A CHAT WITH BRENTON & BRYCE
By Aaron Beer
Catholic Guilt! I didn’t grow up with any, I was raised without religion in my immediate family. Although growing up, people certainly tried to bring me over to their side. My religious and troubled uncle took me to my first ever concert ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ in the early 90’s. I couldn’t care less about the message, but the spectacle had me hooked.
Later on in the early 2000’s as a skate rat with a penchant for punk bands, a local church built a mini ramp inside the church and had live music on the weekends, bands like Antiskeptic, Wishful Thinking and a bunch of other Christian pop punk bands would play. They’d get all us kids riled up on music and skating then try to to preach to us about the Lord, but by then we’d dip.
I was never swayed to believe, I barely gave it a second thought until the world started to learn about the disgusting acts and coverups committed under their roof.
Today it comes full circle, as instead of religion, I found music and now I’m interviewing Melbourne’s own Catholic Guilt. They have seen huge success on Triple J and Spotify with their anti church track 'The Awful Truth', they’ve played sold out shows, and racked up impressive amounts of views on their film clips. Over the course of this year CG have signed to indie label Wiretap Records, put out a new record and released their very own video game. I got the good word from Brenton and Bryce about friendships, The Vatican, banned t-shirts and of course their latest E.P, the emotionally charged ‘This is what Honesty Sounds Like’.
Who are you?
We’re Brenton (Vox) and Bryce (Guitar/Vox) from Catholic Guilt, a punk rock band from Melbourne, Australia.
What are your influences?
Brenton: Big question, personally my influences range from the likes of Against Me!, Thrice and Frank Turner through to Bad Religion, Bodyjar and The Living End, with detours via all sorts of punk, skate-punk, post-hardcore, grunge and metal acts. That all bleeds into our sound.
Bryce: Biggest musical influences for me are mid 2000's punk and emo bands. My Chem, Bayside, The Used etc. But I owe everything I do to Green Day and Blink 182, without whom I'd never pick up a guitar.
What’s the new EP about?
Brenton: Five very different human experiences: isolation, frustration, love, anger and loss.
We called it ‘This Is What Honesty Sounds Like’ because that’s exactly what it is. It is our experiences as ever evolving human beings. A bunch of harsh truths served up with a side of hope, if you will. There’s personal songs, political songs and songs that are both at the same time.
Bryce: Brenton nailed the answer here haha.
What’s it like signing to a new label?
Brenton: It’s awesome. Neither of us have ever been in a signed band before, so given we’ve been friends since we were teenagers, it’s pretty cool to get to share that little milestone with each other and our amazing bandmates.
Wiretap Records is a really good fit for us, they’re super connected to the punk rock scene in California/throughout the US, and they've been able to get our music out to new audiences and that’s bringing some exciting touring opportunities.
Bryce: Agreed, but I'm still waiting for it to sink in, when we can actually tour and take advantage of what being a signed band really means.
Where does the name Catholic Guilt come from, were any of you raised in Religious Households?
Brenton: I’m the lapsed Catholic kid, it’s my fault! The name comes from me experiencing an omnipresent sense of guilt, despite most of the time not having done anything wrong. This is something that appears to plague a lot of us lapsed Catholic’s, to the point that the experience has a name, Catholic Guilt. It’s on Urban Dictionary and everything! The fact that it also conjures images of the many things that the Church should be guilty for is an added bonus. Coz, seriously, fuck the Vatican!
Bryce: I remember Brenton telling me the name years back when we first started writing songs together, he was pretty protective of the name, so it took some convincing to let us use it for this project.
I was raised as a Pentacostal Christian, slightly different experience to the Catholic Church, but equally as appalling. New songs will definitely be touching on this so keep an ear out.
The Awful Truth is a scathing attack on the church and their despicable cover ups, this is a change of pace from introspective writing to bigger social issues, what made you want to tackle such a heavy topic?
Brenton: Apart from being a big fan of things like scientific evidence and logic; one of the main reasons that I drifted away from the church as I got older was learning about the horrible abuses committed by clergy members that were deliberately covered up by the Church to preserve "God’s name". Some of those abuses were inflicted on people quite close to me and I came to learn quickly that they’re not alone in those experiences. Abuse of power in that way is fucking abhorrent to me and the amount of people who have been subjected to sexual abuse and then denied justice, because of the actions of these supposed holymen, makes my blood boil. It was a song that I felt compelled to write and Bryce had my back on it 100%.
