Tuesday, November 10, 2009


With Hugh and Scott B...

Summer Cats: ‘We Never Have Been Twee’

The Summer Cats’ new LP 'Songs For Tuesdays' is proof positive that you shouldn’t just a book by its decidedly twee cover. DOUG WALLEN talks to bassist Hugh Owens and guitarist Scott Brewer about fighting stereotypes and carving a niche following overseas.

Kicking around for a few years now, Melbourne’s Summer Cats are cut from the cloth of an international indie-pop scene that values niche global appeal over local success. Inspired by bands such as The Pastels and Television Personalities and labels like Sarah and Wurlitzer Jukebox, the six-piece pen brief, rollicking tunes occupied entirely by matters of the heart.
But despite the huggable band name and singer Scott Stephens’ high, ringing vocals, Summer Cats’ debut album Songs For Tuesdays has a lot more to it than preciousness. There are four distinct vocalists featured, and one can hear decade-jumping glints of ’60s garage, ’70s power-pop, ’80s jangle and ’90s indie rock. Opener ‘Let’s Go’ motors with distortion, while ‘Fulton Gurls’ namechecks Big Star’s Sister Lovers and their signature track ‘September Gurls’.

Songs For Tuesday was first released last July in the US on the resurrected cult label Slumberland, now home to Crystal Stilts and the Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. It was followed by a run of shows across the US west coast and will be launched in Melbourne this Friday (November 13), with more Australian dates planned for next year. The band – lead singer Scott Stephens (formerly of The Earthmen), guitarist/bassist Scott Brewer, bassist/guitarist Hugh Owens, keyboardist Irene Drossinos and drummer Julia Nesbit – recently added guitarist Jeremy Cole from the Zebras to their ranks. Brewer and Owens sat down in a park recently to chat about flying under the radar and the pains of being pigeonholed.

Summer Cats have had releases on a handful of different labels, but the album is out on Slumberland in the States and High Spot in Australia. Is it nice to be settled after so much moonlighting?

Scott Brewer: We’re not really all that settled. We’ve got another 7” coming out on another label in a couple months. The 7”s and EPs were all on small startup labels. And that’s great because you get the name out, but to have the album on an established label and have the support those labels offer is really great.

Musically, the band really captures the spirit of late ’90s indie pop, which also had this tradition of releases on tiny labels all over the world. Brewer: A lot of that is probably because I love doing that so much. When I was really into all those bands, like 10 years ago, you’d spend your day tracking down fanzines or writing to labels on the other side of the world to get all the releases. You’d get a 7” by someone and inside would be the discography of that band, and you’d have to write to all these other new labels. They’d do splits with bands you’d never heard of before.
Slumberland was a huge label for a very small number of people at that time, and is now back after a long hibernation. Are you somewhat floored to be on the roster?Brewer: Hell yes.
Hugh Owens: I’d say the two Scotts [are especially], because the other Scott [Stephens] was actually signed to Slumberland with The Earthmen.

Brewer: Well, they did a 10”.

Owens: So he’s got the connection there. I guess I’ve since discovered more Slumberland stuff.

Brewer: Ten years ago, when I was living in Vancouver and I used to go down to San Francisco all the time, I saw Aislers Set play five or 10 times. I loved that whole scene so much. So to actually be on the label and have the guy who runs the label actually love your music is a real honour for me.

How exactly did Summer Cats come together?

Brewer: (Laughs) Well, you know Collectors Corner, the record store in the city? A friend of mine was working there, and Scott the singer came in to trade in records. My friend called me up and said, “This guy just traded in a bunch of records, and you’re gonna want every single one.” So he put them aside for me and I bought the entire collection. He said, “You have to meet this guy. He used to play in a band and he’s looking to start a new band.” So we got together at a bar, and for about two years, we’d get together and trade mix CDs and write the occasional song.
Was it always informed by that international indie pop scene?B

rewer: When we first started, we had a clear ambition. We’re both too old to be in serious bands and chase the dream of major-label signing. We just wanted to put out great singles on international labels that have that following.

