Once an omnipresent, err, presence in the Canberra music scene, indie-popsmiths HANCOCK BASEMENT have been laying low of late, punching clocks at Sydney’s esteemed BigJesusBurger studios. The first taste of the fruits of their labour will be the forthcoming Hey Kids/Don Juan 7” vinyl - yes, a proper record! So, where better to chat with Nick Craven, lead singer and guitarist, than amongst the cramped, dusty rows of crates in an undisclosed record store.
The afternoon gets off to a bad start when, much to my chagrin, Nick scores a dirt cheap copy of Kraftwerk’s Autobahn. As we scour the racks, he fills me in on the band’s movements since the launch of their debut EP in 2006. “We’ve really been pushing the interstate shows in Sydney and Melbourne. We made the Garage to V final in 2007, but more recently we won triple j Unearthed’s Trackside competition, which got us a fair bit of airplay. Our new single We Started Something’s been getting a bit of a push on triple j too. We’ve also learnt how to play our instruments properly,” he adds, “and have become far better songwriters.”
Indeed, listening to the joyous pop explosion Hey Kids, or the darker Don Juan on the flip, reveals a band brimming with new musical ideas and a bigger, fuller sound. Part of this can be attributed to their decision to add bass to the mix, after resolutely sticking to the two guitars ‘n’ drums format since their heady formative days in mid-2004. “It’s really beefed up the sound and broadened our musical scope,” Nick says.
Bassman Todd Gregory also provided the feline-themed artwork for their 7”. “Plus he’s a redhead, so that rounds out the band’s hair colour spectrum,” Nick chuckles, holding a dog-eared copy of Eno’s On Land aloft and looking across the aisle quizzically. “Only ten bucks - want it?” As avid fans of the history of popular music, committing their own tracks to wax is the realisation of a long-held dream for Hancock Basement (completed by drummer Tom Spira and multi-instrumentalist Nick Beresford-Wylie). “So many of our favourite bands have released stand-alone 7”s that become part of their history,” Nick says, while inspecting a copy of Buzzcocks classic Singles Going Steady compilation.
Nick’s fixation on those big glossy black circles began early, with Australian kids’ folkie Peter Combe. “My guess,” he ponders, “is that it was mid-late period Combe, - some would say his best era. I liked the interaction of the vinyl, hoisting this massive black disc onto a turntable and playing around with it. It was a real experience.”
Hancock Basement launch their 7” with The Inheritors at Transit Bar on Thursday May 28. Entry is free. Vote for the band in round one of the Uncharted comp - www.uncharted.com.au.