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Interview: Charles Sale ‘Babaganouj’

Brisbane’s nineties inspired pop-rock group Babaganouj has just released their new single Hit Song and is playing at this year’s BIGSOUND. Over a couple pots of beer we chatted with guitarist and singer Charles Sale about the band’s writing processes and having a whale of a time in Roma. 

So how was the first day’s conference?

Great! This is my first time as a delegate. I’ve attended many times, as being a Brisbanite you kind of have to. It’s really fun and it’s really come into it’s own as an event. I’ve had a nice day, drunk probably too many beers as it’s daytime but it’s nice…

Favourite part so far?

Just being in The Valley during the daytime and the vibe going around.

According to your Facebook page Babaganouj’s musical genre is a “Psychological Thriller starring Harrison Ford”. Does your music sound more like The Fugitive or Blade Runner?

Haha! The psychological thriller thing was a joke that our old drummer Pete had. He would play this song that was just two chords that sounded like a psychological thriller movie. I think we’re definitely more the fun family swashbuckling adventure type like Indiana Jones than we are Blade Runner…and I wear that with pride!

The lyrics of your new single Hit Song could be interpreted as ironic or poking your tongue at the content of some pop-songs. What’s the lyrical inspiration behind the song?

It’s not really meant to be snarky.  I don’t really remember writing the song to be honest! Obviously Babaganouj have two boys and two girls so that’s what I think makes the emotion and songwriting more complex with kind of like both sides of the story.

Who writes most of the lyrics for Babaganouj?

We pretty much write songs ourselves. Structural changes come when it gets the bandroom and we play it properly, but mostly it’s all individual. Like Bluff, which is Harriet’s (Bassist) song, she wrote that entirely herself, and Ruby (Guitarist) has a few songs herself. I ‘spose in the band environment it changes, like me add our elements, but we’re pretty equal in terms of who writes and sings what.

Harriet’s the main vocalist on Bluff but Charles takes over on Can’t Stop and Hit Song. How do you guys decide on who does what?

Whoever writes the song sings it, because most of the time the expression comes more easily.  We’ve been sent a few covers of Bluff which is funny cause that’s the song people like to play themselves, but I can’t see myself ever singing that song, it just seems so natural for Harriet to sing it.

Do you feel you’ve moved in a different musical direction from the surf rock sound of Bluff?

We’ve always been a guitar band but we’ve kind of changed our style a little bit with every single we’ve released. Our single Can’t Stop was much poppier and our most recent single Hit Song is sort of more of a rock song. To be honest I don’t know what’s coming next, I think it’s kind of a bit of both.

Back in June you released Can’t Stop and just last Friday Hit Song, both of which are super cute indie pop-rock tunes. What’s the reception been like to the new songs?

I think pretty good! Can’t Stop we all thought was going to be a big next level song, but it didn’t get the reception we expected but that’s ok. The motivation though doesn’t come from what other people think I guess to a degree, but I still love that song and we still play it and think it’s great. Hit Song’s been good too, I mean it was only released last week and we’re looking forward to playing it live. We don’t play live much, but it’s definitely going in the set properly!

Can we expect the next release to share the same kind of happy sound and cute lyrics as heard in these two singles or is there an alter-ego to Babaganouj waiting for listeners?

Together as a band we write more up beat pop songs cause we’re all very influenced by mainstream bangers, we love that shit! So our songs are our expression of that, but I think that our other vibe is sort of either acoustic and downtempo songs and kind of longer format rock.

2014 was massive for you guys with singles Too Late For Love and Bluff receiving national radio plays leading you to twice tour nationally. What was your favourite and least favourite moment from last year?

I’ve got a few good memories but they’re mostly from touring. We were shit scared ahead of a show in Roma, which is in the middle of Queensland like 16 hours west or something like that. We were convinced something awful was sure to happen. But it turned out to be this sweet fun experience in the middle of mining territory.

Did the Roma audience sing along or what was so special?

No, I guess we just expected them to be rough towards us but instead they were appreciative. They watch you and they like you and they have something to say about you, as apposed to just being a blank wall.  We also played in this place called Castlemaine (VIC) and it’s supposed to be like the place where ageing hipsters go when they’re sick of Melbourne. Our gig there was super tiny but just so much fun!

The Hoodoo Gurus are just one of the many huge bands you’ve supported over the last few years. Who’s been the best band to support and did the ‘Gurus pass on any invaluable advice?

No, but they did what watch all the support bands so it was great to see no matter how old you are you can still appreciate live music, and I guess not get jaded. We got to play with a few 90’s bands like The Lemonheads, who are one of my favourite bands of all time. We also played with Veruca Salt, who were huge in the 90’s, and they were so confused that we weren’t some huge band. So I think maybe if we were in the 90’s we’d be the world’s biggest band…

How important do you think BIGSOUND is to Brisbane and Australia’s music scene?

To be honest I think it’s more important to Australia’s music scene. But it also gives people an experience of what it’s like to live here and in the industry, so maybe they’ll understand us better. Because a night out in The Valley is different to a night out in Melbourne, and that’s why we make music differently and operate differently. I think it’s good having some locational identity.

Who are you most excited to see performing at BIGSOUND?

I need to see this band called Totally Mild, but maybe that’s cause they sound like the show Totally Wild…I also need to see my friend’s band Hockey Dad, and I need to see the new The John Steel Singers who apparently are now a 10-piece orchestra of dancing…

Finally, what can we get excited about from Babaganouj in the next few months?

Potentially a tour in November and hopefully we’ll make it a national tour so we hit more than just the boring three cities on the East Coast. We’re also aiming for another physical release of something soon, what it’ll be I don’t know yet, that’s the beautiful thing about being an independent band…

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