Born and raised in Queensland, Australia, brothers Mitchel and Clinton Cave grew up fiddling around with music in the safety and comfort of their bedroom.
While they've since moved most of their operation to L.A. and added a third member, longtime friend Christian Anthony, the group retains something of that early introversion. Mitchel, however, was extraordinarily forthcoming in his interview with Popdust from Philadelphia, where they're undertaking a tour in support of their sophomore album, Phases.
You're calling from LA I take it?
From Philadelphia, actually. We're in rehearsals for the first Philly show.
What's your impression of the city?
We've been here a couple of times, actually. We're in a sort of outskirts, body shop area of town. But I love Philly, in general. And the Philly Cheesesteaks especially.
Is there anything similar to a Philly Cheesesteak in Australia?
What is Australian food, to you?
It's very hearty. Warming. In general, what's cool is the pies. We have the best pies in the world.
The best pies?
Yup. In America, they try to make Australian pies, but they're just not the same, unfortunately.
So, before we start on the music, what exactly is an Australian pie?
I think it's mainly, like, gravy, sauce, and minced meat. A lot of the pies here are too dry. They're really saucy in Australia.
What part of Australia are you and your brother from?
We're from Cairns, Queensland, and Christian is from Sidney.
And you guys grew up with Christian?
We met when we were 14, 15.
It seems like from what I've read that you and your brother share a brain.
Yeah, more or less [laughs].
So how was it bringing in a third person who doesn't necessarily share a brain with the two of you?
Well, we didn't really "bring him in." We just met and realized we had a similar mentality. We didn't meet with the intention of working together; it just happened.
What brought you and your brother to music in the first place, before you met Christian?
Well, we grew up on classical music, and going to school, we were in jazz band, choir. Then, Clinton started recording his saxophone on Logic and getting into production, and he would record me singing. Ever since, I've been really into music production, as well. And when we met Christian, he was starting to get into it, as well. So it just clicked.
And what were you two listening to when you first started getting into music?
A little bit of everything, honestly. Our grandfather would play old French music. We listened to a lot of 80s records. Christian grew up with a lot of 60s stuff. And we all went through our punk and emo phases. That's kind of mandatory [laughs].
When I listen to "Phases," I kind of do hear an impressionistic vibe. Did that come from listening to Debussy, Ravel, those old French guys you mentioned?
Yeah, I think so. It's a subconscious thing, though. It creates itself, in a way. We just gravitate to what we think sounds good.
Who is the primary vocalist?
I do the majority of the singing, and Christian does some as well.
There's a phenomenon with [non-American] English-language singers; they end up sounding American. But I can hear occasional Australian inflections. Was that deliberate?
It's not deliberate at all. We don't put on any accent purposefully. There are few Australian artists who really put on the twang.
Who are those?
You wouldn't know them [laughs].
Speaking of Australia, I don't have a good sense of how the musical culture there is like.
There's not a lot of cultures behind the music, here. We're still a new country. I think in terms of people performing, it's very diverse. There's a very good underground culture, like Sticky Fingers, for instance. But for some reason, they haven't broken internationally.
Is there a breakdown along racial lines as far as what music is played by who?
Not really. We're very inspired by American culture because that's what we're fed growing up. All the movies, radio.
What about England? Do you derive inspiration from happens over there?
Not a whole lot, no. Maybe little hints. But mainly American culture.
It says you're from "humble beginnings" in the press materials. What does that mean? Like you grew up in some rough and tumble mining town?
[laughs] No, just a small town. The nearest city is Brisbane, but we grew up quite far from there. It was isolated. We were middle class, there. But it was still a beautiful place to grow up: tropical, rainforests everywhere. The Great Barrier Reef is there.
Where are you based now?
LA is our home away from home. We get a house there and live there for a while. It's where we record, it's where we have a lot of friends. It's an inspiring place to be.
How did you get there in the first place? How did you get out of the bedroom and into the studio?
It happened pretty quickly, honestly. We started picking up traction online with our work in the bedroom. And we got the attention of Joel and Benji Madden from Good Charlotte.
And what did they do for you guys?
They flew us out to LA and into a studio, gave us resources to work with. We were really grateful for that. It all took off from there.
Was there a specific scene you tapped into there?
Not really. We're kind of introverted by nature. We just kind of fell in love with creating as a whole. We didn't want to restrict ourselves to being just another band. Because we produced our own music, we will always have a sound, but it won't limit us genre-wise.
Do you prefer festival gigs to other types of gigs?
It's kind of a toss-up. On the one hand, you have these amazing festivals on massive stages in the middle of the day. There's nothing like it. But not everyone there knows your music. Whereas, when we play our own shows, it may not be as glamorous as a festival, but audiences there are going to see you.
But you get known to a wider audience with a festival.
Yeah, it's tough.
What does it look like when you play live?
It's insane. Dude, you should see what the setup looks like in rehearsals. We've got this massive video and light rig behind us. In terms of sound, it's like double the energy you hear on the record. I think it's always good to up the ante for live gigs.
Are there live instruments, or is it all pre-programmed?
Two live guitars, live bass, live drums. Everything, but on steroids. There's five of us touring. We've got our friends Jesse and Pat, on drums and bass. We've toured everywhere together.
I see you've played Lollapalooza. Is there like an automatic "meet and greet" with Perry Farrell?
[laughs] No. We're pretty reclusive, except when we're on stage.
I just imagine that bands get taken into like a tent, and there is Farrell, with a robe and a crown.
[laughs] I mean, we met a bunch of cool people. We got to see a lot of artists we like. We just soaked in the whole thing.
The title track of the album, "Phases" it's got a beautiful texture. I was listening to the lyrics though, and I'm a little unclear as to what those "phases" are.
We want to keep the idea of phases as broad as possible. A little bit of vagueness is important. If you're too specific, people can't take away their own version. It can be phases of emotion, or phases of the moon and the stars: life phases?
Yep. It's important to take away your own concept.
The phases themselves go through phases.
[laughs] Exactly. It's broad. Going to through a phase is a phase.
The other thing that struck me is that throughout the album there seems to be a lot of polar emotions. And those emotions are reflected in the titles: "Angels" is sort of positive. "No rainbows" is negative, unless you hate rainbows. And "Even Though I'm Depressed" is kind of both.
It's very deliberate. That last one in particular. All the songs are very anecdotal, true to how we were feeling at the time. It was very ironic, writing lyrics to such a happy chord progression. It's interesting to experiment with those polar emotions.
Like how The Smiths used to write these tuneful ditties, but they're about, like, killing your lover with an ax.
Right. In a sense, as well, it's negative,but there's hope.
How much longer are you on tour?
Well, we're about to start.
Where are you going?
Everywhere. Everywhere. [laughs] After the US, we have a month off, and then we go to Europe.
Where in Europe?
Um, everywhere as well!
What cities are you looking forward to visiting, or have you already seen most of it?
Philly will be amazing. New York, LA. Texas. I love Portland, Oregon. We don't really have a point to prove. We set ourselves to a certain standard and we can only improve from there. We're just looking forward to connecting with people and having fun. No bullshit.