Shrimpwitch are a garage-punk duo from Melbourne who are set to release their first EP, Eggs Eggs Eggs on June 3rd at the Grace Darling Hotel. Kelly Herbison interviewed band members Georgi Goonsack and Kim Prawn for In Review.
Gotta ask the classic question, what’s with the name?
Georgi: So before Meredith [Music Festival] 2014, my mum and I were shopping on Glenferrie Road, and there’s lots of good op-shops there, basically because they don’t get as many visits from hipsters there. So I was trying to find something funny for the festival, and I found this dress that was like an eBay witch costume, all crushed velour, with draping zig-zag sleeves, and orange strips of mesh. Down the middle there was this, too weird not to call beautiful, bright orange crushed velour ruching.
Kim: Basically shrimp-esque. So the name happened before we even started playing together, Georgi was the Shrimpwitch at Meredith that year, and then we started playing together and looking around for a name, and decided that it was the best word we’d ever heard.
Georgi: I didn’t think much of it at the start, then Kim liked it and I thought it was pretty cool so. And it does sound like sandwich, so people will be like “Shrimpwitch? Sandwich? what?!”
Kim: I think it’s come to make sense over time as well, I think it represents our strangeness and witchy sensual side.
Georgi: The darker side of femininity that’s come to be vilified in history. Same with shrimp, like when it’s used as a weird insult in those American movies: “ya shrimp/wimp!” sort of thing. We’ve played on the underdog kind of character that’s also cool in its own right. Like, they’re just versions of lobsters and lobsters are a big deal – people are in bibs eating lobsters and that’s a huge thing but shrimps get no attention.
That idea of inverting the connotations of a particular word or idea aligns with your record label, Hysterical Records, who are challenging the negative connotations of hysteria. How’s it been to be a part of that?
Georgi: Um, pretty good –
Kim: Pretty good? Really good! It’s an amazing thing that’s happened. Georgi lived with Grace and Jenny [of Wet Lips and Hysterical Records], and it’s been a real honour to be the first act that they’ve put out.
Georgi: And I know it’s not a biased thing or anything like that, as we generally don’t book gigs together – we go to each other’s shows, but we don’t really have a clear alignment in terms of our bands, I think they definitely believed in Shrimpwitch in our own right. Wet Lips were the first band in our friendship group, so we’ve been going to their shows since day one. It’s really nice to be associated with them and all the amazing stuff they’re doing.
Kim: This scene really took off since we’ve been playing, but Wet Lips have been around for ages and help creating it. We played a show at the very first WetFest, and since then I think a lot of bands have developed that have helped created that really supportive scene. I think Hysterical really fills a hole in the musical landscape at the moment. We never really thought of joining a label or actively seeking one out
Georgi: We didn’t really feel like anyone would’ve wanted us, which I thought was fair enough, we could keep doing our own thing
Kim: But Hysterical have provided that platform for the feminist garage niche, giving support to a lot of bands that might not have found it elsewhere.
There does seem to be that surf-rock boys club with Melbourne music, so when you first started playing did you find that difficult to deal with, or did having a relationship with Wet Lips and other bands allow you to override that scene?
Georgi: I think we definitely had a good stepping stone – we were offered to support Girl Crazy’s residency, which was a really positive scene. But in saying that, we haven’t just played with garage bands or even femme identifying bands, we’ve done a lot of different stuff along the way too with mismatched inbetween genres.
Kim: We said yes to everything in the first year, thinking ‘well, I don’t know how long this is going to last for’, we should take what we can get, and to be honest it was really surprising anyone wanted to play with us at all! I think we definitely paid our dues with playing all those shows.
Georgi: From performing all those shows people started wanting to play with us regardless of what genre they identified with, as we don’t sound like anyone else really, so people are interested to hear that sound. That meant that when we played those shows of different genres, we didn’t really feel out of place, it was just like we were doing our own thing.
What are your thoughts on Melbourne’s music scene?
Kim: Seems pretty healthy!
Georgi: Now that I’m 25 and not fresh into the music scene, I know where I’m going to have a good time, and I’m wiser about where I go – I find myself going to gigs where I know good people will be, not necessarily by genre, but more so by the quality of people and music.
Kim: Yeah that’s a good point. There’s a huge variety of really quality music that’s available to see, which we’re trying to reflect in our EP lineup: Rhysics, Plaster of Paris, and Pillow Pro.
Georgi: They’re all people we want to associate with, they don’t play necessarily punk or garage music, but they do have a really strong sound.
In your angsty teen years, what bands were most influential?
Georgi: Slipknot, Queens of the Stone Age, Misfits, System of a Down, Machine Head, Dick Dale, B52s, Queen, Sex Pistols, The Distillers, The White Stripes.
Kim: The Dead Kennedys, Patti Smith, The Cramps, Stooges. We went to see the Dead Kennedys together, which solidified our friendship I think.
