November 29, 2022
Based on a whim in 1992 by a teenage Man Blackman, Melbourne, Australia’s Chapter Music label has grown into one of many nation’s most prolific and influential purveyors of unbiased music, introducing artists like Twerps, Kath Bloom, and The Goon Sax to a world viewers. Although maybe finest identified for incubating a neighborhood motion of shambolic indie pop marked by jangling melodies, deadpan wit, and glimmers of psychedelia, Chapter’s wealthy catalog affords a lot greater than scrappy guitar pop. Over the previous three a long time, Blackman and his associate Ben O’Connor have championed a variety of artists and types, curating a compilation of Australia’s first wave of openly gay songwriters, reviving the surreal punk ethos of mutant disco, and urgent the occasional house record.
“Initially, Australia was actually type of a rock tradition, tremendous masc. Each of us being queer, the broader different may very well be fairly alienating,” says O’Connor. “A part of the attraction of the label then, even earlier than I knew Man, was that it didn’t appear masc or overly rockist. There have been extra attention-grabbing issues occurring. There have been ladies in a lot of the bands.”
“I assume we type of shied away from bro tradition,” says Blackman. “I beloved Nirvana and Mudhoney, however I didn’t actually like what got here after these early grunge bands like Pearl Jam. I assume we have been pop children and twee children at coronary heart, displaying the softer facet of music and progressive new concepts. And from the outset, we have been very a lot about avoiding music made simply by all males.”
Chapter was initially conceived as a Syd Barrett fanzine called Chapter 24, named for the ninth monitor on Pink Floyd’s The Piper on the Gates of Daybreak. Blackman, who was 17 years outdated on the time, deliberate to bundle a cassette compilation of bands that had shaped in his native Perth with the zine’s fourth quantity. Although situation 4 by no means noticed the sunshine of day, the tape, titled Bright Lights, Small City, dropped in a small version of 100 in 1992.
“There was a very robust response,” says Blackman. “Perth was such a small city that if anybody bought off their ass to do something, folks took discover. And I loved it a lot that I needed to make it into an actual factor.”
Grunge and shoegaze have been each in full swing at this level, and thus this transient snapshot of Perth’s scene was coated in a thick layer of grime. Bands like Mustang! and The Violet Slide emulated the scorched timbres of My Bloody Valentine or Dinosaur Jr., although flashes of mellow twee pop broke by means of the crust. This Facet of Bearable’s “Simple World” and Glum’s “Edward’s Day Out,” for instance, culled issues again to the trebly acoustic guitar and keyboard that may quickly outline Chapter’s first batch of releases.
The following yr, Chapter launched its second compilation: a collection of Sonic Youth covers by local lo-fi bands.
“I used to be fascinated about what I might do to seize folks’s consideration,” says Blackman. “Tribute albums have been such an enormous factor through the early ‘90s, and I knew everybody appreciated Sonic Youth, together with me. I really bought to fulfill Sonic Youth due to that. After they got here to Australia on tour, I used to be launched to them to play among the songs on the tape. I used to be nonetheless 18, so I used to be fairly shy and inexperienced. I’m undecided in the event that they appreciated them however it was fairly enjoyable.”
Chapter One: The Early Years
After urgent the label’s preliminary handful of cassette compilations, Chapter made its first forays into vinyl, normally releases from teams composed of Blackman and native associates.
“I assume it was a fairly small scene in Perth,” he says. “If I wasn’t within the band, I’d be taking part in visitor keyboard. At the moment, no person had jobs in Australia. The nation went by means of this idyllic interval the place you would be on unemployment and make music. I used to be principally doing music, fanzines, and scholar radio full time.”
“Everybody thought of it a kind of authorities arts grant,” provides O’Connor.
Blackman’s first band, the short-lived quartet Sulk, made their debut on the aforementioned Kill Yr. Idols with a cover of Sonic Youth’s “Kissability” that reworked the squealing noise rock music into a comfortable slice of chamber pop, with flute and violin weaving by means of acoustic fingerpicking. The band would launch its lone Canine Swamp EP in 1996 after parting methods when Blackman relocated to Melbourne.
