At the Bar with Ray Dalfsen from West Thebarton

Adelaide rockers West Thebarton’s second studio album Mongrel Australia is packed with punch – from the tirade-like opener of MF World to the pep talk of Humble Heart, lead singer Ray Dalfsen takes us on a swings and roundabouts approach through life’s ups and downs.

There’s hook laden melodies in George Michael; a punk salute on Tapes with its frenzied wah-wah vices and Modern Australia captures a sonic bird life backdrop that taps into the off-kilter energy of punk greats Fugazi.

The Write Drop spoke to Ray Dalfsen for our At The Bar series. The band is touring Australia this month.

MY CITY 

I live Adelaide, the best coastline with an abundance of southern charm and the hidden gem of Australia. As a teenager, I remember seeing so many bands leave for the Eastern States, and that’s the exact reason why I’ve wanted to call Adelaide home – to feed the culture and be part of a ripping vibe that’s always simmering here.

FAVOURITE BAR

Hard one! Golden Wattle in Adelaide is probably my favourite, if not for the cosy atmosphere, the bar staff are always witty and it’s plastered with Port Adelaide Football Club memorabilia. A White Knight shot washed down with a few pints of Coopers Mild Ale always seems to do the trick and it’s even more of a must when initiating someone new to the pub too.

DRINK THAT DESCRIBES YOU

Spicy Margarita – classic, but make it spicy.

BEST HANGOVER CURE

Hair of the Dog – a nice cold beer in a can, after a night on the gas and all the problems go away.

BEST INTERSTATE BAR

The Courthouse in Newtown – fond memories of buying a few take-aways, going over the road and laying in the sun for hours and then heading back for a few pints. Sydney 101!

FAVOURITE WINE 

Ochota Barrels Fugazi. Chef’s kiss. An absolute beautiful red from my great State and named after an even better band.

FAVOURITE WINERY

Patritti Winery in South Brighton, South Australia. I remember taking friends here visiting from interstate and they couldn’t believe you could go from a place that belongs in the Hills to the beach in five minutes – so I stand by the old saying “location, location, location”

NEXT DESTINATION 

Touring Australia in June. Looking forward to stretching my legs and leaving a trail of noise in a few cities soon. 

TELL US ABOUT THE INSPIRATION FOR THE NEW ALBUM

This new record is about the people, the experiences and culture we’ve all had growing up in ever-changing Australia. So many stories are plastered through the record and really capture what we think it means to live in this country. From the bullshit at times politics, to the beautiful nature to the people you meet and fall in love with. At times this record feels like it’s set in a dream world, whilst at others, it’s on the coalface of reality. We wanted to tell the stories we’ve lived through, because in reality, we’re not the only ones who have lived these stories, everyone has gone on similar journey. It’s not how much fight is in the dog, it’s how willing the dog is to fight.

WHAT’S THE CREATIVE PROCESS LIKE

Over the years, we’ve gotten very ‘in tune’ with each other, to the point where we finish each other’s sentences and know the punchlines to jokes well before the others have said them. We all do a bit of writing, which sounds chaotic, but it just works for us and I wouldn’t have it any other way to be honest. As soon as one person introduces a new song, the band sort of puts it through a ‘West Theb’ filter and the song comes out the other end.

JUGGLING CAREER AND MUSIC AMBITIONS

One word – difficult. But it’s manageable. We all are addicts of writing, playing and listening to music, so it’s awesome that we get to live out the dream.

THREE SONGS – GIVE US A CRASH COURSE 

HUMBLE HEART

It’s about being nervous to do something and taking a step out of yourself. I remember playing a festival in Wollongong knowing we needed to play a good show. We had a great slot, right before some big bands and I was sober, which isn’t ideally where I’d like to be before a show. I remember doing a vocal warm up and in my head being my own footy coach – telling myself I was going to kill it. Sounds weird I know. The day after the show I jotted down some lyrics to go back to if I ever needed that jolt again and Humble Heart was born.

DESIRE

I was watching the film True Romance, and related to it. I could feel the intimacy and the intertwined romance of the characters. The movie is shot like a music video and I wanted to write a song that captured those feelings of what the characters did to me. A kind of mundane reality of a suburban love story, where going on a 45-minute drive to the beach down on the south coast was the equivalent of driving with your love off a cliff and plunging to your death. I wanted the world to feel the relatability I had at that moment.

NECK PAINS

I met a bloke a few years ago while working in a hospital. His grandson had cancer and he was frustrated that he couldn’t do anything to help him. All he wanted to do was switch places and be the sick one. After about 10 phone calls back and forth, hearing him through tears, anger, fear, I understood how it felt to see your grandson aged 16 ‘fall through the cracks’. He died not long after unfortunately, and I’ll never forget the phone call I got when he called me to tell me the news. I’d never met him face to face, or his grandson, but I remember him telling me over again through tears, how much he wished it had happened to him.

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