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In the supposedly halcyon days of Oz Rock, young bands typically took a couple of albums to find their feet. They learned the crafts of writing and performing one song and one gig at a time. Back then the grind of non-stop touring would slowly polish these rough diamonds until their third album and that’s when they would usually start to shine. “10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1”, “East”, “Human Frailty”, “Shabooh, Shoobah” …all of them Australian classics, all of them third albums.
Such days are supposed to be long gone but somebody apparently forgot to tell KISSCHASY because in their own small way they seem to have (re)traced that journey over the last five years. The group’s songwriter/singer/guitarist, Darren “Daz” Cordeux wrote their first album as a teenager. Now with the imminent release of their third album – the aptly titled “Seizures” – he and his bandmates, Sean Thomas (guitar), Joel Vanderuit (bass) & Karl Ammitzboll (drums), have ripened into one of Australia’s most important young rock bands.
Even in a world of instant gratification some good things apparently still take time. “Seizures” is one of them.
It was recorded in Los Angeles through early 2009 with legendary indierock producer Rob Schnapf (Elliott Smith, Beck, Powderfinger, The Vines) and it sees Daz and his comrades finding their voice in the time-honoured manner of third studio efforts.
On the band’s debut album “United Paper People” and its follow up “Hymns For The Nonbeliever” KISSCHASY showed a knack for energetic and melodic guitar pop that made them firm Triple J faves and earned them ARIA Award nominations. Anthems like “Do Do’s and Whoa-ohs” and “Opinions Won’t Keep You Warm At Night” saw the group’s live popularity rise to the point where they sold out major venues like Sydney’s Enmore Theatre and The Forum in Melbourne in 2008. The songs also led to both albums eventually being certified gold with combined sales of over 100,000 copies.
However, “Seizures” is nothing less than a quantum leap creatively and, as such, it seems destined to attract both deeper and broader attention. For starters a piercingly direct lyricism has been added to Cordeux’s compositional armoury. “These songs are basically a diary of my life as a 23 year old”, he explains. “I wrote the first one just after my 23rd birthday and the last one right before I turned 24.
The timing’s probably just a coincidence but if someone wants to know what was going on in that one year then they should hopefully get a pretty good idea from these songs. I got ripped off. I got pissed off. I got bored and watched a lot of TV and I spent a lot of time missing my girlfriend. Big year.”
The title of the album is also linked directly to this idea of personal experiences.
“When I started writing this album I was reading a book by Dr Oliver Sacks called The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. In one chapter he explains that some of his patients felt certain euphoria during their seizures and would suddenly remember things from their childhood that they had completely forgotten; some of those memories were violent and painful, others were blissful reminders of summers long since faded. I liked the idea of trying to document life moments in songs in a similar way so they can be relived and relearned like the kind of seizure experiences in that book. That’s what this album is all about for me.”
This theme is most evident on tracks like the blatantly confessional “Strawberry Jam” and the slacker anthem “Let’s Get Personal!” which tells Darren’s life story in two minutes and forty-nine seconds. Throw in stories of business betrayal (“Turnaround”), negative creeps (“Generation Why)”, sexual perversion (“Weekend”) plus a song about missing your girlfriend (“Dinosaur”) and it’s clear that the writer of this 12 month diary has had a pretty busy year!
In addition to the blossoming lyricism there’s also an obvious progression in the imposing musicality of a band that’s played well over 500 gigs together.
With the release of “Seizures” it’s clear that KISSCHASY now boast a rock-solid rhythm section and off-the-leash guitar chops to rival any of their peers. On songs like the stomping title track and the frenzied “We All Need To Be Alone” these four young men inject new levels of intensity to their four-on-the-floor rock fare while also venturing off on some more angular pop tangents – sometimes all within the same song.
The group’s cohesiveness is not surprising. While they’re all still in their early to mid 20’s they actually formed way back in 2002 when they were growing up together in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.
Darren dropped out of school early and dedicated himself to writing songs while the other three guys were all doing punk rock covers in Karl’s garage. They met at the local dive venue (Melbourne’s ‘Arthouse’) and that was the start of that. Two indie EP’s on Below Par followed, then two albums through Eleven: a music company and a load of touring. Night after night they played their music together for the kids who got it and along the way they gradually figured out what their band could be.
Which all brings them, of course, to album number three. For classic artists like Midnight Oil and Hunters & Collectors this was the moment when all the pieces finally fell into place … yielding definitive albums that combined the juice of youth with the skills from an apprenticeship well served. In their own unassuming way KISSCHASY have now reached that same personal crossroads.
“Seizures” shows that powerfully personal songs played by a young band just as they hit their stride are as undeniable and irresistible now as they have ever been. Born out of time.