Sulk shared its barebones ethos with the stripped-down beginner pop put out by Blackman’s beloved K Records across the similar time, albeit with a folksier twist. Joined by string-playing siblings Bernard and Vivienne Langham and singer Gayle Marshall, Blackman set an unabashedly saccharine tone for Chapter releases to come back. Opener “Stubblerash,” an ode to facial hair, is a brisk stroke of pop brilliance, adorning its jittery rhythm part with ridiculous cartoon sound results, a searing guitar solo, and a ultimate burst of chord organ over the course of 90 seconds.
The Cannanes / Sleepy Township
A collaboration between Blackman’s Sleepy Township and Australian indie pop pioneers The Cannanes, who’d existed for nearly 12 years by the point of this launch, this untitled 1996 cut up single options a few of every band’s rawest work. The Cannanes’ three contributions to the 7-inch every discover wildly completely different sounds. “Value You Pay” is a deep-fried mix of bass and keyboard; “Tennyson” wrings heartbreak from electrical guitar chords and drums; and “Platypus” pairs digital bleeps and bloops with crunchy hi-hats for a ultimate increase of manic vitality. On the flip facet, Sleepy Township lay down three tunes pushed by frenetic energy chords and melodic basslines: easy, however extremely catchy.
Above Floor Pool
Red Green Confuser
Fronted by the late Bek Moore of self-proclaimed “kiddy punk” band Clag, Above Floor Pool specialised in droning storage rock that appeared to section out and in of focus like a malfunctioning digicam, treating the foundations of music principle as a mere suggestion. Woozy songs like “Bolger Cupcake Dynasty” and “Alien Invasion” toy with dissonance and pressure like early Sonic Youth however with Beat Happening’s sloppy rhythmic abandon. There’s a surplus of appeal buried beneath the sludge.
Sonic Investigations of the Trivial
Chapter bought into the reissue recreation early on, urgent a retrospective compilation of recordings by Sydney post-punk legend Andrew Wilson and an expanded version of Essendon Airport’s 1978 EP Sonic Investigations of the Trivial, a cutting-edge assortment of lo-fi jazz music that fused lounge music’s comfortable timbres with the madcap experimentation of the no wave motion happening stateside.
“Residing within the ‘90s, it was this golden age earlier than eBay,” says Blackman. “Your outdated information would flip up in file shops for a greenback. We found that there was a historical past of Australian post-punk music within the late ‘70s and ‘80s that simply had no worth positioned on it. It was uncommon and revelatory music that we thought deserved an viewers.”
“I distinctly bear in mind the day that I purchased the Essendon Airport file,” says O’Connor. “It was simply loopy to know that that type of music might come out of Melbourne, and we hadn’t heard about it earlier than. We needed this tradition that had been forgotten or ignored to have its place in historical past.”
The 2002 launch kicked off a partnership between Essendon Airport and Chapter Music that continues to at the present time. The band briefly reformed for a number of dwell performances the next yr, and co-founder David Chesworth has launched three archival information beneath his personal with the label since then. The duo’s most up-to-date recording, a 7-inch single written alongside vocalist Anne Cessna, dropped in September 2022.
Chapter Two: Man Blackman in Japan
After celebrating Chapter’s tenth anniversary with the label’s 2002 Double Figures compilation, Blackman and O’Connor put the label on a quick hiatus, relocating to Tokyo on a whim.
“We have been impressed by this psych folks music we have been listening to in Japan, and I’d been there a yr or two earlier than on the best way to America to play a present, so I believe that was a part of it,” says Blackman.
The couple taught English part-time for 4 hours a day to generate profits however spent most of their time engrossed within the native pop underground, catching as many exhibits as doable.
“It was this magical, psychedelic folks world the place these bands would have shifting lineups,” says Blackman. “Each present can be completely different, the instrumentation and preparations at all times altering. It had a very lasting affect on us.”
Although Double Figures was initially slated to be Chapter’s ultimate launch, Blackman and O’Connor have been so impressed by their surrounding D.I.Y. subculture that they re-launched the label in 2005, beginning with Songs for Nao: a compilation of the Japanese bands that that they had grown to like over the course of their two-year keep.
Songs for Nao
Not in contrast to the music Blackman made with Sulk again within the mid-’90s, lots of the bands featured on Songs for Nao specialised in minimalist, deconstructed chamber pop, adorning their shambling songcraft with horns, strings, and melodica. Yumbo’s “Cake” recollects Belle & Sebastian with its cute harmonies and jazzy piano, whereas bands like Eepil Eepil and Puka Puka Brians take issues in a extra surreal course, using distorted storage guitars and dissonant riffs.
