Swirl Records take to the concrete jungle for Monkeyhouse Festival

Words by Connor McKenzie
Photos by Paul Maland, Julian Cebo

Tom Matheson and Gerry Bain of Swirl Records

Tom Matheson and Gerry Bain of Swirl Records

After a mammoth 12 months spent putting on shows in shipping containers, setting up kids' music workshops with Reclink, signing Burnside Mums, creating Swirl Fest and much, much more, you'd think the boys from Swirl Records might be ready to take it easy at this year's Umbrella Winter City Sounds.

Not a chance.

Instead, they're teaming up with the newly revitalised Ghostnote Studios (formerly Capitolsound) to take Umbrella even deeper into Adelaide's concrete jungle with the first ever, aptly-named Monkeyhouse Festival, bringing some of the finest up-and-coming punk bands to a car-park on Gunson St.

Yewth caught up with Swirl's Gerry Bain and Hamish Gibson-Smith in that very car-park to ask the obvious question: how did they end up here?

"[It started with] a different idea," Gerry explains, "I think we've come a long way in our understanding of the music scene in Adelaide, and Hamish has come back from travelling, and we've got him on board. We've sort of maybe got a clearer idea of what we wanna do with our record label," he said. 

Hamish continues, "This year we worked pretty closely with Music SA and some of those guys, who I wouldn't say pushed us in this direction, but sort of helped us to realise this direction."

"We were gonna do it at Chesser St, this was just wild ideas, but we thought like an alleyway festival. We wanted to do something outside," Gerry says, "We had a couple of different ideas, and then we were just hanging out here one day and we were like, 'Oh, why don't we do it out here?' And it just sort of naturally all fell together very well."

Gerry (left), Tom (middle), Hamish (right)

Gerry (left), Tom (middle), Hamish (right)

For those unfamiliar with the Gunson St car-park, think less U-Park, and more vacant lot that cars just happen to park in. It's surprisingly spacious for being wedged in between warehouses in the CBD, complete with wire fences, fading paint, and rusting metal. It's a scene that you've probably seen in any number of edgy music videos, an almost stereotypical spot for a punk show that actually feels pretty bloody perfect when you're standing in the middle of it.

"We wanted to kind of take the risk and have it outside... which is a fair risk, it's on my mind. But we chased a few avenues and found ourselves in the car park," adds Hamish.

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Yes, this being an outdoor show at the end of July, whether the weather will cooperate is very much anyone's guess. That being said, throwing down in a car-park mosh in the pouring rain does sound pretty damn punk.

Speaking of, on the night local legends Horror My Friend will share headliner status with Victorians Dumb Punts, with sludgy psych-punks Hideous Sun Demon making the flight over from WA, and Swirl Records' own Siamese and Goon Wizard taking to the stage as well. All familiar names around town, but charged with kicking off the night is one that many might not know just yet...

"[With] Hot Mess, the opening band, we wanted to pick a small band that no one would really know of, apart from a select culture of the Adelaide scene. They're post-emo, punk, all sorts. Really cool sound,  we thought this band suited it perfectly," says Gerry.

"And then there's one more band we're holding off until the morning..." he teases wryly.

A couple of choice food trucks will provide delicious sustenance throughout the night, while fresh bevs and even fresher threads will be supplied by Swell Brewing and Yeo Haus respectively, with the latter also working with Swirl to release a brand new range. Both fit perfectly with the vibe of the night.

"I think once we locked in our lineup and realised it was kind of a surf-punk direction, Yeo Haus--we'd talked to them before--they were an obvious partnership," Hamish explains, "And then Swell Brewing who are from down south go with that. It all kind of aligns with our festival and image."

"It's all been very natural," notes Gerry, "We just thought, 'why don't we just message them, just see what they want from us, and what we want from them?' And then they've replied and been like, 'This sounds cool, this is what we would like to do'. We say 'Yeah this works for us,' and then it just slowly works in this pattern."

From concept to concert, the Monkeyhouse Festival doesn't just sound like a thoroughly unique way to bring more of Adelaide to life. It's yet another perfect embodiment of what makes our local punk scene so special. It's a ridiculously close-knit, passionate community coming together and sharing their talents to create unique opportunities for each other and make the most of every single one, bringing their friends and fans along for the ride. All for punk and punk for all. If all goes well, could Monkeyhouse become a regular fixture in the Umbrella schedule?

"For sure, why not?" Gerry says, "We think if this goes well, and if this is something we can work towards each year and celebrate the local scene in winter, and do something that's hell out there and throws a curveball... why wouldn't we do this again?"

Fingers crossed, but then again, Swirl Records have never been known to do the same thing twice. Who knows where the boys might end up next?

Gerry: "I'd love to do a church."

Hamish: "A rooftop would be fun. Or a balcony."

Gerry: "A rooftop would be sick..."


The first ever Monkeyhouse Festival takes place on Saturday, July 29 at the Gunson St carpark. Details and tickets here.

Find out more about Umbrella Winter City Sounds here.