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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Interview: Yacht Club DJS

Get crazy with the Yacht Club DJs. With adventurous, cutting-edge, mash-ups and riotous high-energy on-stage antics, the two boys from Ballarat have become one of this year’s most talked about acts.

I caught up Gaz Harrison from the Yacht Club DJS where we talked mixing, mooning, music trivia and mayhem. It was my very first phone interview with a band, and I was able to seize this exciting opportunity with the help of Ella Reweti the music editor for the dynamic, cultural hub of Music Mayhem on WOTS (Word on the street).  After checking out their clever, punchy, party tracks online and grabbing the opportunity to share some awesome stories with one half of the act, it’s easy to see just how these boys are making waves as crowd favourites virally and on stage. 

You can check them out in all their glory here

Eliza: So Yacht Club DJs, tell me, what inspired the name?

Gaz: Yacht Club was originally Guy’s name on Facebook. It was his idea to do the whole show on laptops and he wanted to call us Lap dancers. At the time I was a bit more serious than I am now and I wasn’t keen on being involved in a group called the Lap dancers. So I suggested ‘Yacht Club’, cause I couldn’t be bothered thinking of a name myself but it was the name of his Myspace and thankfully it was agreeable.

Eliza: Wow, well I guess Lap dancers would have got a lot of attention but it’s good to go with something you know I suppose…

Gaz: I think it would have been the wrong kind of attention. Like it was one of those short-lived names and you’ve already got Bang Gang [DJs] and stuff like that. I didn’t want a shock and awe name, I just wanted be known for making fun music. I always wanted to let the music do the talking more than the name.

Eliza: The word club makes it sound kind of exclusive, is it?

Gaz: If we called ourselves Yacht DJs everyone would mistake us for those Canadians. We’re definitely not exclusive; we’re the most un-exclusive people you’ve ever met in your life. We make friends with all our fans and we wanna hang out with them more than we wanna play our shows. It started as something really tongue in cheek, with us sitting around in cafes trying to make each other laugh and we’ve just had fantastic luck being able to make a life of music out of it. It’s completely tongue in cheek to this day. There’s a serious side to it but we’re just a lot of having fun and we’re lucky enough to make money out of it and have a fan base that wants to keep seeing it.

Eliza: So you are hitting the road pretty soon with your ‘Demons of Gymnastics’ tour. Having played some sold-out national tours and a string of festival appearances including Meredith Music Festival, Groovin The Moo and Splendour In The Grass, you must have had some amazing memories. What are some of your favourite festival moments?

Gaz: It’s been really crazy, like it’s gone in the space of maybe two years or two and a half, of us being these white-knuckled indie kids that just had no idea what they were doing in front of 10,000 at the first Meredith we played, to just being road dogs. I feel at home on the road now and if I’m not touring I feel like something’s missing in my life. As for moments there’s been so many. I broke my leg at Sydney Parklife, and went to Adelaide and played a show with tape on it when I should have been in the car. We tour with bands and we tend to make best friends with them if we can. We get really involved with them and just get in a tour bus and go shenanigan crazy. I think for me, one of my favourite tour moments of all time was when we were traveling from Byron Bay to Brisbane with the Howl and DD. Howl just are PH punks, they are insane, and Muz the drummer was obsessed with mooning people. On the highway from Byron to Brisbane, the Melodics were doing an interview for Triple J on the radio and we were listening to it and they said they were sitting on the side of the road near Brisbane. Of course the whole bus of fifteen people had their asses pressed on the window as we drove pass The Melodics. Later it just sped on crazy and half of them were wearing dresses. We got this one guy in a car next to us so very angry and he started ringing the police and followed us all the way into town screaming at us and his girlfriend was throwing empty bottles at the van. It just got insane, and it was just so much fun! It was like being a fourteen-year-old kid again.

Eliza: So those crazy shenanigans aren’t just because you’re ‘a band’, it’s also that you guys are relatively young and having fun?

