Founded in Liverpool in 2017, The Great Emu War Casualties is an art-rock trio with a lot of attitude. Showing innovativeness and originality, the Australian-based group have received coverage from notable publications and radio stations. We speak with frontman Joe, bassist Saskia and drummer Bibek Tamang about their latest album Happy Birthday Joe and much more!
First things first, how did you choose your band name?
Joe : I like to think that the band name chose us. It didn’t though.
Saskia: The OG lineup (me, Joe and ‘Cruise Ship’ Elliot) were on a rooftop together back in Liverpool one night talking shit and I started telling them about the Great Emu War for some reason and they were like, “wow what’s that” and I was like “um, you don’t know about the greatest war that ever happened in the history of Australia?” Anyway, so they obviously thought that was the best thing ever and then the name seemed to be amusing in the UK because nobody even knew what an emu was let along what the Great Emu War was.
Anyway, fast-track to moving to Australia and it turned out to be the shittest band name ever because it wasn’t funny at all. Also, there was already an indie band in Melbourne called the Great Emu War, so that was awkward. They never said anything to us and we didn’t do anything about it…but, still.
Why did you decide to become a musician?
Bibek: I didn’t really choose it. It just happened and I just followed it.
Saskia: Wow, that’s so cool. For me, I started out as a sports kid and then moved into art. When I gave up both of those, music was the only thing left. Somehow, I ended up revolving my whole adult life around music so now I don’t know what to do without it.
Joe: Not a day goes by that I don’t ask myself the same question. Actually, I never ask myself that question. I picked up a guitar as a hobby when I was really young, like 8 years old, and have just not put it down since. There’s just nothing I’d rather do.
What inspires you as a professional and in your personal life?
Joe: I went to a bunch of art galleries in Sydney this weekend and now I’m pretty sure I can say that contemporary art does not inspire me.
Saskia: What inspires me… Actually, I’m pretty competitive so I guess I always want to be the best. I do get peeved when I’m not the best, which is actually most of the time, but it also makes me want to be better. Since I’m used to being mediocre it doesn’t make me go crazy like other people who can’t stand losing. That definitely sounds like bass player talk, doesn’t it?
Bibek: As a musician, it’s always that pure joy of playing with other great musicians.
What can you tell us about the EP Happy Birthday Joe?
Joe: It’s my birthday EP which, contrary to popular belief, was not my idea. Actually, it was kind of an attempt to blow the cobwebs off of 2020 and throw some fresh stuff out. It’s been a hard year – a unique sentiment I’m sure, but we’ve pushed through to get material out anyway and it’s been received as very hit-and-miss. This is kind of a series of B-sides that never quite saw the light of day, but when we were revisiting them we realised that we were still super fond of them, so it became a really low-pressure way to freshen things up. Then it was like, what’s the gimmick? How do we actually put this out into the world? Well, hey, it’s my birthday! What more of an excuse do we need?
Bibek: It’s one of those bedroom productions, I guess. It was great to write the parts and see even when we are apart we can make something. Don’t know how it’s gonna play out when we play it live; that’d be interesting. Looking forward to that.
Saskia: They pretty much covered it, but I can tell you a bit of trivia that the guy who mixed it is Dan Konopka. He drums for Ok Go, but he’s also in that movie I Love You Man. For some reason, which I don’t really get, he also seems to mix for lots of random underground Melbourne musicians. Isn’t that wild??
Did you face any challenges when recording and releasing the EP?
Saskia: Well, it was this slight annoyance called Covid-19. You might have heard about it… Anyway, it meant that that nothing was recorded in a studio so they’re all crap DI takes and midi-drums and we couldn’t actually gig or do anything. So, we didn’t put too much pressure on it. It was literally just something to release for Joe’s birthday. 😄
Joe: ‘Don’t Be Upsetti’ was nothing but challenges for me. I think we’d already determined the release date before realising that we only had a half-written demo of the track and so we had to go and find a way to record it in Melbourne isolation, which was just awful. Bibek nailed it on his Digi-kit and Saskia structured the whole thing using the original demo takes and put her bass down, but I couldn’t remember any of the guitar lines so most of that was played by Saskia too. I think I only played keys in the chorus and then the lead stuff through the back end.
When I set up the mic to record, I found I only had half the thing written so basically improvised everything in a really impotent isolation headspace – it’s probably a bit more on the nose than I otherwise would have liked. Thankfully, we had Floyd on sax and Cat on vocals on the other songs to save the record.
Which is your favourite track and why?
Saskia: I know Joe just spent twelve paragraphs hating it, but I personally have a soft spot for ‘Upsetti’. I mean it obviously has the best name and I spent weeks trying to moosh it all together and make it work. The takes aren’t that tight or anything, but I like to pretend it has “DIY charm”. Plus, Bibek’s drums are particularly sick on this track.
Bibek: ‘Don’t Be Upsetti’ – the title itself is so cool. It’s a really fun track to play and I also got to do a little drum solo. 😄
Joe: ‘Big Things Coming Soon’ is my favourite because it’s the worst one. That’s also why it’s the only one we (aka Bibek) made a video for. I think ‘Big Things’ is probably the one I’m happiest with lyrically. ‘Turtleneck Giveaway’ was my favourite idea, but sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to, which is another reason why it’s on my 2020 birthday release!
What do you think is the best way to discover new music nowadays?
Joe: Neil Harper occasionally sends me music through Facebook Messenger. I listen exclusively to recommendations from Neil. Everyone should fo and buy Dirt 5 so that their company is successful and he can keep his job.
Saskia: I like that you said Neil Harper like he’s a famous person… I’m loathed to say Spotify, although it is the easiest and most convenient way. I actually like seeing the recommendations from artists I already like pop up on their socials; that’s worked a charm for me a few times recently. If more artists could do that more regularly that would be dandy.
Do you have a message for our readers?
Saskia: Hey kids, stay in school!! Actually, I guess this blog’s demographic is more like those old guys that are always on the lookout for the next hip thing they can say they “discovered” before everybody else did. In that case, maybe they should get out of the school…
Do you have any future plans?
Joe: The Great Emu War Casualties – Vanity Project EP. Coming 2021! It’ll be a bit of a shame to be self-releasing this one, but the only offer we had on the table from Golden Robot Records was that they wanted to charge us $3K per year in admin fees with a minimum contract length of 10 years which is some tremendously scam-style behaviour. Actually, let’s use that as my message to the readers – watch out everyone in an indie band, there are sharks about.
Saskia: Not bitter at all, are we? 😄 Also, I just realised Bibek stopped answering like three questions ago… Anyway, yes, one more EP to release and then we’ll probably go on hiatus for a while. That one we did put a lot of effort in, so I think we’ll be a bit sad when nobody cares about it.