I love lo-fi music. I especially love when it’s one person making it entirely by themselves like Melbourne musician Dan Trolley does. I only recently discovered his noisy garage-y synth-punk record, Hours Electric—it’s been on high rotation at my house since. The debut solo release is available on cassette tape housed in a neat looking clamshell case (it kind of looks like a video game cartridge/mini VHS case from the 80s). Dan’s also the front man for the 70s punk/60s garage pop inspired band, Mass Cult. This Wednesday (Jan 30) sees him finish his month long residency at The Tote (with Wilding & Shiva and the Hazards – event details). He is currently working on a follow up LP.
Why did you decide to start a solo project?
DAN TROLLEY: I recorded some demos which were supposed to be for my band Mass Cult, but they didn’t really work out. The music I was writing became more experimental and more electronic with the use of drum machines and synthesisers not just garage punk so I decided to do a new project with these songs. The challenge was to play the songs live solo, which I now have been doing for the last 6 months.
What drew you to home recording and a lo-fi aesthetic musically? Is your music lo-fi out of necessity?
DT: I used one mic to do the whole album. The same mic I use for my vocals live. It was pretty much all recorded in my dining room. I got mastered 4 songs first for a planned E.P. The first person I gave a copy to was Ariel Pink when he was in Australia last year. The mastered version sounded good to my ears so I finished the album. I was very happy with the lo-fi quality and I didn’t think a studio would capture the whole vibe of the album if I re-recorded it. The whole idea for the project was to do everything myself.
Your debut release Hours Electric was recorded over summer last year. I find a lot of artists write for experience, was there anything going on in your life that inspired the songs included on the album?
DT: Not really, just what was going on around me at the time. I live on a very busy main road where it’s very loud and there’s always weird shit happening outside, especially at night. I remember pretty much staying inside the whole summer with the blinds down recording.
Where do you usually start in writing a song?
DT: Either guitar or a drum loop on my drum machine. Melody and lyrics always come last.
Where does your fondness for sci-fi effects (that are featured in your music) spark from?
DT: I’ve always been a big fan of B-grade films from the 70’s and early 80’s. Especially really cheesy/bad horror films. So I added silly sound effects throughout the album. It fits in well with the whole vibe. You can buy the album on cassette in a video game/VHS style cover.
A review of Hours Electric describe it as “Channeling Blank Dogs, The Fall and even a little Jesus and Mary Chain…” do you think these comparisons are accurate? How would you describe what you do to someone not familiar with your work?
DT: Yeah pretty much spot on. It’s hard to describe my music as some people don’t really get it until they see me live and then they still don’t get it. Its post punk/New Wave I suppose. Live, I say to people it’s a one man punk show with guitar, drum machine and a lot of synths. I’m influenced by a lot of bands so people who see me give me different opinions on who I sound like, usually its “Very 70’s sounding”, Sonic Youth, Lou Reed, JMC etc” so it hasn’t been all that bad so far.
This month you’ve been doing a residency at The Tote. How’s it going? What’s the most exciting thing you’ve witnessed so far during the residency?
DT: It’s been very good. January residencies are the hardest, especially on a Wednesday night so it’s been great that people are coming along to see the gigs and all the bands have been fantastic. It’s great playing on a big stage when it’s just you up there. Each night is a completely different vibe, that’s what I like about it.
What kind of vibe do you like in a live space? What’s your ideal audience?
DT: I find free entry gigs bring the worst people to venues. I’d rather play where people appreciate the gig and make an effort to come along to see you. That means a lot.
Is music something you engage with on a daily basis?
DT: Yes, every day.
Has working on your solo project, refreshed you to work on new Mass Cult things, or do you do both simultaneously? Does each project inspire the other or are they more exclusive from one another?
DT: I have been very busy with the solo project over the last few months so that has been the main priority for me. I’m playing a style that I’ve been wanting to do for years. I also write the songs and manage Mass Cult so juggling two projects takes a lot of time and energy. People still ask what’s happening with Mass Cult so there’s still a bit of interest out there. We have a gig coming up on Record Store Day.
Have you come across any rad equipment that’s inspired your music making process recently?
DT: Just my vintage Roland TR-505 drum machine and Roland Juno from the mid-80s which I use for the recordings. I still can’t get enough of them!
What are you currently working on? Will you be continuing your solo project? What’s next?
DT: Definitely looking to tour this year. I’ve nearly finished recording a new album. There are less guitars on this one and way more synths. It’s a bit different from Hours Electric, the best way to describe it is Euro Disco/Cold wave/Post Punk. I recorded it again at home. I may even put a band together for this. Trust me its sounding great!
*Photos by Robert Smith Photography