The ultimate and most well-known group featured on Songs for Nao, Tokyo duo Tenniscoats launched their first compilation of dwell recordings, Dwell Wanderus, in 2005 on Chapter Music. That includes a revolving solid of backing band members, the file demonstrates the band’s capacity to take care of a continuing state of flux with out sacrificing their music’s tranquil magnificence. Excerpts from seven completely different exhibits over the course of three years seem on Dwell Wanderus, starting from motorik dream pop (“Speedy Rally”) and scuttling free jazz (“So Easy”) to amorphous drones (“The Ending Theme”) and solo piano improvisation (“Aurora Curtains”).
“In Melbourne, there undoubtedly was a crossover between what we have been doing and extra experimental scenes in Melbourne,” says O’Connor. “However in Japan, I don’t suppose I’d ever seen this sort of meshing of dwell experimental music with conventional songwriting and pop sensibilities.”
Blackman and O’Connor returned from Tokyo in 2004 with renewed vitality and progressively resumed placing out new materials rising in Melbourne’s scene, together with information by Lakes, Pikelet, and Crayon Fields. The latter’s 2006 debut album Animal Bells is a well-constructed work of ‘60s bubblegum pop revivalism, chiming guitar riffs chopping like sunshine by means of an overcast organ. Dripping reverb and densely layered, the file’s wealthy harmonies are heat and nourishing: soul meals for psych aficionados.
Chapter Three: Enter the Blogosphere
By the mid-aughts, Blackman and O’Connor have been each of their thirties and able to take working their label a bit extra critically.
“Ben and I’ve been a pair since 1995,” says Blackman. “Ben has been concerned with working the label since then, after I moved to Melbourne, however we formally began turning into companions within the label within the late 2000s. It made an enormous distinction. Immediately, it wasn’t simply me on my own. Having two folks engaged on issues opened up all of those potentialities.”
On the similar time, indie rock’s weblog period was in full swing, serving to broaden Chapter Music’s attain throughout the globe.
“I believe [music writer] Marc Hogan got here out to Australia and noticed some bands at a competition. Crayon Fields was one of many ones that basically took his fancy,” says Blackman. “It was a type of golden period the place there was an actual music media, and being from Australia added just a little little bit of unique attract to what we have been doing. We’d keep up till three within the morning emailing all of those blogs within the U.S. in order that they’d obtain our emails after they awoke. A variety of our bands began touring abroad as effectively.”
The transition from the aughts to the teenagers produced a few of Chapter’s most beloved bands, like Dick Diver, Twerps, and The Stevens. This wave of droll, jangly guitar teams impressed by The Go-Betweens and their Flying Nun forebears was affectionately dubbed “dolewave” by the Australian press: a time period Blackman and O’Connor discovered humorous however finally off the mark. Beneath their lo-fi floor, there was extra to those bands than their perceived slackerdom.
Launched as a 7-inch EP with 3 additional tracks on a bonus CD, the debut launch by Melbourne quartet Dick Diver threads jerky surf rock guitars over loose-mid tempo low-end—an unassuming default palette that makes the file’s scuzzy crescendos hit all of the more durable. “Tender Years,” Arks Up’s longest providing, kicks off with laid-back rhythm guitar and dreamy spoken phrase vocals earlier than making an prolonged instrumental detour. A solo quietly surfaces, constructing to ultimate throes of suggestions and distortion that appear to tear by means of the combination. Dick Diver might jangle, however their instrumentation can chew onerous when it must.
Stripping guitar rock again to its easiest components, the primary full-length file by Melbourne’s Twerps feels indulgent in its sense of ease, its breezy chord progressions and staccato riffs as alluring as a mid-afternoon nap. Every ingredient of the quartet’s sound is slathered in its personal remedy of echo, reverb, and delay, forming an aqueous, droning sound that ripples and warps with every beat. Songs like “Deliver Me Down” and “Who Are You” focus on chummy full-band sing-alongs you’ll be able to’t assist however take part. Even when the prevailing temper is glum, Twerps make you are feeling as if you’re not alone in your angst.
