Thanks to Harvey for the interview!
++ Who were The Odolites? When did the band form?
Ted Lethborg (lead guitar vocals songs), Gary Aspinal (bass vocals songs), Graham Rankin (drums) and myself Harvey (guitar vocals songs). We formed in early 1985 in Burnie, Tasmania. My partner and I had spent about 8 months in Europe doing the backpacker thing and I caught up with Ted when we arrived back in Tasmania. We started working on songs and recording them on a 4 track porta studio. It was a really productive time and most of our early material was written in the ensuing few months. We then invited Graham and Gary to join and started playing shows in Burnie and Hobart.
++ The band started in Tasmania but then relocated to the Australian, mainland, to Melbourne. Why was that?
We did some recording at an 8 track studio in Mole Creek, which was totally the back of nowhere as the name suggests. A farmer had a small studio on his farm which he used for recording jingles for the local radio station. Our previous bands had both recorded albums there. One of the features of the studio was a spring reverb he’d set up in an old watertank. In fact that was about it for features as it was pretty basic but a fun place to record.
We recorded a bunch of songs and thought we’d send them to all the ‘mainland’ record labels that we could find addresses for. It resulted in a stack of rejection letters saying something like “we think you show potential but we aren’t looking for new bands at the moment” which, smart cookies that we were, we knew really meant “we think you suck, stop wasting our time”. However, when we’d given up hope and confined ourselves to a life of playing Sweet Home Alabama and Cocaine on the Tassie pub circuit we had a call from an excitable chap called Bill Tolson from Rampant Records. He’d done well to track us down because we were setting up for a gig at the local pub and the bloke behind the bar came and found us. He said “there’s some smarmy bugger from the mainland on the phone for you boys. Can you make it quick?” Anyway, the upshot was Bill loved the recordings and if we wanted to move to Melbourne he’d release them on his label. We loaded up the Kingswood and went across on the boat a few weeks after that!
++ I’ve never heard from 80s guitar pop bands from Tasmania, would you care recommending me some? How was the scene there back then?
Ah yeah, it was pretty dire to be honest! As a band in Tassie you pretty much played the handful of pubs that put on live bands on Friday and Saturday night. I think they called them raves or rages at the time but most of the places were just oversized barns and your job was to keep people drinking! So the upshot was most of the bands were cover bands playing current top 40 schmuck and a few classics that always included (the afore mentioned) Cocaine and Sweet Home Alabama. For some reason they were staples in Tassie in the 70’s and 80’s and I imagine still go down a storm today!
However, there were a handful of original bands that managed to gate crash a few of the venues or, did what we did and started our own club nights. In the 70’s there was a band called the Innocents who had a hit with an amazing power pop song called “Sooner or Later”. It’s well worth trying to track down. There was a great band from Hobart in the late 70’s early 80’s that I used to go and see called Dingo Rose. They split into 2 other good bands B Culture and the Ex-Catholics. As luck would have it Ted and I are trying to get a compilation album together of Tassie bands from the period. Stay tuned!
++ The Melbourne scene, in the other hand, was a thriving one, with important bands that later would be part of the Summershine label. How did you enjoy moving there? Was it the best decision for the band? What were your favourite bands from Melbourne back then?
When we arrived in late 1985 Summershine was still a few years away and it was pretty tough breaking into the Melbourne scene. The live circuit was controlled by a couple of booking agents and to get gigs we had to do a lot of supports, often for unsuitable bands. I think we fell into a bit of gap between what happened in Australia in the early 80’s with bands like the Go-Betweens and the Triffids (who we adored) and then a much more vibrant independent sector that started in the late 80’s.
++ All your releases as The Odolites happened in a label called Rampant Records. Care telling me a bit about this label?
It was owned and operated by Bill Tolson and run out of a record distributor called Music Land. We sent them our demo because we really liked a band on the label called Honeymoon in Green. I think by the time we got to town though they were taking a break as I don’t recall them playing too much. The big band on the label at the time was Not Drowning Waving and they went on to do really well. Other bands on the label included the Hollowmen and Sea Stories and we played with those bands a lot, especially Sea Stories. They ended up getting a deal in the USA and recording a couple of albums with IRS. Great band, check ‘em out.
