Breaking: Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
The Aussie jangle-punk quintet harness the daylight on their just-released mini-LP Talk Tight.
MEMBERS: Fran Keaney (guitar/vocals), Tom Russo (guitar/vocals), Joe White (guitar/vocals), Joe Russo (bass), Marcel Tussie (drums)
FROM: Melbourne, Australia
YOU MIGHT KNOW THEM FROM: Their opening spot on Bully’s 2015 Australian tour
NOW: Basking in the release of their mini-LP Talk Tight
It’s nice to hear a band having a good time, and it’s even nicer to be invited. As with much of Melbourne’s recent musical output (the great Courtney Barnett, for starters), there’s no secret handshake necessary to enjoy Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever. They’re immediately accessible, with fuzzy guitars, upbeat songs, and major keys. A lot of this vibe has to do with the fact that the band is made up of brothers, cousins, and roommates.
“As a band, we’ve been playing…” singer/guitarist Fran Keaney pauses to try and quantify the time they’ve spent hanging out. “Three years?” guitarist Tom Russo offers. “Yeah, but we weren’t really doing anything a lot of that time,” Keaney says. “We were just sort of getting together once every week or two weeks, just having a pizza and some beers or some wine and trying to write songs.” They played live here and there, supporting local bands, before self-releasing an EP. Then they kept playing shows. “People seemed to like it, which was weird and great,” Keaney says. Then the Sydney indie label Ivy League contacted them, and the band realized they might actually be on to something. “We honestly hadn’t really thought to do anything, really, with the band,” Keaney says, “but you get some interest from a label and all of a sudden you’re like, ‘Oh, yeah!’”
“People seemed to like it, which was weird and great.” — Fran Keaney
The band does a succinct job of summing up their sound in their Twitter bio, which simply reads “tough pop” (and where they’ve abbreviated themselves as Rolling Blackouts CF). “We did start out, I reckon, a lot softer,” Keaney says. “We had a lot of really fey pop tunes, and then naturally, as we played live more, we sort of stumbled into a bit of a harder edge. But we started with a lot of really—” “Jangly tunes,” says Russo, completing the thought, “written without drums and bass. Just little acoustic songs. When you write them with the drums and bass in there, all of a sudden there’s this real lifeblood to it. The later songs have a bit more of a throb to them than the early ones.”
By way of influence, they immediately mention Brisbane jangle-pop heroes The Go-Betweens. “That’s been an obsession for the last ten years,” Keaney says. “They’re sort of an everyday thing. There’s a lot of bands in Melbourne who’d say the same.” Russo and Keaney go on to explain that there’s a lot of bands in Melbourne, period. The music community there is a force, going so far as to march by the thousands through the streets to protest the government’s recent threat to close local independent venues.
There’s such a warm nostalgia to everything about Rolling Blackouts CF. It feels like these guys grew up down the block from you, their band practices reverberating throughout your neighborhood, and now they’re actually doing pretty damn well for themselves. On “Wide Eyes,” they sing, “When I hit South Dowling Street, I know where I am / I have a fortunate life, gonna see what I can.” Talk Tight’s lyrical subject matter also includes crushes, breakups, and moving. After all, the guys aren’t too far past their formative years—but really, who is? When do those end? Things like this are endlessly relatable.
At the end of the day, though—and at the very beginning—Rolling Blackouts CF just wanna have fun. Russo and Keaney both agree that they’re trying to encapsulate a specific, universal feeling. “Something about that excitement that you’ve got when it’s a cracking day, particularly in the morning,” Keaney says. “There’s that softness in the air and there’s that possibility, and you just don’t exactly know why you’re so thrilled, but you are.” FL