Georgi: I didn’t know many femme bands growing up, mainly just angry metal music.
Kim: Yeah I was into embarrassing Triple J rock bands.
When I saw you guys play at the Hysterical Records launch party, I’m pretty sure everyone around me was loving your in-your-face stage presence. Did it take you a while to develop that confidence, or was it just something that came naturally?
Georgi: Came naturally for sure, but we’ve added more glitter over time.
Kim: And it’s definitely become more theatrical as we’ve gotten more confident too.
Georgi: Performing is just us like 110% completely out there.
Kim: It took me a while to get confident though, I nearly vomited and just like ran away when we were done and that was only after four songs.
Georgi: There’s always been a big hug after our sets – avoiding eye contact with anyone else, and just being in each other’s sweat for a moment while we calm it down, as there’s so much adrenaline. I guess I still am like that, I don’t like talking to people right after the sets, otherwise I stay as erratic as I am on stage. I use the stress up there to be as flamboyant as I want, but when that’s done I just want to have a sit, have a ciggie, cool down, then remerge back into the gig.
Kim: I think it’s particularly exhausting because there’s only two of us on the stage, I used to play in a four-piece, and it’s a totally different experience. With Shrimpwitch, you do feel more vulnerable.
Georgi: Yeah there’s that added pressure to fill the air, make everyone look at you and not check their phone. To give people so much of yourself that there’s no possibility for there to be any other energy on stage other than Kim and I.
On that note, did you ever consider or feel the need for a bass player?
Kim: People have actually asked us before to join on the bass! But yeah no, we’re enough.
Georgi: I never wanted Shrimpwitch to be anything more than Kim and I – two syllables, two words together – and I don’t want there to be less attention on Kim and I. Plus I think if there was anyone else I’d feel more self-conscious… Having the bass might make it sound fuller sounding, but I think you wouldn’t be able to hear our nuances and banter, as well as us stuffing up. I like that people can hear us stuffing up, if we miss a beat, then that’s what it’s supposed to sound like.
Kim: Totally. I never wanted us to be a ‘musically good’ band. The whole thing is based on our friendship anyway.
How do you tackle trying to capture that raw and unedited sound through the recording process?
Georgi: Well in the EP everything is live, we smashed out all the recordings.
Kim: I think we did like two takes maximum per song.
Georgi: It took a bit more to get Lust for a Kick, as that’s a newer one and it is sort of structured differently than our usual songs. Maybe it’s because the content isn’t as silly as our other stuff. But yeah, I’ve never been concerned with it sounding perfect. Like if it doesn’t sound perfect, then that’s fine.
Do you go through any particular process when writing the lyrics?
Georgi: I normally start writing when I have an interesting but kinda confusing feeling, and trying to relate that to other things. So with ‘Minimum Chips’, my housemates love chips, and it was one of those ‘two rounds of maximum chips’ kind of days, possibly a Sunday, and I can’t remember exactly how it happened… But I was also working hard at my job, and I was like, where’s all the money gone?! So naturally there are lots of hot chips around. We were also watching that movie The Big Steal, and there’s this line like “musicians eat chips at least four times a week”, and I thought that was really funny. So I combined that with the reality, like I’m working really hard, playing lots of gigs, and there are chips everywhere, like it’s not a bad problem to have necessarily, but it’s a new thing. So, there came ‘minimum chips’.
I wrote the lyrics to another one when I was having a bit of a sad plane ride, and Kim wrote some cool music for them. So that sad poetry sort of thing, and then Kim knows how to turn them into rock songs, and not sad cabaret songs. Trying to make bad feelings fun. Everything we write comes from experience, otherwise how are you supposed to perform that and commit it to memory if it’s not 100% yours and doesn’t mean anything to you? I mean I don’t remember all my times tables because it’s not that important to me.
Talk about your new EP, Eggs Eggs Eggs.
Georgi: So we recorded it live last year, but it’s taken a while to get out due to day to day responsibilities and playing lots of gigs. It’s on bright orange vinyl, which cost a lot more, but like, of course it’s going to be orange, you’ve gotta go all the way.
Kim: We’re in the process of making costumes for our launch.
Georgi: I did all the album artwork myself, and it’s turned out really good, so that’s happy making. This could be our one chance to do something, so we wanted to make it really good.
Kim: Georgi’s just come through a series of injuries too.
George: I damaged a disc in my back over summer, then got doored by a car when I was riding, landed in the middle of the road, and hurt my wrist. So that delayed things a bit due to appointment hopping. But it’s all happening now.
Hysterical Records will be launching Shrimpwitch’s EP Eggs Eggs Eggs. For those of you who aren’t bold enough to order to EP straight up, you can get a lil’ sneak peak by streaming their singles ‘Lust for a Kick’ and ‘Smokey Business’ now: https://soundcloud.com/hystericalrecords/smokey-business