The history of art could be described as a beautiful succession and augmentation of ideas. For millennia artists have taken cues from pre-existing artworks to render contemporary creations with lasting substance. Pink Lemonade, the second album from Melbourne’s Closure In Moscow, comes out this week– and vocalist Chris de Cinque gives credit where it’s due for the record’s title.
“Those two words sounded really cool to me and I thought, ‘That would be a really cool album name. I don’t know what it means yet,’” he explains. “Then my dad was watching TV and happened to flick over to The Sound Of Music. There’s a scene where the von Trapp kids are singing to the chick that their dad’s about to marry – the evil bitch that isn’t going to be a great mother for them – and she offers Mr. von Trapp pink lemonade. It just felt really ominous.”
The title’s benign origins (and the nature of the signified noun) suggest the record will be a fizzy, poppier release than its predecessor, First Temple. However, as de Cinque adds, Pink Lemonade’s thematic concerns are far from light and springy.
“She’s offering Mr. von Trapp the lemonade and she goes, ‘Not too sweet, not too sour.’ I was thinking, ‘Oh, maybe there’s a metaphor in that.’ There’s a lot of disillusion and confusion in modern Western civilisation because we’re getting bombarded with so much horse shit. At the surface everything’s really happy and ‘everything’s really exciting!’ Underneath there’s this pit of despair that’s like a cavern widening. But, you know, keep the blinders on – everything is just hunky-dory.”
Prior to First Temple’s mid-2009 release, Closure In Moscow snagged a deal with accomplished punk label Equal Vision Records and relocated to the US. It’s easy to project images of superstardom onto any Australian band that makes a decent impact overseas, but it’s also hard to ignore that it’s been five years since Closure In Moscow’s last record. So, why did it take so long – did the band get lost in America?
“We had a fair stint there, over 11 months,” de Cinque explains. “We actually had to cut the last tour short because I had a bit of a nervous breakdown and was completely burnt out and fried. It was almost the death of the band. I got jaded and freaked out by the whole experience. When you’re in the insular bubble of a band it’s very easy to slip into that Spinal Tap, the-entire-universe-is-the-band mentality. All the while I’m digging myself a very deep and absurd mental hole, to the point where I was living in a backyard in a tent just thinking, ‘I can’t eat the food, it’s unfit for consumption, it’s poison.’”
No matter how sincere your artistic aims are, America’s hyper-consumerist drive can be overwhelming. The States offer great opportunities to meet influential industry figures and exhibit in front of a broader listening market, but when it all boils down the essential goal is to sell something.
“It’s a massive problem when you’re filtering everything through that free market filter,” de Cinque says. “Even creative endeavours become about, ‘Well, what’s going to make this profitable?’ The long game is to be a fucking shit hot band, but of course the long game is going to leave you floundering in the water without cashflow. So what’s the short game that works easier and quicker? Fucking hustle that hype and hustle that merch.”
De Cinque’s words underline a dilemma that’s disturbed curious creative types ever since the advent of recording technology. Meanwhile, the troubled music industry has undergone vast change since Closure In Moscow last released music. Downloading was already dominant back in ’09, but the climate has taken another complicated turn with the rise of unlimited streaming platforms like Spotify.
“Music is a really good industry to look at as far as the way digitisation and automation is making things not work with the current economic model,” de Cinque says. “You can make music zeros and ones now that you can copy quite easily. That should be a liberating, great thing because that’s an advancement in technology, but unfortunately it’s working within a really antiquated, rigid economic framework.”
Nevertheless, Closure In Moscow’s composite pieces are in functional alignment and ready to launch Pink Lemonade to the world. The band (completed by guitarists Mansur Zennelli and Michael Barrett, as well as new additions, bass player Duncan Millar and Salvatore Aidone on drums) didn’t have a comprehensive game plan for its sophomore effort, but there were some nuclear objectives to satisfy.
“We’re just trying to write good songs now,” de Cinque says. “I think there is something that threads between all great songs, that defines a song as a good song. It’s a subtle thing that you can’t quite articulate wholly, but there is that thread.
“I think music is a really great tool to subversively change things by presenting ideas or presenting allegorical messages in lyrics that will hopefully penetrate and will make people discover something they might not have thought about.”
So the eccentric alt-prog five-piece is clearly not interested in making a modest re-entrance – but what about the state of de Cinque’s susceptible psyche? Well, even though almost every sentence uttered during our interview becomes a despairing evaluation of contemporary perversity, he’s gathered some constructive perspective too.
“If you pull back far enough, everything on this planet is a messy ejaculation of chaos and it’s going to be what it’s going to be. You can either get hung up and bummed out on it or just take it as it comes and laugh at some of the shit. You’ve just got to deal with the daily hand of cards that gets dealt and make what you will of it. You can’t try to take on a system of chaos that’s outside of any one human’s control. You just have to Bill & Ted that shit and be excellent to each other.”
On that unexpected note of positivity, it’s onwards and upwards for Closure In Moscow. The record’s first single ‘The Church Of The Technochrist’ showed up late last year to remind listeners of the band’s skills in dual execution of smartsy instrumentation and a bodily thrust. Unsurprisingly, piecing the record together wasn’t exactly easygoing.
“There were a lot of birthing pains [while] rediscovering things,” de Cinque admits. “That America experience was such a massive changing experience for all of us. We were only 22, 23 then. We’re 27, 28 now and brains go through a lot of morphing in that time. We went, ‘Alright, let’s see what we’re working with now. Let’s do what we think is something we’ll enjoy and has some kind of lasting quality to it as an album experience.’
“We finally fucking did it, and when I can remove myself from the arduous process of it and just look at what we did, I’m happy with it and I’m glad we’re back on the horse. It’s churn and burn time.”
Pink Lemonade will be out on Friday May 9 through Sabretusk / MGM. Closure in Moscow will be plaing at the Spectrum on Friday May 9 with tickets available through Oztix. They will also be playing the Collector Hotel on Saturday May 24 and The Small Ballroom, Newcastle on Wednesday May 28.