Melbourne’s Roles, are about to release their debut album, There’s A Space, as of the 1st of September. In the lead up, they had a sign up induction and people were able to access the tracks for free, with exclusive content including videos for five days. Louise Love and Luis Gutierrez make up this lovely duo, and their style is abrasive guitar, married to 80s styled synths and Love’s sweet vocals, that creates a post-punk/art rock explosion. We wanted to know what makes Roles tick, so of course we asked them.
Dear Lou and Luis of the band Roles, welcome to the up side of down and reverse is yet another way to continue on a journey.
Hey Adele! Thank you for interviewing us. Lou here, I am going to answer these questions in first person on behalf of Roles.
How did Roles come into being?
My previous music project was a solo electronic pop-thing called Louise Love. I put this on ice in 2016. Looking back, I can see how personal demons played into this. Pursuing music is a tough road even in the best circumstances. I kept trying to push through, but I burnt myself out with all the trying.
After a while, I needed to be creative again. At first, I told myself I was developing an art-project, not another music thing. But it ended-up becoming a bunch of songs.
Coming from Melbourne, what musical projects were you involved in before Roles?
Luis is originally from Caracas and we met in my home town of Fremantle. We have been in Melbourne for about 7 years, before that we were in Hobart for a while. Louise Love (solo) performed in Melbourne from 2015 to 2016. The act also played in Hobart from 2013. Roles is the first music project for Luis. He did however do visual artwork for Louise Love.
Back in WA, I did all kinds of different original music projects. I started singing in a punk band during my last year of high school and kept going from there. I was never really punk. I used to hang around with a group of punks and goths at high school, but I didn’t know how I fitted in with them. It was the same with music. I spent longer than most trying to find my own voice in my song-writing. It wasn’t until I started electronic music production, that I started to feel even close.
Melbourne is a pretty cosmopolitan place and was hit hard by the Covid lockdowns, this especially so for the entertainment industry. What was this like for you both?
Not being able to play or go to gigs sucked. We are yet to make a profit from music, so we weren’t affected like people who make a living from the Arts. Melbourne has the best live music scene in the country, It was really tough on the venues and they are still trying to recover.
Apart from that, we were fine. Luis was able to keep working from home and he was allowed to go see his horse, so he got through it okay. I got job keeper, which was a welcomed paid staycation. I feel sadness that other people suffered and that lives were lost, but I was lucky and made the most of the experience. Having the world slow down, gave the time I needed to work out a lot of my personal shit.
What is the premise behind the name Roles?
We all play different roles in life. It’s good to be aware of that. It’s also a good practice to ask who or what it is that is playing those roles.
Also, the song writing method means that each song is telling someone’s story, so we are playing that role for a few minutes.
Most of your music is based on audio recordings of interviews and conversations. What is it about this style of medium that inspires you?
Every song lyric (so far) has been created from audio transcribed into text. This is cut-up and whittled down into simple lyrics. Each lyric aims to maintain the original meaning and/or story of the speaker.
This was somewhat inspired by PJ Harvey’s work on ‘Let England Shake’ which explores English history and war-time experiences. I loved the idea of not writing about your own personal experiences. It opens up creative possibilities and can evolve your worldview in the process. This approach also harks back to more traditional song writing; as it was used to convey shared stories and teachings.
Who is the main writer or is it a shared exercise?
I write and arrange the songs, but Luis is a big part of Roles.
Luis is a production consultant on each song, nothing gets to the final stage without his approval. He just gets the sound and I trust his judgement on the music more than anyone else. While I often get cranky when he criticises something, I usually end up agreeing with him and fixing it. He has a good ear and very refined taste.
He is a talented visual artist and contributes to Roles in that way. He also created the VolcaFM synth programs I used for the final arrangements. Learning to play the live synth parts was his first experience as a musician and at performing in front of people. He’s really committed to the project.
I noted that Luis’ playing style reminded me very much of Gary Numan…. does Luis have a small crush on the Numan?
We like Gary Numan, especially his early solo work! Was never a deliberate influence, but we are very happy to sound like him.
How would you describe Roles musical sound?
We describe the sound as post-punk and post-pop. Neither of us are very good musicians, but the song structure is strong. Our minimal approach to the arrangements helps to keep all our earnestness in check.
There’s A Space is the debut album. How excited are you both to get this out into the world?
