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TV Colours Pause To Make A Record

TV Colours is the project of Robin Mukerjee, who also goes by the moniker Bobby Kill. It began as a solo project inspired by necessity after struggles to get a band together while living in Sydney around 2007. He moved back to Canberra around that time and has since become probably the most celebrated export of the city’s increasingly compelling music scene. The 2013 album Purple Skies, Toxic River was released by Dream Damage, earning critical acclaim and a sold out vinyl run through European label Eighteen Records.

For fans like me, it was manna from heaven after a couple of 7″ releases that suggested a potential for something great. Much of the early material was buzzy, recorded way up in the red. But here comes a perfectly realised concept album with heavy overtones of late 80s / early 90s nostalgia about life in the suburbs and looking to escape to the city. It has a range of styles and high energy pop tracks like The Neighbourhood, Beverly and Bad Dreams. In interviews after its release I learnt that it took him five years to produce, and two near-complete versions were scrapped en route. There aren’t many artists or bands who would do it like that. Pretty much no-one would do that. Here’s to the hope that the next album is a bit easier.

The first time I saw Robin was at Totally Autumn Festival in Newcastle in April 2011, playing solo with a drum machine, booming out vocals through heavy reverb and slamming through tracks like The Kids Are All Grown Up and Run With The Creeps. From there I tracked down his split 7″ with Assassins 88, along with some online stuff, and that was all there was until Purple Skies came out and I made it along to see TV Colours launch the record with a full band at The Red Rattler in Marrickville in September 2013.

I spoke to him ahead of their show at Bad Day Out at Petersham Bowling Club this Saturday, January 24.

You guys have two shows left before an extended break. This Saturday at Bad Day Out in Sydney and then one more in Canberra. What’s motivated the time off from shows? Is it generally writing for a new album? Also you were saying that all of you guys are in different bands at the moment.

It’s just sort of everything. Like everyone is in other bands, but the main thing is, I guess it’s just the way I’ve discovered it works with TV Colours. It’s never ever going to be a band that’s consistently writing songs and getting together and jamming. It’s just me nutting them out by myself. But playing shows I won’t write anything as they just complicate everything. I just need a lot of free space to clear my mind to do it I think. So that’s the plan.

I’m curious to talk to you a bit about the future. Obviously with the last record turning out to be a five-year project and all of this early material that you’d done slowly built up to this greater work. How are you conceiving of this next one? Is it going to have the similar elements of the TV Colours style? Perhaps with live drums but still sounding a bit like drum machines. Is it still going to be heavy rock, punk guitars and that kind of thing?

I definitely want it to be a different sort of sound than the last one. Only just because I feel like I can’t sit down and write songs with drum machines any more. There’s no dynamic really with them. And that’s a good thing as the songs stay really simple. But really it’s hard to be prolific with it. It’s just like a long process, or it is for me any way.

Cause it takes a long time to program the drums?

The main problem with the drum machines is keeping a song energetic for the whole thing with one drum beat. I sit down and play guitar constantly with a drum machine and most of the stuff will be good for maybe a minute, but then it will keep going and lose its momentum. And that’s only because of the drums. So I definitely want real drums. I’m still going to write them with a drum machine. Because that way I know if it’s working with them it’ll have heaps of energy once real drums are put on it. It is kind of daunting because the last one took so long. I’ve tried not to let it get to me.

Yeah. I mean are you potentially considering different ways to go about it? Like possibly getting someone else to produce and engineer the record, or just take the band into a studio? But I mean, you produce your stuff right, that’s kind of the way you do it.

Yeah. It just wouldn’t work that way. Because the songs are basically written as they’re recorded and there’s lots of chopping them up and cutting and pasting and redoing them and stuff like that. It’s not as simple as going into a studio with someone and just sort of playing it once. They take ages. It kind of sucks. I’ve just realised it’s a self-production sort of project not too long ago, and there’s probably never any changing that.

Yeah. No I think that’s cool. I like projects like that.

Yeah definitely. I bought a whole bunch of new gear and stuff to change the tonality of the next recordings. New guitar, recording equipment and keyboard, so it just doesn’t sound like the last one. Well I’m going to attempt not to but we’ll see how that works out.

I was reading somewhere that you’d said for the last record you’d bought a fairly 80s sounding synth and so that came to colour a lot of that record.

Yes definitely. That’s sort of what I’m trying to do again is find an instrument that really pushes me in a direction. And that’s what that synth did. It just changed everything. It just all sort of fitted that 80s aesthetic that it had. And with this one I don’t want to distance it completely, but I kind of want it to have more of a late 70s vibe. So I’m not touching that keyboard any more as it’ll just sound too much like the last one if I use it.

Well that’s interesting you’re saying that you’re looking to a different point in time for the sort of sound you’re after. But I’m curious as well in terms of a theme. Obviously the last record had such an overarching narrative. Are you intending for this album to have another concept or just be random tracks and fit together more with the sound?

No it has a concept. That’s the thing. I haven’t been doing that much recording and getting stuff down, but I’ve been working out what I want to do. And I’ve sort of got that all planned out. And it is another concept. I don’t think I can work any other way now. I don’t really know how. It just made it so easy to tie everything together on the last album. Even though there were different genres between the songs. There’s definitely a concept. I’ve actually got all the track names written out as what I’d like to name the songs. And I’ve got a rough draft of the art work. I’ve definitely got a plan but it’s just about getting time to get the music down, really.

Is it autobiographical again, in a way?

