The synth lines are piercing, like The Faint on a particularly bad trip, the screamed vocals reminiscent of the more cathartic end of American punk, and the guitar is fuzzed out to the point of collapse, Ian Jackson hugging the speaker like an Australian Kevin Shields. And yet despite the noise, all the while there’s this amazing percussion running throughout, a dynamism that even the rumoured new Rapture record would be lucky to share, in-escapable tunes that nag at our bodies and implore each and every one of us here tonight to lose our inhibitions and dance like no-one is watching. None of us actually do of course (bar an insane Japanese stage-invader). Damn Arms, playing their first-ever headline U.K show tonight, leave us no time to regret such missed opportunities.
Skip back a few hours and Gigwise is sitting at the bottom floor of Virgin’s flagship London store, surrounded by coffee machines and musical instruments, with Tim Sullivan, Damn Arms’ bassist and co-vocalist. Running his hand through the fringe of his matted black hair, he looks genuinely wide-eyed when asked how he and Damn Arms are finding their first international shows.“The tour with Test-Icicles has been amazing. Every show’s been sold out, we’ve been playing to a full house every night!”
Their connection with Test-Icicles isn’t one simply based on a shared love of knackered drum machines: ”I’ve known them for about three or four years now, way way before Test-Icicles. The way they see it, they got popular for playing music that they think is fun, and the best way to help out your friends’ band is by promoting them, because they have popularity that they got quite easily, because they write good songs. They got us all the way from Australia to come over here and tour! Now they keep telling kids to come to their shows early just to see us”
Formed in March 2005 after the demise of Snap! Crakk! (the ‘pop’ presumably being their trademark), it’s taken just ten months for Damn Arms to reach our shores with an incredible debut single under their belts (‘Please Pass Me My Anti-Robotics’, on Something In Construction, already one of the more angular delights we’re likely to hear all year). Tim explains the birth of Damn Arms: “One of the keyboardists and the guitarists just left (Snap! Crakk!) because they wanted to do something different. Simon (Parker, drums), Yama (Indra, vocals/synths and owner of the finest facial hair since that guy from We Are Scientists) and myself decided to keep working together and like, seven months later (from their first show) we’re touring the U.K. pretty fast!”
It’s a philosophy of inspired urgency that the band have followed since the start. “We worked really hard. When we first started we were practising four times a week, so we could play as soon as we could. Last month we toured with The Kills in Australia, which was amazing” Completing the Damn Arms puzzle was guitarist Ian Jackson: “We met Ian through one of my friends. I just had a phone call one day saying I want to join your band. We were pretty set on just having the three of us, trying to be something different, like keyboards, bass, drums” But Ian brought some "red wine” and wrote a few “guitar lines”, pretty much sealing the deal.
Though this may be the band’s first foreign foray, Tim is no stranger to London. “I lived here for just over a year. I went back to Australia in mid-2003. I used to play in a band with Sam from Test-Icicles, and Tom Vek and Ferry from Semi-Finalists” Like some awesome indie supergroup? “Yeah I guess! Me and Sam were joking around when we were drunk the other night about saying that we should book the fucking Astoria for our show! That’s how we all met, and that’s how I know Dev and Rory and all that. Me and Rory were actually talking about going to Ireland and recording a black metal record!” he adds with a mischievous grin.
In their home country Damn Arms released their debut, the six-track ‘Patterns EP’ in September, from which ‘Please Pass Me My…’ and it’s B-Side, ‘I Sink, Therefore I Swam’, are taken. Recording with Aussie legend Lindsey Gravina (who’s worked with everyone from The Living End to The Birthday Party), Tim remembers the sessions as a caffeine-fuelled all-nighter: “He made us work from eleven at night to seven in the morning! We drank so much coffee! He wanted to make us record at our most vulnerable, and then it sounded like it. Our record sounds like it’s a little too fast. We did that record in a day, recorded everything in a day”
We ask Tim what he thinks of the E.P now, four months down the line: ”I haven’t listened to it since we did it…As soon as you record an album you think it’s great when you do it, and then a week later you hate it. I could never imagine being in a really big band where you have to tour the same album. Like Cut Copy (fellow Australian electro-poppers), they’re still fucking touring the same record that came out two years ago. I went to High School with Tim (Hoey), and he’s like 'It’s great to play but I just wanna write new songs'.” His voice a considered and cool drawl, we approach the subject of Tim’s opinion on the whole promotional trawl (this interview included), with a certain trepidation. “Of course you need a point of reference, for people to understand what they fuck you’re talking about otherwise you’re just like 'who is this and why are they talking about this stupid topic?' We play in a band, we make music”
Luckily Tim is refreshingly honest. He sees through the bullshit and knows that there could be many jobs worse than the one he is currently has (even though, like the rest of his bandmates, he also holds down a full-time job for some necessary extra income. In his case “I fucking wash dishes in a café!”): “Seriously, if anyone complains about playing in a band, touring the world and doing interviews, they’re a fucking cock. How hard is that? Really? You get to meet people that are actually interested in you enough to interview you. If you complain, fucking don’t do it!” As for advice on the approach younger bands should take, he is similarly passionate: “It sounds like anarchy and shit but fucking do what you want. The worst thing to do is listen to other people’s opinions. Like, if I listened to someone’s opinion I’d never have played music!”
The Damn Arms sound is schizophrenic, at turns vicious and thrillingly now. To say they’re destined to land squarely in the arms of the fashion music press would be a major understatement, though there’s no reason why the forthcoming album, due in characteristic Damn Arms fashion as early as April, can’t break out further and into the rooms of, say, Bloc Party fans looking for something that little bit more adventurous or followers of !Forward Russia! (our upside down exclamation mark button is missing) wondering what comes after ‘Thirteen’. They’re by no means part of any convenient scene, but watching Damn Arms at the Metro later that night we get the feeling that the new wave of new-wave bands (like we said, scenes are a head-fuck) are taking their 80s-influenced post-punk just that little bit darker (see Every Move A Picture), louder (The Automatic), shinier (Panic! At The Disco) and plain better (Damn Arms).
Everything just got that little bit more extreme; we really should start dancing.