Very excited. But we are also looking forward to finishing this process so we can focus on the second album release. The songs on the ‘There’s A Space’ are old to us now, but we have to remember that most people haven’t heard them yet. Maybe we should have pretended we just wrote them!
How long did you take in the creation and did covid play a part in this?
The album took about a year to write. But it was about two years until it was recorded, mixed and mastered.
The album was ready at the end of 2019 and scheduled for release in 2020; but life had other plans. Before we strayed from our original release schedule, we did drop a couple of singles from the album. The first of these was Empty Room. That single launch was the last gig we played before lockdowns swept in.
Do you have a favourite child off the album and if so, why?
For Luis it’s a draw between She Was No Acid Head and If I Meditate Enough.
I honestly don’t have a favourite. Sometimes when I’m playing one of the songs from the album, I’ll suddenly hear or understand it in a new way and I’ll fall in love with it all over again.
My favourite song is always the song I’ve just written. So right now, it’s something from the second album.
For you guys, it is fairly obvious that art is just as important as the music as exemplified by your special pre release Roleout. Why is this and what was it like doing the prerelease?
We wanted to give the album opportunity to connect with people before launching it into the void. We made a 5 day experience of bonus material. Those who signed-up got 5 daily emails linking them to a hidden webpage, which revolved around two songs from the album. Each song came with audio, a music video, a vlog and graphics. There was other art and behind-the -scenes video. It was in the theme of an online ‘retreat’.
It was an ambitious attempt at marketing the album in a different way. We thought we might reach more people by offering them an experience rather than just the album. The modest number of loyal fans who actually viewed the webpages, really seemed to enjoy it.
It was a huge amount of work making all the videos and art, but the pandemic gave us lots of time. Putting the webpages and tech stack together also took a while. We don’t regret doing it and can probably use the videos and art in other ways. We also developed a lot of new skills and confidence which we can take with us.
How have you incorporated your art into the music?
Roles began as an art-project. I brain stormed and researched the themes I wanted to explore, which led me to the audio recordings idea. I eventually realised I wanted to write songs again, but I wanted to do it as an art-project.
I decided to use pre-defined artistic constraints as a way to open up my creativity. It sounds counter intuitive, but it works! Only using transcribed audio for lyrics was one constraint. I then made ten song sketches, using only bass, kick and vocals. For the final songs arrangements, I chose a limited number of instruments/sound and stuck to those.
Both of us also do a lot of video art for Roles. And as I mentioned, Luis does lots of visual art for the project.
Roles is playing live to support the release of the album. How much fun is it to get back to live performance?
We are very happy to be playing live again! We did do a lot of livestreams during lockdown, which kept the flame alive, but it’s not the same. We also love going to gigs as punters, it’s great to be back out at our favourite live music venues.
This is the obligatory, what music or bands got you into the scene?
If we ever get let into a scene we’ll let you know!
But this is more likely a question about our influences. I’m really bad at this stuff. I’ll try, but It’s hard to narrow it down:
Siouxsie and the Banshees, Total Control, Sleaford Mods, New Order, Leonard Cohen, Radio Head, Chicks on Speed, Björk, Brian Eno, The Cure, CC Dust, Talking Heads, Anne Clark, PJ Harvey, YACHT, LCD Soundsystem, Bush Tetras, Peaches, Sonic Youth, Adult, Fleetwood Mac, Erase Errata, The Native Cats, Chook Race…I could go on, but I think that’s enough.
Who do you listen to now?
We are really into the local scene at the moment, getting out to watch gigs. So lately, it’s been acts such as Plaster of Paris, Miles Brown, The Techno Biddies, Party Pest, Hot Dog, V, Astral Skulls … tonight I’m going to the single launch for Pretty In Pink.
You find an old suitcase, with a tape reel inside of an interview. Who do you wish it was and why?
My maternal Great Grandmother. She died very young under mysterious circumstances. No one talked about it much, so I’ve always wondered what happened to her. That was back before there was so much awareness about mental health. I think hearing her story could help me understand my own experiences with that side of the family.
What is in the future for Roles?
Roles are currently working on our second collection of songs; the theme of this collection is death. This work mainly involves interviews we have conducted with various people, each song a conversation about death. I even interviewed myself for one of the songs, it’s a banger!
Thank you Lou for being an willing participant in this interview as well!