Cracking whips on the music scene back in 2016, Canberra/Melbourne freakazoids Moaning Lisa blotted out the sun with their swarthy mix of Shoegaze and Grunge. Now with 2 EPs under their WWE belts, they unveil their debut album, Something Like This But Not This. The raid group consists of Charlie Versegi slaying the mic & butchering the 6-strings, Hayley Manwaring also on vocals and slappen' th' bahss mahn, Ellen Chan leading the charge with axe in hand, and drummist Hayden Fritzlaff keeping the blood-soaked marauders together. We had the privilege of hearing from the band and getting their sriracha hot-takes on each track from the album. Let's crunch the numbers and delve into the tracks.
The album encompasses 12 tracks, comprised of fan-favourites from live gigs, as well as some mythical-creature never-before-seen new songs. The album starts with 'Cold Water,' immediately drawing us in with some sort of My Bloody Valentine guitar, but with fuzzy flange and regret oozing out:
Hayden Fritzlaff, drums: "I actually wasn't in the band yet when this song was written. I saw them play it at shows before I joined. To me, this was the most memorable of all the early Moaning Lisa songs. It's like a mission statement, in a way."
Charlie Versegi, lead vocals/rhythm guitar/bass: "We've described 'Cold Water' in the past as the ultimate Moaning Lisa song. It really ticks all the boxes of what goes into our songs."
Hayley Manwaring, bass/rhythm guitar/backing vocals: "It's sublime and blissful, in a way, but also really dark. That's definitely us."
We then delve into the belly of the beast, with 'Enough' - a love song, for yourself:
Charlie: "This is my favourite song on the album. It's a real “dear diary” sort of song, I think. It's me comforting and reassuring my past self. I worked on it with Jono Tooke from Cry Club, who can figure out something musically in five minutes when it would take me a week. It's so happy and uplifting... it's like the alternative rock answer to “thank u, next.”"
Ellen Chan, lead guitar: "This one makes me want to cry. I always imagine little Charlie in her room with her diary, writing this. It's very evocative, right from the first line: My first love bought me an acoustic guitar. It really clings to you."
Next comes 'Waste,' a broody song which drags you into a seedy alley where a secret disco is taking place and everyone's wearing speed-dealers and matrix trenchcoats:
Charlie: "This one actually precedes Moaning Lisa entirely. Hayley and I were in a music class, and Andrew Farriss from INXS came in for a guest lesson to teach us how to write a song from scratch. He said how he likes to look around and write about what he can see. I looked out the window and I saw garbage, but I didn't want to call a song “Garbage.” So, “Waste” it was!"
Hayley: "This is significant, because it's the first thing that I ever did with Charlie. I walked in, met her for the first time, and then it just so happened we were both playing in the same key. She played the notes D and C on on the piano. I thought it was a cool interval, and then “Waste” came from that."
Charlie: "At first, it was a really moody piano piece with electric guitar. We did it for an exam, but we didn't get very good marks. Fast forward a year and a half later, Ellen asked me to be in this band with her and I insisted on Hayley coming as well. We showed Ellen this song, and Ellen had this guitar part that just so happened to fit perfectly with the bass notes. I started to sing over the top of it, and the rest is history."
Coming in fourth place is 'Too Many,' and just like Bob, this one's a builder. Again with those tingly high notes on the guitar, this song is apathetic and unapologetic with a ridiculous little solo at the end:
Charlie: "I was sitting in our lounge room while the rest of the band were playing in a different room. I just started playing this random finger-picking thing on an acoustic guitar, and just sang what came out of me. I showed Hayley, and she started singing harmonies over the top. I sent it to Fletcher, our manager, who has a really good ear. He was like, “This is fabulous, but make it punk!” I was like, “Okay, let's do that.”"
Hayley: "It was a very easy one to work with. Because it's only a few chords, it started out from a very basic principle. That's something that has become our unwritten rule: if a song can work stripped back as well as it does with all the bells and whistles, then we know it's good."
