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dimanche 29 juin 2014

Album de la Semaine : Total Control - Typical System

Total Control
Typical System

Interview de Total Control, par Evan Minsker de Pitchfork

Total Control
Total Control, from left: James Vinciguerra, Zephyr Pavey, David West, Mikey Young, Dan Stewart, Al Monty. Photos by Karl Scullin.
Total Control’s forthcoming second album Typical System, which follows 2011's very good Henge Beat, is a strong synth-pop record with a palpable undercurrent of darkness in its vocal delivery and lyrics. And while that tinge of dread, courtesy of frontman Dan Stewart, separates this band from others in Melbourne, Australia’s punk scene, it also has the potential to be their undoing. Their current SoundCloud bio reads “WE CAN’T TOUR SORRY,” and it’s not a joke; during a conversation via Skype, drummer James Vinciguerra confirms that “the likelihood of touring is slim-to-none.” He’s hesitant to elaborate, just saying that “certain people don’t really want to [tour].” From the sound of things, following the album’s June 24 release via Iron Lung, they just might slip into a hiatus.
But that shouldn’t discount the music they’ve made thus far. If anything, the apprehension toward hitting the road is a reflection of just how seriously Stewart, in particluar, considers his own work. The singer explains that this band can’t operate the same way other bands do. “Total Control is quite an emotionally demanding experience for me,” he says. “I love being on the road and traveling, but a lot of the songs [on Typical System] were written out of troubling, traumatic experiences.” He doesn’t go into detail, but the record’s abstract lyrics, which read like poems, are undeniably bleak. Take “Black Spring”: “So the rot set in, green turned grey and dead/ And now you know you’re to live, thrive, and lick.” 
Stewart, a 32-year-old student of philosophy who runs his own zine, started the band with guitarist Mikey Young in 2008. He is very well-read. The lyrics for Henge Beat came after a summer spent reading Friedrich Nietzsche and “a lot of post-Nietzschean French guys.” He says his preoccupation with the philosopher was “a pretty unhealthy obsession.” Stewart uses that word—“obsession”—a lot. “I don’t think I can really live without obsession,” he confesses. While writing Typical System, he pored over the Japanese writer Yukio Mishima, the French writer Maurice Blanchot, the Romanian philosopher E.M. Cioran, the Melbourne poet John Forbes, and the controversial neo-folk outfit Death in June.
But Total Control aren't just about stone-faced philosophical solemnities. They’ve clearly got a sense of humor, too. Vinciguerra helped put together the album’s artwork, which includes his funny, stream-of-consciousness manifesto, written “in a manic state,” that begins with an email from his dad titled “In the Land of Nose Jobs”. There’s a portrait of one of the guys in the band sitting next to a dog, with the caption, “Lance Armstrong and Sheryl Crow in happier times.” There’s a huge picture of two slugs mating. Stewart even argues that the album art, a majestic photo of birds, is “really funny.”
True to Australian band custom, Total Control's members are all embedded in the music scene there and involved in other groups. Stewart is the frontman for the hardcore bandStraightjacket Nation and plays in the absurdist rock act the UV Race. There are members ofDick DiverEast LinkLace CurtainRussell St BombersOoga Boogas, and more. Vinciguerra has started working on solo material.
I talked to the Vinciguerra and Stewart separately, then edited the conversations together.
Pitchfork: Do you feel any regret about not touring behind Typical System?
James Vinciguerra: Generally, yeah. I don't want to be too dramatic, but I have to say that Total Control has really helped me a lot. When we do play live, there is this synergy, and that’s the thing I really love. For me, it's a real physical outlet. It's cathartic. I'm sad that I don't have that outlet. I also really enjoy spending time with the people in the band as well. It does bum me out that we don't play too much.
Dan Stewart: I don’t really regret it. Sometimes if we’re playing a show, it fills me with anxiety and makes me feel a bit sick. It would be difficult for me to tour on some of the songs on this record just because it’s still quite raw. Even hearing the record is a raw experience for me. I feel quite nervous at the prospect of hearing it. I can’t really move on at the moment. I feel a bit stifled by it, to be honest.
Pitchfork: That makes me think about how other songwriters must have to detach from the trauma and darkness behind their lyrics during live shows. 
DS: Absolutely. I don’t think anyone would write a song specifically attempting to relive or revoke those experiences over and over again. I naïvely decided to sing for Total Control simply because I loved writing lyrics. I was in a hardcore band, which was a really good way to experience certain strong emotions and physical acts—really sadistic behavior can be experienced in a very ritualized manner when you’re playing in a hardcore band. You can be involved in horrific acts of cruelty towards people that you know or don’t know. There’s a level of acceptance for obscene behavior that comes with that music. You can do such brutal things and such brutal things can happen to you that you can become quite callous in your day-to-day life. I was very aware that I was in danger of just beating any sensitivity that I had in through doing hardcore so much.
So I wanted to experience another side of being a singer, and Total Control is completely removed from that in a lot of ways. But I still do that hardcore band. It might not really be a healthy thing, but it is something that I need, that violent ritual. 
Pitchfork: Dan, it seems like you’re drawn to writings that challenge you and suddenly alter your mood.
DS: I have a submissive relationship to writing in that I just want it to overpower me. This might have come from just having gotten into punk when I was a teenager and experiencing it as almost an entire rewriting of character—punk and hardcore completely gave me a code to live by and a way to think about the world. I was looking for that, though I probably could’ve found it in something else. My reception to things is to allow them to crush me.
Pitchfork: What’s next for the band?
DS: I have no idea. It’s really hard for me to project into the future at the moment, which I suppose is one of the reasons why I really want to just travel for a little while. Each time I do try and project a year ahead, it just seems like I’m looking into this horrible mess. I’ve spent far too long expecting for some significant catastrophe to happen. It hasn’t happened. 
JV: I don't think it's the end. It's just a different chapter.

Line Up :
Mikey Young
Dan Stewart
Al Montfort
Zephyr Pavey
James Vinciguerra

Label :
Iron Lung Records

Tracklist :
01 – Bloody Glass
02 – Expensive Dog
03 – Flesh War
04 – Systematic Fuck
05 – Liberal Party
06 – Two Less Jacks
07 – Black Spring
08 – The Ferryman
09 – Hunter
10 – Safety Net

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