ABABCd is For Those Unsure Whether to Go to a Gig or Watch TV

Filmed at Melbourne's Gasometer Hotel, Banalarama’s ABABCd is part live gig and part TV show.

Jan 30 2016, 10:54pm

Image: Bernard Winter

Banalarama is a strange beast. Formed by Zac Bradtke and Nick Clarke, the emerging Melbourne 'TV' channel has an odd brood of series nestled under its wing. Among these is ABABCd, a music show that sees the duo putting on gigs, filming the whole thing and then editing it down into 20-minute episodes that are then released online.

The live shows are a little fancier than your standard pub fare. Zac spruces up the stage with a custom-built, custom-designed set and Nick interviews acts between performances. The result is a hybrid event that’s as much a TV set as it is a live gig. You can be dancing along to the music only to look up and see a spotlight swinging overhead.

Once the gig’s done, and the punters have gone home, an episode featuring a song from each band’s set is released. You might even spot yourself tearing up the dance floor. The end product is a refreshingly original take on the homegrown music scene, a new type of documentation that changes how we interact with local acts on stage and on screen. We sat down with Nick and Zac to chat about how they came up with the idea for ABABCd, what’s next for the series and when you can catch the next gig.

Noisey: Hey guys! First up tell me a little bit about Banalarama as a channel.
Nick Clarke: Banalarama is the channel and brand we operate under that houses all our series. Most often they’re a bit avant-garde and many of them are a reaction to the banality of the TV shows they’re inspired by.

Zac Bradtke: It’s an umbrella for the various things Nick and I make, and they’re brought together by our shared tone and humour. ABABCd is just one amongst various series that we do.

How did the idea come about?
I film live music nearly twice a week and Nick has interviewed hundreds of different bands, so we wanted to combine those things and figure out a way to do a music show that wasn’t completely shithouse. It was conceived as a documentation of music in a format that’s easy to digest.

Nick: The name is a subversion of ABABCB, the verse-chorus-bridge form, so it’s inferring it’s a structure you’re familiar with but something slightly different. We wanted to provide a platform for acts to thrive. Zac’s really good at making sets and projection art, so it’s a good platform for a multidisciplinary approach where we can get many acts and filmmakers involved.

I was at your last show and thought it was a really cool way for the local audience to get to know homegrown acts. Was that your intention?
I feel like for anything to grow and do well, it needs a communal aspect and if there’s a platform for that to happen, more and more interesting things will come out of it. I get frustrated that there are so many good things happening around, not just in Melbourne, and they get no coverage. As entertaining as shows like Desperate Housewives of Melbourne are, there’s no spotlight on what’s actually happening. We just want to present stuff that’s good and help get exposure for the talented people out there.

You’ve been doing your last couple of shows at The Gasometer. Was that a deliberate way of tapping into the pub gig tradition?
Well, we originally did them in studios but firstly that’s inordinately expensive and secondly we also wanted people to drink. That was a major reason we changed to a venue because people are very stiff in a studio setting. Visually, people drinking changes the tone when you watch the episode back and the crowd are getting more into it. From a filming perspective, the Gasometer works because there’s a lot of different things you can do with it. Opening the roof gives it a summer party vibe and when it’s closed it feels more like a gig and if you have a dance act it’s like a rave cave.

Zac: I tend to enjoy the build up to the episode a little bit more because I can build a set, I can really sink my teeth into the creative side of what it’s going to look like and the posters and stuff.

Do you think you’ve found your groove in terms of format?
It’s only really starting to get to a point where it’s a format we’re comfortable with. It would be good to take even more of a multidisciplinary direction at some point.

Zac: The vision is to expand beyond musicians and have the artists involved in the music: the illustrators who make the vinyl covers, the filmmakers who make the music videos, costume designers, just anyone that’s fucking interesting. We got a grant from Creative Victoria, half of which goes straight to the bands—it was a big thing for us that they got paid. If we had more money there’d definitely be some bands from other cities outside Melbourne we’d like to have come down.

What have been the highlight acts?
Mine would probably be Kirin J Callinan. Aside from the fact that I really like him as a musician, it was really fun to film. It was one of our lower-budget episodes. Nick interviewed him in a golf buggy while I sat on the bonnet trying not to fall off and there was this really beautiful alpine backdrop.

Nick: King Gizzard, Kirin was great, Flying Colours… I generally curate the lineups so we don’t get acts we haven’t seen. They all really bring it as well, particularly now we’ve got Zac’s sets because we bring a shit load of extra lighting and they can see the cameras. I think they really feel inclined to bring their A game.

Zac: The Harpoons were good. Terrible Truths as well. There’s a Terrible Truths video we’re going to put out which—I’m going to say—was the best scene I’ve put together. I really like it.

Catch ABABCd at the Gasometer on April 15 and May 28. and Saturday 28 May. Tickets available here.