aleks & the ramps
Gig Seeker Pro

aleks & the ramps


Band Alternative Pop


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"The Age Interview"

This five-piece go out on a limb with their second album, writes Craig Mathieson.

''THIS is our studio," says Aleks Bryant, stepping into a roughly walled-off space in the large shed behind a Brunswick share house. The frontman and chief songwriter for Aleks and the Ramps, an alternately incisive and eccentric local band, casts a hopeful glance at the roof, which is bowing under the weight of the carpet rolls placed there for sound insulation. He paid a friend with beer to construct it.

The band is in the middle of a national tour, so gear is strewn everywhere; in one corner guitarist Simon Connolly is working on the self-managed outfit's accounts. The studio space is cosy in winter and an absolute oven in the summer. Fittingly, for a band whose music often explores the perverse desires of the unassuming, it was during the latter that they spent months overdubbing Midnight Believer, the just-released follow-up to their 2007 debut Pisces vs. Aquarius. "You were losing your mind," recalls the affable Connolly. "Aleks wanted more involvement for us but we all had jobs and stuff. We recorded together initially but for the overdubbing it was very informal."

"I don't want to be a control freak but if no one steps in I'm just going to be a control freak," says Bryant with a smile. He admits that some of the pieces on the new record ended up containing more than 100 tracks of music.

The banjo-playing singer has a somewhat deadpan sense of humour and a slightly halting nature. He's recently graduated from a diffident moustache to a frontiersman's beard and, aside from when he forgets to book accommodation on interstate visits, is one of the more reliable Ramps. His opposite is multi-instrumentalist Joe Foley, the band's youngest member, who scuttled a recent interview with The West Australian by only discussing lemons.

The music of Aleks and the Ramps — who also feature Foley's older sister and Bryant's partner, Janita, on bass and new drummer Jon Tjhia — is engaging but difficult to corral. A Canberra boy who studied film at Melbourne's VCA, Bryant writes like a film editor (a job he now does on a freelance basis), cutting between passages and making jump cuts.

"When we rehearse as the Ramps and learn new songs everyone has their own idea about what is the verse and what is the chorus," says Connolly. "I'll say: 'Can we try the chorus again?' And someone will ask: 'Which bit is the chorus?' "

It took Melbourne audiences a year or two to get past the occasional matching costumes, the raft of pseudonyms and the general air of chaos that dominates the five-piece's live shows. But on Midnight Believer, a record that begins at mournful and builds to the popular single Antique Limb, Bryant's fantasy lives of the maladjusted shine through. "I don't find it exciting to write about everyday things," he says. "These are all the problems normal people have but they've just been taken somewhere else. There still has to be something grounded and real in there no matter how outlandish it ends up." - The Age

"Midnight Believer Review"

It’s impossible not to be caught up in the tidal rhythms of the opening number 'Destroy the Universe with Jazz Hands', which typically contorts into an electro poppy feast. Typical in an Aleks and the Ramps sense, however, is as far from any traditional song writing as you’ll get. Lingering in the peripheries of so many musical genres, they’re impossible to peg down. 'Midnight Believer' is a consolidation of sorts; it acts as the best explanation of their signature complexities to date. All the while, the feel of the album barely resembles the live incarnation of Aleks and the Ramps at all.
You’re greeted by the delicious inky smells of a classy package, complete with gorgeous cover art and poster by illustrator Lily Coates—once you’ve pulled the disc out there’s not an ounce of plastic in sight. There’s a maritime peg to the arrangements that vanishes for spells but returns occasionally to remind you where you are. There’re crafty little samples in spots, clean acoustic rhythms and the banjo makes its marvellous self known throughout.
Structurally this album lends itself to improvisation and as a basis for a live show it will make fantastic root material. Gripe-wise, all that could be slandered upon 'Midnight Believer' is that it’s a little too short. With the sisterly nature of all tracks, one through ten, it’s an exciting prospect to hear it live, start through finish.
The elemental beauty of this recording lies in the crafted hidden treasures continually darting and enticing. The time taken in arranging may’ve been excessive but the detailing pays off. From moment to moment you’re never quite sure where they will take you next. By definition, this is what separates Aleks and the Ramps from anything else I’m hearing right now. There exists within this outfit the ability to pull (musical) rabbits from hats at every turn. It’s a narrative of sorts but it’s by no means ‘once upon a time... the end.’ More James Joyce than John Grisham, Midnight Believer is the literature of Melbourne music, but in no way inaccessible.
Sam McDougall - Flannelette

"Rave Magainze Interview"

ALEKS BRYANT, titular frontman for Melbourne art-pop outfit ALEKS & THE RAMPS, talks to MATT HICKEY about their new album, their next album and not wanting to wait so fucking long for its release.

