Scraps from Melbourne’s Modern Culture Clash // An Interview with NO STATUES

WL//WH Interview   NO STATUES

Photographer: Phoebe Thompson

Naarm/Melbourne-based 3-piece band NO STATUES have just dropped their highly anticipated second EP, “CAUGHT IN THE WEB” via fellow DIY label Honeyglider Records, the follow-up to the band’s 2020 debut Cassette, featuring two instrumentals and two vocal tracks, teetering between moody Post-punk edginess and introspective synth-laden New Wave, fuelled with tortured emotive baritone and lyrical malaise.
Let’s pleasantly get “Caught In the Web” with PakistaniAustralian frontman Ali Mustafa (vocals, synth, guitar) along with Alice (synth, vocals) and Matt (bass).

  • Thanks so much for the interview. Please, let’s talk about the genesis of? How did you meet? What attracted you? How did you come up with your name?

Alice and Matt already knew each other and played in a band called Boyparts. Then we all met a few years later and connected over music and shared interests. Ali had an idea for a project and so we started the band. NO STATUES came from the Solid Space song ‘New Statue’. We also think it’s a change we’d like to see in the world. There are far too many statues of dead colonial men in Australia.

  • What were the artistic and musical influences and inspirations that informed the band? Others have been added over time?

Our initial sound was influenced by bands like early Blitz, Orion (Sydney) and other Post-punk bands like Sex Tourists, Total Control and 80s classics – New Order and Depeche Mode. Over time it has moved away from the 80s and embraced darker cold wave sounds, taking inspiration from bands like the Chameleons, The Teardrop Explodes and Echo & the Bunnymen.

  • Please, give us your take on the ever fervent Melbourne’s underground musical community/music scene are you part of. Which peculiarity and impact had and still has on your artistic creativity? Could you recommend any new bands as well?

ALI: People in Melbourne are always putting out music and putting on shows. Whether bands stick around for a while or only put out 1 or 2 things or just play a show it is always interesting to see people collaborating and trying new things. Early on we met our good friend Rory (Serf) and we were really influenced by his sound and the way he put his live show together. I used to work with Tom from T.B. Ridge the Director and Constant Mongrel and he showed me a lot of good punk music that steered me away from my toxic obsession with shoegaze. Melbourne always has new good bands, I really liked the new Rebel Yell single, and we really want to play a show with Full Fleshed soon.

  • The lyrics are very descriptive and cathartic in ‘Keep It Quiet’ and give the listener the ability to, perhaps, understand a little bit of how it feels to be a Pakistani-Australian post 911. “Time Has Passed” elicits instead a bittersweet dreamy nostalgia of the 80s

ALI: The lyrics are a first-hand account of situations I have found myself in like airport security, random police stops and general racial profiling. The chorus is about having to hide your identity for the sake of saving face in White Australia. “Time Has Passed”— although it sounds pretty different—is lyrically connected. It’s a more personal account of how two cultures can clash in a household, except more pensive and less abrasive.

  • What is your approach to songwriting and recording? How cerebral and how instinctive is your creative process?

ALI: We usually bring an idea to practice like a catchy hook, bassline or synth part. We will kind of figure it out then make a few separate parts and figure out a structure then decide what it’s going to be about. The process of writing a song isn’t quick and I like to think it out and workshop it.

  • The new release comes after a long hiatus following the 2020 debut, which had attracted the attention of many music aficionados. Could you give us a deep insight into the ups and downs, also passed through the pandemic period, which have somehow shaped it in every aspect?

ALI: Melbourne was in lockdown for a long time during COVID which stopped us from playing live shows. Luckily we lived together so we were able to write and play music. I think the malaise of the pandemic meant that it wasn’t very productive but we thought about the projects we might pursue after restrictions eased.

  • I’m intrigued by the cover artwork, could you explain it?

