Animal House – Interview – 2016

With its bustling and supportive live scene, bands are drawn from all over the place to come and set up camp in Brighton. But few have travelled quiet as far as Animal House. Hailing originally from Brisbane, Australia, the band has made Brighton their adopted home, and we’re sure glad they chose us. Animal House boil down all the best bits of mid-noughties indie-rock: the stomping rhythms of Kings of Leon and the smart, compact riffs of The Strokes. Harking back to the time of indie-discos, drain pipes and before Chris Moyles was an NME cover star. At their core, however, Animal House are a pop band. In thrall to the timeless art of the perfectly crated, three-and-a-half-minute pop song. And they’re certainly ones for mastering their craft. We sat down with the band, rhythm guitarist Jack, drummer Nick, singer and bassist Will, and lead guitarist Jean Marc to talk about visas, going out in Australia vs England and attempting to get a sponsorship from Foster’s.

You guys were away at the beginning of the year. How long was that for?
Jack – four months?

Will – We had a visa crisis.

Jack – Actually what happened was that Will stayed here… he just kicked all three of us out and we begged to come back.

Will – I ratted on them. I have a five-year ancestor visa while the other guys only had two-year youth mobility ones. So they had to apply for an ’exceptional talent’

Jack – So it says on our passport ‘exceptional talent’, which looks impressive.

So what do you have to do to prove you’re an exceptional talent?
Jack – Not show them any of our music.

Nick – No that’s not important.

Jack – Our application was just all of the shows we’ve played, festival appearances and any media and bundle it all and try and make it look nice.

Nick – About a hundred pages of blogs and reviews.

Will – Really rock and roll stuff.

Jack – They rejected us to start with so Will wrote a giant appeal letter because the rejection was really baseless so then they just sent back, “Yeah, alright then!”

What was in the appeal?
Will – It was something like ‘please, please, please let us back in’. (laughs) It was just calling them out on where they didn’t follow the criteria. It was funny because our appeal must have been about four pages long and they sent back probably three sentences. I thought it was going to be more grandiose.

That’s a lot of work to get back here. What do you think it is about Brighton that means you couldn’t just carry on the band back in Brisbane?
Jack – Brisbane’s got about two million people but with a music scene roughly the size of Brighton’s. Only the students go out on weekdays so once you’re not a student anymore there’s nowhere to go.

Will – I can remember arriving here the first week and looking on Brighton Noise (ed. Other Brighton based music blogs are available) and just trying to find out about gigs and going to Jack, “Jack! There’s a gig on Monday! And there’s a gig on Tuesday! and on Wednesday!”

Nick – And the fact you can go to most of them for free was just mind blowing. So we would just go see anybody because it doesn’t matter, it’s free!

Jean Marc – Europe’s on our doorstep and we don’t have to drive ten hours to get anywhere.

Jack – We don’t condone free gigs by the way. (All laugh).

Will – Never, never. If you want to tour in Australia it’s like ten hours between capital cities, it’s just so expensive.

Nick – And people don’t go to Asia and places like Singapore to tour.

Will – Although people are doing that now. We missed a trick there.

Jack – Haven’t missed it yet. It’s not just the music but it’s a really cool and vibrant town with good people. We made a group of friends within weeks. Although I think it helps that we’re Australian.

You still trying to keep up with seeing gigs? Anything that made a big impression?
Will – While these guys were away I saw heaps of shows.

Jack – We practice four times a week and work in restaurants to pay bills. So the gigs that I go to are the ones I feel I have to go to. We’ve got a great studio we’re all walking distance from. We got it just as our gear was arriving on a boat. So we picked it up from the port at Southampton and drove it straight to the room.

Will – Allusondrugs. Every now and then you see a frontman who is just crushing it.

You had your homecoming gig a couple of months back. Did it feel like a warm welcome back?
Nick – We played for like an hour! People were exhausted but they stood through it. So it’s good we have fans that are still here by the time we came back.

Will – There was a little bit of pressure because it felt like we hadn’t played as much as we could’ve because we were separated.

Jack – We hadn’t played together for five months. Not that was the first time we played.

Will – We got a couple of rehearsals in beforehand.

I hear a lot of my own youth in your sound, that mid-noughties indie sound. What did you guys grow up listening to? Or bond over when you first started the band?
Nick – The Strokes, Kings of Leon, Arctic Monkeys. Youth and Young Manhood was the album. I was the last one to join the band and all I knew about them was that album. So I just played like that and it just fitted so well together. It just worked out surprisingly well.

