Although many within the late 00s/early 10s DIY Brisbane scene would be quick to call themselves slackers and layabouts, a few were industrious. From the countless hours of recorded music deep in Bandcamp and YouTube, to the prolific output of seminal zine Negative Guest List, there is a fragmented archive of great music to come from, or pass through Brisbane that’s worth searching for and understanding. Pouring over the defunct MySpace pages, inactive blogs, and forgotten interviews, I got some sense for the spirit of the underground scene in my hometown without having ever met any of the figures. Grainy footage of dispassionate shows in venues that no longer exist, hastily put-together album artwork, throwaway liner notes and above all, the tunes themselves, insinuated to me a similar artistic philosophy as Bukowski’s ‘don’t try’ sans the cringe-y literature and notoriety.
Should you find yourself in the unfortunate position of trawling for underground Brisbane music, then it’s inevitable (if you’re looking correctly) to stumble upon Kitchen’s Floor. The project of Matt Kennedy, Kitchen’s Floor has been penning sincere balladry enjoyed widely by sexually frustrated lobotomy patients and professional drunks since 2007. Having lived in the same Paddington sharehouse for 16 years, Matt has synthesised the muck, malalignment and melancholy of his surroundings into a number of albums which feel a part of a sort-of reluctant DIY Brisbane canon. Untidy, dissacossicated and ever-losing, the sounds of Kitchen’s Floor afford some sincere respite amidst the cataclysmic dulling occurring across this city, brought on by the ever growing swarms of apartment-owning-air-pod-vaping-wind-bags (the horsemen of the apocalypse ride in on e-scooters).
With a new album ‘None of That’ seven years after their last effort and a new post-pandemic line-up, I caught the bus to Paddington to sit down with Matt to ask some questions about both the long history of Kitchen’s Floor and the context of their most recent effort.
“We used to have some really good house shows here,” says Matt while fake-apologising for the moderate messiness of his place. Around the large pile of to-be-washed black pants and shirts, empty glasses, and crumpled letters, esoteric gig posters line the walls, records and cassettes filling out shelves around a prominent sound system. “Do you know of Cured Pink? That was from a show in 2019, they’re great.” On Latrobe Tce, in and amongst some of the nicer real estate in Brisbane, it feels as though Matt is a pre-gentrified artefact, closer in-spirit to the Petrie Terrace house from The Saints’ music video down the road than the oat-milk drinking dog-walking precariats moving around on the street.
I’m curious about Matt’s time on the Gold Coast, especially given how much ‘Brisbane’ is associated with Kitchen’s Floor, and how (if at all) that cultural abyss contributed to his sound. As a teenager he formed Look!Pond on the coast in the mid-2000s, a four-track no-wave punk project that foreshadowed many of the characteristics he’d continue through to Kitchen’s Floor. “Yep, very 2000s sort-of name. I had no other friends who played music. I’d go to any all ages 4ZZZ shows I could find, but most of it was just pop-punk,” said Matt. “The ‘alternative’ band was Radiohead and that’s as far as it went. And you know, I fucking hated Radiohead.”
“I felt like I had to go through this very long and awkward and cringey journey to find what I was looking for. By the time I started Look!Pond I was 17 and I had heard No New York. It was the first time I heard it where the bands weren’t really trying,” said Matt on the influential Brian Eno compilation album. “It was anti-rock music, the drummer wasn’t trying to impress you, the guitarist wasn’t shredding. It was the exact opposite. They were trying to piss you off, it resonated completely with me, I was like ‘yeah this is it!’. I had spent so much time around this Radiohead worshipping bro cult and knowing that those no wave bands would’ve hated that shit was great. Look!Pond sort-of stemmed from there broadly, just trying to do things differently than what I’d been exposed to, and trying to work things out on my own.”
Jumping forwards in time, Matt eventually moved to Brisbane and into the Paddington abode where he still resides. “The first Kitchen’s Floor show would’ve been here around 2007, it was a house show, from memory,” said Matt. “Just me playing solo acoustic. That’s how it started, me, guitar, singing songs I had written in my room, at this property. The first 6 months of the band was mostly just that. I was doing bedroom recordings, dubbing them on cassettes and then handing them out to friends and stuff.”
