Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with Brenton from Catholic Guilt. Together we discussed religion, making honest music, awful truths, their latest single “Live For the Rush”, and so much more!
1. Mustard is thankful to have Catholic Guilt join them at Music Shelf. How is everyone?
Well I’m sitting here in my courtyard, the sun is shining and I’m answering these questions with a bottle of ‘Rush’ sauce by my side, and our new single is out in the world doing its thing, so I’ve definitely had worse days!
2. Mustard has observed some humans practice religion. Was everyone in the band raised catholic? Could you share more about how you decided on the name?
Not everyone was raised Catholic, I (Brenton) was, as were one or two of the others from memory. None of us would consider ourselves as practising in the current day, by any stretch of the imagination.The experience of growing up Catholic left me with a lot of cultural conditioning I can’t seem to shed. The omnipresent feeling of guilt, which is referred to colloquially as “Catholic Guilt” is one of those. When we first started writing what would become the first Catholic Guilt songs, I realized that a lot of the songs had ties to that feeling of being “guilty” or perhaps more accurately, feeling like I was not “enough” at all times. So it made sense to name the band that. The fact that it also serves as a double entendre, for the Vatican’s sins, is a very fitting bonus, given what we went to address in some of those songs.
3. Humans love origin stories. What is Catholic Guilt’s origin story? When did Catholic Guilt officially form?
The band began as a two person bedroom acoustic project in the South Eastern suburbs of Melbourne/Naarm. From there the band has grown and expanded with each release, as the circle pit of life has spun around, ultimately landing in the current lineup of myself Ben, Dean, Megs and Michael. We are originally from different regions across Australia and New Zealand and have very different musical backgrounds, but connected in Melbourne/Naarm’s punk scene and have been bonded by our mutual love of storytelling through rock music ever since.
4. Should humans make other humans feel guilty or bad? How common is this within human society? How does Catholic Guilt handle a situation like this?
Guilt is a very complex and quite often personal concept. At the same time it is something that is very much dictated by your cultural, moral and spiritual conditioning. To feel guilty for having done something, or even for having not done something, is entirely predicated on how you view the concepts of correct and incorrect behaviour, and many of those values are coded by your family and your society from birth. Having the capacity to feel guilt, to know you’ve dome something wrong and show remorse for it and seek forgiveness, seems quite a healthy thing, in and of itself, in my view. But, the way in which that feature of our human conditioning is reqularly exploited by everyone from religions to governments to corporations, to employers, to manipulate our behaviours in ways that are beneficial to them, now that in pretty much every instance is not a good thing. It’s an insidiously clever way to operate though, because guilt is a very powerful and very personal emotion. As such, without a specific example, it is quite hard to answer how the band would react to being made to feel guilty, as we are five individuals, so it would be different for all of us.
5. Who (or what) influences Catholic Guilt?
Takes a swig of Rush* clearly, the answer is this sauce, ‘Rush’ but other than our mate sauce, the answer quite broadly speaking is music. For me, music is the most impactful communication tool available to us as human beings, and that connection is one that I share with each member of the band. It seems our connection to it feels as natural as drawing breath, yet music has this power to bridge gaps between generations, creeds, races, and political leanings, and this ability to reach beyond the numerous aspects of our cultural conditioning that divide us, and guide us to find commonality. That is inspirational. Now that inspiration can take many forms. It can inspire us to dance or mosh or it can inspire conversations that lead to change or it can inspire feelings of joy or sorrow or catharsis or anything and everything in-between. We’ve all been moved by and helped by music in our lifetimes and all we’re truly trying to do, is write songs that move and connect with people, the way other songs have moved and connected with us.
6. What is your creative process?
The creative process varies quite a lot for us, especially in the wake of the last couple of pandemic-impacted years, but typically I’ll have written some lyrics and have an idea of a melody and perhaps a few chords that I want to attach to it and I’ll bring that to Dean, who is a far superior musician to me and we’ll workshop an initial arrangement. We’ll then bring that into the room and build out the song as a group, doing pre-pro demos in Dean’s studio and testing the songs out live. We’ll then take them into the studio and work with our producers to refine them even more.
