Australian Musician editor Greg Phillips sat down with Lipstereo’s Sam Stranges to discuss songwriting, strategy, and the rock scene.
Sam from Lipstereo, welcome back to Australian Musician.
Thanks for having me.
The last time we spoke was via zoom, just after the release of your EP ‘Modern Mythology.” It was also after the Launch at The Toff in Town, which was a great night. Since then have you written, or even recorded much material?
Yeah, we’re working on a lot of demos at the moment. We’ve got a lot in the back cataglogue that we’re slowly working through.
I think last time I mentioned, that we’re trying to create stories with collections of songs. So we’ve figured that out, and we’re just working through demos of one particular group, almost part II of what we were doing before.
What about live gigs? How often are you playing now?
As you’re playing and recording more, do you feel it’s becoming clearer what the vision is, and what you want the band to sound like in the future?
I think so, yes. Particularly in the recording process. When recording demos, in particular, you’re really able to find a sound. Now with the release that we’ve got, yes, we’re really molding a sound. It’s obviously not set in stone. It’s healthy for artists to change things throughout their careers, and the best of them do, and the best of them can do that without being terrible when they change.
What sort of things did you learn from the recording of the EP that you might take into future recordings?
Time management is definitely the biggest thing, in the studio, that I picked up on. And preparation. I remember one night I was working on one of the mellotron tracks for Little Spaceships, and I thought, I could have done this beforehand. So just managing our time better, so we’re able to get the maximum amount of takes, for a solo, for example, or for a bass track. When you’ve got a guitarist and a bassist, they really want to get it right, and you’ve got to give them the maximum opportunity to do that.
When you are recording, are you playing as a band, all at the same time?
We do, yes. The way we did the last one was, we recorded it in a room altogether, and then we did overdubs of any mistakes and those sorts of things. And we double-tracked the guitars and the vocals. The vocals were fresh takes. But the drum takes, you can actually hear on ‘Stop,’ Tage from across the room, yelling ‘Stop’ at the start of the song. So that’s as live as you can get for those drum tracks.
We spoke about that last time on our Zoom chat, but I think it’s worth mentioning again, you were playing quite a bit pre-pandemic, and then the lockdowns hit. How did you guys use that lockdown time? How useful was it, just being able to think about the music?
Yes, I think that’s a good way of putting it. It was definitely a time of reflection. If we continued playing through, I think we would fall into some repetitive formula. So having that time allowed us to expand the horizons of the band a bit.
The demos we did for the previous EP, took a long time to do. We were experimenting with all kinds of things, sounds, bells, mellotrons, and organs. It was a lot of fun figuring out what goes with the music.
One of the great things you’ve done since we last spoke, was a global live stream, for the “Let Me Help, Children of the World’ charity, tell me about that. How did it come about, and how did it go?
It was a lot of fun to work on that. We ended up filming at Bakehouse Studios, three songs, and we’re releasing those to YouTube now, so you’ll be able to see them very soon.
'Feedback' recorded at Bakehouse Studios
Just to talk a little bit about your gear again, we covered it last time. You play a left-handed Les Paul, how have you been eyeing off any new guitars, or anything new for your pedal board?
I try to keep my eyes away from guitars. I spent too much on pedals recently, for me to be looking at amps or guitars, or anything. I remember my card being declined for the first time, and it was just because I’d bought too many pedals and books.
Any new favourite pedal?
Yes, True Spring Reverb, it’s got this really nice …spring reverb. Yeah.
Do you need to have a guitar in your hand to find songwriting inspiration, or can you find inspiration anywhere?
I actually find the best things I write are in the shower. It’s really bizarre, and I can’t spend ten hours in the shower every day, but if I did it would probably make my writing a lot quicker. Not particularly when starting a song from scratch, but if I’m developing an idea that I’ve already got in my head .. I’ll wake up and have a shower, and try to sing a counter-melody or something like that, and it can build a song up from what it was originally. So a shower is really good for that.
You were doing short, sharp sets, a half an hour or not much more, are you starting to extend things?
We might add one extra song, but we try to keep them short. Our drummer would probably die if we started playing hour-long sets, he plays pretty loud and pretty fast.
You play the Ronettes cover “Be My Baby,’ are you working on any new covers?
Yes, oh what is it? ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus’ we will probably release it on YouTube, maybe around Christmas time. It’s a fun one, and another that you can do up in a rock version and I don’t think many people have thought about it in that way before.
Are you into Christmas singles and Christmas albums?
You know what, I think we would bring them back. I know in the UK it was a thing, maybe ten years or so ago. One of my favourite songs i 'Don’t Let the Bells End’ by The Darkness. I think it’s classic hard rock, but it’s a very funny Christmas song.
Do you still have time to go out and see other bands?
Yes, we’re able to see other bands. The beauty of being in Melbourne is that there’s always something going on.
Do you tend to mix with other young rock bands, do you feel there’s a rock scene emerging?
Yeah, I remember someone recorded our set and uploaded it online, and said “it’s the scene that celebrates itself” like the 90s with Blur and that scene. Because we all get around each other at the gigs. It’s a really supportive thing, and it’s kind of unique. So, it’s pretty special.
What are some of the favourite Melbourne venues that you like to go to?
Just anywhere small. I like The Gaso, The Workers Club, and the amount of bands that go through The Workers, including us. Yeah, those sorts of venues I really like going to.
What are some of the international venues that you dream of playing one day?
I don’t know. I don’t have eyes set on grandiose things like that. I always think of Budokan, that’s iconic for recording a live album there. I remember playing that Cheap Trick album on repeat, for so very long. In fact, that’s probably the Cheap Trick album I know the best. Budokan, The Astoria, those sorts of places, that are steeped in rock and roll tradition.
So what’s coming up between now and the end of the year for Lipstereo?
We’ll be releasing another few songs from the benefit we did, we recorded them at Bakehouse and then we mixed them at Thirty Mill Studios. We will start releasing those toward the end of the year. Besides that, we are continually making social media content, as well, particularly short-form videos, like Instagram reels or TikTok, and YouTube.
If you had a five-year business plan like a business would, where would you like the band to be in 2027?
I don’t like to put it in those terms, I’d probably put it in … what sort of music would I like to have released by then. I’d love to do this rock stuff that we’re doing right now, but I’d also like to get involved in some more advanced things, like period pieces. Being able to tell a story through multiple genres is probably the most ambitious thing I want to do in the space of music.
And a debut album, how far away is that, do you think?
I don’t know, it really depends on what songs would be right for an album. So it could be a year from now, it could be six months, it could be two years. Who knows?
Well, Sam, we look forward to what comes next for Lipstereo, and thanks for joining us again.