Prolific duo from Melbourne creating an intimate, shoegazey world
Grazer began life in a bare brick basement in Melbourne, crafting propulsive dream-pop singles while recording vocals in an open wardrobe draped in blankets. But the band’s origins go back much further, starting with bassist Mollie Wilson who moved in next door to bassist Matthew Spiller when she was eight years old. Bonded by shared tastes in books and music while growing up in the rural village of Uki in New South Wales, the couple became best friends and ultimately romantic and creative partners.
You can hear this close connection in Grazer’s music, which blends the voices and artistic sensibilities of Wilson and Spiller. Their self-recorded songs often arrive accompanied by videos the couple makes themselves. As painters who have also dabbled in photography and poetry, the two work incredibly well together, whether it’s making music, writing lyrics, or filming and editing those videos.
“It’s all part of the same ending,” Spiller said NME of this collaborative relationship through the media. After enlisting friends to help make the Andy Warhol-inspired video for Grazer’s 2020 debut single “Fever Dream,” in which Wilson gets a real-time haircut, the pair have since learned to do it all by himself. The same goes for their music, although NSW-based producer Rob Wolfe has so far mixed all of their self-produced material.
“We’re pretty fast people and we do things fast,” Wilson says. “I think when we delegate, we get impatient.” Spiller agrees, “What stops a lot of creatives is they don’t know when to pull the trigger and release it.” Wilson adds, “There’s always a lot more to do. I don’t even know if we do the same.
“What stops a lot of creatives is they don’t know when to pull the trigger and release it”
Grazer’s activity has certainly felt I like it a lot, especially when many groups were languishing during confinement. Although their live performances were curtailed by the initial wave of COVID, Wilson and Spiller simply retreated to that makeshift basement studio and began releasing single after single of gorgeous, wispy pop. It didn’t matter that they couldn’t perform in front of an in-room audience, as their songs have found listeners around the world through streaming: their 2021 single “Nostalgia Seed” has over 300,000 streams on Spotify alone.
Now, with a firm line-up of five and a solid debut album in ‘Melancholics Anonymous’ – not to mention a spot on the NME 100 2022 – Grazer is finally ready to take its intricately crafted sound to the road. “[Grazer has] always been a band, from the very beginning,” Wilson notes of their full line-up, complete with Thomas Lee (guitarist), Thomas McMullin (drummer) and Sam Knight (synth). “But as far as how it was recorded and written, [the two of us have] had creative control. The others are pretty cold about it – they have all their other plans.
Despite their long-standing relationship, Wilson and Spiller didn’t start making music together until they moved to Melbourne, after a brief stint in Sydney and before that a few years in London. When Spiller couldn’t find anyone to play with in Melbourne, Wilson learned to play bass, and Spiller devoted himself to the DIY art of home recording. Other members began filling in the gaps in late 2019, but it was only a matter of months before the pandemic pushed the couple back into the basement. That explains the duo’s focus on individual singles — and the self-titled debut EP of 2020 — rather than waiting to record an actual album.
“It definitely stems from the fact that we’ve both been together for so long, just trying to get a few singles together,” Spiller recalled of the pandemic era. “The only sign of progress in the lockdown was getting a few new Spotify listeners and a few new YouTube subscribers.” Wilson adds: “We definitely would have focused on the live stuff first. [otherwise]. But it worked well. »
Well, maybe that’s an understatement: with their dreamy pop locked down, Grazer make a savvy foray into building a shoegazey sonic world without ever losing their strong forward thrust and warm melodic undertones. Signed to the Los Angeles/New York Cascine label (which is also home to Banoffee and Yumi Zouma), the band cite the influence of fuzzy American bands like DIIV, Beach Fossils and Launder while continually returning to the touchstone of the 1979 classic. from Joy Division ‘Unknown Pleasures’. The pair point to this album’s unlikely combination of dark lyrics and resilient basslines, which Wilson describes as creating “depth in the music, but then guiding light out of it”.
Echoes of Joy Division (and New Order) can be heard on Grazer’s own record, particularly on the single “These Days (Pass Me By)”. The band even begins each song by writing the bass part first, contributing to that signature sense of urgency. And while Spiller says Grazer has become more post-punk in the live context – foreshadowed in the album’s dark track ‘Subverse’ – several other stylistic parameters emerge throughout ‘Melancholics Anonymous’. Witness the shimmering synth-pop of “Ride and Die,” the rock-replacing catharsis of “I Want Control,” and the sleepier, buzzier “Isn’t It Strange,” which evokes both Mazzy Star and the darker side. The calm of The Velvet Floor.
“Production has never been our problem”
These last two tracks are found at the end of the album, as if to point the way to what Grazer might do next. “Those are definitely clues,” Wilson says. “We kind of go in those two directions: those slower ballads with the influence of the 60s, and then the slightly more rock side definitely shows up in the live set.”
“There are a lot of varied sounds on the album,” adds Spiller. “I really like to change my voice and see what I can do: a little singing here, shouting there, breathing there. And Molly does the same. But because everything is recorded on the same gear – a bit dodgy – they still work together.
Although the couple have now graduated to another apartment – this time perched on the edge of Melbourne’s CBD, overlooking the leafy Carlton Gardens – they still have fond memories of their basement tapings. Because their makeshift vocal booth was anchored by some of Wilson’s paintings, one eventually fell and broke Spiller’s nose. He remembers it as a purple, bloated mess, but readily admits he got some surprisingly decent vocal takes while recovering from that injury.
The home recording setup also suits their particular style of work, which includes adding new touches to songs weeks after the fact. That said, the pair are doubling down on their previous statement about knowing when to cut things. Citing manager Brian Epstein’s famous call for the Beatles to release a single every two months and an album every six months, Spiller prides himself on Grazer’s similar productivity after less than three full years as a band. “We write all the time,” he says. “We always had so much in the bank.” Wilson laughs, admitting, “The exit was never our problem.”
Imagine how deep that bank would be if the two had started making music together sooner. As things stand, it took Wilson flying to London as a teenager and Spiller eventually following her and accepting her invitation to share his single bed in Chelsea, despite still being just friends. at the time. Romance came soon after, followed by a creative partnership that yielded a lush, multi-layered debut in “Melancholics Anonymous.”
“I let him in and that’s where it all started,” Wilson muses.