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You Don't Have To Be Anyone Special To Love Loose Tooth

30 July 2018 | 12:47 pm | Sam Wall

"I really like that, you know, simplicity and honesty. You don't have to be anyone special to understand or enjoy it."

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When The Music catches up with Loose Tooth at The Vic Hotel they're running a little late - their flight's been delayed. The trio have just been filming a clip for the lead single from their debut album, Keep Up, which involved getting airborne over Lilydale.

"We could only afford half an hour," says guitarist Nellie Jackson. "It was $500 for the two planes for half an hour, which is pretty good. I think a bit of a deal happened."

"It was very fun," adds drummer Etta Curry. "Beautiful sunset."

While we process that Jackson mentions that bassist Luc Dawson also spent the previous day "driving a tank". "That was an unreal experience, yeah," says Dawson. "I believe it was from the Korean War as well."

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"Does anyone want an almond?" asks Jackson. "They're roasted. Do you think we can bring 'em out, or it's weird?"

Since our chat the single, Keep On, has been released. The finished clip sees the trio travelling in escalating modes of transportation from roller skates and rowboats to horseback and fire trucks — and, yes, even tanks and small aircraft. Like the rest of the album, the track itself is a little wistful, a lot uplifting, maddeningly catchy and raised above the crowd by the trio's versatile harmonies. Each voice is idiosyncratic but wonderfully balanced, and the constant shifts in their vocal interplay — whether providing echoes and colour to each other's leads or joined together in one unified force — make every song novel.

"Especially since we're not like King Gizzard, with all our instruments," says Jackson. "We have got the basics to write a pop song but sometimes the challenge in that is making that diverse and interesting."

"You're not always reinventing the wheel with pop music," says Dawson, "but I think that's the beauty of it. It's just about continuing to make it more palatable and listenable every time, and kind of exciting but to still keep it honest. I think honesty is a very important thing, in this and in general, in music.

"It makes it accessible to everyone, if you can understand it, and - I really like that, you know, simplicity and honesty. You don't have to be anyone special to understand or enjoy it."

As the opener, Keep On sets the tone early for Keep Up, both lyrically — "Keep getting on, you will not be happy 'cause you don't know what you want" — and in the way it was conceived.

"[Keep On] kind of embodies, I guess, what the record's about," says Dawson. "Keeping on, getting on, progression. It was an example of one of the first songs we sort of collaboratively wrote, and it just turned out really well. So the whole album is, you know, we all wrote it together."

"That song, Luc had the verse idea and then Etta came up with the chorus," explains Jackson. "And it just worked out, so it was lucky. Not lucky, good."

"I thought it just sounded like a Devo song," adds Dawson. "'Cause that's what I had in mind for the bass, like, [imitates bass noises]."

It's been two years since their eight-track EP, Saturn Returns (Jackson; "I think we'd been flogging a dead horse, playing the other stuff for so long"), and some of the tracks on Keep Up were written around that 2016 period. "There's a couple of those," says Curry. "There's one [In The Morning] we recorded for the last one but it just sounded really bad. We were like, 'Fuck it,' and ended up redoing it and it sounds heaps better."

The album's extended gestation, as well as having three writers bringing in different ideas to then iron out together, meant that any deep-rooted motifs were realised more after the fact than planted. "I think," says Curry, "because we all wrote about it separately - we wrote different songs separately or together or however it went along - and it was over such a long period of time, probably the themes in the end, like with Keep On, have more to do with moving forward to the next thing, always moving forward. Not looking back."

Jackson agrees; "It's really hard when you haven't sat down and written an album like, 'This is about that break-up I had,' or, 'This is about some stuff that I'm feeling.' Like, some of the songs are about my sister and one of them's about just, you know, all different stuff.

"Saturn Returns was really based on heartbreak in different forms and this album, to me, has this overarching feeling of being settled as a band, feeling like we're a bit more settled in our band and we're a bit more settled in our lives."

Words like 'progression' and 'settled' come up a lot, and the band's confidence and experience show on the record — sonically and in tone. Will You Evolve ("Past the point of a joke") is less the emotional, scattershot response to being fucked around in your early 20s and more a measured dose of disdain for people who don't recognise the consequences of their own actions.

"The actions of others," says Dawson, "but also a little of our own experience and things we've done that we're not so happy about."

"Oh yeah," interjects Jackson. "One of the songs is definitely about that - my experience being a naughty girl."

"And yeah," continues Dawson, "my experience..."

"Being a naughty boy," laughs Jackson.