++ Somewhere I read about Andrew being part of a band called “Fear of Dance”. How did this band sound like? Were you or other band members involved in any bands before forming The Odolites?
Well spotted! Yes, Andrew (Ted) and Gary were in Fear of Dance and Graham and I were in a band called Noddy’s Revenge. We set up a club called the Big Ears Club in Burnie Tasmania in 1983 and both bands played the club on a regular basis. It was in a pub on the waterfront that didn’t have too much going on apart from some warfies drinking in the main bar. After the 2nd week we were packing the place out (it did only hold a few hundred though)! It was the place to go in North Western Tasmania for a couple of months and then, like all smart promoters, we quit while we were ahead and closed the place.
Fear of Dance and Noddy’s Revenge were both influenced by Punk and New Wave stuff that was around in the early 80’s. Noddy’s were probably into the poppier side. We were big fans of Orange Juice, Josef K, the Jam, Go-Betweens, Echo & the Bunnymen. Fear of Dance were a bit more art school and into the Birthday Party, Pere Ubu, Magazine & Joy Division. Both bands did some cassette only albums that were recorded at the Mole Creek studio where the Odolites later recorded.
++ “Let the Rickenbacker ring”.. is that a Rickenbacker being played in Chimes? This song is what guitar pop should be! What do you recall from recording this first single? For many this was your best song, do you agree?
Sure was a Rickenbacker. I loved my Ricky and Gary also had a Rickenbacker Bass. It was one of the earliest songs from when Ted and I started working together. The lyrics kinda reflected the excitement I was feeling re the music we were discovering at the time and the feeling that we were really onto something special with our new band. We were also mocking some of the awful cover bands around in Tasmania at the time especially one in Burnie called U Clap 2 (I kid you not) who went out of their way to be annoying.
Chimes was certainly the song that received the most attention and a live favorite along with Too Much To Dream off the EP. I have other songs that I prefer but I like sentiment of the lyrics, the chiming D chord and the Rickenbacker ring!
I’m really pleased that people from the other side of the world are finding out about the band and Chimes seems to be the song that’s attracting people. How I wish we’d had the world wide web in 1986!
++ There’s a video for this song, right? We’ll be ever see it on Youtube? That also makes me wonder if there will be a retrospective for The Odolites material.
Hmmm, yes there is but I kinda doubt it’ll make it to You Tube. I saw it recently for the first time and it was very ‘4 go down to the forest’. Lots of wandering around in the trees and bad miming. It does show off the Rickenbackers to good effect! My hair was a lot redder, Grahams blacker, Teds curlier and Gary had more of it than he does now.
++ Kathleen’s Tantrum was also a 7″. There was an EP called Persistence of Memory. Twee.net lists an LP called Face Down in the Violets. What’s the full discography of the band?
Persistence of Memory EP was first in 1985. It was five tracks recorded at Mole Creek in Tasmania that were included in the demo we sent out. Chimes was also recorded as part of that session but a decision was made to hold it back for a single and to record it again in a better studio.
Chimes 7” was next in 1986. On the flipside of this was a great song that Gary wrote and sang lead on called As Fresh As Monday + another song called Room With No View. There were also test pressings made in the UK for a 12” of this that was going to be released on Rampant via Rough Trade. For some reason the Rampant and Rough Trade deal didn’t happen so the single didn’t see the light of day.
Kathleens Tantrum 7” was the single lifted off the album so must have come out in 1987.
Face Down In The Violets LP after numerous delays was released in late 1987. Unfortunately we’d decided to split before the album was released and just did a few shows to promote it before calling it a day.
Chimes was also included on a compilation called Running Rampant and a track called Tender Object was on a split EP called the Users Club with Sea Stories and a couple of other artists.
++ Which release would you recommend to the first time Odolites listener and why?
