Skydeck Are a Melbourne Duo Making Surreal Anti-Capitalist Pop
Skydeck, signed to Dinosaur City/Burger Records and comprising members of Ciggie Witch and Pregnancy, point towards off-beat post punk on their debut single "Live Bait," premiering on Noisey today.
Standing to the south of Melbourne’s central business district is the Eureka Tower, a 297-meter freestanding tower that shimmers in the city’s skyline. The main drawcard of the tower is the gaudy tourist attraction on the 88th floor, the Eureka Skydeck: a monstrously high glass-walled floor where you can gaze out upon Melbourne’s many apartment complexes, stadiums and bodies of water. It’s awfully surreal on floor 88; dizzying and expansive, it makes the usually small-seeming city look gargantuan. Floor 88 is where I meet Dominic Kearton—one half of Melbourne duo Skydeck, named for the attraction—on Monday afternoon to discuss “Live Bait,” the band’s debut single, premiering today on Noisey.
Skydeck—made up of Kearton, who records with Pregnancy and solo as Dom Roff, and Mitchum Clemens, who records with Ciggie Witch and solo as Shark Alarm—like their namesake, filter Melbourne life through a strangely warped sense. The duo make surreal, tinny pop informed by paranoid post-punk and inspired, generally, by the state of Australia today. Skydeck's debut record, out next year on Dinosaur City Records and Burger Records, is a strange artefact, an 11-track record that seems to gesture towards anti-capitalist sentiment but does so in entirely obtuse ways: One song is composed entirely of disparaging spoken word about Melbourne street artist Lush Sux; on others, you can hear snatches of bands like Ought or Tuxedomoon.
The record’s genesis, like its sound, is suitably unconventional: Kearton and Clemens, housemates for a number of years, decided to record an instrumental record a few years back using a synthesizer they loaned off a friend. This year, the pair unearthed the files and wrote lyrics for the songs, four years after they first began. “Live Bait,” the first single from the band’s debut, chronicles a time a few years back when Kearton was working a daytime pub job in Castlemaine, a few hours north of Melbourne. It’s a tense, sparse track built mostly around synth and bass that snaps into a higher gear as Kearton yelps through the chorus. As we walked around the Eureka Skydeck, Kearton explained Skydeck’s beginnings and the inspiration behind the band’s debut. Listen to “Live Bait,” and read the whole interview, below.
NOISEY: Why the name Skydeck?
Dominic Kearton: It was a toss up between Rialto and Skydeck initially, iconic Melbourne towers. The real focal point of the city, gazing down above everybody. Just seemed to suit the music, I guess.
What’s the significance of Melbourne, then?
It’s the strange place that I live in and the place that affects the way I think about the world and the world that I exist in. I guess it’s my strange home.
I read that “Live Bait” is about working in a rural pub.
I moved to Castlemaine, in Victoria’s north, and spent seven or eight months working at a really weird out-of-town truck driver pub and I just worked from 11AM until 5PM and basically just sat in the frontbar and watched pensioners bet on the horse racing on the TV. It was pretty strange and confronting but I really needed a job so I stuck it out. It’s helped me write a lot of songs and think about Australia a lot as a place, so I guess it was an eye-opening experience.
How did it make you think about Australia?
I basically just had to stand there all day and listen to these older people and their opinions, and the news would be playing in the background and they’d be talking about their thoughts which I absolutely didn’t agree with but I had to just stand there and nod. I didn’t feel like it was in my best interest to challenge them on things so I had to just listen a lot. I guess you do live in a bubble when you live in the inner suburbs of a big city, and it was pretty eye-opening hearing the opinions of these people living in the country. Older people, too, because I do tend to just hang out with people my age most of the time.
When you moved back, how did that affect how you thought about inner-city Melbourne?
I guess it just made me realise how much of a bubble you do live in. You are lucky in a way but you’re also just really ignorant of what’s really going on in the country.
How did Skydeck form?
Mitch and I have been living together for a really long time, and we decided to record some music together about three or four years ago. We borrowed a synthesiser off one of Mitch’s friends, Raudie, and recorded a bunch of music—just music, no singing—and then this year we dug up all the files that we recorded three or four years ago and decided to sit down and write lyrics to it all. It was a pretty disjointed process, but that’s how it happened.
Do you think your 2018 lyrics are significantly different to what your 2014 lyrics might have been?
Yeah, definitely. Most of my songs on the record came from kinda similar experiences that I was talking about previously like living out in the country, and a few from books that I’ve read recently. Some were recorded really really quickly, so I’d be reading something in the afternoon and then Mitch and I would just go into our little studio and record straight away. I’d almost be lifting things straight from stuff that I was reading or movies that I’d watched.
Is that how you prefer to write?
Definitely for me. I like to lift things from stuff that I’ve read and stuff that I’ve watched. Mitch had a slightly different approach which I think is also pretty cool—he’d basically just go in and listen to the song and just mumble along to the music and then lift out sounds that kinda sounded like words, and then he’d shape the song around that, so a bit more stream of consciousness, but I think they turned out pretty well too.
What do you think the overall vibe of the album is?
It’s kinda based around consumerism and the state of the country that we live in, and fear. That sort of stuff.
Fear in what sense?
Fear of the future, and the way the world is progressing.
Do you fear the future?
Yeah, I think I do in a lot of ways. Maybe not for my sake, but for generations to come. I think it’s a pretty strange time, and it’s only getting stranger.
Find Skydeck on Instagram.
This article originally appeared on Noisey AU.