"I still get shit about that," says Aleks Bryant of an infamous 2006 interview with Mess + Noise in which he derided the Melbourne music scene and the venues therein. "I did say all those things against Melbourne, yeah – but then I also said being a booking agent would be a really hard job and I could never do it, but of course they don’t print that!"

Fortunately for our protagonist, a pair of acclaimed albums have cultivated a heightened profile within the Australian music community and somewhat eased the struggle to find and book gigs that inspired the aforementioned rant. Art-pop is probably the best tag to pin to the now five-piece’s latest album, Midnight Believer, which takes in more afro-pop-inspired moments through to laptop exercises and instrumental rock.

Though it’s been two years since their debut, Pieces vs Aquarius, Bryant reports that the band has been a full-time concern and the long wait was the result of external circumstances rather than artistic languor.

"If I was going to travel back in time and say, ‘your next record will be released in May 2009,’ I’d go, ‘fuck off, that’s ages away!’ It’s frustrating when you’re ready to go but then you just have to sit around waiting for planets align to get things done." Other musical projects, monetary issues and the odd international jaunt all contributed to the album’s delay, though there was definitely some silver lining to this long gestation period that Bryant acknowledges, such as the increased tightness of the performances on record. With the band continuing to gig consistently in the downtime, all of the tracks on Midnight Believer had seen extensive practice and live performance before even hitting record. "We did five full days in the rehearsal studio, making sure we could properly play the album from start to finish," says Bryant, echoing the professional and workmanlike attitude he earlier espoused.

"I’m a lot happier with this record than the last one, we had a proper engineer and went into a proper studio. Some of it sounds pretty hi-fi, which is weird because we didn’t spend too much money on it, we just spent it in the right places."

Although this process yielded an impressive album, Bryant is nonetheless keen to do things differently – definitely faster – next time around. "I’m already anxious to work on the next one. I think the next one will be just written and recorded in one block of time – like, we’ll just book in four weeks of ‘Ramp time’ at some point in the near future – and we’ll figure out how to play it live later on."

Luckily, it seems fans won’t have to wait two years to hear more from these guys. In the meantime though, be sure to check out their upcoming album launch tour, which will reportedly feature some "epic noise jams" that, understandably, didn’t translate to the pop-drawn landscape of the album. Interesting. - Rave

"Midnight Believer Review"

Melbourne five-piece Aleks and the Ramps have put together something special for their second album Midnight Believer; something that should be an end-of-year contender without the continent of origin as a caveat.

The Ramps have undergone a line-up change in the two years since their debut, Pieces Vs Aquarius. New drummer "Black Wasp" coupled with the extensive live performance these songs saw before recording has helped both expand and tighten the oft-ramshackle group into a true band. Though most of these songs reportedly started life as banjo workouts in the bedroom of titular frontman Aleks Bryant, Midnight Believer is characterized largely by its dynamic, technicolour arrangements, sounding like it was written by twenty different songwriters playing almost as many instruments. The sheer stylistic disparity and playful, energetic attitude make this album like a schizophrenic patient on meds – technically it’s under control, but it threatens to descend into an exciting chaos at any moment. As if Arcade Fire were from Narnia. This is slightly reductive, however, because these songs are personal and it’s this intimacy, more than so than the effortless musical adaptability, that draws the listener in to their complex arrangements.

Midnight Believer deftly covers folk, electronica, chamber pop, metal, classic rock, experimental elements. In a nutshell? Banjo musings taking on distorted guitar heroics. But The Ramps don’t use these genre explorations to compensate for weak compositions, merely as intuitive manifestations of their meandering and enthusiastic pop sensibility.

