Julia Robert releases new work
This year, Cape Town-based art-punks Julia Robert released their sixth EP ‘Late Stage Dream’. With a slightly different stylistic approach than before, the band put together some of their heaviest songs yet. Musically, it is pretty raw. It combines the sound of 80s new wave and punk with modern production.
I caught up with Julia Robert to talk about the new EP, their lockdown experience and their future plans:
You’ve just released a new EP ‘Late Stage Dream’ – congrats! Tell me about putting it together in this strange year, and how it has been received so far.
The response has been positive so far! Without live shows to really cement a bond between the songs and our audience though it’s been tough and a bit detached. But we’ve had a lot of really wonderful messages from people over the last few weeks which have lifted our spirits.
The response to our lyric video for Starkes Mädchen was really amazing though. It really hit a nerve with a lot of people, which is always wonderful to see.
We recorded the EP at the end of January and slowly started building on it every day, from artwork to concepts around music videos, to a release plan with Now Now Just Now, to perhaps a little tour to Johannesburg. When lockdown hit, we obviously had to change a few things around and make some amendments to this plan, we ended up adding another single and stretched the release out a little longer, as there was nothing else we could really do around it, no shows, no physical ‘guerilla’ advertising like we did for Pop Bullies, no filmed content…
But we think the EP has been received very well and we are getting some love from outside SA which is nice!
So, with the new work, you touch on themes of self-examination, feminism, and raging against systems. Can you go a little deeper and tell me what each of the tracks are about and what you hope listeners will take from it?
Sick Day started as kind of a joke between Tara and myself. We wrote the whole track while Joao our bassist was off sick, which is why we called it Sick Day. Then Ines got hold of it and slapped some lyrics on it. Ines then explains the lyrics
It’s pretty literal. A working person who spirals out of control from one too many sick days!
But they’re also destroying the system right? One sick day at a time?
Yeah, we’re total badasses. Haha. So, ‘Rollergirl’ is about a woman obsessed with a man and wanting his baby real bad. There are sections in the lyrics where it is unsure whether the person is talking about the things she wishes to do with her baby or with the man. (lyrics like: “I can feed you, you can feed me. I can eat you, you can eat me”). It’s meant to be a funny song.
Starkes Mädchen is about people supporting and loving each other, holding each other up when we’re down. The track is in German, but you can watch our English-translated lyric video for it if you need some help making sense of the lyrics.
Then there’s ‘You Talk With Control’. It was a pretty dense song, musically and lyrically. The lyrics went through a lot of iterations before we landed up with what’s on the EP. Ines and I workshopped a lot of ideas, some great, a lot dumb, and finally settled on the final version a day or two before recording the vox.
The lyrics are a bit surreal but they more or less deal with the process of being in open conversation with your overactive superego. Like you’re talking to that lil voice that never stops in the back of your head, the one that’s sometimes judging, sometimes praising, sometimes criticising everything you do. It’s more or less an exploration of what it’s like to anthropomorphize that internal voice to the extent that you feel like you’re living with it, sharing everything with it; relying on it; loving it.
And how does this album’s sound differ from that of your previous work? And who worked with you to put this one together?
Long-time collaborator and band-auntie Warren Fisher mixed and recorded this EP. We did all the instruments at our home-away-from-home, The Fresh Meat Studio. The studio is run by Jacuqes Du Plessis from Mr Cat and the Jackal, he’s the best. He’s also our drummer’s partner, so he has to be nice to us.
We asked Warren to keep it simple, raw and edgy this time. He has recorded and mixed most of our previous work so it was easy to give him guidance as to what not to do versus previous releases. We felt that, even though our album Pop Bullies was received quite well, it was quite gentle, quite produced, and pretty sounding. So this time we wanted to take the opposite route and make something a bit uglier.
Yeah! We wanted way more liveliness in the recording and wanted to be less polished and much more frantic. We also got Nick Matthews (DJ Invizable) to put down some extra synth work on Starkes Mädchen. Really that track is probably the biggest sonic detour we’ve taken as a band; it’s got a very new wave, 80’s vibe.
Nice! So, how have you as artists experienced the lockdown so far?
I’ve really been diving deep into music production software. I’ve learned a whole boatload of tricks and things that will amount to a very sneaky release in the near future. It’s weird though because it’s been very solipsistic and removed for me so far. The band has only rehearsed a few times as a group. It’s been weird, no lies.
Totally, it’s been very quiet for us as a band. We were very lucky to have this release in the pipeline otherwise it would have been even quieterrerr! Personally, I have been doing nice things like the rotoscoped video for Starkes Mädchen. I also had time to create a business and managed to release a few other bands through Now Now Just Now. My housemates and I have also been fortunate to have a smol studio where we have been creating some dank tracks. But shhhhhh…
So many secrets in this band. Gawd.
Haha! So, have you done any live stream shows yet? If so, how did you experience it? If not, are you planning one?
We’ve just done two live shows this past week. Two very different vibes. One was for an Australian punk festival called Bandemic. The other was for Stoor Sessions, a very very very awesome thing put together by a local production company DPK and local sound geniuses Audiopimps.
You can still catch the StoorSessions show up until 27 August right here. If you missed the Bandemic show, there’s nothing we can do for you. Your life is now incomplete.
And what else have you been working on right now and what do you hope to do once this lockdown is all over?
We’ve got enough songs for a new EP, and then there’s some other weird stuff that is coming down the pipeline, very slowly. But it’s bad luck to say what you’re going to do before it’s ready to see the light of day.
Also some music videos with some awesome people, maybe? Perhaps also a Euro tour…
Don’t jinx it! Don’t jinx anything. Don’t say anything out loud. Don’t break the spell! THIS INTERVIEW IS OVER.