Moody four-piece Cameras have had their fingers in an entire bain-marie of different pies, ever since their inception in 2008. From the auspicious start of winning a triple j competition which paired emerging bands with graduating NIDA directors, through re-filming the clip for single June with a Danish auteur, to roping in fellow Sydney-sider Isabella Manfredi to act in said clip, to interest from MTV Iggy, to writing and performing the score for an entire NIDA production; cross-pollination within the arts is central to the way they do things. Even the wolf head in their Defeatist clip was made by a practising puppeteer (you may know her other works from such culinary advertisements as the Dolmio television spots). Bassist, guitarist and vocalist Fraser Harvey spoke about these and other tidbits, as he and his bandmates gear up to tour and promote their excellent debut album In Your Room.
Harvey shares vocal duties with keyboardist Eleanor Dunlop. Keys on single June roll deep and beautiful, played on a grand piano in the recording. But when touring, Harvey laughs about the technicalities of shunting Dunlop’s instrument. “When we’re live it’s one of those fucking ridiculous things that you have to lug around; it’s a massive keyboard,” he says. “When we first started playing I was like, ‘Can’t you just get a little keyboard thing?’ Of course she couldn’t really lift it. Everyone else gets left lugging it around. My skinny whiteboy strength,” he explains irreverently. The clip is a tale, and like that of Defeatist was directed by Jens Hertzum. Hertzum came up with the concept: “He was listening to the song, [and] it’s got that guitar sound which is a bit shaky. I believe they call it ‘delay’ in the industry,” he smiles. “And he got thinking about that. He liked it, and [said] it almost sounds like a weapon, in itself, that weird sound; it would be cool to use that sound as a weapon but against the band. He’s using [the General] as someone who’s conducting experiments using the sound on us.”
In a bunker with dust particles hanging thick in the air, a man in military-looking garb sits at a desk with a stopwatch in one hand and a pencil in the other, consulting various meters and needles that flick back and forth, with a cigarette burning beside him. He makes strange markings on official-looking papers (created by drummer Ben Mason: “he made up his own script and language, and created all the documents”) and towards the build-up and conclusion of the track we see the startlingly diabolical effects of the test. It’s all the more jolting because the listener is lulled by the pace of the music and the raw wash of guitars.
The fourth and newest member of Cameras is Mike Morgan. Morgan has been instrumental in the super atmospheric sound the band produce. “He has been playing with us for about two years,” says Harvey, “but Mike co-produced and recorded everything we’ve done in that time. He and I work quite well in a production sense; we do all that together. It made sense that he would join the band.” Another friend-cum-contributor (although not a member) to Cameras’ portfolio is Isabella Manfredi of The Preachers. Acting the heroine to the wolf-headed protagonist in the Defeatist clip, Manfredi plays a romantic, free spirit who wants to break out from the social structure she’s entrapped in. “We’ve played with them a bunch of times,” says Harvey of The Preachers, “and they’re awesome, and Issy was up for it! She did an awesome job and she looks amazing in [the clip].” Reminiscent of the Smashing Pumpkins’ gorgeous Stand Inside Your Love, the video is well worth a YouTube look.
Cameras’ shows have a reputation for matching their epic sound in live ambiance. “Our shows are good, they’re a bit weird,” ponders Harvey. “Well, they can get weird. When we play it is quite intense, and quite loud, and quite big. Because no one really knows who we are it catches some people unawares.” The idea of ‘not knowing’ about a band, and the ambiguity and excitement that can create, is something Harvey has opinions on. “We don’t really write a lot, ourselves,” he says. “We don’t write a blog; we kind of just come together to play music. To me that’s more interesting in a band. I guess growing up with bands pre-internet we didn’t get all that shit, do you know what I mean? You’d find a bit of music you liked, and there was something about that band that attracted you to them and made you want to find out more. That’s just how I grew up listening to bands and getting into bands. When you start really getting into music, at about 12 or 13, you stay up watching Rage and you catch this video and go ‘Oh my God that’s fantastic, I’ll go into a record shop and see what they’ve got in stock.’ [It’s not how] it’s done today.” Cameras wrap both secrecy and beauty in their huge sound, and will undoubtedly win devoted fans during their upcoming trio of Melbourne shows.
BY ZOË RADAS
CAMERAS perform at Can't Say, Platform One on Friday July 13, The Workers Club on Saturday July 14 and Pure Pop Records on Sunday July 15. In Your Room is out now through Speak N Spell/Inertia.