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Shady Nasty chat their latest EP, 'CLUBSMOKE', deconstructing cultural cringe, and diversifying their influences

7 December 2021 | 4:08 pm | Parry Tritsiniotis

We chat to Shady Nasty about their new EP and the changing dynamics of the melting pot that is Sydney, and deconstructing underground culture.

Shady Nasty are fast becoming one of Australia's most exciting indie acts. The Sydney/Eora based band have become known for the left field, alternative punk music, a singular sonic dimension that features brash vocals, unique rhythms all wrapped in hints of electronic and hip hop production. After years of developing their sound, earlier this year they released their strongest work to date, their conceptually focussed EP, 'CLUBSMOKE'.

'CLUBSMOKE' explores a world that is rarely engaged with in experimental music circles. With its 4 tracks, they explore a world of overindulgence and self-admiration, a world that features vlogging, gymming, clubbing and clout. They tackle the themes in an extremely nuanced way, reflecting the cultures that form it and reflecting a set of social norms that are conflicting while also admirable. They feature sonic and visual nods to 2010s EDM, influencer culture and luxury brands, throughout this cultural exploration that serves as an experimental EP.

To get to know the EP better, we chat to the bands drummer, Luca, about the changing dynamics and visibility of the melting pot that is Sydney, indulgence culture, breaking down underground scenes and the idea of cultural cringe.

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Parry: CLUBSMOKE. It’s out. It’s going off. What’s been the most rewarding thing about now having it out in the world? 

Shady Nasty: I think for us, the most rewarding thing is being able to reinvent ourselves from the last EP, and that thats resonated with the people that have listened. We are very hell bent on continuously reimagining who we are and what we want to say. It’s been cool that people have responded to the development, or the themes that we are presenting. The themes we took on with this EP aren’t instantly palatable, they can be grotesque in some ways. It was great to see such a response to a new palette. 

Parry: If the band is constantly reimagining itself, how does it feel to sit on music for a period of time? Does it feel like you're almost 2 steps ahead?

Shady Nasty: It’s kind of weird, when we put this EP out, we were already looking to the future. This must happen with a lot of artists, it's just the way the music industry tends to work. There’s such a big delay, inevitably we become different people across that waiting period of time. We become different people with new experiences. For us we are already thinking about an album.

Parry: I guess it’s still unique because definitely with this type of music, it reflects a point in time of creativity rather than trying to reflect a trend at a period of time.

Shady Nasty: Looking at stuff that is popular can still be really helpful in terms of what is connecting. We try and internalise that and focus on creating something that is still singular and original, and break away from the extreme cycle of attempting to be and remain relevant. 

Parry: There’s so much quality commentary on the album. IBIZA to me is hilarious, but it reflects a big part of the culture that I grew up around. Do you see yourself almost highlighting a level of admiration and beauty in the irony you present on tracks like that? It’s rare to see that side of ‘Sydney’ culture shown in this super far left indie music circuit.

Shady Nasty: In the field of experimental music, it's a trope to attack the topics we do, or approach them with irony and sarcasm. Or really just things with negatively charged energy. That can get really boring and it doesn’t address the complexity of the world and the city. That’s how I was feeling at the time. I don’t really just want to rip on people across the city's landscape, there’s quite a lot of beauty and intrigue in people that operate differently to me or you. I wanted to come at it from more empathetic stance, and really engage with the content. There’s definitely a lot of criticism due, but it seems to be the only lens on offer on understanding this cultural zeitgeist. That is fucking shit, it's not enough to really understand what’s going on.  

Parry: How did you go about not making it a total mockery of the self-indulgence, culture in the music? 

Shady Nasty: It came organically because at the time, I was just watching these VLOGs on YouTube. Like these guys where they’ll record their lifestyle of going to the gym, he owns a company that sells gym shorts. I really liked him, I liked his charisma and energy. The thousands of variations of those videos that I indulged in and I had started going to the gym for the first time while making the EP, and I was meeting and talking to all these characters in real life. I enjoyed how unashamedly they were. At a deeper level it was the culture I grew up around, and you can’t put that in a box. Human beings are complicated. 