ALI: The cover artwork is very heavily influenced by the New York hardcore band Haram. It reminded me of something that I would have seen in a mosque because it had such a striking design. In Islamic culture, because iconography is banned they manipulated Arabic text to make powerful images. The spider is linked to the literal and metaphorical meaning of being CAUGHT IN THE WEB The art was designed by Xavier Irvine based off a scribbly drawing. It says “NO STATUES” in Urdu.

  • The EP is made of the single “Time Has Passed” infused with melancholy and dreaminess and the more urgent, dark and moody “Keep It Quiet”, interspersed by two instrumentals, please let’s talk about it…

In the modern world of streaming, we didn’t want to make something that was entirely based on playlists, we wanted to make something that was nice to play through. Hopefully, when people listen they experience a miniature album with the ebb and flow of a full-length LP.

  • “NO STATUES consider the modern condition—identity, profiling, marginalization & nostalgia…will we ever come unstuck?” Do you feel progress has been made in any of these areas? How do you, as a Pakistani-Australian, feel in Western culture today? Misunderstood, alienated, accepted, oppressed…

In ways, it has progressed. Left-wing people and young people are moving towards a common goal of acceptance and equality. But Sonia Kruger also won the Gold Logie last month and Pauline Hanson is still mouthing off plus there’s a rise of dangerous right-wing ideology worldwide. Fear and islamophobia are still rampant and seen across the world. It’s still a deep-rooted issue that returns when people are feeling threatened.

  • Do you enjoy playing live and touring? What are your highlights and lowlights so far? Do you remember your first gig?

We’ve actually never toured (apart from a show in Beechworth in regional VIC) but we really enjoy playing shows and we think our music sounds best in a live setting.

Lowlights are the issues with our gear and setup. We have a bag of constantly tangled cords. The highlight is playing alongside SERF at his launch and with Gutter Girls and Constant Mongrel.

Our first gig was with one of Ali’s former bands, Long Lunch, at the Pinnacle in Fitzroy. I think it went ok. It’s a really small narrow room so it seemed full.

  • A song that defines the teenage you?

Ali: “Shadowplay”Joy Division

Alice: “Half a Person”The Smiths

Matt: “Bullet with Butterfly Wings”Smashing Pumpkins

  • Which bands would you love to make a cover version of?

We’ve always wanted to cover “Eyes Without a Face”Billy Idol and it would be an impossible challenge to cover Billy Joel.

  • Which artist/musician would you most like/dream to collaborate with?

ALI: Rachel Goswell of Slowdive – it’s a long shot but if we’re talking dreams. I’d also love to collaborate with Nader Haram.

  • Which band/s, concert/s, or record/s have been fundamental for you, those that have changed somehow forever your perception of music and influenced indelibly your art/life

ALI: Fundamental for me is things that I will always return to. Shoegaze classics like “Souvlaki” by Slowdive & “Split” by Lush, quintessential 80s albums such as Tears For Fear‘s “Songs from the Big Chair”, Echo & the Bunnymen‘s “Ocean Rain” and modern Australian classics like “Typical System” by Total Control, “Spiritual Healers, Defense Lawyers” by Eternal Dust.

  • What records are you most intrigued by and do you listen to the most lately

ALI: I’ve been really into “An Object In Motion” by Drab Majesty. It’s cool to hear a band with such strong synth roots play psychedelic drone-“like music. I’ve also been listening to the compilation “Naya Beat Volume 1: South Asian Dance & Electronic Music 1983-1992” a lot. It exhibits some of the cool music being made in that part of the world with the spread of synthesizers, sequencers & drum machines.

  • Many thanks for being our welcome guest. Just the last usual questions: your plans for the near future and maybe if you have something to add?

Thanks for having us! hopefully, we can continue to make music, We’d love to do a full-length record somewhere down the line. For now, we just hope people enjoy the EP and the merch.

No Statues‘ second EP, “Caught in a Web”, is out now on colored  7″ vinyl format via the independent label Honeyglider Records.

The band will be celebrating the release of “CAUGHT IN THE WEB” with a launch party on Friday 22nd September at Nighthawk’s, Collingwood, with support from Maxine Gillon and DLVRNC.

Keep up with No Statues: