“I was such a huge fan of that band,” says Aaron Streatfeild, one of the band’s two current guitarists who stepped in to replace Tucker upon his departure in late 2012. “I’d known them through that and got to see them a lot when it changed over to Totally Unicorn. My band at the time [Snakes Get Bad Press] even got to play a few shows with them. When Clancy left, I heard through a mate of mine that they were thinking of approaching me to try out. I thought it was just crazy – even though we were acquainted at that point, I was still such a big fan. They decided to see what it would be like with two guitarists in the band, and that’s where I met Kerim [Erkin] for the first time. Amazingly, that first run-through together went really well. We definitely had our work cut out for us with what Clancy left behind, but Kerim and I immediately hit it off and were throwing ideas back and forth straight away.”
The line-up of Totally Unicorn has shifted several times since the band’s inception. Along with the departure of Tucker, the band’s first bassist Robert Mudge lasted less than a year before relocating overseas. He was replaced by Tim McMahon – formerly of Let Me Down Jungleman and Chorus Girls – from 2011 up until last year, where his spot was filled by the most recent addition to the family, Lee Nielson. Coincidentally enough, this reunited Nielson with Streatfeild, with whom he had played guitar in the initial version of Snakes Get Bad Press.
“This was a new one for him, as he had never played bass in a band before,” says Streatfeild. “We’d spent a lot of time living together, but we lost touch after he left Snakes and we moved out of our sharehouse. Eventually, we got back in contact and I floated the idea of getting him in to replace Tim – Lee was just as big a Hospital the Musical fan as I was and he knew exactly what kind of thing the band was after. I remember the first jam that he came to. He had learned way more songs than any of us imagined he would, and slotted in quite well. Thankfully, there have never been too many painful transitions as far as the band’s concerned.”
The band have spent the last few years keeping busy with some choice international supports like Kvelertak and Rolo Tomassi, a split 7-inch with the late Robotosaurus and a smattering of local shows full to the brim with shirtless debauchery and chaotic partying – something that has become synonymous with seeing the band live. All the while, however, the band have slowly but surely been working towards the release of Dream Life, their long-awaited debut set for release at the end of July through Wollongong label Farmer & The Owl. With personal lives occasionally getting in the way of the process – three of the five band members are married, while Erkin also has a young daughter – Streatfeild recalls the writing of Dream Life being arduous and filled with obstacles, yet entirely worth it upon looking back upon it.
“We had all of the drums recorded first with Tim [Carr], just so we had something down,” he recalls. “Kerim and I listened back to the ten or eleven songs from that session, which were recorded to guide guitars with no vocals, and we came to the conclusion that we weren’t entirely happy with where things were headed. We knew the other guys weren’t going to like it, but we proposed rewriting and re-arranging the songs using the drum tracks that we had already recorded. The other guys didn’t like that idea at first. They were happy with the songs the way they were. We pushed to let them see what we could come up with on our own though, and I ended up writing two new songs out of the incomplete drums. Kerim did the same, and we’re pretty happy with what we came up with.”
Listeners have already heard three songs from Dream Life so far: ‘Customer Service Station,’ which sports a hilarious Parkway Drive-aping music video, as well as ‘Space Congratulations’ and ‘Convict Brick,’ which features High Tension vocalist Karina Utomo as a guest vocalist.
“She’s a legend of a person, as anyone who’s met her knows,” says Streatfeild. “We were talking about people that we wanted to appear on the record, and I think Karina was one of the first people that had their name thrown into the ring. It was pretty much a no-brainer for everyone in the band – she’s been a mate for a long time, and she brings her A-game on this song. I don’t think the band has ever sounded heavier than with her up the front. What a legend!”
Dream Life is available July 29 via Farmer & The Owl. For more details, head to totallyunicornmusic.bandcamp.com.