The sleepy village of Alstonville has always had a touch of Desperate Housewives Wisteria Lane about it. Perfectly neat houses lined up on perfectly neat streets, all with perfectly neat lawns.
One often wonders what goes on behind those perfectly neat doors. According to Lachlan Marks, guitarist/vocalist for rock band Gay Paris, a bit of heavy guitar. Years back this is where Marks cut his teeth – as a schoolboy playing metal in the garage!
‘When we were kids I had a neighbour who would crank up Madonna or Cyndi Lauper to counteract the punk rock from next door… eventually my parents were happy to shell out the $15 an hour for us to rehearse up at the sports centre!’
Now years on Marks has made his mark in a band that promises ‘to bring Satan back’ on their epic Last Good Party Tour Cycle. All tongue in cheek of course.
Marks is modest about the band’s achievements.
‘I feel like the one thing we do have is that there aren’t a lot of bands that sound like we do and I think it comes from being a little bit uneducated musically – and because of that we have all attacked songwriting sometimes having no idea what we are doing. We are musical dyslexics in some ways!’
Gay Paris have just wrapped up their third album and are looking forward to hitting the road for their summer tour.
‘I constantly write music and then we use a filter process. It’s a four-way process. We rented a room, which was always a goal in the day, a tiny freezing cold room in the bottom of Sutherland in Sydney, and spent 15–20 hours a week hashing out songs over six months. We’d write and rewrite songs all the time.
One time I got home at 2am from a gig in Manly and wrote the end of a song and brought it into rehearsal the next day. During that process we rewrote constantly. It wasn’t about making it more accessible; it was about distilling a song down to its essence. We wanted to make things that are great to play live.
‘For us the process was also about hitting the point where we are agreeing: these are my limitations – this is my set of skills and this is my toolset.
Often we write something I can’t play and hope I can play it onstage! We still do write things we can’t necessarily play right away, but the difference between the first show and the fifth or sixth show in a tour is enormous. We pick up a lot of our songs and rework them as we go. It’s a bit of roadwork!’
Every band has their own process for how they write songs or choose songs or sift through ideas. Gay Paris has a unique approach all of their own.
‘We have a ridiculous process, I am pretty sure no other band does this. I write every day so there are hundreds, almost thousands, of ideas, so it’s mathematically impossible to try to make a record out of that many. So when we have a 15-hour drive from somewhere like Sydney to Brisbane, we get the spreadsheet out and get everyone to vote on the songs as we drive. It’s pretty awkward in a car with four people right there and you hear them vote on your art, 4–0.
But in the end I don’t want to play music they don’t want to play. It’s like the Gay Paris riff convention…’
Gay Paris have just welcomed a new drummer to the fold. Adam Simpson has taken up sticks and the band is forging ahead faster than ever.
‘The most important part of the band is the drummer,’ says Marks. ‘The drummer is the engine room of any band. From a musician’s point of view you know if they are speeding up or slowing down. Things can go a bit weird… We had a transitional period when our last drummer had to bow out and we needed a fill-in and we thought Adam wouldn’t be interested because he had other bands, but he was keen. We’ve been four men married to each other ever since.’
So what should people expect from a Gay Paris live show?
‘We are a live band. It’s not going to rock everyone’s world, but our music is divisive and conclusive; they either say this is my favourite band or else they will walk away and say that was shit!
‘When you were a kid you are sold this idea you can be a rock star if you write just one song, but it’s not that. I like the idea of maintaining the cult status of a band. I would rather be a band that can put 500 people in a room for 20 years, than 20,000 for just two.’
Saturday atthe Hotel Great Northern. Free Entry