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CHILDREN COLLIDE: ‘TIME ITSELF’ ALBUM INTERVIEW

Time Itself is the 4th studio album for Australian psychedelic punk popsters Children Collide and their first since 2012. Like their albums which have gone before, fans will be pleased to hear the usual fabulously fun, fuzzfest that the band creates but will also delight in experiencing the many subtle musical influences that lead man Johnny Mackay has ingested via his time on other projects such as Fascinator. The first rockin’ single Aurora we heard back in late 2019 and was our introduction to new bass player Chelsea Wheatley, who has replaced Heath Crawley and slotted in seamlessly. There’s no shortage of tightly packaged power pop on this record … Myriad Ways, Turrets, Language is a Prison, all tracks to vigorously tap your toes to, or whatever it is that you do behind closed doors. The album highlight for us however is the the six minute plus head trip that is Mind Spider, utilising every pedal on the board to conjure a gorgeous cacophony of thought noise. Children Collide certainly won’t lose any fans over this new material but there’s a huge chance they’ll pick up a swag of new ones. I dare ya to give it a sip not scull the rest.

Australian Musician editor Greg Phillips in Melbourne, zoomed up Children Collide singer, songwriter and guitarist Johnny MacKay in New York to discuss the creation of their new album Time Itself, out Friday August 27.

And direct from the publicist’s mouth …

There was a time. It was so long – so long – ago, but there was a time. A time of packed pubs, heaving festival moshpits, loud guitars, churning bass, walloping drums. The kind of riffs that can set entire fields into a seismic bounce, with choruses designed to be sung enmasse with index fingers raised in perfect syncopation. After a year where the lion’s share of it was spent without live music in the traditional sense, times like this feel both distant and impossible. This was, however, a time where a band like Children Collide thrived – and with their imminent return and a new album on the horizon, there’s hope that there can be a time like that again.

Of course, before we tell you where Children Collide are headed, you need to know where they’ve been. Turns out, they’ve been just about everywhere. The group’s initial run saw them take a marquee spot at just about every major music festival in the country, notch up three Hottest 100 placements and exhaustively tour between pubs, clubs and theatres over the course of their three studio albums. The trio started out opening for established bands such as The Living End and The Grates, affording the same opportunities to younger bands once established themselves. Consider that the band’s last major tour before splitting in 2012 was supported by a couple of scrappy no-name bands called Dune Rats and Bad//Dreems – enough said.

So, that’s where Children Collide have been. Where did they go? The short answer: Away. Far away. “I’d become increasingly disillusioned with the creative energy I was getting in Australia,” says Johnny Mackay – the band’s lead singer, guitarist and founding member. “There was a weird pressure around the band that felt claustrophobic.” With that, Mackay moved to New York City and started anew with a psychedelic pop project now known as Fascinator. Although originally intending to keep Children Collide afloat, Mackay confessed that in 2013, “it became apparent that the band had folded out from under me.”

A one-off reunion of the band’s classic line-up took place in December 2014 – including bassist Heath Crawley and long-serving drummer Ryan Caesar – but never sparked further discussion about Children Collide returning in earnest. Years later, Mackay found himself with a small batch of songs that he described as “burning a hole in my hard drive.” The reason? These were not Fascinator songs, nor a new project separate to that. These were Children Collide songs.

“I sent an email suggesting we make an album, for no reason other than the whole thing felt unfinished,” Mackay recalls. “Heath was busy curating his own vintage store on the Central Coast, but Ryan and I immediately started throwing ideas at each other.” Children Collide reformed under cover of darkness in 2018, heading into the studio in NYC the following year to record with producer Loren Humphrey (Willie J Healy, Adam Green, Nice as Fuck) and mixing engineer Doug Boehm (The Vines, Booker T Jones, French Kicks).

This ultimately lead to a surprise announcement of their return in late 2019 with their first single in seven-plus years, “Aurora.” The thrashy loud-quiet-loud rocker was the official first taste of what we now know as Time Itself, the first Children Collide album in nearly a decade. By the time the band was tearing up stages in December 2019 and throughout the early stages of 2020 with new bassist Chelsea Wheatley in tow, it was as if they’d never left.

Of course, Children Collide’s 2020 didn’t go to plan. No-one’s did. They were, however, able to share another cut from the record in the year’s second half: The Sonic Youth-inspired “Funeral for a Ghost.” Mackay fondly recalls its origins from when he was living in a literal North Melbourne dungeon. “You had to open a trap door to get down to my room and you could see where a tunnel had been bricked up on my bedroom wall,” he says. He also couldn’t have predicted the timely nature of his lyrics: “They sound like I wrote them last week about COVID conspiracy nuts,” he jokes. “Time is a flat circle.”

Both singles are emblematic of what to expect from Time Itself – but even then, only to a degree. Much like there was more to The Long Now than “Social Currency” or more to Theory of Everything than “Jellylegs,” expect a complex and provocative rock record that explores wider spectrums and multitudes with the kind of fearlessness that put Children Collide on the map to begin with.

There’s the snarling, Nirvana-esque “Return to Femmes,” the fuzzed-out charge of opener “Man of the People” and the twirling, acid-tinged “Trampoline” to contend with – the latter of which Mackay proudly describes as “one of my favourite songs I’ve ever written.” The sprawling six-and-a-half-minute wig-out of “Mind Spider,” too, serves as a strange bedfellow to the bouncy, mosh-ready “Uh Oh” – and yet, all of them make perfect sense as Children Collide songs.

Then again, Mackay always knew this versatility and musical freedom serves as the band’s modus operandi. It’s why he loved playing with them in the first place, and why he eventually wound up under the moniker again. “Children Collide albums always feel like 12 points of a clock or a compass,” he says. “More an entire 360 degree entity than a single story. Exploration in all directions.”

With their rocketship packed and a new line-up locked in, the voyage of Children Collide is set to recommence in 2021. Once more with feeling, everybody.

Time Itself is out Friday August 27

Website: http://childrencollide.band/

CHILDREN COLLIDE – TOUR DATES
Friday 19 November – Jive, Adelaide SA
Saturday 20 November – Lynott’s Lounge, Perth WA
Sunday 21 November – Mojos, Fremantle WA
Thursday 25 November – Sooki Lounge, Belgrave VIC
Friday 26 November – Howler, Melbourne VIC
Saturday 27 November – The Eastern, Ballarat VIC
Wednesday 1 December – La La La’s, Wollongong NSW (Sold Out)
Thursday 2 December – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney NSW
Friday 3 December – Kambri, Canberra ACT
Saturday 4 December – The Newy, Newcastle NSW
Thursday 9 December – The Zoo, Brisbane QLD
Friday 10 December – Eleven Dive Bar, Maroochydore QLD
Saturday 11 December – Studio 56 @ Miami Marketta, Gold Coast QLD