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An Interview with Dweeb City

Earth, prepare to be rocked by the cyberpop tunes of the neon-clad, glitter-drenched girl band Dweeb City. If their melodies sound otherworldly, it's because they traveled all the way from their home planet, Dweebtopia, to the human world, armed only with the dream of winning Eurovision. The group is comrpised of Suman, Taxman, Steelman, and Scabman-- all of whom bring their own unique alien superpower to the table. 

What started as a spur-of-the-moment decision to enter a uni band competition has now snowballed into elaborate gigs complete with costume changes, visually stunning music videos, and--most importantly-- their debut album, Dweeb City. A delightful mix of the wildly personal ("Spent A Year in Bed Watching Degrassi Jr. High"), hilariously fangirlish ("Nico the Unicorn We Miss You"), and universally poignant ("Duckie"), it proves that these extra terrestrials have an uncanny ability to understand what it is to be human. Perhaps that's because they give up all pretensions in the name of fun, entertainment, and having a positive impact.

I've been following the band since before their win at the music competition (before the fame hit)  and it's been such a pleasure to watch them come into their own as musicians. I've always believed in these dweebs, but it's been so incredible to watch them develop a distinct style into an impressively diverse yet cohesive, must-listen album. In the transcript below, we discuss the album, their journey to Earth, and everything in between. 

Hannah: What are the origin stories of your nicknames?

Taxman: While I was in art school I had to do this stupid exercise where we had to put cardboard boxes on our head. My friend wrote "Taxman" on my box, and I didn't know because I had a box on my head. So that's how I got Taxman.

Suman: In high school I got Suman and there's no real explanation for that, other than it just happened.

Scabman: She was like Susman at first I think.

Suman: Yeah, I had a nickname; it was "Susman," and then it turned into "Susnanny bitch" and then that was too long. So it just reverted back into Suman.

Scabman: In high school, we had this friend that used to scream at me "Scabigail Angel of Death!" I had an early 2000s emo aesthetic and I guess she took that to heart. Scabman kind of came from her calling me "Scabby Abby" and "Scabigail Angel of Death."

Taxman: Princess Sally gave Steelman her name because she loves Steel Panther so much!

Hannah: How did you come up with the name Dweeb city?

Taxman: Well, we only had like an hour before it was due, so I just wrote Dweeb City because I didn't know what to write. I think in art school there were a lot of people trying to be cool, and we just kind of did what we wanted to do.

Hannah: I was wondering about the origin story of Dweeb City. I know you entered a competition and stuff, but can you describe your rise to stardom?

Taxman: On our home plant Dweebtopia, we were trained to be the Eurovision champions. We would grow up watching Eurovision, except we're 20 years behind. So we were coming to Earth to win Eurovision, but we went to the wrong place because Dweeb City is not that good at making technology.

Scabman: Taxman ended up at art school and was like 'oh no! How will I win Eurovision now?'

Taxman: And then I found out about this competition and it wasn't Eurovision but we entered anyway. And we won! To the dismay of some of the other bands.

Suman: I think that some people were a bit like 'aw this is funny!' But then, when we won, they were like "Fuck those guys!"

Hannah: What was the best show you played?

Taxman: I really loved Psyfari. It was a bush doof. I don't know if that's a thing in America.

Hannah: What is that?

Taxman: It's like a party where you take lots of drugs and like listen to rave music. We don't take lots of drugs though.

Suman: It's like a psychedelic dance party basically.

Scabman: And they make a mess.

Taxman: It's a bit gross.

Scabman: You could spend a long time talking about the problems. But the cool aspect is that they set up amazing lasers that bounce off the trees.

Suman: Huge sound systems in the middle of nowhere.

Taxman: And there's artists that design the stages. It's really cool.

Suman: And then there's like adult jungle gyms.

Taxman: Anyway we played a really hilarious gig at Psyfari. We were on at like midnight.

Suman: It was so cold. It got down to like -4 degrees Celsius. It was like below freezing. And we were in our tiny costumes onstage.

Scabman: Because it was so cold, the strings got really tight and they were so high pitched.

Taxman: And we were on for like an hour, so we just put lots of dance breaks.

Scabman: We had like this ghost buster's dance break. And some people came up to us, and they were like "Your set was really good, but then it got really dark and scary and I had to walk away."

Suman: There were a lot of people that were like, "We loved it, but it was just too much."

Taxman: I had this person come up to me a couple of months ago that was like "You guys exist? I saw you at the bush doof and I didn't know if you were real or not!"

Scabman: Personally, when we played with Toy Death for the first time, that was just a nostalgic moment. Because they play with old toys, and we really looked up to them in high school. They were-- and they still are --like, the coolest people. We wrote them this fan letter that was like "Hello, we are from Dweebtopia and we've loved you since we were teenagers." And they played with us! And they turned out to be the nicest people ever.

Hannah: What's your favorite song on the album?

Taxman: It changes every time I listen to it. I really really really love "Clementine." I think that one is a total bop.

Suman; That was one of the ones we recorded in the actual recording studio. So we had some help with making it sound more like real music.

Taxman: The first time I heard it, it glitched. So it was playing at like 4 times the speed.

Scabman: I just had really bad, broken speakers. And it wasn't really finished yet.

Suman: "70s Stairway to Hell" was a really good song. Steelman wrote that.

Scabman: It's got that "Hello Moto!"

Suman: I really like "Drogo." It's got so many layers.

Scabman: I like all of them for different reasons.

Suman: My parents' favorite is "Mrs. Pink."

Hannah: Who are your main musical inspirations?

Taxman: I reckon The Shaggs are a pretty big one for me. Abigail and I also listen to lots and lots of early 2000s indie pop music.

