It would be fair to say that when The Templebears first hit local stages in the early ’90s, they wouldn’t have expected it would take close to three decades before their debut album would see the light of day as The Electorate.
Splitting after sharing only a handful of releases, the group split, with its members going on to perform with the likes of Big Heavy Stuff, The Apartments, Knievel, Atticus, Reality Instructors, and Imperial Broads. In 2010, a one-off reunion gave rise to further performances, until 2019 saw the dissolution of The Templebears.
In its place came The Electorate, a trio comprising Eliot Fish, Nick Kennedy, and Josh Morris. Following the release of a handful of singles – such as “If I Knew” – across the year, the group released their debut album, You Don’t Have Time to Stay Lost, in September to critical acclaim.
Recorded in Sydney by Tim Kevin (The Apartments, Holly Throsby, Youth Group, Peabody, Buddy Glass) and mastered by JJ Golden (Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Neko Case, Soundgarden) in California, it’s a masterful release that showcases their musical versatility, eclectic influences, and stunning performance style.
Recent single “Good Man” showcases the culmination of these aspects, with its lyrics serving as an example of justifiable outrage at the entitlement, inequality, and the scourge of violence that men direct at women, while its title is reminiscent of the label given by the media to one such individual after murdering his children.
“I remember the three of us seeing Nirvana at Selinas. It was a pivotal moment that changed our trajectory, though it had already started to tack prior to that,” Morris recalls. “Their balance between sounding sonically brutal, but lyrically questioning so much about male behaviour struck a chord, and was then blasted and bolstered by the same intent that Fugazi embodied. I’m not saying we’re in that pantheon, just that we appreciated you could challenge aggression whilst harnessing it.
“‘A Good Man’ is very close to how we sound live. If you take out Nick’s percussion, it’s entirely skeletal. The verse guitar splats and sprays over the precision of the rhythm section, but there’s still desperation and urgency in the playing throughout. It’s the leanest of all the songs on the album.”
“When it came time to record the vocals, I asked our producer Tim Kevin if we could set up a close mic, and a mic at the end of the hall we recorded in, as a nod to [David] Bowie and [Tony] Visconti’s collaboration on “Heroes”, which Nirvana and Steve Albini used on In Utero.”
While the band itself cite a band like Nirvana, and their anti-misogynistic message, as a pivotal moment in their musical journey, so too were the lyrics inspired by an incident of accidental sexism and the appropriate response to such an event.
“The lyrics were a late re-write, sparked by an event at my kids primary school,” Morris continues. “I asked a woman I knew was in the army if the medals her son was wearing at an Anzac Day assembly had been awarded to his grandfather. She turned to me and said, ‘No, they’re mine.’
“She was justifiably put out and I apologised immediately. I thought I was an enlightened guy, but even with the very obvious and clear evidence in front of me, I defaulted to a sexist observation. I realised that so much of who we think we are so often doesn’t match up with who we actually are.
“The lyrics to ‘A Good Man’ take their first steps there, questioning my own white middle class privilege and the opportunities they constantly afford me, at the expense of so many others. I’d been horrified that every woman I know had had a Me Too moment, and that I’d been so oblivious to this for so long. I continue to be outraged that there is gender pay gap in this country and others, that women still have to justify and consider choices in what they wear, and where they walk.
“I continue to be outraged by men who perpetuate any kind of violence against anyone really, but in particular those men who feel it’s ok to beat up women, or kill the children of the women who try to leave them. It’s not a light lyrical listen, but nor should it be.
“It’s also not a great time to be optimistic. Hopefully some of the naive intent of the chorus – ‘Another way, another day, another world‘ – still rings in people’s ears, and stirs them to ask a few questions. Then actually wait and listen to the answers, no matter how uncomfortable it might make them feel.”
The track also comes accompanied by a clip, directed by ARIA Award-winner Suziie Wang, and featuring the talents of film and stage actor Steve Rodgers as the song’s message is put into context.
“The idea is based on recognising and being confronted with the traditional masculine ideals that make ‘A Good Man’ and the harmful effect they have on society and men themselves,” Wang explains. “For generations, the masculine ideals of Stoicism, Competitiveness, Dominance and Aggression, have been both intentionally and unintentionally fostered and integrated into every part of our society.
“Aggression, Terrorizing and sometimes Remorse are sometimes the outcomes of the inability to appreciate and process emotions in a constructive way. A white male of this age is represented here because of the privilege that he represents in society and his life experience. He is at an age where he may have experienced many milestones to do with career, love, raising children, and is at a point where he may start to reflect on his life experiences.”
The Electorate’s debut album, You Don’t Have Time to Stay Lost, is out now, and available on physical and digital formats via the group’s Bandcamp.