wo weeks after forming the band Fabulous Diamonds Nisa Venerosa and Jarrod Zlatic played their first show. They were 19, barely friends and could barely play their instruments. In these DIY times that’s not an unusual story but the difference between Fabulous Diamonds and every ratty band of first timers is that they were good from the get go. Now, two years later, they’re even better. They still don’t play it straight, preferring to keep their sound fluid but that’s why even though they’re one of the hardest gigging bands in Melbourne no-one’s sick of them. Nisa and Jarrod are friends now but talking to the two of them is like trying to umpire a game of Cheat between an old married couple. PS: impossible. Vice: How did you two meet? J: Oh here we go. N: I used to come to Melbourne with (Sydney band) Kiosk when they were playing. I just tagged along and used to stay at the house I currently live at, which is where we met. I never really liked Jarrod. I thought he was bit of a snob when I came to Melbourne. PS: he was. J: We both just had some funny dalliances in the bathroom of that house. N: Not together. Have you ever kissed? N: No, we’ve been offered money to kiss, many times. J: Nisa’s exposed herself to me before. N: You’ve exposed yourself to me as well. We were walking down Little Bourke Street and Jarrod was taking a piss in the alleyway and he yells out “Nisa” and I turn around and he’s like shaking his dick at me. It was disgusting. The band started before we were really friends. J: Yeah, when Nisa moved here I was like “we should start a band” and a couple of days later we had a jam. At the time I was also in Oh! Belgium so Fabulous Diamonds started off as a funny sort of side project. Then Oh! Belgium came back from Brisbane one time and we never played again. N: And I was just there for your convenience. So you barely knew each other, didn’t really like each other but decided to start a band? J: Yeah, I still remember the day we first really hung out. N: Jarrod was in Sydney and he had nothing to do so I was like “want to come and hang out at my parents’ house?”. So he came. It was funny. What did your parents think of him? N: Mum thinks Jarrod’s a bit of a freak but she loves him. J: Hey! N: She thinks you’re a bit neurotic, which you are. J: And you don’t have issues? How would you describe your sound? N: We started out more experimentally pop and now we’re kind of turning into, like, techno or something. J: Psychedelic techno. It’s like Terry Riley with a beat. I’m really interested in minimalism—trying to use the least amount of stuff possible. N: That’s what Jarrod’s into but I like using a full drum kit. I used to use just a floor tom, a snare and nothing else but slowly I started bringing hi hats and eventually I brought in a kick drum. Now I’ve got a full kit and Jarrod doesn’t complain about it. J: When we started Nisa had never played drums before. So whoever saw us from our first gig to now has actually watched Nisa learn to play drums. N: I was learning drums while singing and now the two have just melded into one and I can’t really and don’t enjoy doing one or the other anymore. J: That’s really annoying by the way. N: They’re kind of a part of each other. Now that I can actually play drums confidently or I don’t have to think about it nearly as much as I used to I can concentrate on singing a lot more. So Nisa drums and sings. Jarrod: what do you do? J: I play an electric organ, a saxophone and I have a drum machine and one delay pedal. N: The drum machine’s faded out a bit though. J: No, I’ve brought it back again. When we started, cause we only had a minimal kit we used the drum machine. But since Nisa’s got better at drumming it’s faded out but now I’ve brought it back to give electronic textures and extra percussive effects. You can play a drum machine and use pedals and have it not sound like a drum machine—it’s just a sound. I like playing with electronics.
o you’ve got songs but live you improvise a lot? N: We have songs but they vary every set. They change according to the gigs—whether they’re gonna be more psychedelic or rocky. J: Our old songs are a bit more fluid but the new songs we’re writing are not as changeable. N: But cause they’re new they could always change. You guys play a lot. N: Yeah we do. We get asked to play more but it’s hard cause you don’t want to play too much. There’s also lots of bad shows you get asked to play. I like to play them all but you can’t because people get too sick of you and you get bored yourself. Why did you decide to start playing so quickly after starting the band? N: So many bands spend so much time getting their songs together and releasing an EP before they even play one show. J: So stupid. Who cares about a set. Just get up there. I guess it’s like the whole Little Band thing that was happening in Carlton in the 70s. DIY stuff. What about influences? Do you have similar tastes in music? J: I’m a pretty big music nerd. I don’t know about Nisa but with what I’m doing there are certain things that are important—Terry Riley and dub. We both like dub. N: Yeah, my parents are intense reggae fans. Like, my brother’s called Marley. So I grew up listening to a lot of like reggae and dub. J: Nisa really likes glam as well. N: Beat Happening were a big influence on my drumming but I don’t really think about it so much. It’s like… whatever came out. J: Nisa’s drums and my saxophone: they’re both instruments we’ve learnt ourselves. I’ve always loved the saxophone and I found one secondhand for 230 bucks and was like “whoah here we go”. So in terms of how we approach those instruments it’s just how we’ve learnt to play them. Because we aren’t trained we can’t really emulate anything else cause we only do what we do with what we can do. I do find it depressing though when bands buy saxophones and just squeak on it. N: You used to just squeak on it. J: That’s not true. I disagree with that. The first time I picked up a saxophone I wrote a riff on it and I’ve still got a song based on that riff. N: It’s taken you a while to get the whole breathing thing down though. Do you smoke? J: No, I don’t smoke or drink coffee, for the record. N: I do but from smoking my voice is getting so husky. J: Sounds real sexy. N: It’s getting really husky and I lose my voice a lot, which is bad when we’re playing shows. But I also like it at the same time cause my singing voice has changed. So Nisa’s into glam rock? N: Well, I’ve always been into music but it started really badly. I think it went like East 17, Korn, Hole, now… I don’t know. Glam as Jarrod would say. J: The reason I say glam is: I was talking to Nisa about Brian Eno. I think Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy is his most interesting album while Nisa really likes Here Come The Warm Jets. I always forget that Brian Eno was in Roxy Music and was totally androgynous; feather boas and stuff. Here Come The Warm Jets is totally glam rock and I never think of Eno like that—I never approach him from that side. So where does glam fit into Fabulous Diamonds? J: It’s more Nisa’s vibe. N: My glam rock vibe. J: Nisa was a drag king for a bit. N: For, like, three months of my life. What did you look like? N: I just had a moustache. I performed to glam songs. Bowie. J: Apparently all these lesbians started hating her. N: That’s a lie. There seems to be lots of lies with you guys. J: I’m into lies. I like the repercussions from lies. YULE TIDE