Mass Cult came into being in late 2007, in Dan Trolley’s lounge room, when he and his housemates decided to cut a few demos – a rough and ready project befitting the gnarly lo-fi sounds that Dan had created. They laid down five tracks, and then Dan decided to get a proper band together – a five-piece featuring players from Sailors and Swine, TTT and the Dead South called Mass Cult Suicide.
“We played a handful of shows in Melbourne. I then wrote the debut album and we recorded it in three different locations. When it was complete I approached Mickster [Mick Baty] from Off The Hip records, who released it in 2009,” Dan explains, “We got a very positive response locally and overseas from Europe and college radio in the States.”
Their eponymous record picked up fans in Germany and Spain as well as in their hometown, which inspired Dan to take the whole project a little more seriously.
“Having so many members in different bands made it hard to get everyone in the room at one time and we never really built momentum playing gigs. I really wanted to push the album and not treat the band like a side project - I needed members who would give time to the project,” he says.
By 2010, Dan had changed the line-up and shortened the name, from Mass Cult Suicide to the pithier Mass Cult. He found a new guitarist in his new girlfriend, Yolanda De Rose, and a drummer in Max Whiteman.
“[Yolanda] played the songs note to note perfect and she was very enthusiastic,” Dan explains. “I met Max through friends bands, on the first rehearsal he was twenty minutes late, so he bought us a bottle of vodka to apologise. He was hired after that.”
The new improved Mass Cult “felt like a new start” for Dan, who was now playing bass in addition to singing lead. They recorded the 2011 album This Ain't No Paradise, which picked up community radio airplay and brought the band a whole new audience. Dan wasn’t happy with it, however, dubbing it a difficult sophomore album a ‘lo-fi pop album’ that drew a lukewarm response compared to the Mass Cult Suicide debut.
In the year since This Ain't No Paradise came out, Mass Cult have returned to a heavier sound, influenced by The Saints, Johnny Thunders And The Heartbreakers, and The Gun Club.
“There is definitely more energy with the three of us; it’s way more stripped-back and there’s a much more simplified rhythm section, giving room for more guitar,” Dan says, “It's gone a bit bluesy in parts, for the new songs.”
The first release from this new collection of tunes is Time To Wait, a stalking, riff-heavy monster with curt, desensitised vocals: “Are you hanging out, out on the street / Tell me what you smell and see / The longest day, the shortest hour, the price we pay / It’s a long, long time to wait, when nothing’s happening.”
Dan says that most of his songs are about Collingwood, where he lives, the every day simple life on the streets.
“I don't write about characters, surreal dreams or politics. Just things I relate to. My house has had some weird events happen over the years, so it gets a lot of shout outs. I write and record alot on my own then I present it to the band, who then put in their input.”
Mass Cult are releasing Time To Wait as a 7-inch this week, ahead of a third album proper.
“I've written the next album and we've recorded five songs…we'll save the cash and go back in a couple of months in the studio to finish five more tracks for the album release next year. The new album is more dynamic, upbeat, [with] more guitars and more punk,” Dan explains.
Mass Cult are part of a very healthy garage/punk scene in Melbourne, with a constant churn of new bands and new records, and a devoted knot of fans to support them. Dan plans to feed the scene as long as he can, and enjoy the spoils of being a gigging musician.
“[My aim is to] just to keep releasing material, have a catalogue of releases I'm proud of, and to keeping learning new skills along the way,” he says, “To keep playing gigs and to tour internationally…[we want] more album sales, more exposure, more buzz and to keep playing with bands we dig.”
BY SIGGY JAVOTNIK
MASS CULT launch their single Time To Wait at Yah Yah’s on Friday August 17.