In recent years, a particular flock of Australian bands has emerged. They shape raw, abrasive sounds into music that’s at once experimentally-oriented yet accessible, immediate. In Sydney, you can look to frenetic noise-rock duo Party Dozen, or Shady Nasty and Behind You with their hazy hip-hop influences.
A couple hours north, you’ll find this sound in Newcastle band Dust. Their thrilling debut EP ‘Et Cetera, Etc’, out today, filters searing, visceral post-punk through a distinctly modern lens, reflecting in some way a digital upbringing exposed to a dizzying library of subversive, boundary-pushing music just a click away.
Most members of Dust met in their high school years, becoming engrossed in Newcastle’s all-ages music community and playing in bands together. Early projects gave them the space to experiment and make mistakes in the way regional scenes allow young people to fumble towards their own identities. “We were able to learn from those bands what to do, and what not to do,” Gabriel Stove – who shares vocals, guitar and primary songwriting duties with bandmate Justin Teale – tells NME.
Fast forward to 2020. The pair, along with drummer Kye Cherry, began loosely jamming together, building the foundations for what would become Dust with the addition of guitarist/saxophonist Adam Ridgway and bassist Liam Smith.
“At the time we were bonding over similar music,” Stove says, crediting Teale with introducing him to the scrappy, jagged post-punk of bands like Shame, Fontaines D.C. and IDLES. “I fell in love with it. I’d never heard anything like that.”
Those influences are very present on Dust’s first pair of singles – 2021’s ‘STARE’ and ‘NO USE’ – and there are traces of all those bands on ‘Et Cetera, Etc’, but the gulf between these releases is vast. On the new EP, there’s a clearer sense of Dust’s own distinct identity forming: The spacious, ambient electronics that envelope the EP’s urgency and aggression, for instance, feel more reminiscent of Spooky Black-era Corbin or even early Yung Lean.
“I’ve been really obsessed lately with electronic music, sitting around with samplers and synths and stuff,” Teale says. “I was really keen to add that in a way that I hadn’t really seen happen in a post-punk sense.”
“We’ve gone in any direction we’ve wanted to”
Similarly, the flourishes of free jazz that weave their way through the EP, largely courtesy of Ridgway’s saxophone, add a compelling flavour. A woozy interlude halfway through is built around loose, fluctuating sax notes and a slow, repeated bass line, leading into ‘Ward 52’. There’s a particularly thrilling moment towards the end of that song where everything cuts to total silence, before a wailing sax heralds a pummelling whirl of noise to lead the song out. Tension and release.
“We’ve gone in any direction we’ve wanted to, because I think [post-punk] allows you to do that,” Stove says. “We listen to so much music. We were lucky enough to be passionate enough to go down all those different avenues, and we still do that.”
The five songs on ‘Et Cetera, Etc’ are bookended by an eerie, ambient prelude and outro. They feature voicemails found on a tape machine at Ridgway’s family’s property in the rural village of Wollombi, where the EP was recorded with producer Wade Keighran.
“We were listening to these voice recordings, and there was lots of stuff connected to the EP that started popping up,” Teale explains. “The whole experience was very… maybe not supernatural, but things would happen,” Stove adds.
“[The EP] flows up and down with chaos; chills out and then ramps up again”
“Uncanny. Just perfect moments. I think because we just didn’t have any studio restrictions, it felt so comfortable… It just fell into place perfectly. That could be our connection between each other, or the location, or the feeling we were having at the time.”
If it sounds big-picture for a debut EP, that was deliberate. ‘Et Cetera, Etc’ has the kind of widescreen, conceptual ambition many bands still in relative nascence often don’t find for years.
“The idea of it being a longform piece of work was definitely something that appealed to us,” Stove says. “We wanted to make the EP flow from one end to another… [like] one long song. It flows up and down with chaos; chills out and then ramps up again.”
Thematically, the band are grappling with the world on ‘Et Cetera, Etc’: finding their place and trying to make some sense of it all. Take ‘Joy (Guilt)’, which Stove wrote. It’s a spoken-word, stream of consciousness-styled collection of fragmented one-liners, coming together to examine the outside pressures that shape our paths. “The key to connection is designed by you, and the key to love is happiness,” he drawls. “And happiness is found solely within yourself.”
‘Ward 52’, meanwhile, is based on Teale’s experience shortly after completing high school, when he was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and spent months undergoing procedures and spending time in the hospital. It led him, still a teenager, to recognise not to take life for granted – and also appreciate that there’s always someone out there who has it worse. “Having that experience as you’re still really young, it’s a real shock, and a real eye-opener to the world,” Teale says.
It’s no coincidence that Dust seem sonically but also spiritually associated with the bands mentioned at the start of this piece. They’ve played multiple shows with their fellow sax-wielders in Party Dozen, whose drummer Jonathan Boulet mastered ‘Et Cetera, Etc’. Dust’s genuine admiration for these bands is clear, and while Stove says he and his fellow Novocastrians have “always viewed ourselves as pretty isolated [from] any scene”, he acknowledges “it’s a crazy feeling to have that recognition, and for them to enjoy our music.”
“We’ve idolised them so much that they’re [partly the] reason why we started the band, some of our biggest influences. So, playing those shows is fucking ridiculous to us,” Teale adds. “It couldn’t be any better. We meet them and they like the set, they want to do more shows, and they’re heaps nice people.”
Modesty aside, Dust are clearly doing something right. ‘Et Cetera, Etc’ is being released by New York label Kanine, and the band have just jetted off to spend a month touring Europe and the UK. In addition to a run of shows supporting another coastal NSW band – Wollongong surf-rock duo Hockey Dad – they’ll also play festivals like Focus Wales and The Great Escape in Brighton.
For a band who have barely played any shows outside their own state, they admit it feels a little like going from zero to a hundred – diving headfirst into the deep end. But the songs on ‘Et Cetera, Etc’ suggest Dust’s members are committed to a search for meaning, which is a good place to start as any. From Newcastle, to the world.
Dust’s ‘Et Cetera, Etc’ is out now via Kanine Records