Words by Lauren Abineri
HALF STRANGE FESTIVAL is upon us - kicking off at Format last night, a soiree at the Bowls Club tonight and a final whirl on Sunday at the faithful Metro. This 3-day multi-venue festival showcases local, interstate and international music of quite a calibre and variety. Curators Harriet Fraser-Barbour and Celeste Juliet have teamed up to create an inclusive, exciting and above all super-fun-time music experience. In the leadup to the big weekend, Yewth chats to some of the artists you can catch at this ripper fest.
HALF STRANGE FESTIVAL ARTIST #3 - CALIFORNIA GIRLS
There's a delicious grittiness to the sounds of CALIFORNIA GIRLS. Gus McGrath's solo project is super-duper new to me and oh my, he's good. Fine. Fresh. Fierce. Post-punk poppin' beats with sometimes sad, sometimes sexy lyrics dressed in dole-wave/dark-wave drawl. Don't forget the synth washes, thanks. We had a little chat about CG, and the blackout in Adelaide. I left that bit out. I also left the bit out where we talked about Lee Harding (Whatever happened to that guy? Can someone hook me up?). I left that bit out too. Um, anyway:
Lauren: Hi Gus! Tell me about CALIFORNIA GIRLS.
CALIFORNIA GIRLS: I guess I'd been playing in bands a while and I wanted to do music by myself cause I felt like I couldn't rely on people to help me with my own music, and I'm not really interested or like musically talented enough to make like acoustic music so electronics seemed like a pretty logical move, especially cause I'd been getting interested in it, like both making it and listening to a whole range of dance music, so that was like 3 years ago? It started out way simpler and with heaps more guitar focus, but I ended up getting synths and sequencers and moving more and more into dance or dance-y music.
L: Cool! What gear do you typically use during a set?
CG: At shows I just have a Roland MC 303 Groovebox that has most of the parts on it and just play guitar or play synth lines on a microkorg over the top
L: I also like how I thought you might be a band because of your stage name! Where did the name come from?
CG: And yeah! I think the name's really stupid and doesn't quite match the vibe, but I decided on it ages ago so I'm kinda hoping it loses meaning and just becomes more like representative of me the music person rather than the meanings of the words "California" and "Girls". But I'd been set on it at the time cause I felt like it was this really overly pop-y name and this was the first time I'd been making music that was explicitly aiming to be pop music, but I think I'd first had the idea when I was in high school cause I was really into Sonic Youth and I liked the lyrics for Expressway to Yr Skull haha.
L: Love it. It gets that Katy Perry song stuck in my head -"fine, fresh, fierce, we got it on lock!" - If you were going to describe how CALIFORNIA GIRLS sounds, how would that go?
CG: Oh man I don’t actually know that song very well but I'm REALLY into that line! Very good. I wish that line was a description but probably isn't too accurate haha The description I normally use is "Like seeing 2016 Pet Shop Boys at the Wanniassa Tavern". Probably utilises the words - dance music, pop music, gay, angsty but then those are also all really broad terms so maybe not the best or most accurate descriptor.
L: I love those descriptors! Who are some of your influences?
CG: Influences is hard cause I guess when you listen to music you process a whole bunch of stuff, but I think big or kinda consistent music things I keep coming back to is Bronski Beat, HTRK, John Foxx and Divine, but I'm a big sucker for YoutTube hunting so there's a lot of individual songs too. I think a huge thing and a real driving force is seeing other bands across Australia - there is really such an incredible amount of VERY good music it's ridiculous, and I think I find that really inspiring. Scraps, Holy Balm, Honey, Rebel Yell, Multiple Man, Marcus Whale, Lucy Cliche, a local band called Megasex are just some of the bands I always get really excited to see or hear new music from
L: What can we expect from CALIFORNIA GIRLS at HALF STRANGE?
CG: I've never been to Adelaide and I'm so excited because there's so many lovely people and great bands, so I guess I'm just gonna try put together the best set I can of album tracks and a few newbies! Hopefully much heartfelt dancing and psychic connection between me performing and bodies on the d floor, much dancing all round and emotional connection.
L: And finally, who is your *pick* to go see at HALF STRANGE?
CG: This was really hard because there are so many good people at Half Strange, but I think I'm most looking forward to Theta - I've thrashed their tape and every song is an absolute hit. Obviously got that Adelaide connection so it’s nice to acknowledge the lovely people letting us into their hometown. All week when I'm thinking about Half Strange I find myself singing OH YOU CAN TEACH ME YOU CAN TEACH ME YOU CAN TEACH ME.
L: I love that song. Welcome to Adelaide.
CALIFORNIA GIRLS will be playing at Day 2 of HALF STRANGE, Bowl Job at the Adelaide Bowls Club.