Posted May 5, 2005


Given its cyclic nature, there's no doubt that there's nothing original left in rock and roll. Also a done deal is the fact that the best time for rock and roll was the '60s, a period of musical innocence when every second band wanted to be stars and would play anything to do so, without regard to market demographics or tightly-strictured playlists. The best contemporary music shows an appreciation for that time - but that's not enough. To be good today you have to show you can walk your own walk as well, and be different.

Which is why Sydney's Intercontinental Playboys cut the mustard. With members drawn from the ranks of various underground combos (some of them barely existing at times), the Playboys have been making minor chord noises around Sydney town for seven years. They gave birth to an EP, "Ladies May We Introduce Ourselves...", that bore the production hand of the Lipstick Killers' Mark Taylor, but their debut long-player has been a long time in the making. "Sonic Seducers" is every bit worth the wait and delivers a swirling mix of straight-up garage rock with shades of psych and Crampsian fuzztone scuzz. It casts a nod backwards but is very much its own album. It's also one of the best Aussie discs of 2005 and hopefully will push the Playboys towards wider appreciation.

With "Sonic Seducers" finally in the racks, THE BARMAN thought it high time to share a brew or two with The Intercontinental Playboys' mainman, vocalist and lyricist Tom Loncar.

Q Hey Tom, welcome to the Bar (finally). A curly one to start. What's the more rocking town? Hobart or Canberra?

Hey Barman. Great to be here. That is a curly one indeed. They both had their rocking moments for me. Hobart was a lot of crazy fun, though I haven’t been back there for more than 10 years. Canberra was pretty cool for a while there - a nice little garage fraternity got going there in the late eighties, though it fizzled out. I know there is a little pocket in Ainslie that is rocking as we speak.

Q Is Hobart your birthplace or did you just head there for the King Island brie? Tell us about your musical beginnings.

I was born there, yes. My first band was The Deaf Lepers… we got together for a University amateur night that my mum found out about and told me to enter… and got second prize. We were later invited to play at a Beatles Appreciation Society event, and from there, there was no stopping us, for about 6 months. Maybe it was longer. We were pretty Cramped, Stooged, Thundersed & always under-rehearsed.

Q As far as history goes, I'm hearing names like The Dirty Lovers and Mudrac. Tell us more...

Wrong “Lovers”… though my band The Real Gone Lovers did do a show with those guys in Geelong in 1990. I joined the Lovers in 1986 (when they were still called The Creeps) shortly after moving to Canberra after they’d seen a one-off thing I did with my old Hobart mates Ian Wettenhall and Anthony Matters at the ANU Bar. The Creeps kinda had to change our name when we put out an EP on Glitterhouse in 1988, when the Swedish Creeps were breaking.

Mudrac was something I had going in parallel to the Lovers with Ben Whitten (Playboys), Pete Komidar (from Wollongong’s The Stayns) and Frank Mills (Canberra’s The Skid Marks, among others). We wrote a stack of cool songs, two of which Jules Normington put out on a Messiah Complex single. We probably also managed to cover half of the first Union Carbide Production’s album plus a few Loveslug songs. We were too sonically audacious for Canberra and stopped around 1991.

Q So study or work led you to Canberra? It couldn't have been the nightlife at the Private Bin. Or maybe was it the climate?

I got caught up in the exodus from Hobart. Everyone seemed to be busting to get out. Got a work offer from Canberra – checked the map and it looked to be mid-way between Sydney and Melbourne where many of my friends had moved. We Tasmanians have a poor appreciation of distances.

Q So how long have the Intercontinental Playboys been a going concern and how did the band, uh, come together?

We got together in early 1998, shortly after the birth of my daughter. Ricardo was having a party at his place. I got talking to him and the other original Playboys (Harry Roden, Ben Whitten and Michael O’Regan), and with the exuberance of new fatherhood behind me, the Intercontinental Playboy manifesto was umm… created.

Q How many line-ups have there been? I heard 10 but that may be an exaggeration.

No Barman, it ain’t. In fact, if you count Con Shacallis’ (Voodoo Lust, Spurs) short return to the band after Ivan Donlic left unexpectedly, it’s 11! And what an interesting family tree it would make.

Q What's the current configuration? The album was recorded by two line-ups?

