The Sea Scouts

Interview by J Weeks

Alex Pope
Tim Evans 
Monica Fierkle 
Alex Pope
Tim Evans
Monica Fikerle
            Australia's Sea Scouts have been favorably compared with Unwound, Sonic Youth, Joy Division, and My Bloody Valentine. Sung and shouted lyrics are enveloped in crashing choruses of feedback and reverb, underpinned by a tribal drum beat.
            Hailing from the largely rural island state of Tasmania, they've long been stalwarts of the local scene in its capital, Hobart. Last year they made the break to the mainland city of Melbourne, Victoria. There they've refined their sound and experimented in side projects, one of which brought them to these shores.
            When former-Sleater-Kinney drummer Laura McFarlane's sublime and unclassifiable Ninety-Nine made plans to tour internationally, part of its membership included two moonlighting members of the Sea Scouts. They quickly took advantage of the opportunity to arrange their own tour as well, thanks to some new-found friends on this side of the pond.
    I'd had a chance to see the band as a student in Melbourne, so I knew what I was in for. Less so the audiences on their tour - sometimes I don't think they knew what hit 'em. Regardless of your tastes, the Scouts'll sure as hell get your attention.
    Recorded with a crippled tape recorder outside North Hollywood's The Smell: Alex Pope, Tim Evans, and Monica Fikerle on Tasmania, touring, and why they're really a pop band.

Tim: We went there.

Monica: Six weeks. It was good.

Alex: Everywhere.

T: Lots of money.

M: Yep.

T: Lots of money and only a few people have got it. Um, but at least you can get a job here. I'll say that, where we come from you can't get a fuckin' job.

And where do you come from?

T: Tasmania. Small state, south of the mainland of Australia.

M: Capital city, Hobart.

A: Kingston.

T: Bryleton.

Do you consider yourselves 'cultural ambassadors'?

M: I think we are.

T: I think most in America wouldn't even know where it IS.

M: Educating Americans.

And what would the general population in Tasmania think of you in this role?

T: They'd probably be fairly negative about it -

A: They'd probably just laugh.

T: They'd probably say…"Do you want VB [Victoria Bitter], stubbies or cans?"


Some of your songs are about living in Tasmania, are they positive or negative, are they an evocation of life there?

T: I'd say generally negative.

M: Not very much on my part.
        I've had a very different experience with Tasmania in a way, Tim's grown up in a very different place from where I grew up.

T: That's for sure.

M: Much harsher place, you wanna leave.

So you were in the 'little smoke' and he was in the 'no smoke'.

M: Yeah basically.

T: Yeah.
        And he [Alex] was in the 'medium smoke'.

A: Suburban smoke. Way I see it, sometimes you want a change from the way you were brought up.

T: I wouldn't change a fuckin' thing, Gives me something to write songs about. If I'd grown up in America or Britain I'd have nothing new to offer these people.
        I love that we're all from Tasmania, we can bring something new to all these people, even if it's something small and something subtle. Maybe these people will go to themselves that we sound like a British band or whatever, but subtly in there we've got our stuff from Australia and Tasmania.

So this stuff is inseparable from your local experience.

M: Totally, yeah.

A: Yeah.

T: Some of the things that influenced me musically are a lot of bands from Tasmania.

No so much any one band and person, this vibe you get sometimes.

I should ask you about being "On the Dole for Rock n' Roll" -


- 'cause that's a real lifestyle for musos down there. M: Who came up with that?

A: That's a good slogan. That's a pretty Tassie thing to to -

M: That's an incredibly Australian -

A: - Aussie thing to do.

Here in the States, you've got to be a bit poorer to get welfare, and you've got more forms to slog through, there's a stigma attached to it.

M: Yeah, it's actually getting much harder now 'cause the government's getting more conservative - over the last thirty, forty years -

A: Well, since the times of the depression and shit, they've looked to the welfare systems of other countries as an example - public health and this sort of thing -

Sounds like you're still closer to the European model, where they give you more social services like free health care.

A: That kind of thing was set up, it's been there for that long. Now it's being pulled apart -

M: Now it's going towards America -

A: Now it's being pulled apart, but for a long time it was viable.

