Dave McCormack, musician, Custard

I’ve always been focused on memories and the idea of going home. I’m not really looking out the front windscreen, I’m checking the rear-view mirrors ...

If you were a big Brisbane music fan in the 90s, there’s a high chance a Custard record graced your stereo more than once. The heralded indie-rock group dominated the decade with a string of acclaimed albums, capturing the ears of music lovers across the country and the world. Records such as We Have the Technology and Loverama – plus hit singles such as ‘Apartment’, ‘Girls Like That (Don’t Go For Guys Like Us)’, and ‘Music Is Crap’ – helped establish a lasting legacy that has cemented Custard as one of the best musical exports Brisbane has produced. After a hiatus, the band returned to the spotlight in 2015 and have since released two more records. The group will be dipping into its extensive back catalogue for a performance as part of GOMA’s Quilty, Olley and Turrell Up Late program, performing on Friday August 9 with local upstarts The Jensens. Ahead of the performance, we caught up with Custard frontman Dave McCormack to talk about creative inspiration, the intersection of visual art and music, and the difference between the Custard of the 90s and Custard in 2019.

Long-time Custard fans were undoubtedly ecstatic about the band’s return and new music in 2015. While you and the other band members hadn’t been idle creatively during the band’s hiatus, can you describe the feeling of linking up together and penning and perfecting new material as a unit again?
When we record, it all happens pretty quick. We tend to write our songs individually, and then get together to record them in the studio in one or two takes. After that, we all retreat to our home studios to add bits and pieces, then Glenn (Thompson – drummer) mixes it all together. After so many years playing and recording together, I guess we share a type of musical autism. No one really directs what should be played, we just hit record.

What would you say is the biggest difference between Custard of 2019 and Custard of the 90s?
Custard in the 90s was a small cottage industry. We had a label, we sold records, we had affiliates. Now, we are more like bootleggers, doing our own thing, illegally transporting our songs from one venue to another. My life was taken up with music in the 90s – these days music and I are like old friends. We don’t see each other that much, but when we do it’s like we’ve never been apart. 

In terms of your methodology as a songwriter, have the ways you write songs changed discernibly over the years, or has your creative process remained consistent across each phase?
I have always been a fan of writing things down. I used to have note books everywhere, now it’s all in my phone. If I overhear someone saying something interesting, I’ll make a note of it. After we have recorded the music tracks, I will try and shove all the disparate snippets together and see what fits. 

Currently, what aspects of the world around you do you find to be the most fertile for creative inspiration?
I’ve always been focused on memories and the idea of going home. I’m not really looking out the front windscreen, I’m checking the rear-view mirrors.

Custard will be performing as part of the Up Late program supporting the Ben Quilty and Margaret Olley exhibitions. How do you feel the worlds of visual art and music interact and feed into each other?
All the visual artists I know are in love with music, to the point of obsession. I’m not sure it goes both ways. Musicians are not reciprocating – I think it is because they are insecure.

What can audiences expect from your show? Any new material working its way into the set list?
I imagine our show will comprise the staples; the “hits” from a bygone era. Hopefully we will be able to throw in a few tracks from this millennium. It all depends on how long we get to soundcheck, as we don’t really get together to rehearse.

What do you love most about Brisbane’s creative scene currently, and how would you say it’s changed for the better since the 90s?
I’m not really familiar with the Brisbane scene these days, but a group that really caught my attention a few years back was Confidence Man. They reminded me of The Flying Lizards or Lene Lovich. 

On a similar note, what music coming out of the contemporary Australian scene is really exciting to you?
Amyl and The Sniffers are playing a strong hair game. Initially I was interested because they looked exactly like me and all my friends from Kenmore South State School in the 70’s, then I had a listen to their music and I liked that as well.

Catch Custard on Friday August 9 when the band performs with The Jensens as part of GOMA’s Quilty, Olley and Turrell Up Late program. You can snag tickets here.


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