In fifth position is 'Bike Riding.' This song is DOOMY and is my super secret top-pick sleeper for the album. I rate it Seventeen Gordon Ramsey's out of Ten:
Charlie: "I wrote 'Bike Riding' when I was by myself – I didn't know any of my bandmates yet. I wanted to write a song where I sang like Kim Gordon, and 'Bike Riding' is what came out. I had been to a lot of different doctors and psychologists, and had really horrible experiences. I had one tell me to ride my bike instead of driving my car, because that would make me less depressed – genuinely! That catapulted the rest of it. The whole song is a collection of things people have told me, or tell people to try and “fix” them. It all sounds so ridiculous."
Hayley: "It can also be interpreted as things that you tell yourself to convince yourself that you're not sick. Like, “oh, if I could just go bike riding, I'd feel better.” The things that can really help, you put off in your mind – because you're convinced that you can fix yourself."
Next off the ranks, slinks Moaning Lisa's latest single, 'Something.' This song flips between inky introspection to free-running down Mount Everest with forty jetpacks strapped to your boots:
Charlie: "This was one of he only songs we actually got to roadtest live a couple times before lockdowns. It's a very high-energy song. I think that's what made us choose that as the first single – it's a song that felt most like a new era. It doesn't sound like any other Moaning Lisa song. We were drawing from different inspirations, too – rather than looking to Sonic Youth, we looked more to Bloc Party. It felt so new and refreshing for us."
Ellen: "I think it was also a different way of writing, as well. It started with Hayden and Hayley mucking around, and I don't think we really recorded as a group or wrote it all together. Before, usually we'd sit down together in a rehearsal room with some sort of skeleton that one of us had written. That's a format we're having to get used to, now that we can't all do the same kind of things that we used to do."
And following this we have their last single, 'Inadequacy.' This sounds like if Bjork learned to play guitar with knuckle dusters:
Charlie: "This was another one I wrote when I was just doing solo stuff like on a ukulele. I wrote it to impress this person that I was seeing, who insisted we were casual and didn't believe in relationships – you know the type. I drank an entire bottle of Chardonnay by myself in my shoebox apartment, and this song just fell out of me. I sent it to this person, and they were like, “it's not your best.” I was like, “Fuck you.” I put that away for awhile. It came back out when Ellen and I scrambling to find some stuff to work on."
Hayden: "We have maybe five or six unreleased versions of this song. We've tried to record it in six different studios. The funny thing is, even though we recorded it as many times as we did, it ended up basically the same as it was the first time. The whole thing really gave us back a lot of our confidence. This song didn't need to be anything else. If it's meant to be, it's meant to be."
Hayley: "Out of every song on the record, I think this is the one song that if it was released in the 90s you wouldn't have known any different. It's like a time machine. It's not derivative of the 90s, it just is."
Can we all take a reprieve to appreciate how actually sick the 90s were? We had badasses like PJ Harvey licking wounds and Alanis Morissette flaying exes. This album takes all that putrid, seething grime and plugs a guitar into it. The next track to grace my frail ear hairs was 'Sox,' which sounds as if the Daria themesong came to tuck me in each night with a little kiss on the forehead and a guitar-flavoured milk:
Ellen: "This started really bare-bones – it was just two chords. I was using GarageBand. I wasn't living with the rest of the band at the time but I still wanted to be writing. The first version was really disco-y – it had that four-on-the-floor feel, lots of kick drum. I showed the demo to Fletcher, but he thought there was no hope for it."
Charlie: "He said not to write to it, and I was determined to prove him wrong. I vowed to return with a more sketched-out idea, so I sat in my backyard writing. I put Ellen's guitar part to a poem I'd written, and it almost felt like slam poetry. It's about my history with sex, and how it relates to my childhood trauma. Hayley came in and added this big, yelling chorus. I wasn't sure about it at first, but the more I sat with it the more I realised the song needed it."
Hayley: "The chorus actually came from a jam that Ellen and I were having. I get very hyperactive, so I was just letting loose and yelling a lot. I imagined what it would be like to do that in a song, and that's where it started. Songwriting can be very scary at times. Being truthful can be really intimidating, but being silly comes very naturally."
