Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Q&A With John Patterson Of The Grates

In our very first interview here at Skatterbrain, John Patterson, guitar player and the only source of testosterone in the Australian 3-piece, The Grates, was kind enough to talk to us about the meaning behind "19-20-20", writing songs as a 3-piece, the new album Gravity Won't Get You High, SXSW, coming back to the U.S., digital pets and he was even great enough to humor me by filling out one of those ridiculous MySpace surveys.

[MP3]: The Grates :: Little People
[STREAM]: The Grates :: 19-20-20
[VIDEO]: The Grates :: 19-20-20

Buy Gravity Won't Get You High imported from Amazon.com
Gravity Won't Get You High will be released in the U.S. August 29th.
The Grates on MySpace

SKATTERBRAIN: Okay, let me get this out of the way right from the beginning. What on earth does 19-20-20 mean?

JOHN: 19-20-20 is the ages we were when we started the band, but we didn't get around to writing the song until we were 21-22-23 and now we're 23-23-24 (but tomorrow is my birthday then it'll be 23-24-24).

SB: It's nothing out-of-the-ordinary, but for some reason lately I've been particularly fascinated by how bands can be huge in one country and not nearly as popular in another. Is it strange transitioning from being wildly popular and playing huge shows in Australia and then coming over to the U.S. and being relatively unknown outside of the indie crowd and playing smaller venues?

J: Yeah it's weird but it's kinda exciting! It's like living a couple of different lives, and also like going back and playing your 1st ever shows all over again! i enjoy it. Last time we came home after touring the US and UK for a couple of months and it was like a huge shock! Our video had been all over tv and played heaps on radio and stuff, and while we were in the US we were like "there's NO WAY we're going to sell out these venues... they're huge" and then we get home and the whole tour sells out! Playing to small crowds reminds you of why you started a band in the 1st place and is heaps of fun, and then playing shows in australia is like the sweetest treat!

Photo by Kathryn Yu. Check out the rest of her work on Flickr.

SB: Speaking of playing shows, though I haven't had the priviledge of seeing you guys live yet, I have heard nothing but amazing things about your performances. I talked to one person who described one of your shows as "a huge birthday party," what do you think it is that makes your shows so unique?

J: Yeah, we've been decorating the venues like birthday parties recently with fairy lights and tinsel and helium balloons and stuff, but we're finished with that now. Now we're talking "winter wonderland" themed shows. Patience is so great on stage though... I think if i was a spectator she'd be the best thing about watching our show (don't tell alana this, she'd fkn kill me). Last night she made the whole crowd part down the middle like the red sea, took her mic stand into the audience, got a gymnastic ribbon and flailed about like an olympic gymnast.

SB: I know you were here for SXSW this year, what did you think of that experience, is it something you would do again?

J: I love SXSW. It's so hard to get into good shows if you're an artist though, but it's heaps of fun finding out about all the secret shows that are going on through the whispers, and getting to see the Flaming Lips play to like 300 people and stuff like that. Also that's how we got signed in the US (from the 1st time we played SXSW in 2005), so that was cool. I'd definitely do it again. Depends if they want us again!

SB: Speaking of being in the U.S., can we expect there to be any sort of touring here before the end of the year or will we have to keep our fingers crossed for something in 2007?

J: We'll definitely be back at least 1 more time this year. I don't know what we'll be doing yet but we'll back soon! Promise!

SB: Okay, onto the brand new album Gravity Won't Get You High, which is one of my favorite album titles of the year so far. How did you come up with the title? Is there any sort of story behind it or was it something that sort of popped into your heads?

J: A friend of ours, kali, actually came up with it, but it was all kind of an accident! When we were thinking about album titles, we couldn't come up with anything good, and we flashed back to looking through her graphic arts folio, and she had a little astronaut saying "gravity won't get you high" and we really thought it was funny, but then we took a liking to it, because it means "just sitting around isn't going to get you anywhere".

SB: Hands down my favorite line on the album would have to be: "i'm a seal know that by heart, you're unwell how could we part? got a goat and got a bear, little girl got to make up your mind, little girl think what you've got inside." I've tried endlessly to figure out what it actually might mean, but I've got nothing. Am I trying to solve a trick question or is there actually some meaning behind it?

J: Ok this actually means something I think. It's kinda nonsense. It's about spirit animals, we'd always try and work out what everyone's spirit animal was to kinda sum up their personality. Patience is the seal, our old sound guy Dave was the goat, I'm the bear and we couldn't work out Alana... so she had to look inside and find her spirit animal. By the way, I'm bored of being a bear and i'm thinking about changing it. I'm not sure who was unwell though, that might be a Patience Hodgson family secret.

SB: Do you ever feel any limitations when writing songs given the fact that it's only three of you, like "Oh, this would be good there, but we can't do that because it's just the three of us"?

J: No... we always just try to write good songs that can be broken down to just 3 things, but aren't afraid of building things up with recordings or live. But, we write with just guitar and drums and vocals. My favourite songs can be stripped back to nothing, but still be good songs, but that's not always the BEST thing for the song, so we're always trying to work out what's best for the song.

