I’m staring at bunch of horse-headed fellows in red capes. We’re about to submerge into the depths of the ocean and I still have no idea where I am…exactly. My only really clue is the word, Tangalooma. If you’re as unfamiliar with world geography as I am – then I suppose we have to rely on The John Steel Singers, (which, I have just learned, are these horse-headed fellows in capes), to lead us to safety. Worried about drowning yet? You should be…at least in their music. While this is no hot tub, I feel like I have traveled back in time, as my ears are doused in sounds reminiscent of psychedelic pop from the 1960’s.
Oh, go on and put that rescue raft away! Join Pete Bernoth (he plays the keys and trombone in this operation) and I on a magical carpet ride – except not because Disney has yet to make a psychedelic movie outside of Alice in Wonderland – as we discuss our whereabouts in this musical escapade and the rest of crew of The John Steel Singers.
ASHLEY JEAN: The album begins with the lyrics, “I propose we take our clothes off…” – so for this interview, I propose we do exactly that! Now that my shoes are off— why do you think humour (in all its variations) is pertinent to incorporate in songwriting?
PETE: I think that for the most part, people don’t really enjoy being sour bastards with a scowl on their faces. You can find joy in music without lyrics; playful tongue in cheek lyrics go hand in hand and multiply the joy factor by about 4.78.
ASHLEY JEAN: Pretend Tangalooma isn’t a place, or even a real word, and give it a definition in a way that defines you as people, not a band, but as individuals. And…go!
PETE: Sheeeeiiiiit! Tangalooma – The lost and tangled mind set of a group of young men at around 3:30 in the morning as they try and stay focused on the recording task at hand but fail miserably and get lost in repeated inside jokes and general tomfoolery.
ASHLEY JEAN:I read that bringing people on stage is something of a trademark for The John Steel Singers. Has anyone ever gone completely nuts and ruined the moment? Like, were they maybe too involved?
PETE: We had a dude from the crowd in Melbourne jump up on stage when we were playing “Rainbow Kraut” and take lead vocals in the chorus. He didn’t know the words so he made them up. It was awesome. He’d been up on stage a few more times with us – most of them awkward as hell cause we gave him a floor tom and he was way to pissed to play in time [with the music].
ASHLEY JEAN: Are there plans to add any other instruments to the orchestra you’ve already compiled? Something you’ve been wanting to try out? A glass harmonica could be a really neat incorporation, especially if you’re playing in bar, yeah?
PETE: A glass harmonica?? Is that from the 5th Indiana Jones movie? Indiana Jones and the Glass Harmonica. Poor Indy is locked in a jail cell and constantly being raped by George Lucas. His only solace is being able to play his glass harmonica during the downtime while George is distracted by telling himself how awesome he is.
ASHLEY JEAN: On the subject of bars (party!), I heard Tim’s parents liked to party. Do they ever come and party at a show?
PETE: Yeah if Paul (Tim’s dad) is in the area he’ll come along and have some cheeky wines. You can generally see him in the crowd dancing like a dapper older man.
ASHLEY JEAN: For those of us who haven’t had the privilege of seeing you all perform live, can you perhaps go into detail about Pete’s “marvelous” ginger hair? I think that just one adjective isn’t enough. We need an entire poem!
PETE: As the proud owner of said hair, it would be a bit conceited to blow my own trumpet as they say. That being said:
Like tangled vines of the deepest ginger, my hair flows from my head.
I would kill for your hair, it’s just so beautiful. The ladies often said.
The men aren’t sure to punch or fuck me, confusion in their eyes.
Luscious, wavy and all fucked up. He must be good in bed.
ASHLEY JEAN: Let’s talk tour. Now I see that there are a lot of upcoming shows in New York, but not anywhere else? Any plans for a US tour, soon?
PETE: As far as I know (I know very little), we’ll be coming back in March around SXSW time. But if the opportunity arises we will never leave…on the run from immigration. I’m keen as hell.
ASHLEY JEAN: We’re going to play pretend again, are you ready? Okay – let’s say Disney approaches The John Steel Singers to write a score for their latest animated/pixelated feature: What kind of movie do you think you’d be writing to? Something gothic like The Hunchback of Notre Dame or whimsical like, Tangled?
PETE: Do they do psychedelic Disney films? I’d like to score a psychedelic Disney film.
ASHLEY JEAN: Just curious: between Tim, Scott and Luke, who can hit the higher notes?
PETE: I have no idea. It’s between Luke and Scott. If I’m really hung over I can squeal like a girl, though.
ASHLEY JEAN: Alright, I won’t bother you with anymore questions. I lied. Just one more! (It’s more of a list, really.) Could you make a mixtape of the top 5 songs that you could dance on stage to?
PETE: You cheeky devil, just for that I’m only listing 4. I lied. I’ll do 5.
“The Underdog,” Spoon
“Underdog,” Sly & The Family Stone
“Laura,” Scissor Sisters
That drunk girls song…I think it’s called “Drunk Girls,” LCD Soundsystem
Originally published on Sept 28, 2011