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Successful Trial & Error: Naked on the Vague

Sydney’s duo cum four piece Naked On The Vague’s unique style and aesthetic has been achieved in an almost accidental, or rather, circumstantial way. For a band that belongs to an almost unclassifiable genre, their sound stands out from those who sit in a similarly ambiguous state – and it has all been the result of simple trial and error.

“It all began when Matthew [Hopkins] and I found ourselves playing our first show in Brisbane with Kiosk and the Grey Daturas before we even have a name,” tells Lucy Phelan, the band’s primary vocalist and keyboardist. “Once we got back home to Sydney we were keen to keep it going and worked on getting things together, experimenting with different ideas. Starting the band was really exciting. It was a special time in the Australian music scene, where I think a whole bunch of like-minded bands and people found each other and were able to thrive. All I'd ever wanted to achieve with the band was to release at least one 7" single. It was very strange to us, but totally incredible too, to think that people were interested in our band.”

Their efforts and appeal have clearly stood the test of time, with NOTV’s latest offering Heaps of Nothing released earlier this year. More than a trendy, obviously curated accumulation of taste, the eight track album does not set out to confront, but rather playfully breaks down the ‘dark’ by oozing rhythmically carved out reverb with an arsenal of imagination. All the hot fuss is making for busy times for Lucy and Matthew, however when we caught up with the pair their focus was primarily on their new ‘fan funded’ art/music/film collaboration Twelve Dark Noons and the inevitable breath of fresh air that they’ve since felt blow across their brows.

“We are just about to head down to Lake Mungo National Park to work on a collaborative short film project,” Matthew relays. “It's with Future Primitive Films and the Sacred Bones and Night People labels. It will also involve a film clip for a new song, a collaborative recording between NOTV and Shawn Reed from Wet Hair, as well as a new 12" EP to be released on the Sacred Bones label.”

“We have a lot of film clip ideas, they’re kind of like these short narratives that drive the song,” adds Lucy. “Sometimes these ideas are totally absurd and hilarious. When we expanded into a four piece for this album we often used these film clip ideas to describe the vibe of the song to the rest of the band, and it actually seemed to work – Nic [De Jong] and Lachlan [Vercoe] are on the same page as us. Maybe because we're not trained musicians, a visual or narrative reference is a good thing to work with. The film clip ideas often sets a tone or particular vibe for the song which we can then work towards.”

The chemistry between Lucy and Matthew, both personally and creatively and visually and musically is a synchronicity that is rarely encountered, and one that appears almost effortlessly cohesive.

“Most of the songs on Heaps Of Nothing were developed when we were still a two piece, so once we added in bass and drums it totally fleshed out our songs and added a new element. We recorded, mixed and mastered the album entirely ourselves as a band and I think it was super important for us to have total control over the album because we had a specific vision for it,” enthuses Lucy. “Matthew and I both work pretty hard on writing songs and it's more just a matter of working through an idea. It’s really free.”

Setting sail up to promote Heaps of Nothing throughout July, Naked On The Vague’s tour starts in Sydney this Friday at The Excelsior alongside Holy Balm and Bitch Prefect before heading over to Europe and the UK later this year. Guaranteed to be an event of thrill and purity, there could be no beauty without some strangeness in the proportions. Watch this space.

words: Jacinda Fermanis


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