Take ‘Ideas Circa 1992,’ which begins with hokily imparted non-wisdoms (“you check yourself in every full length mirror you find / but you’ll never know how you look to people walking behind”) atop of spooky backing vocals before transgressing into a bossa-nova flavoured office romance exchange with co-singer Janita Foley. It’s an hilarious, bittersweet song that neatly showcases the fluidity of performances (largely recorded live), the chemistry between the vocalists, and Bryant’s penchant for obscure but endearing lyrics. Like the arrangements themselves, they read like stream-of-consciousness; uncontrived absurdity. Nothing sounds labored, over-thought, or unnecessarily indulgent – an admirable feat for a band featuring an electronic spoken word piece a la ‘Fitter Happier’ (‘Weather Patterns’).

The banjo-led ‘Hey Owl’ finds the narrator longs for a partner who’s died in a plane crash (“when your plane plunged into the sea / it made a wreck of itself and me”), only the song is sprightly, the descending denouement uplifting. It’s a fitting centerpiece for the album’s A Side, more straightforward than its latter, more acrobatic counterpart. Venemous vocal interplay (‘Whiplash’) and the shifting, heaving segments of ‘Boy Meets Ghost’ create a more experimental flavour, instilling a sense of divine disorder. Single ‘Antique Limb’ closes the record, it's futuristic incarnation of afro pop a fitting finale to an album bent on deriving uniqueness from the Ramps vast influences.

What holds everything together here though is Bryant’s vocals and inspired musings. There’s a weight behind his words, amplified by his imperfect baritone, and it binds these songs while also creating a tone that’s touching yet not earnest; playful but not silly. Midnight Believer is the end product of unbridled creativity, boldness, and the wits to synthesise these traits into catchy art-pop songs.

Matt Hickey - TheVine

"Midnight Believer Review"

On stage between their first album, Pisces Vs Aquarius, and this, their second, Aleks And The Ramps would often play a cover of Lee Hazlewood's 'My Autumn's Done Come'. It's a slow, sad song about entering the twilight years and preparing for the end. "Kiss all the pretty ones goodbye/Give everyone a penny that cries," sings Hazlewood – best known for his collaborations with Nancy Sinatra and "cowboy psychedelia" style – in his enormous baritone, over a gentle acoustic guitar and string section. This fact is more than just trivia. It goes some way to explaining Midnight Believer.

Aleks Bryant channels Hazlewood, and his counterpart Janita Foley evokes Nancy Sinatra, at more than one point on this album. "All I really want to do/Is come clean to someone like you," Bryant sings in one early moment, slow and deep and hopelessly, like a man trying to tread water in concrete boots. It's part of a suite of songs that deal with regret, guilt, loss and anxiety – those eternal "big" themes – as if the music wasn't the work of a young experimental pop band at all, but a last, longing glance back at what went wrong.

Midnight Believer is a work that threatened never to be finished. After their first album, the members of Aleks And The Ramps found themselves balancing countless side projects. Joe Foley plays as Extreme Wheeze, Janita as Denim Owl, Simon Connolly has his own band Potential Falcon, while new drummer Jon Tjhia is in ii and Scissors for Sparrow. It may be because of this that the album sounds divided in two. On the first half, Bryant explores his own influences in a series of songs inspired by remorseful country ballads. On the second, the band return to the schizophrenic pop they're known for.

If the early tracks are inspired by a country tradition, it's in theme more than style. On 'Walking In The Garden', a man struggles to hide murderous impulses from his lover ("I wish that I could let you know what goes on in this head/But there's some things that might make you uneasy about sharing a bed"). And on 'Hey Owl', a character tries to cope with the death of his wife ("I just can't deal with this amount of change/So I pretend your phone's still out of range"). The music, however, is like something from outer space – dreamy and spacious, unfamiliar and exciting.

While these tracks are beautiful, it’s the album's second half that will thrill on first listen. It begins with 'Boy Meets Ghost', one of Midnight Believer's best songs, that heralds the return of the band's trademark obsessions. Random yelps and screams, breakneck changes of style, bitter fights between lovers and brutal vocal sparring between Bryant and Janita – all of the things that were the heartbeat of Pisces Vs Aquarius – come back bigger and better. The lyrics become absurd and black-humoured and Bryant's characters go back to trying to kill each other.

The back-and-forth between Bryant and Janita reaches its peak on 'Whiplash', where each vocal punchline is backed-up by a laugh track and applause. As always, the interchange is vicious. And as always, Janita ends up with the best lines. A few seconds before delivering the killer blow, she speculates on her rival's sexual fantasies: "And I can only guess what it would be/You and me, and the me in your head/In a ménage à trois in your parents' bed?/I'll never touch you again, so I suggest/You get a tattoo of that lipstick stain on your chest."

