The Brisbane music scene has been rocked to its core over the last year as we’ve seen the rise of local pulp-punkers The Gametes. I’ve written about them on Radio Friendly more than any other band, so you should know who I’m talking about. So, it saddens me to see that their final show is scheduled for this Saturday night, and just after the release of their debut album: The Astronomical Calamities of Comet Jones. I’ve heralded the band for living, and performing, in the mysterious aura they’ve created. A narrative built through their song writing and social presence, as well as the questionable tyranny of their CEO, Mr Takiyama. But because of this mystery, I realise I don’t know anything about the band. I only know what Mr Takiyama wants me to know. I’m drip fed information like the proverbial hamster sitting in some poor cage. I haven’t been able to read the mundane questions like “how did you guys come to start the band?” and “what’s your favourite meal after a gig?” So, it was with great excitement and pleasure that lead Gamete, Tom Harden, decided to answer some of my burning questions. But it had to be in secret. So, I waited for Tom to make the first move.
A few days later a malnourished, grey pigeon landed on my balcony. Still, poised and elegant, the pigeon stood on the railing. I saw a note strapped to its leg. The pigeon didn’t flinch as I untied the carefully rolled parchment. Written on stained paper was a time and a URL to a secure server where Tom would meet me to answer my questions. For the safety and security of the people involved, I cannot disclose this information. What I can disclose is the information provided to me by the lead Gamete. Please do not repeat anything you are about to read. The transcript follows below. This is the interview that Mr Takiyama didn’t want you to see.
How did you guys come to start The Gametes?
It was a pretty natural progression of our friendships — we used to discuss chemicals at length, and it brought us close. From there, it made sense for us to start playing music together as an outlet for all the concepts we wanted to explore, such as chemicals and chemical production. It was then up to us to learn how to play instruments and begin the process of song writing.
Obviously, DEVO is a strong influence on the band, but you incorporate a plethora of genres on the album. What are the band’s musical influences?
We wear our influences pretty heavy on our sleeve, so pretty much anything you can hear hinted in the music is what we listen to a lot. I personally love to lie down on the floor, listen to Ween for 4 hours and brown out every now and then. We listen to a lot of the Mid-West weird-punk/ booger-punk/ cone-punk etc. Past that — Medieval prog-rock, instrumental surf, krautrock, 60s garage and some new wave are all squeezed into our collective consciousness somewhere.
Did you always have a vision to have a narrative run through your music?
We didn’t really set out for the whole project to be like that, but we’re always that way inclined when it comes to our tastes in humour, so it was probably destined to be. There’s plenty of storylines we discarded (such as a brewing rivalry between our nearest competitor, ‘Los Gametos’), but I’m sure some old ones will rear their ugly heads soon.
What comes first, the story or the music?
Concept always comes first. The idea of being literally stuck for eternity in a turnstile is funny enough to me on its own, so putting music to it is kind of just a bonus. I always really liked making dumb short films with friends in high school, but don’t have the means as much to do it now, so this is just another outlet for it.
What is the story writing process for The Gametes? The characters you introduce throughout the album are quite visual with substantial backstories. Did it all start with Comet Jones?
Writing this album mostly started with listening to War of the Worlds by Jeff Wayne, and then deciding I want to copy that. A lot of stuff was written purely on a surface level, I wanted to write a near-10-minute opening song that was completely instrumental, or I wanted to write an interpretation of what alien music might sound like if they had evolved to play music. Putting a big sci-fi narrative over the entire album made sense to tie all these threads of ideas we had.
Science Fiction plays a big part to not only your music, but the life of The Gametes, what are the band’s literature influences?
We really love a lot of wacky, old animated movies like Wizards, Fantastic Planet & Son of the White Mare. I really like absurdist short-form stuff like Bartleby, the Scrivener, and some graphic novels from Daniel Clowes. HP Lovecraft was a great influence in the use of abstract imagery which we use quite a lot. One particular member of the group (not to be named) exclusively reads Iraq War era Mad Magazine fold-ins.
In other interviews/media appearances, The Gametes are shrouded in mystery. You guys live the narrative you write within the public eye, for the most part. Can you explain why The Gametes are so dedicated to the band’s mystery?
Most of what we do is because we think it’s funny- there’s no real meaning behind any of it that you can pick apart. This is no different really. I think it wouldn’t really be as funny or as fun for people watching if it seemed half-hearted.
Is there a level of alienation by being devoted to The Gametes narrative? Or does the band enjoy trolling fans and fellow musicians?
We get genuine enjoyment out of it. It’s perverse, but we really do.
I assume being shrouded in a level of mystery would make it hard for an up and coming band to break through. What have you found to be the hardest part about breaking through into the Brisbane music scene?
Selling our inaccessibility in a scene that is often a little bit too accessible has probably been the hardest part. I suppose even with that said, the Brisbane music scene has been way too kind to us considering we sometimes take quite an active role in making ourselves inaccessible.
Have you ever turned down an event, a gig, or anything in particular because it didn’t fit the narrative of the band?
Not particularly, mostly because we’ll just fit whatever the event is to the narrative that we have.
Do you consider The Gametes an outcast band within the scene, considering you guys are very much anti-zeitgeist in musical style, and lyrical style?
Honestly, I don’t think we are that out-there with our style- there’s plenty of other experimental artists in Brisbane who are doing way more outlandish things to varying degrees of success- I think the only difference with us is that we package it in a pretty consumable, marketable, easy to ingest way. Takiyama Corp. has taught us well!
The band have gained immense popularity within Brisbane, in a short period of time, what has set The Gametes apart from your contemporaries?
I suppose it’s not really for me to say. I just like bands that are more than just a few people with a few instruments singing songs about things. I feel like any band who goes that little extra bit will really stand out.
Was the #briscityimpotence scandal as serious as media outlets made it out to be? Or was it a smart ploy by The Gametes to help spread your music?
It actually was. That whole beast was truly incredible, because it’d be something that we’d make up anyway to stir up a scandal. Brisbane City Council just handed us amazing promotion and it was incredible. Everything sort of snowballed into this whole thing where the C.E.O of Andrology Australia was trying to do a joint statement with us on the Courier Mail, and the BCC were apparently livid. It was hard to tell who the joke was on, and who even was in on the joke by the end (if there even was a joke to begin with?).
Why are The Gametes going on hiatus? Is it a feeling of going out while on top?
I wish! Two of us are going overseas for a year to study- that’s literally the only reason why. A year ago, it was kind of a race to see how much we could achieve before we leave. Now we’re here, and we definitely feel like we’re stopping at the right time.
What can we expect to see from The Gametes final show?
You’ll have to come and see. Let’s just say it is truly incredible what strangers will do for money.
The transcript ends there. The server shut down and our communication channel was terminated. There was no trace of our conversation ever happening. The only evidence is this here article. Please, for the safety of those concerned, do not share what you have read.
The Gametes final hurrah and album launch is this Saturday night at The Foundry, Fortitude Valley. $10 entry.