Cry Club: Building a community

Image by Cath Connell.

“They’re like a punk Kylie Minogue.”

Was my response to someone once asking about Cry Club. There’s a certain pop sensibility reminiscent of Queen Kylie herself, tied in with shredding instrumentals and a powerful sentiment of queer resistance. A breakout band of 2018, debut track ‘Walk Away’ was a splintering assessment of LBGTIQA experiences during the 2017 same sex marriage postal survey. From the get go the duo established themselves as bold, progressive and thoughtful band – no doubt setting an excellent example for the wider music industry.

Armed with songs that convey message and meaning, the two put on a dynamic show. Frontperson Heather leaps about the stage, injecting enormous amount of passions into their vocals, while Jono holds down the riffs pulling each song together. The energy is infectious and very impressive, considering the pair have been a band for less than a year.

Tell me how Cry Club came together? I remember reading something about Heather wanting to start a Siouxsie and The Banshees cover band?

Jono:  I wanted to do something for quite a while, and I used to play in a post-punk band when I was in high school. I wanted to do something like that again, but something a little bit more pop.

I’d previously worked with Heather on a record – they came in as a backing singer and completely knocked it out of the park in like, a terrifying way. So it was like, ‘Alright cool, I know you’re an astonishing singer’ – and then they jokingly posted on Facebook one time ‘Who wants to start a Siouxsie and The Banshees cover band with me?’ Me, a massive Siouxsie and The Banshees fan, was like ‘How do you feel about doing that, but instead of playing Siouxsie and The Banshees cover songs, we do our own?’. I had a few demos floating around, and they came to my place and we kind of figured out a song together. Our relationship was one of the most easiest creative relationships I’ve got. It’s super easy to work.

In the last nine months we’ve written such a stack of songs, and we’ve got a big catalogue of stuff. We’ve got a lot to work with, you know? But yeah, it came out of Siouxsie and The Banshees.

When a creative relationship is really easy and carefree, I think that’s a testament to how well matched a band is.

Jono: Yeah, it was weird. I actually met Heather in Japan. The uni that we both went to got this grant – the ‘New Columbo Plan’ it was called. It was government funding to take over theatre and music students to Japan, the most bizarre thing ever, but we met over there and we were like ‘Oh, we’re real close friends now.’ Then the opportunity to do music stuff came up.

Getting to this place in nine months has been a pretty stressful experience, and I don’t think we would have been able to do it, if it wasn’t for the other person. We’ve both had very anxious moments, of us feeling like ‘Oh, the other person could just do it without me’, and we’ve both felt that equally. So it’s in a spot where it’s like okay, we’re in this together, this is working because it’s us – and we just need to keep that relationship as rock-solid as we can, while trying to find as much time to just hang out as possible. 

Your debut song was something pretty political in tone and in comparison to the rest of your music it’s probably the most brash. What made you want to go out with that being your first song?

Jono: When we did our first ever recording, we had a few options. We had something that was like ‘This is a pop song’ and ‘This is a sad-pop song’. We wanted to do that one first, but then every music video thing that we had lined up for it – multiple things, fell through. It became like ~the cursed song~ and we were like ‘You know what? Fuck this!’ But then a lot of the things that don’t quite work out, end up working out fine at the end.

Coming out with ‘Walk Away’ first, it’s kind of like a good pilot run, because we want to come out and make a statement. Part of the reason why we picked the name Cry Club is we want it to be an inclusive thing. We want it to be the thing where it’s like ‘Hey, everyone can be in on this thing’. Especially after last year specifically – I remember leaving the studio one time, looking up in the air, and then seeing ‘vote no’ in the sky. There were skywriters in Sydney. Like that was a thing that happened. Then Heather experienced so much shit during that time. I just feel like it was a really important thing for us to put that song out, because it represented this collective thing that happened to a lot of people. That was an impressively shit time. It was an impressively shit thing that happened. We came out the other side of it, with a positive result, but the trip there was not worth – well I can’t say it wasn’t worth it, but it was just such an ordeal.

Having a song that represents that, especially because we want to be out there as a queer band, like ‘We’re here, this is a thing we’re doing’. Because I just look at a lot of stuff and go ‘Oh cool, four of the same white dudes’. I’ve got no time for that anymore. It’s like ‘Cool, you’re doing that thing, and you’re not representing anything new. You’re not bringing new people into music. That’s the huge thing we see at our shows, there’s a lot of people who wouldn’t be coming out to see stuff – but because they know that we represent a certain thing, they’ll come out and see us. Which is ultimately the mission statement. We want to be as accessible as possible, for the people who otherwise wouldn’t feel as comfortable or safe during a show. Which is like seeing how Raave Tapes handles a crowd. We really want to start incorporating a lot more stuff like that.

