How Gareth Liddiard overcame ‘Give A Fuck Fatigue’ for TFS’ third LP, ‘Deep States’

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How Gareth Liddiard overcame ‘Give A Fuck Fatigue’ for TFS’ third LP, ‘Deep States’

Words by Tammy Walters

Tropical Fuck Storm unleash their third album, Deep States, on Friday August 20.

On January 25 2020, the first case of COVID-19 was detected in Australia. Two months later, border closures came into effect, social distancing rules were implemented and all non-essential services came to an abrupt halt.

Cancellations started rolling through fast and heavy but motivation to push through was burning. Pivot, adapt and embrace change was the motive but how much change can one handle?

Chaos ensued on a global scale as protests broke out for the Black Lives Matter and anti-lockdown movements, the US presidential election was elevated with the storming of the White House, natural disasters devastated parts of the world and news consumption was at an all time high. What else is there to do in lockdown, after all?

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For Tropical Fuck Storm guitarist and vocalist Gareth Liddiard, the ‘Give A Fuck Fatigue’ set in early.

“The wheels fell off at the beginning of the pandemic and it was just so demoralising and so hard to get off my ass and do anything,” he says. 

With a fitting name for the times, Tropical Fuck Storm are notorious for their social and political commentary wrapped in idiosyncratic storytelling and bold sonic-bends, as evident on their debut LP, A Laughing Death in Meatspace, and 2019 follow-up, Braindrops.

And while there was a surplus in ammunition, the desire to put pen to paper was non-existent.

“The first six months was just demoralising so I didn’t write much music – I didn’t have the motivation because all deadlines disappeared. So I just drank beer and watched Netflix for the first six months, which I suppose everyone else did the same thing. Eventually that got boring so it was like, ‘May as well try to make an album’.”

Armed with endless material to work with, Liddiard gravitated towards stories that shaped the last 12 months, culminating in the third TFS songbook, Deep States.

From the honey-traps of the single, ‘New Romeo Agent’ where historical context meets modern interpretation, to ‘Reporting of a Failed Campaign’, and ‘Blue Beam Baby’ which barely sympathises with Ashli Babbitt, the woman shot as she tried to breach the US Capitol, (a MAGA mindframe and Blue Beam conspiracy theory involving NASA, Antichrists, and technology, presumably as updated by Q as her motivation), Deep States deciphers the complexities of creativity, the global infatuation with resurgent fascisms, and information saturation. 

“With TFS, I think the world just caught up to our thing. We’ve been plying our trade for years and I think the world has finally become as anxious and neurotic as we’ve always sounded,” says Liddiard.

“These days, things like Twitter are designed so that everyone has to have an opinion on everything, and who is an expert on everything? I remember a time when people would say, ‘I don’t know’, but you can’t do that anymore. You have to have an opinion on everything.

“‘The Greatest Story Ever Told’ is a song about Jesus coming back and saying, ‘Cheers guys, I thought my job was to be sanctimonious but now everyone is more sanctimonious than me, so you don’t need me’, and then he fucks off.

“Everyone is always telling each other how things should be and it’s like, ‘Come on now, can’t we all just get along?’. There’s all these obligations and everyone is acting like their first person to figure it all out. The way things are going, everyone should shut up really.

Deep States makes a point of acknowledging a major chunk of 2020’s conversations but not everything could make the ten-track story. However, it would not be complete without the inclusion of COVID commentary. In typical TFS style, Liddiard takes the subject on a galactic adventure.

“It was a process of whittling things down because there is so much to talk about. We had a huge spare parts department as far as songs go and ideas and lyrics,” he says. 

“In that song, ‘Bummer Sanga’, we thought we can’t go through a pandemic without actually mentioning it, it would be weird not to mention it even though it is the most boring thing because everyone is going through it, so we had to find some weird way to frame it.

“‘Bumma Sanga’ is about how you can’t go interstate, you can’t go overseas but you can fly intergalactic and go on an intergalactic holiday, so it was a matter of how do we talk about the most tedious thing in the world and make it interesting.” 

Interesting is one way to describe TFS and their third album Deep States, but the words eccentric, exhilarating and downright masterful overshadow it. 

Now over the give a fuck fatigue, Liddiard and co. are already moving onto album four, a spare parts department full of material to rummage through and a newfound sense of direction leading the way.

Deep States is out on Friday August 20 via TFS Records