Their first album ‘Loneliness is a Dirty Mattress’ released in 2009 marked out a more hopeless and scuzzier downer template than much of the burgeoning dreary dolewave coming out the Australian underground at the time. In a time where wastoids on the fringe were idolised, Kitchen’s Floors proved distinct, songs like ‘Woollens’ and ‘Sparkles’ still sounding fresh in their directionless aggression till this day. In a similar fashion as how Razar and Leftovers were labelled distinctly Brisbane punk bands due to their anarchistic sound in an era of a police state, Kitchen’s Floor’s DIY booze-rock seemed to resonate in a similarly profound way to the post-00s crowd battling the sweat, existential boredom and nihilism of whatever it is you call our current state of affairs.
The hay day for Kitchen’s Floor, as it were, would come with the release of their second album ‘Look Forward to Nothing’ (ironic, no?) which came out on legendary cult label Siltbreeze based in Philadelphia. Following the release, Kitchen’s Floor played some 30 shows across America, audiences stemming from play on college radio. It seems wild to me how a band like Kitchen’s Floor, with such a sort-of dirty and Australian-specific sound was able to get recognition overseas and I was really interested in how both the tour and relationship with Siltbreeze came about... “Initially it was through Negative Guest List and Brendon Annesely, his writing and his research... I had no idea what was happening with anything at all over there, but he was this really dedicated music writer more-so than a musician,” said Matt on the influential Brisbane Zine and how KF initially reached international shores.
“If you read Negative Guest List, that’s all the evidence you need. He just had an amazing ability to track down similar scenes and contact the most eccentric or interesting people, interview them and then the connection would be formed between Brisbane and wherever the subject was from. There was a whole period back then when America was super interested in underground Australian music, we had bands like Royal Headache and stuff that audiences over there seemed to really get into. It was at that peak time when Siltbreeze agreed to release the second album.” Brendon’s taste, obsessive research and prolific output was able to command the attention from weirdos and punks around the world. Negative Guest List gave him the medium and excuse to interview cult music figures and form a relationship with them, putting a foot in the door for bands like Kitchen’s Floor.
“Brendon was a pure punk, a through and through punk kid -- maybe the most punk kid I’ve ever met. I knew him really well but I never knew him as the kind of guy who would sit at a computer, or ever even use a computer. He was always so active and out and about, doing shit and he had this energy about him, this personality and vibe that would just never suggest he would be obsessively researching stuff on the computer. It all added to this mystery of like how the fuck does he know all this in-depth shit. He was Brisbane’s Lester Bangs – Brendon lent me one of his books that I never read. We owed a lot to him for opening up the world. We were in our own little scene bubble, it was a popularity contest to see who could be the biggest band. But then as soon as you get outside of that you realise how small and unimportant and indifferent it really is.”
The honesty and sincerity in Matt’s frustration and detachment of ‘Look Forward to Nothing’ is almost overwhelming on first listen. Where his earlier work with Look!Pond sounded like a teenager screaming against the suffocating isolation of Gold Coast suburbia, on ‘Look Forward to Nothing’ it feels as though the fight has been taken out of him. ‘Look Forward to Nothing’ is apathetic, dreary and efficient in the same way a daily routine is. The first half of this record clocks in at under 7 minutes but the ideas are so robust you will feel full despite the small serving. It’s intensely self-loathing but somehow is able to pull you in with this. You could have a physical reaction to hearing some of the minimal, but to-the-bone lyrics, the sparsity and limited aesthetic of KF making the underlying sentiment all too easy to access. On Graves he sings “sitting on her bed / almost feeling”, on ‘116’ “I’m the last one you’d love”, and on ‘Needs’ “I’ve been waiting in the room / someone needed to be gone / do they need your company / do they really love you”.
Brendon died in early 2012, shortly after the release of ‘Look Forward to Nothing’ and although this article isn’t about him, his influence on KF and Brisbane’s music scene is undeniable. His forever-young-druggie-genius was the inspiration for this here magazine you’re holding, and I hope that any young guns reading this will go out their way to try and track down a copy of Negative Guest List just so you can see how a good zine is meant to be written.When talking about the new record, ‘None Of That’, Matt framed it’s release in the context of the previous KF effort ‘Battle of Brisbane’, being very critical of the 2015 album and outlining exactly what he didn’t want to do with ‘None of That’. “I think ‘Battle of Brisbane’ was a really big concept album. I had a really big ego when I made that album with these huge ideas. I put everything into it, I meticulously planned everything and when I listen back to it now it sounds really grandiose. I think it’s actually aged quite badly because of that, you can hear my vocals on that album how hard I’m trying. I was trying to make it a big fucking deal.”