The proceeding track is the most-different on the album, 'Don't Dream;' beginning with Jeff Buckley guitar and ending with a Dolores O'Riordan ballad:
Hayley: "I wrote this one. It's the only song on the album I sing lead on, too. We were driving to the 12 Apostles, and Charlie woke up that day a bit angry and pissed off for no reason. She said, “I'm feeling angry, but I don't know why.” That ended up being the first line of the song. I was channelling a bit of Elvis when I wrote it, and I was listening to a lot of him and Willie Nelson. Music that my grandmother would have listened to. It has a very 50s format, chord progression and form-wise. I wrote it about Charlie, and what she was going through and just being a friend to her. It was originally called “Charlie's Song.” It breaks up the album quite nicely. I like to think of it as like a tonic for after “Sox.”"
Charlie: "This is like the best-friend lullaby. We tried doing it as a full band, and making it like an Alvvays song or a Best Coast song. We eventually decided it should go back to the original format, and I'm so glad we did."
We then head straight back into it with 'Working Still,' granular, hypnotic & dreamy:
Hayley: "I call this one our My Bloody Valentine banger. This was another one that Fletcher didn't initially believe in, now that I think about it. Once we recorded it, though, he was so excited about it."
Charlie: "We were channelling Hole in the chorus – we wanted a chorus like “Malibu.” I like that the verses are kind of dark and mysterious, and then the chorus is a real na-na-na, catchy hook. The song had a kind of industrial feel in the demo stage, so I wanted to play to that and write about the workforce. We all have jobs – you have to, y'know? We're all realists. I got shoved out the door as soon as I was 14 and nine months and told to get a job. I've been working ever since."
Finally, we hear 'Fussy,' which evolves from the 90's into a 2000s emo phase:
Charlie: "This is another one of my favourites. I came up with the chords in another session with Jono from Cry Club – I wanted him to teach me how to play their song “Two Hearts.” I ended up stealing the chords a little bit, although I changed the fret position. It's a song about being fussy in love, and wanting people to be able to reach these unrealistic expectations I placed on them. I think it speaks a lot to my Borderline Personality Disorder, as well. The whole idea of the favourite person, the trap that you fall into where you place all of your eggs in one basket and wanting someone to encompass absolutely everything at all times."
Hayden: "It's funny – the song is about wanting to make everything perfect, and we all wanted to make the song itself perfect, too. To me, this song felt like a sequel to our song “Lily.” It evokes a very similar emotional response."
Hayley: "I think that for every one of our releases, we need a song that would fit on the Grey's Anatomy soundtrack. This is our entry for that this time around."
And punching through at the very end, 'Wild Days.' The final track 'Wild Days' seems like a slow burner, and then we get a big punch in the schnozz with a trancey shoe-gazing outro like something The Horrors would unleash. You know this song would get freaky live:
Charlie: "Hayley and I share a common thread in that we both had a very volatile adolescence. I would say we were the poster children of being an absolute ratbag fuck-up in your teen years and coming out the other side just wanting to have a nice, peaceful, normal, stable life. We were talking about it once, and asking ourselves things like, “Are we ever gonna fuck up again? Is this it? Are we settled now?” As much as they weren't exactly healthy or good, those days are just something that you look back on in your life. I started writing this song about that conversation. I really love the sentiment at the end of the song, where I sing “My wild days are not over yet/Our wild days are not over yet,” and then the band kicks in. It's so explosive."
Hayley: "On this song the mixing engineer, Matthew Neighbour, actually laid out a bunch of vocal takes that he picked out from other tracks throughout the album, and swelled them together to create this Madonna “Ray of Light” style collage. It's really beautiful. It's better than we could have ever expected. Even just talking about it, I want to cry. That song just instantly grabs you with the first line: “Too young to settle down/Too old to be fucking around.” The one time that we played it to a small room, it was absolutely pin-drop silent. This song is really special. I really cherish this one."
I cannot hype up this album enough. Tell your mum about it, tell your dog and call up your childhood friend, Franklin, and give his ears a blasting too. The album dropped from the heavens on October 8th, and is available now for all the music-gobbling you could ever muster. We give this stunning debut 4 stars and a sparkle.