Sugar Army on the march

5 May

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Local indie outfit Sugar Army scored a whopping five nominations in Thursday night’s WAMi Awards – most popular act and most popular video, plus best male vocalist and best bassist for, respectively, Pat McLaughlin and Ian Berney.

That’s pretty impressive given they’re on equal par at the gongs with independent stalwarts Birds of Tokyo and they’ve only been surpassed in nominations by Modular label darlings du jour, Tame Impala and Gothic country rockers, Kill Devil Hills, who pulled down 10 and eight nods respectively.

“It wasn’t really our year – we just did a hell of a lot of touring and writing,” Berney says. “We didn’t really push for any attention. The year before we put our first EP (Where Do You Hide Your Toys) and then we got a nomination, which was really nice. But we’re quite stoked we’ve got some nominations even though we haven’t had a year for that kind of accolade.”

Some might beg to differ. While they might not have released anything until recently, they have been steadily building a fanbase via extensive touring with the likes of Gyroscope, Cog and, most recently, Good Cop Bad Cop label mates Harlequin League.

Their new single Acute is getting airplay on Triple J and their debut album is scheduled for release on July 11.

“We’ve taken every step towards trying to gain a strong stature in the Perth music scene and hopefully the national one,” Berney says. “We should be really exhausted by now but I guess we’re really pumped up and excited to be putting out the album.”

Produced by Dave Parkin (Snowman, Red Jezebel) the album is a culmination of about a year’s work, with the bulk of the writing done three months prior to being holed up recording at Blackbird Studios. The album’s currently in the mixing stage – so there are plenty of details still to be finalised.

“We have recorded 12 tracks, but there are some segway ideas around now, where we try to string songs together,” Berney says.

“So there could be 38 tracks, there could be nine tracks, we haven’t decided what to keep, what to cut and what to add yet.” There is one thing that has been more or less decided on by the band – the name of the album. So brace yourself for The Parallels Amongst Ourselves, a title which should spur discussion amongst fans.

“It’s the story of the entire album, where we discovered similarities amongst ourselves – certain individual concepts or thoughts that you felt you only had, and then realising that other people are experiencing the exact same thing because everyone is in the same headspace,” Berney says.

“So that’s what we tapped into on this album, writing about the parallels amongst ourselves. Probably a more specific example is with our first single Acute. The idea behind that song was to express the dichotomy of working for money and perusing something passionately, which doesn’t exactly compensate for what you actually need to survive.

“I think everyone I know has that problem. They either have an awful job that gets them by, or they have something they really love doing, but they can’t make it a sustainable career or future.”

While the band gel in more ways than just musically, there are some differing opinions as to what is required to hit the big time.

“We all have a different perspective on how the band should function,” he says. “I guess it works quite well in a diplomatic sense.

“For example, certain members are extremely artistically driven and think no ‘commerciality’ should push us in any direction that creates fodder in music.

“And then others are like, ‘I’m sick of what I’m doing as a day job – if we just do this in a more unique way, but still adhere to certain commercial responsibilities, we could make this work for us as a lifestyle’.

“The fascinating thing I find with this band is that we’re always fighting and pushing each other. But at the end of the day artistic and commercial responsibility can work harmoniously.”

The WAMi Awards will be held at Metro City on May 7. Sugar Army play the Saturday Spectacular at Metro City on May 9 and the all-ages City of Melville Showdown at The Vault in Melville on May 10, 1-6.3-pm (entry is free). Tickets to the awards and Saturday Spectacular via Moshtix outlets.

[As printed in The West Australian newspaper on Thursday April 30, 2009]

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