Heads of Charm are a Melbourne-based trio, of David Gagliardi (vox, guitar), Zaire Kesha (bass) and Lachlan Ewbank (drums). Their music is hard-to-define, an astoundingly dynamic sound that led them to being pinned one of our top BIGSOUND acts of 2016. They’ve just dropped their second single of the year, “OK Yes Pls”, are about to play with DZ Deathrays and are hitting the road for a tour next year. We sat down on a seedy Sunday morning to discuss all the important questions: matching tracksuits, Spaghetti Bolognese, Camp Cope, and The Wiggles.
So you’ve got a little mini tour – three shows – coming up with DZs. Can you tell me a bit about that?
David: Two Melbourne shows and one in Adelaide; all ages in Adelaide and under 18s and over 18s in Melbourne. The whole tour was meant to be all ages…
Lachlan: But in Victoria, the venues don’t make enough money off all ages shows so they don’t really do them, because they obviously can’t serve booze.
Zaire: Yeah, but it’s also being around a shitload of people that’ll be smashed.
Lachlan: You just need security on that.
Zaire: But, DZ shows, mate.
Lachlan: Last time we played an underage show, at the end of the show, we found a bag on the floor – and before we even played they were like ‘We’re just going to go to this carpark and drink goon’.
Was that in Cronulla? You played Sounds of the Suburbs there this year?
Lachlan: Nah, that was Melbourne.
Zaire: Cronulla was fucking wild, man.
David: Some dude was standing on top of a portaloo… Some publishable responses about Cronulla? It was rammed.
Too many people? What time did you guys play?
David: Just after two in the afternoon and the room we were in was full.
Lachlan: It did rain, which also helped, because ours was the only indoor venue…
It wasn’t anything to do with your really strong fan base in Cronulla?
David: It’s typical of the outer suburbs and regional crowds though, is that they’re really into it. And you could tell that people really were there to enjoy music. We’ve been doing a lot of regional and outer suburban shows … its really good.
Lachlan: Instead of doing this [mimics holding a pint with arms crossed] – how they stand in Melbourne.
David: But they’re so much more appreciative, hey? That’s definitely been the highlight of [our] tours, playing those regional and outer suburban shows. The audiences are just great.
Zaire: Yeah, those regional shows are great, everyone turns up and actually has a good time- they’re up the front, and they’re dancing and moving, and they want to talk to you afterwards.
David: Singing words to the songs, like at the Ballarat shows, that’s kind of crazy.
Zaire: It’s nice to know that we’re actually getting people listening to our tunes out there and stuff.
You definitely have a fan base out there – I scrolled through your triple j Unearthed page recently and there was a lot of positive feedback there.
Zaire: Except for Bazzle, right?
Lachlan: He gave us one star, with no feedback. Cheers Bazzle.
Shout out to Bazzle for being your harshest critic.
Lachlan: At least we left him speechless.
The first time I saw you guys was at BIGSOUND – there were definitely people familiar with your music in the crowd. Tell me more about your showcase?
David: It was really great.
A comprehensive answer. More importantly, how many mimosas were drunk?
Lachlan: I probably had about twenty on the last day.
David: It was good, but it was really exhausting. There was a lot of work that we had to do before we got there, and then playing the shows, and all the meetings as well. A lot of talking… which is not the smartest thing to do right before going on stage.
Lachlan: It’s like, ‘here’s your meetings, promote your show’, and then you get to the show and you can’t sing.
David: It was getting a bit overwhelming, wasn’t it? It all went really, really well and it was a great turn out at the showcase, so we’re sort of following that up at the moment. A lot of interested parties…
Are you allowed to tell me more about that?
David: There’s nothing to tell just yet…
Lachlan: Uh, Big Day Out, Soundwave, Harvest, Stereosonic…
All the big, no longer running festivals then. Good connections you made.
Lachlan: What? He said it was a sure thing? We put down a deposit!
It’s okay, you’ve got another tour next year to look forward to. Where’s that taking you?
David: Starts in Western Australia, all of the East coast… even more regional gigs. That was one of the good things that came out of BIGSOUND – a lot of the people who saw us [play] book venues and tours, and immediately came up to us.
Well you guys are really kick-arse live, so its not surprising. Especially considering that you don’t have a recent EP out or anything at the moment – just the singles – its seeing you guys live where you make a lot of sense.
David: That’s a good thing that people are booking bands because they’re good.
Lachlan: Are they?!
David: Yeah, there’s a really bad culture of people who book venues and the first thing that they do is switch over to a band’s Facebook and judge how many likes that they have.
[Quick, everyone like Heads of Charm on Facebook right now]. Ticket prices and such are totally related to how many facebook likes someone has.
