Collarbones, the DIY, internet-borne duo of Marcus Whale and Travis Cook, have announced their fifth and final album ‘Filth’ will be released June 23. They have also released its glitchy second single ‘Lack’ – listen to it below and read NME’s interview with the band.
‘Filth’, which can be pre-ordered here, is the most accessible music of Cook and Whale’s career together. The splintered internet electronica of much of their discography is subsumed by a quasi-ironic take on ’90s alt-rock, particularly the riffage of Deftones and Tool (hear how ‘Lack’ pivots on a drop-tuned nu metal riff).
Much of the guitar on the record came from Whale noodling through those bands’ guitar tabs to while away hours during the pandemic.
“There’s definitely a lot on the album about looking back on times in my life when music felt really transformative and powerful. And so that’s why a lot of the references stylistically are from the ‘90s – that’s when I was a little kid and everything was new,” he told NME.
“Deftones is specifically a reference point here because it’s both quite heavy, but also can be quite lush as well… Everything’s at breaking point, while being rich and powerful.”
The intensity of Whale’s lyricism is striking, and lives up to the record’s sordid name. While his voice croons, the words are often sexual pleas. Whale described the band’s previous record ‘Futurity’, released 2019, as being about “a pathological need to have a crush”, but their latest has a decidedly less tender outlook on romance.
Whale couches vivid erotic submission in apocalyptic, sometimes scriptural terms – on the first single ‘Ripe For Filth’, which they dropped last month, he tremors “My every hole is yours, slick with sweat and ripe for filth”, while in ‘Lack’ he asks someone to “come and disappear into my naked lack”.
“[The title track] is about Sodom and Gomorrah, and the liberatory nature of being excluded from salvation,” the singer explained. “Thinking about how when you’re not looking towards being saved, if you’re doomed, then the only thing that matters is what you’re experiencing right now.”
Whale enjoys the fact that a casual listener might not even notice the sexuality of the lyrics.
“There’s an extremity that cuts against how positive the songs sound. I also sometimes write songs without thinking of the fact that they’re going to be heard,” he laughed.
The tracklist of Collarbones’ ‘Filth’ is:
- ‘Tap the Vein’ (featuring Chakra Efendi)
- ‘Ripe for Filth’
- ‘The Southerly’
- ‘Little Death’
- ‘Second Skin’
- ‘God is Here’
Collarbones released four albums over their near-13-year career, recording remotely and sporadically between their respective lives in Sydney and Adelaide. Cook and Whale met on a online post-rock forum in 2007 – Whale said he was “searching desperately for kindred spirits, because everyone I went to school with was fucking boring”. He DM’d Cook after seeing him post about music that wasn’t strictly post-rock, and they bonded over their strange intersection of tastes.
With the recent arrival of broadband internet (“We were sending 128kbps files over MSN!” Cook exclaimed) Collarbones was born as a remote band, primarily making cut-and-paste electro-pop.
“I think the workflow has always been based on us being apart from each other. We do our parts of the music alone and we send them back and forth a little bit, but not even that much,” Whale said. “It’s a lot of broad strokes that then get refined later when we mix it.”
“I think the way I record is quite live. I’m not using an arrangement tool and painstakingly arranging things. I basically record what I do live in the same way that I’d play a live show,” Cook said.
The disparate pairing ping-ponged around genre over their discography – one contemporary with the evolution of hyperpop, but defined more by its lack of commitment to a single sound.
“Hyper is a good word. Because every album feels genre-confused. If there’s a way to describe what Collarbones is, it is a sense of genre confusion,” Whale said. “We started off making music entirely out of samples, and they came from everywhere. The blueprint of our music-making has always been open-ended and is almost, in a sense, about genre itself.”
The pair said the intermittent nature of their collaboration contributed to their decision to end the project.
“Every time we did music, it felt to me it was released into a very different world to where we started,” Whale explained. “The model for releasing music that Collarbones did, really felt like a part of the early 2010s, doing CDs and radio. The aesthetics and the world of Collarbones, which I love, I just felt like they belonged in the 2010s… [‘Filth’] felt like a really nice full stop, where we can say this is our discography. This is our history.”
“It doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t work together in other forms in the future, but it’s a nice way to refresh, I suppose,” Cook added.
The duo will play three final shows in Melbourne, Sydney, and Adelaide to farewell Collarbones. The tour will kick off in the Victorian capital on June 30 at Northcote Social Club, before moving onto the Marrickville Bowlo in Sydney the following day and then their last ever gig at Ancient World in Cook’s native Adelaide on July 7. The band promised to both play new songs and rearrange older material.
“We’re leaving it all on the stage, literally,” Whale joked.
“Who knows what our banter will be like at this stage, but we’ll do what we usually did but to a much more exaggerated extent,” Cook said.
“We leave with an appreciation of having a project last this long, ’cause not everyone does.”