Interview: City Calm Down’s Jeremy Sonnenberg Talks ‘Television’

Interview by Eden Campbell.

On the 23rd of August, moody Melbourne rockers City Calm Down released their 3rd record, ‘Television’. Off the bat, ‘Television’ is a lot more poppy and upbeat than the majority of CCD’s repertoire to date. Sombre and introspective lyrics still dominate the LP, but instrumentals and arrangements have taken a more arena-rock shift. Leaving resemblances of Joy Division behind and leaning more toward the sounds of U2 or The Clash.

Eden caught up with bassist, Jeremy Sonnenberg, for a chat about the quartet’s latest brainchild:

Television only dropped last Friday (August 23), and I know the lead up to the release had a lot of your fans waiting with baited breath: How has the reception been over the week?

“I feel great! Its out! I tend to get a bit weird and antsy when we’ve just been sitting on this thing that’s finished, and everyone has poured so much time and effort into it. Then you realise – no one [other than the band & their affiliates] has heard the whole thing. It’s completely new to everyone else…Hopefully, it’s exciting for everyone else! I think it has been, because we’ve had some very lovely feedback…I’m super glad the records out…I don’t hate listening to it, which is my most basic barometric with anything I’ve ever had to put my name to. I’m really proud of it.

We’ve been researching heaps for the upcoming tour…we’re going back to Europe soon and we’ve been doing a lot of planning in terms of how we’re going to present the new material live…its definitely invigorated me again.”

So, it’s no secret that sonically, ‘Television’ marks a deviation from your more brooding and post-punk signature sound, can you shed a little light on that? Was this a conscious decision? 

“We have positioned and presented ourselves in a new light [re: ‘Television’] which is what we always want to do, but some people just want us to be a carbon copy of what we did last time. I feel like that’s never really been a ‘thing’ with us…we’re always evolving and growing. So, there are these fans that are super passionate and follow everything we do, and then there are these people that tell us that we should just make synthesizer music again. I don’t think it’s ever gotten to a point where we’ve boxed ourselves into a corner”

‘Television’ was produced by Burke Reid, who’s worked with the likes of Courtney Barnett and Julia Jacklin. What was it like working with him? 

“I cant even remember what month we were first introduced to him [Reid], I think it was mid to late 2018; but, everything we’ve recorded on our label to date has been done with our friend, Malcom Beasley. As a band, we started talking about working a little bit differently and pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone, and the opportunity to work with Burke presented itself…We loved the work that he did with Drones and Courtney (Barnett)…I was really nervous, quite frankly. I’m my own worst enemy in those kind of situations, but when it comes to working with someone as highly esteemed as Burke is, any preconceived notions of how I was going to feel about communicating with him went out the window. I’m self taught, and I know how to play my instrument but it doesn’t get intellectualised much beyond that, and with Beasley, I felt so safe to do what I do…I could always speak to him in a lay-mans and very non-musical way and it was always okay and I was possibly worried with Burke that [that type of communication] wouldn’t be up to scratch…But he’s just ‘the dude’ and he [Reid] was so accommodating and friendly. The sonic palate that he [Reid] was creating at the time seemed so right for us.”

Obviously, the process of recording and mixing an album can be very consuming. How long has ‘Television’ been in the works for?

“As soon as ‘Echoes In Blue’ was out, we were already working on it. The actual recording process only happened earlier this year, across several studio sessions up near Gosford to record. We flew up from Sydney then drove out to The Grove [recording studios], which was the most amazing experience. We were doing pre-production for at least 18 months before we got to this point now when we’re talking about how we feel now that its finally done…but every single part of seeing something through like that is always a pleasure, that’s why I’ve continued to do it and make it a part of my life. Everything from working out the visual direction for the album – like, ‘what’s the album artwork going to be? What’s the first press photo going to look like?’”

So you guys still get mostly free reign over your ultimate creative vision and branding?

“We’re so lucky! We get to pick who we work with on everything! We did a section with animated snippets for the record that we’ve been releasing for the past few months, and they were done by our saxophonist, John…with everything, we’re in a position where we can choose to engage trusted creatives who love and respect what they do. Lucky us, It’s all thanks to our label for allowing us to do so. We could outsource a lot of those decisions if we wanted, but everything is a creative choice we make as a band.”

Catch City Calm Down on the Australian leg of their ‘Television’ tour. The boys will be hitting Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth and Melbourne. Kicking off on October 11th in Camperdown at Manning Bar.

Tickets available HERE.

Brisbane show event page HERE.

Buy/Stream ‘Television’ HERE.

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