What sort of things do you take into account when you’re playing shows?

Jono: Well, pretty close to the start of the set, we have a song called ‘Don’t Fucking Touch Me’. So, that one’s pretty clear.

Every time we play it, Heather has a bit of a thing that they say, where they’re like ‘If you ever feel uncomfortable at a thing, come find me’ – all of that sort of stuff. We want to incorporate it more, because now we’re starting to play to a few more crowds that aren’t necessarily ours, or on a similar vibe. We want to be more and more aware of how we can be responsible for it. I think the issue that I have is I see a lot of bands who don’t feel a responsibility towards their crowd, and we definitely do.

We want to make sure that we’re hands on the wheel with that. So, it’s that song, having the spiel beforehand, and I really want to talk to Jo from Raave Tapes and actually sit him down, and go ‘Alright, what have you noticed works? What have you noticed doesn’t?’ Figure out a bit more of a strategy.

Why do you think it’s so important to have spaces and shows for people who normally wouldn’t feel safe or comfortable at live music? Why is it so important that they get the chance to experience that?

Jono: I grew up in Wollongong, which is a very rock town, and we’ve got a venue called Rad Bar. There’s a staircase at the side, which people can see the bands from, and I over the years, saw so many gigs where the crowd at the front going nuts were all dudes, and then everyone in the venue who was non-male was on the stairwell, out of the way. But then seeing bands like Raave Tapes play there, and everyone’s in, everyone’s having a great time. The sense of community that’s built out of that is just huge. Giving people the opportunity to come and engage with something that they might not feel comfortable with otherwise. If they go to a gig they might just get elbowed in the face by someone. That sucks. That sucks that you have to be mentally prepared for the fact that you might get cracked in the head. That sucks. So, one of the things that we really want to focus on is the sense of responsibility there, where we’re like ‘Show us your dance moves, not how you punch someone’. 

Maybe it’s just a space that I inhabit, but it seems that these progressive approaches to inclusivity and representation at shows stems from the punk/DIY community. Would you agree with that? 

Jono: Well, it’s an interesting place. Punk has always had a bit of a dichotomy of the progressive and then the regressive. You can point to in the 70’s – even the Two-Tone ska movement, crossing racial divides in the UK. Some of the first multi-racial bands playing politically aggressive music, being incredibly successful doing so, and seeing that happen. But also, I don’t think it’s a far stretch to say that a lot of hardcore and punk scene – regardless of what country – is an incredibly toxic space. The times where I’ve gone to those shows or I’ve played those shows with other bands, we hate it, because it’s exclusively dudes in the crowd. One time I played a show where someone was like ‘What the fuck, you guys were supposed to be on right now’, and I thought we were going to get punched. It’s like, what the hell is that?

So, it’s great to see that there’s a general movement and seeing that a lot of venues and promoters are going into these things, promoting them as a safe space, and actually putting the effort in to make them a safe space. Because you can’t just slap a sticker on it, and say ‘We’re safe now’. The people putting effort in are just doing wonders for people that wouldn’t otherwise… The whole experience, the whole community would’ve missed them, they wouldn’t be involved with xyz things, if they weren’t comfortable at the shows. They come to the shows because there’s an active safe space policy, and things like that. It’s so fundamental to our expectations.

It’s really great to talk to bands and find out what’s happening in their world. I’ve always been a firm believer that if you work on your community, community will have your back. It’s like a domino. Start one, everyone follows suit.

Jono: Yeah, which is awesome seeing the collective effect of the Laundry Echo group. Just pulling everyone in. Especially people in Melbourne, people in Brisbane. Just, what would otherwise be disparate communities are now together, and the effect of that is huge. I honestly think we’ll look at that first couple of years of it, and go like ‘Woah, that really did a lot’. It already has.

I feel really lucky to be involved in something like this, because I grew up in Wollongong, when at the time there was no consistent live music venue for local or small touring acts. There just wasn’t. There was meetings taking place within the Wollongong music community about what the fuck we were going to do, and now we’re in this space where some things are actually happening. Like Yours and Owls and now Rad Bar are internationally renowned and just seeing those communities, and all these things popping up.. It’s gone from ‘Oh where can we play, nobody will take us’, to seeing all these communities be super supportive.

Catch Cry Club in Melbourne over NYE and Mountain Sounds in February 2019.

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