Celeste Potter of Ouch My Face — The Collapse Board Interview
by Bianca Valentino
In 2009 Melbourne, Australia based art-punk three-piece Ouch My Face (Collapse Board’s 129th Song of The Day pick) released their well-received debt self-titled EP after signing to Brisbane label Valve. Shortly after OMF were named one of Rolling Stone Australia’s ‘Artists to Watch’ — something of which frontwoman and art dynamo Celeste Potter says, “I don’t think it really means anything to be honest”. Potter and co don’t care about accolades and what everyone else is doing, they don’t care for convention, fame or ‘making it’. They just want to make great art in their own time.
Is music and art something that you’ve always been interested in?
Yeah, I’ve wanted to make drawing my career since ever I could remember. I never went through that thing of trying to decide what I wanted to do — I just always knew. The same with music as well, I can’t even remember ever wanting to do anything else.
Did music or art come first for you?
Art did because I’ve been drawing since I could hold a pencil whereas with music – I was always obsessed with it since I was five; I’d watch Rage all night, sleep in the lounge room and love on fucking Michael Jackson and Bon Jovi – I didn’t really start playing until I was 12. I started playing guitar and drums. Art’s been there forever.
How did you start to find your identity as a musician?
I’ve never really been good technically at music. I can’t read music. I’m a bit tone deaf so I don’t really know what notes go together. I can never remember a song structure. The way that I approach music is a bit like from my art background, it’s very instinctive. I don’t do much thinking; I just do what feels right. I’ve never gone through any shifts really with the way I feel about my identity as a musician, it’s just really what comes out and it’s grown from that point.
So you found your own way but have there been any mentors along the way?
Me and Steve (Huf, bass) and Ben (Wundersitz, drums), they’re the only guys that I have played music with. We started playing together because we all lived together and didn’t really know anyone else. I didn’t really have any friends because I was at uni and I was too shy to make friends. We didn’t have any money so we were just boxed up in our little house. We just started naturally playing music together. The first time that we went to pubs like The Tote or The Old Bar was when we played there for the first time. We’re friends with a lot of other bands now and I know a lot of other musicians but in terms of working closely with anybody, they’re the only two I’ve done anything with. I guess we kind of brought each other up in that way.
What are your fondest memories of that beginning period for Ouch My Face?
It was exciting to learn to sing and play guitar at the same time [laughs]. Learning that I could do it and realising that I knew how to write a song … actually I still don’t think that I can write a song but, learning that I could fake learning how to write a song [laughs]. My songs don’t necessarily have choruses or verses — they just are what they are. It was nice to realise that that is OK — that anything goes.
I know exactly what you mean because I’ve worked with people on music and so many times people have said “But that’s not a song” or “You can’t not have verses or choruses” and stuff like “That’s not how you write a song”. I was always like, why not? My songs don’t come out the way you’re telling me they should to be considered a song, what makes your idea right and mine wrong?
Yeah and it’s great when you learn that it is ok that anything goes. Whatever you say is a song, is a song!
Exactly! That’s my thoughts, that’s how I create.
Even if it doesn’t resemble any other music you’ve seen or heard before.
I think that’s better because you’re creating something that is more unique, it’s pure.
Yeah, yeah. That’s something that I always thought was a hindrance to me but I’ve come to learn that when your instincts are preserved because you haven’t had any training it’s actually one of the purest forms of music that you can make. It’s one of the purest expressions because you are not clouded by learning.
Or busy with unlearning!
Yeah. I don’t think any of my guitar solos are any of the right notes or anything. I don’t think they adhere to any kinds of scales or anything but they somehow work.
You grew up in South Australia in Mt Gambier, what was that experience like for you? Were there any art or music scenes to speak of?
No [laughs] not really. High school had two football fields, two basketball courts and a massive gymnasium—there was one art room with a broken drum kit and no one guitar had six strings on it. I just got used to people looking at me like I was kind of crazy. I remember going to the book shop and once asking “Do you have Catcher In The Rye?” and they were like “What’s that?” I also remember going to the newsagent and having to discover art by ordering in magazines and books they never stocked. In Mt Gambier you’ve got 21,000 people but you’re surrounded by an hour of pine forest every way. It’s a magical beautiful landscape but there is no art there really. You have to be pretty tenacious when you live there trying to have some connection to other people that make art. For me it was just going to the library and looking at paintings—the only stuff they really had was the Impressionists: Van Gough and Monet, stuff like that. That’s all I really had access too until I started to discover other artists and the fact that I could order books and magazines.