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November 29, 2008 | Author: Greg Phillips

witchhats_3-300dpiI’m speaking with Kris Buscombe, singer, songwriter and guitarist from former Tasmanian, now Melbourne based four piece rock outfit Witch Hats. Convention would have me delve straight into questions about their music. However my greater urge is to find out why, on the cover of their 2006 debut EP, the band is parading about in their underwear smearing raw bloodied meat over their bodies and the walls.
“Like a lot of things we do with photos'” explains Kris. “We were attempting to pay homage to another album cover. It’s our version of the famous *Beatles ‘butcher’ cover. In the end we just got really drunk and just jumped around instead.”

The cover of their debut full length album ‘Cellulite Soul’  is a more sedate affair, featuring … well … witch hats! The music however is far from sedate. Witch Hats’ sonic output is a raw, dark, brooding concoction. The bass is deep and menacing, the drums quite tribal and the overall effect is both savage and hypnotic. Think embryonic Hunters and Collectors or Birthday Party,  and you’d at least be on the right track. While Kris is somewhat enamoured by the comparison, it’s tends to irk some other members of the band who are more protective of their musical individuality.

Witch Hats consists of Kris, his bass playing brother Ash, longtime drummer friend Duncan Blachford, and guitarist Tomas P Barry, who joined the band after they had moved to Melbourne. Like many independent bands struggling to make a living out of music, three of the band have day jobs. Until recently, Tomas also had a nine to fiver, but sacrificed it in favour of an American tour the band embarked on in July. For a band only one independent album into their career, the self-financed and organised US tour was a brave move.
“Basically it was Duncan’s doing.” said Kris in explanation of the tour. “He’d been in contact with this really cool label over there, In The Red. We had an offer for the album to come out through them. Plus Duncan was keen to travel regardless of what the band was doing. So he just booked a tour DIY. He contacted a lot of bands he was into over there. So we pieced together a few shows.”

The few US shows Witch Hats had planned, quickly blossomed into 35 covering cites from Chicago and LA, to Portland, culminating in a four night stint in New York where they supported Jon Spencer’s new band Heavy Trash. The only minor blemish was a trip to Fargo (“for the novelty of it”), which resulted in the obligatory spats brought on by tour-fatigue.

Apart from picking up some new fans, Kris also took advantage of a pre-dive exchange rate and added to his amp collection. “Just before the dollar drop,
I got an original ’72 Fender Twin with original speakers for something like seven hundred dollars.” His main guitar is a 97′ Tele purchased by his parents when he was a kid. For effects, of which there are plenty used on the album, Kris uses a modified Ibanez Tube Screamer and a Fulltone GT500 distortion pedal.

While the band was in LA they stumbled across our guest editors. I asked Kris if he thought The Drones were right in the head!
“Definitely!” said the diplomatic Buscombe. ” I’ve had more and more of an appreciation for that band over the years. The new one ‘Havilah’, is my favourite.”

Witch Hats’ grand plan now is to take on a couple of Australian road trips before aiming for Europe in August next year, with some more American dates on the way back. They’ll worry about whether they have (or even NEED) days jobs when they return.

‘Cellulite Soul” is out on In-Fidelity through Inertia. It’s also available from their website

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