Music / Features
They Made Me Do It -
Talking Influences with Heir Traffic
Words by Jarrah Saunders
Tuesday 27th October, 2020
Following the release of the The Roman Road / The Bellows earlier this month, we caught up with Heir Traffic to dig into the key influences that inspired their new double-header of arrestingly uneasy post-punk.
Roman roads were famed for their audacious attempts to link points via the straightest, most direct route possible with little regard for geography or manpower. Paradoxically, there’s not a straight line to be found in Heir Traffic’s new track ‘The Roman Road’. The frenzied guitar work cuts sharp angles all over staccato, syncopated bass; the wobbly drums swing irregular grooves, barely anchoring the track, and Hugh Mitchell’s off-kilter vocals are half-spoken, half-shouted at the listener, sounding for all the world like Gold Class singer Adam Curley possessed by the ghost of Mark E. Smith.

The Roman Road / The Bellows is the latest release from the Melbourne post-punks, following last year’s excellent debut 'Is to Clamber to Climb?'. The interval saw Heir Traffic play a slew of gigs across Melbourne before holing up in Frankston’s Singing Bird Studio during a brief respite in lockdown. They also gained a new member in Joe Nurrish, who’s now taking care of their mixing and mastering.

All this has culminated in the new record’s substantially more developed sound, one which still pays homage to their predecessors like The Drones and Protomartyr whilst evolving into something that’s distinctly Heir Traffic. It’s defined by their willingness to embrace dissonance, the aggressive lyrical delivery which conveys animosity whilst expressing complex and heartfelt poetry, and the band’s raw, live-sounding performance that sounds perpetually at the point of breaking under built-up tension.

Heir Traffic were kind enough to talk Trouble Juice through some of the influences on their sound, with each member picking a record that inspired their contributions.

'Bastard Tactics' - LOWER
Luke (guitar/bass): LOWER are a Danish punk band that Zac and I got into around recording time. They’re raw and aggressive and I love the energy they’re able to harness. I particularly like the way the drums are recorded/mixed in this song, really in your face and overpowering, and something we knew we wanted to try and emulate for the singles.

Fisherman’s Blues - The Waterboys
Hugh (vocals): Grew up listening to this album, I find Mike Scott’s lyrics visually poetic and very inspiring for writing my own lyrics. He has a fantastic Scottish accent that highlights his vocals, so much that I have always heard "clambed" instead of "climbed" in the opening lyrics of the second song 'We Will Not Be Lovers'. When I misheard his lyrics I wondered “is to clamber, to climb?” These were the first lyrics I wrote for an Heir Traffic song.

(Answer: to clamber is to climb or move in an awkward and laborious way)

Joy - The Peep Tempel
Zac (guitar/bass): One night after a gig all of us ended up at The Curtin, and upstairs I saw one of my favourite ever shows when Blake Scott and Elsie Lange both played solo sets. It was a memorable night. I got really into The Peep Tempel after that, and was listening to Joy a fair bit when writing and recording 'The Roman Road'. I love everything about the guitars on Joy, the balance between the growly, aggressive parts, and the spooky, droney parts paces the album really well. Elsie Lange and Blake Scott both have records out recently that I am enjoying a lot at the moment as well.

Who is William Onyeabor? - William Onyeabor
Joe (synth): Who is William Onyeabor? is one of the first Afrobeat albums I listened to, and introduced me to a full continent of new music. After hearing 'Fantastic Man' in This Is England ‘90, the song stuck in my head for days, which led me to the full compilation album, and even still, the song is stuck in my head. William Onyeabor’s enigmatic presence and pioneering in the world of synthesis has made him one of my all-time musical inspirations.

How Much Works - Sweet Whirl
Daniel (drums): An album we all love collectively and my personal favourite out of Melbourne this year. I was lucky enough to write about How Much Works when it was first released and took a lot out of the experience. It’s an album I continue to revisit for its use of words and paralleled expression, something I’ve grown to love and look for in new music coming out this year.
The Roman Road / The Bellows is out now - keep up with Heir Traffic by following them below, and check out this playlist to hear a few more choice picks from the band.