Tropical Fuck Storm on throwing caution to the wind

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Tropical Fuck Storm on throwing caution to the wind


 We’re sitting in a Fitzroy café and Erica Dunn is describing the moment that her band, Tropical Fuck Storm, had guns pulled on them while filming a video in Little Rock, Arkansas. Animated, her eyes have widened and she shifts in her seat attempting to communicate the nightmarish scene, while beside her Gareth Liddiard, her bandmate, nods in bemused affirmation.

You wouldn’t read about how fucking weird this place is. It’s in the middle of nowhere in the woods, like a big old couple of airplane hangers together and in one of them was a concert with 2000 people,” she says.

“And then we were kind of drunk and walking around backstage and we found some locals had made their own haunted house. No one was around, it was like, ‘Is this old?’”

There was a whole costume department, so we were putting costumes on and shit,” Liddiard interjects.

And halfway through we heard these terrifying, full-on yokel voices behind us like, ‘Why the fuck are you touching our stuff?’ And they were fully agro, with guns,” Dunn says.

Everyone had a mask on except me,” Liddiard says.

And eventually we gave them all our rider, and they turned it all on and we got to use it, we filmed our clip there,” Dunn says.

We’ve done everything like that,” Liddiard says. “Like, ‘Shall we do a bunch of gigs here?’ ‘Yep.’ ‘Have we got time to rehearse?’ ‘Not really.’ ‘Have we got enough songs?’ ‘…No.’ And we just fuckin’ do it anyway. You’ve just got to start – you could spend six months rehearsing and getting good, or just say ‘Fuck that, just do it,’ that’s what we did, it’s more fun.”

Tropical Fuck Storm formed last year as a new creative outlet for Liddiard and bassist Fiona Kitschin, outside of their other band, The Drones. After playing only three local shows under different pseudonyms, the band – which also includes drummer Lauren Hammel – set off on a runoff dates across the US, first supporting The Band of Horses and then King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. For an untested group, these largely sold-out theatre shows were a trial by fire, helping to whip TFS into shape before they returned to record their debut album, A Laughing Death in Meatspace.

“It’s been a really intense year of learning to be a band,” Liddiard muses. “It’s pretty funny. From the outside, you would think, people like The Drones so there’d be a reason for them to play, but ultimately we’re DIY so it’s us who has to organise the fuck out of it. Everyone’s having kids so it’s harder to make it move. With Rica and Hamma it’s much easier.”

Having dedicated themselves to releasing four 7” singles in the seven months leading up to the album, TFS have had strict deadlines to meet, something which they’ve approached with a typically laid-back, no-holds-barred emphasis on creativity and the enjoyment of the process. “It’s very caution to the wind, we’re making a lot of decisions and laughing. It’s a pretty funny way to approach a band, but in a good way, it’s really energised,” Dunn says.

That energy comes across musically, matching a refreshing amount of playful weirdness, Fela Kuti-inspired rhythms and Liddiard’s barely-contained energy and caustic societal observations. Citing Kuti, George Michael, James Brown and Captain Beefheart, and dropping, much to Dunn’s disapproval, the descriptor ‘funky’, Liddiard remains undecided on how to describe TFS’ sound, with the album only weeks removed from completion. “It’s like a disaster movie. Small budget disaster movie,” he says.

The sense that anything could go, and probably already is going, very wrong at any moment is captured in the lyrics, which often read like they are lifted from the headlines of regional newspapers. For Liddiard, it’s hard to avoid the political when writing, even as he despairs at the way that people are encouraged to blindly adopt ideologies over beliefs. “It’s so polarised now. Everyone’s got an ideology and anyone who doesn’t share that is fucked,” he says.

“I think you should be critical of bad behaviour, but what the internet has done, it’s made people behave differently. You’ve got a right winger and a left winger going at it, but they’re not even talking to each other, they’re talking to these weird ideas of each other that they’ve formed. I think they’re signalling to other primates using ideas the way football teams use colours on jerseys. And I think people underestimate the importance of those social bonds – they’re paramount. People die in trenches for social bonds, they don’t die in trenches for food.”

With the album being launched with a national tour throughout May, TFS plan to stay busy, with Liddiard asserting that he’ll start writing for their next album in June and July. “We’re going to be huge,” he jokes. “If not huge, we’ll try to have a good time. Just keep trying to make albums that aren’t like the last one.”

Which begs the question that many have pondered since the name of The Drones’ social media pages were changed to TFS Records last year, what does this all mean for the future of that other band?

“We need a kick in the arse and it’s generally me and Fi that kick it in the arse. I can’t be fucked doing that for a while,” Liddiard says. “Until I feel like doing it – and I will – but that could be next year, it could be in ten years, I dunno. I don’t really care at the moment either, I’m having fun.”