Over the course of the past decade, These New South Whales have become a fairly unique prospect: an Australian rock band with lore.
The band itself is both real and legitimate. Their self-titled Comedy Central series, however, is a heightened piss-take, with the band members playing caricatures of themselves. Two members – lead singer Jamie Timony and guitarist Todd Andrews – are also co-hosts of the popular What A Great Punk podcast, a self-described “pod about nothing” which has developed a cult following both here and in North America’s alternative comedy scene. The podcast is real, too, but also a piss-take. And if you’re new to the band and go see them live, expect to overhear a handful of in-jokes that’ll take you some time to understand.
Wedged as they are between the music and comedy worlds, how do the band answer the classic small-talk question: “What do you do?” Are These New South Whales comedians? Musicians? Podcasters? What exactly do they lead with? “I’ll say this: If a cabbie or an Uber driver asks me, I just say I work in a bottle shop,” Timony laughs. “That’s true, by the way.”
“I guess it depends on what we’re working on the hardest at the time,” adds Andrews. “If we’re in an album cycle, I’d say I’m a musician. If we’re making the show, I might say ‘I’m actually producing a show at the moment’. It depends on your situation, too – maybe we’re at a TV industry event, or maybe we’re backstage at a DZ Deathrays show. Your answer would change accordingly – not because one’s more important, but because it’s more relevant.”
By this logic, were you to currently ask Timony and Andrews that question: They’re in a band. A really good band, too, as their third album ‘TNSW’, released last Friday, proves. Dropping four years on from their last effort ‘I Just Do What God Tells Me To’, it’s a rollicking adaptation and evolution of the band’s sound. Elements of their robust, motorik post-punk early days are still present, but so too is a newfound sense of melodicism within the bright, layered guitars and pub-ready hooks. Not a radical reinvention, but just enough of one for you to take notice – which is fitting, given the band began writing the album with no greater agenda in mind.
“I would hope that for anyone that’s confused as to whether we’re a joke band that writes joke songs, that this album would set that straight”
“We weren’t trying to achieve anything in particular,” muses Timony. “In fact, the only thing we had decided was to not come to this record with a bunch of references, stylistic ideas and stuff like that. We were like, ‘let’s just get in the room, write and have fun until we have a record’, and that’s what we did. We just wanted to be true to ourselves with where we were at, especially over these last couple of years of writing it.”
Andrews agrees, noting that the notion of this effectively eponymous album being more “serious” doesn’t paint a complete picture of it. “We still like to parody things, and be tongue-in-cheek and all that sort of stuff,” he says. “It’s just there on a smaller level on this album. I feel like Jamie and I get most of that silly side of us out on the podcast these days, anyway. The comedic element was authentic on the first album [2017’s ‘You Work For Us’], but since we’ve branched out to so many different things we’ve been able to just write in the spirit of what we like as a band.”
If you’re looking for a trace of the band’s past on ‘TNSW’, you’ll be pleased to find ‘Tartan and Chrome’ and ‘Wherever I Am, There I Am’. The former is an absurdist interlude provided by drummer Frank Sweet. The latter, meanwhile, is a dream-pop song with a punk-rock pace – gentle jangles and a cutesy melody that’s gone in roughly 30 seconds. Both were unplanned. “One thing that links all three albums is that we love having interludes, and injecting a bit of comedy in if we can,” says Timony.
“‘Tartan’ was just something Frank came up with that we all thought was funny. I wore a kilt in the video for ‘Bending At The Knee’, so we had a bit of a Scottish thing happening, and Frank got this audio from YouTube of a woman speaking about the Scottish poet Robert Burns with this great, poetic detail.”
And as for the band’s present, you could do far worse than the album’s strategically selected singles: the snarling, anti-authoritarian ‘Bending At The Knee’, the angular punk of ‘Rotten Sun’ and the garage-rock shuffle of ‘Under The Pressure’.
“We wanted to show a range of what’s on the album, and those tracks made the most sense in reflecting that,” says Andrews. “Even by picking ‘Under The Pressure’ as the third one… I think if we came out with it first, people might have assumed that the record was a complete change in direction. ‘Bending At The Knee’, on the other hand, is one of our heavier moments, and we thought that would be an exciting first glimpse.”
“There’s a lot of stuff about healing – from the past, from your shame, from trauma”
While ‘You Work For Us’ was made with producer Dean Toza, and ‘I Just Do What God Tells Me To’ had Party Dozen’s Jonathan Boulet behind the boards, ‘TNSW’ is their first album to be entirely self-produced. Taking the production reins was not a giant leap for These New South Whales, Timony notes.
“We’ve never worked with a producer who’s said that this needs to sound more like this, so to speak,” he says. “They certainly produced the albums sonically, and helped us to capture the songs, but it’s never shifted into a ‘do this, do that’ power dynamic. It’s been ultra collaborative, and everyone we’ve worked on albums with have become a real part of the team for that period of time.”
The genesis of ‘TNSW’ was without a greater purpose or intent, and Timony and Andrews agree that both became apparent once the record was mixed and mastered. These New South Whales believe they’ve created their most accessible and versatile album to date – not to mention one with plenty to say. “There’s still plenty of lyrical content about distrusting authority – that sentiment is always present in this band,” says Timony. “But there’s also a lot of introspective stuff, as well.
“There’s a lot of stuff about healing – from the past, from your shame, from trauma – and coming into your own and realising you’re important. A lot of it is me speaking to myself, encouraging myself to wake up – to stop giving into fear all the time, and to become more aware and present.”
“I would hope that for anyone that’s confused as to whether we’re a joke band that writes joke songs, that this album would set that straight,” says Andrews. “We’ve always confused people, but we just do what we want to do. It makes it more special to the people that have worked it out, anyway. I just want people to put on headphones, play this album, nod their head and enjoy the songs – and not for any novelty reason.”
NME mentions, in response, that ‘TNSW’ could be the best album the band have made thus far. As much as they sincerely appreciate the compliment, Timony can’t help himself: “So, the head was moving up and down? Not side-to-side? And there were no novelty-based reasons for enjoyment now, were there?”