David: Yeah, the best band bookers know what’s about to happen. And there’s only a few, and they might book for festivals that are six months in advance or something, they book stuff that doesn’t break until the festival rolls around.
Lachlan: Yeah, it’s kind of like us when we book our supports… you know Camp Cope?
David: They had their first show with us. We know them, so we booked them.
Zaire: How’s it going up there guys?
David: They played our warehouse show last year.
Will you be throwing another warehouse show?
David: We will do that again at some point, it was so much work – a huge undertaking. We did all the ticketing ourselves, that warehouse show actually, we did everything from toilet paper to ticketing.
‘Everything from toilet paper to ticketing’?
Lachlan: It’s our band motto.
David: It was just a blank, small warehouse thing. We really like doing that stuff – we really like doing shows that are unique, or a bit different
Yeah, like you and your smaller town gigs. Has touring through any small towns given you good tour stories?
Lachlan: We got locked out of our accom, because Dave went to bed to try and turn on the heater, and we got sent out to get food in Ballarat.
Zaire: And then we got [him] donuts.
David: It’s not the world’s most interesting story.
Lachlan: Well it’s a story, Dave.
David: Our last tour was a series of us working all week, then packing up on Friday, getting on a plane or in the car, doing two, three shows, flying home, going to bed, everyone back to work, and then out again. I would say this last tour was …plain, straightforward, you know, sensible.
Lachlan: Sensible, only one bag of coke a show.
That’s not fitting with your song ‘Cocaine Aplenty’…
David: Did it all at the photo shoot, we ran out.
Zaire: It’s a job – when you’re on tour you don’t want to be too fucked to play a show.
Lachlan: Won’t stop me though.
Zaire: We’d always drink heaps afterwards and such, but when you’re going from place to place you want to be fresh when you’re going onto stage, or you burn out halfway through.
Lachlan: You spend most of your time just waiting around. It’s 80% logistics, 10% drinking, 10% playing.
David: And all the really great tour stories fall under the category of ‘what happens on tour, stays on tour’.
Lachlan: Does it really? Not if I film it.
That’s some interesting content for your social media.
David: We do everything – we book all our own shows, we do all our own media…
Lachlan: But how do you do that when you have to write all the songs, and do all the other things… how do we do it?
So obviously Lachlan has no idea what Dave does.
David: Well, that’d be … why there’s not a whole heap of music flying out from us.
I like that you don’t have a current album out, it keeps your live shows unexpected.
David: Look, I’d like to. Artistically, I find it extremely frustrating releasing digital only singles. Especially when you go and do the [single] launches and the tours for it… Here we are launching ones and zeroes. On an artistic level its not very fulfilling.
Zaire: I guess the way that the industry is going now as well for bands like ourselves…there’s almost no point to release a full record. You know, people are going to choose a couple of songs for Spotify or something. A lot more bands these days are releasing singles again, singles are kind of where it’s at… it’s one piece of music that someone really likes, and they’ll come to your show and experience [the single] and all of it, and be hankering for the next thing to come out, which could just be another single. It’s almost like dangling a carrot until its time to release that full album.
A full album or a bag of carrots?
Zaire: That’s exactly right, then you’ve got a spag bol on the way.
Wait, this is the discovery of the interview. Who puts carrot in spag bol?
Zaire: I do! I did it last night!
Lachlan: Yeah, carrot and celery.
David: I can’t get behind that.
Breaking up the band right here [tensions were running high]. Let’s move on to Lachlan and his perpetual leaving you for DZ [Deathrays] tours. How do you work with that?
David: Yeah, it works out pretty well. We’re pretty organised. We’re always looking six months ahead, and if anyone’s got anything to do, we’ll sort of know about it.
Lachlan: Yeah, we’re always looking ahead.
David: Like the shows with DZ, and Ecca [Vandal], she’s a friend of ours, and does really cool stuff. Then we’ve got a tour in January and February. I guess we know when our on time and our off time is.
Zaire: Off time is just not playing as much.
David: Yeah, off time is writing, whatever we have to do to get singles ready. There’s always something to do.
It’s understandable, when you’ve got a third of your band regularly gallivanting around the globe. You are such busy people – are you maybe busy with an EP on the cards?
David: We recorded an album’s worth of stuff at Head Gap [this year].
Lachlan: World’s not ready for that though.
David: We did all the basic tracking, so we’ve still got to do the vocals and the mixing of that. So “Cocaine Aplenty” was the first song from those sessions, and “OK Yes Pls” is the second from that set. So we don’t know when there’s going to be an album…
Lachlan: We’re going to do a triple album drop, surprise everyone. Or maybe ten singles in a year.
