It's About Pine

22 April 2012 | 10:55 am | Daniel Cribb

Managing those two roles as well as being an announcer on Posted, Out To Lunch and Ambient Zone, Trainer’s a prime example of the talent keeping RTRFM not only running, but producing high quality radio.

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It's been 26 years since The Triffids released their seminal In The Pines record. In 1986 their tune In The Pinesdescribed the love between two people; today those three words have a whole new meaning and in some ways can sum up a large portion of the WA music industry in a nutshell. For those who live and breathe local music, RTRFM has become an essential staple in their daily routine. All year 'round the team running the community station works like crazy to provide listeners with high quality music, and musicians a platform to be heard – that's why being selected to play the momentous day-long In The Pines at the UWA Somerville Auditorium is an honor, and why punters mark the occasion on their calendars in big bold writing.

Drum Media pulled a select few In The Pines musicians away from various Easter activities to snap some photos, find out what they've been up to, why they love In The Pines and how RTRFM has helped them over the years. Rummaging through shrubbery and working together to create weird, wonderful and mostly useless structures out of timber was Sean O'Neill (Hang On St Christopher), Pat Mclaughlin (Sugar Army), Micky Larkins (Suffer), Natalie Pavlovic (The Big Old Bears) and Ben McDonald (Sonpsilo Circus). Looking at these five acts alone you can see the diversity that this year's show contains.

Hang On St Christopher frontman Sean O'Neill, who is currently recording his debut solo album, rocked up in not only a flannelette shirt, but a lumberjack's coat – ready to get down to business. The band played the RTRFM Radiothon closing party at Rosemount Hotel in November last year and their performance warranted an invitation to the 19th installment of In The Pines. During the closing party, O'Neill got to witness firsthand what goes on behind the scenes of an RTRFM fundraising gig. He's not alone when he says that music director and events manager Adam Trainer works damn hard to ensure that everybody's happy.

Managing those two roles as well as being an announcer on Posted, Out To Lunch and Ambient Zone, Trainer's a prime example of the talent keeping RTRFM not only running, but producing high quality radio. “He pretty much organizes everything and he's got a lot on his plate,” O'Neill, who's also juggling a few things, says – so much so that he is yet to experience the magic of In The Pines. “I said I hadn't been before, on-air at RTR, and I felt so bad,” he laughs. “Adam Trainer was pretty devastated... The only reason I didn't go last year was because it was on Easter Sunday!” Natalie Pavlovic of The Big Old Bears, who is sitting next to him, laughs and ensures that he is in for a treat. “The first time I went, David, who is in The Big Old Bears, was playing with his other band, The Lazy Railway, so I got to go behind the scenes for that. It was pretty relaxed,” Pavlovic recalls. “It's just really nice how, at the beginning, it's sort of a picnic everyone is sitting down and watching the bands and then towards the evening everyone gets up and really gets into the music and dances along.”

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Although The Big Old Bears have been busy with other projects, and thus have only had one EP over the past two years, RTRFM has still rallied behind them and cranks the release on a regular basis. “We're always going in there to have a chat with different presenters,” Pavlovic enthuses. “David and I played [in the RTR studio] on Good Friday at like eight in the morning. Usually it's quite busy and happy and friendly, but because it was Good Friday there was no one there, so we just kind of let ourselves in and it was completely empty, which was interesting,” she adds, as everyone begins selecting their weapon of choice for the shoot. With a five track EP set for release in June, you can expect to hear a lot more of The Big Old Bears on RTRFM over the next couple of months.

Sugar Army also has a new release ready to go, but as frontman Pat Mclaughlin explains, they've had a few hiccups along the way. “[The release date] just changed. It was going to be May, but now it looks like it's going to be August, so it's driving me a little bit insane,” Mclaughlin tells. After losing their bass player to Birds Of Tokyo, adding Ben Pooley on keys/guitar and Chris Simmons on bass, and dealing with a label restructure, they've had a rough couple of months. “[RTRFM's] the one kind of thing you can count on and that's a great thing,” he says. “They've always been very supportive of Sugar Army from day one and they continue to do that. Even when we're in a quiet moment, when we're writing or not doing anything, they'll still get us in occasionally and they still play our music. They've always been supportive and we can't speak highly enough.”

