One of Sydneys leading post-punk bands, Lowlife cemented themselves as arguably one of the most interesting and diverse acts in Australia over the past decade. With a fanbase that has broken through into the global scene, the band has toiled with a variety of sounds and themes including issues of the Catholic church, drugs, and Australian lad culture.
With a third record almost complete and a Sydney Opera House show under their belt, we here at music farmers were lucky enough to sit down with the bassist of Lowlife, Cristian O’Sullivan to chat the Sydney punk scene, new sounds, and their DIY attitude.
MUSIC FARMERS: I feel like every single interview at the moment is marked with a first question like ‘how are you coping in lockdown?’ or ‘ has it been a scary time for you guys?’. But it seems like you guys have had quite an eventful couple of months.
CRISTIAN O’SULLIVAN: Yeah it has been, and fair enough we’ve been incredibly lucky with what we’ve been able to do. We’ve played the Sydney Opera House, recorded our third record, released a seven inch single, and published a lyrics book. So yeah it’s been oddly mad. All we’re missing is the live gigs to be honest.
I’d love to hear how you guys got that Opera House gig, seems like a pretty big deal for a punk band like yourselves?
Yeah, it was pretty weird, we’d been talking to the guys at the Opera House for quite a few years now but as soon as something panned out the pandemic happened. The gig itself was a trip man, because like it’s a weird building compared to what we normally play at. But oddly enough for us, we hadn’t seen each other for quite some time because of the lockdown and we actually hadn’t played together as a band for around seven months. It was great to have a rehearsal space that wasn’t a grimy space in Sydney's Inner West.
What was the overall vibe of not having a crowd to bounce off of?
It was weird, but I’ll tell you what for once we had a really great backline of music gear that the Opera House paid for us to use. For once it was really great to not have shitty gear hahaha. But with the Opera House being this world-class stage we really got to hear everything we needed to hear and was getting our energy off of that.
So you guys are dropping From Squats to Lots; The Agony and the Ecstasy of Low Life sometime before the end of the year, what can we be expecting of it?
It’s super different, It’s kind of…..look I don’t even know how to describe it yet but its good and its different. We haven’t really released an album yet that's the same but at the end of the day, you can still hear that its Lowlife and I think that's what we and the fans want. Don’t get me wrong, I love when a band releases the same album 10 times, The Ramones are classics for doing that, but I like that we try to keep our sound fresh but still somewhat familiar.
The Catholic Guilt single you guys released has been a great listen but I’m curious about how this song you guys wrote ages ago came to release now?
We recorded it during the creation of our first LP, Dogging was being produced in either 2015 or 2016 and for some reason we were pretty spaced out and it somehow just didn’t make the final cut. Then four years later we refound the recording of it and just thought we’d put it out there cause we liked it.
I guess the message is something that's more relevant than ever?
Yeah exactly man, again I guess it all came out when the Pell debate was raised again with him being released from prison and with the Catholic church just getting into more gross territory.
Let us talk about the other song that got released alongside Catholic Guilt. The Dream Machine REMIX by Total Control is a pretty cool synthy remix of the original song off of Dogging and feels a little different from your regular releases so I'm curious as to how this ended up on the other side of the single?
I’ve known Dan from Total Control for about 25 years from when i use to skate and live down in Wollongong. Similar to Catholic Guilt, Total Control actually had remixed Dream Machine around three years ago when we were meant to head over to the United States and do a festival together. I think the plan was to actually release the single and remix then but as always...plans change. It’s nice to finally hear it out though, I’m a big fan of the remix. The saxophone on it is awesome.
You guys do take a lot of pride in taking a DIY approach to your music and appearances but for a band who just played at a globally known venue like the Sydney Opera House, why does Lowlife stick to the DIY roots?
We kinda got no option to be honest, that's just how it is. I’ve been doing shit like this my entire life and many other punk bands have gotta live the DIY lifestyle to survive. In Sydney itself, the Punk scene is still kinda hard to break through to. Yeah, it’s good to get a few bucks here and there but you know there's nothing better than playing with your friends at a raucous punk show in a warehouse somewhere. Yeah, it may sound like shit but the vibe is just cool.
You say that bands have gotta live that DIY lifestyle to survive so I’m curious to know what your thoughts are on the Punk scene in Sydney and Wollongong at the moment….ignoring Coronavirus of course.
Being around the Punk and DIY scene since I was underage I really do think there is never gonna be a time where it disappears. People always go on about venues in Sydney being gentrified or that venues are shutting down left and right, but in reality, there's always going to be an underground scene that bands need to fight over.
In Sydney and Wollongong it isn’t like “here is your punk venue, and here is your rock venue, and here is your indie venue”, there's more of a crossover of venues that promote a variety of genres. Like when I was a kid first getting into punk shows, there would be a hardcore band, mohawk spikey band, and a pop-punk band all playing the same gig. That's what it is still like today in Sydney and Wollongong. We like to play gigs with a wide varying style of bands, and as long as we all have the same mentality were going to be cool with them. It’d be boring to play a gig with just bands that sounded like us.