“Aaron came up with the original set of guidelines – mostly for what Civil Civic can’t be,” he explains. “One thing it had to be was compact. We’re a two-piece with a drummer that’s a roadcase full of gadgets. We can fit it all into a car. The idea when recording was that there wouldn’t be any sounds coming from the stage that you can’t visually place. There aren’t masses of backing tracks to compensate for us being two people – we’re playing everything apart from drums. It’s a pretty simple set of guidelines, but it’s been really limiting in a good way. It also helps us to be a strong live act that people can identify with, rather than just some production outfit that sounds like a CD.”
As is the case in all great narratives, the establishment of a set of rules more often than not acts as a means for eventual concession. It’s a prospect that the band isn’t necessarily avoiding. “We’re already sort of talking about it. We’ve talked about things like getting a guest vocalist, because being instrumental was one of the rules,” Green recounts. “It’s not so weird if you’re an electronic act, but if you’re straddling the space between a rock band and electronic act it’s a bit strange. I don’t know how [guest vocalists] would work live. We’re not rigid guys, I’m sure we’ll evolve in some way. It’s just that we won’t evolve into some overblown production nightmare overnight.”
Taking centre stage at the band’s live sets is what is dubbed ‘the box’, a somewhat primitive case for a drum machine and various effect. Green gives a peek as to what’s inside. “It’s relatively set in stone. We have electronic drums, but we didn’t want them to be this big complex thing that takes over with lots of fills and loops. Most of the time it’s just a kick and snare bashing you in the head. That’s stayed pretty constant. The box itself, physically it doesn’t need to be as big as it is and it definitely doesn’t need flashing lights on the front of it telling you when each drum sound is firing off. But it takes the physical place of a drummer in that it tells you where the drum sounds are coming from, and completes the illusion of a three-piece rock band rather than an electronic crossover act.”
The band’s arrival in Australia coincides with the long-gestated debut album from Civil Civic, an artefact which will encapsulate the full extent of the band’s lifespan so far. “A couple of tracks on the record have existed in recorded form since we started the band. The actual composition of the record took place over the first two and a half years of us playing. Then there was a little songwriting rush at the end when we wanted to get a record out. The whole recording and mixing took place over a two month period where Aaron came over to Barcelona, then I came over to London.”
Making their debut in Australia alongside an iconic roster of talent at I’ll Be Your Mirror is an achievement not lost on Green. “It’s great. It was a real break, and kind of the whole reason we’re trying to make this happen. Coming out to Australia just to do a small number of club shows then return to Europe is pretty expensive thing to do. But who doesn’t want to play I’ll Be Your Mirror on the same day as My Bloody Valentine? It’s a great thing.”
Despite the absence of vocals on the band’s repertoire, the band’s live shows manage to connect and engage in a powerful manner. “Most of the tracks have pretty strong melodies. Probably the biggest fanbase we have is in France, and the last tour we did there we had shows where people were singing along to the guitar and keyboard melodies. It seems like people are compensating for it in their own heads. Which is fine, go for it,” Green smiles.
BY LACHLAN KANONIUK