Hard-working local outfit Acid City (brothers Jess and Jay Hribar, Todd Neumann) spoke with Foldback Magazine about growing up rural, their work ethic, support for suicide prevention and the imminent launch of their self-titled EP.
FM: The first thing most people want to know is the name – where did Acid City come from? Is it a specific drug reference?
Jess: It can be anything you want it to be. Jay and I were in a band in high school and we wanted our own side project and one day it just came to me out of nowhere and yeah it stuck with me.
Jay: Jess would have been about 12 and I was about 16 so it was long before we knew anything about drugs.
FM: Did you all go to the same high school and grow up together?
Jess: No, obviously Jay and I are brothers and known each other our whole lives. We only met Todd (drums) three or four years ago through networking. We were looking for a drummer at the time and Todd was keen to jam.
Todd: They had an ad up on Facebook so I thought I would try my luck. We got together and had a jam and the rest is history.
FM: You boys all grow up in the rural area?
Todd: No I’ve lived in Palmerston all my life.
FM: But Jay and Jess? What was it like growing up in Humpty Doo?
Jay: It was pretty rough but pretty smooth at the same time. It has its ups and downs. But as long as I’m living in Darwin I’m living rural….yeah I’ll never leave the place. It’s been great really.
FM: How do you find gigging in town from all the way out there, is it a pain in the arse?
Jay: Sometimes honestly it is, especially when you are the only one with a driver’s licence. You have to drive everyone around to gigs.
FM: There’s no public transport out there to speak of.
Jay: Sometimes our gigs go to 1am, there are no busses around, we are not going to stand in the street with our guitars waiting for a taxi or pay for a taxi all the way out to Humpty Doo – there goes your gig money! So most of the time we walk away with enough to buy ourselves a friggin’ six-pack of beer if we’re lucky and that all depends on how many people rock up to the gig. I leave Humpty Doo at 8:30 am on a Saturday morning to do a poster run and don’t get home until 6:30 pm.
FM: Does living rural factor into your music, or on your world-view?
Jess: That’s an interesting question. I couldn’t really say if living out bush has an influence on what sort of music we listen to. It does and it doesn’t I suppose. Me and Jay and Todd we all listen to a pretty diverse range of music. We listen to a lot of genres.
FM: Do you think it influences your song writing and what you are singing about?
Jess: Again it could be like yes and no. It really just depends on like how I am feeling at the time as to what I put down on the paper.
FM: You’ve got the situation in Darwin where it is a bit unique where you’ve got a rural area, which is quite distinct, but not that far away in world terms you’ve got a reasonably-sized city so you can be rural and you can be urban at the same time.
Jay: Exactly, it mixes well.
FM: Getting back to your influences, what do you think they are, musically and lyrically?
Jess: there would be a lot of different influences I would take into account. Like I said I listen to a fair variety of different genres and whatnot so, if there is one thing that influences me the most is mainly my personal relationships with people in life. That’s the main factor in my songwriting…and then just listening to music and taking in ideas.
FM: Where would you pigeonhole yourselves as far as genres are concerned?
Jay: Well I wouldn’t like to say that we are defined by one particular genre. We’re a bit of a mix of a few different genres like hard rock/grunge, thrash rock, best you could call it like. Then we can have a softer side if we want it, like we can perform acoustically as well. We haven’t come up with a certain idea that we specify our music to.
Todd: Grunge is definitely up there though.
Jess: Grunge is probably the main one.
FM: I think if I was to pigeonhole you myself I would say grunge with a bit of proto-punk in there. But what about your drumming chops, what did you cut your teeth on Todd?
Todd: When I started drumming I listened to a lot of metal but then I kinda branched out to softer stuff. A lot of psychedelic stuff like Pink Floyd but then on the other extreme I’ve got Gojira and Slipknot but I just liked anything where the drums complemented the music really well so, like I never fancied myself as a metal drummer or a rock drummer or a jazz drummer or anything. I kinda just like finding the right beat for the rest of the music, fit it in there.
FM: As opposed to driving it (the music)?
Todd: Yeah, yeah. I find a lot of people, it doesn’t matter what kind of music it is, they are always trying to squeeze in a metal drum in there but it just doesn’t gel.
FM: I like the fact that you mentioned Pink Floyd. Earlier we were talking about cross-generational music, whether it be 60’s, 70’s, 80’s or 90’s and it’s good to see that is still timeless and that younger artists are still getting something out of it.
Todd: Good music stands the test of time.
FM: Quality never goes out of style. You guys have also done a lot of work with suicide prevention and that is what Rock Ya Temper is about on April 9. Can you tell us a bit about that, personal experiences, family experiences, if it’s not too painful?
