Latest release: Dream Life (Farmer and the Owl) Website: totallyunicornmusic.bandcamp.com
Comedian Mitch Alexander described Dream Life as the sound of being drunk at a party with people half your age, and realising it. Totally Unicorn have been drunk at other people’s parties now for six years and with things like parental responsibilities clamouring for their attention – not too mention a drummer moving halfway across the country – they decided it was time to finally release an album before they split. Now they can’t decide if they want to split up, or not. We placed a call to notoriously hyperactive and often almost naked vocalist Drew Gardner, and he immediately apologised for being drunk. Hell, why apologise for that?
A Totally Unicorn album has been a long time coming. People have been looking forward to it for a while!
It’s funny… I was talking to someone the other day and we’ve been a band for six years and we haven’t released an album. When we were first talking about it, we released the EP and the split… blah blah blah, and we said, We gotta record an album before this ends. So we’re like, ‘Ok, let’s write an album. Our drummer’s moving to Adelaide, so let’s tick that off the bucket list and we’ll see what happens. Maybe we’ll split up after that but at least we’ve recored an album’. So we recorded the album and we’re like ‘Fuck! This is really good!’ So we’ll just keep going for a while maybe.
You’re obviously pleased with it then. How do you think other people will like it – or do you care?
Hopefully they like it! As I said before, our drummer was moving to Adelaide so we wrote all these songs and booked the studio time, went in, recorded the songs, went back and listened to them and went, ‘Uh… these songs aren’t that great! Not as good as we could do them’. And Mike was like, ‘Well, I’m moving to Adelaide and we’ve spent all this money on studio time and I’ve done my drums, so you guys can write the songs around my drum parts’. So our guitarist went back and re-wrote all songs around his drum parts over about four months and it’s sounding really, really good!
You did it the hard way then! It’s like working backwards, really.
I’ve never heard of that happening, but it worked!
You’ve got a reputation for being a pretty wild band when you play live. Are there any places you’ve been to where you’ve been told not to come back?
There’s been a few! One story sticks in my mind. I won’t say the venue, but we played a show in Sydney and I was doing my normal thing, being a dickhead, and the bouncer – I didn’t know it was the bouncer at the time – kind of pulled me from behind and I kind of fell back and pushed him to the ground. He wasn’t happy about that and said he wanted to meet me after the show and he and his bouncer mates were going to meet me after the show and fuck me up, so as we were loading out I had to hide in the back of the car we were putting the gear and hide in the boot. I could see them through the back windscreen of the car asking the other band members where I was, because they were going to beat the shit outta me. That’s one that sticks out to me!
This whole interview could have been you discussing shit like that!
Ha ha! There’s been a lot of moments. But, you know, we’re not there to fuck up venues and break shit. If we’re going to break anything, it’s going to be ourselves!
There’s probably a few bands around that, if you went out on the road together, would leave places totally destroyed! What’s the best touring combination you’ve been part of?
There’s been lots. We’ve done the Rolo Tomassi tour. Musically we’re similar to them, and they were great as people so that was a stand out for us. We’ve done some shows with 90s punk bands that were pretty fun. I guess people that share the same ideal – not so much musically, but as people – to just have fun and get fucked up and have a good time. It’s not about taking things too seriously. For us going on tour’s like going on holiday. Try to get as many free beers as we can and have a good time.
The clip for ‘Space Congratulations’ shows you doing a pub crawl along King Street [Newtown]. That’s a bit of a dangerous thing to do these days, because if you have more than two or three, they kick you out!
Yeah I know! It’s quite funny and that’s why we had to start earlier in the day, especially in Sydney because of all the stupid laws they have now. I’m quite well known in the pubs around this area so they knew what I was doing.
Have those laws had any impact of people coming out to shows or not?
Yeah I was talking with someone about the lock-out laws and all that shit the other day and… I think it’s a really shitty thing but it’s also a good thing because a lot of really cool venues, a lot of the DYI venues and things have been left out of it. I don’t think it’s affected numbers at shows at all but I think it’s brought the music community, especially in Sydney, together and there’s no genres or anything – everyone’s fighting for a cause. It’s cool, but shit at the same time!
Genrefication of music has always been a bit of a problem. You’ve been out with metal bands, punk bands, lots of different types of bands – does that affect Totally Unicorn all that much? Bands like Thy Art is Murder and Gay Paris have copped it before for apparently not fitting in on tours and stuff like that.
My favourite type of gigs are mixed bills. I think, not just for bands for the exposure, but for the fans – for music lovers, I guess, to see a band they maybe wouldn’t normally see. Especially for us it’s a huge thing! We’ve played shows with ridiculous bands like Tonight Alive and all these weird bands that we never would think about playing with, and it’s gained us fans and opened up people’s eyes to what’s out there.
Going out with a band like Tonight Alive is weird enough, but how did the fans take to you?
We were a bit worried at the time, because they’re good friends of ours and fans, I guess… which is weird, but when they asked us to do the tour we said ‘Yes of course!’ We were playing big venues that we hadn’t played before. It was an under 18s crowd, mostly, and most people were super enthusiastic. They were so stoked to see us, and they probably related to us because we’re their parents’ age, or something! It was fucking great! They loved it. It was cool!
I think under 18s crowds don’t care all that much.
Yeah, man. They just wanna go to a show.
My kids are 8 and 11 and they love Queen and Bowie and operatic metal and they’re always rocking out in my car to everything from doom to Priest. Kids just get it.
Fuck yeah man! I always remember car trips with my mum and my dad and the music we listened to in the car and it holds a special place in my heart. John Farnham and Dire Straits stick in my head, man.
11/9: The Reverence, Melbourne VIC
15/9: Crown and Anchor, Adelaide SA
16/9: Babusha, Perth WA
17/9: Prince of Wales, Bunbury WA
23/9: Northcote Social Club, Melbourne VIC
24/9: Brisbane Hotel, Hobart TAS
29/9: Newtown Social Club, Sydney NSW
1 & 2/10: Yours & Owls Festival, Wollongong NSW
7/10: The Foundry, Brisbane QLD
8/10: The Great Northern, Byron Bay NSW