Gilbert Potts from ThisIsNotAScene got the chance to chat with Xenograft about their latest release, “Exit”, music, parking, neck tattoos, and much more.
Can you tell us a bit about who’s in the band and what instruments you play?
James: Jarrad -Bassist & Director. James – Drummer & HR dept. Carey – Guitarist & Literature Department. Daniel – Guitarist & Bonus Noise Specialist. Nick – Saxophonist & Astronomy Consultant. Tom Martin – Keyboardist, Percussionist & Australiana Administrator.
A lot of band names come under the category of “It’s something we just mucked around with and we were going to change it but in the end it was too late”. “ Xenograft”, on the other hand, seems a very considered and deliberate name. What do you want the name tell us about your music?
Jarrad: It’s not as deliberate as people may think. We were undecided on a name for 6 months and only decided once our first gig was booked. I’m sure you’re hinting at the “grafting” together of “other” styles. Before the band was formed and perhaps in the initial phases of the band I certainly had in mind the idea of writing songs that took influence from a number of different styles.
Now however, I certainly want to avoid that categorization. I feel that if songs seem to “genre-showcase” then they are perhaps not internally cohesive, they may feel a bit “cut and paste”.
Each to their own, but I’m interested in creating songs that flow naturally and hopefully do not easily lend themselves to classification by a listing of various genres. I want each new song of Xenograft’s to sound like a better version of Xenograft. I’d like as much as possible for people to feel that way too. And now to answer the question: I don’t want the name to tell you anything about the music. Let the music tell you.
Xenograft members have history in other bands and some of you continue with other projects. What are the most diverse elements of the melting pot? What does that diversity do for the sound of Xenograft?
James: The diversity is probably what keeps the whole thing moving along, none of us are content to be confined to one style for long periods of time, so things don’t get any chance to become stale and predictable. There’s a lot of shared interest musically, but some of us go our separate ways with passions for jazz, metal, hip hop, stadium rock, electronica, reggae, blues and almost everything in between. I don’t think we have a Gregorian Chant enthusiast in our midst though.
For a band with no singer or frontman, irregular beats and not much in the way of hum-along melody, why do you think your music generates the level of crowd involvement it does at a live show?
Nick: I think a lot of people are engaged by music that is interesting and that rewards attention. While our music is intricate and liberally employs odd time signatures it also grooves hard. It’s a music that uses riffs, improvisation and unconventional song structures. It can be mathy, heavy, funky, quirky, jazzy or textural.
I think people respond to the eclecticism. Plus we leap around like maniacs on stage. I’ve been told that we’re quite entertaining visually and that each of the six of us has our own performance style. That’s probably true musically as well.
What’s the process for composing a new tune? How important is it to push boundaries? How much do you write for yourselves, and how much with your audience in mind?
Jarrad: Xenograft has become more and more collaborative and democratic over time, which is fantastic. Lately, we work simply by one or more persons presenting an idea, whether it be a new song or changes to an existing one, and then work through as many variations and/or additions to that idea as we can think of.
We keep what we like best and reject the rest. I’m not sure about pushing boundaries as I do not feel there is any in our way. We try anything that is interesting to us and are certainly not bound by anyone’s expectations except our own.
I feel that we write almost entirely for ourselves. I think the only time we consider the audience in terms of writing is the length of the songs. And we obviously are not too considerate as there are many Xenograft songs well beyond radio-friendly length.
What’s a song that made you think “I wish I wrote that!” when you first heard it?
Jarrad: From an artistic perspective I guess I feel like that about any song I enjoy. I’d love to be able to write a simple beautiful ballad to be honest. And now that a million exist it takes a genius to write an outstanding one. I’m envious of people who are able to do things that are very different from what I am able to do. However, generally I rarely do feel “I wish I wrote that!!” because I’m happy just to listen.
Most people would think that every band has at least one gig that turns into a Ballroom Blitz, but the reality is very different. Are you one of the lucky ones that have? If so, tell us more, if not, how would you spark one off?
Tom: We played at Pony recently which was probably the closest we’ve come to inciting a Ballroom Blitz. There wasn’t as much renovating done as I would have liked but everyone made up for it by partying. It’s hard to explain the atmosphere but it was great to be in the same room as so many people willing to embrace bedlam. I don’t think the Pony’s floor would agree with me though. I’ve never walked on a surface so thoroughly soaked in spilt alcohol.
What lessons have you learned from performing music? What lessons haven’t you learned?
Carey: The biggest lesson we’ve learnt is the man with the parking is the man with the power. Except at the ESPY where the man with radio piece in his ear and neck tattoos is the one with the power, because no one can find a park.
If you had a Xenograft performed on you, what would you have grafted on, and where?
Carey: We’d all get Tom Martin‘s face grafted onto our face. Then maybe Kerry O’Keefe’s larynx grafted onto ours so we can all have the looks and the sound of a true blue aussie dead set ocker bloody legend.
Jarrad: A giraffe tongue.