Rolling Stone Australia recently caught up with Thomy Sloane, frontman and bassist for abrasive Melbourne trio, Batpiss, to talk farts during a cyclone, working with The Drones' Gareth Liddiard and how death delivered a glorious undertow to new album, Rest In Piss.
Tell us about the album title, Rest In Piss.
It has a few meanings. In the past couple of years I've lost some pretty close friends, so it was like a little tribute to them. It's a play on our name as well. We're trying to get away from the angry punk stuff, and find a different direction with this album. So it's like a "see you later" to the old stuff.
Why depart from the belligerence of 2013 debut, Nuclear Winter?
I hadn't listened to Nuclear Winter for ages, but recently, I put it on: it's raw as shit. But I'm not really that angry anymore; I'm more sad. I'm also just sick of yelling, so I'm trying to find different ways to express stuff vocally. Yelling can be a bit repetitive.
So you wanted to add further sonic layers to Batpiss?
Totally. We don't really want to be labeled as a punk or heavy band. Just want to be a rock and roll band, I guess. One where there are no rules, and no limits.
When did you start writing Rest In Piss?
In 2014 we did a tour with The Drones, and became mates with Gareth [Liddiard]. One night we were mucking around night and he asked if we were going to do another album. I was like, "Yeah and you're going to record it for us, aren't you?" He was like, "No worries." Then I was like, "Fuck, we'd better write an album, fellas." By 2015 we had a couple of songs, but the majority was written last year and at the start of 2017.
What was it like recording at Gareth's studio in Nagambie, Victoria?
The studio is basically in Gareth's lounge room. He's got this tower of weird amps that's called Nerd Mountain — he's really into that stuff. He's a bit older than us, so we called him Old Grey Balls.
But he was great to work with, as he made us think in different ways. He made Paul [Pirie] explore different things with his guitar, likewise, me with my vocals.
The album's inspired by the death of friends. What else fed into its 10 tracks?
The treatment of immigrants, when they arrive in Australia and are sent to detention. Also how the first people are treated, and still are to this day. It's sickening and shameful that these things are happening. This country needs to recognise how fucked up it really is and acknowledge the brutality that goes on. The bridge at the end of song "Paralyzed" sums it up: "Terrorised. Brutalised. Colonised."
Single, "Weatherboard Man", is a standout tune. What's the story behind the track?
That song is about hardship, the hardship felt in lower class areas of a country town. We wrote it about someone living in a weatherboard house. Marty [Baker, drums] and I come from Goulburn, NSW, and Paul is from Wangaratta, Victoria. We're from country towns. We are weatherboard men.
What's been the reaction to the film clip, the footage of Darwin's 1974 Cyclone Tracy shot by Paul's grandfather?
After the video came out, we started getting messages from survivors. This woman told me that along with her sister, brother and Mum and Dad, she hid in the car underneath the house. She said her brother farted, and her dad kicked him out of the car and made him stand in the cyclone (laughs). That's pretty funny.
Guitarist Paul Pirie painted the cover. Is he an artist?
Yes, and a really good one. Since I met him in 2008, he's been drawing and painting non-stop. He's done our LP covers and T-shirts. For Rest In Piss, he did a series of 14 faces. The first one became the cover. It portrays a man being hanged. It sort of looks like me.
Recently, Paul's been in Upstate New York on a two-week artist residency run by an organisation called Arts Letters & Numbers. He and his partner, Erica, stayed in this old farmhouse where they "ate chips, drank cheap beer, and told each other what they thought of their pictures and songs".
Do you think Batpiss have a particularly Melbourne sound?
I think so. There's a thing where I write songs... and for every chord, there's a million wrong notes, but there's always one right wrong note, which gives us that tone. Our sound feels like the weather in Melbourne: cold and dark. Melbourne has a gloominess to it. I like the gloom. I like the darkness.
What are your hopes for this record?
That people enjoy the sound we are trying to do. I don't mind if people hate it as well. We are really happy with it. I feel like it's our best record yet.