This week we managed to catch up with Alex, the guitar player from Canberra band Space Party, who’ve been lucky enough to get to mix it up opening for Punk legends UPROAR from the UK, and the boys are up for the challenge! You can see them for yourself at the gig happening this Saturday 13th October at the Pot Belly (Check the gig listing for more info) but until then lets get to know the band a little!
THE EARLY DAYS AND LINE UP OF SPACE PARTY
The band started when a mutual friend introduced me (Alex Plegt – guitarist) to our bass player Kevin Lauro. Said friend knew we were both into instrumental Surf music and thought we should meet. This was in 2003. Kevin and I spent a few years on and off just getting together on weekends and learning songs with a vague idea of getting a live set happening.
We tried to find drummers and auditioned a few people but it wasn’t really going anywhere. In 2006 we met our drummer Darren Atkinson and things clicked immediately. Darren hadn’t had a lot of exposure to the stuff we were doing but it sounded pretty good from the get go. At that point Kevin and I were both playing guitar but as Kevin turned out to also be an excellent bassist we decided to have him on bass so we could get started in earnest.
My original plan was to focus on recording, I had a few originals and so we pottered around for another couple of years. I was reluctant to play live at that point as I didn’t think Surf instrumentals would go down too well in Canberra plus I had this hair brained idea that we might be able to sell heaps of music off the internet!
By 2008 we had recorded most of our first album and finally the guys nagged me into playing live. It was nerve wracking as I hadn’t been onstage for about 16 years at that point. But we got through and were well received, much to my surprise, so I started to feel more positive about playing around Canberra and we continued on.
About 4 years ago we decided that we ought to get a permanent singer. Darren had been doing some vocals live and we also had Susan from my other band at the time, Little Mac and the Monster Men, do some guest spots with us, which was great but we really wanted a permanent lead singer.
I had seen Nathan Gubler perform a solo set somewhere and thought he could possibly fit. As luck would have it Darren and Kevin had joined Faux Faux Amis and Nathan was a regular guest with that band so it was easy to ask him if he’d like to try out.
It was another lucky break as he fit perfectly and we now had a whole new dimension to the band. Nathan is also a very handy keyboard player and extra guitarist so that opened up a whole bunch of new possibilities.
THE BANDS INTERESTS AND INFLUENCES:
Musical interests – very broad. Obviously retro stuff is big with us – from the 50s to the 80s. Nathan being a fair bit younger than the rest of us has his finger on the pulse a bit more with the newer stuff but he has huge knowledge and love of the same stuff we are into.
Musical genre – we say we are Garage Rock or Surf Rock. But we don’t go out of our way to copy old sounds. We put a bit of Punk influence in there too.
OTHER STUFF THE GUYS HAVE DONE
Many bands. Darren and I have both been active since the early 80s. Darren’s from Brisbane originally and probably best known for being with Ups and Downs, and still performs with them now. I am from Melbourne was in half a dozen bands up to the early 90s, most notably Arctic Circles. Kevin is from the U.S. and played in a few Surf bands over there.
We all landed in Canberra at various times and since living in Canberra I have of course been in Space Party, also had a Rockabilly band called Little Mac and the Monster Men which split up 4 years ago. I’ve started another band called The Get Downs which is going really well, it is a mixture of Rockabilly and 60s stuff. We are working on an album which we hope to start recording this year.
Darren and Kevin are in Faux Faux Amis as well as Space Party.
Nathan has played with Sinbirds, Faux Faux Amis, Okinawa Girls, guest spots with Fuzzsucker and does solo stuff as The Bladewinner.
FUTURE PLANS FROM HERE:
We’ve had a quiet time since releasing our third CD “New Wave” last year. A couple of us spent some months overseas so we didn’t play much for the first half of this year. We are really just getting back into the swing of things.
I have a plan to do a gig where we get a whole bunch of guest singers to come and do some songs with us under the banner of “Space Party and Friends”. That will probably happen next year sometime.
We are also starting a side project, with a couple of extra musicians, that has more of an Exotica / Easy Listening / Tijuana Brass flavour to it, just for fun.
To Keep doing what we do, but also next year I really want to try to re-focus on pushing the new CD a bit. We didn’t put much effort into promoting it partly because of our down time earlier in the year. I do want to get us out of Canberra a bit more.
There will inevitibly be new Space Party material out, but no firm plans or timelines with that. Would prefer to give the current CD a bit more of a chance first.
HOW TO GET SPACE PARTY MUSIC:
We have 3 CDS out, our first CD “Invasion of the Surfer Men” is for sale on CDBaby https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/SpaceParty
Our second “Future Surf” is not online but available at gigs.
Our new CD “New Wave” is on Bandcamp https://spaceparty1.bandcamp.com/releases
and available at gigs.
ABOUT PLAYING IN CANBERRA vs INTERSTATE
The hardest part of being a Canberra band is probably the fact that outside of Canberra there’s very little awareness of what’s going on here so you have to work a little harder trying to sell yourself if you are trying to play interstate. There can be a bit of snobbery to overcome from the big cities towards Canberra bands too, with the general perception that the music scene here can’t be much good.
We are not exactly the only band who does our sort of music in Canberra, there are a couple of other bands who do Garage and Surf stuff that we team up with from time to time but we are pretty much the only one that writes a decent percentage of our own material within those genres.
We haven’t found it a problem generally. Our stuff is pretty easy to relate to if you like any sort of basic rock and roll. When we first started playing live about 10 years ago I wondered how we’d be received, at that time we played mostly instrumentals, but people were really cool and we seemed to appeal to a lot of people that we didn’t thinkwould like us – our first gig was on a bill at the Basement with a bunch of Death Metal bands and the guys in those bands really got into us which I though was fantastic. The Canberra musos and audiences are pretty open minded, there are a lot of gigs where there’s multiple genres on show and people seem to be able to appreciate this.
COOL MEMORIES of CANBERRA
I have very fond memories of the old Phoenix around 2009 / 10. It had such a great vibe. We were just starting to come into our own as a band, I was feeling good about playing live again, and it seemed that no matter what night you played there were heaps of people there digging it. Moisture dripping off the walls. It was cramped on that little stage, the crowd were almost literally in your face but it felt pretty good.