Beloved Melbourne label Anti Fade are bringing two nights of punk to Max Watt’s

Beloved Melbourne label Anti Fade are bringing two nights of punk to Max Watt’s

Constant Mongrel
Words by August Billy

Catching up with Anti Fade’s Billy Gardner.

Primo!, Constant Mongrel, EXEK and Alien Nosejob will descend on Max Watt’s this February for back-to-back gigs courtesy of Anti Fade Records.

It’s the second lineup the label’s curated as part of the ongoing Melbourne Music Week – Extended. The Max Watt’s gigs are also a return to auspicious surrounds for Anti Fade founder Billy Gardner, who ran a gig there as part of MMW 2019.

Given the circumstances, however, there have been a few more hurdles in getting this one off the ground.

“There’s definitely more things to think about, but to be honest it’s just really nice to be having something to do in that regard,” says Gardner. “I haven’t sent any emails that relate to a gig in almost a year so it’s kind of nice to be doing all that again.”

Primo! and Alien Nosejob both put out new music on Anti Fade in 2020. EXEK’s latest album, Some Beautiful Species Left, came out via the label in 2019 and likewise Constant Mongrel’s 2018 LP, Living In Excellence. It’s a reflection of the fine catalogue Gardner’s built up in recent years.

“Constant Mongrel, Primo! and Exek, we’ve all been friends for ages but I’ve only started dealing with them with the record label since like 2018, 2019, 2020. But Alien Nosejob, it’s not a super old project – it’s only been going for three or four years – but I’ve been really good friends with Jake [Robertson] for a good ten years now. He moved to Geelong in 2010 and was a huge inspiration on me, showed me heaps of new music I’d never heard and stuff.”

Robertson’s been a highly prolific musician over the last decade, playing in bands like The Frowning Clouds, Hierophants and School Damage as well as leading Ausmuteants for several years. Under the Alien Nosejob moniker, he released not one but two LPs in 2020. The latest is a lo-fi slab of hardcore punk called Once Again The Present Becomes The Past, which came out via Anti Fade in October 2020.

Gardner and Robertson also form one-half of Smarts, a Devo-esque art rock project that released its debut album, Who Needs Smarts, Anyway?, in October 2020. As for Ausmuteants, Gardner thinks that band might’ve done its dash.

“I don’t even know if we’ll play again. I don’t really imagine we’ll do any new songs. The bass player moved back to New Zealand at the start of COVID so that’s a huge hurdle. I think we all sort of said, ‘We’re not going to replace him’, so if he comes back maybe we’ll play a show.”

The history of Anti Fade goes back to the 2012 compilation release, New Centre of the Universe Vol. 1, which featured tracks from Dick Diver, The UV Race, King Gizzard, The Murlocs, Hierophants, The Frowning Clouds and stacks of other bands from Melbourne and Geelong.

“That was the whole reason the label started,” says Gardner. “I had the idea for the comp before I did the label, so the label was just a stepping stone to put the comp out. I just wanted to put out my friends’ music and my own music because no one else would. That’s basically it – I had a lot of friends that played in great bands and thought we should do something with all that.”

Anti Fade has since issued volumes two and three in the New Centre of the Universe series, as well as evolving into a functioning record label that’s home to not just Constant Mongrel, Primo!, Exek and Alien Nosejob, but also artists like Parsnip, Bananagun and Vintage Crop.

“[The label] started off really strong then it slowed down for a few years. Between 2014 and 2016 I wasn’t doing that much. And then I picked it up again in 2017-18 and I’ve been pretty steady since 2018. It takes up a lot of my time these days – it’s good.”

Despite its growth, Anti Fade remains a one-person operation with label HQ alternating between Gardner’s bedroom and kitchen.

“Somehow I find it a bit easier doing it on my own. I know other people who run labels and I feel like stuff can easily get missed when you might think the other person’s taken care of it or something. I find doing it on my own easy and there’s only one person to point to finger at if something goes wrong – it’s me!”

The Anti Fade showcase goes down on Thursday February 11 and Friday February 12 (both sold out). Join the waitlist here and check out the rest of the Melbourne Music Week program here.