After the release of ‘Battle of Brisbane’, Matt gradually put a halt on KF, becoming involved with many other projects while also running Eternal Soundcheck. “Kitchen’s Floor played the Sydney Opera House in 2017, to thousands of people. It was VIVID festival, with Total Control and stuff. We played that and I remember thinking ‘oh, this is the pinnacle’. Doing the kind-of music Kitchen’s Floor makes you can’t really go any higher than Sydney Opera House. So it was like, alright, well I know this is the peak, it’s all down hill from here, so why bother? It’s like, try different things. I was satisfied, I did my best.”
This begs the obvious question: ‘why make a new record?’
In typical KF fashion, the new record was spurred on by immense trauma (physical this time, instead of spiritual/emotional [good to see Matt evolving the approach]). Coming home from a Goon Sax show last year, very drunk, he hopped on an e-scooter to get home and had a very serious crash face-first into the road. “I completely fucked myself up. I was so drunk I didn’t even notice how severe it was, I just noticed there was blood everywhere,” said Matt on the incident. “It was a dark empty street and I was alone, so I experienced it that way. It’s that kind-of thing where if someone else was with me, they would’ve immediately called an ambulance and it’d become a really big deal. But because I was by myself I didn’t really know how to react to it. I could feel my lip hanging off my face and was like ‘that’s not good’, blood gushing down my shirt. I managed to make it home, looked in the mirror and saw I had done some really bad damage to my ‘beautiful’ face. I was going to call an ambulance but thought ‘oh, it’s COVID, you can’t burden the medical system’ so I just went to bed. In the morning I woke up and the whole pillow was dry and wet with blood, I was hungover, I looked at it with sober eyes and realised how badly I had hurt myself. I live by myself, didn’t want to add to the workload of the hospitals and so just had to work through it alone. I started writing songs without leaving the house, and the first song I wrote was ‘Blood’, which I wrote that day. It’s a really angry, heavy, psychotic song that was made while I was still in a state of shock, you can really hear that in the song, very intense.”
Matt credits the crash for breaking him out of Groundhog Day and giving him something to actually write about, saying that his isolated recovery from the injury spurred his writing. After a 6 year hiatus of making music, within two months after falling off the scooter he was in the studio with Luke Walsh laying down a new album. I personally think it sounds like he was still concussed and writing songs with the semi-deluded motivations of someone who has temporary brain damage. ‘None Of That’ features some of the most crushing and creative KF cuts to-date, ‘Blood’ clearly sticking out, guitar chords falling over themselves, drums thundering, cowbell encouraging as Matt satisfyingly screams “blood, everywhere”. Whatever heady subtleties and nuance he wanted to get across on ‘Battle Of Brisbane’ is replaced by the immediacy of writing a song with a mouth busted-up so bad it looks like some sorta meat flower blossoming. ‘Lousy Company’ features screeching, then hammering industrial guitar reminiscent of Big Black, Matt singing “I’ll just be/lousy company/walking around, your town/look at what they done to me” against at once frenetic and minimal rhythms.
The middle of the album has some classic janky acoustic respite, different creative ploys evident across both, catchy double tracked chaos on ‘Expiry’, drunk and scuzzed vocal harmonies with Kata of Daily Toll on ‘Before Dawn’ (great lyrics here: “I wanna die before dawn”). These more stripped back numbers sound like someone crawling through the broken glass of a car crash, and end not with the sound of an ambulance but a pleasantly out-of-tune chord. The rekkid then serves up a coupla of 60 second Kitchen’s Floor classics ‘Drink’ and ‘Yamsi’, Matt yelling “drink with me/I won’t leave/I will stay” (the word ‘I’ here is used pretty liberally I’d guess, but maybe not). Then in a full about turn we’re presented with ‘Xans’, a splashy piano and minimal percussion acting as the stale after dinner mint for what was a filling, if greasy meal. ‘None Of That’ sees KF return to their roots by making an album fuelled by trauma more than ambition. Matt’s lyrics resonate with a hard-hitting simplicity and against some of the best KF instrumentals to-date. There’s a subtle skillset on-display throughout the new rekkid that’s only apparent when comparing it to earlier efforts, the musical acumen that naturally arises after nearly two decades making stuff manifesting in the effortless flow, variance and distinct expression of ‘None of That’. It seems as though if we want another new (and quite good) KF album, we will have to wait until Matt Kennedy fucks himself up again (raise the escooter speed limits I say).