Had you been in many bands before?

Brewer: I’d been in a few, but none of them were really indie pop. I played in this noise band called Sunglass. And I played in a couple of bands back in Vancouver.

How did the Summer Cats lineup gel from there?Owens: Back when everyone was using MySpace, Scott had the album cover of Television Personalities’ And Don’t The Kids Just Love It? as his picture.

Brewer: Still do, I think.

Owens: He was friends with someone I knew and I just saw he was in Melbourne. I sent him a message, so that’s how we got in contact. He asked if I played any instruments and I said I kind of played bass and played guitar badly.

Brewer: He turned up to first rehearsal with a five-string guitar. [Laughs]

Owens: I was well prepared. And then I drafted the girls. I went to high school and uni with Julia and uni with Irene.

Brewer: And Irene and Scott knew each other previously.

Do the two Scotts split the songwriting duties?Brewer: Pretty much. And then the songs that other people sing have been written by those people. Live we mostly stick to Scott singing because otherwise he’s got nothing to do. [Laughs]

Owens: I sing ‘Fulton Girls’ and ‘Maybe Pile’ and kind of co-wrote ‘In June’. Irene sings ‘Christopher Wren’ and Scott [Brewer] sings ‘St. Tropez’. Most of the time, Scott will bring a riff into rehearsal and the other Scott will come up with lyrics.

Brewer: A riff [laughs]. We’re such a riff band.

Owens: Or whatever. That’s the general rule. Then there’s other things that need worked on, and we usually nut out things a bit more as a full band.

Brewer: There’s generally a conscious effort not to finish anything until the band plays it. Then it becomes a finished product.

Was there ever any thought about having Scott play something in addition to singing?Brewer: Scott can’t play anything. [Laughs]

Owens: He recorded a Bobby McFerrin-esque album of just vocals, but that’s never seen the light of day. And he plays tambourine.

Brewer: It’s pretty rare these days to just have a singer.

Is it because different people sing on some songs that there are so many on the album? There are 14 tracks on the local edition and 13 on the American one.

Brewer: Yeah, just because so many people write songs, we have a lot.

They’re also quite short.

Brewer: Yeah. So they’ve got to come out on something. [Laughs] I don’t think we’ve really doubled up on our releases. On the album there’s only about four songs that have been released previously.

Owens: At the same time, they’re re-recorded.
“I don’t think we’re as twee as people think we are. Especially from the artwork and the name of the band, people assume that we are. If anything, I think we’ve tried to fight against [that].”
What all had the band released before this? I know you did the Scratching Post EP on Popboomerang, and a split single with Eux Autres.Brewer: That was on my label, Knock Yr Socks Off. And we did a split 7” with Pains Of Being Pure At Heart on Slumberland and a 7” and a 3” CD-R on Cloudberry Records [in the States]. And another 3” CD-R on WeePOP!, a London label. And we’re doing a [four-way] 7” with the Cannanes and Cheap Red and Soft Paws, probably in January.

The Cannanes were one of the earlier Aussie indie pop bands. Have you looked to bands like them and the Lucksmiths as examples?

Brewer: I guess. I’ve known the Cannanes for 10 or 12 years. They took me along on tour with them in the States, just through me writing to them when I was 17 or 18. I probably sent them my solo cassette or something. They’ve always been one of my favourite bands. Seeing them sell out shows in the States and then play the Public Bar [in Melbourne] to only like 40, it was such a shame. But [it proved] it could be done. You don’t have to worry so much that people in your hometown might not get it. There’s a fan base out there. Bart [Cummings] from the Cat’s Miaow has agreed to play the launch with us, and that’s his first show in eight years. I’m talking to all these people in Melbourne, and they’re like, “Who’s the Cat’s Miaow?”

Owens: American indie-pop fans will know who Even As We Speak are and write about them, but no one here know who they are. A lot of the bands that I really like are often these bands that have more of an international appeal. Locally people have no idea what it is.

