In a scene as small as Melbourne – or Australia, for that matter – it’s not at all shocking to see the name of one band member over the formation of another. The real test for the musician, as Gareth Liddiard, Erica Dunn and Lachlan Denton arguably all have faced, is to prove that the identity of each act can hold.
That’s the challenge Telenova, a new Melbourne trio made up of members of Miami Horror and Slum Sociable, successfully took on. With the release of their debut EP in just a few days, the new (ish) kids in the neighborhood have forged a sound that distances Telenova not only from each band member’s respective CVs, but also from other indie talent across the board. national.
NME caught up with the Telenova trio towards the end of a 14-day snap lockdown in Melbourne to talk about ‘Tranquilize’, a five-track collection that effortlessly jumps between chants from the dive bar and Thelma and Louise– style outlaw stories. While similarities have already been established between ‘Tranquilize’ and the iconic styles of Portishead or Massive Attack, the group says it’s primarily a marketing approach.
“All the references to trip hop, Portishead, Massive Attack – it all came after because we needed groups to help us position ourselves in [marketing] bios and stuff like that, ”singer Angeline Armstrong said NME.
“Honestly, I didn’t listen to any of these bands until I started making music. And now I’m like ‘Sick! Good music.’ It happened naturally. “
Armstrong, Ed Quinn (Slum Sociable) and Joshua Moriarty (Miami Horror) met in early 2020 during a songwriting workshop hosted by APRA AMCOS and hosted by former Death Cab For Cutie member Chris Walla. After being thrown into a room together and invited to write, the trio came up with the EP’s title track, an upbeat tune that layers Armstrong’s gossamer vocals over a groovy, hypnotic bassline. They continued to write music together after the workshop was over, and realized they had a decent catalog ready in no time.
What is clear from Telenova’s initial presentation is that they seek to make an impression that is as aesthetic as it is sound. Armstrong, also a filmmaker, cites the French New Wave, as well as writers Wong Kar-wai, Quentin Tarantino, Spike Jonze, Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry as influences. In her own film career, she was mentored by Baz Luhrmann and had productions screened at film festivals at home and abroad.
The clip for “Tranquilize” shows Armstrong fleeing law enforcement in the water after plunging a seduced audience into a deep sleep. It was filmed, in part, at a Titanic-themed restaurant and theater in the Melbourne outer suburb of Williamstown. The EP cover continues this theme of magical realism, showing Armstrong wading through dark waters, bathed in a cinematic neon glow. But that’s to be expected from a group whose name borrows from a sort of television soap opera.
“I’m drawn to urban environments that have real augmented reality or some kind of surreal element. It fascinates me, that middle line between something very familiar and recognizable, ”says Armstrong. It points to misty concert halls and opulent cinemas – spaces that emanate a sort of Lynchian energy that you can’t quite put your finger on.
Armstrong’s built worlds don’t just end with music videos. Each of her songs is a personal experience, wrapped in a metaphor and left to grow in her own universe. In other words, listeners are not supposed to identify themselves. Taking the pressure off of creating relevant music that resonates with a large audience means Telenova has a lot more freedom to experience the art of history.
“My whole theory about storytelling, creativity, and artistic creation is that it’s impossible to create something that isn’t from your own experience, somewhere deep down,” says Armstrong.
“I think people are like, ‘I’m just going to write from my own experience.’ And that’s why everyone’s words sound the same, like… ”
Moriarty interrupts, “Get on the bus, smoke cigarettes, rah rah rah!“
“Exactly! Like, ‘Remember that time we went for a drive and it was so romantic and now you broke my heart‘. But what if instead it was a lost highway and you were a murderer? Why not play with it?
“Otherwise, it’s fair”baby baby oh yeah i love you‘, and it’s so boring, ”Quinn adds. “What’s the use of writing that we’ve heard it a million times already?”
So, neither of you murdered anyone? “No”, “I don’t think so”, “I approached once”.
The band’s other single, ‘Bones’, explores the “disillusionment of romance or idealized relationship”. ‘Lost Highway’ and ‘Blue Valentine’ continue this theme, throughout the EP, of a tormented soul facing the demons of the past. “Comedian” is a healthier change of pace, with Armstrong just wishing to lift the spirits of a friend who’s got the blues.
Musical styles aside, another difference between Telenova and the group’s past projects is that the trio aim to contribute creatively in equal parts. Working together for a year and a half meant that Quinn was splitting his time between Telenova and Slum Sociable, who called him up in March with their latest EP, “The Street Of Dire Needs”. Moriarty continues to play bass in Miami Horror, but in this group is primarily a “facilitator of [the] vision ”from leader Ben Plant. With Telenova he has a greater influence on the musical direction of the group, working with Armstrong on the lyrics and the melody.
The Telenova trio have all heard horror stories about musicians becoming the dead weight of a band and vowed not to be that guy. “There are so many bands where someone talks too much and doesn’t deliver, or they come in late or they’re just useless or a control freak in some other way,” Moriarty says.
“There are so many different aspects of being in this world that it’s hard to deal with other artists you work with. But we don’t have any of these issues with each other; it’s just a really comfortable, fun, motivating group and it works.
“I think people are like, ‘I’m just going to write from my own experience.’ And that’s why everyone’s words sound the same “
Telenova will be supporting ‘Tranquilize’ with a small handful of tour dates. The band has spent so much time on a visual aesthetic, and the pressure is on to translate it into an equally rich live experience. They aren’t too worried, however; With the help of artist Rhys Newling, Telenova expects to use film projections and visual arts to channel the mood they have worked hard to perfect into a new dimension.
“I think we bring real raw, organic warmth to our performances, it’s kind of amplified what it is for us when we create in the studio,” Armstrong said.
“I’m definitely not being believed,” Moriarty retorts, “I’m fucking brilliant.
Telenova is in a kind of funny paradox. If all goes well and the rooms they play in expand, they’ll have to find new ways to make the space more intimate to keep their magical realism intact. The Lynchian jazz bar will be more of a state of mind than anything else.
Telenova’s debut EP “Tranquilize” to be released on July 2 via Pointer