Gaz: That’s exactly right. We’ve always had a pretty fucked attitude but we’ve had to get a bit more professional lately with the level we’ve got to but we defiantly try to keep that whole ‘We’re just punks from the bush and gonna get in everyone’s faces and try to cause as much trouble as we can’ attitude, everywhere we go. I think people have really responded to that. When they come to our shows they treat it like a big house party and they all try to get as crazy as we are.

Eliza: Speaking of crazy antics, many DJs embrace kooky costumes and props when performing. What kinds of antics and outfits could we expect at a Yacht Club DJs show?

Gaz: Lots of sweating and jumping…swigging vodka bottles. We do all the horrible clich├ęs of rock and roll. This tour we’ve invested heavily in inflatables! We decided as a band we wanna bring back that eighties set thing [where for example] metal bands had like these big thirty foot grim reapers swinging into the crowd. I think it’d be really funny to bring that back, but we’re taking baby steps. Hopefully if they’re able to make it in time, we’ve got two twelve foot cats heads that inflate on side of stage and their mouths open and close and stuff. We’ve also got a zillion inflatable palm trees. We basically wanna have the whole stage set up and end up in the crowd getting torn apart, and the crowd to end up on stage with us tearing everything apart. Just one of those raucous house parties you can imagine. That’s always what we try and achieve.

Eliza: Your new tour is called ‘Demons of Gymnastics? What was the inspiration behind this?

Gaz: (laughs) We were in Ballarat and there was this horrible movie about people who’d been in gymnastics when they were kids. These young boys, were sort of overdriven to succeed by this crazy coach and they were scared of gymnastics and they had all these demons about it. So the end of the movie was that they had all grown up and were getting rid of their demons by getting into a gymnastics competition. We thought it was about the funniest thing we’d ever seen, but it was probably just the amount of gin that we’d drank. So we turned it into this big in-joke about fighting off our demons with gymnastics, so subsequently it ended up being the name of the tour.

Eliza: I heard you had a pretty fun gym-themed photo shoot to promote the tour involving foam pits and heaps of other fun stuff. How was that?

Gaz: We’re lucky enough to have this girl who works for the crew, in a local paper who pulled some strings and promised the local university that they’d do story on them if we could use their gymnastics gym for our photoshoot. So basically we were let in there, and there was this massive foam pit with a trampoline, so we stuffed around for about half an hour being little kids again jumping into this foam pit and doing backflips and stuff, in which I completely destroyed my jeans. I ripped them from the crotch all the way right down to my knees and my underwear was hanging out and stuff. It was very unpretty. If you actually look close enough at the photos on facebook you can see the rip. It ended up being great fun and we took some ridiculously stupid photos, most of which we couldn’t use. The ones we’ve chosen we’re doing all these completely odd, crazy things.

Eliza: You sample a huge range of artists and genres in your tracks. What are some of the most popular songs to get a party started?

Gaz: We’ve sort of been treated like a band in that respect. We’ve got specific mash-ups people always wanna hear, and that’s cool, there’s always part of our set spoken for where we can just turn up and play the same things, which annoys some people, but I think it’s really cool that people know us that well that they can expect to hear those kind of things all the time and they give it the same awesome response. Really early on when we first started I mixed ‘Yakkity-Yak’ by the Trash-man with ‘My people’ by the Presets. Sometimes you hear it so many times that you’re really sick of it but it gets such a response from the crowd everytime we play it. It’s gonna be a sad day when we stop playing that in our sets. Other ones like the theme from Roger Ramjet mixed with the song ‘Formerly known as’ by Regurgitator is another one that gets such a big crowd response. We get people leaving messages on our facebook saying ‘you’ve gotta play this’. The little lion one that Guy did as well with Missy Elliot and Mumford and Sons, people just know us because of those ridiculous mash-ups and it seems we can’t turn up to a festival without people screaming one of the other from the front of the stage. It’s awesome, such a cool thing.

Eliza: You seem like a huge music lover. What are some of the biggest influences on your music?