With every song, the album picks up momentum – it seems designed to hurtle toward the final track and first single, 'Antique Limb'. There is a brief interlude before it gets there – a quirky spoken-word piece via computer vocals, ala OK Computer, that will no doubt irritate some listeners – but when it arrives, oh boy. The song is the culmination of everything on the record up to that point: four minutes of strange and pure pop, part intergalactic broadcast, part calypso jam, recalling the very best moments of that other experimental pop collective Architecture in Helsinki. It's an exhilarating climax to one of the albums of the year. -

"Live Review, Oct. 2006"

Breaking the reverent silence this unique venue inspires, Aleks & the Ramps, clad in basketball-singlets and shorts, line in an orderly queue at a 45 degree angle to the stage. It would be peculiar at the best of times to see a bunch of indie musicians exposing so much bare flesh, but when the crowd were seated in hushed silence on the floor and pews of a restored church building, it was a sight you couldn't ignore.

A cheesy programmed theme song saw the five lurch into their own random trajectories across the floor like a multi-ball jackpot. As the members bounced to their positions on stage, the energy barely subsided, just adjusting slightly to accommodate their instruments.

Aleks leads the band with just voice and banjo - if that description evokes a vision of Kermit the Frog singing his tales plaintively in the swamp, then the Ramps could easily pass as the Muppets' animated backing band, The Electric Mayhem. Even the drummer seemed to be channelling Animal - but in footy shorts.

In what can vaguely be described as an absurd vaudeville romp, the band clapped, wailed, jigged, sang, cheered and shrieked their way through the gig. The music often gave way to interpretive dance, or the untamed movement of bodies and voices. Harmonies or handclaps were offered any time a mouth or hand was close to an open microphone. I cannot even get close to doing justice to the live experience that is Aleks & the Ramps; I can only intone with the strongest possible emphasis that you simply must see this band perform live.


"Pisces Vs. Aquarius Review"

Found written inside the women’s toilet at the Rob Roy: “Aleks and the Ramp’s music is just so physical and tactile, you can nearly feel the moisture in the vagina.� Hard to argue with that really, considering the excitement governing a Ramps’ show. If I wasn’t a boy I’d probably feel it there too. Pisces vs. Aquarius is an ultra-fine approximation of the quixotic quintet doing it up on CD, minus the live moves and mishaps sure, but a highly-charged event nevertheless — wild, witty and insane.

They’re led by a mordant-humoured baritone/cineaste, whose lyrics lean towards the unexplainable, while the hooks hilariously emerge from the darnedest sources: cat food commercials, stray harmonies and noise bleeds. ‘Aminals’, one of two zany, infectious epics that bookend the album, is sung by the singer in the clapped-out falsetto of a sozzled spinster, boozed and confused, buttering toast inside her hotel with a credit card. The Spanish version of Roxette’s ‘It Must Have Been Love’ (‘No Se Si Es Amor’) is evidence the Ramps can transform disposable pop into something lasting and sublime. Add sugar-high harmonies, schizophrenic noise zaps and a beautiful banjo to this recipe and it’s a Todd Solondz meets Ingmar Bergman musical for the new school. Feel it.
- Mess+Noise Magazine

"Pisces Vs. Aquarius Review"

“So it’s, ah, One-two-three-four-five-six!� cries a faint voice, counting in ‘123456 (pardon us)’. And that about sums up the appeal of this gloriously insane Melbourne quintet, who perform on stage as if they had at least forty limbs between them and who can shoehorn eight dimensions of musical inventiveness into a space smaller than a sub-atomic particle.

Remember those carpet-cleaning ads in the 1980s that featured Pro Hart chucking spaghetti, jam and paint in every direction? “Oh Mr Hart, what a mess!� Transpose to music and you have Aleks and his merry Ramps: it’s not pretty, but the genius is undeniable. The major tracks – ‘Aminals’, ‘Rigor Mortis’ and ‘Brain’ – each spin out a tale of bodily horror, twisting through backwoods banjo and sickly glockenspiel. Intensely claustrophobic, generally starring some dysfunctional couple hell-bent on doing each other damage, the effect is pure American Gothic. “We must have looked like such a strange pair/Me with my respirator, you with your wheelchair� – it’s the album’s key line, on ‘Brain’, and it makes you seriously wonder about the dynamic that’s playing out between real-life partners Aleks (baritone, banjo) and Janita (bass) as the two trade lines. Their fantasyland is a dark one.

