The West, careers and when it starts to feel big

Interview with Chris Wright of Methyl Ethel


Founded as a recording project of Jake Webb in 2013, the Perth-based band “Methyl Ethel” is currently on the best path to an international breakthrough. In 2015 the band released their debut album “Oh Inhuman Spectacle” via Remote Control Records. Their performance at BIGSOUND last year earned them three booking agents in Australia, the US and Europe. A month later they impressed Rolling Stone, NME, The Guardian and “4AD” at their debut US shows at New York's CMJ conference. The independent US record label “4AD”, which represents “The National”, “Deerhunter” and “Ariel Pink” signed the band in 2016. In the same year, Methyl Ethel were voted into the Triple J Hottest 100 and Oh Inhuman Spectacle has been shortlisted for the Australian Music Prize. 

I met Methyl Ethel’s drummer, Chris Wright, at “Wild Billy’s” one of his favourite cafés in the heart of Northbridge.

Originally from a quiet suburb 10 minutes drive from the Fremantle harbour, Chris now plays shows between Brooklyn and Copenhagen. The moment, when things started to feel big to Chris was: “When I saw my idols Radiohead at the start of the poster and our name at the end of it. If I talk to Tom York without making a complete idiot of myself that would be the best moment of my career so far.” 

“My family had links to the music industry and told us to just have fun with it.” The iconic 1984 movie “This is spinal tap”, which ridicules a fictional band on tour and his brother Matt have shaped Chris’ approach to music. “Matt inspired me with his creative process and I listened to the music he was listening to- mainly Tom York and Radiohead. Matt would get drumming lessons and then come home and show me what he had learnt.” He adds “I don’t ever want to compete with him, he is the better drummer. He even went to WAAPA (The Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts).”  

Despite having grown up surrounded by musicians, the transition into the music industry wasn’t clear to Chris from the start. He recalls: “wanting to do something with graphic design or music” but in his early twenties Chris was still figuring out what he wanted. Things changed for him, when through a work placement at the Perth venue “The Bird”, a popular music venue in the heart of Northbridge, he was first able to work in sound engineering. Sound engineering revealed to be his passion and he admits to "being very nerdy about the subject”. Despite quickly dropping the ECU course in sound engineering, everything had fallen into place for Chris at “The Bird.” He remembers “things just happen when you are in a certain environment.”

Another aspect that might have helped is exactly that- the environment. Despite the fact that Perth is the most isolated city in the world, a great number of successful bands have emerged from the West coast. “We get asked a lot about this phenomenon when we are over East”, says Chris smiling. To him, the main difference is the lack of competition compared to other states. “If you are a little fish you need to jump up and down to make an impact in a big pond- while in Perth you can enter quite easily through friends because it is so small and you will fall into place.” He adds laughing: “isolation might also play a part in it because there isn’t too much else to do.”

Marie Herr