Will – Guitar bands playing pop music that people don’t realise is pop music. But it has that structure to it.

How was the tour you did in England?
Jack – It was really fun. And really stupid. We got a big orange van with stars along the side with a TV in it. We just thought we’re going on tour for the first time, so let’s just go large. We played to mostly no one.

Will – I can remember doing research on going on tour and reading: “Step 1. Get an inconspicuous van so no one wants to steal your things.” And then Jack turns up beeping the horn on some bright orange van with the American flag on the side.

Jack – It’s because I went to the hire place near London and they did it fairly cheaply and I was supposed to hire a black one but it had some kind of break down just before. So he just told me, “I’m going to have to give you this one.” It had a mattress near the top and we were touring at the start of winter. By the end it was just wet with condensation from the roof

Nick – We had about half a metre of space to sleep in. Sleeping with the roof literally by your nose and you can’t quietly roll over because your hips don’t fit the gap. We took turns over who was going to sleep in a motel and who was going to sleep in the van. And you go to take a piss in the middle of some suburbia emerging from bright orange van. While people are out taking their dogs for walks and you’re just like, nothing going on here at all!

Jean Marc – With beer cans falling out the door.

Jack – So many Foster’s cans. We tried to get sponsored by Foster’s actually. Just for the pure irony of it.

How did that go?
Will – We wanted to call it ‘fostered by Fosters’ despite it being the most politically incorrect thing you could have. Unsurprisingly they said no.

Jack – They sent an email back saying that we weren’t the right image for them. Not enough tan and board shorts.

Jean Marc – We should have appealed it. (All laugh).

Will – We wanted to have barbeques as well, with a Foster’s marque.

Nick – We would have sold out man! It would have been great.

Has your sound changed much from what It was in Brisbane to what its like now?
Jean Marc – It’s definitely changed, I mean we started Animal House here.

Will – We were playing much more poppy stuff. We were shocked when we got here and there were no pop bands. It was all grunge, psyche or really heavy stuff.

I think we’ve become slightly grungier and played heavy songs. It’s still pop music but every now and then something a bit heavier comes along. But what we write is party music. That’s what we do. Because it’s fun. Probably our most popular song live is ‘Hot Bodies’. Which isn’t a song you should take too seriously. When we first wrote it we thought are we really going to play this live? And then we did and it was awesome.

Nick – You realise the audience here like particular types of songs. Australia’s a bit more poppy, bit more electro.

Will – You can’t listen to unhappy music there when it’s about thirty degrees.

Your last single ‘English Girls’ I guess is the result of not being from here. What are the cultural differences?
Will – Maybe its just because the weather is so shit but people know how to make fun here. And I think mostly that’s what the song is about.

Nick – The biggest shock here is the party doesn’t end at two o’clock, there’s always another place or house party and then suddenly it’s eight in the morning. In Australia when it gets to about 1.30 you’re thinking about going home.

What are you listening to at the moment?
Jack – King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.

Will – I saw them last time they were down here and they just jammed the whole the time and it was so impressive having two drummers playing perfectly in sync for two hours.

Nick – You’re thinking ‘oh god I want to sit down’ after you’ve been dancing up and down for fourty five minutes but you also want it to keep going. What we were listening to when we started the band is different to what we listen to now. But we still love all those that we did listen to but there’s so many local bands who are just killing it and that’s mainly what we listen to now.

Jack – I remember when we went out in Leeds, instead of the DJ playing songs from different artists just playing an Arctic Monkeys album like twice back-to-back. It’s funny how there are bands like Oasis and Arctic Monkeys that people just cling to up there.

You’ve been fairly quiet since you got back. Are you biding your time for a new EP or anything like that?
Jack – We wanted to release an EP last year but a lot of it was constrained and governed by how we wanted to get this visa. It had very specific requirements and we thought the best way would be to release the single instead and then follow up with the EP. We’re releasing the EP in late October this year. So we’re playing catch up with those months. It was essentially an unwanted hiatus.

Nick – We were hoping it would only take two months but we got refused so we’ve taken a time.

Will – We’ve got the EP there and ready to go so we’re just trying to write more songs.

Jack – We’re adding a song to it so it’s not just what it was last year to give us something new as well. It’s cool because it’s given us a chance to write tons of other music.

Nick – We’re not pressured anymore by the visa to do PR stuff.

Will – It was annoying because we had all these plans but we might not be in the country at the end of the year. So we just couldn’t plan ahead.

Jack – We had half made plans to move to the Netherlands before are appeal was accepted.