CIVIC aren’t the first Australian band to find inspiration from the rowdy sounds of The Saints and The Dead Boys but few have been as on point as the Melbourne five-piece at nailing their snarling spirit.
Jim McCullough, Lewis Hodgson, Darcy Grigg, Roland Hlavka and David Forcier have played in a bunch of quality bands including Leather Lickers, A.D Skinner, Drug Sweat, Pregnancy Scares, Whipper and Cuntz. But with CIVIC, they mix loud 70s gutter rock and hardcore aggression to create a squalling hot mess.
Late last year, they all crammed into a small radio studio to perform a hustling live set on my radio program Teenage Hate . It was wild and sweaty performance and I’ve been eagerly awaiting some recorded material since. Today is the day as we premiere “New Vietnam”, the title cut from their upcoming debut record.
Led by the wild vocals of McCullough, who by day works as a furniture removalist, and Hodgson’s furious guitar leads, the song gallops at a speedy pace. As Jimmy howls “Tell you what I am baby, tell you what I am” you can almost feel the weight of shitty dressers that he hauls up and down people’s staircases.
The band are performing at the upcoming Jerk Fest, an all day festival curated by Gardener that features a killer lineup that includes Tyrannamen, Terry, The Rebel, Straightjacket Nation and RVG.
Noisey: Some current Melbourne bands like Power and Rabid Dogs come from a hardcore punk background and are pushing a more hard rock style. Where would you say CIVIC fit in to all this?
Jim McCullough: It’s cool to see some older hardcore heads doing more rock vibes. Hardcore is still fun and valid but I think there’s always that want and need for a good rock tune. I guess what we’re doing is hard rock or whatever but we still acknowledge our roots. Darcy and I had always talked about doing a Dead Boys kind of homage band with Australian influences so we got the band together, so I think we fit in the middle somewhere.
For a punk band your vocal range is pretty interesting. On “Satellites” you sound like Chris Bailey and other times, like on “Shackled Man” like Colin McFaull from Cocksparrer. Is that something you've worked on?
I definitely wanted to see what I was capable of with CIVIC and I wanted to actually sing rather than just the high pitched screams I was doing in Leather Lickers. When we started jamming I was listening to a lot of Bowie, Iggy and Scott Walker. I tried to hit some Stiv Bators snottiness too, but he’s just a beast. I think that’s where Lewis comes in. He’s able to nail that perfect asshole tone.
You recorded the album with Billy Gardener and are releasing it on his Anti-Fade label. How did that come about?
I met Billy a few years ago and I’ve always respected his drive. Cereal Killer are sick and Living Eyes are unreal. So when Roland mentioned Billy was recording stuff we were all keen. We piled into Darcy’s shit box and headed to G-town [Geelong] one Saturday. We rocked up to this vacant lot looking set up in the back streets of town and we got busy. Once we finished, Billy said that he wanted to put it out on Anti-Fade, and we all agreed it was a good move
How did Al Montfort end up playing sax on the track “Call the Doctor”?
We were out on the trucks one day blasting The Saints’ “Know Your Product”. We were probably carrying some piss stained mattress up stairs and I just said to Al, “You should do sax on some songs for the record”. He just said “Yeah, sick” and that was it. Originally I didn’t like what he and asked him to do it different but it just never happened. But when we mixed it and it sounded mad. Later I told him that we used his original sax and his reply was “Yeah, I knew it was good.”
You recently played King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s Gizz Fest. How did the King Gizz fans react to you?
Gizz Fest was pretty fun. It was torrential rain that day so they moved all the bands inside this big under cover area and we all had our own port-a-loo to rock out in. Slab Knackers burnt us that day.
“Street Machine Dream” almost seems like a love song. What’s the story about this particular track?
Recently, I went to Europe as I had a painting involved in a Copenhagen art show. I made good friends with the gallery curator who very generously allowed me stay in his apartment with his weird cat while he and his partner stayed at the gallery. I spent about a week writing lyrics there. “Street Machine Dream” is a montage of ideas and experiences from that trip. Gita was a lady I became friends with at the gallery who lived there and made these wild plaster flower sculptures at all hours of the night. ‘Burning from the benches to the streets’, is a reference to the heroin being smoked down in the Berlin subways, the pacing man is this guy who just scurried around the Metro with headphones in laughing to himself. Just taking things from stuff I had seen basically.
How is your art coming along? I see you did the cover for the new Distort magazine.
DX [ Distort editor] and I spent a lot of time in the trucks talking music and art so it was cool when he wanted to do an issue on me. It was nice to talk about upcoming exhibitions overseas and new bands like CIVIC .
Whose idea was it for the soccer crowd artwork?
I had the idea but it took a few heads to execute. We got a bunch of tickets near the cheer squad at my team (Melbourne City) soccer match. I made this banner from a bed sheet and snuck it in. Every time we kicked a goal or put the banner up people would look at us like “WTF is CIVIC?” Darcy took it deep into where all the ‘hooligans’ were and got them to put it up, it lasted about three seconds before they ripped it down and sent him on his way.
You’re playing the sold out Jerk Fest next weekend. It’s a big lineup. Who is your pick?
I really like The Faculty. They’re doing some cool murder punk sort of stuff. Also I’m keen to see Bisco’s DJ set. I met him in Japan in 2015 when he was pissed out the front of the Poor Cow bar. He showed me his original “Burn My Eye” 7” that he had scored for a bargain at $400.
CIVIC perform at Jerk Fest, Feb 10 at the Barwon Club in Geelong.