Bryce: We first wrote the song as a hardcore track, heavy drop C guitar over double time drums, Brenton was literally just screaming the lyrics, it was great! I started listening to a bunch of bluesy rock stuff and just imagined it reworked, so I busted out some acoustic chords and it came together perfectly.
I’ve read your Lucy Furr design t-shirt has been banned in schools and churches, do you have any stories to go with this?
Brenton: Yes! The story goes that a couple of teenage fans in SA bought some shirts off of us and wore them to their Catholic school on a casual day, they lasted about half an hour on campus before their parents were called to collect them! They got detention for blaspheme! The school outlawed the shirts! When I heard that story I was so stoked! Then it got better when I was at The Last Chance one night seeing Hanny J and a friend let me know that they’d been asked by HR to not wear our shirt to work again, because they’d received an official complaint from a colleague! Once again, I was super stoked. Then, the trifecta was complete when a fan wore one of shirts to Friday mass and got asked to leave during communion! That’s like, infinity punk points, right?
Bryce: Definitely infinity "FUCK YOU" points!
Your music sounds nostalgic to me, brings me back the the pop punk and emo days of the early 2000’s. What albums from those times do you still find yourselves listening to?
Brenton: Oh mate, there’s dozens! For the sake of brevity, let’s say AFI - ‘Sing the Sorrow’ Thrice - ‘The Artist in the Ambulance’, Bodyjar - ‘How It Works’, Alkaline Trio - ‘Good Mourning’ and The Used - ‘The Used’.
Bryce: Haha ALL OF THEM!
'A Boutique Affair' is relatable to us ageing punks. What are some tips for making friends as you get older?
Brenton: That song is quite true to our personal experiences, so perhaps take this advice with a grain of salt, but I’d say, find other people who love the things that you love. If you love music, go to a gig, strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know, and use the experience you’re both having as the common ground to build a friendship on. Or start a band! That’s what we did! If that sounds too scary, there’s a lot of online avenues you can use to foster new relationships or there’s community focussed stuff like speed-friending, social clubs and social sport. None of them work if you don’t put yourself out there though. That’s usually the hardest part.
Bryce: Brenton’s very good at this (fostering friendships). This song was born when I was feeling pretty down, secluding myself inside my house with the ex-wife. Within about 6 months of this behaviour, my friend-circle was practically non-existent. But it was my own fault really, friends were never going to make themselves. I think social media plays a big part, relying too much on digital social interactions, it's not healthy. Get off the phone and get out there.
There seems to be a few avenues punk rock veers down at the moment, social or political justice, musings on the mundane, and introspective emotionalism, you guys more often than not follow the latter. What is the importance of reaching within to write emotionally honest music?
Brenton: I can’t speak to the importance of it for anyone else, but for me, writing songs is how I get through life. It is how I maintain my sense of self and preserve my sanity. As a non-religious person, music is the closest thing I have to a spiritual outlet, so the lyric writing aspect has always been cathartic for me, that’s especially true for the songs we’ve written in this band, writing them was a true emotional and psychological breakthrough for me.
Bryce: This doesn't just apply to the lyrics, often the music is written without a single lyric or vocal being recorded. This is pretty deliberate because I want the music to evoke emotion. If the music alone doesn't make me feel something, I scrap it.
You’ve released an EP while our city has been locked down for months. I assume most of the music was written pre-lockdown, how has your approach to songwriting changed as a band since then?
Bryce: The EP was about 2 years worth of song-writing bundled into this neat little package.
Because of the pandemic we're basically just doing a whole lot more pre production, which we haven't really done before. Dean (Lead Guitar), James (Drums, keys) and myself have been throwing recordings back and forth on the group chat, I think we have somewhere around 15 songs and ideas ready to work on for an album. Vocals have been hard, it's difficult for us to get the right energy when we're not playing the songs together in the rehearsal studio. Brenton, Dean and I all sing pretty much constantly through the record and live and that's hard to recreate alone in the home studio.
Any good memories of playing Last Chance?
Brenton: I’ve got plenty, but for me, personally the one that stands out most is actually a front bar show we played with our mates from Sydney, Operation Ibis, The Hybernators and Jess Coram. That or playing with Axe Girl, coz I love their music and as a big Jebediah fan, playing with Ness is always dope.
Bryce: Ness is wonderful, and that was a great show!
What inspired the release of a video game and will we see a mobile release soon?
