Posted January 24, 2007

Two scoops of Cold Ice Cream:
Eddy Current Suppression Ring

Story by PATRICK EMERY
Cartoon by RICK CHESSHIRE

If you live in Melbourne, and you’re into live music and you haven’t come across Eddy Current Suppression Ring you must be living under a rock.  From the band’s genesis at the end of a Corduroy Records Christmas party a couple of years ago, Eddy Current Suppression Ring has evolved into arguably the most celebrated band of the local music scene, complimented by a legion of devoted followers.  It’s hard to explain just why the band has touched such a chord – though the combination of a selection of guitarist Mikey Young’s killer garage riffs, singer Brendan Suppression’s exuberant and idiosyncratic on-stage demeanour, songs about ice cream, girls and zero ATM balances, and a brutally tight rhythm section all might have something to do with it. 

And it’s not just over excited and inebriated mikey punters who’ve signed up to the cult of Eddy Current.  Promoter, manager and record label head Tim Pittman, neither a stranger to good music nor prone to gratuitous hyperbole, has been heard to describe Eddy Current as “the best band I’ve seen in ten years”.  Pittman’s patronage saw Eddy Current score the coveted support spot on the Radio Birdman and Bellrays bill in August, as well as supporting UK pop punk legends The Buzzcocks on their recent Australian tour.  Tours to Sydney have extended interest to the Harbour City – tellingly Mikey says interest has been strong amongst “older dudes who were around in the 1980s”, such as Tim Pittman – and other interstate trips are in the winds.  It’s the fact that punters with a proud pedigree of gig-watching – the same class of jaded punters who might otherwise compare everything contemporary in a negative light compared to the halcyon days of some distant pub rock era – are increasingly drawn to Eddy Current that suggests the band has a deeper quality that transcends the faddish facade that envelopes so many mikey bands.

Eddy Current Suppression Ring took its name from the device used in electronics to prevent a current flowing in the wrong direction – “an outlaw current”, Mikey describes it as.  I’m hoping there’s something symbolic in the choice of name, but the truth is that the name was chosen simply because it sounded like a good name for a band.  “Someone left a note for me at work,” Mikey says, “saying we’ve got to fix the eddy current suppression ring.  I really liked the name – it sounded like it should be a '70s jazz combo,” Mikey laughs.  But free form jazz wasn’t in the minds of Brendan, Mikey and Mikey’s brother Danny when they took advantage of festive atmosphere and a tape recorder at a Corduroy Records Christmas party in late 2003 to record what became the first ever Eddy Current Suppression Ring recording – the rambling So Many Things included on the band’s first seven inch.

After two more seven inches (including a split 7” with Straightjacket Nation) and months of waiting for fans, the debut Eddy Current Suppression Ring album has been released on Richard Stanley’s Dropkick Records. The album includes some of the songs that have previously seen the light of day on the band’s increasingly rare seven inches, plus a stack of tracks that give new meaning to the phrase ‘all killer, no filler’.  In true garage tradition Eddy Current Suppression Ring recorded the album in four hours one Saturday in late February.  “Everyone rolled up about 10.30, we bought some beer, drank some beer,” Mikey recalls.  “Danny had to work at four that day, and I had a buck’s night so I had to get to Chelsea by 3.30, so we just bought two reels and recorded as much as we could, whether it could be another seven inch or an album.  We got on a roll and did every song we knew.”  Fifteen songs were recorded with Mikey choosing what he thought were the best tunes to include on the album.

