CINEMATIC POWER POP? THE CAT’S GOT THE PRIZE



SHEESH, YOU MAKE ONE COMMENT and next thing it’s all anyone wants to talk about and you’re having to explain about those ears.


No, not Ye; we’re talking Nadine Muller of Melbourne’s pop-with-loadsa-guitars-and-no-little-bit-of-punk-energy, The Prize – the kind of band that either reference themselves or are compared with the likes of Blondie, The Nerves, The Toms, Cheap Trick, Incredible Kidda Band and Thin Lizzy.


Drummer, co-lead singer and co-writer of a band that’s existed for less than two years, has released four songs (via two singles and an EP) and isn’t due to record a debut album until early next year, Muller knows there isn’t a whole lot to talk about just yet. There’s only so many ways to discuss touring with The Chats or why fellow Melbourne crew, Amyl And The Sniffers, really are fucking awesome.


But talk she must as she’s been getting a few requests for interviews alongside triple guitarists Carey Paterson (the other lead singer and lyricist), Joseph Imfeld and Austin Haire, and bassist Jack Kong.


In one of those interviews she talked about how, along with the Ramones-flavoured film, Rock ‘n’ Rock High School, 2001’s Josie And The Pussycats – the live action, government conspiracy-with-gags-and-product-placement take on the ‘60s animated series about an all-female band with, as I’m sure we all remember, Tara Reid as the cats-ear-sporting drummer Melody Valentine – played a big role in inspiring Muller to play rock’n’roll.



“Now every radio interview I do they play a Josie And The Pussycats track afterwards,” she says ruefully, but not regretfully. “I put it out there, but I back it. I love that movie; I loved the comic. They had some pretty good songs for a fake band.”


This is true. With writers like Adam Schlesinger from Fountains Of Wayne, Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Gos, and powerpop maven, Jason Faulkner among the contributors, Josie et al were guaranteed pop hooks and tunes. And for Muller and friends, with Rock ‘n’ Roll High School came the speed, the ‘tude and again the hooks. That’s plenty of inspiration, albeit filmic and fictional.


“I was a kid with a big imagination, maybe that came with being an only child, and this fake world really appealed to me,” she says, also listing as favourites, The Labyrinth (a film which starred another musician who did all right, David Bowie), and That Thing You Do, Tom Hanks’ film about the brief but busy life of a one-hit ‘60s band (whose central song was written by Schlesinger).


“They really played a big part in my musical development and the idea of being in a band.”


What’s weird about this though is that Muller had the real thing under the same roof as her. Her father, Dean, is the drummer of veteran punk/yob/grunge rock legends, Cosmic Psychos (that’s him on drums as Nadine steps upfront for a performance of Cheap Trick’s Surrender at their EP launch).



Was she balancing the grittier reality with the glittery dream?


“My dad has always had a job – he’s a screen printer – and it was drilled into me not to fully rely on music for an income. So I built a career for myself early on as well that’s provided that balance so I could survive and pay my rent and take time off on tour when we need to.”


That part-time career/full-time financial base sees her working as a hair and make-up artist, often on film clip shoots and styling work for other musicians.


“It was a good lesson [from her father] but at the same time I have friends who do the opposite of that, threw everything into music early on and struggled and slept on friends couches and did a really tough, and now they’re one of the biggest bands in the world, like King Gizzard,” Muller says. Not that she’s complaining. “I’m really lucky that I found something that can give me that time to play music.”


And to write. Though songwriting is relatively new for her, with she thinks maybe two songs in her pre-Prize life, and they didn’t go far anyway (“After breakups, just me and an acoustic guitar playing three chords.”). But in the depths of the Covid lockdown, as the band formed at a distance and a disadvantage, when no one in The Prize was angling to be a lead singer, Muller took it on, and the job of putting lyrics to these songs often generated by Paterson and Imfeld.


Sounds almost like a film plotline. Just like her answer to this next question sounds like the film poster line. Not much songwriting experience and suddenly the lyricist, was she worried? “I like doing stuff that scares me.”



The Prize play The Lansdowne Hotel, on Friday, and The Enmore Hotel, on Saturday.