It’s also a deft one, and it’s the Ramps obvious skill that catapults them above a mere novelty act. Their take on dance music (‘Dead But Dreaming’) is calibrated to make bottoms wiggle, while closing track ‘Diary of a Lizard Man’ steals the insistent ‘oh-oh-oh-ohs’ of Laurie Anderson’s ‘O Superman’ and then drops down into a moment of finger-clicking acoustic melancholia. There’s even a storm thundering away in the background. And dogs barking. Probably fake. Trumpets. Did I mention the Spanish-language version of Roxette’s ‘It Must Have Been Love’?

This is everything and the kitchen sink. Revel in it.

Emmy Hennings
- Cyclic Defrost

"Pisces Vs. Aquarius Review"

This Melbourne band are calling their debut album a rock soap opera. Ex Riot Cop Dad starts with a Turkish banjo melody and ends up sounding like a Slim Dusty lament. And that's not as strange as the band get. Over 40 minutes the record takes pop through Sufjan Stevens indie country via the camp theatrics of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and into some very bent lyrical territory.
Erik Jensen
- Sydney Morning Herald

"Aleks and the Ramps Article"

The transparency of my assumed identity was just like your dress/There wasn’t much left to guess.�

Sung in ridiculous falsetto, the opening line of Aleks And The Ramps’ debut album rests on a knife-edge. Is it unsustainable novelty or strange beauty? This is the decision the band’s listeners are faced with. Many have dismissed the Melbourne five-piece too quickly for their ludicrous stage presence. Often dressed in matching but ill-fitting basketball uniforms with tight short-shorts, they jump up and down manically through songs, switch instruments freely and generally seem to be having too good a time to take much seriously. Outside, before each set, they can be caught rehearsing dance routines.

But there’s something else going on as well. On record, Aleks And The Ramps are a different proposition. Their music is an absurd jumble of genres, switching between folk, electronica, operatic rock and heavy metal, often within the same song. The lyrics are vivid, wet with sexuality and full of horror, cataloguing lovers’ quarrels from inside the mangled wreck of a car crash. Deep and morose by default, Aleks’ voice is sincere and surprisingly affecting. It is experimental pop at its most creative.

In January this year, Michael Dwyer – authoritative contributor to the EG, the music lift-out of Melbourne broadsheet The Age – articulated what many critics had been hinting at for years: “As illustrated by The Darkness and Wolfmother, the place where solid rock used to be has shifted beyond definition. The real thing is acknowledged to be extinct, so the world embraces its substitution with more or less authentic replicas.� What critics haven’t admitted is that this problem extends well beyond the Top 40 charts.

Vibrant though it is, the Melbourne independent scene defines itself against the pastiche of mainstream bands like Jet, Wolfmother and The Vines without realising it often follows the same pattern with more obscure influences. It is so safe in its “difference� that it can appear insular and arrogant. Mildly-famous bands now introduce themselves on stage under a pseudonym, as if not recognising them in the flesh was simply laughable, and earn critical applause for doing so. Hundreds of fans come together to talk through performances – safe in the knowledge that there will be another the next day, or even later the same night – while bands re-enact stage antics well past their expiry date.

In this context, Aleks And The Ramps’ habit of making audiences uncomfortable – for reasons beyond their intimacy, or lack thereof, with this month’s “in� bands – is a pretty valuable skill. Exuberant and flirting psychopathically with different forms of pop, they spark bouts of nervous laughter and leave listeners feeling confused about what they’ve just experienced. The vague sense of familiarity which creeps into most gigs is blasted out the window. “If I’d sat in my bedroom for 100 years I could never have dreamt up anything so wilfully eccentric,� wrote music critic Emmy Hennings after seeing them for the first time.

