AMPED Project concluded again this year with a marathon 6 hour gig at Fifty Gorillas. Fifteen highschool acts played, who had all been coached and nurtured through the project (for free) by Nadia Reid, and who were all also seriously impressive. If this is the future of Dunedin music things are definitely looking good.
I spoke to one of the bands who participated, Sugarcoated Bullets. They stand out as being one of the punkier ones to come out of the project, driven by their vocalist, Jack Munro’s, high energy stage presence. Where their peers are inspired by Mac DeMarco and Gus Dapperton, they’re inspired by The Ramones and The Dead Kennedy’s. They’ve also just released an EP.
So how was amped?
Jack: It was pretty fun this year.
Ayden: Pretty much the same as last year but just a bit more…
Jack: I think there was a slight step up in how interesting the courses were, like I thought there was more to get out of it this year.
Why was that?
Jack: I dunno, it might have been because we’re used to it now. Last year was a brand new thing for us. Nah, it was cool.
How has AMPED helped you?
Ayden: Yeah, we saw the opportunity on Facebook and we were like it’d be a good way to boost up a bit, but we’d just finished rockquest and we hadn’t gigged at all so Amped was definitely a good way to introduce us to it.
Jack: It was definitely a massive push for us. And we got to meet all the musicians and get to know them a bit better.
Ayden: It gave us connections so if we ever want to do gigs with them we knew people.
What would you say is the best thing about AMPED? If you could pick like one thing
Ayden: Gigs I’d say
Jack: Yeah I would say our amped gis are probably the most impactful, like we’ve had heaps of fun. Like last time with the whole buzz lightyear masks and the pink singlet. Last year someone threw a toy caterpillar at our guitarist. A lot of good memories have been at those gigs.
When and how did you guys form as a band?
Jack: It was originally Callum and I.
Callum: We’d done some stuff together but it didn’t really work out.
Jack: And then I got thrown guitar and you [Ayden] started learning bass and so when we became friends and then one day.
Ayden: Yeah, because we were both into punk music and I was getting into that kind of stuff, and originally Callum was going to do singing because you were on guitar, and then that changed a bit and you started doing drums?
Callum: Yeah, I picked up the drumset because we didn’t have a drummer.
Jack: Well we did but that didn’t go well…
Ayden: And then Joey came a bit later because you weren’t too competent on guitar…
Jack: And we’ve been this beautiful disgusting masterpiece ever since.
I’ve noticed over the past year you’ve definitely improved as musicians which is cool
Jack: Yeah because Callum, you’ve always been interested in music right since a young age, and Joey is the same but Ayden and I it was like straight up the start of 2017 I started doing music. And I wasn’t planning to sing, I got thrown into that, so obviously it was from me angrily shouting at rockquest to now where I’m kind of getting the idea? But we’re learning and stuff. It’s crazy because we’re just like a very recent band and we’ve managed to weave in and be friends with all these amazing musicians we’ve learnt from and been inspired by like The Rothmans and that stuff.
Yeah, I picked up on The Rothmans influence, especially with your performance and stuff… Was that inspired by them?
Jack: Yeah, I would say so because I saw them at The Attic, because, but yeah it was one of the first shows I went to in The Attic, it was the EP release for doomsurfdoom I think? But anyway I saw The Rothmans but it was just this crazy stage presence, and mosh pits, and him just slamming into the crowd and stuff. So after that I was thinking that I can do that because obviously punk is about rage and stuff so that’s what we try to do.
So this EP you’re releasing, how did you record it?
Ayden: In like a friends bedroom.
Callum: Well we have a mate called Hamish [Daniell] in Mosgiel so we just ended up going round there because he’s in another band called Saurain and they were playing a gig at his house basically, and we ended up talking to him about how we want to record and stuff, and he kind of just went on about how we could do it at his for free rather than pay a bunch of money and we just thought why not.
Jack: He’s been amazing, he was super supportive of the whole thing.
How did it turn out, are you happy with how it sounds?
Jack: Yeah I would say so.
