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This article was written on 16 Aug 2012, and is filled under Conversations w/ Musicians, Interviews.

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National Airlines’ frontwoman Dallas Rayner: “I’m not sure how much the public realise young bands work for free.”

I first came across Melbourne band National Airlines when I found a clip on YouTube of them doing a live cover of Lene Lovich’s Lucky Number. I was stoked that an Australian bands was covering Lene (definitely a favourite of mine) and figured if they’re into Lene I’d probably like them, so I did some investigation found more clips and original songs. Guess what? I do like them, my instinct was right. They’re also inspired by The Julie Ruin and Television.

What kind of music would you say that you make?

DALLAS RAYNER: Personally I’ve made a lot of different music since I was a kid. Believe it or not I started off this little jaunt as a classical pianist. But I met a cool boy when I was nineteen and lied to him that I could play bass guitar in his band. I COULD play guitar (I started when I was six) but in reality I didn’t know anything about bass, so I bought a bass off a friend of a friend and just faked it. Turned out alright… Since then I met Sime and he and I have played all kinds of stuff – our original band was called Stereotype and we played this live drum and bass inspired shoegazery stuff big guitar / massive bass stuff – it’s just evolved as different musicians have faded in and out of our lives. He and I have remained, shifting and changing our way through it all. The original incarnation of National Airlines was this noisy punky pop trash monster. After a year of no gigs and a lot of hard work in a loungeroom it’s emerged a lot slower, a bit more bitter edged. I’d say it is bleak indie rock (that was a long journey, sorry).

What’s your first musical memory?

DR: It’s hard to sift back that far. I had a musical upbringing. My mum had friends in a band and I’d see them quite a bit in the country town I grew up in (Mallacoota). So I’d hear Beatles and Van Morrison covers. I have a vivid memory of seeing that band do a cover of Take me to the River. But to really go back my first musical memory is my grandmother playing Rachmaninoff’s Prelude #2. She told me it was easy…she lied. I’m definitely going to master it this year – the sheet music is on the piano right now!

Who are your musical heroes and why do you love them?? I know you’re a fan of Kathleen Hanna’s work and I’m guessing you love Lene Lovich as you have done a cover of her song Lucky Number.

DR: My musical heroes are really personal. I feel lucky that people I knew were the first people I heard playing music. So then my musical heroes are: my Mum, my Grandma, John Grunden (first guitar teacher and a great bass player), Cally (first piano teacher and a keyboard player), and Sime Rayner (constantly challenges me to produce better things). I don’t think I really have any celebrity heroes. I love composers Jacques Ibert, Claude Debussy and Erik Satie but that’s possibly too geeky to admit… um, but there it is! I do admire people’s work and some things inspire me like Julie Ruin did initially when we created the band. Now I feel more inspired by Nick Cave, Television and a few others that change constantly. We did that Lene Lovich cover because I loved that song when I was a kid. It was loads of fun singing it too.

National Airlines started as a project between you (Dallas) and Simon Rayner how did you meet?

DR: A friend introduced us years ago. I called him and we met in his share house in Abbotsford. I brought my P-Bass and a 15 watt Gorilla amp which I loved because I could drive it into distortion and it sounded cool. Sime had this beautiful Rickenbacker and a stupid amount of effects pedals. We played loops with a little drum machine for a few hours and I think it was just all too easy to create together.

What are your songs inspired by?

DR: The news. My friends. Other peoples love and loss (not my own)…

When do you like to write them and where?

DR: Home is where it all happens. Simon and I have a pretty great studio set up these days. We spend money on gear where others would go to Bali… Songs happen when they happen. The last song we wrote together came about because Sime was playing keyboards with a drum machine running. I had these lyrics on my computer that I’d been messing around with that morning and I could just see how the whole thing would fit so disappeared to get them and came back and just started to sing. It locked in. Sometimes songs illuminate just like that. I often feel like songs are there, already written and you just need to pull a thread and watch them unravel.

How would you describe performing?

DR: Really there’s nothing more fun. But there’s this precarious edge you stand on where it could make you wake up the next morning smiling or alternately you could wake up the next morning dying inside (!). Seriously it’s either going one way or the other. I don’t think I’ve ever said ‘oh yea that gig was OK’ It’s either ‘that was fucking amazing’ OR ‘Don’t talk to me I want to die right now’.

What is your favourite song to sing live and why?

DR: I’m really looking forward to singing a new song we’ve been rehearsing called Zanesville Zoo. I think I always like the newest thing we’ve done the best. Zanesville gets me at the moment because it’s more of a story song which is a new format for me. It was inspired by the man in Ohio who let loose his collection of exotic animals onto an unsuspecting public. Then took his own life with no regard for what would become of the animals that had been in his care. It’s a tragedy song, full of emotion and those kinds of songs are great to sing.

How would you describe the clothes you wear on stage? Is it important to you?

DR: Um, it used to be a lot more important. I mean I like fashion, I do. I like dressing up. But I don’t care to try and match music with clothing anymore. I’m happier to be myself all day and hopefully not have to do a major transformation to go on stage. It feels disingenuous. Like the story Simon has about his ‘weekend goth’ encounter. It’s goes like this: he meets a goth guy in a club who’s a bit of a wanker. For some reason the guy goes away but leaves his wallet behind. Sime opens it to see what his licence photo looks like and turns out he’s a geek in a suit. The Weekend Goth is born. I’m always dressed up so I suppose there’s not a great deal of difference between me at the supermarket and me on stage…

Tell me about the music community where you live in Melbourne.

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