Parry: That culture defined a lot of my early memories on the internet too. We are the Zyzz generation of Australian kids. 

Shady Nasty: Definitely, growing up watching Zyzz, Chestbrah etc. They’re cultural icons that have defined an impulse for people our age. 

Parry: It’s commentary on the familiar and outrageous. We used to know about these subcultures, the Meriton junkies, vape junkies etc, now the digital age has brought these people to the forefront. It might just be my TikTok or instagram feed because of how powerful the algorithm is. What do you think the cultural state of Sydney is? Is it shifting, do you think? 

Shady Nasty: Who are we to comment on it. I feel like hopefully as time goes on the digital age continues to democratise the visibility of artists and people generally. That as a new mechanism has allowed for different faces and people and stories and to put them on the map. Regardless there are still big structural gatekeepers that aren’t being too radical or experimental. I don’t really see it as reflecting the complexity of the melting pot that is this city. 

Parry: Genre wise this thing is all over the place, in a good way. The EDM synths on Ibiza make so much contextual sense, as well as this sprinkling of hip-hop. Your music has always been quite unique, but it goes to the next level on this record. What inspired that creative evolution step? Was it a new internal ambition, or was it something that you think you would have already evolved into?

Shady Nasty: We had always wanted to take production more seriously and treat the production as an instrument in and of itself to enhance the music. We spent a lot more time trying to make the music sound more digital, electronic and pay homage to the things that inspired it, which was 2010s EDM. It happened organic through the images we were seeing. The things we are talking about are quite complicated, so we needed to put the time and effort in and reflect on what the themes mean and what you’re trying to say about it. If we did it the wrong way, we are taking shots at people we don’t know, which is dangerous and ignorant. That’s why it was important to focus on bringing the production and the themes up as much as we could. 

Parry: How do you think you challenge the idea of cringe in your music? You’ve said it’s been inspired by old EDM previously. Is challenging the cultural cringe of that music now an objective of your music? How do you reflect on the culture of ‘cringe’/’guilty pleasures’ in music spheres?

Shady Nasty: I don’t like that at all. It’s extremely musically elitist. If it makes you feel a certain way you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. One of the biggest takeaways of this project for me is reflecting on how I would play Runescape at my family home when I was 13, and I’d just be like pumping Calvin Harris at the same time and it would just be the best thing ever. It’s sad to think I would have to suppress that because of my age and time. The songs were mad, the times were mad, it was all good back then. Listening to it now too some of those songs were really sophisticated and captured a flavour of the time. I really don’t like the idea of cringe. 

Parry: We all went through that era of dreaming of going to Tomorrowland at like 13 years old. 

Shady Nasty: Fuck yeah. That feeling is iconic. 

Parry: Did writing to a concept make it easier or more difficult when creating a project?

Shady Nasty: Way easier. The prior EP was just a list of songs that had been written at a similar time. There was a throughline sonically and aesthetically, but when you have an overarching concept, it's this guiding light, this guiding impulse that makes it easier to feel if the music you are making is heading in the right direction or not. I found that really useful. With a concept for us it felt like we were creating a universe, and its easier to see what might and might not belong in the universe thanks to that. 

Parry: Did you ever feel truly a part of the band culture in this city? I’ve always felt like you sat in the left field of it. Like the fact that we are covering you on Purple Sneakers with the music you make says so much about its versatility in your audience. Do you ever see yourself sitting within a scene, or in a peer group of artists? Is that isolating? Or is that freeing?

Shady Nasty: When I was younger I used to think that being in a scene was the best. I would go to every event, every record store. Those cultures still exist and it was a great introduction to all of this stuff but as time goes on I just don’t feel drawn in being deeply in a part of a scene. It’s cool to draw inspiration from that, but I used to want to do my own thing. Props to everyone for being a part of a scene, it's wholesome as, but we really want to make music that is contemporary and progressive. They’re making digital currency, they’ve got AI, how can you just be playing a guitar? 

Image via Kazuya Yoshino