided on one yet. Something will present itself and then it will just be meant to be.

When you’re here at SXSW, networking and meeting as many people as you can and all those sorts of things, have you gotten the elevator pitch down? Do you know if you get in an elevator with the head of,  “Blah blah blah…” do you know what you’re going to say to them in thirty seconds or less about the band? Do you have the SXSW pitch down?

Ashlyn: Well I think the girls have the, not pitch but general, “Oh yeah, this is what we do,” and I have to do the more, pitching I guess. But it’s dependent on who I’m talking to and who I’m meeting with so it’s not the same but yeah, there is a general pitch that I have to give. Do you want me to do it?

Well, tell me about your band. I’m trying, you know, getting you ready for the elevator.

Ashlyn: Alright well we’re a four-piece band from Perth, Australia. We play shoegaze music, it’s kind of alternative, a bit heavy, a bit soft at times. We’ve just recorded an album that we’re looking to release this year and we’re hoping to come back to America and do some tours and more showcasing.

So I’m going to pick that apart a little bit. First thing, you need to introduce yourself as Tame Impala, that’s going to get you know … I’m in a band called Tame Impala, you should come see us play, you may have heard of us. There have been a couple of lineup changes but come along. So there you go, that’s my advice. Just lie is what I’m saying.

Ashlyn: Yeah, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. I didn’t want to tell you, but.

Jane: We were told before we came here that we needed to Americanise the way that we talk about the band because I think that we definitely, and I think a lot of Australians, are pretty modest. We’re not very good at big upping ourselves. So we had to get better at being like we’re amazing, you have to come and see us, you don’t want to miss this.

Ashlyn:  Totally lying.

Hey fake it until you make it, that’s what they say. And there’s no better place to do that than here, in Austin Texas. So what can we expect from your set over the next couple of days? What have you got planned? What have you got in store? 

Rhian: Well I don’t know, it might change, we might get on stage and be like, no we’ve got to throw everything out that we know and start again.

Jane:  I think we’ve just kind of been going through what we’ve been playing over the last year or so and really refining it, making it as tight as possible. Trying to showcase, which is appropriate, the extremes of what we do and what the full breadth of the way that we play is so hopefully we’ve picked the right shoes.

Ashlyn: Most of the songs that we’re playing are going to be on the album. We’ve got one oldie but goodie in there I think, but the rest are new, well not new but to be released on the album.

You’re coming in to this with years of live experience under your belt. There are artists who have never played a live show, these current guys who are here at the festival. Like G Flip did their first ever show last night.

Rhian: Oh my god, how do you do that?

Exactly, how do you do that? It’s pretty impressive. So you’re coming in with great experience under your belt, just treat it like a normal show, it’ll be great. We’ll have to touch base again after the event, see how it all went.

Rhian:  See whether you lied to us. No, no it wasn’t all fine, Larry.

Everything was terrible. But you’re going to have to say that really quickly, that’s the hardest part of this festival. And you’ll probably play one show to like five people and then the next one is hundreds of people.

Jane:  That’s okay.

It’s a pretty good mix. With the album, do you know when we can expect it? Are you going to be dropping a single over the next month or couple of months?

Jane: Possibly. We were kind of talking about it this morning. Maybe aiming for mid-year. Everything’s kind of mixed now. It’s more just us getting with it and choosing some artwork and naming it.

Getting the name, yeah, that will help.

Rhian: And make a video.

Jane: Video’s good. And knowing us mid-year will probably mean just never. Maybe mid-next year.

Middle of 2021 we’ll see you then. Well thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today. I haven’t seen you since you changed your name so I’m excited, I imagine it’s pretty much the same band.

What was the reason you changed the name? I’m sure you’ve been asked that a bunch…

Rhian: There’s another band in America that was called Childsaint and coming over here they kind of hinted to us that they didn’t really appreciate us also using the name, strongly hinted.

Who came first?

Rhian: They did.

Ashlyn: But they were inactive for quite a while.

Chloe:  They were in the eighties, early nineties.

Rhian: So it was a good opportunity I think to make a fresh start.

Ashlyn: It was good, it was good to make us make the decision really fast, we just had to do it before we came here.



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Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.

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