“We must have looked like such a strange pair/Me with my respirator, you with your wheelchair.�

Aleks And The Ramps’ first full-length, Pisces Vs. Aquarius, does have its share of eccentric moments. ‘No Se Si Es Amor’ is a cover of Roxette’s 1990 chart hit ‘It Must Have Been Love’, sung in Spanish and backed by primitive electronic blips and beeps and Aleks’ banjo. Other song titles include ‘Aminals’ and ‘Diary Of A Lizard Man’. But there are also threads of a much darker lyrical obsession woven throughout. Often, they appear as dialogues, either between two people or a conflicted memory, which travel along the entanglements of violence and sexual politics in neatly rhyming couplets.

In the story told by one track, ‘Brain’, two cripples hobble aboard a bus and share a flashback to a car accident. The lyrics are written as two individual memories which spool together into a kind of disjointed conversation. “If you were in pain, I couldn’t tell,� laments Aleks in deadpan character. “I was dealing with a punctured lung.� The voice which replies is so playful and effortlessly gorgeous that it’s difficult not to become entranced by the contrast. “Your gasping reminded me of the first time we made love,� sings Janita, member of The Ramps and Aleks’s real-life lover.

This barbed call-and-response is a remake of an earlier song, ‘Cuts Make Scars’, from the band’s self-titled EP (which is, unfortunately, almost impossible to find). On that track, the two memories are even more vicious and unfold, again, after a car crash. While Aleks reflects on his partner’s injuries, a rock opera rages over the top, mixed from strings, vocal harmonies and what sounds like a recording of jumbo jets landing. In contrast, Janita’s slow, sweetly-intoned reply is bereft of accompaniment and echoes around the room. The detail wrapped up in its simple rhyming pattern is impressive:

“You stumbled when you tried to get up and stand/If my arms weren’t in plastic, I’d have given you a hand/But the neck brace made it hard for me to look you in the eye/That’s why I didn’t notice when you started to cry/Your trembling hands were more than I could take/So I left with an excuse you could tell was fake/The quiver in your voice when you said you couldn’t cope stuck in my head like a pubic hair in soap.�

The absurdity of that verse is matched only by its pointed sense of hurt. One track later on the EP, Aleks returns to the scene of the accident. “Must you call me by my real name?� is the opening line of ‘Air Drums,’ followed by a non-sequitur about being unable to stand up properly. The whole thing is made up of then/now juxtapositions, as if he was recounting a relationship’s problems and its bloody aftermath at the same time: “I slipped over your corpse and I noticed that your hair was not the same/Oh, I was intolerable and you were in denial/Your skull cracked wide open when you hit the tiles.�

Yet again, the accident hinted at – perhaps metaphorically – is the warped steel of a car crash. At the centre of the song lies a black joke. “Even if only for a little while, I know we’d stay alive,� Aleks implores someone behind the wheel. “If you would not air drum while you drive.� There are few other young Australian bands writing lyrics so interesting to unravel.

“At first you thought it was a coincidence, your bedroom window was in line with the hole in our fence.�

Face-to-face, Aleks Bryant is reserved and has never been in a car accident. He speaks at a medium pace with frequent hesitation and shrinks at the suggestion his music is “crazy�. He is tall, thin and always seems to have a half-grown moustache that, despite itself, never looks an affectation. There’s little trace of the energy he shows on stage.

Aleks grew up in the southwest suburbs of Canberra and went to a single-sex Catholic school with “sixteen football ovals and half a drum kit� before moving to the left-wing, arts-focused Narrabundah College for his two senior years. Many of the themes on the band’s first EP are plucked from the riddle of suburban communities: close physical proximity mixed with emotional isolation. ‘If You Want It Come And Get It’ describes a love affair between a directionless girl and her neighbour who watches her through the fence. They only speak once, over a telephone.

Aleks: “Canberra is pretty much one gigantic suburb. It’s a strange environment that, on occasion, gives birth to interesting people. There’s this thing about people from Canberra which is kind of weird and kooky, but not weird and kooky enough to be creepy... [There’s] a strange, socially-dislocated feeling growing up in suburbia. When I was young I used to watch people a lot more than I would interact with them. I got all sorts of strange ideas about what they were like.�

When he was 15, Aleks would leave the gates of Marist College – a competitive sporting boys’ school – to spin the Sonic Youth and Silver Jews records he was constantly pushing on friends. He was bored and shy, particularly around women. Sometimes he’d walk to the corner store for a superfluous purchase to admire the young lady behind the counter: a short, Mediterranean girl with pasty skin and well-defined eyebrows whose shifts he was, for better or worse, well aware of. He’d plan the conversation in his head along the way, but found it difficult to progress past small-talk.

