Dream a Little Theme

7 November 2018

Interviews Mia Timpano

Illustrations Edith Vignal

Casey Bennetto by Edith Vignal

Casey Bennetto from Superfluity

Illustration by Edith Vignal

SUPERFLUITY // Tuesdays 8pm to 10pm // Casey Bennetto

Casey, the Superfluity theme is a thing of beauty, constantly changing. Why record a new one every time? You’re very kind – merciful, even! It’s really more a way to motivate myself than anything else, especially in weeks where I’m not busy; it’s nice to be able to finish a slow week and say, ‘Well, at least I made this one thing’ – arbitrary and disposable as it is. And it’s become a little resource for me; I find myself occasionally going back to see how I chose to record a certain feel or sing in a particular style for one of them, or to steal a random chord progression from them. But if the week’s been busy with other projects, I’m happy to use an old theme instead, so it’s not always new every time. We’ve done (checks the count) 338 shows and there are 296 themes so far, so clearly there’ve been 42 weeks where I couldn’t be bothered. Oh, and Scod did a couple as well!

Some of the themes are really elaborate. How much time goes into writing and recording each one? Normally they’re written and recorded on the day (Tuesday). Sometimes I’ll start them in the morning, intending the process to take an hour or so, and then say, ‘That bit needs handclaps,’ and, ‘I’ll just try the guitar part again,’ and look up and most of the day’s been eaten by it – not the desired effect. But sometimes I’m doing other stuff, and there have been a few where the recording doesn’t start until 6pm, which can make it a bit of a squeeze.

Do you have a ‘process’? It’s not always the same. Indeed, that’s kinda the point of doing it. Sometimes I start with a particular musical feel that I want to try; sometimes it’s a verse or two of scribbled lyrics; sometimes I don’t wanna sing at all, so it’s instrumental. I’ve written feels around sampled vocal hooks that Scod or Clem sing at me over the phone, and regular listener Sara Bellum has come into the home studio and sung one herself. I remember one week, the lyrics were the clues to The Age’s cryptic crossword that day; for another, the hook was John Sebastian’s ‘Welcome Back’ chopped into 4/4. I’m foolishly proud of how stupidly random it is.

Where do you draw inspiration from? Sometimes it’s the music I’ve just been listening to. It’s great fun trying to do stupid faux-Talking Heads or faux-Ween… or faux-anything, really. You’re almost guaranteed to fuck it up enough so that it’s its own thing. Sometimes it’s events of the week, or a particular groove that pops up. Anything really.

What’s the trick to coming up with something new and fresh every week? If you find out, please, PLEASE let me know. Just a hint, even.

Which Superfluity themes were the hardest to create? The only ones that take multiple days to create are the post-Radiothon ones (where everyone who subscribed to us during our show the previous week is name-checked), so I guess they’d be the trickiest. They’re excruciatingly long with lots of forced rhymes, and you have to find a way for it to be listenable. Or at least try to. Not always entirely successfully.

Any personal favourites? 30 (‘Brian Nankervis, You’re Making Me Nervous’); 70 (‘Marieke Hardy’); 110 (‘Georgia Fields’); 202 (‘Sugarplum’); 193 (‘Selina Jenkins’), because ‘Khe Sanh’ needs to be sampled more; the one for the 250th show; and the live 300th one I wrote with Scod, just to hear the lovely crowd.

Have you ever wished you didn’t have to keep creating new themes every week? Oh, for sure – hence the tendency for the cheating dive into the back catalogue. But it’s fun to make stuff, and it’s good to have a regular reminder of that.

What do you reckon is the most important thing to keep in mind when coming up with a show theme? Rhymes for ‘Superfluity’. If you think of a new one, cradle it gently. I don’t think I’ve used ‘annuity’ or ‘fortuity’ yet, but the hour is fast approaching.

Which other Triple R show themes do you love? Einstein A Go Go expertly deploying the Landscape song. JVG’s use of ‘Big Bad John’, particularly the ‘behind this console’ insert. And it’s not a theme per se, but Nicole Tadpole singing over ‘Holy Diver’ is everything that’s great about RRR.

Any other fun facts about your show theme? They’re all at superfluity.com.au, and if you chose to listen to them all in a row, it’d take just under eight hours to get through them. I should add: medical authorities strongly discourage any such behaviour, as does common sense.

Annaliese Redlich by Edith Vignal

Annaliese Redlich from Neon Sunset

Illustration by Edith Vignal

NEON SUNSET // Saturdays noon to 2pm // Annaliese Redlich

Annaliese, there ain’t nothing like the Neon Sunset theme. What’s the tune? It’s by a short-lived band called Surfing. The track is ‘Moonlight’.

