By Jasmine Bourgeois
Photo by Kalindy Williams
Mod Con is a three-piece indie powerhouse based out of Melbourne. The band is made up of Erica Dunn (guitar, vox), Sara Retallick (bass, vox), and Raquel Solier (drums), who originally played together under the moniker Palm Springs, and all three keep themselves with various solo and collaborative projects. Their debut album Modern Convenience was released through Poison City Records on April 6th, 2018 and it’s already making a splash. Filled to the brim with style, it’s a high-energy rock and roll dream. Tom Tom got a chance to talk to Mod Con — but here, the band interviews the band!
How did you all meet? How’d you start playing together?
ED: We have all been friends for a long time, hanging around Melbourne with like-minded interests. Raquel and I lived together in a tiny house and when she started playing electronic music, she threatened to sell her drum kit for cash and space…I think that gave me the motivation to plead with her to play drums with me. I’m lucky she said yes – we’re still luggin’ that same kit around! I met Sara when we were probably 20 or so, and she was doing sound at a local music venue. At that time, the venue had a pretty bro atmosphere; she might have been the only woman I’d met doing live sound. She stood out as being a determined, intelligent, and professional babe. Love at first sight.
How would you describe your sound?
ED: People have thrown a couple of funny terms around. We’ve been described as post punk, rock n roll, 60’s girl group turned on it’s head (is that a genre?), anti-capitalist ragers… it’s funny trying to describe it. Despite having my own radio show and talking about music all the time, I’m not totally comfortable with a label for us yet.
‘Modern Convenience’ is your debut album. How and when did this album take shape?
ED: The first workings for this album came from demos cobbled together on an old four track. My insomniac songwriting/brainstorming started getting into weird territory that ended up being really fun; some examples include: The rise of organ trading on Ebay, choosing the perfect zombie apocalypse team (Frida Kahlo, Robert di Niro among others), the ephemeral nature of the most famous four-letter word, and other happy musings. This was a new project for the three of us, so musically we were able to go anywhere. We really pushed each other with our writing styles, time signatures, harmonies — it was a fun, cool challenge.
The album was recorded over the Easter weekend in 2017 with Gareth Liddiard (the Drones, Tropical Fuck Storm) at his home in the Goulburn Valley. The isolated rural backdrop provided a perfect combination of clear-cut focus and cabin fever to get the job done. It’s a good document of where we were at that time; really excited about the new sound we had. Gaz, I think started joking that we were filling a musical gap between ‘The Bangles’ and ‘Black Flag’. We’re happy with that.
Speaking of lyrics, ‘Modern Convenience’ covers a lot of territory, but a lot of the songs seem to hone in on the ills of society. Is the modern world letting us down?
ED: Haha I do have a lot of hang-ups about it! Well, some of the lyrics are tongue in cheek but it’s true, the whole album is sort of questioning the modern world and our role in it. Is it a burden? A big joke? A clean slate? I guess lately I’ve been preoccupied with the ‘double-edged sword’ aspect of modernity; being more connected than ever yet seemingly also more disparate and divided. More technology and information being available but also more commandeered, privatized, and misused. The songs are all searching for humanity; scrutinizing it. The final song often gets mistaken for a love song [but] is actually about making a deal with the devil to sort it all out. It’s a bit twisted, but I’m just trying to make sense of it all like any other writer.
Some drums questions for Raquel. How long have you been playing drums and what first led you to the kit?
RS: Been playing for 20 years. But before that I tried saxophone and it didn’t stick.
Erica mentioned that at one time you planned to sell your drum kit, what’s your relationship these days with acoustic drums?
RS: I love playing them but working with beat making software gives me more freedom to create elaborate and complex rhythms. That said, I have a lot more freedom to immediately express myself on an acoustic kit the way a singer might improvise a melody whilst walking down the street. I think both acoustic and electronic drums compliment each other in my creative process and for that, my patterns can be felt in your body yet are mostly unconventional.
You create incredible electronic music under the moniker Various Asses. What led you to starting this project and what inspires your beat making today?
RS: Various Asses started as an exercise to continue creating electronic music whilst I raised my daughter. It aligned with the movement to elevate more marginalized members of the music industry and all of a sudden I discovered so many other artists making music and I had a community to learn from. I’ve since found many other drummers who have turned into electronic producers with very unique and practical approaches to songwriting. I even found other mothers really carving their own space within the industry which I find incredibly inspiring.
“I guess lately I’ve been preoccupied with the ‘double-edged sword’ aspect of modernity; being more connected than ever yet seemingly also more disparate and divided. More technology and information being available but also more commandeered, privatized, and misused. The songs are all searching for humanity; scrutinizing it. The final song often gets mistaken for a love song [but] is actually about making a deal with the devil to sort it all out. It’s a bit twisted, but I’m just trying to make sense of it all like any other writer.” – Erica Dunn
Touching on that, what else drives you or inspires you to keep working, playing and writing?
ED: All of us are incredibly busy in music and for me personally, that makes me have more energy rather than less. Being creatively challenged makes me more curious, more inspired, and makes me open my eyes and ears more. Playing and creating music is what makes me feel the most free.
What are three things you’re listening to this week?
The Savages: Gone to the moon
Ticking lots of my favourite boxes: contemplating apocalypse over surf guitar and wonky backing vocals.
Vivien Goldman’s album Resolutionary
Great retrospective album documenting the incredible work of this intellectual. Analogue sampling, psychedelic melodies, lyrical wit.
The Johnson Spiritual Singers: Don’t Let the Devil Ride
Off the hook family band from Detroit. Recorded at the family home(or church) on an 8 track. The sheer velocity of these performances are mind blowing.
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