So if you want to be a muso, you just -

M: You just go on the dole.

A: You just go on the dole.

M: And play music.

A: Play dumb, pretend you can't get a job. Fuck up at interviews, if you have to have them…after a while they stop hassling you to have interviews anyway.

M: Surprisingly very easy - (laughs) - to get away with it.

A: It's fucking hard to get a job in Tasmania, I had to leave Tasmania to get a job. There's fifteen percent unemployment.

Wow. So there's some substantive backup to that.

A: There certainly is.

M: Yeah, it's not like there are enough jobs for everyone in Australia, 'cause there's not.

That's why the dole. If people were just left to the rigors of the marketplace like here there'd be riots and stuff -

A: If they were properly motivated there should be.


So that's what creative people do in Tasmania? I've noticed many move to Melbourne or Sydney…

M: It's very easy to survive in Tasmania and just sit there. Too easy.

A: If you get out you have to want to get out.

M: Yeah. You have to have drive to leave.

T: Yep.

A: If you don't want to get out of there it's not gonna happen.

T: You have to make a conscious effort to get out of that place. And you have to make an even more conscious effort to stay out of it.

That is if you want to, you don't have to.

I guess it's that small-town experience.

T: And I'm fuckin' glad I spent so long there, 'cause now that I've left I can be gone, spent twenty-six years there and now I can leave for twenty-six years.


And as for what got you over here: George from Zum. Is he an angel from heaven or what?

M: (laughs) He's the tooth fairy.

T: I can't believe it, it's a total accident.

M: A guy from Australia played him a CD -

T: He works with this guy who used to see us play, he gave him the CD, George liked it. Total fuckin' chance, man. He's putting out our records, he's organized our tour, he's lent us his van.
        He's treated us with the utmost respect, arguably more than we deserve. (With the exception of Laura McFarlane, who's also put out our record.)

You two [Tim and Monica] are also helping out with her band, Ninety Nine?

T: Kind of sporadic, that line up. Can't really say who's going to be playing and who's not.

M: Members kind of drift in and out of that band -

That's a contrast; Ninety Nine's evolving membership seems to be there to realize the songs. Sea Scouts are definably the three of you, right?

T: Definitely.

M: Yeah.

A: There's four of us - one of us has bailed. He doesn't like having his photo taken and doesn't like talking to people. Leigh Ritson.

T: He's our sound man. He's very much part of the band.

The sound. Some of these songs you've been playing for years. It seems like you're tighter, not so much in the sense of being rehearsed but being thinking along the same lines...

T: It's not that all of our songs have been played for years, it's that they all sound alike.


 T: We're pretty slow with writing songs, you might say -

A: That's 'cause we don't really write them -

M: We don't write them, they just happen.

Usually they'll come two at a time, two'll just come along.

So you get it through jamming?

M: Yeaahh…

T: It's gotta be spontaneous. That's our excuse, for taking so long.
        I like taking my time with songs and music and shit. I think bands get trapped into fuckin' putting out an album every year then touring afterwards - it doesn't matter, we're very much a live band. You're gotta come and see us play live.

You've all got your different projects aside from the Sea Scouts. You once said something to the effect that of the things you do, this was a rather pop manifestation of your sensibility.

T: Yeah -

So this is a pop band?

T: The stuff I do on my own is noisy, the stuff Alex does on his own is metal, grind, noisy stuff - Monica hasn't done anything for a while, but what she was doing before was a lot darker -

M: Very strange…(laughs)

T: So yeah, in a way this is our pop band between all of us, in a way.


T: That's what I love about it though. No matter how much satisfaction you get out of making fuckin' weird music by yourself, there's something to be said for getting three people together and try to come up with a song.

So they're all co-written.

T: Everything we do is co-written. No one person could take credit for our songs than any other person, I believe.

So you've come up with two CDs and most recently, a single. The first one was released on vinyl, then re-recorded on CD -

T: The first one never got recorded properly in the first place, that's the thing. It was recorded on four track.
        We're the kind of band that have only recently in the last sixteen, eighteen months, has had the resources to do things properly.
        Only recently did we get proper equipment. Only recently did we get in a studio with a reel-to-reel machine, before that was all four-tracks and stuff.
        I try not to be too precious about our previous work, kinda got to leave it alone I reckon.

