Australian quartet Eddy Current Suppression Ring is often described in terms of garage rock, probably due to their connection to Memphis' garage/punk-connected Goner label, but references to Nuggets-era acts such as the Standells and Troggs don't really capture the tone of the band's music.
Instead, on their 2009 American breakthrough, Primary Colours, and the new Rush To Relax, Eddy Current Depression Ring evokes the great post-punk bands. This band doesn't really sound like post-punk luminaries such as the Feelies, the Minutemen, Wire, or Television — none of whom sound much like each other — but their music functions in the same way: It's undeniably arty but still simple, rooted in a bracing, hypnotic guitar sound devoid of blues influence or unneeded flash. What the band's sound lacks in flashy solos, skronky, feedback-laden breakdowns, swaggering blues licks, or extreme volume, it makes up for in tone, insistence, and rhythmic build-up. The vocals — Brendan Suppression's recitative, sing-speak style evokes both the Minutemen's D.Boon and Wire's Colin Newman — are decidedly nontraditional. The lyrics are personal but not overly cryptic. There's no rock-and-roll attitude or affectation. And most of all, the total effect is one of honesty and individuality. It sounds like music that emanates from a private place, oblivious to trends or expectations.
That place is, in part, Melbourne, where Eddy Current Suppression Ring formed in 2003 following an impromptu, post-Christmas-party jam session at the vinyl-pressing plant where the band's members — guitarist Mikey Young (now "Eddy Current"), Young's drummer brother Danny, singer Brendan Huntley (now "Brendan Suppression"), and bassist Brad Barry — worked.
The band later found themselves a somewhat unlikely hit, showing up on the Australian album charts, getting nominated for an industry award, and building a strong fan base.
"For a band that records like us and sounds like us, I'm surprised at how widely we've been received," says Mikey Young. "It hasn't really been too overwhelming, and we haven't copped much of a backlash. Your average man in the street probably wouldn't know who we are, but for a band like us, yeah, we have done surprisingly well."
"It's a smaller country and maybe a little more open-minded about homegrown talent," says Zac Ives who, along with partner Eric Friedl, co-owns the local Goner Records label, which has released all three Eddy Current albums in the U.S. "They play 1,000-seat venues and sell them out and headline big festivals. I don't think that would happen with them if they were over here."
The Eddy Current/Goner connection started in 2007 when Ives and Friedl were fishing for Australian bands to invite to their Gonerfest IV concert. A longtime Friedl connection in Australia recommended Eddy Current, who would soon be touring the U.S. for the first time, and sent the Goner guys a package that included the band's debut album and a few singles.
"Once they started playing over here, there was a rumble that went through our crowd about these shows that were leading up to Gonerfest," Ives says. "So by the time they got here, we were hook, line, and sinker on them, and they were the band we were most excited to see."
When Eddy Current Suppression Ring landed in Memphis, Ives and Friedl found out that not only did they really like the band, they really liked the guys in the band. Since the feelings were mutual and Eddy Current didn't have a U.S. label yet, a partnership made sense.
"They were the first to show any enthusiasm," Young says of Ives and Friedl. "They seemed like real nice guys, and I was already into a lot of stuff they put out. I think we felt honored that anyone overseas would care enough to put us out. I realize [Goner] has a certain aesthetic, but I think their releases have been varied enough for it to not feel like a restriction. The main thing is they seem like good, honest dudes who like good music and wanna put out good records without any hassle or expectations."
Goner released the band's second album, Primary Colours, the next year, later released the band's eponymous debut, and earlier this year released the band's third album, the anxious, gripping, perfectly titled Rush To Relax. But the band's current U.S. tour, which starts June 12th in Austin, Texas, will be the first since the band's music has gotten an official American release.
"I think for a band that hasn't toured on either of those records to get the amount of attention they have is a pretty big deal," says Ives, who has taken Eddy Current mail orders from post-punk icon Ian MacKaye (of Fugazi) and seen indie-rock star Britt Daniel (of Spoon) drop the band's name in a national magazine.
As for the band, they're looking forward to a return trip to Memphis, their first performance here since that Gonerfest debut in 2007.
"I thought Goner/Memphis was amazing," Young remembers. "One of my favorite U.S. cities that I visited. We met nothing but friendly people and thought the atmosphere around the place was really positive."
Eddy Current Suppression Ring
With the Useless Eaters and the Limes
The Hi-Tone Café
Tuesday, June 15th, 9 p.m.; $8