tunesday – moaning lisa interview
Lead vocalist and guitarist Charlie Versegi talks tour rituals, dream venues and the band’s debut album.
Moaning Lisa’s brand-spanking new record Something Like This But Not This is made to be played live. Luckily, fans of the alt-rock four-piece won't have to wait too long to hear the debut album from the comfort of the mosh pit, with the band set to kick off their album tour in February.
The record comes five years after the band first got together, and follows two EPs and a relocation from their hometown of Canberra to Melbourne. Here, Charlie chats with us about the album, lockdown and the upcoming tour.
Tell us about the title of the album. It came from a line in our song “Inadequacy”, which I wrote a long time ago as a solo artist. It’s a line that has always stuck with me – I actually took it from a Tumblr post back when Tumblr was all the rage circa 2015. We chose it for the album title because it perfectly encompasses the overarching sentiment on the record: discovering and accepting that intention doesn’t always equate to impact.
What did you love most about the process of making Something Like This But Not This? We really enjoyed being able to explore and experiment with these songs. There’s a delicious freedom to knowing you don’t have to condense your ideas into a smaller context like an EP or standalone single – you can conceptualise and illuminate a lot more. My favourite music tends to be the B-sides or album tracks that don’t necessarily get the spotlight that singles do, so it was really exciting to get to create those ourselves.
Do you have any tour rituals? We have a lot of rituals – you have to when you’ve toured as relentlessly and independently as we have. Some of them include eating a carb-heavy meal at least two hours before going on stage, getting eight hours of sleep (including scheduled afternoon naps), assigning one of us to take care of the merch desk before every show, and stopping by a petrol station or convenience store to get instant noodles on our way home from a gig. I also HAVE to have a Powerade in ‘gold rush’ flavour waiting for me when I get off stage.
After a jam-packed day of travelling, soundchecking and performing, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of taking off your makeup, changing into your pjs and curling up in your hotel bed with a nice hot cup of noodles knowing that you get to do it all again tomorrow.
Which track from the new record are you most excited to perform? The entire record is a packaged Moaning Lisa live show. Performing live is our bread and butter and we wanted to capture that in the album, so all the songs are designed for the stage. I’m really excited to play “Working Still”. It’s a mammoth wall-of-sound track that could easily belong on My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, and has everything I love about music in it – roaring guitars, gut-punching drums, a hell of a lot of vocal harmonies, and an anthemic chorus I can’t wait to sing along to with an audience.
You’ve been together for five years now. What has been your proudest moment during that time? It’s hard to pinpoint any one particular moment – it could be winning the National Campus Band Competition in 2016 after being a band for just a few months, performing at Splendour in the Grass and meeting countless icons in the artist area, or being personally chosen by Mitski – a long time influence of ours – to support her two Australian shows.
But what I’m most proud of is the resilience and love for each other that has grown stronger over the years. Every setback we’ve learnt from, every argument we’ve resolved together, every challenge we’ve overcome, every new level we’ve adapted to – those are the moments I’m most proud of.
How has your musical style evolved over the years? Immensely! Our vibe has remained the same (brutal honesty, intensity of performance), but the way we articulate that vibe has become more sophisticated. Where we would normally go full-throttle from the get-go, we now consider more thoughtfully. Where we would be tempted to run ravage and completely overindulge, we now pull back and refine. I think it’s something that comes with age. Our music is a lot less angsty now and more sagacious – much like us as individuals. We’re leaning more into the deeper, primary emotions of our experiences, rather than the knee jerk reactions we’ve developed as defence mechanisms.
It looks like you’ve been having some fun with TikTok lately. What else have you been doing to keep yourselves busy during lockdowns? TikTok is a tricky beast – it’s just as frustrating as it is fun! The four of us have always been busy with our lives outside the band, so lockdowns have meant we’ve had more time and energy to focus on those things. Personally, I’ve gone through pretty much every phase you can think of – the yearning, sit-in-the-bath-smoking-for-hours-while-reading-Silvia Plath-and-burning-incense phase; the fitness and nutrition phase where I was teaching myself Tabata and obsessed with ‘intermittent fasting’ (which is just a fancy term for intentionally starving yourself). Now, I’m focussing on my job as a front of house supervisor (which I was able to continue doing throughout most of lockdown), keeping a healthy routine of sleep and leisure, and reading HEAPS.
Who’s the best cook in the band? Hayden. He was diagnosed with celiac disease at age 11 and has had to cook for himself ever since, so he’s very good at whipping up something quickly and keeping dishes interesting. My favourite dish he makes is fried rice, which he loads with veggies and tofu and flavours with tom yum paste – an outstanding effort.
What’s your dream venue or festival to play at? ALL OF THEM! The venue that immediately comes to mind is The Forum in Melbourne. We were meant to play there with Luca Brasi during their national tour, but it was cancelled due to COVID-19. It’s so beautiful, vast and iconic – I’m dying to perform our song “Lily” there one day. In terms of festivals, I know we’d all love to get over to Europe and play Glastonbury and Leeds – that’s a big long-term dream of ours.
Who are your musical heroes? Personally, a longstanding musical hero of mine is Ellie Rowsell of Wolf Alice, due to her poise, quiet confidence and GUTS in songwriting and composition. Every song she touches turns to gold and she is constantly surprising. Another is Mitski. She is so unabashedly vulnerable, she harnesses the strength of femininity and is proud in her sexual agency, and her songwriting has an effortless wonkiness to it that I strive to achieve.
A more recent musical hero of mine is Ken Andrews of the band Failure. He's also a producer in his own right (he’s worked with Paramore, Jimmy Eat World, Copeland and Nine Inch Nails). He is a powerhouse when it comes to producing thick, enthralling, heavy guitar and bass tones, and his decisions in composition always land where I hope they will. Plus, he’s an incredibly humble, gentle soul, who often speaks of his love for his wife and children, which I love.