First published by the Space Ship News 15 July 2014
The wobbegong, a carpet shark endemic to our coasts, is a shy, slightly bewildering creature known for its bottom dwelling tendencies. Such a harmless piece of sea life seems an odd choice for easy-going Perth rockers Doctopus to take as their new album’s namesake, but the band are quick to put it in its place.
‘We like snorkelling. And wobbegong… it’s a good word to say,’ says John Lekais, their alert and bright voiced drummer.
‘I hear they are the bullies of the ocean,’ adds drowsy-eyed, drawling bassist and vocalist Stephen Bellair as he leans over his cider, ‘According to a marine biologist friend. But I saw some while I was snorkelling once and they were chill.’
Doctopus are avid snorkellers. In this light, Bellair’s scream over Wobbegong’s title track, ‘I wanna live underwater with you,’ takes to further depths – for a band with one foot in the ocean, all this sea life banter is unsurprising.
‘It’s like a whole world that no one else has seen,’ says Jeremy Holmes, their scruffy, sleepy guitarist. ‘You look up and there’s people just sitting on the beach and cars driving past and then you look down and no one else is there. Just hundreds of fish. That’s crazy. No one else has seen those fish.
‘When you see something like a big sting ray, it’s pretty creepy – because you don’t know how it’s going to be,’ he says, adding with a smile, ‘But I’m just a scared sort of guy. Stephen would swim right up close.’
‘Water has a healing power,’ muses Lekias, with Bellair quickly jumping in to add with a sleepy grin, ‘That’s why I used all the hot water this morning. Water is purifying.’
When they’re not snorkelling at Mettam’s Pool, Doctopus are a mainstay of the Perth garage scene, blaring upbeat, bouncing rock under Bellair’s shrieking vocals in backyards, bars and roller derbies city wide.
‘Perth is popping,’ says Lekias, Holmes nodding along, ‘Lots of good bands, and new ones every week.’
‘I think it’s nice thing, when you get people and start a new band, you meet other people and they’ll say “Hey, let’s start another one,”…’ explains Lekias. They list a pedigree of Perth garage rock, naming the ‘incestuous’ Dream Rimmy, Hideous Sun Demon, Cool Band, and Kitchen People among their favourites, as well as Catbrush, Murlocs, and Dianas.
‘I will always and forever love to play with POND,’ mentions Bellair, nostalgic for their recent Australian tour with the internationally touring band. ‘Any chance to do that again would be great,’ says Lekias, with Holmes cracking a wide grin beside him: ‘Take us to America, please, POND!’
But Perth first. To launch Wobbegong, Doctopus are embarking on a whirlwind tour of five gigs, give venues in five days, the ‘Tour De Perth’ starting Wednesday at the Rosemount and finishing on Sunday with a gig at the Bird. The highlight of the tour is a place at the Perth Street Roller Hockey League’s play off party at the Claremont Showgrounds on Saturday, playing the backing for the ‘disasterpiece’ Wooden Spoon Death Match, played out in a makeshift ring at the Ellie Eaton Pavillion. Bellair insists it’s not too gory.
‘These people, they’re like puppies. I don’t think they’re even allowed to contact each other,’ he says, but Holmes interrupts him: ‘I heard there’s going to be a fight.’
‘It’s all accidental violence,’ explains Lekais. ‘There’s no malicious intent there, you know when you go on roller skates with sticks… something’s gonna happen.’
Touring with ‘country pop icons’ HamJam, Doctopus promise a flurry of intense, feel-good, high-energy and lo-fidelity gigs across the city to spruik the new album.
‘We’ve had these songs for ages,’ says Holmes, ‘We recorded Wobbegong like a year ago, but you know, when you’re doing it on the cheap it takes forever.’
‘When they’re doing it for free you can’t ask them to hurry up, you know?’ says Lekais with a smile, ‘And we’ve got everything done for a new one which we’ve also been playing a lot.’
Recorded with Shiny Joe Ryan of POND and Spinning Top Music in Bellair’s old house, the band are finally content with the seven track’s mix and ready to send it into the world.
‘It’s just whatever feels good to play together,’ coos Holmes, and Lekais smirks in return. ‘We’re just trying to keep up with Jeremy. He’s got a never-ending mind when it comes to guitar bits. I just try and join everything else together.’
‘John, you are like the glue. You’re a pretty sticky guy,’ adds Bellair with a sleazy grin. With all this sea life, does Doctopus have any savage drum lines of their own?
‘Ooh, hey! That’s awful. Don’t kill those wobbegongs! Let the wobbies live!’
‘INTERVIEW: Doctopus’, by Richard Moore.