Craig Dermody is the archetype of the striving musician. Having established a career in two continents with dozens of other players, his determination for recognition is perfectly encapsulated by the hand painted covers adorning 200 copies of his debut album, which itself is one seriously bleak account of a man living on a shoe and guitar string.
Now a certified New Yorker with a firm backing band, tours and his material in worldwide circulation thanks to Critical Heights, his moniker Scott & Charlene’s Wedding will soon allow him to toss his struggling Melbourne days behind him like a overbearing bouquet. But before that, having reviewed his album Para Vista Social Club, DrunkenWerewolf’s Graham Ashton wants Craig to do some reminiscing for us:
How did you transition from your bands Spider Vomit and Divorced into writing your solo material? How did your own work differ from what you’d written as a group?
Divorced is actually written in the same fashion as Scott & Charlene’s Wedding, in the way that I write the core of the song on my own and then bring it to the band. I write Divorced songs on the bass and S&CW songs on the guitar. Spider Vomit was written all as a group, which I found difficult, but I did really love that band.
How was your move from Australia to New York, and what impact did it have on your music?
Rookie year in New York is tough for everyone; I did it pretty tough for the most part. I'd gone from everyone knowing and helping me to nobody caring at all. I only managed to play three shows in my first year because bookers wouldn't book S&CW, not to mention I had a lot of trouble finding musicians who were willing to play with me.
I just kept writing the same way I always had but, character building times are always good times to write.
I read that you had a new line-up that you met in Brooklyn. How did you assemble them as a band and what has it been like to have them play songs from the album?
I've had about 20 line-up changes since relocating to Brooklyn and now I’m pretty settled on the crew I've met here now. The first was Ian Savage who is my boss at work, bass player and great friend who I met through mutual friends.
During CMJ 2011 I went to the Underwater Peoples showcase determined to find a pop drummer after having several fall through on me. I barely even said two words to Mike Myman of Underwater Peoples and Family Portrait before I asked him to drum and he said yes. Getting him on board was a huge turning point.
Lead guitar has been shared between old Melbourne friends Dion Nania and Michael RC.
Just a little plug for yourself; tell us a bit about your work as a set designer. Are you currently producing any other forms of artwork?
Ha, not much to tell really. I'm an assistant to actual set designers like my bassist Ian Savage and other really great people. I've been lucky enough to work on some really interesting projects like Bette Middlers Halloween party or the NBA video game party where I saw Scottie Pippen and Kevin Durant.
I've just begun painting a second round of 200 records and other assorted artworks along with painting T-shirts.
Before you recorded and released your solo album, was it difficult at all balancing your music with your working life? Is it any more or less difficult now?
It’s always been difficult to balance the two; long days always! Music and art never seem like work so I'm happy to spend time on them after a long day at another job.
What’s the source behind the heavy distortion sound on your guitar tracks? Is it inspired by some of the bands you listened to throughout life, or did it just come about over the years?
To be honest it’s mostly to cover up my guitar playing. I'm super rough and a lot of the time embarrassed about my guitar playing and singing so I make it loud and messy. It does help that some of my favourite bands use this technique too.
How autobiographical are the songs in your Para Vista Social Club?
Extremely autobiographical. I think of that record as a story and a representation of my life during those times.
You originally hand painted individual copies of Para Vista Social Club before its release by Critical Heights Records. How long would you take to paint a single sleeve, and where would you find the inspiration for each piece of cover art?
Some took thirty seconds, some took a week; they all had a separate way of being done. Girls and humour are my main source of inspiration for the pairings. I always use the same characters and they're always getting up to something that makes me laugh.
Were you, at one point, content with just printing 200 copies of the album? If it had stayed at just 200, where did you imagine they would’ve wound up a few years down the line?
Yeah I was content with 200. I had very modest intentions for that record and really doubted my chances of selling 200. If it had just stayed at that I would like to think they would end up in the houses of my friends, like they are now.
More than one song in the album emulates the hopeless loneliness one can experience aboard a train journey. Do you feel that the mundane or everyday tasks of life work effectively as song subjects?
The train trips I reference in the record are based on specific events that were very out of the ordinary. I just happened to be going through life changing experiences while I was on trains, where I do spend a lot of time. “Epping Line” is about hearing news of my mother passing away. Those big moments are important as song subjects and the songs are important to help me get through those big moments.
There’s an excellent ambiguity to “Back in Town”, where you can kind of identify with what it’s talking about, yet at the same time be completely baffled. What were you trying to say in that song about the way humans interact with each other?
Um, not too much about humans interacting, ha ha. I was in love with a girl I couldn't have and she arrived in Melbourne the day we recorded what was possibly going to be an instrumental track. I was pretty worried about seeing her and those words were just on my mind.
Just going by the nice, raffish quality to your videos for “Footscray Station” and “Rejected’, would you say you shy away from high production values or will your next videos be more ‘conventional’?
To me it’s all about making what you can with what you got. With those clips I had a small camera, no money and a sense of humour. I'd love to make things with greater production values, no doubt my work will always be a little trashy, but that’s just me.
How would you want your music to be interpreted, and/or not want it to misinterpreted?
Have you got anything written or finished yet for the follow up album?
I have the next record written in my mind. To me that’s 90% done but it will be a while before its finished.
Lastly, what do you identify as your greatest challenge in getting to where you are now, and what has been the biggest help?
It’s challenging taking all the failures, they far out way the successes. I've found perseverance to be as important as any characteristic in this game. I've got a bunch of rules I try to keep to when it comes to rock 'n' roll but I think the most important one is KEEP GOING!