Monday, December 19, 2011

The Red Paintings

Since his humble beginnings in Geelong, TRASH MCSWEENEY has been composing, designing, and producing performances that go far beyond the confines of the stage. The man behind THE RED PAINTINGSspeaks to RACHEL BARNES about living and performing in America and their long-awaited new album.

Known for producing abnormally colourful shows, Trash McSweeney says it’s not by chance that Red Paintings events are about more than just the music. With his perception of sound changed forever after a seizure in a supermarket, synaethesia now enables him to see music as colour, and though it went undiagnosed for a while, McSweeney’s condition had and continues to have a huge influence over his music.

Despite moving to Brisbane to push his project into a more diverse music scene, McSweeney soon found that The Red Paintings just couldn’t function financially as well as ‘normal bands’ can in Australia. They moved to the US in 2009 and have since found a different level of success with the larger audiences of America. Encouraged by the newfound interest, McSweeney has finally moved forward on the band’s long-awaited full-length album, The Revolution Is Never Coming. Initially lacking label funding for his over-the-top vision, McSweeney had no intention of rushing through a record he had been planning for so long. Combining support in the US with fans raising $40,000 to help bring his vision to life, McSweeney began the massive task of translating The Red Paintings stage show into an album. “It’s hard to capture energy,” he says. The album was five years in the making and includes a 20-piece choir, 45-piece orchestra and theremin players, and can only be described as epic.

With marketing ideas as bright as his music, this album looks set to lift the band to new heights. Inspired by the album’s artwork, McSweeney is going to release geisha balloons with small cameras and USBs (with the album and special features packed inside) attached to each balloon. The camera will be simulcast directly to the band’s website, with each balloon being launched when the album is released in different cities. While clearly an unusual and inspired marketing tool, McSweeney says it represents more than that. “All the little things we do to get the word out there, it usually means something more than just trying to make money,” he relates. “The messages in the songs of the album really spell out what the album is trying to say.”

Labelling the band “art activists”, McSweeney says he hopes that The Red Paintings continue to make an impact on the world. “There is just so much activism and symbolism in what we do from our performance and taking our performance art to the streets. We don’t just take it to one small venue or one big venue,” he explains. “Everything that the band does is always changing, but it’s always about something important and it’s exciting for fans cause they never know what the band’s gonna do next.”

McSweeney wryly admits that The Red Paintings as an active concept is a “pain in the arse” owing to work involved, but he wouldn’t have it any other way (for example, the band’s upcoming Black Paintings tour has necessitated the recruitment of ‘human canvases’ to be painted on, live onstage). Everyone involved has a belief in the importance of the work that they do, as it’s the band’s intention to change people’s lives, even if only in a small way. “In a sense it’s a form of therapy for people,” he says. “People get to stand outside their own lives and sometimes see themselves for who they are, and the band has a small influence to push people to that place.”

THE RED PAINTINGS bring their dark new show, The Black Paintings (“an artistic reflection on the potential outcome of conscious human neglect of our natural resources”), to The Hi-Fi on Saturday Jan 7, 2012. THE REVOLUTION IS NEVER COMING is due for release in 2012.

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