A very casual chat with Ceres

Turning up to an interview in the bands’ T-shirt can go one of two ways. Thankfully, when I caught up with Tom Lanyon and Grant Young – one half of Ceres it was pretty warmly received. Much like their second album, Drag It Down On You which dropped just days before their appearance at BIGSOUND. An unashamed fangirl at heart, I first clicked onto the band in 2014 when they released their debut record I Don’t Want To Be Anywhere But Here. From album to album (with a couple o’ singles and special releases thrown in for good measure) I’ve been following the Ceres story. The pleasure was all mine when then kindly stopped by for a chat, running on very little sleep after playing a raucous pre-BIGSOUND show the night before.

We sat on the ALBUM REVIEW for Drag It Down on you for a good month and a half BEFORE IT WAS RELEASED. I was getting impatient – i wanted to share it with the world.

Tom: Did you write that?

No, that was actually one of our team members.

Tom: That was written really well. That was probably the coolest review. I hate reviews sometimes. Sometimes they’re epic and sometimes they’re full of sentences that literally don’t make any sense. There’s so much hyperbole that it’s just catch phrases butting up against each other, so you’re just like “what the? That doesn’t make any sense, that sentence.” Casual Band Blogger’s was sick. And it had the flower! Your review had the name of the species of the flower that’s on the cover. Hope I’m getting this right. Otherwise, your review sucks! (Laughs). We’ve got a friend who’s a florist and we asked “What flower is this?” and she didn’t know. So you told us.

There you go!

Tom: I’m sure it was.
Grant: Better check that it is the review you’re referring to.
Tom: Don’t mind me. (Pulls out phone) I’ll just go to My Favourites, Casual Band Blogger. Yanni Markovina? Four minute read. I swear to God…

“The great display of flowers that adorn the cover of Drag It Down On You are known as Nerium oleander, and they are rather emblematic of what the album is all about. At first glance they are undeniably beautiful, with their pinkish-red flowers and blooming disposition, but they are in fact highly toxic and poisonous. The world of Ceres can be likened to these Nerium oleander flowers, devastatingly playful and serious, both at the same time. Drag It Down On You is an album that cannot be recommended enough.”

New interview segment: narrate reviews! It’s better than reading mean tweets because it’s nice. Everyone just has feelings.

Tom: I’m glad I got it right. Well done to your reviewer.

If CRITICISMS in reviews are fair and balanced, there’s not too much more you can ask for.

Tom: That’s what I think too. 100%. I love to read criticisms. There’s no criticisms on this record. Not constructive criticisms.
Grant: The thing about your moustache is one.
Tom: Yeah, this website called I Probably Hate Your Band put together a review, but even that was a positive review. I would like some constructive criticism. The album’s just too good! (Laughs).

Alright, some questions now. You invited Tom Bromley from Los Campesinos to produce the record. How did that come about?

Tom: I have been the biggest fan of Los Camponsinos for forever. They released their record Sticking Fingers Into Sockets in 2006 or something, and ever since then I’ve been the biggest fan of theirs. As a fan does, I read the liner notes and trying to delve as deep as I can into this band. And I noticed record after record that Tom Bromley – who plays guitar and writes all the music – he started to get a co-producer credit. They used big time producers but he would always get a little credit. So I was like “Oh, so he knows what he’s doing. He knows how to make a record.” And when we started the band, maybe I’m lying, I don’t know, but I remember saying to the guys if it ever happens – who the fuck starts a band and they should get a producer to produce their record? That’s a bit sanguine. But I was like if we ever get to a point where we need a producer or want a producer, let’s get Tom Bromley. They all laughed and said that’s dumb, because there’s no way.

Four years later, we found ourselves needing a producer and the only person I ever thought of was Tom Bromley. I sent him an email through Soundcloud, you know the little contact sheet thing? It’s kind of anonymous and weird. I just sent him a Dropbox link to our demos and I was like I “Hey man, would you ever come to Australia to make a record?” He replied overnight, and he said “You sound really good, let’s talk” and he sent me his LC email and I’m like “what the fuuuuuck?!” I was so hyped, it was a dream come true, that stuff. So we got to talking, we flew him over, he stayed at our house, he was here for 3 weeks. Just had the best time. And now we’re mates with him! Now I wake up in the morning and I’ve got a message from Tom about something else, because we all have this really close relationship with him. And I’ll just be lying in bed, half asleep, looking at my message going “I can’t fucking believe I am friends with Tom Bromley?”

It’s like that thing, never meet your idols. But in this case it was the best because he is such a legend.

Awesome! What sort of knowledge did he bring to the record? How did he shape it?

