Aleks And The Ramps

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Aleks And The Ramps



When Simon Connolly, guitarist with idiosyncratic Melbourne indie pop band Aleks and the Ramps, rings mid-way through Tuesday night, there’s a cacaphony of noise as the answering machine cuts in earlier than I’d expected, drowning out both Simon’s opening greeting and my attempt at a reply. “Do you want me to call back later?” Connolly offers politely. Notwithstanding the unprofessional start to the interview, we continue on the conversation. In hindsight, the higgledy-piggledy beginning is, in some ways, illustrative of Aleks and the Ramps’ quirky pop sensibility.


It’s taken a few years for Aleks and the Ramps to write, record and release the follow-up to 2009’s Midnight Believer. “We started recording the album in about April 2010, and continued through to about August. Then we went to Japan, so we had to put things off then, we didn’t master it until August last year,” Connolly says.


Connolly’s description of the band’s writing process suggests ordered chaos, with skeletal concepts brought into the studio and fleshed out during the recording process. “Some of the tracks are Alex’s, and the rest are split,” Connoly says. “The songs on the new album were all written in the studio, based on ideas that we started out with, which could be anything from a verse and a chorus, through to something more, like a bass riff or a melody,” he says.


The quirky lyrics, however, are “97%” Bryant’s own creation. “Alex keeps a note book with fragments that he jots down,” Connolly says. “He really likes word play and playing with imagery. And there’s often a lot of emotional weight in the songs” Typically, Connolly says, the lyrics are added after the band has filled out the initial music idea into a complete song. “Alex likes to create lyrics a bit like the David Bowie way, where you write a whole lot of words, chop them up, and see what you can come up with,” Connolly says. Sometimes the other members of the band ask Bryant what’s happening in his lyrics; other times, it’s best not to ask. “Our drummer asked about the opening line of Bummer [“He’s scum and he’s gonna mess you up/Or at least waste your time”], and Alex said ‘it’s about you, buddy’,” Connolly laughs.


Like Midnight Believer, there’s a sense that Factsis more than a collection of songs. Connolly suggests the compilation of tracks into an album is more than linear aggregation, but less than a pre-ordained plan. “It’s a mixture of everything,” Connolly says. “35 to 40 minutes suits us – we don’t want to overstay our welcome. There’s ten tracks on the album, whereas we started out with 13.” While Aleks and the Ramps’ approach to song creation suggests a democracy, Connolly describes it more as a “benevolent dictatorship”, with ideas that lack group consensus being quietly ignored. “It’s fairly anything goes,” Connolly says, “and that’s why things jump all over the place. If there’s something that people are not into, then it just disappears and it’s not talked about anymore.”


To categorise Aleks and the Ramps’ music as pop is both appropriate, and superficial. The band’s prevailing pop sensibility is punctuated with syncopated rhythms that are anathema to the simple radio song structure; Bryant’s monotone delivery is closer to punk poet John Cooper Clarke than your average pop singer. “I think we strive to write pop songs,” Connolly muses. “A pop song is short and to the point, with a strong melody.” With Aleks and the Ramps’ iconoclastic blend of melody, rhythm and oddball humour, it’s not hard to engage in hyperanalysis of the band’s artistic style. Such analysis, Connolly suggests, isn’t necessary. “We’re artists, and we make art,” Connolly says. “We’re not expecting deep analysis, though that’s something we’ve had to deal with since we started out.”


After releasing both its prior records on independent labels, Aleks and the Ramps chose to manage the entire recording and release process itself, free from any shackles of label oversight. While the recording was, Connolly says, “more liberating” as a DIY project, organising the pressing of the record on vinyl – the only ‘hard’ format it will appear on officially (“it’s a bit solipsistic – I don’t buy CDs, and I buy off iTunes”) – has had its logistical challenges. “We did it all ourselves this time, which was good, but that said, getting vinyl pressed is a bit of a nightmare, and we’re still dealing with it right now,” Connolly says. “But this time seeing it through from start to finish was really fun, and cheap. That said, it would have been good sometimes to have an assistant engineer to order around,” he laughs.


Since the album’s recording, Aleks and the Ramps have undergone some changes in membership, with Jon Thjia and Janita Foley both opting to leave to concentrate on other projects. While it’s too early to make any definitive observation on the effect of the lineup changes to the band’s music, Connolly is feeling positive. “It’s hard to tell at the moment, because most of the songwriting took place before the change in membership,” Connolly says. “We haven’t got around to writing yet with the new members, but I’m really psyched about what we’ll do next.” Not surprisingly, Aleks and the Ramps isn’t a band with a career plan mapped out. “We really want to keep making music together,” Connolly says. “It’d be nice to make money off touring, but we don’t really have any major aspirations about being rich and famous – that’s gone by the wayside now.”




ALEKS AND THE RAMPS launch FACTS at the Northcote Social Club this Friday March 23. They also play the National in Geelong on Thursday March 22.