Party Dozen are the stuff of wet dreams for music reviewers. Fusing the cosmic tones of Kirsty Tickle's saxophone with Johnathon Boulet's experimental drumming and production, the Sydney duo have quickly became one of the most hyped underground acts in Australia, nabbing gigs at Dark Mofo, WOMAD, Falls and Farmer & The Owl and touring with the likes of Tropical Fuck Storm and Viagra Boys.
After years of jamming and working together intensively, Party Dozen have emerged with the follow-up to their 2017 debut, Pray For Party Dozen. Peppered with pastiches of Krautrock, industrial and stoner-rock, Pray For Party Dozen is an abrasive effort that sees the duo push their chemistry to a new level of intensity, and makes for their most exciting and defining release to date.
With the album out via Grupo Records tomorrow, we spoke with Party Dozen to garner an insight into their influences, creative process and approach to producing their own music.
To kick this off, I thought I’d ask you both about your musical backgrounds. You guys have some serious chops and use them in a very unique way, and I’d love to find out more about that.
Kirsty: I had a pretty normal start to music. Piano lessons, then clarinet lessons, then music school. Then I realised sax is more versatile than clarinet, so I swapped over. I spent my teenage years and early twenties playing keyboard in indie bands before Jono encouraged me to plug my sax into a pedal board.
Johnathan: I started on drums at ten years old as a means to guide my undiagnosed A.D.D into some kind of vent. As we began to play shows as Party Dozen, a lot of the gigs we would play were very DIY and it was very common not to have any mics on the drum kit. Because of this I needed to play harder on the kit without losing too much speed. Single stroke combinations between feet and hands are one of the first things one might learn on drums but I have found these combinations very helpful when it comes to consistency, volume and speed.
On that note, was there any album or artist in particular that really blew you away with the way that they improvised musically? Is there still one recording from one of your influences that just blows your mind to this day?
We both love Alice Coltrane. The whole of Journey In Satchindananda blows our minds. Her command of improvisation is unbelievable. The whole band is so talented and the production is perfectly distorted and charming.
Pray For Party Dozen kicks off with a sheer, thunderous wall of cacophonous noise, which might be the most abrasive track on the album. From your experience as artists, is critically listening to/mixing tracks as harsh as these disorientating over extended periods of time?
J: Of course. You can’t listen to that shit for long. When it comes to mixing, I’m always trying to minimise the harsh stuff around 5khz. If you can get control of those frequencies, even the shittiest of recordings can sound pleasant. My hot tip is to invest in a good crash cymbal.
On ‘Gun Control’ and‘Scheisse Kunst’?), Kirsty yells the lyrics into her saxophone which is totally drenched in effects - it has such a jarring impact. Where did you find the inspiration for that?
K: This came about in recording the first album. Jono encouraged it, and I used to get completely embarrassed doing it live. But now it’s just loads of fun. It’s sort of like aggressive punk vocals, but shouted into a saxophone through effects pedals. Sometimes I like to sing about people in the room, especially if someone in the crowd is being a bit of a dickhead.
Can you give us an insight into your songwriting process? Is it primarily based around jamming together or working on ideas to bring in separately?
Definitely the former. We spend days doing loop sessions and pick the ones we like the most. Then we jam to it, record it three times and pick the best take. A good loop can inspire many great ideas, and if, in the end it sounds shit, we drop it and never tell anyone.
You guys also self-produced Pray For Party Dozen. How do you approach the studio? Do you bunker in for a long stint, or chip away at your music over time?
Neither of us have the attention span to bunker down, which has positives and negatives. We tend to do four hour stints in the studio at any one time. We’re kind of hindered by the fact that playing sax in Party Dozen is more intense than regular sax, and Kirsty’s face muscles don’t last longer than that. Recording over a long time also gives each song an individual timestamp that, subtle as they may be, helps each song to feel different to the last.
The record is beefed up by a lot of droning synths and dissonant guitars. Who assumes that role in the production process, and how do you go about slicing and dicing these sounds into your jams?
That would be Jonathan. He records, mixes and masters everything, and then controls the loops as we do it. We both tinker on synths for the loops, but the guitars are all Jonathan.
How are you planning on adding these extra textures into your live performances? Are you running backing tracks via sample pads, or simply just tweaking whatever you can squeeze out of what you’ve got on stage?
The SP-404 sampler has been the unofficial third member of Party Dozen since we started. Jonathan triggers the loops live with his fingers, and we play around with them quite a bit. It’s nice to change the songs up and improvise on them when we play live, occasionally adding new loops into old songs to keep things spicy.
For anyone who might be a first time Party Dozen listener who wants to hear more music like this, who would you recommend they check out?
Blurt, Dirty Three, Selvhenter, Kenny G, Epic Sax Guy.
Finally, there’s now a lot of time in between your album release and your rescheduled tour dates. How are you planning on filling that gap? Can we expect to hear anything else from the PD Camp this year?
We’re always working on new stuff and making shit, but it takes us around two years to make a record. We don’t rush our output. Although, we also live by our own schedule, so who knows.
Party Dozen's new LP Pray For Party Dozen is out on Friday May 22 through Bandcamp.