By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Regarded for their ability to churn out “honest music for the internally conflicted masses,” Melbourne, Australia-based punk/alt-rock band Catholic Guilt will release their new EP ‘This Is What Honesty Sounds Like’ on Aug. 28, 2020 via Wiretap Records, with a percentage of digital royalties being donated to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
The group recently released music videos for the singles “A Boutique Affair” and “Song Of The Renter.” Desperate to scratch their itch to perform in a live setting again after the restrictions provided by the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re confirmed to play FEST 19 in Gainesville, Fla. in October 2021.
The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with vocalist Brenton Harris about ‘This Is What it Sounds Like’ and more.
Music Bugle – What inspired your band name?
Brenton Harris – I grew up Catholic. I attended Catholic schools. I’m definitely not a practicing Catholic now, but that experience left me with a lot of cultural conditioning. The omnipresent feeling of guilt, that we call “Catholic guilt” is one of those conditionings. When I first started writing what would become the first batch of Catholic Guilt songs, I realized that a lot of the songs had ties to that feeling of being “guilty” or perhaps more accurately, feeling like I was not “enough” at all times. The fact that it also serves as a double entendre, for the Vatican’s sins, is a very fitting bonus, given some of the topics we cover in our songs.
Music Bugle – How would you describe Melbourne, Australia to someone who has never been there before?
Brenton Harris – A coffee-obsessed, multicultural, music-loving, arts-supporting, sports-adoring, food-making, hipster paradise. Seriously, come visit! It has been named the most livable city in the world multiple times for a reason!
Music Bugle – What was it like putting together your new EP ‘This Is What Honesty Sounds Like’?
Brenton Harris – One of the most challenging, rewarding, cathartic and fun experiences of my entire life. These five songs came together over the course of a couple of years, starting just after the release of our first EP, so their growth matches ours in many ways, as we went through a lot of changes, as people and as a band during that process leading up to recording. By the time we put the finishing touches on them in the studio, they were so different to the initial skeletons, but they hadn’t lost any of their emotion or intensity. We noticed that with each little tweak or addition of a part that we’d made before entering the studio and then in the studio, we’d managed to bring a new level of depth to what the songs could be. As a vocalist, this was the most comfortable I’ve ever felt recording too. That’s a huge credit to the producers, Ash and Evan and to the whole creative journey we went through.
Music Bugle – Which of your music videos is your personal favorite?
Brenton Harris – “A Boutique Affair.” It is our ideal video concept for that song, perfectly executed. Everyone involved in the shoot did an incredible job, from the Frame Of Sound guys who directed and produced it, to my bandmates, to our friends who worked as extras and especially Sunny, our friend who plays the lead role. It is really hard to believe that it was her first casting! I feel like together, we achieved a nice piece of narrative storytelling that perfectly explains the intentions and emotions of the song. It also came together very organically, going from idea to finished product in the very slim two-week period we had free of intense lockdowns here. The shoot itself was also a total dream. We got everything done in the eight hours of sunlight a Melbourne winter’s day rarely provides.
Music Bugle – In your opinion, what was the hardest song for you to write or compose?
Brenton Harris – I can only speak from my own perspective on this, so lyrically, I would say the hardest song was “Song Of The Renter,” which would probably surprise people as on the surface, it is the least openly emotive. That song started out life as a much longer piece of prose, a love poem to the city of Melbourne and the people of Melbourne and the overall experience of living here and I edited it gradually ’till it became the bit of musical storytelling it is. Vocal performance-wise, it is a tie between “The Awful Truth” and “Nothing.” Those two songs required me to use parts of my voice that I’d not used before, so it was a learning process, but one I’m glad I pushed myself to go through, because I’m stoked on the results! You’ll be hearing more of that type of dynamic on the next release!
Music Bugle – You’ve got very distinct artwork for ‘This Is What Honesty Sounds Like’ – what’s the significance of it for you?
