Grey Skies Down Under – An Interview with LOCAL AUTHORITY + “Negative Space” LP Premiere

WL//WH Interview WL//WH LP Premiere Local Authority

Photo by Jasper McDonald-Blair / Projections by Nadeem Tiafau

Hailing from Brisbane’s scorched underground, moody goth-gazers LOCAL AUTHORITY was originally the ambient-shoegaze brainchild of local artist Jacque McGill. With the desire to manifest and communicate the music into the physical world, friends and fellow members Rhos Pridham, Lachlan Andrews and, Erica Sunnex joined together to complete the group in 2018.

Within a short space of time, through the locally acclaimed self-released singles “No Joy” and “Oil Rigs”, the band have developed and refined a claustrophobic and immersive cold, atmospheric, dark guitar-driven sound infused with subtle melodic dream-pop sensibilities, and piercing reverb-charged guitar chords, combine to find admiration from both 80’s worshipping romantics and modern shoegaze fanatics alike, with nods to The Cure, late Michael Gira’s Swans, Ride, but also to Aussie darlings like the Church and The Triffids.

I had a nice chat with multi-instrumentalist and primary songwriter Jacque McGill

  • What were the trigger factors that lead to starting Local Authority project? Did you already have a set idea of how you wanted the band to sound or has it been a gradual process of discovery?

A bit of both really, originally I had this idea that I wanted to start a doom metal/shoegaze band, like a hybrid of My Bloody Valentine and Windhand. I think somewhere between the time of that original idea and before I went to record some of the songs, a bunch of friends and I were listening to a lot of old post-punk and darkwave bands, stuff like The Sound and Asylum Party, which I guess then shaped the songs I wrote into their completed form on the record.

Around the same time Rhos, Lachy and I all used to work together. We had been hanging out and jamming a bit, we were trying to start a new band as well. I got offered to play a show with the new songs I was working on for Local Authority, so I asked those guys if they were keen on bringing the project to life. Erica joined the band only recently, our album launch show in October will be the first time we’ve played the songs as this new entity, we are going to go deeper and darker.

  • Which impact Brisbane has had and still has on your artistic development? Is there a scene around venues/clubs/records shop and some sort of community between bands/artists? Do you have any tips about new local bands?

Brisbane has been so important and influential on my growth as an artist, there are so many special communities /collectives /people all doing cool shit that I’ve had the pleasure to experience first hand.
When I first moved to Brisbane a huge influence was and still is this quirky record store/guitar shop called ‘Tym Guitars’, everyone there has been insanely helpful over the years from helping me build my own guitars to being a general hub to discover new music, they put on in stores, put records out on their own label and help spread the punk D.I.Y ethos as much as possible which is really cool. Another one would be 4zzz, which is an independent radio station here that has clued me onto so much of my favorite underground music, both Australian artists and international, that I feel like I owe them my soul.
A shortlist of my hot tips on Brisbane artists would be Deafcult, Pleasure Symbols, Relay Tapes, Ultra Material, Start Together, Big Dead, The Steady As She Goes, Lizzard Wizzard, Ascot Stabber, The Belladonnas.

  • I read a while ago that the sound of each Australian main town had its own peculiar characteristics, for example, Brisbane bands are darker and gloomier due at its cold weather… What’s your opinion about this? What are Brisbane’s distinctive qualities?

I’m not so sure, I’ve visited some other major Australian cities but never lived in them and got the full experience. That statement may have been accurate before the internet was a big thing and it was harder to tap into scenes in other places, but I think if you look hard enough you can find amazing music through a variety of styles across the capital cities.
I will say however that Brisbane is stupidly hot most of the year, summer becomes more unbearable every year and makes it hard to do anything at all, everyone is hot and agitated a lot of the time, which is probably why there’s a lot of intensity in sound from a lot of Brisbane bands.

  • How much of your lyrical writing is from personal experience and how much is drawn from external sources? Is it an outlet to channel, in a cathartic way, all your struggles and negative emotions?

I kind of see songwriting and lyrics as just reinterpreting the world around you, trying to be open and honest. Reacting with things, feelings, drawing on experiences and moments. Almost like trying to soundtrack your own perception of life. With lyrics, I’m not much of a storyteller, so if I’m writing words they may as well come from somewhere real. Writing the songs on “Negative Space” like this was a huge cathartic process and really helped me grow as a person and understand myself.

  • Could you give us a deep insight into your debut’s title, influences, and recording process that have brought to the final result?

‘Negative Space’ is a term used in artwork and design I believe. Which in painting, typically refers to the ambient area not occupied by the main subject. I forget what era it is, but there was a movement in painting (Impressionism n.d.r.) where artists began to focus their attention more towards the physical space that their subject would occupy, blurring the lines between environment and form, and kind of challenging the viewer as to how the true mood could be precepted. I think that is such a good example of how the album sounds. The focus from the start was to put emphasis on the space around the songs, to portray atmospheres and environments, capturing lots of tiny details to make one hypnotic picture. We recorded most of the instruments like that, mic-ing up lots of amplifiers and different points in the room to kind of capture the physical space that the sounds come into and then leave, in effect blurring the lines between what is present and what is past.
Also for me, I feel like the songs themselves aren’t exactly “happy” songs, so there is a bit of a double meaning within the title.

