Hopping ropes with Skipping Girl Vinegar
INTERVIEWS are curious things. They can leave you rattled, teary or simply questioning where it all went wrong. But then, every now and then, you have a conversation.
Mark Lang, lead singer and guitarist of five-piece Skipping Girl Vinegar, is in the latter category. After a bit of confusion with phone numbers I get through to Lang at home in Melbourne.
Keep Calm, Carry The Monkey, the band’s second album, was released last month and reviews have been glowing.
Following on from their debut album, Sift The Noise – which earned them both critical acclaim and a few lucrative record deals, none of which they signed up to – was difficult for the band. Festival slots and busy tour schedules were getting in the way, not to mention the financial aspect of putting it all together.
“It was scary,” Lang says of the writing for their sophomore. “Our music is really driven by the songwriting and we were so busy touring at the later part of the year that it was a really hard time to focus.
“On Sift The Noise we really spent the time crafting and revisiting each song and this time it really was more chaotic.”
“We ended up finding our focus in this little coastal town in Victoria, Point Lonsdale, in this lovely little home.”
Financially, the band stuck to their independent route and decided to walk the path of hobo philanthropy.
Basically the band’s fans paid for their sophomore album and as a thank you they are credited for their contribution in the cover art.
After raising $22,000 toward the album, Lang says he felt the pressure to do well, but as an emotional writer he was pushed to find focus at times when he felt dry.
“I’ve got a bit of ADD,” he says. “So focusing was really something I had to work on; learning to write even when nothing has happened. Nine times out of 10 you won’t get anything, but there are those times you do and my ratio would increase the more I did that.”
The first single, however, You Can, came from a moment on the road. Literally. Lang was sitting on the side of the road writing after being deserted by the rest of the band.
“That day I had done a workshop with (Triple J radio presenter) The Doctor and we were having a conversation about the muse of songwriting and I was saying sometimes it’s like having to pay the rent,” Lang says. “But sometimes it just comes at me like a freight train and I just have to get it down.”
That day at Splendour in the Grass last year was one of those times. After a spot of op-shopping in town, he wandered off from the rest of the band. Stumbling across a pristine harmonium, Lang bolted back to the van where the rest of the band were waiting, eager to catch the next band back at the festival.
Greeted by a few terse words, and his call for cash rebutted with a credit card to the face, Lang was left in a pile of dust.
He went back for the harmonium and then sat, stranded, on the side of the road.
“It had just been so manic all weekend with touring and writing and I was just exhausted,” he says. “That song just came out. It’s unusual for that to happen, but really the whole thing just poured out. I always liked the song, but when we sent off the album to Triple J (music director Richard) Kingsmill picked it out and the next week it was added to rotation. Without even asking, so we were like, okay that’s the single then.”
SGV, Lang in particular, feels the visual creation is as important as the sonic one.
So when you pick up the album you’ll find a lot of work has gone into making the art connect with the music, creating the sense that each element has a relationship to the next.
And it’s not limited to the cover art either. If you’re heading to see the band live you’ll notice a little extra effort goes into their set-up. On their past tours they’ve also handed out baked goodies. Yum!
Skipping Girl Vinegar play The Northern, Byron Bay, on Saturday, June 26. Doors open 9pm and it’s free.