‘People don’t dance, they contort’: Zero City are on the precipice of something great

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‘People don’t dance, they contort’: Zero City are on the precipice of something great

Zero City
Words by Jake Fitzpatrick

Local indie band Zero City are set to release their debut album Contortions, then conquer Australia and the world.

The boys of Zero City have a lot to be excited about. After releasing their debut album, Contortions on May 31, the post-punk, genre-bending, semi-experimental four-piece are a band that’s music will keep you hooked in curiosity. We caught up with the boys to chat about how they’ve gotten here, and where they plan to go next.

The band, which consists of Noi Harte, Declan Braniff, Mateus Torres and Michael Haynes all met through school. Bonding over a shared love of music, they began to jam. As they tell me, Haynes, Harte and Braniff even started a self-described “terrible” three-piece in 2019. Three years later they played a high school battle of the bands together, performing a track called Housefire. This song, as they tell me is particularly special as it “set us on the path we are on right now… paving the way for the songs we recorded in the future”.

This marked the birth of Zero City.

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Now set to release their debut album Contortions on May 31, the boys are a ball of excitement tapped with nervousness. This nervousness stems from Harte particularly, who worries both about the album “flopping”, but also “if it does well then having to make something to follow it up”.

But, judging from our ears, the band have nothing to worry about.

The album, as they describe it, “feels like a time capsule from a certain point in time”. They started recording the album in August of last year with the impression they could get it all done “within a week”. In hindsight, they now fully admit they were “sorely mistaken”.

They did give it a good shot. They managed to record half the album in the first two days, but came slightly unstuck when, on the third day, Harte slipped and landed headfirst into a gutter, breaking his front tooth in half. If you ask me, it just sounds like another rock n roll moment Keith Richards would applaud.

Due to the slip, Harte had to record his vocals with half a tooth. As they tell me, “If you listen closer to some of the tracks, [Harte] has a noticeable lisp whilst singing”. Overall, the band described the recording process as “long and a bit annoying but so much fun. [It was] something that none of us had experienced”.

We can attest that those hours have been worth it. From the chanting section of Cadence to the simplicity of New Shoes, the album feels like something that will keep you hanging on for more. A particular mention should be given to what the band describe as a “musical orgasm” in Take Zero where the horns go “all over each other”. That section can only be described as satisfying.

When it came to naming the album, the band initially struggled to agree. “[Harte] really wanted the album to be called Deafening Pleasure, but [we] couldn’t agree on that”. The only one the band could agree on was Contortions. As for the reason why the band called it that? “People don’t dance to Zero City music, they contort.”

The album’s psychedelic cover art – that you could probably stare at all day – was created by Harte’s family friend Fumihiko Yokouchi. On a visit to Japan, Harte rifled through his art to try and find a cover that would suit. Upon stumbling across this piece, the band said they “knew [we] wanted it for the album”.

In support of the album, the band also have numerous live shows coming up. They are intending on embarking on some gigs in Sydney, other interstate shows and then a “big tour in Japan towards the end of the year”. So, for a band that just released their debut album, they’re doing pretty well.

From talking to the boys, you get the feeling that Zero City are four good mates who just love music. A proud cog in the Melbourne music scene, they like playing and listening to all sorts, from “Michael Jackson to Joy Division”.

All of which is firmly grounded in the platitude that “All we really want to do is make something that other people, even if not many, can love too.”

Stream and buy Zero City’s new album here.