Nicholas Allbrook, one of the most enigmatic front-men of the 21st Century, is kicking off his national Advance Tour in Adelaide this Thursday. Whilst juggling the outfits of POND and Allbrook/Avery, he’s managed to slap together a fun and intimate tour of his own material. We caught up with Nicholas to chat about his forthcoming second album, the ups and downs of the Australian identity and his most bizarre experiences at university.
How are you feeling about kicking off your tour in Adelaide next week?
Well, I love Adelaide. I think a lot of people have an undue prejudice towards South Australia, including South Australians. But I fuckin’ love it! The first time we ever played a show there, I decided it was the best place in the world. It’s just the best you know? Like Coopers flowing everywhere, fine, fine weed and even all the pie brands you get at shitty service stations. Vili’s or something man? You’ve replaced all the shitty Mrs. Mac’s with the most gourmet, badass pies ever. They’re so good, I can’t believe it. So yeah, I’ve cooled off in my old age and realised that it’s not like a utopian paradise or whatever but it’s still a pretty damn good place. Get over it, people! South Australia’s the shit!
You’re taking a stripped-down approach to your live set on the Advance tour. What does this exactly mean and what made you choose it?
It just means having one human being on stage, I guess. I’ve only ever done one show with the band behind me. We recorded the last album together so I want to get them in the show eventually, but this is just a kind of fun thing that’s easy to do. Like, go around by myself pretty easily without much hassle and very little infrastructure and bending. So I guess that’s what I mean by stripped down.
Like a lot of your songs, Advance on the surface can be seen as comical, but it sounds like it has an undertone of saying something serious or reflective.
Songs can be very subjective. For me, the seriousness is a vast overtone because I wrote it and I know what I was trying to say. But for a lot of people there could be all sorts of undertones, sideways tones, whatever.
Can we expect more songs about the Australian identity on your upcoming album?
Yeah, I mean, it’s a huge part of my being, my sense of self. By proxy, it kind of makes it a large proportion of the shit I write about. Yeah, definitely.
And when you say, ‘the Australian identity’, can you delve a bit deeper into what the means to you?
A lot of it is an open-ended question, a fraught concept in itself. How quickly something can become dogma. You know, like committing international humanitarian crimes in aid of the ‘Australian identity’—something that’s only been developed in the past 200 years! I guess it’s about trying to see where this idea of ‘white Australiana’ begins and ends.
Is there anything in particular about this idea that inspired the single Advance?
A lot of people try and stick their heads in the sand and forget about how shit our identity can be at times. Hypocrisy, closed mindedness and believing that your 200-year-old Australian myth is something that’s real because it’s not. Before that, we’re English but when does British nationalism begin and end and how far can we go to defend that too? But at the same time there’s so much beauty, intelligence, creativity and empathy in the Australian identity and that’s why it all means so much to me. I actually love being Australian and would love more than anything to be a flag-waving patriot. It can be kind of hard when you loathe the people representing Australia.
You mentioned creativity which I wanted to talk to you about. Although you went to university, was music always your first priority? Or were there times when you mulled over taking other pathways?
Yeah, I was lucky enough to be quite passionate about university. I got a real kick out of that. A fantastical kick out of piling up books next to me, thinking I was partaking in this long lineage of, you know, Oxford and learning and everything. So I was really into pursuing history and literature as a passion too.
So, if music didn’t take off for you, you’d be happy following that path?
Yeah for sure. I’d probably be a bespectacled academic! And very happy with it.
You once said that art is the antithesis of logic and functionality; two principles which are greatly associated with university. Do you think that studying at university can be a kind of hindrance to producing art and being creative?
It really depends on the way people approach it. When a structure is laid out for you, it can actually be a real catalyst for doing something creative. So I don’t think it’s a hindrance. Maybe sometimes, if people get into the mind set of achieving tasks that are given to them until they get their ticks at the end. It all depends on what you can get out of it. Personally, I found essay-writing (even in my driest subjects) a lot of fun. But I’m sure a lot of people do it out of a sense of obligation.
Can you tell us your craziest experience from your uni days?
From uni days? Hmm. Well me and my friend… we, uh… imbibed psychotropic drugs just before going to do our final presentation for what we thought was a blow-off subject: history of music and popular culture. And it was a fucking bizarre experience. We got, like, an impossibly high score for it and I ended up getting the music prize for the year. I wasn’t even there to collect it. We made a total mockery of the whole subject. I guess the teachers must have found our presentation really… dynamic.