INTERVIEW: Mitch Chamberlain (SATELLITES)
Brissie pop-punk trio Satellites have been kicking around since 2013, but their journey from those early days until now hasn't always been smooth sailing, but following a string of member changes and some bumps in the road the group has turned these hindrances into sonic gold. Evolving into a boisterous package of huge riffs and catchy hooks, Satellites have been snapping up attention all over the country - and now the boys are on the brink of their biggest achievement (so far) with the long-awaited release of their brand new EP 'Black Dog' due out this Friday 29th September.
Produced, recorded and mixed by long-time friend Troy Brady of Amity Afflication fame, 'Black Dog' is a huge step forward for the boys who opted to take their time perfecting their rollicking sound, rather than unleashing a rushed product. And it's this level-headed mindset that underlies the band's intelligent party-anthem tendencies - this is a group that's fun as hell to listen to but with equal parts wit and perception that sticks with you long after the riffs have died down.
Without a doubt there are huge things on the horizon for Satellites (or "Sateez" as they've been affectionately dubbed in perhaps the most Australian abbreviation since the "bowlo") - but before 'Black Dog' erupts into the world and embraces your eardrums, frontman Mitch Chamberlain took a few moments to chat songs, space and the long road that has led to this exciting new EP...
TIANA: So Mitch, I know you would've spoken about this in the past, but Satellites have seen a fair few changes over the years. Do you feel like you guys have settled in for the long haul finally? You yourself in fact swapped guitar for vocals over that time...
MITCH: Yeah, so originally when we kicked the band off I was on guitar and then our then-vocalist was finishing up uni and decided he wanted to pursue that properly which is totally cool because now he's making a bunch of money while we're not (laughs). We had a bunch of guys try out who were really, really cool but just not the sound we were after. And then, I think it was Dan (Dan Goodwin - bass/vocals) who was like "why don't you just give it a go?". I was thinking "ugh, well I've just spent all this money on guitar gear and stuff" (laughs). So I just got thrown in the deep end and, yeah it turned out all right! And we decided to make some more songs!
TIANA: And how did it go finding a replacement on guitar?
MITCH: We actually have a bunch of friends who are very, very proficient guitarists...most of the guys we've had play guitar have all been friends who have started off filling in and then wanted to go a bit more full-time with it and then just other things happened. But it's pretty much at the moment me, Dan and Riley (Riley Boyce - Drums). And for the moment we're golden. We're not saying that we're not looking for a full-time guitarist but we do have two really good guys who are filling in on tours and all sorts of stuff which is rad.
TIANA: Do you share any of your guitar gear with the guys, or is it all just sitting hidden in a corner? Hide the pedals!
MITCH: (laughs) My head is absolutely trashed because it gets loaned out, and the dudes who have helped us out filling in before, I usually feel obliged to lend them stuff when they're up from out of town. Always getting lent out, I actually don't have it at the moment, it's with Benno (Nick Bennett from Brisbane melodic hardcore/punk band) one of our old guitarists. It's definitely getting used at least (laughs)
TIANA: I know you guys call Brisbane home, and looking in from the outside the heavier music scene is absolutely dominating up there. But from an insider's perspective what's your take on the Aussie music scene right now?
MITCH: For that heavier music, it's definitely quite popular at the moment. Our sort of stuff, cos it's a little more subdued I don't think there's a massive sort of following for...I guess we'll call ourselves pop-punk. I wouldn't say there's no following for pop-punk because there definitely is, when you see international bands come out they're getting a huge response, but there's nothing really local for pop punk. There's a band in Melbourne called 'Between You and Me', who are really, really cool, I reckon they'll get a big stir happening soon. But in terms of pop-punk in Australia there's not a huge following for it. But for the heavier music there definitely is, so we've thought about that in terms of songs and that sort of thing. 'Glass Jaw' was one of our heavier ones, and we've got another track called 'Thank You' which has another heavy part and they're just super fun. But it's also definitely a thing, people just love pit calls and that sort of stuff and we have fun playing them. So I think we're gonna try and incorporate more of that into our next stuff.
TIANA: You've said you feel like you guys aren't as well known, but from what I've seen and heard you've got quite a good backing, you've had some Triple J support and a lot of positive reactions to your earlier stuff - have you felt having that kind of support, particularly from Triple J has pushed you guys into higher gear? Is that level of support over-exaggerated?
MITCH: We've been really lucky with all the songs we've put out through Triple J's support, it's been pretty wild...I think there's three tracks, the three full tracks that we've put out have been played on short.fast.loud, Dom Alessio played some stuff and then we got a couple tracks put on rotation for Unearthed which is rad. But, yeah definitely when that sort of stuff happens you just go "ugh, thank you so much". And we'll try and maintain that level of music.
TIANA: Satellites have had some incredible support slots, alongside people like Motion City, Neck Deep, The Wonder Years - plus a bunch of amazing locals. But outside of that have you got a dream band you'd love to tour with?