Gaz: We always enjoyed the whole music trivia side of things, like getting an album like ‘Since I left you’ by the Avalanches and 2manydjs with ‘All this love’ and Soulwax, and listening to them and going over them with a fine tooth comb and trying to pick out all the samples and stuff like that. I don’t think either of us when we were younger thought they we were going to make a career out of doing that but it’s awesome that we are. Apart from that we’re both metal heads. I was in punk bands and really bad hard rock bands and Guy was in new metal and heavy metal bands just around Ballarat, some Indie bands and things like that. So we were surprised more than anyone that this thing that we started for fun turned into a career. It’s just great, everyday I wake up and it’s awesome cause we’re in this band and we get to do funny things all the time.

Eliza: That’s fascinating that you started off with a love of heavy metal and then moved into this dj world!

Gaz: Not many people would’ve picked it. For a while I was quite into minimal house and prog-house. I was brought up in a night club my dad started when I was four years old and the guys that taught me to DJ were all involved in that deep, progressive like long track with all those techno sounds. I really enjoy that sort of music but I lost my steam on playing that sort of music earlier on, because I did have such an interest in so many forms of music and I felt like I was missing out. After a while I realized I would rather be in a band and I’d given up on DJing for a while. Yacht Club sort of brought me back round because it gave me an excuse to listen to everything at once and I could do music trivia cause that’s what the band’s for.

Eliza: Your eclectic DJ style has been embraced with open arms for it’s exciting mash up of various popular tracks. Do you find any particular genres or artists mash the best?

Gaz: It’s always hard to go past your hard rock and rock music, and generally the stuff that mashes with it the easiest is, hip-hop. That’s really your bread and butter when you’re doing these sorts of things, where everyone knows your hip hop and there’s always a good hard rock underneath it that they can really get up and dance out to. We try to change it up as much as we can, try to bring in a bit of blues and funk and old songs and weird pieces into it as much as we can.

Eliza: You’re not the first act to map a career of mashing songs, but you have been hugely successful with claims to be one of the most sought after acts of the year. What do you think sets the Yacht Club DJs apart from similar acts like Miami Horror and Girl Talk?

Gaz: I think Ben it’d yell at you if you called him a mash-up DJ. I think they’re more like Indie djs where they just get popular indie songs or try and find remixes, or in Miami Horror’s case, a lot of the remixes he makes himself. They’re more just about Indie party where they play their songs out and everyone knows their songs and you get a big taste of it. We try to be more like music trivia. We take the songs and sample them really quickly. So rather than playing out the songs we tend to use parts of them to create music collages. Sometimes we hope to create new songs out of old parts, like keeping them in key and really working hard to keep them as one piece of music rather than separate dj mixes. We like to keep it quick and brief and have lots of things happening all at once that are all recognizable but not necessarily mixing track to track. I think that’s the idea behind mash-ups. It’s not so much about creating a straight dj mix for a party as much as getting in there and trying to make something new.

Eliza: As you sample a lot of music have you ever had issues with copyright infringement or encountered any nasty lawsuits?

Gaz: We’ve been really careful with the CDs, we treat them as promo CDs. I think it’s been bandied around a bit that they’re albums and things like that, but we can’t actually do that because we don’t think we have the same sort of laws that say, Girl Talk get away with in the US. We definitely don’t have the time span to do what 2ManyDjs did and give it two years to clear all the samples or spend a year or two as the Avalanches did on ‘Since I left you’ because we wanna keep it relevant and have lots of pop culture today, as well as pop culture 70 or so years ago that we draw from. So what we’ve been putting them out for free for promo only and the only way people can get [our CDs] is to come to our shows where we give them out. Sometimes we make them available for download off our facebook, but it’s to the bane of our fans, who are constantly requesting where to buy things, they all want something that they can take home. The climate isn’t really ripe for it so we have to be very very careful. I’m expecting a cease and desist order anyday now.

Eliza: It’s pretty amazing that your demo mix-tape Kleptomania released online, due to popular demand, was downloaded more than 15,000 times in just one week. Even more astounding is that some copies of your mix-tape ended up selling on Ebay for more than $150.