SB: If you could pick any two artists or bands to play a show with who would it be and why? Also, if you had to pick two people knit a quilt with who would it be and why?

J: Weezer, Pinkerton era and Eels. Quilt-wise, I don't really care. Two people that are good at knitting quilts, so that they see me struggling and be like "Oh here let me take over, you're terrible" and then I'll just duck out for coffees.

SB: I really love the art on all of your releases and even your press photos as well. Do you as a band come up with the art and direction for your releases and photos or is that all handled by someone else?

J: Yeah, we do ALL this stuff! I've been up late the last two nights designing t-shirts and single artwork for a cd that's going to radio in Australia soon. My favourite part of being in the band is all the different areas we get to work in! Like playing live, writing, recording, design, websites, writing stories, making videos, etc.

SB: Lastly, and most importantly, how is the digital pet snake doing? Is he still with us? (see: Patience Hodgson Cries When Tomagotchi Dies)

J: Nah he died, and then she got a cat, and then the cat died, and then we got Nintendogs. Patience has one called Duke and mine's called Tipsy. They don't die, they just run away if you mistreat them.

The Infamous MySpace Survey:

1. Do you still talk with the first person you kissed?

It depends. I don't talk to the 1st girl I "kissed" (Tina McLeary when i was 6) but I talk to the 1st girl I made out with (Alana Skyring!)

2. Have you ever seen your best friend naked?

Well, he's one of my best friends. Once my friend Lee Fletcher got drunk at a party at my house, and I went to the toilet and he was naked sitting on the toilet.

3. Are you obsessed with someone?

Currently, Joe Matt and Motley Crue, cause i'm reading their books. I get obsessed with people all the time and then get sick of them really quick.

4. What is the best thing about your job?

Getting to work in so many different feilds.

7. Did you get any compliments today?

Not yet.

8. Where are you going on your next vacation?


9. When was the last time you kissed someone?

A while ago.

10. Are most of your friends guys or girls?


11. Do you own any furniture from Ikea?

Not currently, but I used to in my old house.

13. If you could have one super power what would it be?

Invisibility, or a remote control like Click (I haven't seen Click, but the remote control looks like sweet fun).

14. Where have you lived most of your life?


15. Why is the sky blue?

Something about the atmosphere.

16. Where do you see yourself in 4 years?

Hopefully still busy!

17. What's your favorite smell?


18. What is your least favorite sound?

Sawing through tubes of metal.

19. Are you moody?


20. Favorite movie of all time

At the moment, Punch Drunk Love.

21. Have you ever done anything hurtful to a classmate?

Yeah, once I pulled someone chair out just as they were sitting down and they fell on the ground.

22. Have you ever gone to therapy?


23. Have you ever played spin the bottle?


24. Have you ever toilet papered someone's house?


25. Have you ever liked someone but never told them?


26. Have you ever gone camping?

Yeah, I hate camping. Never again

27. Have you ever had a crush on your Sibling's friend?


28. Have you ever gone to a nude beach?


29. Have you ever gone streaking?


30. Have you ever had a stalker?

If I have, they've been discreet.

31. Have you ever gone skinny dipping?


33. Have you ever gone to a party?

Yes! I've only been to a couple of sweet parties where the cops get called. That's when you know it's a sweet party.

34. Have you ever been in love?


35. Have you ever been betrayed by your best friend?


36. Have you ever lied to your parents?

Of course!

37. Have you ever been out of the US?

Yes :P

38. Have you ever thrown up from working out?

I dry reached heaps once from running.

39. Have you ever gotten a haircut so bad that you wore a hat for a month straight?

No. But I've had some bad haircuts.

40. Have you ever eaten 3 meals from 3 different fast food places in one day?

Probably. That's what happens when you're on tour.

41. Last song you listened to?

"There's Always Tomorrow" - Red Red Meat

42. Are you a jealous person?

Not really. Sometimes.

wheres 43?

I'm 43 now but will I live to see 44 the way things are going, I don't know.

44. Have you ever slept with one of your coworkers?


45. Who was the last person who called you?

Our tour manager telling me to wake up yesterday!

46. When was the last time you slept for 12 hours straight?


47. Have you ever been cheated on by someone?


48. Have you ever stolen anything?

Once when I was 12 i watched out while my friend stole a bag of popping corn. Oh and once I stole a cd rack, but it was only cause they were outside the shop and I though they were free.

49. Have you ever consumed egg nog?


50. If you could be anywhere right now where would it be?

In bed!

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Blogger Brad aka Penguin said...

Great read, great interview - I had a hunch that 19-20-20 could have been about age...or a locker combination.

3:17 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

awesome interview matt!
really good read, loved it

3:59 PM  
Anonymous Andrea said...

This was really fun to read! Great interview!

10:01 AM  
Blogger erin said...

yay! that was grrreat, though now my baby crush on john seems to be growing! (but not in stalker territory yet.)

2:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finally someone asked them about 19 20 20!!! I wondered what it was about...

12:14 AM  
Blogger Katharine said...

Dude good work!

I've seen them three times and they are so fucking great!
Constance is absolute dynamite!!

10:30 AM  
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