What made you choose it? I love the way you can’t really place it in a particular genre or era; it’s sort of dreamlike and nostalgic. It evokes the kind of soaring optimism I feel when the weekend is approaching. Plus, surprisingly, it’s from Geelong!

Did you have a super-clear vision of what you wanted your theme to be, or was it something that evolved over time? To be honest, I had almost no time to settle on the theme for the show, so I was racking my brain. I knew it had to be instrumental, somewhat unrecognisable (in order to be a good pathway into the show), and not dictate too much what the program would be about.

Is that creaking door part of the original track? Yes, it is – and it’s perfect! It’s like I’m pulling up to your house in the car with a mixtape ready to go and a tank full of petrol saying, “Don’t ask questions, just get in.”

Did you workshop the theme with anyone, or just whip it up on your own? Pretty sure I asked Simon Winkler… and probably my mum. Two important cultural barometers right there.

What do you want the listener to feel when they hear your theme? Soaring optimism, as I mentioned earlier, but also excitement for a journey of sorts.

And what about you – does hearing the theme give you any particular vibes? Count down for take off… sweaty palms… what’s my name again?

Ever had any listener feedback on it? I get calls and emails all the time about it; people really dig it. Although the band name seems to confuse people a little.

What do your mum and dad think of the theme? They think it’s a sweet reprieve before I open with a bracket of punk.

You’ve recently moved timeslots – from Friday night (7pm to 10pm) to Saturday arvo (noon to 2pm). Did you consider changing the theme for this? For sure, but when I decided to keep my show name, it felt odd to change it. What I have changed, however, is my outro. Neon Sunset is named after a song by The Ooga Boogas, and when the show began, Mikey Young of the band kindly did a late-night, cosmic remix of the track to suit its 10pm end. This time, he’s reworked it into a dinky little country-tinged number to give Twang a kiss on the cheek on my way out of the studio!

What do you reckon are the most important things to keep in mind when creating a show theme? Make it long enough so if you’re having a meltdown in studio you have time to sort it out; create anticipation; be instrumental, so you can talk over the top of it if you feel like it; and don’t pigeonhole your show too much, unless you’re niche… in which case – get in the hole!

Who else at Triple R has a ripper show theme, in your view? Dan Dare (How High The Moon): a masterful blend of Sun Ra and Repo Man. Lauren and Simon (Breaking & Entering): it’s kind of terrifying and badarse, and I love how much it freaks them out! Bruce Milne (Where Yo Is?): perfectly sums up the kook of Bruce’s brilliant show. Tim Scott (Teenage Hate): Jay Reatard makes me wanna get rowdy when I should be settling down on a Sunday night.

Lauren Taylor and Simon Winkler by Edith Vignal

Simon Winkler and Lauren Taylor from Breaking and Entering

BREAKING AND ENTERING // Thursdays 4pm to 7pm // Simon Winkler and Lauren Taylor

Simon and Lauren, you guys have one of the most striking theme tunes on Triple R. What’s the piece of music? The song is Lieutenant Pigeon ‘The Villain’, plus two or three seconds of the start of Add N to (X)’s ‘King Wasp’ right at the end.

How did you first stumble upon ‘The Villain’? We first heard it on a mix compilation by Jarvis Cocker and Steve Mackey called The Trip (which is super-appropriate for this article in The Trip mag, haha).

What made you decide to use it as the intro for Breaking and Entering? There were a couple of contenders, but the mood and the energy seemed to fit the name of the program. It was minimal and strange, and has a lot going on atmospherically, all within one and a half minutes.

Were there any other contenders? Think at the time we were also looking at some of Madlib’s Beat Konducta releases.

Did you guys modify the music in any way? I wondered if all those sound effects were part of the original track – the voice in the background, and what sounds like a rattlesnake right at the end. Haha, it’s definitely a dense mix! Apparently the band were very inspired by the experimental approach of record producer Joe Meek, who contributed to the development of recording practices like overdubbing, sampling and reverb. The sound right at the end is the start of the King Wasp track that follows on The Trip mix compilation; it’s kind of an unsettling note to end on!

It’s been ten years since you started Breaking and Entering (happy anniversary!). Have your feelings about the theme changed over that period? Thanks Mia! It’s funny you should ask that question – we actually went into the start of this year wondering if it might be a good opportunity to change the theme song. While we love the song, it secretly makes us a bit uneasy and tense.

If you were to create your show theme again, would you do anything differently? That’s a difficult question. Despite some of the emotional turmoil the theme song has brought over the years, we do love the track and all the memories associated with it. Having said that, the past ten years have been filled with exceptional songs, and from time to time a track arrives that we both think would make a great alternative theme!

