Categories: Interviews

Australia’s Noogie is doing just swimmingly

Most 19 year olds are either immersed in college textbooks or stocking Wal-Mart shelves (or something to that effect), trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives.

Not Nick Hyde, lead singer-guitarist of the Australian indie-pop quartet Noogie. He wakes up every morning with a smile on his face, thankful for everything he has.

He should be happy. After sweeping their homeland last year, Hyde and his band mates – guitarist Mike Jeffrey, bassist Alex van Wensveen and drummer Chuck Ridler – have set their sights on the United States. Their debut album, “Learn to Swim” (Trauma), was released March 7; they did a series of West Coast showcases with label mates The Flys, then played at Chicago’s House of Blues on March 8 and New York’s CBGB’s Downstairs Lounge on March 9 and performed on the Oxygen TV/Internet program “Trackers” on March 10 before returning to their native Sydney.

Sure beats the ol’ day job back home.

“I work at a BP service station along with Mike,” Hyde said recently. “The other two guys work in department stores. When I told my boss we were going to America, he wasn’t too happy about it, because we gave them only a week’s notice. We said, ‘Yeah, well, we’re going to America. See ya later.’ “

The day job came in handy for at least one track on “Learn to Swim.” Hyde wrote “Remote Controller (TV Screen)” while stuck on a late-night shift.

“I wrote a lot of the lyrics to the songs at work,” he said. “For ‘TV Screen,’ I was working one night till dawn and took my guitar in and wrote that song. We had just come from recording all day and went straight to work that night and I was in kind of a bad mood. I didn’t get home till 10 o’clock the next morning and then kinda died. I had just moved out of home and I was about $600 in debt. The only thing I could get was a midnight-to-dawn job, so I had to do that for like three weeks, then I got a normal day shift like everyone else.”

The four, all enamored with everything from Crowded House and the Beatles to Radiohead, formed Noogie three years ago when they were in the 10th grade.

“We finished school and realized that we always wanted to do the band but we weren’t sure it could go as far as it has,” Hyde said. “It was a choice we had to make: Either get a job and work for the rest of our lives or try and give this music thing a crack. The driving ambition for me doing this is getting to do this and not have to get a job. It would be the best lifestyle possible.

“My parents have always encouraged me to pursue what I want to do and they’ve always given heaps of help, so here I am. Even if we had gone to university last year, I’m not sure it would’ve been the right thing to do anyway because I don’t know what I want to do with my life. I’m pretty sure the others feel the same way.”

Noogie’s first song, “I’d Rather Float,” appeared on the popular Australian compilation series, “Grow Your Own 3,” which garnered heavy radio airplay. Then it snowballed from there: The CD caught the attention of the indie label Foghorn, which released a five-song EP; Trauma heard the EP and quickly signed them to an album deal.

“We gave ourselves a year,” Hyde said, “and that’s when we got the contract with Trauma, and it’s turned into two years now. Hopefully, it’ll turn into forever.”

The first U.S. single, “Meantime,” is a prime example of the Noogie touch: It’s a smartly condensed, three-minute pop song that addresses the “word games” in relationships.

“I have a pretty short attention span myself,” Hyde said, “so it has to go somewhere in three minutes or I turn it off. That’s why the easiest way to do that is to trim down the song a bit. Some of the songs were a bit longer, but for lyrical purposes and radio, they got cut down a little bit. But the songs always seem to come out to three minutes and we like it that way.

The Noogie sound is all encompassing, a reflection of their eclectic tastes, Hyde said.

“We all went to school together and listened to a lot of the same stuff, even though everyone has their own interests and brings it into the band,” he said. “Like the bass player is into ’80s rock and the drummer likes electronic music; I’ve got pretty broad tastes myself. Because of my parents, I’m into the Beatles and Elton John, but I also got into Nirvana and Green Day and Pavement and the Sebadoh. And we all like Radiohead.

“We’ve always been kind of poppy. At our high school, there were a lot of bands and the punk influences came through at one stage. We were renowned as the poppier band. But we’ve always tried to avoid describing our music as one style or pursue one style because then you lose the freedom of creating music for the fun of it.”

And it’s definitely fun – traveling the world, playing their own material, meeting new people – at least till they have to go back to “real” work.

“I don’t know how the album’s going to do in the states,” Hyde said. “It’s so hard to tell. A lot of these songs have been around since 1997, and I don’t know if you find it with music, but after I’ve been listening to a song for three years, I still like it but it doesn’t quite have that sparkle when you first hear it. That’s not the case with these songs. We obviously enjoy the music and really like the record.”

THE FIRST RECORD I EVER BOUGHT: “Bon Jovi’s ‘Slippery When Wet.’ I was about 6 or 7 and got it from my parents as an Easter present. The first one I bought with my own money was a tape of Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ when I was on holiday in Bali.”

THE FIRST CONCERT I EVER WENT TO: “Slayer with Biohazard at the Horton Pavilion in Sydney in ’95 or ’96. I was in a heavy metal stage back then. My friends and I spent the entire concert at the front and then I got so dehydrated that I threw up and wanted to go home. It was awesome.”

THE LAST CD I BOUGHT: “Everything But the Girl’s ‘Temperamental.’ I love it. I’m getting into the electronic drums and I think she has a really good voice. They’re very cool.”

BWF (before we forget): Get your Noogie jones on the Web @ www.noogie.net.

Gerry Galipault @https://twitter.com/Pauseandplay

Gerry Galipault debuted Pause & Play online in October 1997. Since then, it has become the definitive place for CD-release dates — with a worldwide audience.

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