Unique Webs

25 July 2012 | 8:15 am | Steve Bell

“We sort of started out doing weird production in the beginning, and we were always trying to make ourselves uncomfortable in the songwriting, and not just be conventional... If we were starting to write songs with standard structures we were always like, ‘Hold on, that’s a little bit obvious’, so we were trying from the outset to something a little bit different.”

They're a difficult band to pin down their sound, Tiny Spiders. It certainly isn't anything like their name suggests, their particular brand of noise-pop far louder and more abrasive than anything you'd imagine emanating from a group of miniscule arachnids, and also far less abhorrent than that imagined bunch of creepy crawlies.

The duo – guitarist/vocalist Innez Tulloch (Feathers, Pastel Blaze) and drummer/vocalist Cameron Smith (Ghost Notes, Mt Augustus) – have been playing around the traps for a couple of years now, but it's only been in the last 12 or so months that they've been drip-feeding tracks from their most excellent self-titled debut long-player to radio and the internet that the buzz surrounding them has reached a crescendo. Their sound is at once completely distinctive but also distantly familiar, as if the band who they remind you the most of is on the tip of your tongue and will come to you any minute, only it doesn't. There's a definite '90s vibe happening there somewhere – occasionally Smith's vocals sound like Lou Barlow, only if he was fronting Polvo rather than Sebadoh – but it's all filtered though contemporary noise sensibilities of acts like Lightning Bolt and Les Savy Fav, the clash of heaviness and melody occasionally jarring but key to their appeal.

“We started about two-and-a-half years ago, I guess,” Tulloch recalls. “We were actually going to be a three-piece, but the third person sort of pulled out one day and then it was just the two of us, so we ended up just staying that way. I think we were always wanting another person – someone on stage playing a different instrument, probably keyboards or something – but we just never got around to asking anybody, so we just sort of fell into [being a two-piece].”

Both band members are extremely active in the Brisbane music community, but making Tiny Spiders sound apart from any of their other bands was more of an organic happening than a preconceived mission. “I guess so, it's been through a few stages but it was always different to our other bands straight away,” Smith reflects. “It wasn't something that we really thought about too much – Tiny Spiders sounding different to our other bands – it just automatically was. I guess we were wary of sounding like other more popular bands, but I don't know: I guess I've never listened to Tiny Spiders and thought that we sounded like any one particular band. I can hear a whole bunch of different bands when I hear it, who we're into and who we've cherry-picked from here and there, but I can't say that Tiny Spiders sound like anyone I'm aware of.”

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

“We sort of started out doing weird production in the beginning, and we were always trying to make ourselves uncomfortable in the songwriting, and not just be conventional,” Tulloch continues. “If we were starting to write songs with standard structures we were always like, 'Hold on, that's a little bit obvious', so we were trying from the outset to something a little bit different.”

“Whenever we were writing a song and it was too much of any one thing, you'd always try and throw a curveball in there in some way to make it different – we'd look at the song and hopefully try and find a way to make it better,” Smith agrees. “It was all slow and quite intuitive. We had this idea that we wanted it to be loud and really energetic, and we wanted to mix the accessible with something a bit more intangible.”

Tiny Spiders' marriage of noise and chaos with melody and pop hooks came naturally to the pair (“it just writes itself,” laughs Tulloch), but it still took a while to refine the band's sound to its current state. “It's true, it's kind of just how it comes out to an extent,” Smith chuckles. “Sometimes I'll be sitting around playing on the guitar and I'll write a riff, and when you listen back to it on its own it can sound so ridiculous or so cheesy, and I think sometimes it requires a leap of faith to go, 'It's alright, it's allowed to sound cheesy like this', because when we play it in its proper environment and mix it with the volume and the heaviness it becomes a kind of untasteful, weird thing – it's still got that inherent fashion-ness to it, but it's mutated into this other thing which is a lot more satisfying than if you just play it straight. You could play a lot of these songs in a straighter manner and they'd probably sound pretty ridiculous, really.

“It took a little while to actually figure out what the band should be. We had this idea at the start, and we were just messing around with some singing things and some songwriting things and we couldn't get it to all gel for whatever reason, but eventually we figured out what worked and what didn't and what needed to be changed – we lined up what it was with what we felt it probably should have been.”

The pair started putting down the tracks for the album almost as soon as each song was written – courtesy of them having access to both Smith's Incremental Studios and Tulloch's home set-up – but the finished product isn't a million miles removed from the awesome racket that the pair produce on stage. “It's probably a bit looser than the album,” Tulloch ponders of the Tiny Spiders' live feel.

“Yeah, it's pretty much the same except a lot messier,” Smith agrees. “It's still pretty big even though it doesn't have quite the same layering – even though there's not exactly multiple guitar parts on the record there's multiple tracks of guitar to make it sound big, so live we have to rely on our amp and pedal configuration and play it all really loud to get that same effect. Just louder and messier.” 

And to help launch their album next weekend Tiny Spiders have called on a cross-section of the Brisbane indie scene, making for what promises to be a scintillating celebration. “We wanted a fairly varied line-up, because we've been moving between all of these different bands and scenes so we wanted to get a few different things happening,” Tulloch tells. “It's pretty perfect with Green Nose and Golden Bats and Undead Apes – they're all quite different, but they're all on the same page from a musical perspective and they know where we're coming from.”

“I think if you took those three bands and drew a Venn Diagram, then we'd probably be in the middle,” Smith laughs. “You look at any one of those bands and us and you can see a little bit of a link there, but when you have all three of them and us, it's like, 'Oh okay, yeah, that makes real sense now'.”