The current and last two line-ups have been four piece, and without the ‘luxury’ (hah!) of a traditional bass guitar. Bass is via Michael on Hammond. Ricardo is back on drums and Ben is sole guitarist (Michael had provided rhythm guitar in earlier line-ups). Eleven of the songs on Sonic Seducers were recorded with Alex Luksich (now with The Booby Traps) on drums. The last three bonus tracks (The Erotic Circus of Torment, La Reina Del Amour and Just Turn On) were recorded as a five piece with Nigel Chongsun (now with the Clear Spots) on bass guitar, a couple of years ago in Melbourne. I’m really glad that the first two of those are finally out of the vault.

Q Apart from yourself, is Benedict the longest-serving Playboy?

Michael has also been there from the start, and with Ricardo back, it’s four of the originals.

Q Congratulations on the album, by the way. The EP you recorded with the Lipstick Killers' Mark Taylor a few years ago was great but this is another step forward, with the songs seemingly more fully realised. Is that a fair call and why so long between recordings?

Thanks Barman. We salute your taste in music. For the EP we did with Mark, we went pretty quick I guess, slotted in a couple of covers, and were done. This time, the songs are 100 percent us, and took most of last year to put together. While most of them have been in our set for a while, I don’t think some of the newer songs like "Exit Sign", "Downright Right Down", "Baby Hang Up" and "Sumptuous" would have worked out the way they have if we didn’t have the studio recording date looming. It was good to finalise the riffs and words that had been on our minds before they faded to oblivion. And I think that those four are among my favourites on the album.

As far as the length of time between recordings goes, that, I guess, is partly due to the line-up changes we had to endure on the bass-player side of things. We were always playing catch-up with our set-list, as new bass players rehearsed themselves in. With the recent stability, we are writing new songs and, I guess, are well on our way to a follow-up for "Sonic Seducers".

Q It sounds a little tougher than previous recordings. Was that a conscious move? What was the recording process, and over how long?

Being the one and only guitarist now, Ben has become a demon. He also got a chance to try out some analogue fuzz overload ‘pre-mastering’ theories this time around, which worked out cool.

Most of the songs were recorded through, I guess, two longer visits to Zen Studios last year, with sporadic visits to add backing vocals, percussion and handclap type additions and mixing. After Ben had finished with the fuzz pre-mastering, we handed it over to Mickster and Ernie O in Melbourne for final mastering.

Q What's your favourite tune off the album? What do the other guys nominate?

Mine and Michael’s is probably "Rock 'n' Roll Johnn"y, a song dedicated to Canberra’s Johnny Jessup, and also Johnnys Thunders, Ramone, Ray, Rotten and Cash… rockin’ Johnnys everywhere! The Jessup variant has been rocking it up in Canberra without pause since the late '70s with punk band Mixo, through to the Creeps, the JuJu Men, the Pagan Babies (among a stack of others) and now Agent of Vega – the Intercontinental Playboys salute him! Ben’s fave is "Hear Ye All Ye Sumptuous", Alex’s was "Downright Right Down" and Ricardo’s without a doubt would be "Just Turn On".

Q I know it's a side issue but I really like the fact that Off the Hip went for deluxe packaging with "Sonic Seducers". You guys and the label seem a natural fit. How far do you go back with Mickster and Chris?

I was first introduced to Mickster through Michael O’Regan many years ago when the Pyramidiacs were visiting Canberra. I think he was impressed by the fact that the Lovers covered the Groovies’ "Jumpin’ in the Night" on the b-side of a single we did. It is great what Mickster and Chris are doing with the Off The Hip label, studio and shop. The Playboys also had the pleasure of playing at Mickster and Karen's wedding a few years back - a great night!

Q "Just Turn On" was the single on France's Larsen Records (and has since appeared on Off the Hip's Aussie garage comp "Antipodean Screams", and as a bonus track on the album). How did you end up on Larsen?"

At the time, we thought that nothing would come of those five recordings that were part of our "Just Turn On" sessions. No one was interested in them, or just umm… didn’t get back to us after raising our hopes. We had put a fair bit of effort into them too at Damien Gerard Studios in Sydney after laying down the basics in Melbourne. That "Just Turn On" is a bit of an enigma. You either really love it, or can’t bear it. Fortunately, Larsen and OTH dug it. Denis and Mickster, we salute you! The Larsen label is fantastic and Denis is a great guy to deal with.

Q We had a chat over a beer at a gig recently and I raised the prospect of you guys playing overseas. What are the chances and where would you like to go? I can't imagine you wouldn't brain it in Europe.

