Interview: Tropical Fuck Storm

by Jo Higgs

Abrasive music and sleazy lyrics don’t necessitate akin personalities – Tropical Fuck Storm are as friendly and funny as their music is warped and worming

Not since the advent of Tropical Fuck Storm has one record suggested so much as caring an iota about what anyone else thinks. Three albums in, Australia’s greatest contemporary noise-rock representatives are no less noisy, no less inventive and certainly no less gripping than when they began. Deep States channels the same humorously paranoiac energy of Gareth Liddiard, Fiona Kitschin, Lauren Hammel and Erica Dunn’s prior collaborations, but it all seems more familiar to its audience in this increasingly anxiety-wrought world. 

Rising from the ashes of The Drones, Liddiard and Kitschin’s previous band, TFS was always going to have a tough act to follow. Deep States is the latest in a growing chain of albums asserting their accomplishment. Liddiard laughs, ‘we’ve been doing our own thing for ages now. I think Tropical Fuck Storm has had more success internationally, but really we’re just doing the same thing.’ He continues, with a subtle tongue-in-cheek confidence, ‘the state of the world has just allowed everyone else to catch up.’

In listening to any TFS albums, one might get the impression that they are all lyrically absurdist representations of our world, but the closer the listen is, the more it no longer appears a representation but a reflection. Kitschin explains, ‘a lot of the time we’ll just be writing stuff and go “what the fuck is this song about?”’ She elaborates that the process usually dictates each track to become ‘just what’s going on in the world.’ Liddiard builds on this: ‘we just pluck things out of the air and work from there. You know, it’s just what’s happening, so it all ties together in the end. Especially the last two years have been very coherent in its madness, all the misinformation, anti-vax and Qanon stuff. It’s all intertwined.’ 

Musically, TFS are no less chaotic than they are lyrically. Liddiard asserts that there is a somewhat controlled chaos to the coming together of their music: ‘The best thing to compare it to is how the solar system came together like this whole bunch of crap: dust, asteroids and that, and it just sort of created an accretion disk and had a hot centre and it all spun around.’ The metaphor seems wild, but listening to Deep States it makes sense (except the space jargon, but that doesn’t make sense for reasons beyond Liddiard’s control).

Across each of TFS’s three albums, weird warblings and shrieking sonic spearheads infiltrate even the mellowest of moments, but on Deep States, something about this layering of noise seems special. The band are very conscious of each noise they place throughout the 51 minute run time. Liddiard jokes of the sonic diversity they produce saying, ‘if you did two things with the same noise in them, you’d automatically go “I’ll try something different on the second one.’’’ He divulges further, ‘I realised style almost is more important than substance. Like the delivery is important. People say it like it’s pejorative, but if you think about the great singers, they all stick out because they do have a certain style that’s very different.’ He continues: ‘ultimately, substance is always the same: your general human shit. It’s the style that changes things.’ It’s not a bad point – perhaps we should value style over substance, after all, if the style isn’t enjoyable, no one will care to engage with the substance. 

With TFS, music is undoubtedly the primary appeal, but that does nothing to take away from the fun of their music videos. Liddiard laments of how earnestness seemed increasingly useless to them, ‘not that we were ever earnest as such,’ he clarifies. ‘I can’t imagine making a serious video – like if you had a really serious song and you had to do a video of you staring probingly into the camera and it’s all black and white and very deep.’ Kitschin chimes in with a riposte about the band’s next video being a Sinead O’Connor Nothing Compares 2 U parody to which Liddiard laughs ‘doing a video as serious as that would just make me look like a fucking wanker.’ Of course, he isn’t implying O’Connor looks like a wanker, but more that he just doesn’t have a personality compatible with the characteristics necessary for such a serious and touching music video. 

Deep States is another great album in the fuzzy repertoire of the caustic Australian purveyors of sonic anxiety. As a couple, Kitschin and Liddiard are evidently genuinely nice people with a passion for what they do, providing relief from the many personalities that are gimmicky mirrorings of the abrasive sounds they record.

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