MITCH: Oh.....yeah. Probably from when I was a little kid - Blink-182 would be a massive thing.
TIANA: Yeah, Satellites would actually pair up nicely with Blink.
MITCH: Yeah, that would be huge. Original line-up or current line-up. I don't mind (laughs). Talking about that, our ex-drummer Scott Eckel just recently did a bit of a stint with them in the States, so we're kinda there I guess? He had a blast. Definitely Blink would be massive. There's a tonne of cool bands that I'd love to do tours with, some of the smaller bands. But Blink would definitely take the cake.
TIANA: Now, this Friday (29th September) is a big day for you guys, you'll be releasing your brand new EP 'Black Dog'. And I know it's been an end result of what I believe has been years of some blood, sweat and tears - what is the feeling now, is it a massive relief to finally be at this stage?
MITCH: It is a huge relief to finally get here. We've gone through a lot of things that have made it all a bit hard, to the point where we've been like "ugh, are we gonna get there, are we gonna get there?"...it's a running joke without our circle of friends, the Satellites new EP is like the Chinese democracy of pop-punk. It's just taken forever! But it is a huge relief to finally be here, I'm very nervous to see what people reckon of it...but super stoked!
TIANA: And you guys have recorded again with Troy Brady (ex-guitarist for Aussie metalcore legends The Amity Affliction) - it's not the first time you've worked with him, did it feel like a well-oiled machine going through this process again?
MITCH: Yeah, Troy's a real pal now, so it's really cruisey just hanging out and recording with him. He's super hard on us (laughs) to make sure everything's perfect, but it's chill and a great experience and we really enjoy working with him.
TIANA: The EP name gives away a bit of a story itself....but has it got a particular meaning for you guys personally?
MITCH: Yeah, I don't think directly in terms of what the phrase 'Black Dog' means, but definitely it tells a story...maybe not in the tracks, but it's definitely a title that fits for the EP in terms of things we've all personally gone through over the last couple of years trying to get it together. Music is a massive part of my life outside of Satellites, music photography and videography is my thing - so as much time as I can spend around music I do and the minute that you start looking at the prospect of possibly not playing or not doing Satellites anymore gave me some really up and down moments over the last couple of years. The title of it is definitely a representation of what it took to get 'Black Dog' out, and the things we had to overcome. The tracks themselves...there's a few tracks that are very particular like 'Thread' is a bit of a deep one, a realisation that we're not getting younger. So overall there is a bit of a message there, but more so the catalyst for what can cause that type of thing.
TIANA: What I like about Satellites is that even though it's a fresh sound, you guys have that pop-punk nostalgic kick - but it's nice to hear a bit of soul behind that sound as well.
MITCH: It does have a really old-school feel to it. But I find it hard...I've been with my partner now for ten years so I don't really have an ex that I can talk about (laughs). But all my lyrics generally have quite a bit of depth...not to say that talking about your ex-girlfriend isn't deep...
TIANA: Yeah, but it's refreshing to actually hear something that's not just that same-old breakup anthem.
MITCH: Heartbreak in a different way!
TIANA: I normally hate asking this question...but I couldn't find the answer myself and I have to ask. The band name - was it just you guys NASA-fangirling or is there a story here?
MITCH: I'm so stoked that you asked! (laughs) So our first singer Mickey was in a band called 'Like Rockets'...they were a bit of a pop/dance sort of band. And he was offering up names and one of them was 'Satellites', the other one was 'Like Rockets'. So they took 'Life Rockets' and then two years later we got the dregs! (laughs)
TIANA: For dregs it's pretty good, I've gotta say!
MITCH: I thought it was alright. We were just racking our brains for the longest time for a name and we just couldn't come up with anything, and one day he just threw that out. I guess he must've just been sitting on it for a while, and I was like "Yep, that's cool. We'll just run with that. Doesn't need to have a particular meaning, let's just go!". So we'd had songs and everything written and no band name.
TIANA: Mickey clearly has a bit of a space-thing going on, which worked out well for you guys!
MITCH: Yeah, he just has an infatuation with space (laughs).
TIANA: So there's more on the way with not just the new release but also more music videos - but what's next after this, will it just be catching up on sleep and Netflix or are you cracking on some new stuff?
MITCH: In between everything I've already started writing extra things, I've had a friend reach out who's kind of interested in jumping on board with us, and he's got a bunch of material. So we haven't stopped by any means, I think after this we definitely need to keep the ball rolling, not only just for ourselves but I kind of feel like for people who have stuck around for this long, if we don't keep stuff coming out then it would feel like a let down. I think I might take a few moments to have some sleep between work and work and other work (laughs). But very much on the train, we gotta keep it pumping.
TIANA: Well thank you so much for taking the time, and I'm so stoked to see you guys get 'Black Dog' out there this Friday!
MITCH: Thank you so much!
Satellite's brand new EP 'Black Dog' is available to pre-order in iTunes, and is due out this Friday September 29th. More info below:
BY TIANA SPETER