Phebe and Harry started electro-pop outfit Radio Spectacular!!! as a joke band – and three years later, they’ve been featured in a nationwide advertising campaign for the Canon Ixus camera. And it’s even sweeter than that: The pair met on MySpace in 2005, and five months later Harry moved from his home in Bundaberg (yes: the home of that drunkard polar bear) to be with Phebe. We caught up with Radio Spectacular!!! to ask: How do you go from joke band to the face (or ears, at least) of Canon?
Tell me about how you guys met on MySpace!
P: Well, he had a nice display picture, so I added him! And we just got talking – we spent a loooot of nights on MSN, being nerds. Then he came over for a few weeks, and we hit it off – and he moved down.
H: It was pretty exciting for me, because I come from Bundaberg – which is a small town. But Adelaide’s wicked, I loved it. And Phebe’s alright, too.
How would you describe your music? Chip-tune?
H: I haven’t heard of chip-tune!
P: Well, we actually got a really bad review on [Triple J] Unearthed, because I think a guy thought we were trying to do (chip-tune). And he’s like, ‘That’s the worst version of video game music I’ve ever heard, rah rah rah!’
H: So what are we? Sort of electro-pop.
P: We started as a joke. We just got together in the spare room with Harry’s piano and guitar – and we just wrote some bad songs, and put them on MySpace and called ourselves band. And then 3D picked it up and started playing some of our songs! And then we got a gig! It’s like – oh, okay… we’d better take it a bit more seriously now.
Harry, you’ve had a musical background right?
H: Yeah! I’ve done hardcore metal, the last official band I was in back in Brisbane. And cover bands, pub bands – all that sort of jazz. And then I came to Adelaide, and I have Radio Spectacular!!! and this other band called School of Two, which is a darker electro sort of thing.
What’s with the 3 exclamation marks?
H: I don’t know if that was a mistake or not! Because people get confused. You try and enforce it, and people only put one or two – or four! So now it’s like, maybe we should have left them off.
How did the Canon Ixus commercial come about?
P: Well we just got this call out of nowhere, from this girl who’s like “Hey! Just want to ring up and have a chat about using one of your songs for a commercial, are you interested?” And we’re like: “YES”. Harry played it so cool, taking notes while he was on the phone while I was getting really freaked out.
What’s it like hearing your song on TV?
P: It’s so weird. It was on the other night, and it still freaks me out! And Canon loved it, apparently – it got some good feedback, which is beautiful. I was actually reading a forum on the Internet, and someone had written “What’s the song on that commercial? I think it’s French.”
Who are your influences?
H: My biggest is Queen. It’s my number one! I have a Brian May guitar and listen to Queen every day. Everything I do revolves around Queen. But I never get to actually do the guitar harmonies with massive solos, but – you know. We did record a Queen cover once, but we lost it. Whoops. And plus it’s illegal, I think.
P: I listen to a lot of what’s buzzing around at the moment – Passion Pit, Friendly Fires – I love New Young Pony Club and all those sorts of bands. Electro pop, like MGMT, Architecture in Helsinki.
What’s the process like when you put together a track?
H: It’s the weirdest process, we don’t even know how we do it! I think normal bands they jam – or they have one person that does it – but we’re just like: “That sounds cool! Cool! How ‘bout this, this is cool!”
H: We write and record almost simultaneously. I come up with it, record it, and show it to Phebe. And then at the end, we’re like: Better write some words! It’s always last minute. We try not to be profound.
P: We’re afraid of sounding cheesy or really obvious.
What’re your performances like?
P: I’m behind an ironing board on the keyboard. I think that’s pretty much the selling point of the gig – people see the ironing board and say YEAH!
What can people expect from the show?
P: Definitely an ironing board – and fun! We try to keep it upbeat and happy. I try and dance as much as I can.
What’s changed over the 2 years?
H: We’ve gone a bit more electro. We started a bit more natural sounding, with piano and glockenspiel – but now we’ve tightened it up a lot, and made it more poppy. It’s more fun!
P: I guess it’s just experience – the more we do gigs and the more we learn and find out about what goes on and how we can better ourselves.
H: We’ve honed our sound. A lot of people used to say “We don’t know what you are! Every song is different!” So we’ve tightened it up a lot, but still kept a bit of versatility.
Do you think the electro-pop sound is to do with the whole Gen Y nostalgia trip going on at the moment?
H: Hugely. It’s people reliving their – well, not their own youth. But it’s a massive resurgence, and that’s all cool. I think it is just nostalgia, just like in the 90s people wanted to play just the 70s stuff. Now I don’t think that we’ve jumped on that bandwagon too badly.
P: We did buy a synth.
H: We bought a synth. …We kind of jumped on the bandwagon. But we haven’t consciously changed ourselves.
Phebe, I hear you’re into Polaroid photography. That must be an expensive hobby.
P: Yeah! It is! But I’m willing to pay for Polaroid film, because they’ve stopped manufacturing it. So what’s in the fridge at the moment is quite special. I’ve found myself using a lot of polaroids at the moment, and I get really angry at myself! I think: Why did you waste film on that!? But the problem is, film expires and you need the film cartridges to run the camera – and once the film’s expired, then it won’t actually power the camera. So you have to use the film in a reasonable time. Polaroids to me are great – there’s something special about that quality of image you get.