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Interview with City Calm Down's frontman

Years of singing like a lunatic in the car paid off for Jack Bourke

Even though they’ve been together since 2008 and some of the lads have played together since high school, Melbourne-based four piece City Calm Down have been the subject of a solid buzz lately – NME wrote them up as a band to watch and they’ve been selling out shows across the nation – good for them, shame for those enjoying them as an underground treat.

Jack Bourke, City Calm Down’s lead singer, has a deep, resonant rumble of a voice and the band’s tunes harken back to dark electro-pop-rock outfits like Joy Division and Echo and the Bunnymen. Bourke realised he had the type of pipes made for that sound when he used to trek out to Monash, back in the days he studied science and law.

“If I didn’t go to uni out in Clayton, I probably wouldn’t have done as much singing practice,” Bourke says. “It was about a 30 to 45 minute drive that I’d make to and from uni each day and I didn’t have a radio. I’d just belt out tunes in the car. It’s a funny thing to do, you look like you’re insane, but you can hear everything that your voice is doing. There’s no bathroom reverb to cover up any pitch errors, so you can cast a pretty close eye over the things you want to improve. Although, back then I was just doing it because I was bored.” 

The band have also just released their first full length album, In a Restless House, after a string of popular EPs. When reflecting upon the differences between earlier releases and the debut LP, Bourke observes that their sound has matured. “The bands that we aspire to be like, not necessarily sound wise, but in terms of the quality of music that they produce, always put such and emphasis on melody – everything else wraps around melody,” he says. “Previously, we had focused on the sonic elements of the songs and that’s important – we enjoy getting into the nitty gritty in that regard – but in the past we were distracted easily from the essence of good song writing. I think we’ve improved and matured in that regard. I don’t think we’ve matured though – I still feel like I’m ten years old.”

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