Gaz: Yeah, and that’s on top of the 500 we had hard copies of and gave them away at shows as well. So yeah, just the response to that was absolutely amazing

Eliza: Having successfully distributed your music through the Internet, what made you choose to embrace file sharing as opposed to a mainstream record release? Do you see file sharing as furthering creative freedom or hindering potential income?

Gaz: I think that’s a big grey area. We don’t see it as doing anything wrong but depending on who you talk to in the music industry, they do and don’t. We got personally invited to the screening of the Girl Talk movie ‘ripper remixes manifesto’ by APRA (Australian Performing Right Association), and there was a forum where they talked quite heavily about what we do, like it’s legal ramifications. We do our best to contact the actual artist and always have a big ethos of [encouraging] support for the artists we use. At some point I hope the industry just gets over it because there quite clearly is a place for what we do in the music industry, people really want it as a product. If the music industry got over itself a little bit and became a bit more lenient for things we do, I think they’d do what they really wanna do and make more money, whereas at the moment we’re having a bit of this quirky gag stagger and we’re playing by their rules and that’s what we actually have to do so we don’t get put in jail. We’re not out to hurt anybody, we basically play the music we play because we love it and that’s the reason we do it.

Eliza: Being a band that is highly interactive with the internet, how are you affected by public feedback through forums and twitter?

Gaz: Yeah I’ve run my mouth quite a bit. I blame having an iphone which I conveniently dropped in a guiness a few weeks ago so I’ve had the breaks on a little bit. I think when you’re doing something like we do it really helps to be involved with the public about feedback. I don’t wanna be one of those djs that says they’re out there educating people and things like that. We’re definetly not, we’re having good fun. But sometimes some of the negatives can be misguided and you find it’s basically people on a forum having a shot at you because they don’t like what you do coz it’s not what they do, or they might be jealous of where you got because they’re not there. I’ve got a bit of a fiery temperament in that respect where I don’t wanna go out and fight them but I wanna have a talk with them about it and go “hey man you’re out there soiling my name across the internet”. I’d rather be involved in direct forum with them about why they don’t like me so they can have their facts straight so we can actually have an intellectual conversation about it rather than them getting on the internet and just philandering me. I think everyone deserves a defence as well as the ability to get slandered. I really take a lot of joy away from getting into conversations about it cause it is an intellectual pursuit at the end of the day as well as something that’s really perhaps a joke at sometimes as well. So I think it’s important to have that forum

Eliza: So how do you deal with these comments in terms of managing them especially if you do receive negative feedback?

Gaz: Well, Ajax’s advice is to ignore them and my manager is desperately trying to stop me getting online and talking to people but at some point you’ve gotta stop listening to the negative stuff cause otherwise if everyone just listened to everything bad that was sad about them you’d never leave the house! I guess you’d never do something where you put yourself on the line as much as we do. But I think that you’ve gotta know what people are saying bad about you. You can either decide to change something or perhaps make it better or just know what you’re up against I guess as well.

Eliza: Tell me about the creative process. How do things go down in the Yacht Club DJs collaboration? Is it all smooth sailing, or do you and Guy get into a bit of rough and tumble?

Gaz: Nah, I think that with what we do it’s good. There can be a rough and tumble if there’s a big long awkward silence, but that’s about as rough as it ever gets, and that’s really quite rare. We’re lucky enough with what we do that it is really just a lot of sitting around by yourself and then coming together and sharing it, rather than having to sit together and work on things. We’re making a lot of original music and remixing some people at the moment, where we do have to work together, and it’s been a wholly enjoyable experience for us. It’s learning to work together in a new way when we’ve already come so far as an act and it’s been heaps of fun and a really interesting process. So no rough and tumble whatsoever, there’s been no band mates getting murdered over a song or anything like that.

Eliza: I understand you boys from Ballarat, I hear you still live there when you’re not touring like mad. With your exhaustive traveling what sort of things do you miss about home?

