Totally Unicorn

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Totally Unicorn

Although debut albums are usually the business of young, up and coming bands, the first full length release from hirsute hardcore heroes Totally Unicorn is one several years in the making. The band have been active in some way, shape or form since 2010, after coming together in Wollongong following the split of Hospital The Musical, which featured founding members singer Drew Gardner, drummer Mike Bennett, and original guitarist Clancy Tucker.

“I was such a huge fan of that band,” says Aaron Streatfield, one of the two current guitarists who stepped in to replace Tucker upon his departure in late 2012.“I’d known them through that, and got to see them a lot when it changed over to Totally Unicorn. My band at the time [Snakes Get Bad Press] even got to play a few shows with them.

“When Clancy left, I heard through a mate of mine that they were thinking of approaching me to try out. I thought it was just crazy – even though we were acquainted at that point, I was still such a big fan,” he says. “They decided to see what it would be like with two guitarists in the band, and that’s where I met Kerim [Erkin] for the first time. Amazingly, that first run through together went really well. We definitely had our work cut out for us with what Clancy left behind, but Kerim and I immediately hit it off and were throwing ideas back and forth straight away.”

The lineup of Totally Unicorn has shifted several times since the band’s inception. Along with the departure of Tucker, their first bassist Robert Mudge lasted less than a year before relocating overseas. He was replaced by Tim McMahon from 2011 up until last year, where his spot was filled by the most recent addition to the family, Lee Nielson. Coincidentally enough, this reunited Nielson with Streatfield, with whom he had played guitar in the initial version of Snakes Get Bad Press. “This was a new one for him, as he had never played bass in a band before,” says Streatfield.

“We’d spent a lot of time living together, but we lost touch after he left Snakes and we moved out of our sharehouse. Eventually, we got back in contact and I floated the idea of getting him in to replace Tim – Lee was just as big a Hospital the Musical fan as I was, and he knew exactly what kind of thing the band was after. I remember the first jam that he came to, he had learned way more songs than any of us imagined he would. He slotted in quite well – thankfully, there have never been too many painful transitions as far as the band’s concerned.”

Totally Unicorn have spent the last few years keeping busy with some choice international supports, such as Kvelertak and Rolo Tomassi, a split 7” with the late Robotosaurus and a smattering of raucous local shows. All the while, however, the band have slowly but surely been working towards the release of Dream Life, their long awaited debut, set for release at the end of July through Wollongong label Farmer & The Owl. With personal lives occasionally getting in the way of the process – three of the five band members are married, while Erkin also has a young daughter – Streatfield recalls the writing of Dream Life being arduous and filled with obstacles, yet entirely worth it in the end.

“We had all of the drums recorded first with Tim [Carr], just so we had something down,” he says.

“Kerim and I listened back to the 10 or 11 songs from that session, which were recorded to guide guitars with no vocals, and we came to the conclusion that we weren’t entirely happy with where things were headed. We proposed rewriting and arranging the songs using the drum tracks that we had already recorded. The other guys didn’t like that idea at first, they were happy with the songs the way they were. We pushed to let them see what we could come up with on our own, though, and I ended up writing two new songs out of the incomplete drums. Kerim did the same, and we’re pretty happy with what we came up with.”

The band have already released three songs from Dream Life: Customer Service Station, which sports a hilarious Parkway Drive aping music video, as well as Space Congratulations and Convict Brick, which features High Tension vocalist Karina Utomo as a guest vocalist.

“She’s a legend of a person, as anyone who’s met her knows,” says Streatfield. “We were talking about people that we wanted to appear on the record, and I think Karina was one of the first that had their name thrown into the ring. It was pretty much a no brainer for everyone in the band – she’s been a mate for a long time, and she brings her A game on this song. I don’t think the band has ever sounded heavier than with her up the front.”
Written by David James Young

Release: Dream Life is out via Farmer and the Owl from July
When & Where: Northcote Social Club, Melbourne – September 23