More songs from Under the Floorboards
by Ross Clelland
Brood; (v) 1. to dwell moodily in thought, ponder. (n) 2. family or offspring.
So, David Bridie and Heln Mountfort, representing MFTCC: Which definition means
more in relation to the new album of the same name?
"More pondering than the family," says Bridie, "some of the record has a very melancholy mood."
"There is a bit of both though," offers Helen, "the only brood it isn’t is the one to do with chickens."
ER, yeah. I forgot: (v) 3. to sit as a bird over eggs to be hatched (part poultry)
MFTCC are the little side project that grew. Orginally a ‘have fun’ offshoot of NDW of which Bridie and Mountfort are members (singer and keyboardist and cellist respectively), having got to a second album, things have got a little more serious: "None of it was planned" according to David. "It was all very laissez faire from rehearsal to gigs to a record, it grew.
Helen: "Pre-production for the first album was a rehersal at David’s place the day before we recorded it, even people in the band were going: ‘That was for a record? I thought we were just mucking about in the studio.’"
That relaxed attitude to the whole process allows the Cake (If I may be so familiar) to indulge in a wide range of moods and musics across Brood. David: "Music should cross all terrain from extreme joy to the bleakly melancholy, and Chocolate Cake can do that. It actually fits with the instrumentation and even the personalities in the band - there’s bouncing buoyant music or we can do a big descending violin, cello and piano."
Helen continues the thought: "It’s good that people can’t quite find the pigeonhole for us, even the cover of the record re-inforces it: dark title , but the artwork is all bright colours and cartoon-like, it’s the same contrast. And having that range is one of the reasons we had the enrgy to make a second
But does MFTCC belong to smoky rock pubs of Australia with music that goes from Danny Boy to covering Magazine’s early 80’s pot punk anthem ‘Song from Under the Floorboards’?
Helen: "We can straddle a bunch of things, we can even alter the set to suit the venue we’re playing. We do sit-down theatre shows where people listen intently, or like a Republican benefit we did at the Collingwood Town hall where we turned into a big loud rock band.
"And then you slip in a song wherre you pump it up in a theatre or do one of the really slow instrumentals in the midst of the noisy pub," David Bridie shows a hint of the mischievous. "And with ‘Song from Under the Floorboards’, it was the indie pop song from heaven when it came out. I’m still amazed that Depeche Mode is the band from that era who became huge, Magazine and (Buzzcocks founder and Magazine Leader) Howard Devoto incredibly underrated. And we just all fitted together on that song: Helen’s cello playing the original bassline, Hope’s (Csutoros) violin doing the keyboard line, and a mandolin playing the guitar part. And how can you resist a song with the opening line ‘I am angry, I am ill, I’m as ugly as sin’. It’s a beauty." But UK post-punk covers aside there is a real Australian-ness to MFTCC, but is their vision of small town (even allowing for the small minded) Australia a little too romantic to be true?
David: "No it is ambiguous, but no, you can still walk in to a pub in the country, or even out in the western suburbs and you can sometimes feel that magic feeling of community. People are still helping each other, like a bloke gets laid off - so the hat goes round to get him some money - or more likely his mates rig the meat tray raffle so he wins it. That’s a quintessentially Australian way of doing it.
"But you can go in there the next day, and a woman is walking round with a black eye her husband gave her, or some guy is mouthing off about the ‘f--kin darkies’ or something."
"Everybody has their own prejudices," adds Helen, whether it be the ‘arty’ Melbourne community or the single mum groups I know. It’s human nature to favour your community and maybe that includes making up stories about some other group - whether they’re from the wrong suburb, the wrong ethnic group."
David: "And it’s not a nostalgia for the old days - they could be a joke, too. Just pretending domestic violence or incest didn’t happen, so it just didn’t get reported. And of course there was no such thing as homosexuals. Like John Howard raving about bringing back the values of the menzies-era, now, that’s a bigger joke.
"But that all becomes part of your community, like on ‘The Gossip’ (another Brood tune). There’s obviously a pretty loud potentially violent domestic argument, but even that provides currency and a talking point for the other people in the surrounding flats: ‘Oh-er, did you hear that in Number Three last night?’ It ends up as something to talk about."
There’s also a respect for age, not much seen in the Oz-rock idiom, the various members often perform., and just talk to the folks of aged care centres. "I don’t know the old folks would really want something like Noiseworks visiting at lunchtime - ‘Get those noisy bastards out of here!’ - or ‘jeez, he blew that solo after the second verse, didn’t he?’", Bridie jokes. "One thing about the Chocolate Cake is the characters. And the older people have such a storage of stories, and maybe we don’t listen enough. We need some of the Maori attitude or whatever happens, listen to and respect your elders. Or when NDW was doing the tour with (Papua New Guinea pop star) Telek, and trying to explain to him the trend of putting the elderly in retirement homes - he just though that was barbaric.
"Their old people would remain useful, and we tend to dismiss them."
"We’ve even done it", Helen admits, "Like that Yugoslav bloke who talked to us when we were having a beer the other week."
"Oh, yeah, this guy comes slobbering up, and you can’t help thinking ‘oh, here we go’, like he’s going to pick on us for a conversation or cadging a drink. And then he started talking about his life in Yugoslavia during the war - and it was all so vivid, so articulate."
Helen: "Maybe we’ll do it as we get older, talking with affection about what is our cultural things now."
"No, probably not."
One more character from the record, an instrumental in praise of Jimmy Stynes. Jimmy Stynes? Irish-born champion Australian Rules player, Brownlow Medal winner and just happens to play for the Melbourne Demons, the team supported a little too enthusiastically by Bridie and Andrew Carswell.
"The song was simply a ploy so they could meet him," Helen claims conspiratorially.
"So why didn’t we call the song Winona Ryder then?" defends Bridie.
"And Tony Modra just didn’t have the same ring as a title."
"That’s very good, did you just think of that?" he enquires.
"No. Stynsie’s an artist, he bought this little Gaelic football kick over with him - no-one else can do it, it’s poetic," the man is waxing lyrical ladies and gentlemen.
"Don’t worry, he gets like this," explains Helen. "It got a bit silly on one tour. It got to the point that if Melbourne won, it was a good gig, but if the D’s went down, don’t bother coming."
Fair warning, but there’ll probably be no need to check your scoresheets before attending.
[MFTCC play Friday July 15 and Saturday 16 at the harbourside Brasserie]