TWO LAST NAMES
QUEER PUNK FROM SALE, VICTORIA
A CHAT WITH GUITARIST / VOCALIST, AMBER IRVING-GUTHRIE.
By Jenni Powell
Two last Names have just launched their brand new second single 'Mark Fuckerberg' – a crunchy, punchy track that they describe as “chaotic nonsense that gets a lil sad sacky at the end”. These lyrics sum it up pretty acely – put your fucking phone away.. They’re all as lonely as you are.
I’d probably say that the sad-sacky bit is more melancholy-pretty and it really gives co-vocalist Amber Irving-Guthrie a chance to serve up something unexpectedly different to her trademark (self-proclaimed) okker-Aussie punk style. Amber said the band “panic recorded” three songs when lockdowns were announced.
The tune follows the crank-it-up 'Can’t Get Comfy' launched by the three-piece in February at The Factory Workshop in their hometown Sale, introduced by a pretty legendary sounding local priest. Chatting to Amber, she draws a parallel between the church and the experience all lovers of any music can relate to (especially during lockdown) – that feeling watching/playing in a live band, a shared spirit, the sense of connection and community in space where you feel safe and welcome. The stages of rock’n’roll venues are definitely the altar of my spirit and love. Amber put it “You might not consider everyone there to be your really, really close friends, but everyone’s supporting each other and working on something that’s positive”. Word.
The first batch of TLN songs were written by Amber a while before the band got together, she really didn’t ever see them being played live, writing about experiences from the heart. Amber says “It was definitely therapeutic. It was like writing a diary, I was really particular about making sure all the lyrics were really, really accurate. And I also got a big kick out of showing my partner, my close friends, my parents. Some songs you kinda don’t really know what’s going on, it’s a bit ambiguous. Especially for my close friends it was really telling the stories of my dumb youth and doing all sorts of really specific embarrassing things and I wanted them to know what I was talking about… I wanted to be as honest as I could”.
When I asked her if she was focussed more on writing or performing now that the initial tunes were down, she said “If I had to pick one it would be writing, I think that’s just because it’s more of a newer thing for me, whereas my whole life since I was a wee tacker, I was in all the bloody musical bands, all sorts of bands when I was younger, hell I was even in a Rammstein cover band once.” Yeah, they’re chops!
A woman starting a punk rock band in a regional town isn’t easy, but it really sounds like fun. Amber told me that she spent some time writing at home then it took ages to find a drummer. She eventually found TLN drummer, Gary, who has more of a funk background, so they worked on bending his style around to get a punkier sound.
Rachel saw Amber play at an open mic night and told her that she loved her tunes. Amber told her that she needed a bass guitarist as a bit of a piss-take, but two days later she gets a call from Rachel saying she’s bought a bass guitar, let’s go. Rachel’s a great singer, more classically trained, so the contrast of vocals with Ambers AusPunk style just works. As does the on-stage banter between the two focal points of the band.
Being in a small town with slim musical-pickings means you don’t have pools of punk rockers that just hang in those circles, so the band come from really different backgrounds, making TLN’s sound have a different, ear-tweaking edge. They started jamming in an abandoned train carriage in the bush, a bit different to Amber’s previous band in Adelaide. The carriage is owned by Gary’s boss at a big garden with no phone reception and ‘roos hopping on by while they play. Coooool!
Photo by Mark Debono
Artwork by Grace Ware
Photo by Sarah Maunder
I asked Amber about the developing live scene in Gippsland, if there are more venues or shows especially with regional Victoria coming out of lockdown way before Melbourne etc. She said “I think it comes in waves and there’s definitely the domino effect, more and more bands pop up and they can put on a gig together. Living in regional areas, it does heavily rely on a few people/a few venues to make it happen and you really do feel that loss if one venue closes or if that one person that put on lots of gigs moves away”.
At a gig in Gippsland you might see a rap artist, drag performers and bands of all sorts combining with the art community for a show. You also get a huge mix of ages and demographics making for an interesting night out… Amber reckons there are some great punk rock sounds coming out of the area with bands like Spaghetti Stains, originally from the Sale/Maffra area, who are more Melbourne-based now and making waves, but they always play Gippsland shows when they come up. There’s also the fresh loud sounds of Big Cuppa and a couple of the heavy acts that have appeared at the Unified Gathering festival. “Also, I’m noticing people are less keen to always watch the same cover sets. People have come up to me and said this is so much better than hearing ‘Horses’ for the 50th time”.
Venues in the area are getting creative too. Rich (the cool Anglican priest I mentioned earlier) and his wife Jules have opened The Factory Workshop, a converted workshop where Rich tinkers around with old furniture, cars etc that doubles as a pop-up venue. Amber said “We had to clean up all the tools and clean the dunnies out because it’s a workplace and it was kind of hipster/Melbourne in a way” Ha! Bond St Event Centre is a smaller venue, also set up social enterprise style where locals go to see something new. Also The Bundy, a BYO booze refurbished old country hall that touring acts can play at where the ace muso management encourage local supports. Two Last Names supported MotorAce for the Gippsland Emergency Relief benefit there in January. Amber is keen to help build a healthy Gippsland scene, “Touring’s great but the reality is it’s not going to be easy to tour. We’ve got so many great bands in our neck of the woods, I’d feel weird playing heaps of Melbourne gigs and not playing gigs in my back yard”.
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