Do you feel like you have more kindred spirits these days?

Brewer: There’s a lot of bands that we play most of our shows with. And there were always kindred spirits with the Cannanes and the Lucksmiths. Like, all the Toytown cassettes and Cat’s Miaow were always there. I think it’s the same now. There were the Zebras up in Brisbane, who are based in Melbourne now. And Jeremy [Cole] is playing [second guitar] with us now. A lot of the bands who are on Lost & Lonesome fit that scene. And the Motifs, who I also play with.
Summer Cats write these very poppy songs, but the album is a bit grittier, whether from keyboards or feedback or distorted vocals.

Owens: I think it goes between being a very noisy record and being a very clean record. That’s what I like about it. At the same time, no matter how much we make a racket, Scott’s got these melodic vocals sitting on top of it all. Which I think is what draws a lot of people to the sound but also puts off a lot of people. Their idea of indie is someone mumbling through every song, or something very twee. And I don’t think we’re as twee as people think we are. Especially from the artwork and the name of the band, people assume that we are. If anything, I think we’ve tried to fight against the twee [tag].

Brewer: Well, we never have been twee.

Yeah, but you guys know all about twee. For people who don’t really understand what it is, you’re incredibly twee.Brewer: Yeah, it was funny reading the reviews [in the States]. People would say it’s too twee or it’s too polite. And we’re not at all. There’s feedback on half the tracks, and the guitars are all distorted.

Owens: The funniest responses we’ve had have often been the most misguided, regarding what they think we’re trying to be. One said ‘Wild Rice’ sounded Sonic Youth-influenced. You could say that about the songs that have feedback, but ‘Wild Rice’ is like one of the ballads of the album.

Brewer: My favourite is where they say the songs all sound the same. It’s like, Jesus, there’s four different singers and how many different styles of song on there. Getting described as Pains Of Being Pure At Heart Jr. was pretty funny.

Yeah, they’ve become such a breakout band that some people think they’re the first band doing this kind of thing.Brewer: It’s pretty funny. We’ve been about six months behind them with [both bands’ releases] on Cloudberry and Slumberland.

Do you ever regret picking this cute band name?

Brewer: My original band name was vetoed by everyone else: Supercomputer.

Owens: Summer Cats was the only thing we could half agree on. That’s how the album title came about, and that’s how a lot of our decisions are made. Everyone’s half in agreement.

Brewer: Like Songs For Tuesdays. No one loved it but no one hated it, so it stuck.

Owens: Although unbeknown to us at the time, there is a darker side to [the name]. In Sweden, when people go on holidays, they adopt a cat and then at the end of the summer, they leave the cat and it goes wild. So there are all these feral cats running around these holiday places. And they’re called summer cats. Sometimes I say that’s why we’re named Summer Cats, to give it that dark edge.
That’s funny, because a lot of indie pop bands have this dark side that most people don’t think about.

Brewer: Like the fact that all Beat Happening songs are about sex?
It’s almost like the more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed the front is, the darker things are behind the scenes.Brewer: [Laughs] Yeah, I can see that.
Friday, November 13The Order Of Melbourne, Melbourne, VICw/The Motifs, The Zebras + Bart Cummings

All the way from Sunny Brisbane...


SUMMER CATS – Songs For Tuesdays
(High Spot/Fuse)

Huh?: Good old-fashioned sub-three minute indie pop tunes from Melbourne five-piece featuring the Earthmen’s Scott Stevens.

What’s It Like?: Jangly guitars, crackly fuzz, grinding organs and boy-girl vocal harmonies – yep, it’s a distillation of all the best sonic elements of Scots-UK-Kiwi indie pop with an added dash of Aussie songwriting nous. Proudly derivative, but in the most enjoyable way possible.

Highlights: Christopher Wren’s wriggly keyboard hook is enticing, and the quirky sad sack lyrics of Maybe Pile contrast cutely with the joyful tunesmithery. The triple whammy of Waking Up, St. Tropez and Paperweight are equal to Screamfeeder’s finest fuzz pop moments (if we needed any further reminders that the ‘90s would have been awesome for Summer Cats).