Gaz: Nah, not at all, I grew up in a small town called Achuko and I really didn’t like living there. It wasn’t really a creatively geared town and I was built to be a bit weird I guess, that’s how I like to put it. When I moved to Ballarat for university about 12 years ago I sort of found a home in Ballarat. Then I moved away to Melbourne for a few years but I was at a point in my life where I needed to be creative again. I thought traveling and being in the city so much with the music I might as well live in the country. It’s been a really good move to come back here so I don’t miss anything at all, I’ve never been happier in my life and I’ve never been more productive in my life. There’s nothing like country air and a dust filled garden out the front of your cottage to get you in the mood for making some music…I know it sounds pretty seedy I should say I have a sheep or something that eats my grass

Eliza: Being a country boy do you have anything awesome like a vegie patch you can tend to?

Gaz: Nah I have a lot of grass that I haven’t mown. Yeah, we’re still studio dogs, we work inside all the time and ignore everything that’s going on outside, including the grass that’s about a foot tall.

Eliza: Perhaps you’ll see a bit more grass on your new ‘Demons of Gymnastics’ tour. But it sounds like you’ll be playing inside a bit? Are there any plans to release another demo CD to coincide with the tour?

Gaz: Well we’ve just finished putting together a ‘Demons of Gymnastics’ mix tape, which we sent to a publicist yesterday and it should be ready for the tour. Like the other tours ‘kleptomania’, and subsequently [the] ‘batten down the hatches’ we’ll be there with CDs to give copies to everyone and most of the music we’ll be presenting on the tour will be off that CD. So a lot of it will be new stuff that people haven’t really had a chance to hear before. With that we’ve done some remixing. We’ve done ‘Rocket’ by Little Red and we’ve done the good news by the Billy Jays and a few things like that, which we’ll be presenting for the first time on the tour and they’re on the CD as well so people will get to hear a bit of that. We’ve approached the remixes a bit more as a live band with live music instruments rather than just cutting up their songs like we used to. So the remixing is sort of starting to introduce our original music to the mash up thing as well. 

Eliza: If someone can’t get along to your gig are they able to download the mix tape through other avenues?

Gaz: It’s kind of hard because of all the legalities. Last time I did a thing over twitter where people sent me their addresses and I did a post out cause we had a heap leftover and people really appreciated that a lot more than I expected they would. We also did a release of downloads over facebook and things like that. So there’ll be a lot of different ways people can get it but we really want them to come out to the shows cause then they get the hard copy and people go insane about those things. Kleptomania’s been selling on ebay, and the other day I saw one for $300 and it kind of made me a bit sad because we paid for them and gave them away for free and we didn’t get any money back and people are making $390 off a CD that cost us $15 to give them! It’s pretty funny.

Eliza: Is there pretty much nothing you can do about that sort of stuff?

Gaz: I don’t think so but people love it, that’s why we’re in it, we’re in it for the music, not the money thank god.

Eliza: Considering you’re gymnasts of the DJ scene, what’s the trickiest mash up you’ve ever done?

Gaz: There’s one on the new CD that has about 15 songs in about 30 seconds and some of the samples are less than a note, it’s just so fast. It took a lot of mixing but I’ve always wanted to have so many songs that you can’t recognize any of it and it just comes out as a piece of new music entirely. I did that on the new CD and it actually works pretty well. I’d say that was the trickiest. I don’t think I’ve ever worked that hard on one before.

Eliza: Finally, Jessica Watson had the Pink Lady when she circumnavigated the globe. If you were a yacht what would be the name of your vessel?

Gaz: If I had a boat to navigate the globe…I’d call it Carl (laughs) simple as that. Just Carl. He’s got loads of personality and he sounds like your crazy uncle.

Upcoming shows:
w/ very special guests The Bleeding Knees Club
 14th October @ Corner Hotel, Melbourne
15th October @ Oxford Arts Factory, Sydney
16th October @ Corner Hotel, Melbourne *SOLD OUT*
 20th October @  Republic Bar, Hobart
22nd October @ The Maram, Canberra w/ special guests Grafton Primary
23rd October @ Fat as Butter Festival, Newcastle
29th  October @ Amplifier, Perth
30th October @ Fowlers Live, Adelaide 
4th November @ Great Northern Hotel, Byron Bay
5th November @ The Zoo, Brisbane

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