Throughout their eight-year career, Melbourne’s Deaf Wish have baulked at playing the standard rock and roll game. From the start, the foursome (consisting of bassist Nick Pratt, drummer Daniel Twomey and guitarists Sarah Hardiman and Jensen Tjhung) have shared a basic philosophy; keep it loud but simple. Their live performance bleeds with genuine charisma. It’s a tenacious and aggressive approach to creating music that has an almost disdain for predictability and code.
First, they wrote an album with members living in different countries. Then they broke up. Then they got back together and released a VHS-only single. Their self-titled debut CD-R was originally released inside a Spirit of Tasmania barf bag. While their upcoming album Pain may be getting released on the highly respected Sub Pop label (as was their 2014 EP St Vincent), the band continue to do things their own way.
“They Know” taken from the album clocks in at just under a minute-and-a-half but is indicative of the Deaf Wish spirit. Two guitars play at max volume, a drum sets getting a trouncing while Hardiman effortlessly coos, “What do they know?” You get the feeling that Deaf Wish don’t particularly care who 'they’ are and what they know.
Noisey: Some people get weirded out by the term diverse. Pain is essentially a rock and roll album (it’s not like you are collaborating with Skrillex or anything) but it seems to be your most musically diverse. Would you agree?
Jensen Tjhung: No, it's the same shit as the other three but somehow heaps better. It’s probably our best.
Sarah Hardiman: It’s full of Deaf Wish tricks, but we're older I guess. Somehow it has the same united front as our first album but we were strangers to each other back then. Now we’ve toured around the world together. We know and we believe in each other.
Pain is an emotionally loaded term. To be tough is to play through pain. Whether it’s a sprained finger or broken guitar string, you keep going. Emotionally it can be more difficult. How much emotional pain is in this record?
JT: I’m not sure Tim, but the message is that if you don’t hurt, then don’t listen to this album.
SH: Pain is everywhere. Pain is on the train at 7am; it’s in the washing you put on the line; you can be overwhelmed with pain when you put your socks on or a spread on your toast. I said to Jensen once that Deaf Wish isn’t a band you’re supposed to like, but you might need it.
From X to Lubricated Goat, feedtime to Cosmic Psychos, there has always been a lot of brawn in Aussie rock. Deaf Wish are loud but there is also a tender side. Tracks like “Calypso” and “Sex Witch” have vulnerability about them.
JT: I think there is a lot of tenderness in X and feedtime. Everyone is sensitive, everyone. Steve Lucas played “Dipstick” at [Ian] Rilen's funeral. I was there in the standing section. The woman in front had red stilettos with red soles. I remember staring at them the whole service. Tender moments. Cosmic Psycho's “Nice Day To Go To the Pub” is a tender moment when a man gets amped about chucking the towel in on the day so he can drink beer at the pub only to fall deeper in love with the counter-meal and the beetroot is a metaphor for the heart of the schnitzel. “Sex Witch” is a love song, like “Shovel”, like “TV Glue”.
You are about to head out on the road. Your live shows have a reputation of being these intense and pummeling 100% assaults. Is it difficult to maintain this on a long tour?
JT: The half hour we play is the only time on tour we are in our natural habitat. The remaining 23-and-a-half hours can be more akin to “intense and pummeling 100% assaults”. We are there to play, so that's what we do when the time comes. The rest is just survival. These days we don’t play as many shows that go to shit. Nick said once, early in a tour: “If you play a bad show- your whole life has been a waste of time”. I don’t know if that’s true but I like the sentiment. The stage is a safe place.
Do you have a favourite US city to visit and play in?
JT: We’ve been to North America twice now. I can’t really think of a place we didn’t have a great time in. Things have changed, people have broken up in Charlotte, stayed together in L.A., Detroit's still wounded, Cleveland still looks like torn steel and Columbus is wild. We are in the hands of our hosts and that's what makes the places great. Paul Class in Cleveland, James and Bryan in Texas, crew in Atlanta, crew in SF- we have fond memories of touring the states. Two shows at Goner, we will never forget them. Bay area house shows, people that come out on Tuesdays and hang out in Davis, broken roads, showers with towels, true love and tacos. We feel lucky when we are on tour. We don’t make money. We get paid in experiences.
Pain is available for purchase here on August 7th from Sub-Pop.