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Byron Shire
April 19, 2021

Interview: The Cactus Channel

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The Cactus Channel
The Cactus Channel

The Cactus Channel play Sunday Safari this Sunday alongside Set Mo, Flying Machine, Vivi, Audun, Dad Bod, 4 Eyes and Safari DJs at the Brewery this Sunday. We tuned in to the Cactus Channel frequency…

You’ve had such a busy 2017, with the release of your album Stay A While and all. Do you feel you’ve accomplished all you’d planned for this year?

Yeah, it’s been fairly busy and most of the tunes on the record didn’t exist until the album-writing session in late January, so from then it was a bit of a scramble to get it all together and pressed. We also dropped an EP with Ball Park Music’s Sam Cromack in April/May, which was a great experience for us in getting this record done.

Your new album has a new consciousness and a decisive turning point from past work, with a more unhinged, wilder, darker vibe. Was it a conscious and unanimous choice to move in this direction?

This record was kind of a re-beginning of the band in a few ways, we simply just wanted to be open to some changes, stylistically and instrumentally, and just go with where that headed. There wasn’t really a conscious choice for it to be or sound a certain way; we thought that by nature of our being open to trying stuff out, and also writing a bunch of tunes in one chunk away together, that it would give us a particular theme/form of cohesiveness. It will be fun to explore it further; we’re still learning!

You’ve had some pretty rad experiences this year. Tell us about Chet Faker and Sam Cromack?

Nick Murphy/Chet collab was way back in 2015. It was great; we just met up a few times at our rehearsal space at the time (Hudson’s shed) and nutted out what became Kill The Doubt and Sleeping Alone. This was our first collab with a vocalist, and a turning point in our writing, which led to our writing and working with Sam Cromack. The creative process for that was really special. As we’ve been hanging out and making music together for so long, it was really insightful to work intimately with another musician who had a completely different set of cards to bring to the table. Everyone was really open to Sam’s ideas, and he to ours, and I think because of that the collab ended up gelling really well.

It’s so refreshing for a band to have such a strong emphasis on their live presence. Was it tough to capture that same, live performance essence on the record?

Not at all, because most of the record was recorded live. We’ve been doing it that way since day one so it’s never been difficult to translate that.

What was the musical concept before The Cactus Channel’s current makeup?

We’ve been playing together since we were 14, so it was and still is just a big hang. In the early days we learnt from The Meters, Booker T and the MGs, Lyn Collins, Marva Whitney, Marvin Gaye, Eddie Bo etc. Our perspective on music exploded a little when we start digging into the soul of the 60s and 70s and how it was being incorporated into the present, ie Menahan Street Band, Sharon Jones, Budos Band, Charles Bradley etc.

How has the reception to the album been?

Pretty great so far! We were a bit nervous in some ways releasing an album that was going to be so different from anything else we’ve released, but it’s a piece of work we’re very proud of. Big ups to all the community radio stations around Australia who have been pushing it, and the kind words written about it!

Do you have plans to take it overseas?

Yes definitely. We’ve been working hard to build relationships overseas and build some sort of audience through radio, PR, etc. Europe and the USA would be super ideal, and I think they’d vibe…

Australia has such a vibrant music scene. Do you find some strong and inspiring relationships between yourselves and other Aussie musicians?

The Australian music scene is so strong and supportive. Tonnes of local bands help inspire and shape all the time, from The Bamboos and The PutBacks earlier on to King Gizzard, Ball Park Music, Krakatau, Braille Face, Eilish Gilligan and so many more. We’re lucky to be able to see so many gigs in Melbourne too, which is number one for inspiring you to keep writing, etc.

When you guys write your songs, is it a completely collaborative process? What are the usual steps you guys take?

Depends on the tune… initially we used to be purely collaborative, and we’d make it all up together, but for this record a few of us brought in ideas, which we then workshopped together. Collaborative writing is really important for the sound and vibe of the band, so we never lose that completely.

Who are your favourite artists you’re listening to at the moment?

Grizzly Bear, Badbadnotgood, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Braille Face, Floating Points, Homeshake, Andy Shauf, Bedouine, Kevin Morby, Daniel Cesar, Mild High Club, King Gizzard, Jaala, New Venusians, Mount Kimbie…

Do you have any planned collaborations with artists or producers, or any you’d like to initiate in the future?

We fully produced and engineered this new record, and I think that’s something we’d like to keep exploring. But saying that, working with a producer who has a clear idea and aesthetic that we all vibe on would be fun. And we’re also still very keen to collaborate with artists we respect and take inspiration from.

Do you guys have any specific tour rituals? Like certain foods you eat or times you need to yourselves or anything? I once spoke to a band who used to collectively go on a juice cleanse when they toured… Can’t imagine how hard that would be.

Haaa – juice cleanse would be really smart… but totally won’t happen. Umm… we love to play games in the tour van. Tour favourites have been Risk and this dice game called Mia (which was taught to us by The PutBacks). Also enjoy the card game 500.

Do you guys like to party at all while you’re on tour?

No we keep it strictly professional and would NEVER consider partying…

What are your plans for 2018?

We’re currently touring the new record, and in the middle of this first leg we have a couple days in a studio in Byron Bay to start writing the next record. 2018 will hopefully have another record and hopefully see us playing some shows overseas…

Sunday at the Byron Brewery. Tickets are $20 available from sundaysafari.com.au or on the door.

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