-By Luke Keatinge
Mosquito Coast, the 18 year old indie-rock duo have had quite the year. Hailing from the inner suburbs of Perth, this time last year Naomi Robinson (vocals and lead guitar) and Conor Barton (drums) were a relatively unheard high school act jamming in their parent’s basement. Their overnight rise to fame came when they took out Triple J’s Unearthed High competition last year with their super catchy, sun-soaked hit Call my Name, which put them on the map and opened up a bunch of opportunities for them as aspiring musicians.
Since the win, Naomi and Conor have both graduated high school, and have begun making new music while playing shows regularly around Perth. They shortly followed up Call my Name with their second single Commotion, which they recorded with major producer Greg Wales as part of winning the Triple J comp; a song very much in the same spirit of their first single’s chilled-out, guitar-driven Summer-y vibes.
After deferring uni for a year in favour of exploring their music, Naomi and Conor began gigging early in the year and bringing their music to life on stage with an impressive set of songs yet to be recorded. Taking on new band members in the process, Mosquito Coast have opened for some pretty big names like Abbe May, San Cisco and most recently Sydney legends Gang of Youths. With their next stop at Groovin the Moo in Bunbury this weekend, these two show no sign of slowing down any time soon.
I had a chat with Naomi and Conor about how they got started, how it’s been to start playing live shows, and what’s next for Mosquito Coast in 2016.
It’s been quite a while now since you guys took out Unearthed High last August. Are you still buzzing from that?
C: I still have to remind myself that it was real most of the time. We’re still not in the head space of being in the same league as other winners such as Snakadaktal and Japanese Wallpaper.
N: Yeah it’s helped us a lot with our band and kinda pushed us to move forward, play to more people and meet new band people which is really nice.
What was the transition like going from all that attention back to regular life and school? Must’ve been a whirlwind.
C: The day we won was so fun and full on, and slotting back into school and work just made it feel like a parallel world. We both tried to keep school and band pretty separate, hence not doing any shows while studying for WACE. We were pretty boring like that.
N: I liked hearing the principle have to say “Jam”. It was funny. We went straight into exams so I think everyone was really obsessed with that and not failing WACE.
I have to ask about the song that got you the win. To me, Call my Name is a song that you just can’t not love, no matter what music you’re into. It’s just such a great song. How did Call My Name come about?
C: Call My Name began as just another jam between the two of us and it was one of the two songs we decided to record while in Sydney. The lyrics were written together the night before and are kind of inspired by our stay in Bondi. It sounds pretty chill because there wasn’t any expectations and we didn’t think anyone would hear it, which is funny to think now.
How did it feel when it came in at #101 in last year’s countdown?
C: Siiiiiiiiiiiiiick. It’s nice to know that people are feeling the stuff that you make. We partied hard.
N: Warm and fuzzy feeling in me heart.
I wanna ask a bit about how you guys first came together as Mosquito Coast. From what I’ve heard, Naomi put up flyers around her neighbourhood looking for a band mate – which has gotta be one of the coolest stories of how a band got started. I feel like that had to be a pretty big roll of the dice that you’d actually find someone who you’d gel with both musically and personally. What was that all like when you first met?
N: Yeah, I really wanted to start a band so I made some flyers and stuck them around City Beach. I only got one response from this guy (Callum) and then we jammed with my friend Talitha. We asked Callum if he knew any people, and then we got Conor and he was playing keys for us in our band Yetti!
C: It was super lucky.
Did you guys hit it off from the get go?
C: I think it wasn’t awkward cause we didn’t actually talk. We just kept jamming. We became friends pretty quickly though, our first hang was me acting as a zombie in Naomi’s horror movie.
Had you guys been playing music before this? Any previous bands/projects?
C: We met at the end of Year 8 so I was only just confident to start playing with people, so no.
N: My first band was with a group of girls from PLC in Year 8. We were called The Little Red Indians and we would play covers of Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I made it compulsory for us to wear an Indian head band to practice.
Who did you both grow up listening to?
C: ABBA, Paul Simon, Tears for Fears, Cut Copy.
N: The Strokes, Electric Light Orchestra, The Stone Roses, MC5.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
C: Anderson Paak, Rainbow Chan, DIIV, Benjamin Witt, Cymande, Beach House.
N: Pow! Negro, Todd Rundgren, Supertramp, Sly & the Family Stone.
Any dream collaborations?
Naomi: Melody’s Echo Chamber.
I saw you guys play one of your first shows at Jack Rabbit Slims back in January, what was it like when you started playing and getting your songs into these live settings?
C: Playing the songs live was awesome because it was really the first time we’d heard them played all together in full because when we recorded them, Naomi and I both played multiple instruments. When we got a full live band together, everything felt so much more complete.
How was it bringing in the new band members? Did they fit in well?
C: Our new dudes all came from friends of friends so we all clicked really well. Having four people live is so much more fun too! We talk a lot of shit together in the basement and don’t actually get much practice done.
N: Yeah we do! Mitch, Ali and Nathan are really lovely people.
You’ve opened for some pretty big names like San Cisco and Abbe May. What’s it been like to play with such big artists? Who was the most surreal?
C: We’ve been super lucky to play with such cool Perth bands. Abbe May would probably have to be the most surreal because Naomi and I used to sneak in to her shows wherever possible. We even used to do a cover of Taurus Chorus!
How supportive have these artists been to you guys as such a young band? Have you gotten any pieces of advice or anything?
N: o always face the front when you play. Our bass player Mitch taught me how to string my guitar properly so that it doesn’t go out every two seconds! Very good advice!
I saw you guys open for Gang of Youths the other week at the Astor. What was it like playing on that big stage?
N: Really awesome!
I also noticed that night you had Ali from Dream Rimmy on bass. Are you guy’s mates with many other local Perth bands?
C: Naomi and I are pretty new in the Perth scene but our other band members are a bit older and have introduced us to heaps of great people, like Dream Rimmy, Custom Royal and Grrl Pal.
Are there any moments that stand out from across your shows? Do you have a favourite show you’ve played?
C: All our gigs have been pretty fun, but the over 18 San Cisco show was heaps of fun for me. Everything seemed to really click at that moment.
What was it like getting on the bill for GTM? That’s gotta be the biggest show so far, right?
C: Yeah, GTM is going to be huge, we’re so excited. There’s going to be 16 of us staying at a house, so it’s going to be a hectic weekend. When we found out we’d been asked, we were stoked!
What are your plans for the rest of 2016? Any plans to work on any kind of album or EP?
C: We’re recording an EP in June in Sydney. You might hear some of the songs if you catch us live before then.
N: We’re recording in June and then we’re doing some shows over east after that and maybe Big Sound! Which I heard is very fun.
Mosquito Coast are playing at GTM on Saturday May 7th, as well as Players Bar in Mandurah on Friday May 13th and the Audi Art Ball in Perth on Saturday May 14th.
Photo Credit: Mosquito Coast