NORTHEAST PARTY HOUSE Berghain, Berlin to Wine Machine, Swan Valley

Northeast Party House erupted when they were ‘unearthed’ by triple j, shortly after starting out in 2010, and have been pumping out some of Australia’s best live dance music ever since. Now, after a decade of producing original music and performing tours and festivals all around the world, the Melbourne six-piece are joining an all-star line up at Oakover Grounds, Swan Valley for Wine Machine on Saturday, April 4. ANYA HARRIS spoke to guitarist Mitch Ansell ahead of the performance about brand new album Shelf Life, their noticeable time off from the music scene and the backstory to some of their new music.

I want to start with your new album Shelf Life. This one seems to have been quite a while in the making compared to your previous albums. How long do you think you’ve spent on it?

I think it’s been maybe three years in-between the release of Shelf Life and then our last album Dare – so it was a while. We wanted to spend more time realising what we wanted to make as a collective. We’re all very different in what we bring to the band so it always takes a while for us to all have the same goals. So, we wanted to set things up as well, and I guess just get better at songwriting and production – so that just naturally makes that process a little longer. But it feels very worth it because we’re pretty happy with how everything came together. It’s been pretty in-house, everything we’ve done thus far, we’ve produced and mixed as a band and expanded that team, and seeing what other people will bring to the process was one goal of ours from the start. 

Can you tell us a little bit about how your songwriting process works with so many of you in the band? 

A lot of it starts really independently. So we spend the first six months of a writing process, say we’re writing towards an album, it kind of starts off pretty independent and pretty free and it’s just a chance for everyone to contribute their ideas. Your tastes kind of change, you might have gone to some festival and fallen in love with a certain style or a certain artist so you’re always changing. So that initial few months is just a lot of independent writing and on our own. We’ve got a studio so it could be down there or just in our bedrooms and then we come together and listen to a lot of tracks and analyse where things are heading. And they’ll be stronger songs that pop out and it’s a cool process of identifying those tracks and then writing around those. So that makes the process a lot longer because all six of us want to contribute in some way. Whether that be everyone’s music or ideas make the album, it’s just a nice way of feeling as much like a collectBerghainive as possible. 

So I heard a rumour and I’m a little curious, that the story behind the title of Shelf Life came from a night that you guys spent in Berlin’s notorious club Berghain. Can you confirm those rumours? 

Yes. We were in Europe doing some shows, it probably was three years ago and we had a week off in-between a Prague show and a Berlin show. I think half of the band wanted to go to Berghain and see if they’d get in and then I – I’m the only one that didn’t go because there was Pitchfork Music Festival on in Paris and the line up was amazing so I was like “does anyone wanna come?” And they we’re all like “Nah we’re going to Berghain,” so I went off and went to Paris and went to this festival and we had this WhatsApp group that I was seeing on the day that they went of this feed of comments and messages being like “did you get in, we’re here.” And then I got back to the accomodation in Berlin, it probably was about two days after, and Ollie was the only one up at this stage. I think everyone was still sleeping from this 17 hour bender and Ollie had kind of gotten home and couldn’t get to sleep and he saw a message from his girlfriend who was asking how the club was and Ollie is an incredible writer and he wrote back this 3,000 word response just detailing the whole night. So, even though I wasn’t there I sat there while he read this three-thousand word essay. It seemed super fun and super traumatic, because I think everyone had too much fun and also like the repercussions – especially Zac, he found it pretty tough – and I think that 17 hour club extravaganza sparked the writing for the song Shelf Life. 

Theres this picture Jack, Zak, Ollie and Sean that went, and there’s this picture that they took, it would’ve been 17 hours later in the morning of them outside in the cold, and their faces are just like non existent. It must’ve been like October, November. 

Say sometimes before we play a show, say we we wanna boost up the moral a bit, we’ll get Ollie to read out that essay because there’s all these great little pockets of memories from the night.

Your live shows are always really impressive. How do you plan to top your previous performances with this tour? 

We’re playing pretty similar venues but we’re playing more shows. And yeah, we had a lot of fun on the last tour. I guess we wanted to step that one up so we got lasers. And I remember we saw how much lasers cost pre-tour, and we were like “oh shit.” Then we were at sound check and they were set up and we we were like “this is amazing, so worth it.” So we’re hoping we’ll still have enough cash for those this time. But yeah, we’ll be playing a lot of new songs which is always fun.

I think just new songs and we think what we’re doing live is pretty fun, so I guess to continue that is all I wanna do. It’s a tough question! Definitely having a couple of tracks that are out already, that people know. The response has been so so great. I remember we played Dominos for the first time on the last tour and people hadn’t heard that song and we’d pretty much just finished recording it as well and people were going nuts. It’s awesome. 

New album aside, out of all of your songs, which do you think gets the best response out of your audience?

It’s funny because our audience, I’ve noticed this portion of our fans that love the more like gritty, maybe more UK synth heavy tracks and then we’ve got this softer side and that’s how our albums always just naturally split. We’ve got a heavy side and then maybe songs like For You and Calypso Beach, it’s tough to find those songs where both worlds meet and come together. But I think, when we play Youth Allowance, for some reason, I think it’s because it’s an older track we play it last so it’s like the set builds up to that moment. That seems to get the biggest response but for me I think Calypso Beach, the crowd interaction with that song is a bit of a highlight for me during the set. It’s pretty crazy to hear people sing so loud and so strong.

How do you like to best describe your sound?

I think it’s live dance music with guitars, I think that’s how I’d describe it. On record, depending on the album, I think that the newer album is probably more electronic when it comes to drums. We’ve taken the blend of live drums and electronic drums down a bit. But we wanna keep that band element as much as possible. I think it’s live dance music with an indie rock kind of vibe morphing together. 

And finally, we can’t wait for you to get us at Wine Machine in April, how long’s it been since you played a show for us in Perth?

We were there, I think in December, in WA we played Yalls Festival, which is in, don’t quote me on this, I think maybe Yallimba?

Was it Yallingup?

Yeah! So that’s the last time we were there and that show was awesome. I think Lime Cordial played as well. It was just like a beautiful estate, super fun crowd, super fun show, really close to the beach as well. So that’s the last time we were there but on the last tour, we couldn’t make it over and had to cancel our last Perth show so anytime we can get back is super great and we’re pumped. And it’s a winery – I’m gonna have to watch myself!

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