How These New South Whales minted their own media empire

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How These New South Whales minted their own media empire

Words by Aidan Williams

The multi-disciplinary punks talk their upcoming album, Australian punk culture, Twitch streaming and more.

A year of lockdowns as well as a blanket of commercial closures has presented a new challenge for the music industry, with artists having to find new means to connect with audiences away from stages. The importance of a digital connection and virtual presence has become an industry norm, for artists to not just collaborate and produce, but to stay engaged with fans.  

Never ones to miss a beat, Australian punk group These New South Whales have been busy at work throughout the pandemic – not just writing and recording the band’s new upcoming studio album, but also connecting with fans across the world wide web on Spotify, YouTube and even Twitch.

Busy both in the studio and on the talk show couch, These New South Whales are quickly making a name for themselves with their trademark blunt and shock humour on their 2020 YouTube series TSNW Tonight, coupled together with two seriously good studio punk records. Giving us a taste of what’s installed for 2021, Australia’s resident shock comedy and punk darlings are back with their new single ‘Remote Control’ from the band’s upcoming third studio album. 

We caught up with the group’s frontman / de-facto talk show host Jamie Timony to chat about the band’s new single, their venture into other media endeavours and some of the eyebrows that they’ve raised along the way.

The new single ‘Remote Control’ was recorded between the two Melbourne lockdowns. What can fans expect to hear from the rest of the new album? Do you think the circumstances from the last year have influenced more than just the lyrical and thematic content of the album and how did you find working on new music during the lockdowns?

JT: First of all, I just wanna say I’m listening to Dr. Dre’s Chronic 2001 (instrumentals only – I couldn’t concentrate with vocals) while writing this… Just a bit of context so you know where I’m coming from, ya know? I’ve been watching The Defiant Ones again on Netflix which I highly recommend to anyone who hasn’t seen it. 

As far as the new album is concerned, we are very much still in the process of discovering what that’s going to sound like. This time around, we have resisted discussing which direction it could take and are trying to see what comes out naturally. So far, there’s been a great synergy amongst us, and the enthusiasm is at an all-time high. I think it’s rubbing off in the music. I don’t think the circumstances from the last year will have much of an influence on the music going forward. 

Certainly, ‘Broken System’ and ‘Remote Control’ were written during 2020 and reflect some of what was going on, but I think that’s where that will end for now. I personally really enjoyed working on music during the lockdowns. The distractions were mostly gone, and I could get some work done.

Keeping with home, Australia has a rich heritage of producing irreverent punk bands who excel at writing politically charged music – from Radio Birdman and the Saints to more contemporary acts carrying the torch like yourselves, Private Function and TFS. Considering Australian culture is often painted as being quite laidback, why do you think Australian punk has become such a consistent export in the music industry?

JT: That’s a good question – I’m not sure I really know the answer to it. To generalise, I think Australians tend not to take themselves too seriously, and that’s probably quite infectious. There’s often a sense of humour or at least an element of tongue-in-cheek present in a lot of Australian bands which people seem to enjoy – a sense of irreverence, like you said. 

Maybe due to tall poppy syndrome, there’s a sense that Australian bands aren’t trying too hard either. I think, at times, Australia can feel like a bit of a Police State too, so punk or pub punk music might offer a welcome escape from a sense of… rigidity.

An argument could be made that parody is like the punk of comedy, and in a lot of ways, an artistic line could be drawn between your brand of music and comedy. When you first started making content, was it something that came to you naturally creatively? And was it something you thought was going to become a fundamental part of the band’s identity?

JT: When we first started making music in 2011, all we knew was that we wanted it to be abrasive, shocking, confusing and to turn people away. We used to pride ourselves on being able to clear floors. We were so sick of playing in bands and taking ourselves so seriously, so TNSW was kind of an experiment really. It wasn’t long before we started making cooked little video clips to promote shows or for our friends. 

The whole thing was an incredibly natural creative outlet—that was the point! We didn’t overthink anything. In fact, the more we hated our own songs, the more excited we were to play them live. We loved disappointing people or making them squirm. 

We’re not like that so much anymore, but I think that spirit still lives on in some ways. It wasn’t until our friend directed a mini-mockumentary for our own private entertainment that we thought, “Shit, this could actually make a good TV show”. From then on in, we became pretty passionate and focussed on trying to capture exactly what it is we find funny about musicians or artists in general, ourselves included. 

Once we get an idea and commit to doing it – we work until it’s done. When we started the band, we never imagined that we would end up producing our own mockumentary TV series, or late-night talk show, or podcast. it’s something that just happened- but we can’t imagine it any other way now. We didn’t really have audiences at our shows until we released the first season of These New South Whales. The TV show kind of changed everything.

A lot of bands are now starting to promote themselves as multidisciplinary acts on social media. Why do you think a lot of new bands are taking this route? Do you think it’s a promotional need or do you think it’s a financial need in the music industry (e.g., it can be hard just to live off door sales and ticket stubs)?

JT: The landscape has just changed so much in the last 10 years. It’s probably just promotional needs for most people. It’s hard to imagine how you would even connect or communicate with fans these days without social media of some description. It has just become the norm. 

Some bands do without, and to them, I *tips my hat*. We have ‘em all. Patreon, IG, Twitch, TikTok, the lot of ‘em. I was never that good at Twitter. Most people are probably just trying to move with the times, keep up, that kinda thing.

It could be for financial need too, I don’t know. It’s hard to make money out of most of those platforms, but without that regular source of income from playing live, you’ve gotta get that money any way you can! 

At the start of the pandemic, when we were looking down the barrel of no live shows, we decided to start making our podcast, ‘What a Great Punk’. Creatively, that’s been a really great project to sink some of our creative energy into and we are still enjoying it massively. Playing games on Twitch has also been a blast. I love our Twitch crew, shoutouts! We’re just following our noses.

One of the most common questions you see across your videos in the comment section is “Is this real?“. In the TNSW talk show, you guys have had a myriad of guests, with some interviews being more ‘comfortable’ than others. What is the best feedback you’ve gotten since producing the shows or throughout the band’s existence? Is there any artist that you’ve rubbed the wrong (or right) way?

JT: Yes, the Phoebe Tonkin interview on TNSW Tonight sent her fans into a TOTAL tailspin because she had seaweed stuck in her teeth and I laughed at her. We got so many distraught messages from her fans who were upset with us, and who had clearly, never once in their lives watched a comedy show, God bless ‘em! 

One of her fans came in hot to our DMs and insisted that we take the video down immediately. I said, “I can’t take the video down unfortunately, but I can remove you from our followers… The choice is yours. What’s it going to be?” And they said: “… I will choose to stay”. That was pretty funny. 

Other than that, the only person I can think of that we inadvertently rubbed up the wrong way was The Doctor from Frenzal Rhomb. Someone years ago told us that when they brought us up in conversation he grumbled: “They’re not even punk.” LOL. Sorry Doc. Oh, and we rubbed Daniel Johns up the right way! Love DJ and he loves us!!!

And finally, I’m going to address the elephant in the room. What’s going on with bearded pelvis? Are you back on speaking terms, or has he done his dash with you guys? Or can we expect to see a new impersonator join Jamie in the hotseat?

JT: Haha. We absolutely love The Bearded Pelvis. He’s a total icon. He has definitely not done his dash with us. He’ll be back 😉

‘Remote Control’, the latest single from These New South Whales, is out now.