Q and As with Warning Birds

Perth band Warning Birds are responsible for the great indie track ‘Sally’ which we feature earlier in the year. Keen to know more about the band, we caught up with guitarist and vocalist Sam Carmody who revealed details on the band, their influences and when we can finally expect that EP. Here is what he had to say…

Who are Warning Birds? How did you meet?

Warning Birds are three guys and a girl from Western Australia; myself, Sam Carmody, Bensen Thomas, Tim Bates and Carmen Pepper. I say “from Western Australia” because, though we are based in Perth now, we really are from all over WA. Three of the four of us grew up in rural towns some distance from the city – Carmen still lives an hour’s drive from town – so we don’t really feel like a Perth band, in that way.

Warning Birds began as a solo recording project of mine. I’d ask someone to come in and help out and they’d end up staying around, pulling late nights, working on new songs, contributing more and more to heart of everything. After a few months a sound developed that was far different from what I’d set out with on my own and a new band had kind of just happened. It seems a sort of reversal, a band forming in the studio then going to the stage. But it was such a natural process. It felt right.

How did you come to be named Warning Birds?

Warning Birds was an invention of a childhood friend of mine. When we were ten or eleven years old and first learning to surf we would go on and on about sharks. I think when you are that young and have that strong an imagination, paddling out to sea on a board is more like space travel than a sport. Everything is really intense and “Hollywood”. A King Wave is going to come along any moment and put you on top of a skyscraper, or a Jaws-style fish is going to swallow you whole the moment you put your foot in the water. My friend gave the name Warning Birds to small birds that would come out on the sea and circle above us. He would say they were scanning the sea for sharks. The idea used to freak me out. But I always liked the concept, and I liked those words together. Quite a poetic thing for a ten year old brain, I think.

Did you have any musical projects before Warning Birds?  Who was in the band with the worst name?

I had plenty of little groups during high school. ‘Fusion’ was one high school band name that miraculously lasted a while. It was followed by ‘Pacemaker’, which at the time seemed like a step forward in the name department, but I’m not so sure. Bensen has been in a band called ‘Tinnitus’ which probably takes the cake.

Our friend Alex Vickery (multi-instrumentalist and extra live member of Warning Birds) is a guy that also likes to flirt with limit the on band names. ‘Goliath Tigerfish’ is his latest offering. Really looking forward to seeing that one on posters.

You have been gigging around WA, what has been your favourite gig so far? Any plans to head to the Eastern states (We would love to have you).

This year’s Western Australian Music Industry festival was a highlight, for sure. To play a great venue like The Bakery in Perth, and with our favourite Perth band’s in Split Seconds and Emperors, and in front of all our friends, that is about as fun as it gets. But we really enjoy playing shows out of town, too. Settlers Tavern in Margaret River is an amazing venue. It’s a real international crowd as the south west of WA is popular with backpackers and everyone is always up for a good time.

We are coming over to the eastern states in November. It’s our first interstate trip. We honestly can’t wait.

‘Sally’ is a pretty deep but awesome song. What is the story that inspired Sally?

There was a period there where there seemed to be a few news stories emerging about teacher/student relationships. They always struck me as really sad things more so than horrifying. I’d read about a woman going to jail, still professing from behind bars this real sense of romantic love for the teenage student she’d had an affair with. I guess ‘Sally’ was about the mistakes people make, and how they can be blind to the damage they are doing. The song is from the perspective of a boy who can’t see the risk in his relationship with his young graduate teacher. When they are uncovered, both their lives implode, but all he can see is his desire for her.

How do you go about making your music? What is the first thing you do when writing a new song, or does it vary?

I get the impression that most writers work in the same way, spending a lot of time at the piano or at their guitar, or notepad, waiting for something that makes them respond or feel something, like the way some words might work together, or the intersection between a couple of chords, or a vocal melody. The individual spark of a song might change but what I feel you’re waiting for is always the same. That’s definitely how it is for me, and the waiting seems to be what is going on most of the time. In some ways it is almost like fishing, sitting there and hoping something might happen, when there are no guarantees. You are waiting to feel the pulse of something. It can be torture when there’s nothing there.

What do your record collections look like? What are the albums you have always listened to, and the ones that never get old?

In terms of a band collection, Bensen, lead guitarist and youngest member, is like our music librarian. On road trips he’s the one on the playlist. When we’re all together we are listening to anything from Talking Heads and Tears for Fears, to Radiohead and Mogwai and Sigur Ros, or Seekae or Grimes, early Something for Kate records. Movie scores get a huge run in long car drives to shows or on morning-after naps. Hans Zimmer (Dark Night Rises, Inception) is a favourite.

Although every band is different, what other acts have most influenced the sound you hear in Warning Birds?

I think lately we have been taking a lot of notice of the music of 80s pop bands like Tears for Fears. It is melodically strong but still pose a challenge to the listener, both lyrically and in their arrangements and production. It was very smart music they made. The songs have a brain, and they’re prepared to take risks, and there was this potency to the song writing that made it relevant to lots of people. It’s kind of the ultimate music, I think.

There have been rumours of a forthcoming EP. Can you shed any more light on the matter?

The EP is on its way. We’ve been in the studio since before we even called ourselves a band, and we’ve accumulated a lot of music. The upcoming EP is the beginning a process of showing everyone the work we’ve been doing.

2012 has seen you guys take some big steps. What does 2013 have in stall for Warning Birds?

The EP will come out at the beginning of the year. From there it will be plenty of shows, a run of shows all around the country, and then finishing work on the debut album. 2012 was very much an introductory year for us. 2013 is really about trying to show more people exactly what we are about.

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