A healthy dose of surf-rock will be just what the doctor ordered when Martin Cilia joins forces with Mikelangelo & The Tin Star for a special one-off Melbourne show at The Espy this month. With new albums in the bag for both acts, Cilia says a recent changing of the guard in surf music inspired him on his third solo album Surfersaurus to revisit some old classics with a modern touch.
“I’ve done five albums with The Atlantics, I’ve been doing my own solo albums, but this album has taken a handful of classic surf songs from the ’60s era and just given them a fresh update. I’ve given them a modern approach so that hopefully they’ll appeal to a newer and younger audience. I’ve noticed in the last five years there has been a changing of the guard in terms of crowds, there is a new crew coming through who are not so familiar with classic tunes. When they hear them they seem to recognise them and like them, but they don’t know much about their history. I’ve just re-recorded some of them on this new album and I’ve injected my trademark into them and given them a new spin. My style adds heavier drums to the songs so that’s the difference, so it’s a clean sound but with more authority. I’ve still tried to maintain the integrity of the old-school, though.”
Classics including Walk Don’t Run, Wipeout, Albatross, Endless Summer and Apache get a makeover on Surfersaurus, while Cilia also features much of his original material inspired, of course, directly by the rhythms of the ocean.
“I live by the beach so it’s pretty convenient when I’m writing songs!” he laughs. “I have a lot of original songs tucked away which I’ve been writing for years and years. I also write a lot of instrumental songs so I’ve got quite a catalogue. I was walking my dog along the beach the other day and I just heard this perfect rhythm coming from the ocean, I just heard the first three notes of it in my head. I thought to myself, ‘I could really do something with this’. I got home and I wrote a whole song out of it. Sometimes it would also be maybe a song that I heard on the radio earlier in the day and it’s just stayed in the back of my mind, so it will resurface subconsciously but a whole different song would come out of it for me.”
Better known for his mind-blowing guitar skills as part of the legendary surf band The Atlantics, Cilia says that he’s looking forward to covering some classics by his old band too. Describing the upcoming double-bill as a mixed bag of songs, he says that both artists will take turns in joining one another on stage.
“I’m going to do a set of my songs which will be my solo stuff from this album and plus songs I recorded and played with The Atlantics,” he says. “The Atlantics were around in the ’60s and they had a number one hit with a song called Bombora. It was in the charts for about eight weeks back in 1963. I joined the band a bit later though, in the ’90s, and I did five albums with them all up. I think the best thing about that band for me was getting to play at the Olympics. That song [Bombora] was playing right when Kylie Minogue came out on a surfboard and it was amazing for us to have that kind of exposure in front of millions of people all around the world. So we’ll do some stuff by The Atlantics and then Mikelangelo will do a set with his band and mainly songs from their debut album. Then after that we’ll both get together and do some tracks together. We’re both fans of each other’s work and have been for a while. The way this show came together was that I was playing a solo gig in Melbourne about three months ago and Mikelangelo was in the audience. We ended up having a chat afterwards and got on really well. It turned out his guitarist in his band went away to Germany for a few months and he had a tour of New South Wales coming up, so he asked me to play in the band for those shows. I happened to be free at that time and the whole thing worked out perfectly. So now that we’ve both got new albums we thought we’d join forces for a double-bill.”
And it should be an unforgettable one with support acts Saint Clare and The Velocettes also taking the stage before Cilia and Mikelangelo & The Tin Star. For Cilia personally, it’s the go-go dancing courtesy Saint Clare that’s ought to be a highlight.
“It’s always exciting to do a show as fresh and different as this, plus I haven’t played at The Espy in about 10 years and never on a Thursday night. I think it’s going to be a great vibe and St Clare, who will be appearing as well, is going to give us some really good singing and dancing, so I’m keen to see that. This really will be a one-off event for Melbourne as shows like this don’t happen very often.”
Martin Cilia alongside Mikelangelo &The Tin Star play their Surf Meets Western shows at The Thornbury Theatre on Wednesday October 19 and at The Espy Gershwin Room on Thursday October 20.