Split System: Aussie Punk Outfit Talks Influences, Melbourne Scene, & Fantastic New LP

Photo: Brendan Frost

In 1788, Captain Arthur Phillips landed at Port Jackson and established Australia's first British penal colony. In that tradition, 236 years later, I hereby deem it criminal for you to not check out my favorite current Aussie punk band, Split System.

They hail from Melbourne, Australia, a current punk hotbed which has in recent years given us Stiff Richards, Street Sweeper, Leatherman, and Stepmother, to name a few bands worth your attention.

To me, Split System sounds like if Chris Bailey and Rikk Agnew went to Denton, Texas in 2006 to start a bar fight with The Marked Men. Split System's newest album, Vol. 2, would be a perfect soundtrack to the melee, which would inevitably end with all combatants getting on the turps and hugging it out.

State who you are and what you do in the band.

Ryan: guitar

Mawson: guitar

Deon: bass

Mitch: drums

Jackson: vocals

Gun to your head, who’s better and why: The Saints or Radio Birdman?

Ryan: I'm picking The Saints.

Jackson: I grew up in Brisbane, so I’m gonna have to go with The Saints also!

Mawson: Saints 100%

Deon: Yep, Saints.

Single coil or humbucker? Why?

Mawson: I’ve always preferred single coils. Nothing beats the sound of a cheap Fender pushed too hard.

The '70s Aussie proto-punk influence is obviously in your sound, but unlike Stiff Richards who I think masterfully work in ‘77 UK, I hear a fair amount of 1981 Orange County, California in Split System’s sound. Is this accurate?

Ryan: I dig the Adolescents and Rikk Agnew's solo stuff, but I’m not super familiar with the rest of that scene.

As you mentioned, we're definitely big fans of the classic Australian punk and proto-punk stuff like The Saints, Birdman, X, Coloured Balls. I think we've all got pretty diverse tastes ranging from '77 UK, classic rock like Thin Lizzy, modern garage-punk stuff like Eddy Current, as well as '80s hardcore.

A lot of my favorite records in recent years have come out of Melbourne (Split System, Street Sweeper, Leatherman, Stepmother, etc) - what do you attribute to this current wave of sick ass bands? How cohesive is the Melbourne punk scene right now?

Ryan: All the bands you mentioned are on Legless Records, which Mawson from the band runs. There's always been plenty of world-class music out of Melbourne. The Melbourne scene started going turbo from the mid-2000s.

Melbourne probably bats above its average by having a heap of amazing venues, labels, and two huge and supportive community/subscriber radio stations in RRR and PBS, along with heaps of people who want to listen to good music. That means that any bunch of mates can pick up some instruments, make some racet and know that at least one old piss head is going to listen to you.

Photo: Ben Hudson

Is “The Butcher and Fast Eddy” by Rose Tattoo the best rock song in history that’s over six minutes?

Mawson: Coloured Balls “G.O.D. (Live at Sunbury)” has to give it a run for its money, no?

Does anyone in the band surf? If so, what’s the biggest wave you’ve been on and what beach in Australia has the biggest kooks?

Mawson: I live by the coast so it’s kind of a given that most people surf around here. Biggest wave I’ve been on was the wave of euphoria the first time watching Shrek. Everyone’s a kook, they just don’t know it yet.

Do you believe the Great Barrier Reef should be put on the UNESCO danger list?

Mawson: Great Barrier Reef, like all of our natural wonders, should be cared for and appreciated but unfortunately it’s usually too late before anyone starts caring. We live in a beautiful country but bureaucracy and industry tend to get in the way of us taking care of it the way it deserves.

Did the songwriting process change for the band at all between the Vol. 1 LP and the Vol. 2 LP?

Ryan: When we recorded Vol. 1 in early 2022, we'd only played a handful of shows together as a band and were still getting to know each other's styles. I guess at that earlier point, we were still developing what our sound was.

By the time we got around to recording Vol. 2, a year or so later, we'd become a more cohesive unit and probably had a better idea of the type of music we wanted to make together.

Mitch: Writing drums with the gang for Vol. 2 came much easier as I had honed in my playing style. I felt confident and had my targets in sight. These guys are naturals at writing a solid riff which makes my job a total dream.

Photo: Michael Danischewski

Jackson seems to be pushing himself more vocally on the second LP, was this a conscious effort to take more risks in that department?

Jackson: Getting more comfortable with the way we are writing songs has helped me push myself more in all aspects of singing. “Dave” and “Alone Again” are good examples where I definitely sang very differently to how I usually would. I enjoy trying to push myself and keep trying different things that would help suit certain songs better.

Give me some highlights of the 2023 Split System European tour.

Jackson: We played two shows at Get Lost Fest in Hamburg at the end of the tour and they were my favourite shows of the whole tour. It was on from the moment we got there and lots of friends we met along the road were also playing. The shows we played there had a real good energy and it was a great weekend.

Split System “Underground” is one of the tightest punk songs in the last 20 years - agree/disagree?

Deon: I think "Underground" was one of the last tracks added to the album, it came together real quick in the jam room. Mawson and I actually swapped instruments on this track for a bit of fun!

Mitch: Deon ripped this one out at the last minute and it rips. I've had a ton of messages saying this is the track! Nice one, Diesel.


Vol. 2 is available now on Legless Records.

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