Melbourne’s Sex On Toast are arguably a lot of things: Wilfully weird, musically convoluted, unashamedly smug and, most of all, stupidly talented. Taking their main cues from the likes of Frank Zappa and Mr Bungle, any further attempt to describe their (otherwise indescribable) music is mostly in vain. Michael Bowser speaks to frontman/guitarist Angus Leslie about all things Sex-y and Toast-like, and learns more than he ever really wanted to know about George Michael, “yacht rock”, and the perils of watching Spice Girls movies…
First up, I’d just like to say that was quite the sensational show that your good selves and Mandek Penha recently put on at The Toff In Town. What with all the ruckus on stage between you and the Penhas, I was curious…was anyone’s gear broken in the chaos? I saw part of your band’s keyboard set-up hit the ground pretty hard at one point…
Thanks! The show felt like a bit of a gamble, and we weren’t quite sure what would happen on the night. After that little dispute we had we were a little unsure how it would turn out, but we’re glad that it went as well as it did! Olaf usually attempts to destroy his entire set-up after every gig, so his keyboards falling off their stands accidentally seemed rather tame in comparison.
You guys and the cult – ahem, excuse me, band – members of Mandek Penha seemed quite cosy by the end of the show, hugging and singing Bacharach songs together like some perverse version of The Partridge Family. Was there some hot man-on-man action backstage after the show, and if so, why weren’t the audience invited to join in?
Well, let me just say that there WAS a woman on-stage with us at the end as well, so I’m going to ignore the homo-erotic portion of this question (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), and address the more important issue of our on-stage reconciliation. I think myself and Mandek’s Current Earthly Embodiment both realised that it is easy to hate people that you don’t understand, and takes a lot more courage to put your differences aside and connect with one another through the gift of music. Honestly, I think we both realised that in spite of these differences, we are similar in our approaches, both as musicians and entertainers, and neither bands will ever really fit in anywhere in the very dull and segregated musical landscape that we call home. Why not just try and stick together?
To attempt to answer the last part of your question, yes – we did have beers with the boys afterwards, and they are very strange people (to say the least!)…but I do believe, in spite of their religious fanaticism, that their hearts are definitely in the right place…
I think I read somewhere that you guys met in high school. Were you guys the “nerds” of said school, or were you the guys who beat up said nerds? Or is the band comprised of a mixture of both (and do the jocks still beat up the nerds therein)?
Every member of Sex On Toast went to the same high school, aside from Johnny Bassoon who grew up in a dewy rainforest in Cairns. I can’t speak for every member of the band as we are all of varying ages and weren’t all in classes together, however, if I were to use a high school stereotype to describe myself at that age, then I would probably go with “surly musician”.
A couple of members of the band are also in Clinton “Bär” McKinnon’s Umlaut. Are the other Sex On Toast members jealous of the ones who get to play in a band with an ex-Mr Bungle member? Do the guilty parties Lord it over the others, or what?!
All of us have played with Bär at some stage, as he has done some shows with us and our drummer Zak has filled in for Umlaut on several occasions. The only Sex On Toast member who hasn’t played with Bär before is Johnny Bassoon, as he was still schlepping coconuts around in Queensland last time he played with us. John has had the honour, however, of sharing a three-piece chicken dinner with Neil Hamburger after our soundcheck, when we supported him in February. There has been no jealousy or gloating, but most of us agree that we love Bär’s music and think he’s a great guy! I hope to involve him in some more of our live performances/recordings in future.
Somewhere in your influences you list “most yacht rock”. What the fuck is “yacht rock”???
Yacht rock is a term coined by J.D. Ryznar and Hunter D. Stair for their online video series of the same name. It is used to describe the smooth sailin’ recording artists of the late 70’s and early 80’s, such as Michael McDonald, Christopher Cross, Hall and Oates, Steely Dan etc. I developed an interest in this music when I first discovered Christopher Cross when I was 17, and and fell in love with the earnest, daggy and cheesily well-arranged West Coast sound. A lot of those late 70’s records (especially those written by Michael McDonald) are actually really clever songs, with very idiosyncratic harmony and orchestration. A lot of the Sex On Toast material that is more song-based is very influenced by that music, especially our blatant yacht-rock tribute “Drive ‘Til Dawn”…which is actually a partial cover of a song by the forgotten duo “Brytsol & Robinson”, who we are working on getting as a support act at some point in the future.
I don’t think I saw the Spice Girls listed anywhere in your influences. How can you NOT LIKE THE SPICE GIRLS?!
The only thing I will say to that is that I attempted to watch an old VHS copy of “Spice World” on New Years Day this year. It is the closest I have ever come to suicide.
You do, however, list George Michael/Wham in said influences. Does anyone in the band actually like his music, or do they just like copping handjobs from him in seedy, off-the-beaten-path public toilets?
I am going to ignore your disrespect of this great artist and tell you this: Myself and Zak, our wonderful drummer and singer, both attended his concert at Etihad Stadium earlier this year. Concert highlights included “Father Figure”, “Amazing” and the huge crowd sing-a-long to “Freedom ’90”. Also, Zak actually wept during “Careless Whispers”, a song we have covered in the past. The concert made me realise how few of his songs I actually know…the thing with George is, love him or hate him – the guy’s actually really talented! He can sing his arse off, writes a huge portion of his material, and performs like hell! In the context of what we do, George Michael is just another flavour to draw from. A great pop song is a great pop song, and deserves just as much respect as an amazing symphony, film soundtrack or blast-beat.
Your sax/bassoon player is, as you’ve mentioned, named “Johnny Bassoon”. Is this really the name his parents gave him? And what is meant by the words: “A vote for John is a vote for the B”? Is he a member of the Young Liberals or something???
John is far from a member of the Young Liberals. There is an anecdote, in fact, that involves him urinating on the leg of a Young Liberal, but you’d have to ask him about that. John’s connection with his instrument is so strong that he refuses to tell me or anyone his real name, and I respect this decision. As for the for the “B”, well – use your imagination!
Your bass player is also credited with “vooden voon”. I don’t seem to remember my Music teacher in high school mentioning this particular instrument…
That isn’t really an instrument, but a very specific skill… again, you’d have to ask Lachlan about it!
I tried playing that video of your drummer’s alleged “Korean session” on your Myspace, and it gave me some message about it being a “private video” and that I should “make sure I accept the sender’s friend request”. Seeing since I’m already Myspace friends with the band, does this mean you’re actually one of these “fake friends” that my Mum keeps warning me about…and furthermore, what compensation are you offering me for the 10-15 seconds of my life that I lost trying to play the fucking thing in the first place?!?
I think your mother was right to warn you about these fake friends. There are many geriatric men online pretending to be beautiful young women, who will most definitely attempt to show you their genitals. That aside, Zak’s sessions in Korea are becoming harder to find, as the diva he was accompanying became enraged at the amount of attention Zak’s focus-pulling drum-fills were getting as opposed to her anaemic vocal performance. She has tried to have the video removed from several sites, but if you search hard enough – I’m sure you’ll find it!
And finally, a question we always ask here at Music Vice: Other than music, are there any other current vices you’d like to share with us?
Indian food, Rihanna albums and crack cocaine. Wait… don’t print the last part!
© Michael Bowser, Music Vice
Sex On Toast have scored a “residency” spot at The Empress Hotel, Fitzroy, Melbourne during August, and will be playing there every Wednesday night during that month (4th, 11th, 18th and 25th).