Ayden: It’s a got a good like bedroom sound which is kind of what we want, something not very over-produced.
Jack: We have no idea how people are going to perceive it though, because we’re very much a highschool meme band. People don’t take us seriously and we like it, it’s pretty funny most of the time, but some people take it very cynically you know? So there’s probably going to be a lot of memeification so that’ll be kind of funny.
Does that bother you? Do you want to be taken seriously?
Callum: Yes and no.
Ayden: We’re used to it now but we definitely want to be taken seriously.
Jack: I don’t think too seriously though.
Callum: No like we want to dick around and have fun and all that, but we’re releasing material and such and we want to be taken seriously like these guys actually make music whereas in stage we can just be as stupid as we want.
Jack: Because that’s the thing about punk, it’s like very easy to perceive it as something as really cool and serious or very funny. Like I listen to My War, you know that Black Flag song? And on some days you perceive it as like fuck this is awesome, and on other days it’s like this is just silly, it sounds like he’s at the back of the room having a tantrum.
What’s your motivation for making music?
Jack: I think everyone has a different reason… So what’s your reason Callum?
Callum: Mine’s just for the hell of it, I just really enjoy it.
Ayden: Mine’s just like whenever I look back at gigs it’s just happy moments, just escape from everything… I don’t really have a set motivation but it definitely helps.
Jack: It’s just a release for me, whenever something angers me I just write about it, or just release, like on stage you’ve seen me I’m just losing it, like an out of body experience, and I like that because it’s a safe losing control moment. Because generally at school I’m just this quiet awkward shit, and like being on stage I can be this spastic crazy guy.
Also I just hope one day we’ll be able to inspire people, like kids, to make music. It’d be nice to have people like Year 8 or whatever see us and be like oh shit I can do this and I don’t need to have a massive background in music at a young age to do it.
What is it about it the punk music which influences you that you like?
Ayden: I guess it’s just like no meaning… Well I mean what I mean by that is you can do it the way you want, like there’s not many rules I guess? In another genre like rock you kind of have to fit in a way a formula, I feel like what we do we don’t really have to if that makes sense.
Jack: Also I guess it’s kind of just the anti-ness of it, because punk was like a rejection for the rock era, it was like I don’t like you talking about pointless stuff when there’s serious issues going on so I’m going to make disgusting music to make people confused. And I kind of like that it’s just rebelling.
Do you think now is the perfect time for punk? Because like in the 80s there was a resurgence towards the right with thatcher and stuff, and it seems like it’s sort of happening again, so do you think now is like a good time for this sort of anti-”stuff” music?
Jack: Yeah I’d say. I think we will see more bands rebelling and stuff and being like I don’t like what you’re doing. And punk’s kind of seeped into a lot of stuff, like in the hip-hop scene there’s a lot of people acting very punky? People really like Death Grips and Death Grips is just like straight up punk music and hip-hop slammed together.
Is there anything else you want to say?
Jack: Yeah… I kind of wish music wasn’t so attached to the bar laws… That’s one thing that’s kind of, I wouldn’t say killing us but definitely affecting us. Because obviously all of us are music fans, like I love Koizilla, we all love Koizilla and The Rothmans and like Bathsalts, so it’s really annoying when you want to see that band and you can’t because of R18 restrictions. And obviously they’re there to protect you from the alcohol, but that’s not our intention. And also it’s just generally playing, you have to be 18.
And it’s not like the people who are watching the shows are dangerous people, it’s not like I’ve ever been to a show and been punched or something or beaten the shit out of, like you never get that because generally everyone who goes to a show is a lovely person.
I mean we’re almost turning 18 all of us so it kind of becomes whatever, but it is very annoying that our venues are limited because of this law. I feel like Dunedin we like to portray ourselves as like artistic, like we embrace art here, but it’s like you’re not 18? You can’t do that because I’m here to sell alcohol, not listen to your music. And I know this is businesses but I think the council should look into this, because some places put their back out for musicians like us but the risk is so high for just nothing.
That’s what makes stuff like AMPED very nice because they allow you to play gigs.