From a dark ambient soundscape, Wise Child emerged on the outskirts of sleepy and clandestine Brunswick. Inspired by the the Japanese birth name Tomoko and a little liquor, siblings Jem and Tom King fused their love for grunge and electronica to pursue a new direction. With abstruse and droning bass underlining their sound, Wild Child generates sonic progression through gritty chords, industrial beats and vocals that wind across their singles. With their latest performance scheduled for our latest Citizens Of The Streets, we caught up with the duo to discuss creative processes, influences and the ideal of tomoko.
Being siblings, the chemistry in Wise Child must have an origin that’s close to home. How did you both begin music? More importantly, when did you decide to make music together and for what reasons?
Jem: “We were always surrounded by music as kids. My grandpa played the ukelele before Vance Joy made it cool and our folks would jam over records in our lounge room. We’ve spent some time apart in other bands that have all been pretty diverse. About a year ago we started to come up with musical ideas that were worlds apart yet seemed to orbit together well.
We both just felt like it was the right time to collaborate again.”
Why did you settle on the moniker ‘Wise Child’? Are there any particular memories or reasons behind it?
Tom: “I was having a party at my place and was talking to a friend of mine whose name is Tomoko. I remember her telling me the heritage of her name from Japan translates as Wise Child. And the morning after the party I had a hangover and the name.
Your music is heavily industrial and dark, particularly in your demo ‘Figurehead’. Is there a certain creative process that you both go through when producing and writing music?
Jem: “Usually I will come up with a guitar riff or line and Tom will bounce some chords and beats off it or vice versa. There is endless post it notes and diaries of lyrics at each of our houses. It’s all about trying to put things where they seem to fit.”
Your upcoming debut single ‘Tomoko’ will be launching in early September. Where there any particular ideas or artists that inspired the track?
Jem: “I guess it’s about following your intuitions and not being afraid to dive head first into something incase it fails. As a kid I never thought 10 steps ahead, I just did what made me happy and felt right. I think it’s something you need to remind yourself of as you get older.”
Tom: “I really love how artists such as Massive Attack can loop a progression and feel yet it still stays free and interesting. That was kind of how that song came about. A progression and a feel that seemed strong enough to hold all of the song together.”
Having been recorded and mixed in numerous share houses in Brunswick, was the Japanese idea of ‘Tomoko’ a poetic element you both wanted to explore?
Tom: “We recorded the song when a few things had happened. One of which was our family dog Lucy passing away. We were both remembering how intuitive and wise she was, so I guess it was a reflective process.”
You’ve noted that artists like Massive Attack and Nine Inch Nails influence the vitality and direction of your live sets. What’s your current setup and energy when getting up on stage?
Jem: “We run two electric guitars, trigger pads, pedals, you name it really. Our energy on stage matches the enthusiasm for the music. We basically just make the music we love. Equal parts organic and electronic.”
Are there any other artists or works that inspire Wise Child, either musically, artistically or stylistically?
Tom: “The grunge/rock thing comes into it by Jem’s guitar playing, I think. I know she loves the way PJ Harvey and J Mascis play and sound. We are also both big fans of TV On The Radio, that band is just one big melting pot of everything we love musically and every song of theirs has a point to it. Those guys make music they want to hear, not writing for what is ‘cool’ at the time. To me their stuff always stays fresh and doesn’t date. Tunde the singer also has his own custom jumpsuits made for gigs, so naturally we are in owe.”
Often fusing grunge and electronica, the ambient tones in your work are very dark and magnetic. What aspects of creating soundscapes and experimental sounds do you enjoy?
Tom: “We’ve been writing a new song called ‘Circles’, which is about when Jem had vertigo. I rocked up to prac one day and she was running her cello through her orange amp with a whole bunch of pedals. We then put this guitar line over the top that kind of sounds like it’s going in a circle. That was pretty experimental and enjoyable haha.”
With you launch set for ‘Tomoko’ kicking off in October, are there any other shows or goals for Wise Child in the upcoming months?
Jem: “We are both really excited for our single launch at Old Bar. We booked the gallery upstairs on the night as well which will exhibit art by Josh Head (who does our illustrations) and Leah Pavasaris who are both ridiculously talented. After that the plan is to make more noise, record more songs, play more shows, drink more coffee and put out an EP.”
You can catch Wise Child at Speaker TV’s upcoming Citizens Of The Streets. More info here.