One of my earliest memories of last year is being on a plane to Tokyo listening to the latest release (‘Leave’) from Sydney band Ultracrush. Drenched in a sweet and shimmering kind of melancholy, Ultracrush make music that entwines itself within a moment as if it were its own natural soundtrack. Whilst their latest single ‘Perfect Frame’ deviates from the dream-pop sounds of ‘Swimming’ and ‘Leave’ it retains that magic essence that I’ve come to love from the band so far.
Singer/guitarist Lewis Demertzi was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.
Congratulations on your latest release ‘Perfect Frame’! It is another unsurprisingly beautiful release in what has thus far been a stunning body of work. The songs so far all have a subtlety to them whilst still being adamantly recognizable as ‘Ultracrush’. How consciously do you go about the creation of the band’s sound?
We’ve always been very conscious of creating a particular sound. For me personally, I think for ‘Swimming’ and ‘Leave’ I was more focused on what I didn’t want the band to sound like, and I wanted to avoid comparisons to certain bands and scenes that I wasn’t really into. So we leaned into dream pop pretty heavily. But for ‘Perfect Frame’ I think we started to find our own sound—one that isn’t textbook dream pop—and I’m really conscious of continuing to do our own thing moving forward.
Across each release there seems to be a slight pivot from one song to the next in terms of mood and atmosphere. Are you currently writing on a song by song basis or are these songs part of a collective body of work?
‘Swimming’, ‘Leave’ and ‘Perfect Frame’ were all written as standalone tracks. We’re currently working on an EP made up of new material and we want that to have a consistent feel as a body of work.
Alongside ‘Perfect Frame’ came your debut music video clip directed by Andreas Damouras. The clip features footage from Damouras’ own personal archives as well as imagery of Lewis in his bedroom and walking the streets of Sydney. Could you tell me a little about how this collaboration went down?
Andreas is a good friend of mine, we met a few years ago on the internet—a photography subreddit—and then met in person when I moved to Sydney for uni. Andreas’ focus is photography, but he’s made a few home video compilations that I really love—snapshots of his friends and family nicely edited to music. So I had the idea of making a music video that used some of the footage from Andreas’ collection, combined with new footage of myself shot on the same camera.
There is a very definite aesthetic sensibility to the project. What are some of your non-musical influences and how do you see them filtering into the music and project as a whole?
I can’t think of any specific influences for the band’s aesthetic, but it’s definitely something I’m conscious of and I always want to do things like cover art and press photos well, and I want those things to reflect the feeling of the music.
From my understanding you do most of your recording at home, how did you get into home recording and what are your favourite parts about the process?
We recorded our first three singles at home, and that really stemmed from us just not feeling confident in a studio environment. The greatest thing about recording at home is the unlimited time to experiment and really labor over sonics, which we absolutely needed to do when forming the band’s “sound”. Though, it’s also kind of horrible having that unlimited timeframe cos you can really work a song to death. For our EP we’re working with Clayton Segelov at The Brain Studios and it’s really the first time we’ve felt comfortable in a studio environment. We’ll probably continue to use home recording in the future, but not in the same way as before. I think it’s great for recording demos and experimenting with sounds, but for now we’re much happier to do the bulk of work in the studio and get a more mature sound.
I read that during your songwriting process, the melody comes first and then the lyrics. Often pulling from discarded songs. How do you approach your lyricism?
I used to struggle with lyrics but now it’s one of my favourite processes. I start by just singing along to the melody in a sort of stream of consciousness, and when I find a line I like, I lock onto it and go from there. For ‘Perfect Frame’ it was “picture them caught in a perfect frame” that I built the song around. Usually it’s one theme or memory or feeling I choose to construct the lyrics around, and I try to finish them within a couple of days before whatever initial feeling inspired them has passed.
What are some of your favourite lyrics by another artist?
Evan Stephens Hall of Pinegrove is one of my favourite lyricists:
“Walking out in the night-time springtime / Needling my way home / I saw Leah on the bus a few months ago / I saw some old friends at her funeral”
(from ‘Old Friends’)
Could you each tell me what your favourite song is at the moment?
Joshua: Sufjan Stevens – ‘Video Game’
Patrick: GEE TEE – ‘Bad Habit’
If Ultracrush were a cake, what kind of cake would you be?
Strawberry Watermelon Cake. Josh works at Black Star so he gets to take it home sometimes and it absolutely deserves its status.
Ultracrush’s latest release ‘Perfect Frame’ is out now. Support the band directly via Bandcamp.