As a music journalist, you receive an absurd amount of pitches each day. All try to stand out in some way – “ARCTIC MONKEY MEETS FOO FIGHTERS,” one email bellowed in the subject recently, and, let me save you the time, the actual band sounded nothing like those two. Rarely, though, does one jump out quite as much as this one I received last week: “Grecco Romank release their sewer pop album Wet Exit,” the email declared.
“Sewer pop”? What does this mean? Is this what Gen Z calls underground music? And then you listen to the music in question and the term starts to make sense. A little.
Grecco Romank are a Tāmaki Makaurau-based trio – Billie Fee, Mikey Sperring, and Damian Golfinopoulos – who use electronic music as a starting point to explore the deepest and darkest vestiges corners of their musical minds. “Our favourite opera-techno-sludge-Berlin warehouse party genre-smasher,” Flying Out said of the group this week, which is about as close to an accurate description as one is likely to get.
Grecco Romank’s new album is the sound of the rave you never want to end up at but the one you inevitably find yourself magnetically drawn into. Relentlessly pulsating beats pound the mind into submission; weird, whispered words jump out from the darkness unexpectedly (“listless fuckholes,” I think, can be ever so slightly heard in standout track “Celestial Poison”).
Like Rolling Stone AU/NZ favourite Kirin J Callinan, Grecco Romank straddle the line between sublime and silly (the final two tracks are contrastingly named “Piss Baby” and ‘Romance Writer”), the whole endeavour constantly on the verge of collapse. Like Callinan, though, these are just carefree, self-aware, possibly lunatic-adjacent musicians making the music they want to make.
And also like that wonderfully impudent Australian performer, it’s invigorating to listen to a group like Grecco Romank who place value only in creating something fascinating and new, commercial viability be damned. In the hyper-streaming era, when the algorithm often creates a safe cocoon for the musically mediocre, it’s much more refreshing than you realise.
At its best, Wet Exit resembles the throw-everything-and-see-what-sticks approach of the genuinely innovative Jockstrap, albeit with more downright dirty techno arrangements, particularly when Fee’s tender voice really takes flight. There is real care for the complex compositions, no matter how playful they are, and there is plenty of note to be found in the grit and grandeur of the wry narratives.
Grecco Romank’s sophomore album superbly builds on the promise of their 2021 debut, Red Tower, and should cemented the group as underground (“sewer”) favourites.
Rolling Stone AU/NZ asked Grecco Romank to break down each track on their new album in greater detail, which you can read below. The group will tonight begin their album launch tour in Hamilton, with further stops planned in Christchurch, Dunedin, Wellington, and Auckland (tickets available here).
Grecco Romank’s Wet Exit is out now via Moral Support.
Wet Exit Track by Track:
“Bursar & Bone”
We wanted this song to showcase our range and also offer a few new surprises in the Grecco arsenal. One of our powers is having two contrasting vocalists. So we can always create drama and duality. Billie is classically trained and this was a great opportunity to pair a dark, folk-like melody with a stripped down and brutalist arrangement. The second section then drives home Mikey’s gruff delivery of a series of misheard lyrics (“slicks in the powder room/slips in the powder room”) and Hermione Johnson plays ragged improv embellishments on piano. “Bursar & Bone” opens the album as a kind of call to arms, with a soaring melody inspired by Gregorian chant and traditional folk song with a driving galloping kick drum that foreshadows the rest of the album’s heavy dance beats.
Grecco loves to inhabit villains. This song is about snake oil salesmen, new age death cults and pseudoscience. “Celestial Poison” is our attempt to write a New Romantics-inspired pop hit, but it ends up coming out like a mix between the Pet Shop Boys and The Skeptics (NZ’s best band ever, period). It all culminates in a battle between Ron Gallipoli’s yodelling and Jeff Henderson’s baritone sax. Completely nullifying any potential for it to be a pop hit.
“Spit It Out”
It starts as a fight song that then becomes a complicated discourse on legal technicalities and a critique of stale institutions of power. Our mastering engineer Joshua Lynn calls this our ‘moussaka pizza’ because it’s weird and dense and structurally unsound. We play around with a musical theme, then leave it behind moving to a completely different scene and tone.
Somehow we’ve become good at using the word “love” almost always as a kind of threat. This features a beautiful guitar accompaniment by Ex-Partner.
This is almost like a half time reprieve in the album. A smoke break. We gave writer and producer Michael McClelland (Center Negative) a folder full of our isolated vocal parts and he fed these through a series of artificial intelligence programs. It spat out a deranged babble of incoherent voices that mutter throughout. What’s fascinating is that the program ended up focusing on the phrase “slicks in the powder room/slips in the pounding room” from “Bursar & Bone”. So it’s almost like the unofficial chant of the album.
The unison vocal threats read like a doom scrolling headline generator. Ōtautahi-based punk family band Moider Mother (Nick Harte of The Shocking Pinks) intro the track which was an idea we got from The Fall on their track “Spectre Vs Rector”.
Check out our crazy video we made with visual artist Joshua Harris-Harding for this song. It sums up what the lyrics and this paragraph cannot. The story is roughly about a future gig economy where mutant children are forced to work in unsanitary conditions cleaning waste. At night these youth gangs roam the grim cities meting out cruel forms of entertainment. And in this video our young leader’s karma is dealt a blow after she heckles a demi-god, shaving him bald. The young punk gets an infection of ‘bird beaks’ and is set on fire by the local gnostic priest. Our young leader is then reincarnated without hair in heaven.
This song is one part football hooligan anthem, one part fire and brimstone sermon. At one time in history, Christendom was divided along theological lines by a phrase that was etched into a toilet wall. Now we are divided by those who can piss in the street and those who cannot. It questions the poor town planning of our neoliberal city – how can we remain civilised when there are no facilities freely available?
“Romance Writer” is probably the only song we’ve written that is explicitly about a subject, and it borders on being comedy. Most of our songs don’t present our point of view – but instead the perspective of the characters we conjure. We can be terrible, arch and severe entities from dystopian worlds or… a romance writer, of the Mills & Boon variety, down and out. His schtick wearing thin. Even his leading heroine becomes possessed with free will, and by the end of “Romance Writer” she has abandoned the author to a writers block.
Once again we were blessed to work with one of our favourite musicians – the talented Hermione Jonson who brought a Liberace-inspired fury of sweet and beguiling accompaniment. Much like the swooning quality that lulls readers into the sickly and sweet genre trappings of romance novels. The video for this track was shot by director Britt Walton and we felt it only right to serve up and honour the New Wave Victorian aesthetic of the ’70s. In it we see the tortured author come to realise his quickly loosening grip on his strong-willed heroine, whose split alter ego is awakened by a dark stranger. But then a series of loaded cliches helps her come to her senses and head for the hills.