It’s a typically mammoth Peeping Tom gig. And the fans are committing every second to memory, because up until recently, the only way you could hear this four-piece’s unique music was by going to a show.
It’s been year in the making, but Peeping Tom is just days away from releasing their debut self-titled album. After seven years and countless gigs in the beer-soaked halls of Melbourne, they’ll be finally launching the definitive slab at The Tote this Friday the 17th.
The album represents a milestone in Peeping Tom’s evolution. I had to find out why it’s taken them so long to get a record out, so I found singer and guitarist Gerasimos, Les Paul-pleasurer Adam, bassist Josh and drummer Cameron in their natural environs: the musty coolness of the Corner Hotel.
Cam and Gerasimos formed the nucleus of the group about seven years ago before convincing friends Adam and Josh to join, but the music bore little resemblance to the well-muscled frame it boasts today.
“We started out almost loungey. Can I say the word loungey?” ventures Cam.
“We weren’t really loungey,” says Gerasimos quickly, nipping any allusion to Tony Barber and Kamahl in the bud.
“It was more a groove thing than rock.”
Like the album, it took some time before the guys felt ready to offer their music for general consumption.
“We played together for three years before we booked a gig. We were basically a bunch of scared little guys in a cellar,” Josh says. “We were getting together because we just love playing. Then people started showing interest and we began to think about what we should do with it.”
“We want to perform to a certain level,” says Gerasimos, “A level we would expect when going out to see a band and have a few beers. I mean, we don’t want to see some prodigy in a bowtie and knickerbocker dacks playing everything precisely, but we do want to see some heart put into it.”
The band took its first steps up the path to rock nirvana at a memorable debut gig in Prahan. “It’s fair to say that the sweet, kind, politically-correct crew of Blood Duster were one of the first to take us on board.
That fateful night, stuck in the throat of Revolver, we were allowed to set free a beast long caged. From that day we averaged 40-50 gigs a year,” remembers Gerasimos.
So how does a band go from being “loungey and groovy” to the pungent, shaggy beast it is today? An obsession with tone has a lot to do with it.
“It’s got heavier, but more the frequency thing rather than being more aggressive,” Gerasimos explains.
Adam: “Plus Josh has to carry around two bass rigs nowadays as opposed to one.”
Cam: “But that’s not just for the volume, it’s for his muscle tone and to get a flat stomach.”
We wholeheartedly express ourselves through the music, which results in much head-waving and silly faces
Gerasimos thinks the passion for playing has grown over the years. “We wholeheartedly express ourselves through the music, which results in much head-waving and silly faces — and that’s sincere, it’s not for anyone’s benefit. If the audience can get lost in it too, that’s great.”
Comparisons to ’70s metal, stoner rock and doom bands are inevitable, but is that flattering or frustrating?
Gerasimos doesn’t mind. “It’s like indirectly discussing what you like with someone. You might tell Adam that we sound like Black Sabbath, he tells me and then I feel like we’ve got something in common already.”
Cam: “You just don’t want to hear you sound too much like Black Sabbath…”
No self-respecting band is ever in it for the money, and Peeping Tom’s perfectionism, coupled with an unfortunate lack of cash meant the album was recorded in bursts.
Gerasimos said it was “a wonderfully satisfying and absorbing experience”… both “financially and emotionally,” according to Adam.
“We used Barry Stockley at Fatsound in West Melbourne, he did our EP [to be re-mastered and re-released in conjunction with the long-player] and we really, really liked him,” says Gerasimos. “A very patient man. He was also affordable — dare I use the word ‘cheap’ — and was able to do it on two-inch tape. We agreed to go back to the devil we knew.”
There are moments of intense stress if things aren’t working out
“A very patient, kingly fellow,” Adam agrees. “It was heaps of fun. But there are moments of intense stress if things aren’t working out. You can get so far into it that you think about every single note. A lot of bands recording all go through it, they’re all living it. But it’s something to really, really, cherish.
“On my positive days I think [the album] will have longevity; that it’s something people will want to keep.”
The band aimed for a recording as faithful to the live experience as possible, but with additional layers for a denser tone. But it’s playing live, in the Tom’s inimitable style, which they live for. Seeing Peeping Tom play can be a religious experience for many fans of heavy groove rock. On a good night, the band seems a million miles away with heads back, eyes closed — seemingly at one with the wall of sound and having an infectiously good time.
The way I play guitar is not a contrived way to play guitar
“I think that whatever it is about us that might be different, whatever that’s unique to us is purely inherent in our manner, our personalities,” Gerasimos explains. “The way I play guitar is not a contrived way to play guitar. I’m a very good player, I’m a very bad player. I play like me. But by the same token, I can’t play covers because I can’t sound like anyone else.”
As for where the band goes when the music reaches that stratospheric plane, Adam says: “I find when you’re rocking out and I look over and see Gerasimos or Josh or Cam getting into it, I’m gonna be inspired by what they’re doing and it’s going to send me into that same realm.”
Josh: “I can tell by how long Gerasimos or Adam plays a lead break for what sort of a night we’re having.
“And when they play lines and stuff I’ve never heard before, or come out with a burst of incredible tone, that’s when it can be really quite amazing.
Gerasimos: “If you can’t be exhilarated by it, if you can’t live off that energy, I think that’s where it loses it. Sometimes it’s like we’re not in front of a crowd.”
So can we expect something really special on Friday night? According to Peeping Tom, fans are promised “a journey. A lot of cheese. A lot of funny faces… and a few off-colour gags from Fatty.”
And that’s just how it should be.