“Rock’s not dead. It’s just inherently unstable,” says the members of oWo (pronounced “oh-woe”) in their press release for Super Role Model – the band’s debut long-player.
Consisting of Chris Wilson (guitar/vocals), Justin Lucas (drums/vocals) and Dennis Leung (bass/vocals), with Super Role Model the Sydney three-piece explore the dark underbelly of society. Corruption and capitalism are themes entrenched in the oWo remit, as the band tries to unravel the effects of money and greed and how it continues to erode culture.
Yes, rock may not be dead, but the reasons of its volatility can be directly attributed to the aforementioned themes in which oWo are inspired by. This dark uncertainly sees oWo producing what is yet another fine Australian release of 2022, and one that’s flown very much under the radar so far.
Recorded by David Akerman at Sydney’s Lost Sound Studios, sonically Super Role Rodel sees oWo reach for their record collection and produce a combination of fuzz-laden stoner grunge, quiet/loud post-hardcore and good indie-rock.
It starts with the sinister jangle of opening track, Civic Video (and later with Ivory Sand). It’s oWo harnessing the kind of early ’00s indie-rock of Sydney underground outfit, Further.
Domesticated and Dilemmatry turn up the Mudhoney-inspired fuzz, while the title track is enveloped in the black sheets of noise the likes of The Black Heart Procession once haunted us with.
Flipping the script, and The Shephard and Mock It sound like Mission Of Burma and Fu Manchu in the midst of racking up a repair bill for some inner-city Sydney boozer which they’ve just trashed. Then there’s Exit Plan, the beautiful closing track (“Let’s get the hell out here!“), which sees oWo circling back to the days of Further’s punkrockvampires.
There are fine moments aplenty on Super Role Model, with the best results found by giving the volume the up treatment. It begs the question: seeing oWo live could only end of in tears. Tears of joy, that is.
Recently we had the opportunity to ask the members of oWo some questions about Super Role Model, politics and the Sydney scene.
Sun 13: Firstly, how did the name oWo come about?
oWo: “We were trading as Peaceful Pills for a while. Then as Adult Bookshop, but we were getting the wrong kind of social media traffic. One day we were looking for laundry detergent and dropped a packet upside down. It seemed the universe and ALDI were onto something. We just followed.”
S13: And how did the band come to form?
oWo: “All three of us have been in this band for the last couple of years, but oWo is the result of several experiments and lots of line-up changes. At one point it was a five-piece. The style of music was more focussed on power-pop, new-wave and post-punk. We set out to come up with all new and original material that was distinct yet connected to what we had done before. The challenge is to keep it interesting for ourselves while making music that is dynamic and engaging for others.”
S13: Can you tell us the ideas behind Super Role Model?
oWo: “A lot of the songs on the album have been around for some time and even released previously as singles. While we did want to create some sort of arc from start to finish at the same time the ideas and concepts behind each of the tracks are quite distinct and come from a range of experiences and thought processes. Some of the themes explored include the complicated futility of dealing with relationship anxieties, coping with loss through self-deprecation, suffering from optional paralysis, delusions of leadership and forging a path to the light through the darkness of mundane reality.”
S13: It sounds like a bunch of mates just getting in the garage and having a good time. Does it feel this way to you?
oWo: “We’ve worked pretty hard on getting this band to this place and as the bits and pieces have fallen into together, it’s become clear that a three-piece is the ideal way for us to get to rehearse, write and produce. There’s fewer moving parts and less risk of it all falling apart. But you can’t really hide anywhere in a three-piece, everyone has to pull their weight, so we’ve worked on what we do live and the way we record. Oddly enough, though we do all live in places with garages attached, we’ve just never used them to rehearse or record in! Essentially though we are just a bunch of like-minded blokes making noise that pleases our ears by strumming and hitting inanimate objects.”
S13: There seems to be a lot of jangle inspired artists from Australia at the minute – I feel that Civic Video really breaks down the boundaries of that and almost bastardises it (in a good way of course). Was this something you were thinking about?
oWo: “Yeah, good pick up. That’s something we’ve worked on a lot. We wanted to bring out the light and shade in Civic Video. Live it’s crunchy and has a lot of kick, but when we recorded it, we did a fair bit of guitar and vocal overdubbing and added things like vibraphone and glockenspiel to it to try and give it a bit depth. A bit of prog to go with the punk. We do like the idea of sticking genres together to see what comes out the other end.”