One of Aleks’ earliest relationships would help inform the suffocating imagery of his songs, though he didn’t know it at the time. A friend, who he had seen for a while and parted with on good terms, later fell for his brother who still lived under the same roof. The three had a falling out, but couldn’t escape each other’s presence. He laughs about it a little in hindsight, but still remembers the vivid feeling of being trapped. The sense of being “stifled� is what he relates most to the scene of a car crash.

Aleks: “I like the imagery of it. I guess it’s the claustrophobic feeling of not being able to move properly when you’re stuck with a broken leg or something and the frustration of not being able to move. If we’re talking about physical ailments as metaphors for emotional trauma, which is not anything new, it probably just came out of real-life moments where I felt quite immobile and stuck.�

The feeling could just as easily relate to the concentric streets of his hometown. After starting a communications degree in Canberra at the age of 17, Aleks moved to Melbourne and enrolled to study film production at the Victorian College of Arts. The move was to a lively inner-city culture both exciting and humbling.

Aleks: “I always thought I had these particular tastes that were completely unique. Then I moved to Melbourne and I realised everyone was into The Silver Jews and Sonic Youth. Once, we played at this shitty little place and someone came up to me afterwards and said he thought my voice sounded like David Berman’s [of The Silver Jews]. I took it as a compliment, even though David Berman can’t sing very well.�

“He was someone to feel up while I was feeling down.�

In Melbourne, Aleks found himself playing bass in a band called Heady’s Lament, led by Simon Connolly who would later join The Ramps. The band never made it very far. When a show in Newcastle fell through, no-one bothered to keep their travel plans except Aleks, who had a flight booked and a tax return cheque in his pocket. Finding himself alone for two days in another bland city, he bought a cheap banjo and sat in a park learning how to play it. He still hasn’t learned how to play it properly.

Travelling alone isn’t unusual for Aleks. It was on a three-month journey abroad that he found Roxette’s Balladas In Espanol among a pile of pirated music in Bolivia. The Swedish pop band had recorded a compilation of their love songs sung in Spanish for release in South America, including ‘It Must Have Been Love’, or ‘No Se Si Es Amor’. Later, Aleks would be inspired to cover the unusual track after taking part in Melbourne critic Shane Moritz’s 33 & 1/3 compilation of local bands recording renditions of famous songs (which features an Aleks And The Ramps glitch-pop version of Rick Springfield’s ‘Jessie’s Girl’ spliced with Missy Elliot’s ‘Work It’, next to The Crayon Fields covering America’s ‘Horse With No Name’).

After finishing his first year at VCA and facing a three-month break without a job, Aleks travelled to Tasmania for four weeks on a whim. He spent his time letting it drift by – “it’s an alright place for doing nothing by yourself� – and bushwalking. He climbed Cradle Mountain and lived in the travellers’ hut at its peak for a few days, reading, writing and drinking coffee. On the descent he was caught in a snowstorm and huddled for five hours in an emergency shelter that had been built, he learned, after several schoolchildren had died there in severe weather a decade earlier.

In Hobart, Aleks called Janita, who he had met while editing a film for uni in her then-boyfriend’s shed in Melbourne, and who was back to visit her home state during the break. The pair went to see a puppet show in the markets of Salamanca Place, along the city’s waterfront and next to Princes Park. They spent the night drinking with Janita’s friends at an RSL club. The evening was interrupted when one of the girls answered her mobile phone, to be told a friend had been killed in a car crash.

Aleks: “We were just standing around drinking. I didn’t really notice at first. I think she got a phone call, and then all of a sudden she was sobbing. We didn’t know what was going on. Her boyfriend escorted her outside and we were left there, not really knowing what had happened. He called a few minutes later to tell us that her friend had died.�

Aleks and Janita spent the next few days together watching episodes of Sex And The City and making apple and rhubarb crumble. They drove to Launceston to see Janita’s family and ran out of petrol on the way. After hitchhiking to the next service station, the owner gave them a lift back to their car. When Aleks returned to Melbourne, he started dating Janita and formed Aleks And The Ramps. He’s not sure which came first.

