Before Adelaide discovered Dead Roo, they were honing their sound in a possum-infested garage. Now, after two solid years of gigging, the quartet are gassed to be releasing an EP that proves they’re more than their alt-country tag implies.
Dead Roo: More than shed rock and roadkill
Google “Dead Roo” and you’ll find a cache of articles related to dead animal carcasses. “We often get friends sending us photos of roadkill being like ‘Saw your band on the side of the road,” says Dead Roo guitarist Jason Katsaras. “But it’s the worst joke!”
In September last year, Dead Roo released their first single ‘Over My Head’, which is wrung with Australian indie-rock. It’s a leisurely track, filled Hamish Gibson-Smith’s sleepy drums and Jason’s zigzagging guitar, but firmly punctuated by Jess John’s honey-covered vocals.
Although the image for ‘Over My Head’ is a toy kangaroo biting bitumen, it makes you nostalgic for a long drive – sans the animal – bookended by a pub meal.
The band’s sophomore single ‘Turn Around’ embodies the same iconography. Jess speaks frankly about “the consequence of my new-found independence” while we’re pulled through a smoke-filled harmonic haze and Stuart Patterson’s heady bass.
Fittingly, Stuart also opens the video clip dressed as Australia’s most iconic mammal with a big hop.
Jason and Stuart from Dead Roo say the band isn’t purposefully trying to lean into an antipodean identity. It just happened.
“Our band name probably makes people think that, but we’re just being ourselves,” explains Jason, “and if we happen to write songs that sound particularly Australian, then that’s just a coincidence.”
Stuart says that when the band started two years ago, they flogged the Dead Roo aesthetic.
But in the midst of recording their five-track EP this year, due early 2020, the quartet decided they wanted to steer away from the image. As it turns out, they also don’t want to reinvent the musical wheel either.
“I mean it all started off in a shed that was infested by possums and there were lots of noise complaints from the angry neighbours,” laughs Stuart, who describes Dead Roo’s sound as “stripped back rock and roll.”
“We try to keep it simple. We’re not trying to break any boundaries,” he adds.
The crew has only released the two aforementioned songs but have crunched through 30 live sets over two years.
The foursome are also up for a pair of 2019 South Australian Music Awards: Best New Artist and Country. While Jason and Stuart say they’re stoked on the hype and industry nominations, they don’t want to be viewed as strictly country either.
“I met Jess at a pub and we got talking about how we wanted to start a country band,” explains Jason. “Dead Roo probably isn’t that country anymore, but when we started that was like a big aim, to write some sort of, if not country, but just kind of quieter rock songs.”
Hamish is one of three co-founders to local imprint Swirl Records, and Jess currently runs her own solo show under her full name.
Jason and Stuart are confident Dead Roo’s first EP will reflect the amalgamation of the team’s talents, and will be a “polished” set from over two years of performing live to regional and metropolitan audiences.
“It’s good to play in front of different crowds,” explains Stuart, adding “last year we were playing quite a lot of gigs, which is really important for a new band to actually develop as a unit and get a live set together.
“And when we have the EP out, it will be like a really nice representation of what Dead Roo live is.”
When Stuart reveals all the bandmates are trying to make it as full-time musicians, CityMag puts it to the pair as to whether they consider themselves true Aussie Battlers.
Despite the trials and tribulations of the music industry, and set against a backdrop of the now-shuttered Holden factory and an ever-climbing youth unemployment rate, will they overcome adversity ?
“We’re the Millennial Aussie Battlers,” says Jason, “Millennial Hospo-Working—”
“We’re the Smashed Avo For Breakfast,” interjects Stuart, “Aussie Battlers.”