Tom: Heaps, I think. The songs were always there. We were always open to him just exploding the songs and putting them back together, but he never really did that. I thought he was going to do that a lot. He did a few things, changing the chorus around or doing a few bridgey things, stuff like that. He left the songs alone but production wise, he just took it next level. Hopefully it’s a unique sounding record. I really wanted to do something – we all wanted to do something that’s a little more progressive than the last album. I think he did that.

I’ve said it before but sometimes it’s really claustrophobic, thick and fuzzy, and then other times it’s really open and clear and airy. That’s him the whole way through. He knew what to add and knew what to not add. Two days in, he realised he could do whatever he wanted. It took him a while, he was a little coy, but we’d walk into the studio with a coffee and he’d be like “This is really fun”. I was like “yeah it’s sick, isn’t it?” He said “Yeah, I say something and you guys listen to me!” No shit, dude! We aren’t going to fly you halfway across the world to just be a bystander. He did so much for us and I’m so stoked with how it sounds.

That’s a really cool story of how it came together too. Email your idol and then all of a sudden…

Tom: Isn’t it weird? That’s a lesson for the kids! You never know if you never go. It’s a good lesson that you just have a crack at something and it might pay off. And what’s the worst that could happen? He could just say nah, and be like “that sucks”. Maybe I’d still love Los Campesinos.

In putting together the record, did you ever feel that second album pressure? You had a such a strong debut. I hate saying this to bands, but there wAS lots of hype! DID YOU FEEL LIKE you really had to follow THAT up?

Grant: I don’t reckon we did. We didn’t really think about it, did we? We never stopped writing either, it just comes out of you. Didn’t even think about it at the time.

Tom: I think with that rolling writing thing, it’s not like we took time off and then sat down and said “alright, it’s time to write the next record.” It was just a continuation of Anywhere But Here. I think the first song we wrote after Anywhere But Here was a song called ‘Us’ off Drag It Down Me. It wasn’t like we shelved many songs and said “we gotta make something progressive.” I think our goal was to beat the last record, personally, and do something with super power and we definitely did that, I thought. It wasn’t like a conscious thing of “fuck, we have to do something amazing and next level” and stuff like that. It sort of naturally happened that way. I think that’s all about our band. And we write so much that we can lob stuff on and lob stuff off. Records are 14 songs. We wanted to make it 16. There’s two B-Sides floating around. I would put them all on. I love long records. Tom’ loves long records as well. I don’t think we felt outward pressure. Definitely felt inward pressure though, to make something we love. Goddamit we did! And everyone else does as well. I’ve got a Casual Band Blogger review I can read to you…

Just take a print screen of the whole review and put it on canvas!

Tom: I’ll do it! I’ll put it in my bedroom, read it every morning while in my Tom Bromley shrine.

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I wanted to talk about the album artwork as well. Obviously you didn’t know what the plant was or anything like that? Was there any particular reason why you wanted this to visually represent the record?

Tom: I wish there was a cooler story. I was just looking through my phone – I did tell you a story! I sold it to the band in a cool way, I assume it was a cool way. I was just flicking through my girlfriend’s phone. It’s an iPhone photo, that flower photo. And she had just taken this photo. I kind of meant something to me, because it was taken close to my brother’s house in The Crofts, in Richmond. She explained it as it was January, it was summer, it had just rained and it stopped raining and then the sun came out. And then this bush, this crazy Nerium oleander, was like cascading over this fence. And she was like “far out, looks so good,” took a photo of it. I was just looking through her phone, and I stumbled upon this photo. As soon as I saw it, it just *clicks*, it affected me in a way… kind of hard to describe. It was just this really striking photo. Much like Anywhere But Here’s photo. That was really curated. We asked, I wanted this kind of photo to happen whereas this flower photo was a complete accident. It just hit me. It hit me hard. There’s emotion in the photo. It is kind of scary and really overwhelming and it’s big but it’s also personal.

Grant: Balanced. Beautiful but a little bit shitty.

Tom: It’s a shit photo. There’s the chimney and the powerlines still in it. I didn’t want to photoshop that stuff out. It’s literally an untouched photo. I sent it to the boys. I said “maybe, kind of this for the record photo?” But I explained it as with my brother it felt sort of special, and my girlfriend took it as well which is cool. I’m hyped. I think it’s a striking image and it stands out from the pack a little bit. And we never put our names on our records. I didn’t want to put our name anywhere on the record and the record label was a bit “just do sticker or something, dickhead!” Alright, we’ll do a sticker. It’s cool when you rip it off, then it’s just the photo. Then you don’t know what the record’s about. You can’t assign anything to our band so you just listen to it, visually, with these flowers in your mind.