Suman: I really really like Sufjan Stevens, like weird atmospheric stuff. And The Flaming Lips as well. Like when you can hear random sounds but they just really work together. I love that stuff.

Taxman: I also really love like the eighties. So like Devo.

Scabman: Cyndi Lauper,  The Strawberry Switchblade Sisters. Oh my gosh.

Hannah: What's your favorite music video you've done?

Scabman: I had so much fun when we filmed Luna Luna. That was so cute. Because we went to Luna Park. And it was just such a fun day. We just went around dressed as aliens and everyone thought we were part of the theme park attractions.

Taxman: I love Luna Park! It's a very derro Australian theme park that's like really tiny.

Suman: It's in the middle of the city and they've had a lot of noise complaints, so they've had to make all the rides miniature. It's very derro but very cool. It's very old too. It's like Australia's version of Coney Island.

Taxman: I can't watch Duckie anymore. I was so sick [when we were filming].

Scabman: I like the bedroom scene in that. I watched it the other day and I was like "That's so cute." But I agree that was a rough day.

Hannah: How did you develop the visual aesthetics of Dweeb City?

Taxman: It's all based off of what you can get really cheap at Kmart. I go to supermarkets and to shops and buy stuff. I really love neon. You have to find neon stuff which is a task.

Scabman: Any inspirations?

Taxman: My inspirations are outsider art, so like all those crazy people that build epic houses and stuff. I really love Harajuku and that layer on layer on layer, pop culture, trashy aesthetic. So there's a lot of nostalgia, mixed with outsider art, mixed with 60s sci-fi. And whatever you can find at Kmart.

Suman: Retro futurism meets Kmart. That's what our aesthetic is.

Hannah: What's next for Dweeb City? What are your plans for the future?

Scabman: Eurovision.

Suman: Eurovision.

Scabman: We have music videos we're halfway through. We've got other songs we've already written that we'll put on the next one.

Suman: But not for a while.

Scabman: We really want to go to Japan and play a gig there.

Suman: We were talking to Toy Death about it and they said we could potentially go together.

Hannah: Using an analogy, how would you describe your creative process?

Taxman: For me, it's a bit like putting everything into a microwave and microwaving it until it explodes. That's how I roll.

Scabman: I feel like it's like poking at a calculator that makes a beeping sound endlessly, and just going "Yeah, I like that!" Is that an analogy? I don't know if I really identify with my analogy.

Suman: I feel like [for me it would be] spicy shaker fries.

Taxman: Do you guys have shaker fries?

Hannah: No, I've never heard of that before.

Suman: They're like McDonald's fries, and they give you a packet of seasoning. And you put it in the bag and shake it.

Scabman: Sometimes you get like too much flavoring on a chip, but you're just like "Cool."

Taxman: Yeah you're like "I'm in Salt City but I'm loving it."

Suman: What's an analogy I don't know!

Taxman: Shaker fries! She shook me to my core. Suman did most of the mixing and mastering on our album. It took a million years.

Scabman: We kept having these, like, riots in the car where we'd be like "We'll listen to the album!" And then we'd be like "Oh no. We can't send it off. Susan, what do we do? Back to the drawing board." And she'd just like fix so many songs. She's definitely the mastermind of the shaker bag.

Taxman: She's the shaker for sure.

Hannah: How long did the album take to finish?

Taxman: A year and a half. It took us a long time.

Suman: It was worth it though. When you actually get the CD in your hand, you're like "IT"S WORTH IT!"

Hannah: When did you decide to get serious about your music?

Suman: I'm not sure we're totally serious even now. Like, we are in some aspects. We really love playing music and playing gigs and stuff. But in terms of the music we write and the lyrics we write, we don't generally take it too seriously. Well, some of them are quite serious. It depends.

Scabman: I think that the fun is still there. Some of them are very personal.

Taxman: The stuff that we write on our own is more serious. More rooted in real life.

Scabman: We were never like, "Ok, we are very serious now. Get it together friends!" It's fun.

Suman: Even if we do have a serious song that deals with a serious topic, often we'll add a weird instrument or a weird sample or something that makes it a little more accessible.

Taxman: I guess, for me, when I started taking it seriously was when other people started saying I should take it seriously. I was like "Oh it's just this silly thing me and my friends are doing." But then the guy who ran the band competition was like "No, this is actually really good." And I was like "What?" I didn't realize what we'd done was actually affecting people and I thought that was really cool. When I was thinking of making a band, I saw a lot of bands that took themselves so seriously that it was like the audience didn't really exist, and they were just playing for themselves, which is fine. But I saw bands that were really engaging the audience and making really accessible music and I was like, "That'd be really fun!" And, of course, Toy Death really puts on a show for people to enjoy, so that was a big influence for me.

Suman: We've had some experiences where people would come up to us after gigs and be like 'I really needed that." Or "That really changed my life." Or "I was having a really bad time and you guys just made me feel so much better." When I heard that kind of stuff from people, [I realized] that our music has the power to help people in a way and make them feel good. That makes you take it a lot more seriously.

Hannah: What's been the best moment since forming Dweeb City?

Suman: The novelty check [we got from winning the competition] was pretty great.

Scabman: I think just all the time spent with friends. I don't really have one epic moment personally. It's just like hanging out and having tea. And eating junk food. Just a collection of really hilarious memories. I'm just like "Life's just really nice."

Taxman: And I think that having Dweeb City means you have to meet up and you have to hang out and you have to do stuff. At our age, people kind of drift apart a little bit. But we can stay aliens forever.

You can listen to Dweeb City on Spotify and all other streaming services!

All photos via Dweeb City's Instagram


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