Brenton: A childhood dream colliding with a current day need in one of those moments of inspiration you get at 3am in the morning! I was playing Sega on my couch while trying to solve the riddle of how to engage with fans during lockdown, and I thought “What if I made a game based on 'A Boutique Affair', where Lucy Furr has to find and free all of her cat furrends from a cage of loneliness.” The next morning I woke up inspired to make it happen and with help from a friend, Nyanko and our guitarist Dean we got it done! And yes, mobile capabilities and three new levels are coming in the next update!
Favourite video games growing up? I’ve barely played anything past the Nintendo 64, but I’m partial to SNES Mortal Kombat and old school Doom.
Brenton: There’s two I can’t split: Alex Kidd in Miracle World, the inbuilt game on the Sega Master System II and Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 on PlayStation. I’m basically addicted to the remake right now! I wish they’d remake Alex Kidd! I miss Sega!
Bryce: The legend of Zelda series, especially Breath of the Wild.
Back to the album, 'Song of the Renter' is a cheeky little number. What changes have you noticed happening to the landscape of inner Melbourne?
Brenton: I feel like to an extent a lot of the suburbs have lost their identity, especially the inner suburbs. As a kid from the South East, visiting the suburbs in the North or the West used to feel like an adventure. It doesn’t really feel that way anymore, at least not as overtly. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a city with a culture and an energy that I love, and it is still very much my favourite city in the world, but gentrification has definitely made the experience a little more homogenous. It has also made it incredibly expensive. Hence we’re now a generation of renters!
Bryce: I agree and disagree with Brenton here. Visiting the city etc from the SE where we grew up was exciting because it was new. But now I live in Brunswick and Brenton in St Kilda, so it's just…. Normal. It may have lost some shine, but it's still my favourite city and we're very lucky to live here.
How important is the bonding experience of being in a band to your mental health?
Brenton: It’s incredibly important. I’ve never loved anything in my life the way that I love music. I never feel more alive, more at one with myself than when I’m on stage, surrounded by my bandmates, playing these songs, or just jamming with these guys. That’s my happy place. It always has been. I remember looking around the room at my birthday one year and realising that with the exception of family and one or two high school friends, every single person was someone I had met and bonded with through music. I owe it my life.
Bryce: We were just meant to write music together. Nuff said.
What are some of your other creative outlets outside writing music?
Brenton: I’m a podcaster, I host a creative careers and inspiration podcast called Radults with my friend, comic book writer, Mike Speakman (who I also met through music!), I’m also a music and pop-culture journalist, a content creator and I guess now you could say I’m a game designer!
Bryce: Cooking, I love feeding people and making food. Writing Poetry / poorly constructed lyrics, I guess that comes under the music writing umbrella. I love dancing.
Future plans for Catholic Guilt?
Brenton: We don’t have any specific dates right now, but the moment we’re able to, we’ll be hitting the road to play shows in support of the EP, both here in Australia and overseas. We’ve just signed on with Destroy All Lines to handle our bookings, so they’ll be helping us out with all of that. Then in October next year we’re off to the USA to play FEST 19, which will be a dream come true! More immediately there’s a Furrend Finder update on the way!
Bryce: Write an album, try not to make it suck. Lots of shows and tours. Tear down pillars of capitalism…
What are you most looking forward to when the city returns to normal?
Brenton: I look most forward to waking up in the morning, heading to a cafe for brunch with my family/friends, then heading to the footy in the afternoon, followed by dinner at a local takeout spot, then playing or attending back-to-back gigs, before finishing up about 3 or 4 am at the Last Chance. That’s a perfect day to me.
Bryce: PLAY SHOWS!
Drinking a pint in the beer garden at The Brunswick Green, listening to the Sunday jazz set (is that pretentious?).
Any shoutouts you want to give?
Brenton: Well first up, we want to give a shoutout to anyone who has supported us by listening to the new record, picking up some merch, attending a show, or helping us grow in any way, coz none of this can happen without them. Shout outs to our extended team, Wiretap Records, Earshot Media, The Loud Noise Estate and Destroy All Lines as well. After that though I’d most like to thank the people of Melbourne for everything that they’ve been doing through the pandemic to keep this place still feeling like the vibrant city we all love. It’s been a big effort and they’re all legends! And you!
Bryce: Big shout out to the star of 'A Boutique Affair', Sunny (Dal Santo). She nailed the emotion of the song and delivered a flawless performance.
Second mention for Evan and Ash from The Loud Noise estate, these songs are nothing without you.
Finally one of our favourite Melbourne Muso's and collaborators Jess Porter.
I would have given up years ago without your support.
Thank you all x
Listen to Catholic Guilt here:
Play Furrend Finder here: