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May 21, 2020
Culture

TOWNS has taken to a life lived online

Adelaide two-piece TOWNS had to cancel their secret single launch party at the Crown & Anchor this month, but they've found the Adelaide music scene has only become more connected since isolation.

  • Words: Johnny von Einem
  • Pictures: Supplied

Isolation hasn’t been too hard on TOWNS drummer Daniel Steinert.

“I’ve been pretty happy just being at home,” he says.

Remarks

Connect with TOWNS:
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“The first couple of weeks was pretty hard, trying to settle into it, but after that I leaned into it and felt pretty chill. It was nice.”

CityMag calls Daniel on the day TOWNS had a secret launch party planned at the Crown & Anchor for the band’s most recent single, ‘Stardust.’ Missing dates like these makes the situation a little more difficult to deal with.

Daniel says he has been heartened every time fans of his band have reached out via social media to let him know they’re listening.

It’s a function of the world as it currently is that such connection feels more meaningful – for both artist and audience – and TOWNS is just the right kind of band to foster this kind of digital intimacy.

While the band’s sound is immediately familiar, it is also a strange meshing of seemingly incompatible parts. TOWNS is lo-fi at heart, but will scale up its production where necessary, its heart always beating in digitally syncopated time; the huge choruses in the hands of any other artist might not hit with the trademark TOWNS sincerity, but the music is anchored to the Earth through singer and songwriter Aston Valladares’ softly spoken and earnest lyrics.

This is music to not just sing but feel along with.

Daniel and Aston met at UniSA while both studying a Bachelor of Media Arts.

“It was kind of love at first sight, I guess,” Daniel says.

“There was this fire drill or something like that, and so it stopped us from being inside the class. I saw him wearing a hat or a t-shirt that I liked, and I was like, ‘Oh, this is pretty cool. I think I’m going to like this guy.’ I think he was wearing an Afends hat. I was like, ‘Hey man, I like your hat. Is it cool if I sit here?’”

The two started scrolling through each other’s playlists and found a world of common interests – mostly hardcore music.

Their creative relationship bloomed through car rides listening to music, which then became jam sessions at Aston’s house, before they inevitably got to the point of writing music together.

Before TOWNS was founded, Daniel and Aston played in a hardcore outfit together, but the band wasn’t gelling. The duo started working on a side project together, rehearsing out at Northern Sound System.

At around this time, Aston worked at a Levi’s store, and the brand was looking to reinvigorate its relationship with the music industry. The shop wanted to host some local emerging artists in-store, and Aston raised his hand.

TOWNS had no recorded music to speak, but Daniel and Aston were spurred on to get something locked down. They settled on a demo of ‘I Don’t Mind,’ which would become the band’s first single release, and set the tone for what TOWNS would become.

They were booked for the Levi’s show, and “were noisy as hell,” Daniel laughs.

“We were very nervous, so it was just noise, but people liked it, I guess,” he says.

Daniel uploaded the song to Triple J Unearthed, which then ended up getting airtime on the national broadcaster. Three years later, ‘Stardust’ premiered on the station’s primetime nightly program, Good Nights, on 30 March.

For the song’s accompanying video, Daniel cut together footage captured throughout the band’s three-year history. TOWNS has taken many small steps to get where it is today, and sifting through the footage brought home just how much has changed.

“I was going through all these hours of footage, and you can just see us grow as people, but as a band, too. It was so nuts,” Daniel says.

“I had footage from our very first show there, and I was comparing that to the last possible show we’d played, and I was like, ‘What the hell? This is weird.’”

Daniel grew up in the Barossa and played his first show at the Cranker before he was old enough to drive. Along with the very early influence of a Blue Light Disco deejay for a dad, Adelaide as a city has had a strong influence on TOWNS.

“It’s so deep within Aston and I, and even within the band itself. We ooze Adelaide,” Daniel says.

“The good thing about it is that because everyone knows everybody, it’s a nice, friendly community, and it doesn’t feel like you have to try and one-up each other, if you know what I mean, because we’re all in it together.

“Some of our best friends are the ones that are playing in bands as well – so we really love Teenage Joans, we really love Pinkish Blu. It’s really cool just seeing such a vibrant community, especially now the switch has been flicked and we’re not allowed to go to live shows. You can see everyone’s still lovely and really itching to make the community happen.

“It’s always felt like a little community, but it really just right now feels like we’re all in this one neighbourhood and we’re all neighbours, kind of thing. We’re all just giving each other some sugar and some milk and really helping each other grow.”

TOWNS is playing at one such community-led initiative, Space Jams – an all-day music festival happening over Instagram on Saturday, 23 May.

The social media app has been a useful tool for TOWNS to stay connected with their fans, going live on Stories regularly to speak with their audience and even collaborate with them on songwriting.

Space Jams will be one of the few opportunities available at the moment for Daniel and Aston to celebrate the release of ‘Stardust’ in a communal way, but Daniel is counting down the days until some kind of larger and less socially distant coming together can happen.

“We definitely want to celebrate, that’s for sure,” he says.

“We really want to get out on the road, and I think we have stuff possibly booked for October, if it’s possible for us to get out by then. Otherwise, I really want to do something sooner than that if possible. I want to plan something where we can just vibe with everybody.”

Find TOWNS on Facebook, Instagram, and Bandcamp.

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