Founded by two ex-pats after they moved to Europe, Civil Civic are returning home for the first time, launching their debut album and playing ATP. Bassist Ben Green tells Sky Kirkham how excited they are to be back.
Look… I don't want to gush too much,” Green begins, “but it's pretty fucking exciting, it really is. Neither of us gets back to Australia very often. I left Australia eight years ago and I've only been back twice, so just going back to Australia for any reason for me is just super-exciting, but to go back there with Aaron and play some Civil Civic gigs? We're both pretty amped about it, to be honest.
“We've always talked about tentatively coming back and kind of doing something half-arsed in Australia – 'Let's just go back and see our friends and maybe play a couple of Melbourne shows and maybe try to play a Sydney show' – but now we're coming back, we're playing a great festival and releasing a record, it's a bit less half-arsed and that's a great thing. It's also superb that Remote Control put their hands up and said, 'Yep, no problem, we'll put that out' because they're a great label and we've got a lot of respect for them. It just adds to the whole package.”
While they've often been described as electro-rock, Civil Civic's debut album, Rules, relies heavily on the more traditional rock instruments. Angular guitar lines dominate proceedings and there's a surf-rock aspect (albeit distorted) to many of the tracks. According to Green, these are the aspects he sees as the true heart of the band.
“That sound is super-deliberate,” he confirms. “It comes from a few different things that we really love in common, which I suppose are really '80s things. And it's tough angular stuff like Gang Of Four and Midnight Oil, big influence, and also The B-52s, another big influence. So that tough, slightly under-produced '80s sound where the guitars are really dry and direct and the band was really tight, we love that stuff. I think we prefer to be identified with that than with being some sort of electronic cross-over act.”
As a live act, Civil Civic remain a two-piece, but they're joined onstage by a drum machine and lighting rig known as The Box.
“The way we've got our live kind of thing setup with The Box is… I don't know how much to reveal about The Box,” Green says, “because it's supposed to be kind of a secret, but there's a footswitch involved that lets us decide when a section ends, when the next section starts. It's not like having a backing track, it's interactive with us and we can make decisions onstage about what's going to happen. It doesn't have to be just like putting on a CD. So we can do very tight, arranged stuff and we can also just go off on huge noise-explosion forays into ridiculous land.
“That was one of the initial set-in-stone, can't fuck with it guidelines that we had, that we just couldn't end up being this two-piece electronic band that seems half-fake, with all this stuff going on that you knew was just a backing track. We both hate acts like that, we don't enjoy watching it, so we just figured, 'Why should we make anyone else watch it?' And so that's one thing that's constrained our writing, it's limited how we produced the record. Because, basically, our live shows sound pretty much like the record and we're doing everything. We play guitar and bass. If there are any synth-lines, we have to stop playing guitar or bass and play them. And if there are effects going on, we have to make them happen with effects pedals, or with our Midi controllers. It has to be live. We have to be able to do it.“
Civil Civic will be playing the following dates:
Saturday 16 to Sunday 17 February - Westgate Entertainment Centre, Altona VIC
Tuesday 19 February - The Tote, Melbourne VIC
Thursday 21 February - Crown And Anchor, Adelaide SA