Industrial post-punk purveyors Tesla Cøils have emerged from their cocoon of isolation, and brought with them a new ode to introversion, anxiety and alienation, titled ‘The Party’.
Released today, ‘The Party’ describes feelings of anxiousness and paranoia during a social gathering. It was written by Jed during a particularly rough period, and was produced during COVID-19 isolation. Accompanying the single is a home-made music video, filmed and cut by Jed Walters and Chris Dennis in Walters’ family home, as soon as it was safe to do so.
‘The Party’ represents a shift from the whimsy of metaphorical space dinosaurs to a more literal, melancholic tone, while upping the ante in terms of intensity and musical layers. We shot a few questions to Tesla Cøils’ singular lynchpin Jed to find out more about his inner workings, and what comes next for the band.
I feel like it’s been ages since we’ve had new stuff from you! Was the break deliberate, due to a mix of circumstances, or a little of both? And how does it feel to be back in the saddle and releasing new music?
Yes, our break was both circumstantial and deliberate. We released our previous single at the start of last year and played a few shows to celebrate, but later in the year I became very busy with uni (completing an honours thesis on technology & record production – a case study of one of my favourite Australian acts, Severed Heads), and so, playing live shows and releasing music with Tesla Cøils had to take a backseat to my study. However, that process of academic investigation into an experimental/avant-garde/industrial act that I loved so dearly left me with newfound inspiration. It changed the way I looked at songwriting, producing, and the gadgets I use to make music. So, when I graduated, I jumped straight into the studio and got back to work.
When COVID-19 hit, I was still chipping away on this track, but the cabin fever really got to me and I ended up butchering the song’s mix again and again – I was going around in circles with its production and it kept coming out sounding very poor. Finally, I got it to a point I was happy with, and by then it was safe to have Chris over again, so we threw together the music video in a day and here we are.
‘The Party’ feels like an energy shift from your previous work. How does it represent an evolution for Tesla Cøils?
A definite shift in energy, and that’s intentional. I’ve grown a lot emotionally in the past few years and I am inspired by a newer array of subcultures, aesthetics and movements. The old stuff was pretty whimsical and quirky, and I feel I used to hide a lot of my emotions in those compositions behind fantasy and sci-fi themes. The new material I have been working on is definitely more melancholic, raw and emotional, and I’m prioritising getting my emotions across to the audience rather than telling them quirky stories about cyborg tyrannosaurs. I’m also adding more guitar and bass guitar to my tracks for more punk & industrial energy, and experimenting with sampling and tape loops for darker and organic textures. And Chris is experimenting with more industrial percussion, such as hitting oil drums and pieces of metal we find about the place.
It’s certainly not just introverts who’ve been feeling anxious and isolated lately. Given that the zeitgeist informs the musical landscape and people’s musical tastes, do you think COVID-19 might open up a wider audience for your tunes?
That’s an interesting thought. I, like many musicians, am certainly mindful of the ways COVID-19 has affected and is affecting our industry, but of course everybody has a different perspective depending on their genre/s and audience. The thing with subcultures is, there are always those outsiders who get picked on at highschool, read Stephen King novels, watch Twin Peaks, wear long coats and can’t stand what they hear on the radio. That inner angst urges them to seek something else out – something that makes them feel that it’s ok to be different, and it’s ok to be themself. That’s the kind of people who I like to think find themselves at home with our music. They’re out there. I’m not sure if COVID-19 increases their numbers, but I guess we’ll see.
Patreon definitely seems like the thing to do right now. It kinda sucks though, as it basically exists because artists barely make anything from music sales these days. Tell us a little bit about your decision to set up your Patreon, and what it’s like trying to monetise music at a grassroots level in the current climate.
First of all, I need to make it clear that I do what I do with Tesla Cøils because of that inner artistic drive. Being an artist for me is the same as breathing – if I stop creating things I start to feel very sick. So, I just feel lucky that I get to create things and present them to people who appreciate those things, and I always remind myself that that’s why I do this. However, in music, you’re working just as hard as any other profession and getting little to no monetary reward for your efforts (these days, at least, unless you’re Kanye or whatever). So that can be quite taxing on an artist. We need to find ways other than album sales (thanks streaming) to fund our artistic endeavors. This is, like, paying for base level stuff such as equipment, transport, production costs, music video filming costs – all that stuff adds up. I’ve admired Patreon as a solution to this for a long time. It’s less aggressive than saying “we make art, so we deserve money!” Patreon is more like, “our art is everywhere for you to enjoy, for free because that’s just the way things are these days…but if you like our art, and want to help us create more, you could give us a tip every time we make something new for you”. There’s also incentives of bonus content that only Patrons can see. We’re going to be including behind-the-scenes footage from our music video shoot, production diaries from us in the studio working on new tracks, and it also gives our fans a chance to interact with us and actually join us in our creative process. Hopefully this helps both us and our fans out – they help us create more, and they get to be with us while we create.
You’re known for writing straight from the heart – particularly about your feelings of disconnect from society – and The Party is another example of that kind of honest lyricism from you. Where do you find the strength to make yourself so vulnerable?
I believe that nothing is off limits when it comes to writing. I’m not afraid of singing about my disconnect from society, because I know deep down that I should always just write about what I see and feel. If people treat you like dirt, make fun of you for being different, or betray you, and you can’t stand up to them in real life, your art can become a medium where you do get a chance to stick it to them – it kinda feels like they’re an enemy and the song is the sword you brandish to defeat them.
The Party is kind of dated in a way, because it was written years ago when I was in a pretty poor state, and simply describes experiences during that time. But, for the “me” at the time, it was important to get that stuff off of my chest and onto the paper, and then onto a recording, simply for that artistic catharsis. I don’t feel vulnerable at all when I do that – quite the contrary. When I can jump up on stage and shout out all this crap that plagues me, I feel powerful, at the top-of-my-game, and healed. And there lies the moment I can really defeat that enemy.
Do you ever get hit with performance anxiety, and if so, how do you manage it?
I never get nervous before performing. Performing on stage is where I feel my most powerful and in control of myself and my life. So I have no reason to be anxious before performing.
You’ve been around for a few years now. What have the highlights been for the band?
Winning the 2017 GCMA for Breakout Artist of the Year was this eruption-point for us – as soon as that happened everyone started recognising us and offering us new opportunities, and we have GCMAs and Blank to thank for that. In 2018 we supported Peter Murphy, the Godfather of Goth himself, at one of our favourite Brisbane venues, The Zoo. It was an amazing show, we had such a great sound mix and Peter’s fanbase was so damn gothy and wonderful and we felt right at home in their hands. And also selling out our elsewhere show last year – well – we were one off of capacity. Our favourite local club to play. I bloody miss playing live.
As far as you’re able to tell, what does the rest of your 2020 look like, and is there more new music to come?
I’m currently moving into a new home, so once that’s all set up I’ll be back into the bedroom studio to finish more of this new Cøils material. Chris and I are also going to put together a new live show, with new instruments and gadgets and an entirely new setlist of music. It’s hard to gauge when live shows will be up and running smoothly again, but until then, we’ll chip away at this new live show so when stuff is all opened again we’ll be all rehearsed and ready.
Is there anything else you’d like people to know?
Look after each other, wash your hands, support independent artists.
Tesla Cøils will be presenting THE PARTY in a Live Stream Event on Saturday 25 July on Insta, which will include new music and a Q&A segment. Tune in to Instagram Live at 8PM to catch it. More details at teslacoilsmusic.com.
IMAGE: Shot by Hannan