WAKING UP TO HOT BUTTERED PSYCHEDELIC PORN CRUMPETS



SONGWRITER/SINGER/GUITARIST/VIBE MERCHANT Jack McEwan greets the world today “slightly hung over” after “waking up in a weird hotel room in Sydney” that seems about the size of a normal cupboard. That seems especially unfair for someone whose home is in Perth, a city that’s not just the most isolated capital in the world (allegedly) but one where space is not the final frontier; it’s everywhere.


But hey, McEwan’s not complaining. “I’ve got a window, so that’s what I can stare out of here”. And the grin on his tired face suggests he’s not faking it.


Gotta love a man who can find the joy in the small things. Imagine spending a couple weeks in one of those with the window sealed and your food being dropped off at the door by masked arrangers.


“Oh man. You know in Perth it’s a myth,” he says, shaking his head – gently – at the oddballs and cumquats. “No one believes Covid is a thing there.”


Speaking of the edge of reality as much as the edge of the continent, it occurs to me that I’ve found myself talking to someone who references 14th century philosophers, Jurassic Park and moonshine when talking about a new record of psych rock and trippy pop whose cover looks like Bosch crossed with Goya, and who has the same name as a man who had one of the briefest terms in power as Prime Minister, Black Jack McEwan.


It makes the fact that his band’s name is the in-no-way-ridiculous, best breakfast of all time, seem perfectly normal. Well, almost. Is there any part of culture beyond the realms of the world of Psychedelic Porn Crumpets?


“That’s part of our search for discovering whatever it is that we need to discover,” McEwan says, barely holding back a smile. “We are making music along the way and this is the sound of our journey.”


Fair enough. What did I think I was going to get with that question?


More seriously, sort of, the fact is McEwan and friends don’t have to do lysergic anythings, and nor do we, when they can just throw their mindblowing melange at us and we can go tripping on that alone.

“If we can take it out of your diet, then there is only one person who feels bad in the morning,” a selfless McEwan says. Or alternatively, there’s only one person who feels good all day every day. “Yeah, that’s another way to look at it.”


Not that I want to bring down the value of the band’s name, especially when, as my wife had reminded me shortly before the interview, those of us who remember the ‘80s remember semi-mythical bands like the English The Very Idea Of Fucking Hitler and Sydney’s The People With Chairs Up Their Noses.


“Oh man,” McEwan laughs heartily. “That is a brilliant band name. And you’d want to listen to them. I’m a fan of The People With Chairs Up Their Noses without listening to a single song. I’m already a fan.”


He is right of course. Just like, yes, Psychedelic Porn Crumpets. Why wouldn’t you want to hear what they sound like, even if you thought you were likely to run away screaming. Just one listen at least, right?


Now, the truth is most band names aren’t that interesting, and their origin stories are even less so, usually coming out of desperation more than inspiration, sometimes the fruit of the 3am discussion when people are 16 and stoned out of their gourds. But then they have to live with it, or live up to it. Do people have certain expectations of McEwan’s band from the name alone, that he isn’t always able or willing to meet?


“I suppose so. I’ve always thought it’s like it could be this strange solo project, though you are never working with children again. Or you our never going to get a job in university,” he says.


“Now, I’m a bit older and working up towards it and what we are releasing, the band name is almost too much of a hit sometimes, if you want to release something a little bit softer or a bit more of a thought album, which I suppose we have done. But that’s the whole idea of it, that it’s this absurd and it is kind of out there that you automatically have something before the music.

“Band with these song names, you don’t need to do the big social media posts when you’ve got that.”


Actually, they do appear to have dialled back the song titles a bit on this new record, Night Gnomes. I mean, Bubblegum Infinity could be a K-pop song, Microwave Dave could be, at a stretch, a Paul Kelly title, and … actually, taking another look, there are moments like Slinky/Holy Water and Lava Lamp Pisco, so, umm, yeah.



Still, chairs/noses/slinky holy water aside, there are changes afoot. With their last album, Shyga! The Sunlight Mound, many reviews (like, well, mine) talked about how it was faster, louder, weirder, more, more, more, then they had been previously. There’s a limit to taking that route however, and one of the more impressive things about Night Gnomes is that it doesn’t try to go over the top in any easy direction.


It’s arguably weirder, but it’s also more about exploring the Crumpet way of things, going further in than further out.


“I think we forgot about everything because we were in lockdown and nothing was cool, nothing was trendy, it was a level playing field for everything: musicians, films … nothing was coming out and it was hard to find some form of creativity,” McEwan says. “So in some ways this is the most genuine record that we’ve done, or created, because there was nothing to be entertained by; it was raw kind of emotion from being at home.


“The more I talk about it, the more I listen to it, it kinda feels this is what was in our brains at the time, there were no strings dangling to pull on.”


Shyga had come as a result of “an adrenaline push” after the massive touring they did in 2019, being on the road for virtually 10 months. This time, with no touring through 2021 and 2022, the mindset was closer to wondering “if you are going to have a career anymore, if music’s going to be a thing”.


In fact, there wasn’t even a plan to make a record until all of a sudden it came into existence as songs tumbled out. Oddly enough, the first two songs written – Terminus, The Creator and Slinky/Holy Water – felt immediately like opening and closing tracks and the task became plotting a path between them, and finding the sonic world. Though even here, the Crumpets way is a little disorienting.



McEwans says he only really plays guitar, the sounds on the record that appear chipped from some wacky scientist’s toolbox turning out to be variations and modifications of his regulation six strings. “So if I want a synth I have to pitch the guitar into some octave, slam it with reverb or something so it sounds different, and then maybe compress it so much that it’s got some sort of sawtooth bite”.


Do you get the feeling McEwan – very much in the mad genius/lone lunatic Perth mould of Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker – had time to burn, no one to say stop, and a studio at his disposal?


“I have mixed feelings about it now,” he says. “The more I listen to music, the more I am like ‘I suppose it needs to be a person behind it’. I think I sometimes get quite caught up when it’s just you recording at home. If it was a DJ, you don’t question Fatboy Slim, but when you say you’re a band it’s like ‘that’s not an instrument, this is not an instrument’, but you’re still the same guy behind a laptop.


“I found a lot of comfort listening to Caribou [Canadian musician and producer Dan Snaith], his music when he first came out: so guitar heavy, drums. That Andorra album is just beautiful and there are parts in that where you just lose yourself. But then the more you listen to him discovering his own self, he’s just stripped back to you don’t know what instrument is on any of that.


“He has found music differently, and I think that’s where we are heading.”


Night Gnomes is out now. Psychedelic Porn Crumpets will play

Crowbar, Sydney, June 30

Republic Bar, Hobart, July 1

Lion Arts Factory, Adelaide, July 2

The Rechabite, Perth, July 9

The Corner, Melbourne, July 15

The Triffid, Brisbane, July 16