What do you reckon are the ideal ingredients for crafting a show theme? Good question! A memorable melodic, rhythmic or lyrical element that relates to the nature of the program could be helpful. Something you don’t mind hearing again and again is good, and also something you accept that you might grow to fear after time!

Of all the other Triple R show themes, which ones get you most amped, and why? Too many awesome themes to choose from, but listening to the breezy bossa of Banana Lounge Broadcasting always gets us suitably relaxed and amped for Dave Graney on a Tuesday afternoon. The Camp Lo remix for Stylin’ also gets us moving every Friday ready for Ennio Styles’s show!

Any other fun facts about your show theme? It was recorded in the front room of one of the band member’s mother’s house, and a lot of the ambient sounds are room noises that were captured on tape. The song was an experiment that they weren’t sure they’d ever release.

Ennio Styles by by Edith Vignal

Ennio Styles from Stylin’

STYLIN’ // Fridays noon to 2pm // Ennio Styles

Hey Ennio! You’ve got a heck of a show theme. Can you tell us about all the sonic elements you’ve got going on? Dynasty ‘Adventures in the Land of Music’ (1980) – all the other tunes sample this classic; Camp Lo ‘Luchini AKA This is It’ (1997) – one of my favourite hip hop groups (I even named a cat, (Foxy) Bonita, after a Camp Lo lyric); B# ‘Adventures in the Land of Music Remix’ (2014) – how could I resist a South African beat battle with six producers all flipping the Dynasty sample?!; Hade+DWFL ‘TII’ (2013) – this German footwork tune samples both Dynasty and Camp Lo, the title gives the clue. I put these together with some extra drums and vocal bits.

Who are the folks saying, ‘Stylin’’? All previous guests of the show. In order: Cut Chemist, Nicole Willis, Kaidi Tatham, Q-Tip, Andre 3000, RuCL and John Legend.

Did you do all the audio work yourself, or did someone lend you a hand?

I put it all together, but I didn’t make the actual songs. I do make music, too, but I thought my show was worthy of something better than my own music!

Where did you draw inspiration from? The Dynasty and Camp Lo tunes are both all-time favourites of mine. I had wanted to do a theme based on these for many years before actually doing it. I think it was hearing the Hade+DWFL tune that prompted me to finally sit down and get it done.

What was the trickiest thing involved in creating your theme? A few things: finding the right parts of each song to use; getting the transitions to work smoothly; deciding what to leave out (even more tracks using that sample); and keeping it short.

What mood did you hope to create? I wasn’t necessarily going for a mood overall, but I did want it to be punchy. Probably the most important aspect to me in terms of mood was the ending, as I wanted it to allow me to mix something straight in, and start the show in any direction musically – so that’s why I end it on the words, ‘Let me take you there,’ with the echo effect.

Do listeners ever ask about your theme? Sometimes. Mostly they want to know what the actual song is. Other times they ask ‘When are you going to do a tell-all for The Trip about your theme?’

If you were to create your show theme again, would you do anything differently? I’m open to remixing it if anyone wants to suggest more versions of the Dynasty tune. In terms of doing a new theme, I’m not sure I’d particularly approach it differently, it would be more if in a few years the sound of the show evolves in a way that the music in the intro is less relevant or sounds dated.

Do other versions of the Stylin’ theme exist? Not really other versions of this theme, but there was one I did in 2007 that I played on the show a few times back then. I think I stopped using it because I never felt I properly finished it, especially the all-important ending. It was basically a cut-up of songs with ‘stylin’, ‘style’, etc., in the lyrics, including LL Cool J, Missy Elliott, Beastie Boys, The Notations, Nice & Smooth and A Tribe Called Quest/Leaders of the New School.

How does your theme reflect your show? It’s ‘Adventures in the Land of Music’! Also by mixing the original with hip hop, trap, drum & bass and electronic versions I wanted to reflect the fact that a lot of the beats and electronic music I play is rooted in soul, funk and jazz.

What, in your view, are the ideal ingredients for crafting a show theme? Keep it short, but try to reflect as much of the show as possible, or at least the ‘essence’ of the show. If it’s a music show, the song needs to be killer. And the ending should set you up for what comes next.

Who do you reckon’s got a killer show theme, and why? I love Eva’s intro for POCNESS with all the speech snippets about race. ‘Where are you from? … I’m Australian.’ (That question used to really annoy me.) Her show’s so good, too!

Any other fun facts about your show theme? It goes really well with ‘Pet Sounds’ by the Beach Boys.

Mia Timpano is the editor of the The Trip magazine and Triple R’s communications and online content co-ordinator. Edith Vignal presents ‘Things To Do Today’. She’s also been a summer Breakfasters host.