Australian band Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever have been making waves through the indie rock scene for a couple of years now and that’s no accident. In addition to releasing a few excellent EP’s and a stellar debut album last year, one that came in at #35 on our Best Albums of 2018, they’ve also been touring on and off for the past few years, making their noise from city to city and country to country. Before one of their last shows of their North American tour, I had the pleasure of sitting down with frontman Tom Russo and chatting with him about touring, basketball, and taking some time to themselves.
Welcome to Los Angeles!
Tom Russo: Yeah, it’s always good to be in L.A., it’s warm here. It feels like summer
It definitely did not feel like that before you arrived. It was 65 and gloomy all year. Last time you were in L.A., you played a show at the Echo around April I believe.
TR: Yeah, that sounds about right
I went and saw you guys last year and you were incredible.
TR: Oh cool! You know what, yeah that was at the Echo. We did Coachella in between I think. God, we played so much last year.
Yeah, I think Jess Cornelius opened for you guys then, too.
TR: Yeah! She’s playing again tonight.
That’s exciting, I loved her too! A lot has changed since then. You’ve released a new album, HOPE DOWNS. It has been almost a year to the day since you released it. How has your life changed in the one year since?
TR: Yeah, it’s getting up there, isn’t it? Yeah, it’s been a long year, and going pretty quick as well. It’s been pretty flat out, doing heaps of touring last year. We pretty much came to the U.S., like North America, around three times last year, and maybe Europe two or three times? Just for a couple weeks at a time, things just kept coming up. And then, we just took some time off earlier this year, we’re just back at home working day jobs and stuff like that. We’re just trying to write a second album, just getting it all together. But we really hit it hard there for nine months on and off. It was hectic.
The grind must be crazy. You guys are constantly putting out music, having released an EP or album each of the last three years. How has that work schedule been like for the band?
TR: Man, this year is just a bit different. We just put out a 7-inch with just two songs. Basically we knew we weren’t going to have an album out this year, but we’re just trying to keep the momentum when it’s there. There’s no point in trying to stop. But we try and work hard at it when writing an album. When the idea is there, it’s fun and not too much of a grind. It’s not as painful, and as long as it’s growing, we’ll continue to roll with it.
Definitely, you guys have to take time for yourselves. It’s not always just making music. Clearly you have other hobbies, you have to take care of yourselves at the end of the year.
TR: Yeah, this year we planned for that. Last year was the year of the debut album and we just kind of said yes to everything, and this year we’re more like, ‘OK, let’s try to plan it a bit more,’ and keep it a more sustainable pace. So that’s been really nice. This is the club show of this trip. It’s been about three weeks and it has been really great and spaced out and everyone’s been great. It’s actually kind of sad to wrap up, actually.
What was your favorite stop on the trip in North America so far? Do you have a favorite city you love going back to?
TR: I mean they’re all different. I obviously love Los Angeles and I’m not just saying that. I’ve always got mates here as well. There’s a lot of Australians in the city. They’re always coming through and I love Mexican food. I reckon this is going to be a good one tonight, it’s a sold out show so it should be a good vibe. I also love going to Chicago. I’m not sure what is, but Chicago for some reason likes us and it’s just got a cool vibe. I just really like the vibes. It’s kind of like New York but just less. I don’t really know.
I grew up in New York, so you’ve personally offended me.
TR: *Laughs* Well I mean New York is like… I mean it’s cliche to say I love New York. But obviously I love New York. Dude, actually, where did you grow up? Which part?
TR: Nice, we made it to all the five boroughs and we’ve really been meaning to! Because we had four days off in the city before the start of the tour! There was a chance we were going to do one of those late night shows that ended up not happening but it worked out anyway. We just did some stuff and some writing. It’s always a treat to have like four or five straight days off in New York. Obviously you know!
Yeah, there’s definitely a lot to do in the city!
TR: We played at Warsaw which is a really cool Polish club in Greenpoint. But yeah, New York is great. They’re all great. Obviously Toronto as well.
Toronto is definitely having a moment.
TR: They are, we were playing the same time as the game was on actually.
OH NO! Was it a finals game?
TR: Yeah, they had just won the first one so it was the second one. So they were definitely into it. But we had a good crowd in the end. We finished just before the game did and there were some people who came up and said they came rather than watch the game.
Well there ya go! Those are some real RBCF fans right there, because all of Canada is rooting for the Raptors right now.
TR: Yeah, I’m kind of on the train as well now. We’ve been watching.
Oh, so you’re not going to rep the California team while you’re here?
TR: I like them! They make it a good contest. But, I like the underdog angle.
Are you guys big basketball fans? Because Australia has a fairly large basketball following and has produced some good players.
TR: I mean, we’re really fair weather fans. Australia definitely produces a lot of good players. A lot of people play. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a huge sport. But I like watching it, especially when I’m in the states.
Well, next time you’re back in the states watching basketball, what goals do you wish the band to have accomplished? For example, the last time you were here you didn’t have an album, and now that’s something you’ve done.
TR: Well, even though it’s only been a year, it feels like ages since we put out that last album. Honestly, the goal would be to come back with some new songs and a new album. We’re getting there. Slowly but surely. I don’t think we would come back without a new album. So we have got to do that to get back here. It’s very exciting, we have a couple of plans and ideas and it’s coming along.
How is the rest of the band feeling right now with the process?
TR: I mean, we’re all pretty close, so all at the same level. Actually, since last year ,we’ve learned to look out more for ourselves. Just trying to get enough sleep and eat healthy. It’s particularly hard on the road in the states.
Oh, 1000%, we don’t have that many healthy options.
TR: We hit up the Whole Foods a lot. I love Whole Foods, it’s the savior of a band on tour. We just go to the hot bar and just load up on greens. But everyone in the band kind of works hard, plays hard. I think we’re all probably a bit tired now, like at the end of the trip. We’re all getting a two-week break. Most of the guys are going to Europe, I’m going home and hanging out with my wife. Then we’re doing a few more weeks in Europe. It’s a good little break. So everyone’s a little tired, but it’s fun and we’re excited to do it.
What place in Europe are you most excited for this time around?
TR: We’re playing in Madrid which is going to be cool, we’ve never played in Madrid before.
Hopefully it doesn’t overlap with a major soccer game there.
TR: Oh yeah, true, true. Well I think it is the big city festival, so there should hopefully be people there.
Just didn’t want another NBA finals in Toronto repeat!
TR: Yeah, definitely, it was incredible that it was the same day. In fact, we were playing in San Fran the day of last playoff game, but because of the time difference the game finished before we went on.