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'The Simpsons' references and Aussie bands inspired Funk Dancing For Self Defence's sound

Many bands get hung up on being original and doing something that’s not been done before, but not Funk Dancing For Self Defence.

They very much have an ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ attitude – and they’re pulling it off spectacularly.

Heck, these guys draw influences from every aspect of their lives. Even the band’s name comes from their love for celebrated cartoon The Simpsons. “We had a bunch of names in a hat and most of them were Simpsons references,” says guitarist and vocalist Jake Kougioumtzis through an audible smile. 

Anything from The Simpsons would sit well with the kind of sound Funk Dancing are producing. With late-’90s grunge undertones and a whole lot of Aussie punk vibes, the band are, in their words, just blokes having a go. Indeed, their 2018 EP Twentysomething saw the Werribee boys pummel out some vicious tunes and some quirky tales, “We’re just having a bit of fun,” says Kougioumtzis. 

But their latest single ‘Pretend’ sees Funk Dancing lock in a truly awesome and gritty sound and it’s obvious these guys are more than just having a go. “When we say we’re ‘having a go’ we do take the music seriously and we are giving this everything we have,” says Kougioumtzis. “It’s more so we don’t take the negatives too seriously.

“Some people get hung up on ‘what if we don’t sell out this show’ or ‘what if we’re not doing this or that?’ We’re just in it for a good time. Whether we’re playing to ten or 100 people, we’re grateful for that. We’ve done a bit of both now, and got a taste for those bigger audiences.”

Launching ‘Pretend’ is more of an excuse for Funk Dancing For Self Defence to get into other states, according to Kougioumtzis. With a few things on their bucket list, touring outside Victoria is one of many things the band aspire to. “We got to open for sketch group Aunty Donna at Max Watt’s and played to 800 people – that was a massive win for us.

“We thought, let’s go work with a producer, do this single as high quality as we can and try to take it further.”

The single is pretty high quality, and wouldn’t be out of place on an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. “We listen to a lot of Australian alternative but also a lot of grunge bands,” says Kougioumtzis. “When we went into record, we were asked what our main influences were and how we wanted to sound.

“I said Nirvana’s In Utero era, that really raw, not too polished but loud raucous sound they had. I said The Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream as well, because that’s just a fuzzy masterpiece.

“And our other source of inspiration for this song and others we’re writing is Violent Soho, and the last two albums they’ve put out. Those were our big points of reference for how we want to sound.”

For an Aussie band to draw on fellow Aussie acts as an influence is pretty refreshing. Though it’s great to look to international A-listers, it does the Aussie music scene proud to see the baton being passed on. “The last two years we’ve mainly only listened to Aussie bands,” says Kougioumtzis. “Some of the albums that have poked up for us have been the last couple of Dear Seattle albums – they were one of the reasons we recorded at Homesurgery, they did their last record there.

“We love Tired Lions, they’ve really got their own thing going for them, super loud guitars and kick-arse drums. Bands like Dune Rats, The Bennies, and one that took me by surprise last year was Courtney Barnett’s album.”

Pulling all this together will culminate in an album, and as much as Kougioumtzis wants to keep a lid on its title, he’s just too buzzed by the conversation – and it is, you guessed it, another Simpsons reference. “It’s probably inspired four other songs I’ve written just off the wording alone – Pity Party. I think it really encapsulates what we’re doing.”

Funk Dancing For Self Defence come to Last Chance Rock & Roll Bar on Friday March 22. The band’s new single ‘Pretend’ is out now on all streaming services.