I travelled through Europe many years ago and saw some great rock n roll shows in Germany, Greece, Sweden, Croatia and Hungary, and would really dig taking the Intercontinental Playboys sound there. Any entrepreneurs listening? We are logistically challenged… maybe we can piggyback on the back of the next Pyramidiacs’ tour. Eddie, what do you reckon?

Q I know you're a scholar of Real Rock and Roll, so here's an essay question..."Psychedelic Jungle is the greatest album of all time. What LP comes second...?"

"Rocket to Russia".

Do you really want an essay? I’d have to get into a bit of ‘yeh but, no but’ like that dude from Little Britain on this one.

Q I take it you don't mind being mentioned in the same breath as The Cramps and I know you ended up on a Larsen tribute to the Lux and Co. Who else was on that one?

I think we may have lost that connection a bit in recent years since we’ve largely eliminated covers from our set… though I guess being told by the other Playboys “no more Cramps’ songs” helps. That Larsen tribute featured some great Euro talent who I otherwise mightn’t have ever heard, such as The Torso Twisters, The Dead Brothers, Hang Left Devil, The Gorgeous and Magnetix.

Q I thought you were going to be on the forthcoming Fuzztones tribute. Is that accurate and what's the connection to Rudi Protudi and the boys?

Yep, that’s still happening on Sin Records. Our versions of Brand New Man and Action Speaks Louder Than Words are gonna be on there, I’m told. I first met Rudi in 1988 after the Fuzztones’ show at the Kytarro Klub in Athens, around the time of “9 Months’ Later” coming out (what a great song that was!) At the time, the Real Gone Lovers were doing “Bad News Travels Fast” in our set and I sent Rudi a tape of our version which he dug. He must have kept it too as it’s listed for inclusion on the tribute.

Q There's the smell of sex running through all the Playboys' songs. What sort of groupies do you get and why isn't there more sex in rock and roll these days?

Too much sniffing will give you a sore nose… this question might be best left to float freely out of harms way... I’ll get myself tangled there Barman.

Q On a not unrelated subject, there aren't many bands mining the "voodoo-psych-garage" vein. If you had to nominate an Australian contemporary, who would it be?

Hmmm. If I named names, they’d be from the recent past, looking south-westerly, I think.

Ex-Celibate Rifle Nik Rieth give Tom his opinion on the state of Sydney's
live scene today.

Q And in a town where the plum supports seem to go to the same bands (or ones on major labels), what's been the most memorable for the Playboys?

The Monarchs at North Bondi RSL was great fun, as were a few of the supports we did for the Thurston Howlers and Rocket Science.

Q Here's one question that might surprise Bar patrons...can you explain the link between British literary psychic queen Jessica Adams and the Intercontinental Playboys?

You remember the Beatles’ Appreciation Society from Tasmania I mentioned earlier? Jessica was an office-holder of some sort, maybe treasurer, for that group of connoisseurs… so probably a key instigator for me persisting with my ungainly musical ummm gift… which I now share with you all. Jessica tries to get to our shows when she’s in Sydney, and wrote us in as characters in one of her recent novels “Tom, Dick and Debbie Harry”. Next stop, Hollywood. Jessica – we salute you!

Q If you had three minutes to live, what song would you play? Seeing you'd have no say in it because you'd be dead, what would they play at your funeral?

I was gonna say “Rockaway Beach”, but that would leave me with a bit of a gap to get back to being morbid again about my impending demise… so maybe “Loose” or “The Most Exalted Potentate of Love” or “Surfin’ in the Bars” would fill the time better. In regard to the second question, has to be “The Way I Walk”.

Q The Intercontinental Playboys have a rep as the suavest quartet on the Sydney rock and roll scene. What's the secret of cool?

Go to Intercontinental Playboys’ shows, get our record, and absorb the magic.

Q And seeing we're in a bar, is there a cocktail guaranteed to ensure the night ends on the appropriate note with the starlet-of-choice on the arm?

A lucky dip from my ever-changing private bar or Cascade Green.

The Intercontinental Playboys + Adolphus (feat. ex Lime Spiders) + The Prehistorics @ Roxbury Hotel, Glebe - June 3
The Intercontinental Playboys (album launch) + Lords of Gravity + The Shimmys @ The Duke of Windsor, Prahran
- June 17
Thee Psycho Delmatics + The Intercontinental Playboys + The Mystaken @ The Espy Public Bar, St Kilda - June 18
The Intercontinental Playboys @ Pony Bar (2am), Melbourne - June 18