Debbie Kruger talks to Flynn Gower of Bondis award-winning nu-metal band and discovers these songwriters are not a cog in any conventional wheel.
Flynn Gower works a day job as a construction worker. His co-writer Lucius Borich supplements his income working in a café. Its no easy route to success for these musical voyagers as they steadfastly remain outside the square while keeping their sights firmly fixed on long-term success.
Named Best Emerging Live NSW Band at the Australian Live Music Awards last December, Cog has a major following on the east coast and appearances at recent Big Day Out concerts continued their assault on the ears and minds of enthusiasts who seek something challenging in their music.
I felt what I was hearing on the radio was predominantly a load of crap and I thought it was totally uninspiring and I thought, I can do better than that, says Gower, the 30-year old guitarist and lead vocalist, about his impetus. What was coming to my ears was lacking, it was sloppy, it was lazy, apathetic, I thought there was a lot of music that was like they deliberately didnt take it seriously because they were afraid of truly trying.
The music that most inspired Gower as a teenager was 1970s hard rock and pulsating pop, from AC/DC and Led Zeppelin to the Saturday Night Fever and The War of The Worlds soundtracks. And Ram Jam. Black Betty used to get played a lot, that was a big favourite, Gower recalls. Later, when songwriting became an occupation, Jeff Buckley became an instructive force. A late bloomer musically, he started playing guitar at 21 and a year later started writing music with friend Rohan Mellick, with whom he went on to form The Hanging Tree with Lucius Borich, Daniel Parkinson and Emmy Walters.
Back then if you called a song a song you were being a dickhead. You didnt want to take it too seriously. If anyone started calling things verses and choruses
It was just about writing music and riffs and sections that were just going to make people lose it and go crazy in a good way.
While writing music was a collaborative effort, lyric writing was always the domain of the lead singer, in that case Walters. When The Hanging Tree dissolved and Gower teamed up again down the track with Borich to form Cog, the same practice held. Between them they had accumulated a wealth of riffs and parts of songs which combined became the works that make up their two EPs Just Visiting Part 1 and Part 2. Because neither saw himself as a singer, their writing was limited to the music. They believed adding lyrics at that stage would have been presumptuous.
We were conscious of which parts we were considering verses and middle-eights and choruses and whatever else. But we were thinking that we dont want to tread on anyones toes and give them ideas and prevent them from exploring the music themselves and perhaps coming up with something else that we wouldnt have come up with.
When Gower finally decided to take on the vocal duties himself, the lyrics came. Essentially, the words were born from the music.
I didnt care if it made sense or not. What I was primarily concerned with was the melody, the phrasing especially and the phonetics. I used to make stuff up that wasnt words at all, it was just funny sounds and stuff, and the start of Bondi for instance is I aint got a head on ahead. It doesnt make any sense and I dont care, it doesnt bother me in the slightest.
The songs were given titles before lyrics were added, and even if the content had nothing to do with the title, the title always stuck. Bondi has got nothing to do with Bondi. We just wanted to call one of our songs Bondi because thats where we came from. And the funny thing is wed name a song Stretch or Paris, Texas two songs off Part II. We called Paris, Texas after the movie Paris Texas, which blew us away, we thought it was an unbelievable film, we just loved the story and the ideas. But what happened there was we were hoping to write a song along those lines, expressing the same thoughts and ideas. But that ended up being Stretch. And Paris, Texas became something totally different. It didnt matter. Stretch is about Paris, Texas. But we didnt care.
The song Moschiach was named because Gower and Borich had seen many signs on cars and in windows of homes around Bondi referring to the cult Jewish messiah figure, but the song ended up being about Aborigines and Reconciliation. 1010011010 was titled because of Gowers fascination with binary codes. I thought, thats really interesting, imagine if you wrote a song with just two notes, one representing the one and the other representing the zero. So I wrote a riff which is exactly like that, it was two notes.
Gowers younger brother Luke plays bass, and the trio are focusing on writing after a two-year period of playing live and working day jobs to sustain themselves. Eschewing the mainstream is their key to retaining creative control. For the entire duration of our existence as Cog its been an extremely pragmatic journey, and as much as weve planned and wished and surmised about certain things in the future, what weve always done is do what we can do at any one point in time. Whether that be to go into a rehearsal room and put a demo down or whether it means that we borrow $200 off my old man and go to Melbourne to do a gig down there, its whatever we could do we would do. Its very hard to be so certain about anything in the future. We want to retain control but we dont want to rule out everything.
Were just experiencing things on a very small scale and if we were to become an international act and play to people around the world and release product around the world then I think it could be a completely different ball game.