Electro-guitar voyagers DECODER RING are back home after an extremely successful visit to the States for South by Southwest. CHRIS HARMS catches up with MATT FITZGERALD for all the travel goss...
Decoder Ring are a very fortunate band by any standards. Selected to attend the prestigious music industry conference South By Southwest (SXSW) 2006 in Austin, Texas, as well as perform in a special Australian music showcase while en-route in Los Angeles, the seven-member act have had opportunities in recent months that most bands dream of. Not only that, they've been taken on by ultra-hip label/management firm World's Fair for the US release of Somersault (the lauded soundtrack to Cate Shortland's film, which is only now screening in US cinemas) and they have the luxury of not needing to immediately record a US follow-up if it does well, as their most recent Australian-released effort, Fractions, waits in the wings.
Coming back to Brisbane for a special show prior to disappearing into the studio again, Decoder Ring programmer Matt Fitzgerald is both droll and upbeat about the Decoder Ring American experience. Knowing that the band take a fairly dim view of the current political landscape, both here and in the US, how did the band find being at mercy of things like Homeland Security?
"Well, all the talk about American attitudes and stuff, all the people we met, if you were in band they were very generous and friendly" he says. ''I have my issues with America, but actually being there... a lot of things we hold against America, well, we're no better. I remember catching a taxi in Texas, and the driver was an African Muslim ñ he hadnít been in America that long, and we were speaking to him and he asked, 'where are you from?,' and when we said 'Australia'. he said, 'oh you're from Australia. That's where you kill Muslims'.
"It's hard," he continues. "You can't actually just dismiss it and go 'no we don't' - instead we said, 'we don't kill them, there was this scene where they were beaten up, but they weren't killed', and then you realise that doesn't sound much better. That was a bit of a shock. We're really not seen as squeaky clean these days. Talk about those in glass houses, especially when it comes to America... I mean, we have our own race riots. We're in the war."
Returning to the music side of the trip, Fitzgerald's summary of their two Austin shows (the band was actually asked to close the conference with a second gig) is effusive and bodes well for their Brisbane performance.
"It went down amazingly well. We got all this great feedback, and when you're talking about 1200 bands, you wonder how you're gonna stand out. But somehow people had just heard of us. The whole SXSW thing is that it's all industry, so everyone just stands there with their arms crossed. But for us everyone was dancing and screaming and hollering and yee-haing - doing all those Texan things."
The Americans so warmed to Decoder Ring, online mag Blender even affectionately christened them 'dreamo'. Uh oh.
"The term I've heard that I've liked most is dream rock'. I'm not sure about 'dreamo' because then you get into the whole screamo/emo thing. Dream Rock is a nice description because it's evocative rather than technical. But people are gonna come up with whatever term they want to, and 'dream rockers is better than 'wankers' [laughs].