S13: Domesticated, Dilemmatry and The Shepherd remind me of that early ’00s fuzz from the likes of Further, which I love. Was that a scene you guys were into back in the day?
oWo: “Definitely, we were friends with and went to see a lot of great Australian bands around in the ’90s and ’00s. Further are a good example as well as Midget, Magic Dirt, Tweezer, Hateman, Tumbleweed, Even, The Drones, Dirty Three, Crow, 2 Litre Dolby, 78 Saab, You Am I etc. These were in turn influenced by bigger global acts of the time like Shellac, Guided By Voices, Slint, Ween, Pavement, Engine Kid, June of 44, Archers of Loaf, Dinosaur Jr, McLusky, Mogwai, Silverfish, Swervedriver etc.
“It was a great era for music, especially live. We were all getting out to see bands and playing in bands wherever we were. Most of the 00s we were in other places, not in Sydney; Justin in the UK, Chris in Spain and Korea, and Dennis in Melbourne, so those influences are there, too. As much as we love nostalgia and looking back fondly on those heady days, we are also trying to create a way forward and it is encouraging that so much great music is coming out from this region in recent times.”
S13: The title track has a really dark atmosphere. Like Jon Spencer dancing with the devil, or something. Can you tell us about this one?
oWo: “The Super Role Model is a bad influence, quite a malign, ever-present figure, the cause of your self-doubting, there in the background. You have to keep on convincing your better selves to step up.
“Sonically it started with a bass line and some basic lyrics. Then a heavily delayed and sporadic guitar track was laid over the top which was partly inspired by seminal Australian artist Roland S Howard, who encapsulates dark beauty so well. There is quite a broad spectrum of other influences at work here, from early post punk like Gang of Four, Wire, PIL and The Fall through to Sonic Youth, Fugazi, Jesus Lizard, Melvins and of course the Blues Explosion! as well as Australian bands like The Models, and The Scientists.
S13: Songs like Ivory Sand and Spite Is Might that early Sonic Youth echoes to me. Are they key influences of yours.
oWo: “Yes! Not everything they did was great (which has to be expected when there are so many songs) but when they were flying it was mind blowing. We don’t pretend to be anywhere near their level but they have definitely left their mark. For Ivory Sand the guide was more around when Fugazi and Hawkwind get beamed onto on USS Enterprise commanded by Captain Joe Meek. They throw a party while the universe around them dissolves.
“Spite was written with a kind of shoegazey vibe but with a power-pop/rock rhythm, ’cause we were all down about how bad politics was getting, with Trump, Brexit and Tony Abbott in Australia, that whole batch of bad ju-ju, and the powerlessness you feel when bad things just keep on happening. The bad moon rose and it just seems to never set. Our leaders like to tell us how special we are but in the end we are all just like the rest and they are unique or chosen ones.”
S13: There there’s Exit Plan which is a brilliant way to close the album. Can you tell us how this song came about?
oWo: “We’ve just had another summer of natural disasters over here. This year it’s floods. People are always getting told ‘what’s your plan’, it’s getting to be one of the things that climate change is forcing on us. Having an exit plan is just something everyone is expected to have. We all want an exit from the current political failings we are all living under. I guess it’s about how you can get out.”
S13: What was the inspiration behind the art work?
oWo: “We hit up a fantastic artist friend of ours who had returned to Melbourne from a stint in New Zealand. He listened to the album and envisioned an anatomical / botanical theme, hence the mushroom bonsai growing around a rib cage. Ultimately reflective of visceral and organic elements we put into our music.”
S13: The Sydney music scene seems to be unearthing a lot of great bands at the moment. Does it feel this way to you?
oWo: “There’s a fair bit of pent-up energy that has yet to be released after the pandemic and lockout laws and all the other things that have conspired against the full potential for music scene in Sydney. Having a good live scene is so important, and that’s what needs to restart now. The risk that you take on if you’re a new live venue, from COVID, border closures, noise complaints, gentrification, natural disasters and all that is incredibly high. There are really good bands out there and really brave people who’ve kept venues going. People are putting out good music. We’ve been on stages with great bands like Los Monaros, Fangin Felines, Trash Stash, Golden Fang, Examplehead, Gary David and Small Town Incident. There’s a scene here, but it needs some love and care.”
S13: What’s next for oWo?
oWo: “It’s been a challenging journey this last year or so to get an album out and do gigs but we are excited that vinyl copies of the album will be available soon and there should be some gigs coming up throughout the year. We’ve got a lot more ground to cover musically and we are already writing new material for a future release. Stay tuned!”
Super Role Model is out now. Purchase from Bandcamp.