M: We've got a seven-inch that George has put out for us, it's got two songs that haven't been recorded on anything else, they're 'pop songs' basically.

Why should you "Destroy Your Local McDonalds"?

T: Ha hah!

You don't have to, but it'd be a good idea.

Why is that?

T: Why? Just wouldn't hurt anyone.
        You gotta get the people working out first, then destroy it. McDonalds to me is very symbolic of a lot of distraction from any kind of ethics, America's distraction, multinationals. Power and control. It's an easy target really.

A: America is a wealthy country but the wealth is concentrated in a small elite. It depends what you're looking at as wealthy. Most of the power is held by multinationals, and they're outside of our boundaries. You can't get at them.
        The way to truly be politically active against them is to commit fuckin' vandalism. Then again McDonalds is only one of five hundred or so -

You have to start somewhere.

A: But if you blow up your local McDonalds' you do everyone a favor.


A: Especially the poor bastards earning five bucks slave wage - as long as they're not inside when it goes off.
        Actually, if the manager's in there --


- then everything's fine.

I'll check the news to see if any have been torched along your tour route. So these songs aren't on any album.

A: Songs that perhaps wouldn't have worked in the themes of an album.

T: An album, you've got to make sure it works as a whole thing. A lot of people might say to you, "Fuck, that's your best song! Why isn't it on an album?" But if it doesn't fit on there -

Where can we get the tunes? George from Zum -

T: Bottlenekk Distribution, fucked if I know. I don't know how this shit works in America. We're still not that well known.

A: I guess you could include Zum's internet address -

That's right, you're like 'Cyber Scouts'. You've got a site.

T: "Cyber Scouts"? Is that the address? None of us have computers.

M: None of us have seen it.

T: Our friend Ben does it in Australia. He's done an immaculate job apparently, from what I've heard.

Next up…Europe.

M: Yeahh - tomorrow.

It's a hell of a tour schedule. How many cities in the states have you hit?

M: Twenty-four probably -

T: This is our twenty-fifth gig.

In under a month.

A: There's been some gigs in the same place.

And played with a slew of American bands.

T: Depends who you're talking about, I've seen some shithouse bands and some amazing bands as well.

A: There's one thing that can be said, most are well executed - people aren't fuckin' around.

They work really hard to get -

T: It's so competitive I suppose. Even if you're a pop band, straight down the line - but that's just the bands we've played with, that's just the smallest selection of the bands that there are here.

Today you're in the media capitol of the world and a lot of the bands here are crap.

A: I certainly have enjoyed some of the bands I've seen.

M: There's ones I don't think I'd ever hear anything like in Australia -

T: Oh yeah.

M: - they're the bands that I've really liked 'cause they're unique, but a lot of the bands sound the same to ones in Australia. 'Cause Australian bands copy American bands a lot.

Yeah, sometimes it's like they're considered innovative 'cause, like -

A: They're the first to copy.

But there's plenty of original ones too.

So you're out, today you've finished touring America, now how long will you be in Europe?

M: Three months?

A: Three months.

Then back to Australia? Would you ever consider moving to another country, or is the newness of being based in Melbourne good enough for you right now?

M: I would consider moving.

T: I am moving.

M: Yeah.

A: I'd like to travel to a nation whose situation is poorer than mine, so I could have my head spun out.

T: It's hard to know the future of the band, really. We’ve been talking about this for a while, basically, on this trip.

A sweaty band cooped together in a van, figuring it all out.

        You can hear Sea Scouts samples (say that three times fast) on the Australian MP3 page:
         Pattern Recognition, Beacon of Hope, and Destroy Your Local McDonalds are available from these fine sources:



        Zum P.O. Box 4449, Berkeley, CA, 94704-0449, USA

        Bottlenekk Distribution P.O. Box 11794 Berkeley, CA, 94712-2794, USA


Check out "cyber Scouts" as well as Ninety Nine and many others at