It hasn’t even been a year since U-Bahn first descended on Melbourne with their 20 limbs and five eyes, and began taking the city by storm.
However, in such a short time, they’ve managed to subtly creep into the local music community’s collective consciousness with their addictive weirdo new wave, subtly affirming themselves as one of the most exciting new bands around town.
The irony isn’t lost on this writer that when usually catching them floating around The Tote front bar, this interview is conducted as they make the trek back home from their first Sydney show where they supported Vintage Crop.
“The show was pretty fun,” says guitarist Leland Buckle from somewhere along the Hume. “The Sydney band we played with, Set-Top Box, were real psycho and awesome, and Vintage Crop were good – it was just real fun.”
Away from home for the first time, it’s also interesting to notice that the two cities have different feels about them. Buckle adds, “It’s hard to explain, it definitely feels different to Melbourne but I don’t know how to explain it or why.”
Locality is an interesting one for U-Bahn. With a German band name and a sound that heavily references American music from the ‘70s and ‘80s, they still definitely identity as from Melbourne. Alleged synth savant Zoe Monk explains, “Even if we are a bit different, I think part of being a Melbourne band is playing with friends and having that band camaraderie.”
If anything, it would be a bit of a disservice to the band to ignore how ingrained they are in the local music community. While it was Gumtree that originally brought them together (Monk purchased a drum machine from band leader/mastermind Lachlan Kenny and they immediately bonded over their similar taste), the full band was formed through local friendships, and it was these same networks that found them their first shows and built their cult following.
Nowadays you can regularly spot U-Bahn’s three mainstays (Buckle, Monk and Kenny) at local shows or onstage in other acts, and the most recent additions to U-Bahn have been poached from two of Melbourne’s strongest garage outfits, The Living Eyes and Pinch Points.
That said, despite the intrinsic Melbourne-ness of the band, with their costumes and immersive live show, there is something about them that feels like a bit of a reaction against what goes on in the rest of the local scene. Buckle explains, “I guess there’s not as much of that performative-colourful-glam-weird thing going on so it’s a nice change of pace for us.
“I don’t know whether the winds are changing with people wanting to embrace dressing up or having an alter ego – kind of being a little bit dorky or kitsch, sort of embracing stuff that might have been a little bit lame at one point,” Kenny adds.
For those who are yet to catch an U-Bahn show, it’s a pretty wild experience. The band marry their abstract punk and irregular grooves with a striking visual show – there’s bin bags, wigs, boxing robes and a cast of absurd characters, all linked by their own pair of alien sunglasses.
While the music alone stands up for itself, it’s their performance that really asserts U-Bahn as a step above the rest. So much so that when listening to their new self-titled album, the two elements naturally blend – it’s hard to hear Kenny’s shapeshifting voice on ‘Beta Boyz’ without picturing his lipstick-smeared snarl, or each wiry guitar line of ‘Bourgeois’ without imagining Buckle’s onstage convulsions. And as the band settle into the mesmerising groove of ‘Damp Sheets’, you can almost feel the band staring you down with each of their menacing eyes.
With the debut LP finally out, it’s definitely a good time to be part of U-Bahn. “We’re all just really excited,” says Monk. “The album’s been done for so long, so we’re just excited and happy to see what comes… ready to enter the next phase of the Bahn.”
With a rise as sudden and impressive as U-Bahn’s, it’s a safe bet they’re not the only ones excited to see where it goes next.
U-Bahn’s self-titled debut album is out now. They’ll be launching it at The Curtin on Saturday March 30. Tickets via the venue website.