Tastes Great With: Stereloab / The Pastels / Songs


Rave Magazine

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Our first review for our Australian release album has shown up on The Dwarf.

Beer + fringes + cheese = a kick-arse indie pop explosion. Melbourne’s own Summer Cats are on the prowl with their debut long player Songs For Tuesdays. The new record from Summer Cats is a shiny, happy affair that will leave you breathless and smiley as you bop around to the fuzz-pop madness like a kitten hopped up on catnip.

Okay, so all lame kitty puns aside, Songs For Tuesdays is a fast-paced, hook-laden frenzy, drenched in summer loving and sweet pop/rock melodies. Summer Cats sound like Stereolab versus The Go-Betweens in an alley-way knife fight death match. This is a record that was made to be blasted loudly on repeat as you prepare to rock and roll your way through the summertime. Sporting fourteen tracks in just under thirty-five minutes, it’s a manic trip that is over all to quickly.

Summer Cats are fond of their distorted keyboards and feedback guitars. They switch it up between a male and female lead vocalist and while the songs tend to bleed into one another, there is much joy to be had with this album. From the killer opening song Let’s Go!, right through to bonus track Mystified they will dazzle you with their infectious sounds and boundless energy. This is a band that know their indie history and have melded garage rock and new-wave pop with a touch of early 90’s nostalgia.

Stand-out tracks are Hey You, Christopher Wren, Camel Cords and St Tropez. Hey You is a super cool Pixies-inspired number, perfect for working all of your teenage angst out in the mosh pit. Christopher Wren is a cutesy pop moment with acoustic guitars and massive keyboards with plenty of room for hand claps and sweet sing along vocals courtesy of Irene.

There’s a blistering drum line in Camel Cords and obscenely beguiling keyboards that are sure to make your heart beat faster. St Tropez wanders off into Eddy Current Suppression Ring territory with Scott’s vocals that are more spoken word than actual singing.

Summer Cats' debut is the perfect soundtrack for the incoming sunny weather and beer induced madness. Check out their live show at the Songs For Tuesdays album launch at The Order of Melbourne on November 13th.

by Kathryn Mahina Wednesday, November 4

Saturday, October 31, 2009

ALBUM LAUNCH Friday the 13th!

Is coming up on Friday 13th November... be there or be square!

We're Almost for sale in our own Country!

First sign of sale in our own country, woowee!!..

JB Review attached reads:

The band are a 5-piece headed by the songwriting capabilities of Scott Stevens (ex- Earthmen) and Scott Brewer. With a swag of EPs and 7"s already under their name on labels such as Popboomerang, Slumberland, Wee Pop, Cloudberry and Eux Autres, Songs For Tuesdays sees them breaking out with an album full of rockin' pop magic, on a par with their acknowledged influences: The Clean, Go-Betweens, The Pastels, Cub and Stereolab. It's 13 tracks of tight, punchy indie rock 'n' roll fuelled by excellent vocal harmonies, driving keyboards and fuzzed-out guitars, like a melting pot of the best bands from the Flying Nun, Creation and Too Pure stables all rolled into one. However, the Summer Cats are no mere tribute act: the quality of songwriting clearly holds its own. This High Spot edition features an Australian only Bonus Track 'Mystified'.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Last week's Gig with the Brunettes

We played a gig with the Brunettes (NZ) & Wifey (syd) at the Birmingham last Sunday night.. here's some pics from the night...

Crazy crowd..

The Brunettes in blur vision...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Summer Cats – Songs For Tuesdays (2009)

Following on from the Pains Of Being Pure At Heart Post here is another great album released on Slumberland from earlier this year. This time it’s by Australian indiepoppers Summer Cats whose music hits the cuter end of the indie pop scale. I first heard this lot courtesy of a release on the excellent Cloudberry records label and a self released EP. I haven’t stopped loving them since.