Following the release of their acclaimed 2016 debut record Nullarbor 1988-1989 and subsequent hiatus, friendships reemerge to take the audio-visual collaboration to new and boundary pushing heights. Their new album FISHTANK features Nic Brown's beautifully disturbing soundscapes set against the evocative and at times disorientating visuals of Misha Grace. The result is an exploratory journey into, in their words, "what it’s like to completely lose one’s self in the world — and how to rebuild after." Each track is a harsh yet revealing episode through this journey, redolent of the kinds of experiences that shake and reconfigure the psyche, continually prodding at the core of what makes up our reality. Despite the albums sometimes disquieting qualities lies great beauty, with moments of tenderness jumping joyfully amongst the cerebral investigations into the self. Rarely do sight and sound come together so vividly and with as much success as on this album. Get ready for a truly unique and rewarding ride!
FROCKUP has been extremely lucky to have been able to talk to Misha and Nic about the album, their collaboration and what the future may hold for this truly dynamic pair.
"FISHTANK is a concept set on a non-linear timeline between the blurring of two worlds. The physical present (your world) and an alternative present reimagined and interpreted in fantasy known as FISHTANK. The narrative follows the descent of an individual through loss of self. A cold decline of skin shedding, emptiness and despair to come full circle at rebirth. Each track and video is a movement or scene cataloging each movement on the descent." - Nic Brown
Hi Nic and Misha. First of all, congratulations on your amazing release, FISHTANK. You announced its inception back in February 2019. How’s this wild year been for you and has the last 6 months in lockdown affected both the way you have conceptualised as well as produced this album?
N: Thank you xxxxxx
For me this incubation period has been mostly positive. It’s put my values into perspective and allowed me to interrogate myself at length - which is constructive, sometimes painful, but mostly constructive. I’ve been a little self destructive, but it’s hard to stay level in isolation. We have these grand visions for playing this release live - the setting, the interaction, the dynamic, the movement. These aren’t ready yet or not totally realised or developed. So having this breathing space has actually been great for me personally.
M: it’s been fine. this project was made in isolation so this covid stuff hasn’t influenced it at all.
You’ve described the album as a non-linear story, blurring together two different experiences of reality. The fantastical “present” is named FISHTANK, from which the album gets its name. This concept reminded me of a sci-fi plot, almost like it was taken from a David Cronenberg film. When coming up with your music, how important is the formation of the overarching storyline? Does this concept come first, or are the individual tracks, or ‘scenes’ as you describe them, created before they’re moulded together to produce the album?
N: Concept first!! As soon as we had that, the content (audio/visual/other) followed. I’ve always found it easier to develop a concept and write within the boundaries to those rules and narrative. Our development process is hours of conversation.
I love fiction and storytelling, maybe that’s why concept first makes the most sense to me.
You mentioned back in 2012, that as a musician you are “starting fresh.... after a billion different awkward music sketches that don't really fit together, finally found my sound.” This journey eventually progressed into the much-acclaimed Nullarbor 1988-1989 Album. What do you see as the major differences in your sound on FISHTANK to that of Nullarbor?
N: Haha, where did you find that quote!?
I guess Nullabor was written in a live music scenario for a live music scenario. It was looking out and getting inspired by the world and dance music. It kind of turned into a collage of my musical cues with these veins that was our identity. FISHTANK is much more insular. We weren’t playing live. We were inspired by the concept and wanted to create for that world. It’s probably a little more challenging than our previous work, but much more honest.
The striking visuals on this album are both incredibly intricate and compelling while also remaining accessible. We’re fascinated to know how these richly woven pieces come together from their many fragmented parts. Is it an organic process of trial and error, or do you have a clear vision of the aesthetic beforehand?
M: neither really, its hard to explain. there was never an idea. we didn’t mean to make fishtank. visually, fishtank pieces together candid footage collected from phones, photo booth, instagram stories etc. i used that footage simply because my health was pretty rotten, physically and mentally i wasn’t able to make new work and i was spending a lot of time in and out of periods of isolation. so as something to do to pass the time i played around with these snippets, i’d mess with, like, 3 seconds of footage from some night, see how far i could take it, you know. eventually these characters, and these landscapes formed, you know, all from my own psych, they kind of kept me company when I felt really lonely. Ye so all this was made from scraps I had access to. so the aesthetic wasn’t really intended or organic, i’d say it was consequential. kinda like those dinners you make from the scraps in ur fridge, you know. in that respect, fishtank is kinda like the meal. and when u watch it ur eating it.
You’ve travelled and gigged all over the world together, playing at some truly special events and venues. In Melbourne alone you’ve treated the local audiences to spectacular displays at The Mercat, Boney, Hugs and Kisses and the Liberty Social. These places are sadly no longer around, and lockdown has prevented you from playing gigs for the last few months. What have been some of your most memorable shows at these iconic local venues? And are there any venues or events that you’re itching to play at once everything’s open again?
N: Fuck, just looking at that list of venues is making me tear up. Our first show ever was at the Liberty Social, the guy who booked it, Dripsy, is now one of my best mates. Early on, we played Mercat with Electric Sea Spider and the This Thing crew - I looked up to everything they were doing, the whole night felt like this oozing pot of creativity and adventure. We played a ton of amazing shows at Boney, but my favourite memory was watching Collarbones play there on my birthday - love them, ps. BUY MARCUS WHALE’S ALBUM LUCIFER, IT’S FUCKING AMAZING!!!
I’ve travelled through time at Hugs & Kisses and left parts of myself scattered throughout the ether. Some of the best DJ sets I have ever witnessed/experienced/sucked into a vortex, were at Hugs - Female Wizard, Dj Kiti, Club D’erange.
Melbourne has given me so much. It’s shaped and exposed me to life changing events and artists.
Honestly, I’m not really itching to play any time soon, but I’m really keen to see what everyone has been working on and watch. M: I wouldn't mind fangin on some house parties to be honest, and touring, I miss touring. lol. It’s funny to think back on all those shows in those RIP ghost venues. was such a time. I mean it’s hard to narrow it down, who knows if it'll ever get back to sweaty grindin on the dance floor, I mean I hope it does. I just like it when people don’t give a fuck and let go of their egos
It's hard to think of a more ambitious and evocative project than this. This is a testament to you as a freshly united duo. Do you have any ideas about your next step from here?
N: Thank you!! I don’t really want to wait another 4 years between drinks, so I think we will just keep doing small things, video sketches, cartoons, audio books and just keep releasing. Enough of perfecting and critiquing and overthinking and just release and have fun with the process. Also, maybe some happy stuff… a banger or two couldn’t hurt either
M: Creatively, who knows. I just love my friend nic so much i don’t even care if we never make anything again. fishtank is our bond and kind of our own secret language, it bought us back together in this way that I’ll never be able to articulate, so I’m just so happy that we get to hang and drink and smoke and laugh together. so I don’t know maybe the future will just be dumb vids that only we find funny
But before you go, we saw that a while ago you released a Soulja Boy ‘Turn my Swag on’ edit on Soundcloud and talked about your fondness for making G-Unit remixes. Can we ever expect to hear anymore 2000’s Hip-Hop edits from yourself?
N: Hahahaha, this is exactly the territory I want to venture back into.
M: do it nic
FISHTANK was released on Anterograde & Dot Dash / Remote Control Records on September 30, and is available via Bandcamp and Spotify. To stay up to date with friendships, check out their Instagram, Facebook or Youtube.
Written by Sean Ruse and James Morgan