As for what inspires those initial ideals, those initial lyrics or melodies, they tend to come to me as a wave of inspiration, usually at the tail end of some heightened state of emotional duress or excess, which ties into the cathartic nature of our songwriting. I wish I knew how to conjure it intentionally, without having to live those experiences, but at present, I don’t. I can’t speak to what inspires the others to write, but I can say that the sheer volume of musical ideas that Dean can conjure is breathtaking to me and watching the way he, Megs, Ben and Michael play off each other in the writing room and live, always amazes me. They’ve got a bit of a special language, the rest of the band, sometimes at practice, I’ll just stop singing and watch and listen and be thankful for getting to create music with them.
7. You describe your music as “honest music.” How does Catholic Guilt define honesty? How does everyone’s version of honesty play a role within your lyrics?
The label of ‘honest music’, was something we settled on way back when we first started writing songs for Catholic Guilt. We chose to label it as ‘honest music’ because, despite our best intentions, we couldn’t seem to write songs that ‘fit’ together in a traditional genre sense, yet they all still sounded definitively like us. The unifying element outside of the sound of our voices was the lyrical content, which is, was and I’d predict always will be, our honest thoughts, reflections and reactions to this life we’re all experiencing. Sometimes that honesty presents in songs of love or heartbreak, other times it presents in songs of grief or sadness, or anger or frustration or rage at political issues or ongoing inequality, but it is at all times, honest.
As the primary lyricist, I can tell you that I don’t know any other way to write, what you hear in the music is what’s going on in my head in reaction to what is going on in my life, or in the lives of those around or us or in the world, really. The same goes for when one of the other members writes lyrics to a song. Whatever the story is that we are trying to tell or convey, dictates to an extent what the song will sound like too, it’s always anchored in that emotional honesty.
8. In 2018 you released “Hymnbook Volume 1.” Could you share more about what went into this EP? Any chance there will be another volume?
That EP came from some very personal places. It orignated as a bunch of principally acoustic compositions that we built up in the studio, fleshing out the soundscapes with the help or our producers and some wondefully talented friends, many of whom also contributed to the follow up EP ‘This Is What Honesty Sounds LIke’. The songs themselves cover a range of topics including teenage regret, catholic guilt, love, grief, hope and rage. There’s some serious searching going on, personally speaking on that release. As the lyricist for four of the songs, I can tell you that making it was almost like a form of therapy. Actually, making all of our releases has felt like a form of therapy, to be completely honest with you, that’s kind of our deal. Songwriting as catharsis.
We still perform two or three of those songs regularly, with Paper & Ink and Counterfeit Guitars featuring most prominently of the 5 tracks. As for whether or not there will a ‘vol.2’, that was actually going to be the original title for our Wiretap Records debut ‘This Is What Honesty Sounds Like’, which we released in 2020, but ‘This Is What Honesty Sounds Like’ just sounded better and did more justice to the content. The songs on ‘This Is What Honesty Sounds Like’ reflect five different human experiences of isolation, frustration, love, anger and grief, and in many instances are continuations of the issues, experiences and emotions that inspired that ‘vol.1’ release. So I guess the answer is ‘This Is What Honesty Sounds Like’ is effectively vol.2 and whatever comes next will be vol.3!
9. What are some examples of awful truths that humans may not want to hear?
That a disappointingly high number of people in powerful positions don’t give a fuck about other people who they deem to be ‘beneath them’. That would be one, but there are is an incalculable amount of others. The only way to counter that really is to do everything you can in your own life to be better than that and find some form of impact that you can have that is positive in the world. Be the change you want to see as they say, even if that change is at a micro level.
10. Catholic Guilt achieved the rare feat of having five songs secure “first plays” on triple J. What was everyone’s initial reaction to this? For those unaware, could you share more about triple j?
For context, triple j is our national, youth-focused broadcaster. It has a national FM radio license. A division of our government-owned broadcaster ABC, triple j has always existed in our lifetime as the most visible of the ‘alternative’ radio stations. It was where a lot of us heard most of the music that we love and grew up on for the first time. It is a big thing for ’90s kids like us to get our music played on that station, once, let alone to get what is now eight songs played on there. The first time I heard our music on the radio, I cried. I’m not ashamed to admit that, because while that’s not why we write music or why anyone writes music, it is still a teenage dream come true. It’s still an overwhelming, magical feeling to hear something you wrote and performed being broadcast alongside music by acts that inspired you to pick up an instrument in the first place. It’s still a thrill every time I find out one of our songs got played by anyone anywhere, let alone on the national radio. We owe a massive thank you to a few presenters and former presenters over there for letting our tiny little band be heard across those airwaves. They know who they are.