Brenton Harris – The concept for the EP and of the band, more generally, is to present songs that are honest and true to the human experience. We wear our hearts on our musical sleeves, so to speak and we’re not ashamed to admit it. There’s too much dishonesty in the world, too much posturing, too much hiding behind bullshit and not enough truth. We wanted an EP cover that displayed that, while staying on theme with the use of cats – ‘coz CATholic Guilt – and we feel that with the courtroom scene, the bible and our demonic cat logo “Lucy Furr,” the illustrator Kate Didyk has absolutely nailed it. You can pick up the sense of what you’re in for, just by looking at the cover. Credit to our guitarist Dean Gordon for his art direction too. They are a newly formed dream team.
Music Bugle – What do you miss the most about performing in front of a live audience?
Brenton Harris – The near spiritual connection with others that you get from being at or playing a gig. The way that, for the duration of the gig, you get to be connected with people on this universal wavelength, thanks to the communicative power of music. You might not see some of them ever again, you might not even speak, but you experienced a genuinely once-in-a-lifetime moment with them. The energy of a live performance cannot ever be fully replicated or explained. It is felt and lived and unique every single time. I miss living it, so much. Music isn’t just my happy place, it’s my everything place. I know for a fact that is true for the other guys too. It’s part of what makes us work as a band.
Music Bugle – Does social media make it easier or harder for a band to stand out these days?
Brenton Harris – It makes it easier to communicate outside of your own social circles or local scenes, definitely. We have fans from all over the world that otherwise would have no idea we existed. We’re signed to a Californian label, but we’ve never played in California, for example. Without social media, that couldn’t have happened and that is pretty wild. When we look at our Spotify or our Facebook or Instagram and we see that we’re connecting with people from all over the globe, it is a pretty mind-blowing thing. The role that commerce plays in how effective your reach is can’t be denied though and that can be frustrating, especially when you compare it to the MySpace days that birthed a lot of the bigger bands in our scene. I think it is important to remember that social media is a tool, a valuable tool, but just one tool of many in an artist’s repertoire and should be treated and used as such.
Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Brenton Harris – Our usually vibrant, 24-hour city of Melbourne is currently under a very strict lockdown due to a rather scary COVID-19 outbreak. We’re not allowed more than five kilometers – or three miles – of our houses. We can only leave the house for an hour of exercise a day, to go shopping for essentials, to go to work or study if we can’t do it from home and to provide care and we have an 8 p.m. curfew. That means that all gigs, rehearsals, video shoots, photo shoots, etc. have been cancelled or are postponed indefinitely. This has definitely made it challenging to be in a band, especially one with a record coming out who just signed a deal with one of the biggest booking agencies in the country! We want to play shows, but it isn’t safe nor legal to. It is what it is though and we’re finding ways to make the most of it. We’re all pretty spread out across metro Melbourne, so we haven’t physically been in the same room for nearly three months. It is a very different life for us over here at the moment. Having said that, we are all still happy, healthy, have roofs over our heads and food in our bellies and have good support networks, not to mention James just had a beautiful baby daughter named Mallory, who is making us all smile via social media.
Music Bugle – If you had the chance to go back to this past New Year’s Eve, what would you tell yourself about 2020?
Brenton Harris – I would tell myself that 2020 is going to be a lot, in so many ways, so just be prepared to adapt to the unknown. We’re going to start 2020 off with an extinction-level event, in the form of bushfires – wildfires – that’ll destroy large parts of our nation and kill many people, then COVID-19 will hit and wreak havoc on pretty much everything, while killing many more people. I would also tell myself that it is going to be scary, but that we are going to be okay. That as a community, we’ll continue to find ways to bounce back, that our ability to innovate and to make the most of any situation, will help us through. I would also remind myself to maintain perspective. We are living through and witnessing history and it is hard, but we’re doing so from a position of comfort, in a global context and you should never allow yourself to forget that. Be thankful for what you do have and what you can do. Do not bemoan what you don’t have and what you can’t do. It is temporary. We will bounce back. I’d also tell myself that we’re going to get to release an EP via Wiretap Records on August 28 and that we’re going to sign with Destroy All Lines and we’re going to get to play FEST 19 in Florida next year! That as the chaser to what I said above would absolutely keep me hyped for 2020!