cwas#16 / cwas#11 / cwas#10 / cwas#9 / cwas#8 / cwas#7
cwas#6 / cwas#5 / cwas#4 / cwas#3 / all interviews / search
an interview with Pete Cohen by Sarah Corbett
"We haven't noticed any knickers making their independent way on stage, and we have never been busted for drugs. Anything we consider scandalous would probably achieve the batting of a single eyelid these days. Just not rock 'n' roll enough I guess."
Pete Cohen, fifty percent of Australia's Sodastream explains how they'd more than likely be failures of 'Liam Gallagher's Rock 'n' Roll High School'. But their clean- cut road to recognition both at home and abroad has caused nothing less than proud mother smiles on faces of those 'in the know.' For Sodastream's exquisite sounds offer something rare... something new.
"There doesn't appear to be anyone else in the Australian music scene doing what we are doing," he says.
Sodastream have distanced themselves from the prevalent post-rock phase currently sweeping Oz's rocky shores, bear no relationship to ever popular heavier guitar rock outfits and are merely long lost cousins of keyboard infected pop.
"Many light years ago [1997, actually] we were a 'pop' band with drums and all which gave rise to our first EP Enjoy," Pete explains.
"When our drummer left the band we chose to continue in a slightly more subdued fashion."
It's this kind of non-conformist approach that has the twin set sticking out like a baguette amongst sliced white. Even so, their poignant words, elegant melodies, wavering voices, melancholy tones and understated instrumentation has at times seen them labelled as mere Nick Drake or Belle and Sebastian copyists.
"The references in themselves are not annoying," counters Cohen.
"Music can be an ambiguous thing and comparisons often serve very well in conveying a description of a sound. What is annoying is 'lazy journalism' whereby some writers don't seem to be bothered to discuss some of the unique aspects of our sound and almost imply that we're ripping off our contemporaries or predecessors."
Such referencing is most likely born from Karl Smith's similarly shy vocals or the folky flavourings of his acoustic strumming. Set against the classically haunting rhythm of Cohen's double bass, though, his fragile voice rises majestically. His soft melodious guitar and delicate piano tunes clash, sometimes discordantly, with Cohen's clamorous patterns. The result is music that is inventive, overwhelmingly passionate, and unquestionably unique.
Also overlooked is the fact that the duo comes with no added accessories.
"At the moment things are working really well as a two piece," he confirms.
"It gives us the freedom to work with a lot of ideas and opens up many opportunities, especially in regard to touring. When the London Philharmonic have a break in their schedule we might take them onboard, but until then we'll continue as we stand."
Subdued and subtle is the sound of Looks Like A Russian, Sodastream's debut full-length (the title derives from a comment by Cohen's father regarding some funky new specs).
"It was the first time we had the time and resources to create an accurate representation of the songs as we heard them in our heads," he says.
"The guest musicians who play on our recordings bring a lot to our sound. A big part of our instrum-entation and production is subtlety. All the musicians that we work with are sensitive to that and do a great job of adding melody and depth to the songs without being overbearing."
The Sodastream live experience is an emotional one, even for the slurring rock dad who got his nights mixed up and thought it was the AC/DC reunion show. Their brand of sombre yet uplifting atmospherics bring light to a darkened room creating an almost spiritual calm. Their songs become hymns and drunken crowds become silenced disciples.
"Our songs are what they are. We don't write them to 'affect' an audience as such, but more to express something that we are trying to get across. We'd hope that people would interpret them in a way that is meaningful to them rather than respond in a way we would want them to."
What goes through their minds before showcasing emotions to a school of strangers?
"There is an ideal frame of mind that is rarely realised. There are so many factors that affect the way we feel before a show that it is difficult to achieve any consistency at our level. Our main consideration is the sound in a venue and this is often hard to control considering our instrumentation. If we can hear ourselves playing we are generally pretty happy. Other than that, a couple of beers usually does the trick."
Good for a lot of tricks that beer stuff, but, just as importantly, how does Sodastream's two-for-the-price-of-one package deal travel?
"In the sense of album sales and general exposure, it would seem that we have more success in Europe, but of course it's a much bigger market and has a much bigger population. Since we moved to Melbourne from Perth two years ago our profile here has steadily increased to a point where it is relatively comparable to that in Europe and we can work effectively here."
And more importantly...who's the best-behaved audience? Sophisticated, coffee sipping Parisians or sun speckled, beer stained Aussies?
"There's sometimes a difference in the way European/Australian crowds react when we play live, but it has to be expected. When we're playing in Europe we are obviously a touring band and the opportunities to see us play there are rare. Therefore the people in the crowd seem to be more interested and respectful. We rarely play headline shows in Australia and therefore find ourselves being talked over a lot of the time, but such is the nature of the beast."
Sodastream might be captivating eardrums of the international pop underground, but are they really yearning to follow the stiletto prints of say, Kylie Minogue...?
"Perhaps when we were bouncing on beds as teenagers playing guitar on a tennis racquet along with commercial radio, fame seemed like an attractive life goal. Now it seems a bit more like a by-product of doing what we want to do. Fame isn't what we are striving for per se, but it is directly correlated with success in the music industry which is one of our goals."
CWAS #7 - Spring 2001