11. What are some markings of a counterfeit guitar?
I’m going to be honest and say that I don’t have an eye for telling these apart, BUT this video seems to have all the answers as to how we could’ve avoided buying the particular guitar referenced in that song title
12. As a condiment Mustard adores your music video for “Live For The Rush.” What was the inspiration behind the music video?
The idea was to create something that showcased the conflicting emotions present in the lyrical content, while also being a match for the late ’90s/early ’00s nostalgic undertones present in the music. We thought it would be fun to present the concept of ‘living for the Rush’ as if ‘Rush’ was something that you could acquire and consume. We worked with a first-time director and friend of the band Sophie and her business partner Luke to expand on that idea and they presented the idea of ‘Rush’ being an ‘energy sauce’. From there, they took the sauce bottle and gave it a real firm shake, creating a video that shows the juxtaposition of light and dark, while remaining light-hearted and just a little bit odd.
The way the team shot all the scenes featuring sauce in an overly saturated, orange-hued world, that is full of humour and life, creates a wonderful contrast with the more gloomy, dour way the band is presented prior to the arrival of ‘sauce’. The way the band joins ‘sauce’ in the big bright shiny world once he arrives really sends home the hopeful message present in the final chorus. It was a total blast to make this clip.
13. “Live For The Rush” is an anthem for rediscovering the joy of the unknown. What was something Catholic Guilt discovered that brought them joy? Could you share more about this single?
As a collective, I think it is pretty safe to say that music is something that brings us joy! From my experiences, nothing comes close to the feeling of being at a sold-out show singing with your arms linked around friends and strangers alike or being the one on stage while that experience unfolds in front of you. That’s when I feel the most joy, that’s when I feel the ‘rush’ of life.
The song is written about wanting to feel truly ‘alive’ again, after a prolonged period of feeling seemingly nothing at all. Like a lot of people, I went through a few years where it felt like nothing happened, despite the fact that a lot was happening. There was death of some of my favourite people, there was the pandemic, there was relationship breakdowns, employment issues, financial struggles, all the things that would usually inspire these enormous rushes of emotion, yet it felt like I never truly felt any of them. So the song is about rediscovering the feeling and the sensation of life and all that it offers.
14. A human gets the opportunity to see Catholic Guilt perform. How would you describe your live performances?
Energetic, emotional, raw and honest. We’re very much a ‘live’ band in the sense that we don’t currently run backing tracks or rely too heavily on any technical assistance, we tend to just plug in, turn up and belt out the songs as best we can. Sometimes that results in us taking our instruments into the crowd, sometimes it results in big , arena wide singalongs, sometimes it results in unexpected detours and sometimes it results in tears (mostly mine), but ultimately it just feels ‘alive’. We play around with our arrangements too, creating extra light and shade and exploring different skill sets that exist within the band, and every now and then we’ll throw in a cover that we’ve switched up a bit, for example, we do Green Day’s ‘Basketcase’ but we start it as a three-part acapella piece and inject ‘Superman’ by Goldfinger into the bridge, so that’s pretty fun too. Our shows are an emotional rollercoaster for us, in a good way!
15. What is next for Catholic Guilt?
Playing as many quality shows as we can in support of ‘Live For The Rush’ around Australia. Then we intend on hitting the studio again to finish up the follow-up to ‘This Is What Honesty Sounds Like’, then we’re hoping that overseas opportunities will come our way. We really want to get out and visit the rest of the world with these songs. That’s the dream.
16. Where can readers listen to your music?
All of our releases are available on Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Tidal, Bandcamp etc. If you follow this link here: it’ll take you to ‘Live For The Rush’ on all those services and you should be abe to navigate from there. Our videos can be accessed in one handy playlist here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLqXonEhyBUE8gQgBpeUvA5YF_NEVxHNkb.
We also have ‘This Is What Honesty Sounds Like’ available on vinyl from our merch store which is run by Artist First.