Who: The Twerps @ ‘Monday Night Mass’
Where: Nothcote Social Club, Melbourne
When: May 6th 2013
As I enter the front bar of the Northcote Social Club the place is already a hive of activity, for what is a crisp Monday night. With tonight being my first time venturing out to this free weekly music night for up and coming local acts, its quite evident that headliners The Twerps have drawn a large crowd, albeit with a slight whiff of hipster in the air. Each week a minimum of three bands or solo artists take to the stage, and so for this weeks installment, the two opening acts are Smile and Mad Nanna. Due to a combination of my bad timing along with the long wait at the bar for some much needed pints, I unfortunately miss the former. I will just have to catch them next time round.
A friend of mine had mentioned that Mad Nanna were a little bit of an oddity, with a slice of dark humour thrown in for good measure. That folks was a tad bit of an understatement. The main room was well over three quarters full by the time I got in, with Mad Nanna having only just taken to the stage. I am still a little confused as to whether the noise that emanated from the three piece, was of a band playing to the best of their abilities, or just dicking about for the hell of it. If it was the latter then they were seemingly reveling in it. The vocals were pretty much the worst thing I’ve ever heard in a live setting, while their lo-fi noise at times – and that is the best word that springs to mind – was excruciating on the ears for the most part. Now I enjoy loud music as much as the next person, even extended feedback, but I can’t really put into words what it was these guys were attempting to pull off tonight. Imagine a cat being thrown into a blender and you’re halfway there.
For a room that had such a large crowd, you could at times nearly hear a pin drop at the end of most songs, bar the odd clap or holler of approval. Whether it was due to shock or disbelief on the crowds’ behalf, or indeed a mixture of both, I felt awkward for the band. However it didn’t deter Mad Nanna from continuing to play on, as they did have some fans in the crowd. The bassist had his back turned to the audience for the whole performance, while on more than one occasion it seemed as if the three guys were playing three completely different songs at once, with the drummer bashing away at a much faster pace to that of his band mates. To be fair I may not have seen them on a good day or just simply didn’t ‘get’ them, so perhaps I’m being a tad harsh. Maybe I’ll given them another go? Maybe.
Next up was local favourites The Twerps, a band that a few mates had talked positively about on more than one occasion, since my arrival to Melbourne. Having been told they play a mixture of jangly guitar based indie pop and lo-fi, alongside harmonising vocals they ticked alot of boxes that appeal to me. The four piece, which consist of Marty Frawley on guitar/vox, Rick Milovanovic on bass, Patrick O’Neill on drums and Julia MacFarlane on guitar and backing vocals, have been honing their sound since 2008. Having put out a variety of singles, cassettes and EP’s on various labels since they got together, they released their self-titled debut album at the tail end of 2011, on local imprint Chapter Music.
By the time they appeared on stage, the room was chock-a-block, with every available nook and cranny taken up. This resulted in the place getting pretty damn hot and sticky rather quickly. Basing myself right in front of the sound desk at the rear of the room, I was hooked from the moment the first verse of opening number was complete. It transpires this is a new song and is still untitled! Centre stage is Frawley, whose eyes somehow see through his mop of Kevin Shields – of My Bloody Valentine fame – inspired hair. He is a fairly confident front man, very much at ease with a room full of devotees bopping and singing along to his band’s songs for the duration of the set.
Next up is “Someones Changed” from their debut 2009 EP, which has an obvious Flying Nun Records and C86 sounding vibe to it. Last year they put out a 7″ of new material and one of the b-sides “He’s In Stock” gets a great reaction from the crowd. The Twerps are a tight unit, with no instrumentation overshadowing another one throughout. Two more new songs “Stranger” and “Slow Song” follow suit, and sit very easily alongside older material. The latter of which is just a working title, and also has MacFarlane taking up lead vocals for the first time. By the reaction they both received I’d say The Twerps’ are heading in the right direction. The opening chords of “Work it Out” lead to a bit more movement in the dancing department up front, which is something I haven’t noticed happens too often en mass at gigs here in Melbourne!
The fourth new number of the evening “Feelings” contains lyrics concerning the protagonist hanging around with the crowd, and in doing so wasting somebody else’s time. Whether this is a true life event that has been put to music I’m not sure, but it sure as hell works as a song. At times the band seem quite taken aback by the feedback from the audience as the night goes on, yet they continue to give off a carefree attitude which only adds to their appeal. The quieter voice of Julia MacFarlane once again comes to the fore on new track “Shoulders”. It is something that works for the band, as their momentum is never quelled whenever lead vocals are switched around. The rhythm section of O’Neill and Milovanovic work wonders together, with the drums being pounded profusely on more than once occasion during the set.
Sentiment plays a part on the ninth song of the evening as “Dreamin”, the first track off their debut record is dedicated to Frawley’s father, with the lyrics containing the line “I just want to tell you…I just want to let you know….I miss you so”. The last of the new tracks being played tonight “Summer Romance”, says what its all about in the title really! Where it is a will they, won’t they scenario regards carrying this on now that summer has passed. Before they leave for the night The Twerps finish up with MacFarlane taking the lead for the third time on “This Guy”, which appears on their album. Its says alot about the group that they are willing to play only 2 songs from their debut record that received alot of critical acclaim, in their eleven song set. Which flew by in a blur of very enjoyable indie pop sensibilities. I think the torch that was previously held by the likes of former Aussie greats, such as The Go-Betweens and The Sunnyboys is in very good hands.