Hit the Jackpot
Based mostly in Adelaide, Hit the Jackpot spent the higher a part of the 2000s making twangy, impassioned indie pop within the Beat Occurring mould. 2011’s Vacation was the band’s ultimate full-length album and their solely outing as a quintet. Although a bit louder and extra expansive, the band’s sound retains its rough-edged appeal—chords clanging haphazardly, bells jingling in line with the drums, and coy vocals peeking out from the crest of the combination. From an unenthusiastic Christmas carol to the snarling rock ‘n’ roll of “I Don’t Know,” Vacation succeeds at creating good pop music by means of brute drive alone. Neglect principle or polish: Hit the Jackpot strum and drum with sufficient frenetic vitality to override the foundations.
Chapter 4: Sturdy Love
Getting into its third decade, Chapter continues to launch a various array of music at a gradual clip, placing out manic garage rock, minimalist synth-pop, and acid-washed prog amid their typical model of twangy post-punk.
“We’ve by no means needed to have a signature Chapter sound,” says O’Connor. “Within the ‘90s, we have been going to jangle pop exhibits, [but] we have been additionally going to raves or to see experimental musicians. It’s actually nearly music that we like or what speaks to us.”
The Goon Sax
Up to Anything
Brisbane trio The Goon Sax have been the primary band to ever signal to Chapter Information after submitting an unsolicited demo: a feat that’s all of the extra spectacular contemplating that every of its members have been nonetheless of their mid-teens on the time.
“We have been blown away from the second we pressed play on the 2 tracks they despatched us,” says O’Connor. “Youngsters that younger from Brisbane have been writing fully-formed songs and simply appeared to know what they have been doing.”
“From the minute we heard it, we knew ‘Boyfriend’ was an all-time pop basic,” says Blackman. “Immediately, we wanted them to do an album.”
Combined cleanly and instrumentally uncomplicated, As much as Something’s brilliance lies within the band’s understated lyricism, which largely revolves round adolescent ennui. There aren’t many opening traces as instantly gripping as “Couldn’t work at Goal; the one colour shirt I put on is blue.” The band has a knack for turning mundane imagery—work uniforms, haircuts, comfort shops—into heart-wrenching metaphors that seldom sound cloying or overwrought.
Little Ugly Women
Little Ugly Girls
Fashioned within the early ‘90s, Tasmanian riot grrrl outfit Little Ugly Women developed a cult following for his or her punishing, feedback-laden sound, but by no means managed to launch an official studio album till 2018, when Chapter Music launched the band’s self-titled debut. The LP was written and recorded sporadically over the course of 20 years, however its anarchic vitality stays constant all through, anchored by frontwoman Linda Johnston’s barked, run-on rants.
“We noticed them dwell rather a lot within the ‘90s and early 2000s,” says O’Connor. “That album is a particularly vital Australian file. Linda is a frontperson on par with Nick Cave, Robert Forster, or any of the good Australian frontpeople. If any person picks it up in 50 years’ time, it’s nonetheless going to have the identical type of energy and visceral heft.”
Greatest identified for his heartfelt cartoon art that prominently options anthropomorphic frogs, songwriter Ben Montero is a grasp of psychedelic songcraft, penning formidable and colourful epics within the vein of Todd Rundgren or late-period Beatles. Chapter Music launched his sophomore album Performer in 2018, however he and the label return a lot additional.
“He used to dwell right here in Melbourne,” says Blackman. “We met him on the tram. He was carrying a Seaside Boys t-shirt or one thing, and we began chatting. We’ve been associates ever since. I ended up taking part in as a keyboardist in Montero, and the primary album got here out on one other label with me within the band. When it got here to creating the second file, we put our arms as much as be concerned.”
True to their title, Melbourne’s Cool Sounds have by no means shied away from exploring no matter new musical concept sparks their curiosity, dabbling in dream pop, basic nation, and jagged new wave over their prolific eight-year profession. Like That, their sixth album and first with Chapter, indulges the band’s funkiest instincts, using jerky dance-punk rhythms that recall Speaking Heads at their silliest.
“It’s such a vibrant, enjoyable, infectious file,” says O’Connor. “The preparations are literally fairly uncommon, and it’s lyrically fairly avant-garde as effectively. No person might have made that file other than [frontman] Dainis Lacey.”