Interview with Angus Dowling of Babe Rainbow

Australian Surf Rockers make waves across Europe and America

All throughout their music, it has become clear that there is nowhere the members of Babe Rainbow would rather be than surfing. It is therefore very fitting that Angus Dowling, the singer for the band, should join our zoom call from the beach, ready to ride the waves as soon as our interview is over. Bandmates and their families wander across the sands in the background, and at one point his child came up to say hello!

Our conversation sprawled over numerous topics about the band, their history, their writing style, and recent projects. We could barely fit half of it into this article. If you want to hear the whole thing, scroll to the bottom for a full audio recording of the interview.

How did you get your start playing music? What brought you to psyche?

I was a singer in school. I had the really nice primary teacher and she got me going in the choir. I used to sing a lot with my grandma…. skip down the track for ages. High school, surfing, no music for ages. Straight out of high school a friend of ours had a dad with a room in this little country town. We’d make it a bookshop and then we started listening to records…. We just sort of ended up jamming, trying to recreate Nuggets and Stones and doing covers.

How did you all come together as a band?

I met Eliot and Isaac. Eliot is still the bass player in Babe Rainbow… We all met surfing in this place… called Bingle, near Rainbow Bay. We didn’t even go to the same schools. And then we met this other guy Jack, “Cool Breeze”, the guitar player [for Babe Rainbow] in Brisbane when we were all living up there…. We just went naturally together.

Is that where the name Babe Rainbow comes from, Rainbow Bay?

It was a little bit, but it was also from this really cool Peter Blake ’60s print. It’s like a wrestler, it just says Babe Rainbow…. We were looking for a new band name. It seemed like it was wanting to be used.

All throughout your discography, almost all your songs are happy and upbeat. What draws you to making exclusively happy sounding music?

I don’t know I guess, there wasn’t really any driving force in the other direction. It would seem strange to get into that… surf’s good, sun’s out, everyone’s having a nice time. Maybe we’ll all have lunch on the farm later. That’s the reality we’re in right now.

How has the psychedelic rock scene in Australia changed since 2014, when you first started out?

It’s actually changed heaps because there was nothing at all. If you wanted to play, you had to go to Brisbane or you had to go to Melbourne where we met the King Gizzard guys, or you had to go to Perth where we met the Pond crew… there was not really anything around down here. But now there’s multiple venues in ten or so beach communities in this region and you can play a psychedelic show wherever.

It’s not like Chicago yet where, the last time we came we played on a Monday night. We were all like, ‘monday night, what a bummer’ and it was totally packed, such a sweet night. That’s not the reality here yet. Still gotta be like, weekends only. But there’s heaps of places to play ’cause there’s so many bands.”

When you write songs, do members write them separate and then bring a song to the band, or do you all jam together and piece together songs from the jam sessions?

I reckon it’s a bit of a blend of all that. Mostly it’s Jack aka “Cool Breeze”, he has a progression on the piano or acoustic guitar and we’ll go over and he’ll play it and we’ll try and jam it freestyle over and over for ages. And we’ll record that and listen back thru, and it will always sort of come from that.

And then the melody that I’ll be responsible for, and the singing, whetehr that comes from the riff or an idea or an unused bass line… Then when we went and fully record it, and you’ve got all of that, [you say] ‘maybe it should be way different or maybe it should be more similar.

We just finished this new album and we decided to not redo anything. We just went straight in with the progressions and wrote it all and recorded it all. And we were like, “we won’t record it again.”… Things get taken away from it when you redo it. You’re always slightly, differently influenced. <eric’s note, this can be moved elsewhere in the story>

What was it like working with Stu [Mackenzie of King Gizzard]?

Oh yeah really really cool.  We kinda messed around with him heaps, but it wasn’t until we were like “let’s do something proper” that he came up with a bunch of gear and we just jammed.  Just messed around heaps.  Took that, mixed it, kept redoing that. It was mostly his mixing that I thought was the standout of that project. He’s such a good mixer. I love what he hones in on, what he decides to boost and what he decides to mellow out.

When can we expect the next album to come out?

I’m just finishing it right now… we want to have one [single] by end of June or July. Hopefully leading into our trip overseas to see you guys. Should be in August. Maybe a single in June, single in July, whole album in September.

What’s next for Babe Rainbow?

I don’t know. I remember thinking this next album was gonna be so acoustic. Even all the way up to before we made it… and now it’s like, it couldn’t be less acoustic. I feel like we just don’t know.

Listen to the full interview with Eric and Angus.

It was an absolute delight to chat with Angus. No matter what type of music they make, Babe Rainbow will always find a way to make it cheery and upbeat. Their positive energy and welcoming attitude bring in fans from all around the world to the never-ending surf day. Be sure to catch them the next time they ride into your hometown.