Big Bill and the Bigot’s debut EP is a self-reflection of guilt, love and fear. Let The Empire Burn is chilling to its core. It creates a constant sensation of restlessness with its chaotic melodies and unrepentant lyrics unapologetically refuses to allow you to breathe. Big Bill and the Bigots is the main project for Melbourne/Naarm-based musician, Will Weir, who was brought on by Dead Family Pets in early 2020. I briefly chatted to Weir discussing the inspiration for the tracks and deconstructing the beautifully intricate and grisly EP as a whole.
The inspiration for Big Bill and the Bigots comes from the post-punk and goth giants of the 1980s and 90s, quoting The Birthday Party and Rowland S. Howard’s Teenage Snuff Film as a huge influence on Weir. He stated these artists in particular and the post-punk movement in Australia really resonated with him; however, he says that, “he draws on as many inspirations as he can when creating [his] music”. These influences are clear when listening to the EP, with the sparse but erratic guitar prominent throughout. Those who admire bands from this era with bands such as Siouxsie and the Banshees and Bauhaus will be transported, recognising the raw emotion that these bands are celebrated and remembered for. Weir’s gritty vocal tone transports me and reminds me of an older Leonard Cohen, as Weir has such a wise and imposing presence to his voice. This isn’t an EP that can be put on in the background, it demands the attention of the listener through dissonant cacophony of the instrumentals and Weir’s unique and commanding vocals.
The macabre nature of the EP comes across clearly in all aspects. The track names written with almost biblical language, or something out of Dante’s Divine Comedies. When asked about that, Weir stated the track names were reminiscent of his musical influences and the themes of the tracks; however, he wanted titles that were going to catch the listener’s attention. “People have barely any attention span anymore, and they need something that is going to grab them straight away because they are fucking lazy.”
I noticed immediately when listening to the EP, I felt uncomfortable. Each song made me feel uneasy. Melodically, Weir never gives the listener a moment of ease. When asked if this was intentional, Weir said no, stating that, “When I write these songs, I write them for myself and how I am feeling. It’s a chance for me to unpack my emotions and experiences… I don’t write my music with the listener in mind, [however] now it is out there, I feel like it is no longer mine, but everyone’s.” This comes from his own sense of discomfort being automatically placed into a position of privilege, purely due to his European background, recognising that Indigenous Australians’ are being immediately disadvantaged and marginalised by a system that tries to set them up to fail.
Let The Empire Burn is an EP that reflects on doing just that, being aware of the faults in the structure of our society and recognising that we need to start deconstructing it. Weir, when discussing the inspiration behind the EP, talks about recognising the bias in how the history of Australian is written. He had started to realise that what is written and taught about our country had been twisted into a singular perspective, celebrating colonisers as these heroes of history, ignoring how they suppressed an entire culture and its people. This drove him to discover the unpleasant and uncomfortable past that had never been discussed, it is simply ignored and erased from the history books.
The opening track, Middle Class White Boy Blues highlights the people who, although benefit greatly from the system put in place, still complain about the insignificant problems they face on a daily basis. The track in particular hits home to the guilt we feel as white Australian’s and how we benefit from the society constructed with our images and our perception of an idyllic future in mind.
Black Crows cements the propensity to white-washed history. Weir writes about the uncomfortable realisation that the Australian history is written from one perspective, ignoring the people and their rich, diverse culture that was here before colonisation. Black Crows creates the narrative of the European settlers seeing the Indigenous people as pests, something to be shooed away or eliminated entirely. “I want this song to encourage people to challenge the disgraceful status quo where this colonial nation continues to commit atrocities against Indigenous people.”
Sunday Mourning, in discussion, Will unveils that the song was written about a near death experience he once had. Weir stated, “Sunday Mourning was me unpacking the feelings of the fear that came from that experience.” Being the second single off Let The Empire Burn, it is complimented stunningly by a video clip that was filmed in lock down by Grace Goodwin.
The track is morbid and evocative of the influence that Weir draws upon; the gothic imagery in the film clip helps to elevate the feelings of terror and that anxiety following you well after the experience. It is also a song that is also that feeling of love that comes after having that experience, realising the appreciation you have for what and who you have around you.
Let The Empire In is an EP that demands your attention. It is a stunning, dark divulgence into Weir’s psyche that truly resonates with the listener. It was realised on the 26th of June via Dead Family Pets. It’s available on Bandcamp