I’d go with Chimes and Persistence of Memory. I think they had a spirit that we didn’t capture on the album. There are plenty of good songs on the album but the production and performance let it down. We do have plans to remix it though so it’ll be better then!
++ Do you know anything about the tape “Like Flies in the Face of” where Chimes was also included?
I’ve come across a reference to this on the net but haven’t been able to track one down so not sure if it was actually released or not. I have no idea who put it together but it seems to be on a German label.
++ What were the influences of the band? Had English guitar pop, the so-called c86, arrived in Australia at the time? Was that influence to you at all?
C86 itself didn’t influence us too much although I did buy a lot of those records. I think we were influenced by a lot of the same bands that influenced the C86 bands. When I came back from London I bought back a tea chest full of singles, tapes and fanzines that I’d picked up in the UK. It included all the early Creation singles and I’d seen some of those bands play in London (Jasmine Minks, the Loft, Bodines, Biff Bang Pow). I’d already been a big fan of Postcard and all things Scottish from around that period (Orange Juice, Josef K, the Scars, Fire Engines, Aztec Camera etc.) and Creation felt very much like Postcard mark 2 when I heard those early singles. In London I also bought every fanzine I could get hold of. I particularly remember one called Hungry Beat that was named after a Fire Engines song and talked about the Scottish bands, the Creation bands and also back tracked a bit to 60’s bands like the Byrds & Love. When I arrived back Ted was really getting into 60’s stuff including the Nuggets and Chocolate Soup For Diabetics compilations. So I think we really clicked with what we were listening to, both new and old, and it had a major influence on our early sound.
++ I’m quite new in my knowledge of the Australian indiepop scene, but I’d love to know if there was a fanzine culture there as well, or how was it?
I don’t recall there being too much around in the mid 80’s but a few things sprung up in the late 80’s around the time Summershine started out. We had some great independent record stores in the 80’s. Melbourne had AuGoGo, Collectors Corner, Greville, Gaslight and Exposure for starters and Sydney had Phantom and Waterfront. They were import stores predominantly so stocking what they could get from overseas plus all the local independent stuff. They tended to be the places where you heard about new bands. AuGoGo, Phantom and Waterfront all had really active labels as well.
++ Another question that haunts me since forever… during those late 80s in UK many terms appeared as C86, twee, indiepop, cuties, anorak, shambling. What terms did you use in Australia for this kind of bright guitar pop?
Indiepop was probably the main one. I don’t recall the others being used much. US bands were much more popular here in the late 80’s than UK bands so things like twee and C86 tended to have fairly negative connotations.
++ When and why did the band called it a day? What did you guys did after breaking up?
We quit within a few weeks of our album being released so late 1987. The album recording process was a really torturous one for us and we were pretty disappointed with the end result. We moved from Tasmania to Melbourne in late 1985 with high hopes and got off to a pretty good start. Persistence of Memory and Chimes were both really well received by the media but we found it hard to build a decent live following in Melbourne and it was even more difficult to build a following interstate. I think what we were doing was just a bit off-kilter with what was happening at the time. So we’d lost a lot of momentum by the time we got to record the album and when that became a drawn out process we kinda decided it was too hard.
After the split Graham joined another band of ex Tasmanians trying to make it on the mainland the Fish John West Reject. He still plays with guys from that band in a band called the Dunaways. Gary had his own band called the Somerfields that did one EP. He then joined a group called the Killjoys who’d played gigs with us in 1987. I think the Killjoys still play occasionally. They have a really strong female vocalist and indiepop fans would like them. Ted surprisingly hasn’t had his own band post Odolites but has done some production work including producing some of the Tender Engines stuff. Who they you say?? The Tender Engines are my only post Odolites band and released a bunch of singles on the Summershine label in the early 90’s.
++ What was the best thing you remember of being in The Odolites?
My fondest memories are of the early days back in Tasmania. The four hour drives to and from Hobart for gigs and the roadhouse fast food along the way. Op shopping for records and paisley shirts. Writing and recording songs in the sunroom of Teds house with a view across Burnie to the smoke billowing out of the pulp mill. Magic!
The Odolites – Chimes