Having played twice before, Mclaughlin can be classed as an In The Pines veteran. “It just feels like a big party. It's the one day of the year that you can catch up with everyone that you haven't seen in ages. I always see bands that I haven't seen, which is always a good thing - seeing new stuff that I maybe wouldn't go out of my way to see,” he says, while going through the line-up in his head and picking out bands he wants to check out on the day. “I really want to see some of the heavier stuff, like Suffer and Drowning Horse.”

Trash masters Suffer, who are working on a new 7” and, taking time off shows, decided to come out of hibernation when asked to play In The Pines. “When we heard the In The Pines offer was there we thought it could be cool because we might be able to fuck with the audience a bit or something,” frontman Micky Larkins jokes. “We'll try not to go too over the top,” he adds. With such a raw and heavy sound it can be hard to get airplay, but RTRFM don't discriminate, which is something Larkins isn't accustomed to. “We're more of an underground sort of cult band – I don't think we really have aspirations of getting played on some of the more major stations. We've been lucky with RTR and they've played our music and invited us to a few other gigs, like the Burn The Airwaves fundraiser and things like that.”

On the other side from trash you have classical psych-rockers Sonpsilo Circus. It's hard to miss bassist Ben McDonald with his wild hair and interesting choice of sunglasses. Kicking off the year with performances at the Big Day Out and Southbound, they've just started work on their debut album. He's in the thick of it when it comes to music, but during the shoot you could have easily mistaken him for an actual woodsman – sawing into a piece of lumber like there was no tomorrow. Being sucked up in the moment may have had something to do with the location. “I like being in and around trees,” McDonald says. “I really like the cover of trees because I like Lord Of The Rings and that sort of thing,” he confesses. “The fact that it's all local music is really cool as well.

“[RTR] have always been really helpful – whenever we've had a release coming up they've given us interviews. They gave our EP a feature when it came out and they really got people listening. For local bands that are just getting there first recordings together, they're a great station to give your stuff to because they usually give it a spin. Whereas, triple j don't play as much local stuff and with stations like 96fm there's just no hope,” he laughs. All five of them agreed that RTRFM offers listeners something that other stations often don't: “Good music,” O'Neill laughs.

“Good music and it's more personal,” Pavlovic adds. “And the announcers actually care about what they're playing,” O'Neill emphasizes. After an hour or so reminiscing and chatting about RTRFM, the end result of another successful Drum cover shoot was a heap of laughs, some weird and wonderful photos, and a sense that this year's line-up is going to have one of the best atmospheres yet.


CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Micky Larkins (Suffer), Natalie Pavlovic (The Big Old Bears), Sean O'Neill (Hang On St Christopher), Pat Mclaughlin (Sugar Army), and Ben McDonald (Sonpsilo Circus)


WHAT: RTRFM's In The Pines

WHEN & WHERE: Sunday 22 April, Somerville Auditorium, UWA




9.30-10pm       Sugar Army

9-9.30pm         Split Seconds

8.30-9pm         Kill Devil Hills

8-8.30pm         The Ghost Hotel

7.30-8pm         San Cisco

7-7:30pm         Boys Boys Boys

6.30-7pm         Sunshine Brothers

6-6.30pm         Apricot Rail

5.30-6pm         The Leap Year

5-5.30pm         SMRTS

4.30-5pm         Drowning Horse

4-4.30pm         Sonpsilo Circus

3.30-4pm         Benedict Moletta Band

3-3.30pm         Hang On St. Christopher

2.30-3pm         Runner

2-2.30pm         Suffer

1.30-2pm         Frozen Ocean

1-1.30pm         The Big Old Bears

12.30-1pm       The Love Junkies

12-12.30pm     Tusk