Words/Interview by Emily Hollitt
Katanak has been a growing force in the local music scene for quite some time now. Stamping his name on as many things as possible, this young indie pop superstar has landed himself many opportunities stemming from global media coverage reaching all the way to the UK as well as a spot in this year’s QUBE Effect. He’s just released his nostalgic banger, Take Us Back, circulating around the relatable concept of growing up and not being able to enjoy life the way we used to with the stresses of work taking over. Summarised perfectly in the first two chorus lines “Take us back to when we were kids, we didn’t know how good we had it” the energetic bops pace is almost child-like in its delivery, giving the same amount of energy as a bunch of kids running and playing in the street. The cinematic music video does just the same, showing Katanak and his band played by younger versions of themselves to act out the overall nostalgia of the track. Katanak had some spare time to tell me all about his track and his approach to successfully releasing during a global pandemic.
To start off, what inspired you to write Take Us Back?
This song came about because of the build-up of the pressures of being an adult. Life was taking a different turn to what I thought would be happening at 23. I just got caught up in working strange hours, not seeing my friends, trying to pay my bills, save, feeling like my music was going by the wayside as I wasn’t finding the time to practise. I hadn’t sat and written in a quite a while and felt really stale about the whole thing. I’d started to just go over things I’d already written and wasn’t taking any new directions. I can’t remember exactly what was the catalyst (probably work) but I just thought to myself ‘what am I doing!’ as I’d lost my mojo. One morning I woke up and started writing and had the song completed in a day. It was exactly what I needed and give me the incentive to get going again.
What’s your usual approach to songwriting? Do you develop the concept first, chords, lyrics or does it vary song to song?
Every time I write a song I have a different approach. Sometimes I start with a lyrical idea that I later flesh out, or sometimes I’ll start with just a little melody or a chord progression. For me personally I find writing the bed/ instrumental the easiest part as lyrics aren’t my strong suit. I have beds that have been sitting here for 6 months with no lyrics because I’ve just stalled. I’m also not inclined to bother writing lyrics to a song that I’m not fully happy with instrumentally and may never use. Maybe now that I have a clear head I can go back and look at what I’ve got stored away and see what I can get going.
I love the catchiness of the melody and the similarities to other great indie pop style bands like The 1975, The Wombats and Two Door Cinema Club. Who were your main references for the track?
Thank you. I’m getting really good feedback on this track so if you’re reading this and you’ve heard it, let me know.
I wanted to go a little more Brit pop than I’ve done previously because I’m a big fan of just raw, driving and punchy songs, so The Wombats early works was a big influence on this song.
The song has a real nostalgic feel to it, looking back at life before the responsibilities that come with growing up kicked in. Are there any specific memories in your childhood that come to mind when you were putting this track together?
Take Us Back reminds me of the days where I would go over to my mates house and we’d just skate around his neighbourhood, play video games until like 4 in the morning and the only thing we had to worry about was what we were gonna do for fun next. Sadly, as an adult so much of life revolves around work and having fun is put on the backburner, so I wanted to recreate the feeling of those times with my song.
On the topic of childhood, what bands, artists or events inspired you to pursue music as a career?
A massive inspiration to my wanting to become a musician and a huge inspiration to a lot of my other works in previous bands, was early 2000’s artists like Pete Murray, Powderfinger, Wolfmother and Missy Higgins. As I’ve grown as an artist I am more inclined to listen to bands such as The 1975 and The Wombats, but the early days of 2000’s Aussie music really shaped my love for music.
Continuing this theme, what was the very first album you ever bought and the very first gig you ever went to?
This is going to sound strange, but the first album I ever bought was actually ‘Diamonds in the Rough’ by Avenged Sevenfold. I’m a massive fan of metal and they are definitely at the top of my list of favourite bands.
First gig? I was lucky enough to be at a Keith Urban gig for my first one, but Caloundra Music Festival wasn’t far behind it. I just wandered round the different small stages and saw so many bands up close. So good. I would love to be on one of those stages one day!
You launched the track with an online livestream from your living room which was a great way of responding to the current COVID-19 pandemic. How did this go in comparison to doing a live show and what other ways are you making the most of the situation in terms of keeping your music traction going? Do you think you’ll continue doing streams etc after the pandemic is over?
I’m actually loving live streaming from ‘The Lounge’. No travel necessary and you can wear something comfy haha. The Live stream for the single launch was actually a huge success when it came to getting my music out there because a lot of people who haven’t been able to come to a gig could watch me for the first time. People are stuck at home and are looking for something to do or watch. As an emerging artist getting people to your gigs is hard work and not always something that happens, so having my music broadcast straight into their living room or onto their phones meant people who have never heard my music could see what I was about and hopefully become a fan. I’ve had people from the UK & Canada contact me because they heard Take Us Back & they’ll tune in as well. So I can see more live streaming in the future.
What do you think are the biggest challenges and perks of being an independent artist?
A perk to being an independent artist is that all the money I make goes to myself and my band. A downside is that as an independent artist we struggle to make money. On the plus side we aren’t beholden to anyone so we can make the sort of music we want. The challenge is affording the costs associated with making our own music.
Promotion is hard work and a challenge. This leads into getting airplay and trying to get on local festivals.
It’s lucky I love writing music as that’s the biggest perk and seeing people sing along to my songs.
The music video for the track was made as part of The QUBE Effect 2020. Congratulations! What was the process like for making that video?
It was really, really awesome working with Torn Parachute and the QUBE team to make the music video happen. We had three hours to film everything so it was a slight rush but we made it through and the finished product is absolutely amazing! It was a little bit of an interesting task to try and find the three boys that played the young versions of myself and the band members but we were lucky enough to get George Audet from the School of Rock musical to play myself and he nailed the part, even creating that wicked little jump that you see at the start of the video clip. This music video for me was super nostalgic and special because that is one of my best mates garages. I used to practise there in my previous band when I was younger which is exactly why I wanted that garage in the video clip about going back to when I was a kid, nothing like including real nostalgia to really hit the point home!
What’s next on the cards of Katanak?
I’m currently writing new music and would love to get out and play it live as soon as things pick up. The start of 2020 has actually been great for my music career, which seems strange with what is going on, but I want to run with the opportunities that QUBE Effect is providing to me. So I’d like to get a couple more songs released and build on what’s been started. I’ll be hoping to back that up with a tour when everything opens again.
In the meantime I’ve been designing merch and I’m about to get the information out on socials. Anyone wanting good looking merch, get in touch with me.
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Take Us Back is available on all streaming services now!