Photo by Lennon Steele

  • What draws me in about is the overall strikingly stark, immersive trance-inducing flow of the album. It has a consistent building, at the same time subdued, claustrophobic and nocturnal atmospheric feeling, murky and cold. It injects a sense of desolation and emptiness. Did you, thematically, have an all-encompassing vibe/mood you wanted to portray? Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

Yeah, I think you pretty much nailed it there haha, I’m glad it comes across that way. Yes, I think there is a light in there…somewhere. It would be a really boring record if there wasn’t, you need to have contrast. The heaviest music isn’t necessarily the loudest in my opinion.

  • Do you draw on, or are you influenced by, any non-musical cultural resources (eg films, books, visual art) in your creative process?

Absolutely! A couple of friends got me into the author Kurt Vonnegut a few years ago, I love how the science-fiction themes cross over into eerie spirituality. Questioning concepts like god and death in interesting and humorous ways. There’s a paragraph on the first page of one book ‘The Sirens of Titan’ that I always remember, it’s something like “For hundreds of years mankind has looked to the stars for answers, built spaceships to explore further, always searching outward yet only found the same existence without end, only inwardness remained to be explored”. I always remember that, it’s worded so beautifully in the book.  I also love the paintings of Francis Bacon and the films of David Lynch. Similar but different, the way both those artists communicate pure terror and beauty in their respective mediums always amazes me.

  • The Australian underground rock scene of the ’80s was very popular in Europe especially in the second part of the decade, lots of bands had extensive European tour, I remember, just talking about Italy, The Go-betweens, Hoodoo Gurus, Triffids, Lime Spiders, Died Pretty, Celibate Rifles just to name a few… Does that music heritage have an impact on you? Which are your favorite bands of that era? Why in your view is it no longer so?

Yes definitely, my parents owned a lot of records from around then that I remember hearing as a kid, a few of those mentioned as well as Matt Finish, Ed Kuepper, etc. My favorite record from that time that I listen to today is “Starfish” by The Church, such a classic. I’m pretty sure they’re still touring and releasing new stuff 30 years later too which is cool, so I guess they’re still keeping the dream alive? I’m of the persuasion though that some of the best “Rock” music in Australia is under our noses right now, bands like Mod Con and Hexdebt come to mind.

  • Were there any pivotal records and live concerts that changed indelibly your perception of music?

There used to be a Brisbane band called Danyl Jesu that I managed to catch a handful of times, each time different than the last. The first time I saw them they were a duo consisting of tape loops, weird synth noise, minimal percussion, and the vocalist who just stood there with this massive industrial chain the entire time, shaking it menacingly every now and then, making direct eye contact with people and strange guttural noises into the microphone. It was like watching a train wreck unfold but I couldn’t look away, it was amazing. The best part about that band is that they only played a handful of shows, a friend of mine told me that apparently the vocalist had achieved everything that he wanted to with music and felt no need pursue it further.

  • Do you remember the first record you bought?

I’m pretty sure it was AC/DC’s “Jailbreak” EP, I think I still have the cd in my car somewhere…

  • Who would you most like to collaborate with?

Having Brian Eno record a Local Authority album would be a dream come true. Working with Phil Elverum (Mount Eerie) at his studio would be a time, I love the concept of those “Clear Moon” and “Ocean Roar” albums. Making a record with Boards of Canada would be amazing, imagine them doing their weird tape manipulation on top of our guitar music.

  • What are you currently listening to?

The new HTRK album, “Venus In Leo”, has been on repeat for me. So much mood and texture for something so minimal in execution.

  • Name your most treasured 5 all-time albums

That’s really hard! But from the top of my head,
‘Isn’t Anything’ – My Bloody Valentine
‘Apollo’ – Brian Eno
‘The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull’ – Earth
‘Tiny Dynamine/Echoes In A Shallow Bay’ – Cocteau Twins
‘Pop Crimes’ – Rowland S. Howard

  • Many thanks for being our welcome guest, just the last question: Is there anything I forgot to ask you and would you like to say?

Thanks for the questions.
Platforms like this for independent music communities are important and you should support them, some of the rawest art happens within our backyards.

Photo by Lennon Steele

WL//WL is pleased to premiere the full streaming of LOCAL AUTHORITY debut album “Negative Space” due to be released on September 27th, on a run of 40 cassettes and digitally, through Brisbane‘s new DIY label 4000 Records.

Heightened by an energetic rhythm section and icy grays of synth, the poignant combination of plaintive vocals and utterly penetrating, sharp-edged guitar melodies tearing the soul apart, will envelop the listener in a nocturnal, and spiritual introspective journey, pervaded of relentless empty desolation and loneliness, into the obscure and darkest depths of the human unconscious in search of glimpses for light.

 Just over half-an-hour of achingly sad beauty.

The hometown launch show will be an extra special event as it also marks the launch of brand new local label 4000 Records. Taking place on October 5 at The Bearded Lady. Local Authority will share the stage with fellow bastions of the local scene Syrup, Go On, The Double Happiness, Elder and Edith Thomas Furey.

Keep up with Local Authority:

Photo by Jasper McDonald-Blair – Projections by Nadeem Tiafau