Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever on their second EP, heading overseas and signing to Sub Pop
If one were to initiate a roundtable discussion on the subject of 2016 and examine what the year had to offer, the majority would likely agree that it was a fairly grim time, particularly within music.
Yet for Melbourne quintet Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, 2016 marked a significant turning point in the band’s career. The release of their EP Talk Tight saw the little Melbourne band receive major kudos both in Australia and abroad, harvesting critical acclaim from the likes of Pitchfork, SPIN and Stereogum, while elsewhere, they inked a record deal with Sydney-based label Ivy League and later, a worldwide deal with seminal Seattle label Sub Pop.
Now, as we hurtle into March 2017, the band is on the precipice of major international acclaim. The forthcoming release of their sophomore EP The French Press will see the band venture into new and formidable terrain, tackling a slew of US dates that include multiple appearances at SXSW, plus a run of launch shows back on home turf. While their rise to notoriety may seem rapid to the unaware, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever are by no means an overnight success. The band’s co-songwriter, guitarist and co-vocalist Joe White details the journey from humble bedroom jams through to their subsequent signing with Sub Pop, thanks in part to some unassuming iPhone recordings.
“In the early years we didn't know what we were doing, we were sitting around playing music and decided to play some shows,” White says. “It was a big surprise initially to think we were going to go anywhere other than the bedroom.”
Indeed, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever’s trajectory has been slowly thrumming away during their five-year history. In 2012, the band moved beyond late-night jam sessions in co-songwriter Fran Keaney’s bedroom and onto stages across a collection of Melbourne bandrooms, where they honed their craft and articulated their sound. But it was the release of Talk Tight that attracted keen interest, and as their music strayed away from the softer, melodic numbers of their previous singles toward high-tempo, rollicking tunes, the band captured the attention of the right people.
“Clean Slate was played on triple j and someone from Ivy League heard it, came to our EP launch and decided they wanted to sign us,” White says. “Having that little bit of exposure through the record label was really helpful – the music got into the right earholes and was picked up overseas. So much about this thing is right time, right place, and we were lucky that particular song got played on the radio when it did.”
While Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever were busy gathering masses of accolades, the band returned to the studio to record their sophomore EP, The French Press. While the recording process was rather similar to that of Talk Tight, White concedes the band spent longer periods of time magnifying their sound, which resulted in a collection of grander and more ambitious songs than their earlier output.
“We knew the songs were going to be played live, and we wanted things to rock a bit more. It took a while to figure out how to do that – there was a lot of back and forth with rhythms and drumbeats and basslines – and we scrutinised everything.
“We tried to fill the songs with more melodies and lush sounds,” he says. “There's some keyboards, some synths, extra guitars and backing vocals, it all sounds bigger and luscious.”
The French Press EP is unquestionably the band’s most audacious work to date, and it’s proven upon a single listen. Driving percussion and charging basslines are coupled with precise melodies, punchy guitar licks and unvarnished lyrics. Thus, upon hearing a few new tracks, Sub Pop kicked off the process of what would become a dream record deal most artists yearn for.
“We sent over some demos of the newer songs, they were just iPhone recordings from our rehearsal space,” White says. “And they were like, 'Yep let's do it.' We were pretty surprised Sub Pop were keen to sign us off the back of those iPhone recordings. I remember the day it was locked in and we signed the actual papers, I was walking on air.”
By Cara Williams
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever launch The French Press EP at The Tote on Friday May 12, with Jade Imagine, Great Outdoors, Bitch Diesel and Broadway Sounds DJs. The French Press EP is released Friday March 10 through Ivy League / Sub Pop.