It was a matter of big city over small. Melbourne’s charmingly repulsive yuppie bullshit shtick, which they do very well (like their graffiti) were the closest we could find to something new. A bit of fishing lead us to Mr Lindsay Gravina, who operates Birdland Studios out of Prahran. Big L seems to dig our angle, whatever that is, and he’s a well respected man in the blah blah of an industry of chancers and reptillian takers… Rowland S Howard, the Birthday Party junkie guitar extraordinaire and cult hero (is that a thing, I don’t know) entrusted him to produce his entire output since 1996. He produced the records that broke the Living End and Magic Dirt. He also seems to lead two lives, one of being the brains behind platinum, award collecting records from pop-rocksters Eskimo Joe, Jet, Thirsty Merc and the like, and the other of being Devil’s advocate to art-rock, punk, indie and general noise merchants. The Aves, I suspect, land somewhere in between.
We leave in the dark, stuffing everything into Riley the Commodore (successful except for the acoustic guitar, which anybody who sits in the back left has in their face. Mostly, this is Thomas.) We are buzzing with childish excitement and adult weariness.
Dawn begins to crack somewhere along the beginnings of the freeway, and we continue on, watching woodland and car yards and median strips turn into the long flat of paddocks and cows and tiny towns that litter the roads.
The Earth is very, very flat and we are very, very small.
We stop at various awful end of the world diners, splashing out on junk food and junk drinks and rummaging through discounted supermarket baskets.
After a while, time exists in a vacuum. We listen to the few CDs we have, half-heartedly bicker over the merits of Patti Smith and find childish delight in blue heelers sitting in the backs of utes, like some faithful postcard of Australia.
Wherever that myth of Australia came from, of the long bare deserts and the sinking heat isn’t the case here. It’s freezing, and a million variations of green flash past the car window. The towns are small, insular and claustrophobic, bound by the silos that choke on their fringes, farting the dark ages into the cloudy skies. In most towns every second shop is boarded up, a dusty reminder of better times. Strange objects are elevated to mythical status (Landrover on a Pole, Big Koala etc) and everybody, man, woman, child and dog, is looking for a break. A jar of instant coffee and packet of biscuits becomes a business, a desolate mini-golf compound a tourist attraction, a few knitted Crows scarves a fashion.
Horsham becomes the knot of frustration as we take a two hour detour along the road to Mildura (impossible, one may ponder The Aves‘ combined navigational instincts as nil…). The time has come, somebody suggests, to use my Mother’s Tom Tom GPS satellite extravaganza, nick-named Sally (for being silly) or Midge (for being stupid) or Mitch (for mis-hearing). It really is the most inept piece of rubbish invented and remains mostly frozen on a road that does not exist, leaving us with only our wits and vague recollection of passing through Stahll on previous trips. We still have to ask a toothless man at a cash point in a town that consists only of a roundabout and a pub. He cheerfully points us in the correct direction and we continue on, spirits battered.
Ten hours after leaving Adelaide we finally face navigation of Melbourne to our rented flat in Elwood, and for this Sally-Midge-Mitch springs to life and cautiously points us to vague places whilst I shout directions at Clair and Clair stoically refrains from punching me in the face. Eventually, after a few ‘Oh my God we’re going on a toll way!’ moments, we reach Elwood and collapse, stopping only to grab the most tasteless collection of burgers at the local fish and chip shop we have ever encountered in our collective experience.
That night Tasman, Thomas and I sleep in the main bed, like a collection of uncomfortable spoons. I think I speak for all three of us when I say we shall never be doing that again.