Single Tears

25 July 2012 | 7:30 am | Anthony Carew

"We don’t want to be one of those bands who’s continuously lumped in with something that’s already been, that’s thought of only by their references."

"I've cried listening to the album,” confesses Peter Bramley, the bassist in local indie-pop troupe Pop Singles, when talking about his own band's debut album, All Gone. His tears feel like that of a listener; shed not because of his intimate connection to the songs of Tam Matlakowski – and to the endless hours spent playing them – but due to his own take-away from them.

“Some of the lines just really speak to me,” Bramley furthers. “I don't relate it to what Tam is singing about, I relate it to situations in my own life; relationships with my family, with certain friends, with people I've lost touch with. The lyrics are quite heartbreaking, but there is a sense of hope in it.”

Just like Bramley's relationship to his own band's records, there's a duality to Matlakowski's lyrical study, which is both about his interior life and life within Pop Singles itself. “It's a snapshot of his life, and how we've been feeling over the past year as a band, and the tensions within the band,” Bramley explains. Tensions? What tensions? “How we've been relating to each other. Don't get me wrong, we're mates, we're good mates, but within any band there can be difficult situations. I can't really talk about it too much, sorry.”

All Gone does plenty of talking itself, from the languid, aching Are You Still There? – a succession of lyrical questions like “Are you still there?/Do you still care?”; and “Have I grown old?/Do I betray my weakness?” – to its single-colour cover art, a screen-printed silhouette of a hills hoist that verily heaves with evocative Australiana. “Having an Australian theme to it is nice, but the lyrics and the themes are fairly universal; we're not out to put across some kind of specific Aussie imagery or message,” Bramley says, dodging the tag.

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Yet, given how Pop Singles are so indebted to The Triffids and Robert Forster Go-Betweens songs – and how that, in turn, creates a resonance with fellow local janglers Twerps and Dick Diver – there's no doubting they're an Australian band. “Tam's definitely taken influence from The Triffids, from Dave McCombs' songs,” Bramley admits, on pressing. “But we don't want to be one of those bands who's continuously lumped in with something that's already been, that's thought of only by their references.”

Of course, their classic indie-pop jangle wears a host of references: the classic jangle just as steeped in The Bats and The Clientele; Bramley's basslines certainly from that Peter Hook/Naomi Yang school. The sound was first heard on Pop Singles' debut 2009 EP, and their debut LP arrives after a couple of, um, pop singles. So, what are we to make of their band's audacious and/or banal – or, perhaps, audaciously banal – handle, which evokes the very form of the institution itself?

“It's a name that's both really open-ended or direct,” Bramley shrugs. “Like, it's literal – y'know, we write pretty catching songs – but it also doesn't mean anything too specific. It's not really a specific, unique name, as such, but who cares, really? It's just a name. I know people can't Google us, but that's for other people to worry about; we don't think about it at all too much.”

Pop Singles' singles, and LP, have come out on Bramley's own bedroom imprint Vacant Valley, which was born, coincidentally, with the band themselves. “I didn't just start it to put out our own records though, it was the opposite: back [in 2009] I just remember feeling so inspired by so many things that were happening locally,” he explains. “I was reading about labels in the '80s, the classic ones like Touch & Go and SST; there's a book called Blunt about the underground music scene in Sydney in the late-'80s and early-'90s, which touched on all Australian independent labels like Black Eye and Au-Go-Go. I'm an impressionable character, and I've always had a lot of enthusiasm for music, so that inspired me to start doing it myself.”