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Nicholas Allbrook Grapples With The Great Australian Guilt

8 October 2015 | 12:19 pm | Hannah Story

"The guilt is the cream inside the proverbial Twinkie of my words."

"[When writing
, his new EP] I've thought a lot about a sense of belonging and nationalism, and how much I'd love to be a patriot but find it quite difficult because it's made quite difficult for Australians by Australians," Nicholas Allbrook begins. "The fact that no matter how much you want to feel comfortable we don't actually belong here. And an overriding sense of guilt, not just about that, but about everything in my life. I think pretty much all my lyrics are just shot through with guilt. The guilt is the cream inside the proverbial Twinkie of my words. It's guilt about not being there when your pet died, or drinking too much and thinking too little, or helping no one, not buying your grandmother a birthday present, through to the Great Australian Guilt which is looming over our heads every day.

"It weighs a lot of people I know down — not enough to actually cause any direct action. There's another reason for guilt, y'know, our generation being the most seemingly apathetic generation ever, a world of addicts. And that's more guilt again, it's just a big fucking spiral of guilt that gets built up again and again and again by telling people they're fat for putting milk in their coffee, and it's just a shame spiral."

"It's guilt about not being there when your pet died, or drinking too much and thinking too little, or helping no one..."

Walrus has been described by Allbrook as between "liberosis and lunacy". Liberosis means the desire to care less about things, but what exactly is the space between that and madness? "I suppose it's like trying as hard as you can to not care about your own life and your own success, or the way people look at you, and think about you; this desire to crawl into a little hole and go back into what you think is more pure creativity — but maybe it's not [pure], it probably isn't. The further you go along in life, or the further I go along in life, the more of a rosy sheen the past takes on. You think you were some kind of pure angelic cherub back in the day that just shat out innocent [records], and maybe that's got a little touch of lunacy in it."

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Allbrook says that after so long on the music scene, "You know people are looking at you, and that changes everything." He admits that must have influenced his music, even as he aspires to just be happy to put things out that he's comfortable with, music made because it's "what you need to do because you need to inside yourself". He says he wasn't consciously trying to avoid thinking about other people's expectations. "It's just something that keeps springing up in my brain in a kind of neurotic way. I have always been very paranoid about becoming morally corrupt or to want to keep kind of true to yourself, I suppose, at risk of using a cliche."

Are there any particular corrupting influences he has in mind? "Everything! I could go on back and forth with no particular conclusion about this, but looking around at a lot of what's around us, it's pretty rife with poison and corruption and hate and all this stuff. The more you notice that, the more wont you are to stick your head in the sand and be in your own world."

Of late it seems as though Allbrook has become more subdued on stage, restrained, after years of being a wildman at his band POND's shows — it almost seemed that Allbrook had deliberately shied away from being a traditional 'frontman'. "No, not deliberately, it started dying and made me feel terrible. I just lost a shitload of confidence, I don't know where it went, maybe I just dropped it on the bus or something, but like, it just left. And so I thought I should make myself useful by playing guitar and actually singing properly as well. Probably no one really noticed, but when I was jumping on people's heads and being a dickhead I didn't actually sing very well at all. I know it's a small price to pay, because most people want to see a monkey puppet getting thrown back and forth in a crowd, but yeah, if it's any consolation, it sounds better, whether you notice it or not."

That loss of confidence meant that Allbrook had some trouble in the past getting up on stage at all, but he says now he feels improved. "It's a very tumultuous journey, the old life of a homosapien, and at the moment I think I'm feeling a lot better, but nowhere near the kind of braggadocio that I had when I was a complete fiend. I think I've just got different desires now, I don't actually want to be that kind of guy that much, even though it probably makes a lot of people think like, 'Oooh, maybe NME won't put in a picture of us', or something, but I don't really give a fuck, to be honest."