EUGH - The Most Die-Hard of the Devo-Core
Vincent Buchanan-Simpson’s EUGH (pronounced however the hell you want it to) has taken on a life that far exceeded its humble beginnings as a creative exercise. Speaking with a rapid cadence befitting that of the electric energy on his debut EP, The Most Brilliant Man Alive, the Perth-born Melbourne-based artist’s terrifically skewed take on devo-inspired post-punk has proved a hit in Europe as much as in his own backyard. We spoke with Vin about the absurd spontaneity and lo-fi fun that helped revitalise his own creative capacity.
Cultivating an affinity for post-punk whilst growing up in Perth, it took Buchanan-Simpson some time before he felt there was an audience available to appreciate it; “I was this bloody kid going to private school and I was the only kid I knew who liked that kind of music. When it came to writing my own songs, as much as I love that stuff, it wasn’t the first thing I turned to making because I thought it was too esoteric. I didn’t realise there was an audience for it in Perth. I was wrong (laughs)”. Moving with the psych-rock influences of the time ala POND, he soon helped form Hideous Sun Demon along with a more jangle-pop sounding Terrible Signal, both of which are now household names around the Melbourne Underground. However, it was through playing synth in Jake Suriano’s lesser known Kitchen People that Buchanan-Simpson saw a source of inspiration for trying more obscure song writing; “I’ve just always loved the post-punk thing and I think that’s always what’s gonna be eternally relevant to me. I think that’s why the past few years, all my projects have gravitated toward that 80s minimalist sound”.
After moving to Melbourne, he soon found himself embarking on Terrible Signal’s sophomore record, The Window. With the process blowing out to three years, well beyond the usual attention span of his fidgety personality, seeds of doubt surrounding the work and his own creativity began to emerge; “A lot of overthinking went into it. I’m now really happy with it but after getting 95% of it down, the last 5% I really procrastinated with and I started to lose confidence with it”. As a means of rejuvenating his motivation, Buchanan-Simpson allocated himself a week to write, record and publish the EP we’re now graced with; “I needed to prove that I could do this for myself, so, if anything, it was kind of like an exercise. The first song took me an hour, so I used that as a base and went from there and was done in about week-and-a-half”.
Running at just over ten minutes, The Greatest Man Alive tears through some of the finest homecooked, Devo-inspired post-punk on offer with each track bearing an idiosyncratic punch. Whether it’s the infectiously hook-laden, ‘Nice Guy II’ or the adrenaline-fuelled descent into chaos on ‘Irritating Song’, the erratic shifts between each eclectic track mirror the artist’s own psyche; “When I sit there with a song that pops into my head it's usually really nippy. I dunno. I’m probably borderline ADHD. I haven’t been diagnosed but I’m a very edgy, twitchy person so that high-speed music really does suit me. It occupies me in a way where I have to think about it and get it right and it engages me”. As he pushed himself to new frontiers musically, Buchanan-Simpson extended himself lyrically beyond a familiar form into something more ridiculous; “I really liked in Kitchen People how Jake was able to make these funny little characters or hypothetical situations and I’d never really done that. Lyrically, I wanted to write about things I never had before. They’re all really stupid stories. Like, ‘Junk Shop’ is about a guy who works in a pawn shop and gets hijacked by a guy who forces him to go to Hogs Breath Café. Just really meaningless stuff”.
Whilst working in haste was the primary objective, Buchannan-Simpson desired to develop a vibrant lo-fi aesthetic. Devoid of a tape machine and a pre-amp, running all the tracks through a Korg MS-20 and recording with a makeshift Solid State Cube amp hooked into a condenser mic helped provide the sound he sought; “It was all real basic sort of stuff. Stuff that your sound engineer would say, ‘what are you doing, you shouldn’t be doing that’, but that was the point. I wanted it to have character, but character doesn’t need to mean high fidelity”. Having studied the sounds of Devo and other 80’s post-punk bands, re-learning traditional songwriting concepts proved a tough task but a fulfilling one; “It took me a while to fully embrace it but learning all those parts, just the way they construct chords together, it’s like a very mechanical, very machine way of composing and it’s really insane when you start doing it but it really grabbed me”.
With Devo-core a staple of underground music scenes across the world and especially in Melbourne, Buchannan-Simpson embraces the renaissance of subversively complex music and its modern reimaging; “Even though Devo’s music goes back about 40 years it still feels exciting. It’s something that can be elaborated on, and is, by heaps of modern bands now. Gerald Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh were smart, smart musicians but because its bouncy and goofy, which is great about it, because its silly at times, it didn’t seem really in-depth and as complex as what it is. It’s music that comes across as really digestible and you can be as intelligent as you want but making music that translates is what makes it great”. Whilst maintaining these idols as obvious post-punk influences, other sources of inspiration through the likes of Burt Bacharach, Scott Walker and Nick Drake are a little less expected; “That real Americana classic 60s sorta pop. It's real hard to pull off but its real engaging and deep music. So nah, I’m not a real punk. If I could write a song like’ The Way To San Jose’, I would be really happy with myself”.
With a follow-up EP ready to go, EUGH is set to release soon a special vinyl release of the debut EP being printed in Italy through Savage Records run by Tom from Sweden. The intercontinental support is emblematic of the unexpected appreciation and dedication post-punk communities are founded on at grassroots level. Buchanan-Simpson ascribes EUGH’s reach for the initial Marthouse Records release to subsequent plugs via Youtube post-punk curators like Johnny Sick. It’s here that he believes lies the means by which the subculture can continue to thrive in the modern age; “It seems like a subversive culture to Spotify and all the other traditional ways bands market themselves, because those don’t suit everyone. It’s amazing how many Europeans get behind DIY music and it gives you faith that this scene can last for a long time”.