Review: The Byzantines and The Montreals

The Byzantines

Transit Bar: Friday 3 March 2017

Transit Bar became the unofficial South Australian embassy on Thursday night, as Adelaide collectives The Montreals and The Byzantines bounded into Akuna Street. In performances bubblier than a West End beer, they brought differing but nevertheless entertaining brands of indie rock to the Canberra night.

Though both bands make extensive use of the Triple J Unearthed platform, it is The Montreals that fit more snugly into the J-shaped mould. It’s the lightest, brightest form of indie rock imaginable: surf-tinged guitar, coo-ing backup vocals, and lyrics speaking of carelessness or the desire to escape. It’s a formula perfected by Unearthed alumni like The Jungle Giants, The Last Dinosaurs and Pear Shape, and while it may be predictable, it’s heartily enjoyable.

On drums, the shirtless Lucille rarely strayed from his frenetic pace, while vocalist Stefan’s reference to a popular Simpsons meme did not go unappreciated. They held an admirable rapport with the modest crowd, especially when playing their single ‘Indigo Club’. It’s their best track, and a song so giddily light that it could fill the limbs of every audience member with helium. If I ever go on a surfing trip and decide to make a home movie, I know what music to soundtrack it with.

In a study of contrasts, the sweaty hedonism of The Byzantines perfectly matched the Transit Bar’s dark atmosphere. The band wears their influences on their sleeve, but the silver lining to this is that these influences are pleasantly varied.

Touring in support of their new EP You Pull It, The Byzantines employed a hard and driving brand of dance rock. Yet, there’s an intensity to their music that comes out of the ‘90s era of BritRock that’s been imported to Australia more recently, via bands like the DMAs. Fittingly, The Byzantines’ set even included a spontaneous and brash cover of their hit ‘Lay Down’.

As mentioned, the five-piece draw plenty of inspiration from their contemporaries. The instrumental of ‘Jamaica’ pulls a leaf straight from the Arctic Monkeys playbook, while ‘Top Boy’ has a Kasabian-like rollicking bass line. Closer to home, the success of Northeast Party House seems to affect ‘She Moves’ to a great extent. The string-like synths of ‘Lotus’ provide some welcome originality and make it their most impressive song. Translating this live saw the keyboard add greatly to the mix, while the backup vocals served to enhance the dark atmosphere.

The only major speed-bump came with the track ‘Before I Go Under’. A saucy tale of a leather-clad ‘sexual temptress’ and their ‘night of pleasure’ was derailed by a clumsy verse/chorus transition. Apart from this, the band delivered a creative setlist, which included surprising but welcome instrumental interludes courtesy of Dr Dre’s biggest hits.

Unsurprisingly, when the gig ended, you got the feeling that a night of debauchery and partying for the band-mates was only just beginning. The Montreals and The Byzantines may have names alluding to distant lands, but they seemed comfortably at home at Transit.

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