It is but it’s more based before the concept of the last album. That’s why I kind of want it to sound like 70s so the sense of it can be before the last one. It’s a bit confusing. I don’t know if I’m going too far with that. I have a friend that I constantly talk to about it and he’s just like “Yes it’s a good idea, it’s fine, like shut the fuck up.” I’m scared I’m taking it too far but yeah it’s sort of based before the last album.

I wish I’d seen Assassins 88 back in the day. I’m slightly confused about the chronology on that. Like you were in that band, right?

I was in that band but I wasn’t really. I just sort of played guitar for them. It sort of was confusing because when we were releasing our split 7” together we were playing shows as Assassins 88 / TV Colours.

Right. And that was when you were in solo mode.

Yeah. That’s when it all came together with me sort of being in Assassins. It’s kind of weird as they were a crazy house party band as a two-piece, which was amazing. But then I think when they started playing shows more out of town and not at house parties, the two-piece thing didn’t work as well on stage. So they got me to fill out the sound. Well they didn’t get me, I sort of forced myself on them as I loved them so much. It is kind of confusing and it got really blurry for a while. It’s just Tim and Lach really that band. And they reformed maybe about October last year. Just as a two-piece at that Lacklustre HQ which is one of the two main sharehouses. And it was … amazing.

Are they going to keep doing that?

No Lachlan has actually moved to New York, so … definitely not.

So if I can just clarify… Tim is the current drummer in TV Colours, and Lachlan is the guy from Danger Beach.

Yep. That’s right.

Cause that Danger Beach record was really good as well, Pacific.

Yeah it was awesome. I was in that band too playing keyboards.

Yeah I saw you guys at GoodGod for that Snow Big Deal thing.

Yeah that’s right. But yeah he moved to New York which is pretty crazy. And he’s still doing Danger Beach pretty prolifically. I think he might be releasing something soon which is exciting.

Does this mean TV Colours is playing as a trio at the moment? Cause he was playing bass.

Jordan from Wives actually replaced him. Cause he left quite a while ago now. Basically a little bit after we got back from Europe. It was getting a bit hectic for a while with jobs and stuff, and it was kind of taking away from his time doing Danger Beach so one day he decided he didn’t want to do it any more. Which is fair enough I reckon.

Do you have anyone in your life who’s saying ‘Come on man, make another record?’

Yeah like everyone’s sort of like that. But I’m the one talking to people about it too. I’m not like on the verge of not doing it. That’s all I basically talk about with my friends. They just all know that I struggle with time for it. But yeah I’m blabbering on about it constantly, getting really drunk and talking about it for two hours.

Was it a similar struggle for time with the last one?

Well the last one was kind of different because I was working fulltime but I was doing shift work. So I’d work for ten days and then I’d have five days off. It made such a difference because I’d get my weekends out of the way, like hanging around with people, and then I’d have three weekdays of just nothing to do. And so I would just record those three days. It was invaluable to the process. Now that I’m working 9-to-5, there’s just no time.

Also I’ve just moved into this new place. I basically live in this huge studio sort of room now. I’ve got so much room to do everything and I don’t want to waste that. At the moment to record I’ve got every single one of my keyboards, all my pedals and my guitar running into a mixer and then into a looper and then into this PA system. So I’m playing guitar a heap and writing but I’m just not recording. I can find time to do that because it’s just kind of enjoyable and not gruelling.

Yeah I’m just curious to see what you do. I think it will be cool. In looking to write for this new record, have there been other records that you’ve heard over the past few years that might have slightly affected what you’re looking at doing?

Um, geez. Not really to tell you the truth. There was definitely heaps with the last one. Like I think the whole reason I bought a synth was being really into that first Total Control album. I was like ‘Oh I’ve got to get one now.’ But not so far with this one. I’ve sort of been listening to a lot of older stuff for it like Cheap Trick and Kiss and that 70s sort of stuff. And later 70s electronic stuff like Tangerine Dream and Giorgio Moroder. It kind of sounds like a bizarre mix. But yeah trying to get into the mindset of that sort of music. I used to love all that stuff so much when I was in high school. There’s a lot to sort of mine from it in a way. But nothing all that recent to tell you the truth.

What other Australian bands do you dig at the moment?

Besides the Canberra stuff, I really liked that You Beauty album from last year. Like I thrashed it. I think I’m just a sucker for concept albums. It was so good. Oh also we played a few shows with Miss Destiny last year. That 7” is really awesome. I really liked the Lowlife album too from last year. And the Total Control album. All the usual suspects I guess.

I really like Ausmuteants as well.

Oh yeah Ausmuteants are awesome. There’s a weird little Canberra connection there, in that Shaun is a Canberra kid who’s the guitarist in Ausmuteants. He was in heaps of bands up here for ages which was kind of cool. We were actually going to play a show with them in Canberra last year, I think it’s still going to go ahead. Everyone’s pretty excited to get them up here. I think because there’s an ex-Canberran in it.

Oh also I don’t know how active he is anymore, but Kitchen’s Floor. I really, really loved both those albums when they came out. I don’t know what he’s doing with it anymore. I know he did that Excess thing. That was sort of a big one, even for a lot of people around here, that first one especially was just an amazing album that was on everyone’s stereos in sharehouses down here for ages. I’m also really excited about the Wives album that’s coming out in two and a half months. Everything I’ve heard from it’s pretty awesome. They’re really good live too.

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  • Founder and Editor of Skydreams. Producer of Telepath on FBi Radio.

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