When it comes to Perth band, Triangle Fight, for me there’s before Skeleton Songs and after Skeleton Songs. My world turned, even if just a little bit, after listening to their latest album and speaking to Paulo Gonzalez, Triangle Fight’s vocalist, guitarist and songwriter-in-chief.
If you want the product you have to smash open the delicately moulded casing and risk destroying the music inside. This is wilfulness on the scale of The KLF burning £1 million in cash, just on a smaller budget. It’s as art as art can get without disappearing up its own rectum. It’s brilliant!
Before, they were one of those bands I knew were important — they had all the right buzz from all the right people on their socials and they’d created a pretty handy body of work since forming in 2012, culminating in The Blood Giant, which was accompanied by what I can only describe as a very disturbing long-form video — but I hadn’t found time to really stop and do them justice or make up my mind about how important I thought they could be.
After, Triangle Fight are a must listen, must see proposition. It’s that simple.
So, what changed me from thinking they might just be a bloated fin de siècle band ripe for revolution to the dawning realisation that Triangle Fight may just be the start of something? Good question. First, I don’t quite know what that ‘something’ is, and neither did Gonzalez when I asked him about this, saying, “It’s really hard to describe. Over the years I’ve tried to say, ‘We’re just experimental rock.’ That’s what I put it down to. The ‘experimental’ part is very true — we’re always experimenting — and our fundament comes back to rock and roll, because we love rock and roll so much.”
Describing Triangle Fight’s new album, Skeleton Songs as “very confrontational,” Gonzalez then went on to say, “I think authenticity is what people need. That’s really my main goal, especially with this new album. I’ve confronted myself more than ever and I wanted that to come through without hiding behind tonnes of metaphor like we did during the last one, and I think that’s why it’s more satisfying in the end.”
During our conversation, Gonzalez struggled with his age, saying, “I’m 36 now…No! 37,” and suggested he was too old now to “make it” (whatever that means), reflecting that, “If we do end up with cult status, I’d be really happy with that.” All without ever quite letting go of the possibility of the success all musicians dream of, saying, “In the past, I have tried, so hard, and I’ve had those kinds of aspirations. Now, I really focus on the music. As a result, I’ve focused a little bit less on the marketing side of things. The first sign that I get that this picks up momentum, I’ll be all over it.
“When I look in the mirror and put on my rock star wig and do my poses, that’s kind of how I feel. At the very least I hope we can be looked back on as this unappreciated gem and really inspire some people in the future, make them realise that you don’t have to be stuck. With music, you do anything possible. Anything. You go to absolutely any lengths to create what you need and what other people need.”
On the opening track of Skeleton Songs, ‘A Waking Dream, The Longest Curse’, Gonzalez is less circumspect about his age, with the declaration, 37 years / Before I got to see… coming towards the end of an excoriating love letter to (I assume) his mother. ‘A Walking Dream…’ is certainly confrontational. It’s also raw, open and honest and the point at which I began to really fall for Gonzalez, his band and their music. It’s a cagey, claustrophobic rocker that permits the listener to hear lines like, Now everything’s looking like a trap / And every day is another slap / Can’t you see that the voice in your head / Is an illusion / Don’t you see that you’ve been misled, without having to immediately digest their meaning. Dressing up the harrowing in distracting melodies and beats is the very epitome of the art of the songwriter and Gonzalez does it exceedingly well. Sure, he’s not hiding behind metaphor, but the music softens his blows beautifully.
Speaking further about Skeleton Songs, Gonzalez said, “I feel like, musically, it’s all just culminated to this one album. I think it’s going to define us and get people remembering us.”
If this is their opus, Triangle Fight can rest well knowing that Skeleton Songs will have an enduring impact. In the cold light of day, it’s unlikely to break them into the big time, but it will influence musicians and, through this, audiences for years to come. Gonzalez and his bandmates, Martin Gonzalez (bass), Dan Silvestri (guitar), and Sofia Varano (drums) can put a big tick on their to do list next to ‘write and record album that elevates us to cult status’. And, in reality, I couldn’t think of a single musician I’d want to listen to who would pass up the opportunity to create something with the cult status of, say, Television’s Marquee Moon for the chance to be in, hmmm, Bros and responsible for aberrations like ‘When Will I Be Famous?’