Jay: Years ago, for the first ever Rock Ya Temper, my good mate Callan Power we’ve performed with his bands for years. We’ve been co-hosting this event for years. The first time we put this on, just before, I ran into a good friend at the shops at Humpty Doo. I hadn’t seen her in ages. We had a good chat for about a half hour and told her all about the gig that we had coming up. She ended up committing suicide just before the gig. I couldn’t tell anything was wrong. It really messed with me for a while. Thankfully I have never had any close family do it but I have had a few friends do it. I have been right on the brink of doin’ it. I have had some close encounters with friends talking them out of doin’ it.
FM: Do you think it is particularly prevalent in the rural area?
Jay: It is.
FM: Any insight as to why that might be?
Jess: Isolation would be the main factor.
FM: There’s not much for kids to do out there, outside of doing stuff on the property itself, once they get a bit older.
Jay: That’s why we are doing this concert, for the kids to give them something to do.
Jess: And to raise awareness.
Jay: It’s an all ages event. We are doing it to appeal to 4 year olds up to 85 year olds. We want anyone to come down. It’s another outlet for the youth out there who are starved of live music, starved of something to do, entertainment.
Jess: Not much really happens out there.
FM: Like I said to you at the Happy Yess the other night, one of the reasons Acid City has a lot of respect from other bands is your work ethic and how hard you work when you are gigging and promoting and all that and also doing things that are community-spirited like what we’ve just been talking about. Does that add to your drive, that knowledge that you are actually helping?
Jay: Yep friggin’ oath.
Jess: Big time.
Jay: Hearing that the other night, we were flattered.
Jess: We weren’t expecting to hear something like that.
FM: Well you know it wasn’t said to blow smoke up your arses. It’s what I hear from other musicians and my own observations.
Jay: That’s awesome. I love all Darwin bands from the bottom of my heart. We’ve made good mates by performing alongside them and going to their gigs and supporting them.
FM: There’s quite a fellowship amongst musicians up here.
Jay: There is. It’s all we got really. It’s not like we are in a great metropolis like Melbourne or Sydney where you have millions of people to promote to. We have a limited population, limited venues.
FM: Well you are not cutting each other’s throats to try and get paid, are you. You’re not letting each other’s tyres down and stealing their rigs.
Todd: There is a pretty good community spirit here when it comes to music. Everyone is in the same boat. If we were all very competitive and at each other’s throats we would just tear each other apart and there would be no music left.
FM: The other thing you as a band put a lot of effort into is promotions. You have to get bums on seats to be effective. A lot of bands don’t and then wonder why they only played to five people. I saw as I came in here tonight you (Jay) were on the phone to the NT News.
Jay: I have just literally got off the phone to them.
FM: Have you done any radio? I know you have done Drive it Live.
Jay: We’ve done Drive it Live with Matt Bern at Territory FM.
Todd: Rhema FM have helped us out with interviews, the Christian radio station.
FM: let’s talk about your self-titled EP now, how many tracks are on it and is it old stuff or new stuff?
Jess: There’s five tracks on it. It’s a bit of column A and column B as to old and new stuff. There’s a few we’ve had floating round for a couple years or so and few that have only been around for a year to six months.
FM: When did Acid City form as a band?
Jay: 2012. The first ever gig was first of December 2012 playing at the old Chippo at Coconut Grove.
FM: Getting back to the EP. What about the production and recording, where was all that done?
Jay: We did that at Todd’s old house. We did, what, sixteen hours for the drums.
Todd: Yeah it was a good three or four days where we just set everything up and just drummed away for about six to eight hours a day for three days or something.
FM: Until you got it right?
Todd: Yeah just trying to get the best sound we could out of the room we were working out of.
FM: All done by the seat of your pants.
Jay: Pretty much. Jess and I have been saving our band money since our first gig and that all went into this EP and now we got like, bugger-all left. Obviously the people who have come to our gigs, they are the ones who have really paid for it.
FM: What about the production, did you do that yourself?
Jay: That was done by a wizard called Duane Preston. Thanks Duane, you’re a legend. He has known Jess and I since we were toddlers. He is from the rural area himself, Darwin-born and Noonamah-raised. We used his recording equipment and did a lot of the recording at his home. He is a very experienced engineer and sound tech. He was just working at St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival and did the sound for Violent Soho so that’s the level he’s at. His experience, his honesty, his friendship is just worth so much more than what we had to pay for it. We are still paying it off, we still owe him a couple of hundred bucks actually.
FM: Well let’s hope you sell some CDs. Thanks very much for your time tonight guys and we hope your launch and Rock Ya Temper go well for you.
Acid City’s self-titled EP launch is at the Happy Yess this Saturday 26 March 2016 supported by Under Duress, Tha Trigger and Kayoss. Doors 9pm
ACID CITY: Members: Jess Hribar – Guitar/Vocals; Jay Hribar – Bass/Backup Vocals; Todd Naumann – Drums; Hugh O’Dea – Guitar