Given the rapidly increasing core group of Eddy Current followers, do you reckon you’ve got a local cult following?  There’s not a hint of pretentious rock’n’roll rhetoric in Mikey’s response.  “I think we still live in some kind of weird world where we think it’s just our friends who come and see us.  Then we meet other dudes who become our friends anyway, so it still just feels like playing for friends,” he replies.  But have you been conscious of your audience increasing over the last twelve months especially?  Mikey recognises that Eddy Current struggles to fit into some of its favourite venues, such as the Town Hall, but he remains demonstrably down to earth when trying to assess the band’s audience demographic.  “I dunno what the deal is now,” he says.  “We’ve sold out the Old Bar and the Pony, but there’s always other bands playing with us who are pretty popular, so I don’t know how many people are coming to see us.” The album launch at the Grand Central Club in Richmond in late 2006 was one of the larger gigs the Eddy Current has played – the dinner and show aspect of the gig will take the band in a cultured, and culinary direction rarely associated with garage rock.  “It’s a good concept – I hope it works,” Mikey says.

The opportunity to play on bills with Radio Birdman and the Bellrays, and the Buzzcocks, extended Eddy Current’s exposure beyond the sticky carpeted local Melbourne music scene.  While recognising the value of the support spots, the band doesn’t anticipate doing anything similar in the future – simply because it doesn’t provide the same sense of rock’n’roll community as playing shows to friends in smaller venues.  “It certainly helped”, Mikey says, “and we definitely appealed to some older dudes who came down early” (When I remark about the mature punter referred to by a friend of mine as ‘Dancing Tony’, whose unbridled enthusiasm at the Eddy Current sound was evident at both Radio Birdman and the Buzzcocks – Mikey laughs “I love that guy”)

Did you receive any feedback from any of the bands you played with on those bills?  “I got the feeling that the guys in Radio Birdman thought I might’ve been a manager or something.  As I was walking out of the room they were like ‘hey Adam, how are you?’ and I was like ‘yeah, good’”, Brendan laughs.  Brendan does note, however, that the Bellrays conveyed their appreciation of the Eddy Current set (surely a positive sign in anyone’s book) while Mikey says the Buzzcocks’ manager was happy to provide strategic advice to Eddy Current on how the band could establish itself in the music industry – notwithstanding that the advice was unsolicited. “I think he thought he was steering us in the right direction by giving us some good pointers,” Mikey smiles.

But the initial enjoyment of playing a high profile gig diminished after the Buzzcocks tour.  “After the last one we thought it wasn’t that much fun.”  Not only is playing a set starting at 8.45pm a tough ask but Brendan notes astutely that “it’s hard for your friends to afford the $40 to come and see the show.”  Mikey agrees, returning back to the band’s central tenet of enjoying itself, and projecting that enjoyment onto the audience.  “If we play for free at the Public Bar at the Espy it’s way more fun,” he says simply.

Both Mikey and Brendan are adamant Eddy Current won’t become a band that you can see any weekend – the band’s irregular appearance ensure both the band and its attendant audience is enthusiastic for the gig.  Mikey says the band hopes to take advantage of Dropkick Records’ extensive list of overseas contacts, and if that goes well, maybe follow-up any international interest with some touring.  There’s more songs to record, for both another seven inch and another album.   “We’ve already got about twelve songs we can record, so maybe we’ll do the same thing in January, and just go and record them”, Mikey says.  Given the importance of its live performance to the band’s appeal Mikey is enthusiastic at the prospect of one day recording a live album – although a live video release isn’t as exciting.  “We’re still playing live, so why would anyone want to buy a video of us playing live?”, Brendan remarks.

After a discussion of the merits of the Master’s Apprentices various periods (not surprisingly both Mikey and Brendan dismiss the Masters' prog rock material in favour of the spikey Mick Bower sponsored material, a raw artistic spark that can be heard in much of the Eddy Current material, including unrecorded live gems such as Noise in My Head) I conclude the interview be relaying a question from a fellow Eddy Current fan – is there any chance Brendan will be releasing a line of Brendan Suppression signature gloves as part of the band’s merchandising?  Brendan finds the suggestion highly amusing, but you can see his mind ticking over at the uniqueness of the concept.  “Good question, good question – I’ll have to get back to you on that one.  I’ll have to finish my fashion course first,” he laughs.

Eddy Current Suppression Ring’s self-titled debut album is out now through Dropkick/Shock


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