If we have to keep making comparisons, Skeleton Songs sounds like The Beatles in a world where Muse and Mumford & Sons exist. But, far more than that, Skeleton Songs sounds like Triangle Fight. This is a band that has multiple influences but has developed a sound all of its own. Case in point is ‘Red Lights Stop Signs’ the opening of which couldn’t exist without The Clash’s ‘London Calling’ but which turns out to be a fidgety experimental rock song by none other than Triangle Fight.
Speaking about Triangle Fight’s influences, Gonzalez said, “I like playing with different styles, because I get bored very easily. But I really, really, really try to hold on to the fundamentals of the song and the concept of the song being all the parts working together and complementing each other, that’s a huge priority.”
Gonzalez is a musician and songwriter who’s been around long enough to know exactly what he’s doing. The songs and arrangements on Skeleton Songs are minimalist and restrained, but completely without constraint. As an album, it is full, lush and has more texture than a pebbledash wall.
While it may trawl through Gonzalez’ 37 years of experience on this planet, Skeleton Songs also is just about as contemporary as it’s possible to be. Speaking about the band’s transition from The Blood Giant to Skeleton Songs, Gonzalez said, “Skeleton Songs is like a self-examination, like now that we’ve judged everyone else [on The Blood Giant]it’s time to look at ourselves. That’s kind of what it all comes down to, individually, that’s all we have. You never know where the world is going to go and all you have is yourself to look at, and that’s the best you can do. It’s the only option I can think of when it comes to my life, because I feel utterly out of control of what’s happening in the world. All you can do is look at yourself and see who you are and why you are the way you are and do some changing of yourself. That’s what it’s about, it’s like a bit of a cleanse…of the soul.”
Talking to Gonzalez, you get the impression that he’s a warm, sanguine, very human being, as aware of his faults as he is of his good points. Balanced is the word that comes to mind. Yet, ask him to speak about his music and he comes across as a very serious man. There’s a hint of the doctrinaire about him. So, in search of balance, I asked what he and his bandmates do for fun. There was a long pause before Gonzalez said, “That’s a good question! Music is our fun. I know that Sofia is an obsessive gardener. I’m an obsessive movie watcher. Dan has got a baby on the way and he’s pretty excited with that. Martin has a fiancée and they’re finding their lives together. We’re quite mundane. Music is what pulls us out of the mundaneness and gives us that sense of excitement and fantasy in our lives. It’s extremely important to us.
“I’ve had conversations with all the band members individually and really the feeling is…there’s this fear of not having this band and this music in our lives to give us that spice.”
So, doctrinaire it is, then; which is not necessarily a bad thing, because albums like Skeleton Songs don’t come without a lifetime of intense and exacting toil. But Triangle Fight’s members aren’t all work and no play. As well as gardening, movies and the other mundanities of everyday life, they also have band rehearsals. “We have to have very long rehearsals”, said Gonzalez, “because we spend so much time talking and joking at the start. Maybe about two hours after we arrive, we finally start playing music, but to get into it is very intense.”
OK, so they’ll never be stand-up comedians, but Triangle Fight make remarkably good music, and Skeleton Songs is their best recording yet, by a city mile. Listen to it over and over and, as well as the magnificent, heart rending lyrics, such as, All night long / I dreamed growing wings / Cos I knew / They would fix everything, from the title track, and the progressive, folky rock that will be Triangle Fight’s legacy, you’ll also hear little inclusions between the tracks that point to the presence of the people who created the music. Like the impressionist, Monet, they’ve even painted the space between their songs.
Have no doubt that, with Skeleton Songs, Triangle fight have created a work of art. They’re giving away the album as a digital download and the only physical copies you can buy are on USB drives encased in concrete. If you want the product you have to smash open the delicately moulded casing and risk destroying the music inside. This is wilfulness on the scale of The KLF burning £1 million in cash, just on a smaller budget. It’s as art as art can get without disappearing up its own rectum. It’s brilliant!
I’ll leave Gonzalez to have the last word, as he knows himself and his music far better than you or I ever will and seems to have lived a life with his eye on the horizon and what’s coming next.
“As I’ve gotten older and a little bit less selfish, if you can leave a legacy that really does inspire and help people, long after you’ve gone, that’s far more of a privilege, I think.”
Triangle Fight launch Skeleton Songs on Saturday, 19 December at the Rechabite’s Goodwill Club in Northbridge. Presale tickets are available here.
Follow Triangle Fight on Spotify.