It’s such a striking image. It’s always nice to have an insight into it.

Tom: Artwork – I’m a designer as well, by trade. Fuck, I sound like a dickhead! (laughs) So design is mega important to me. Songwriting is kind of like design to me, it’s all one thing and it’s always going to be emotional. And I really need the artwork to represent the emotional side as well, and that photo was the one.

As an outsider who goes to a lot of shows in the melbourne punk scene, it seems like it’s a super tight knit community. I mean, when I saw Smith Street a little bit earlier this year and with Jess Locke and Luca Brasi, you jumped onstage with Luca Brasi. what’s it like having friends you can collaborate with so easily?

Tom: It’s sick. It’s funny, I think if it was a contrived thing then we wouldn’t really do it. Or I know I wouldn’t. It doesn’t feel like “I’m in a punk band and he’s in a punk band so we’re singing songs together.” It’s actually just…Genuine. To me all the punk and music stuff washes away, we’re just friends. But we just happen to sing on our friends’ records and stuff. Maybe from the outside it looks self-aggrandizing or something but to get up onstage and sing with your friends is so cool. It’s friends first and then we just happen to be in bands and the punk scene. I love that.

Grant: Yeah, yeah, it’s true. It’s epic to be right inside it and it’s interesting to get an outsiders view of what it looks like. Yeah, what Tom says, we’re all just mates.

Tom: It doesn’t feel like we’re doing it because it’s a punk scene thing. It’s more like we’re friends and then obviously, we’re playing punk music and it all ties in together. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s really cool. And we’re so lucky to be a part of it. We’re so lucky to these friends in these bands that are willing to help us out.

It’s always struck me as more of a community. Even from a fan’s perspective, everyone is welcome to the shows, to feel safe at shows. especially with Luca Brasi really representing the “don’t be a dickhead at shows, be respectful to everyone.” It’s always felt like a community where everyone is welcome. That’s just my opinion on it.

Tom: That’s awesome. That’s probably how punk has been forever. I used to think we should be this new brand-new-esque type band, where there’s a wall there and there’s not a lot of fan interaction and stuff like that. Then it was like, fuck that. We don’t sound brand new so let’s just be super nice to everyone and have a good time. That punk scene is more inclusive and super supportive. Smith Street really fostered that early on and everyone followed suite.

It’s something I noted in my podcast with JANINE. When someone plays with Smith Street, the whole fanbase discovers them. It becomes this flow on effect of discovering new music. That’s always been something I’ve found really cool.

Tom: I was just talking about this before. It feels like it’s exponential, like it’s a rolling snowball and the momentum is picking up. It’s like, you go to a Smith Street show and you see Luca Brasi, you haven’t heard of Luca Brasi, you don’t know Jess Locke and then Jess Locke plays in another band. It’s this puzzle that you put together slowly and it just helps all these bands blossom. It’s a really cool, natural way of doing it. We’ve felt it before. We played with Smithies, and Luca, and Soho. Those guys as well are legends. It’s just bringing bands from beneath you and it’s so cool.

Grant: The timing of us and us riding the coattails of all the bands that you’ve been talking about is epic.

Tom: We had just started this band and it’s like, who the fuck is this band Ceres? I don’t even think would hear these songs. Rhys was like “what do you want for a band name?” and it was like “Whatever. Ceres. Fuck. That’ll do.” And now I regret it, every day of my life!

How has your BIGSOUND experience been so far? I saw You play at Crowbar last night, which was sick.

Grant: The show last night was rad. I’ve said this before today, but it brought two of my favourite things together: Melbourne Bitter and Crowbar. Phwoar! Just rad to be back up in Brisbane, playing at The Crowbar and we went pretty hard on the first night.
Tom: We ate a sausage roll together, Grant and I, Lady and The Tramp style. You know with the spaghetti? It was at 4.46am. I think we have gone a little hard. I could do a few more hours sleep. We just absolutely ruined it on the first night. We didn’t know what to expect. Obviously, it’s our first BIGSOUND. I’ll come back! It’s just cool talking to guys like you, so far.
Grant: Buzz of life. Well, you can’t even walk two steps without someone saying hey!
Tom: We got a coffee before and we spoke to 20 people on the way! It’s so sick. There’s positive stuff about our band too, which is super exciting. It’s been super fun.

Drag It Down On You  is out now. The band will be touring it throughout October and November.

28th – Northcote Social Club, Northcote [18+]
4th – Crowbar, Brisbane [18+]
5th – Exeter Beer Garden, Adelaide [18+]
6th – Til The Wheels Fall Off, Launceston [18+]
12th – Newtown Social Club, Newtown [18+]

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