Tell us a bit about your new single, “Ok Yes Pls”.
David: I live next to a drive through bottle shop. Each weekday after 5pm, lines of cars fill up the drive through and spill out onto the road. These cars are mostly occupied by men and women dressed in office attire stopping on their way home from work to buy a bottle of wine. It’s like a production line in a factory.
All these people dressed in grey and black following the same routine.
Wake. Commute. Work. Commute. Drink. Sleep. Wake. Commute. Work. Commute. Drink. Sleep.
It’s a horrible issue in our society. A horrible feeling that you’re trapped and caught in a rut, and being worn down from it all the best you can think to do for yourself is escape with drink and buying stuff.
One particular day this robotic parade really got me down. I was feeling quite upset and angry for most of us.
There are so many people that have stretched themselves and now feel trapped because they were sold this idea of get a full time job, finance a car, buy a new home, fill it with stuff – don’t worry if that home is built of paper way out in the suburbs and your job is in the city, you’ve got that car you’re still paying off which will allow you to sit bumper to bumper on the freeway for two-three house each day and if you scrimp and save (compromising your health with cheap processed food should help with this) you’ll still be able to afford that once a year budget holiday. Other than that it’s quite an uplifting song.
Besides being not uplifting, its quite an uplifting song… Tell me a bit more about your songwriting.
David: The music I used to work on was very much… the lyrics were very much ‘me and you’. And then we started making the music of Heads of Charm, it immediately changed to ‘us and them’, and that was a really distinct kind of difference that I noticed. There’s heaps of awesome music that’s, you know, you and me, but I don’t know, the music just pushed me into that idea before I kind of thought about it.
The first EP of music, I just grabbed a whole bunch of newspapers that I was collecting over a few weeks. It was almost a shit idea… I’d just cut out headlines and subheadlines and words and throwing them on this big piece of paper. I just had it up on the wall and had the microphone in front of it, just pressed record and just started singing over the music without thinking about it, without pre planning it. I just had all these triggers in front of me, and worked from there. That was in the beginning, I don’t do that now.
I know David Bowie did that with his lyrics, there was lots of cut and pasting and rearranging and such.
David: [And] people like William Burroughs, that cut up style of writing.
Maybe his inspiration was Heads of Charm, we know he was a space man.
David: [Maybe he] built a time machine
And he’s seen the EP you’re going to release, if Lachlan doesn’t die from spreading himself too thin first. How’s the whole playing in two bands thing going?
Lachlan: I’ve got a show in December [where] I’m playing four sets in one day.
Zaire: He’ll be playing in a chair. We’ll be fine.
Lachlan: No-one notices me anyway. I’ll just request a curtain and play behind that, sitting down.
David: Get a stage hand to do your pedals for you.
Zaire: I don’t want some one stomping my pedals for me.
Lachlan: That’s like someone banging my girlfriend!
Zaire: Yeah, heaps of bands play with backing tracks to the point where the stuff that’s coming through the front is still a majority of the stuff that you’ve pre recorded. That sucks.
Lachlan: Like Heads of Charm, that’s why we sound so good live. We just focus on looking cool, even though, reviewers say we were… what was it?
David: Well dressed but plain looking.
Lachlan: That was an actual live review of our set. And also, punctual.
Well dressed, plain looking and punctual. That’s the rock’n’roll dream right there. Which is why people need to go see all your shows?
Lachlan: No pressure.
But pressure. I mean these guys are really punctual and well dressed, I mean they’re in suits right now.
Lachlan: Matching tracksuits.
Zaire: That’s gonna be a thing.
Lachlan: We’re going to get tour tracksuits that we wear at the airport, while in transit, and before and after shows… going to be the most comfortable band ever.
And if people come chat to you after your gig you’ll just be lounging.
Zaire: With a mimosa.
David: And slippers.
Lachlan: Yeah, moccasins…. HOC-casins
That is some good merch. Is that the only incentive for seeing you live?
Zaire: [We have been] practicing our stage show, and our rock moves. Dave actually did some rock moves down in Cronulla
David: Yes, I did some choreographed dance.
Lachlan: No one joined in.
David: There were a couple of kids joining in down the front.
Lachlan: They weren’t doing what you were doing though
What were you doing?
David: I was acting out the words
Zaire: It was hilarious, kind of like The Wiggles.
David: I think it’ll catch on if I keep doing it.
Lachlan: Put on your skivvy next time.
Heads of Charm are playing with DZ Deathrays and Ecca Vandal in Adelaide and Melbourne this weekend – if you come see a show, dance along, because Dave’s feeling left out.