Seaplane: Underwater Love

4 March 2002 | 1:01 am | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

I Need A Hero.

Seaplane launch Twisted Little Hero at The Healer on Friday.

It’s fitting that the video for the title track of Seaplane’s Twisted Hero EP was shot almost entirely underwater, because this is one Brisbane outfit whose music frequently shares the unpredictability of an aquatic experience.

We humans are less in control underwater than on land. Accordingly, Seaplane are a band who relinquish a great deal of control in favour of capturing a spontaneous moment. This spontaneity is clearly present throughout the Twisted Hero EP, 26 minutes of cascading, intertwining guitars, rumbling percussion and occasional bursts of catharsis.

“We started out improvising everything and some of that solidified into songs,” guitarist/vocalist Stirling Bartlam explains. “Some of the songs were quite structured, others had lots of room for improvisation. We had about 15 tracks, which we pared down to the final five.”

For a band known for improvisation, Seaplane’s Twisted Hero EP is a notably structured affair: its format is two double A-side singles, with an ambient intermission in the middle. That intermission is the haunting Burnt Sprinkler, with a percussive backbone that does indeed sound like a sprinkler system!

“Yeah, that’s actually a piece of equipment, but I explained to Bryce (Moorhead, engineer), that I wanted it to sound like a sprinkler. It was a bit of 1970s drum machine gear,” says Stirling.

When vocals appear on Twisted Hero, they come in the form of near-inaudible murmurs, distorted hollers and random streams of consciousness. They are never used as lead instruments or straightforward narrative tools, more as part of the musical dynamics.

“That kind of came about because when we started the group, no one was keen to be a lead vocalist,” Stirling recalls. “Right from the start, when we did songs, vocals came out when they felt like it. Lyrically, some of it is improvised, like Nation Of Spies, but other songs have quite clearly written down lyrics.”

Seaplane is a busy collective group of musicians, with Stirling and drummer Conwae Burrell also having formed another band called Young Endeavor and with guitarist/vocalist Dale Peachey the driving force behind Dollar Bar. I ask if it’s ever difficult to make time for Seaplane.

“Not really,” says Stirling. “At one point, though, Dale was in four bands at once. He’s only in about three bands now! I know he really enjoys Seaplane, because with Dollar Bar, he writes very structured songs. In Seaplane it’s far more open-ended.”

But this doesn’t mean Seaplane are all post-rock puritans when it comes to musical tastes.

“We like heaps of different stuff and we do like quite a few instrumental bands, but Dale is a big Beatles fan and that doesn’t really cross over into our sound at all,” Stirling observes. “We don’t listen exclusively to music that avoids structure.”