“I hope you’re not bitter that the paramedics had to cut your new skirt.�

Aleks And The Ramps, the band’s debut EP, attracted only one review on its release. It wasn’t until a year later, after most of the Mess+Noise team found themselves at a Cumbersome Records party in Collingwood where Aleks And The Ramps were performing, that it received its second (Mess+Noise #7). At the time, it seemed odd such a unique band had received so little attention.

Since then, the band has recorded an album, performed a live-to-air on Melbourne radio station PBS and accrued a reasonable amount of interest. But when Aleks tried to book a venue for the launch of ‘They’re Recording Everything We Say’, the first single from Pisces Vs. Aquarius, he found it a difficult task. Many of the smaller inner-city venues he had frequented had closed – including Good Morning Captain, where the first incarnation of the band had played its first and only gig – and those that were left were either too small to fit five animated musicians, or wanted to play hard-ball on the door figures.

Aleks: “There are more bigger venues opening up [in Melbourne] like the East Brunswick Club and Northcote Social Club, while really tiny places are either getting pushed into the outer regions or closing down. And at the smaller places which are left, it’s getting really hard to convince people to give you a show.�

With size, it seems, has come a kind of inertia. No doubt it is difficult for larger, well-maintained rooms like the East Brunswick to risk booking young or experimental bands in a headline slot, while venues in their shadow – bleeding door numbers – have become more fastidious about ensuring each night’s profitability. The result can be a closed door for bands that are untested or outside the current status-quo. Whether due to fatigue or necessity, the problem is reflected in the habits of venues’ music directors.

Aleks: “A lot of bookers don’t actually watch the bands. It’s really weird that the type of people who are put in these positions are the type of people that don’t bother watching music. I think they just sit in their office in this weird little bubble browsing MySpace, judging who are the best and biggest bands based on how many friends they’ve got.�

The danger is that, in a situation not too dissimilar to what Michael Dwyer described of the mainstream, well-known sounds will become all too embraced and entrenched. It is disappointing that in Melbourne, a few years ago the destination for pioneering bands who had outgrown the limits of their hometowns, Aleks And The Ramps are now left bitter from the experience of booking a single gig. There is no romanticism in Aleks’ description of the inner-city circuit.

Aleks: “The music scene here isn’t really all that nurturing. There’s this weird safe-distance people keep from each other. It’s not really that critical, either. The bands who are being heralded are generally not the ones doing something original. Most of them seem to be caught up in various fads. The only difference is that they’re ripping off underground punk bands from 20 years ago instead of mainstream rock bands… A lot of the street presses are just set up to pamper to anyone who’s bothering to put out music.�

It’s a bold statement to make on the eve of a new release, but no bolder than the music itself. Aleks And The Ramps have courage to burn, which is what makes them one of Melbourne’s best acts. “This isn’t the most polished record of the last year,� Mess+Noise said of their EP, “but it is one of the bravest – and by no coincidence – the most interesting.� In that sense especially, Pisces Vs. Aquarius doesn’t disappoint.

Ramps Assemble!

Janita Foley is Aleks’s girlfriend and occasional co-vocalist, giving a sweet offset to his morose singing voice. She plays bass for The Ramps, but her instrument of choice is the organ. The pair met in a mutual friend’s shed, where Aleks was editing an art film when Janita walked in: “She was like, ‘Oh, what’s this?’ and I was cutting together footage of girls in lobster suits with supermarket security camera footage or something.�

Joe Foley is Janita’s little brother. A “boy genius� who can play most of the instruments in the band, he spends most of the time behind the glockenspiel or running around. During one gig that was being filmed for the Super 8 Diaries project, Joe tackled Aleks to the ground and broke a snare drum and a hi-hat stand. He has his own band, Extreme Wheeze, which features most members of The Ramps.

Shultz Marshall plays the drums and performs interpretive dance. He has known Aleks since high school and with him formed the duo La Vera Robot, the predecessor to Aleks And The Ramps. They played just one gig at Good Morning Captain, wearing “tight, spangly clothes� and making a racket with a bass guitar, three distortion pedals and a drum-kit. The song ‘Air Drums’ was debuted at La Vera Robot’s first and only show.

Simon Connolly owns an old, oversized Mercedes, plays guitar and lives for music. He’s the only member of The Ramps who cares how his instrument sounds and regularly tunes the other members’ for them. Aleks joined Simon’s now-defunct band, Heady’s Lament, when he first moved to Melbourne. They were also from Canberra, and after auditioning, Aleks half-remembered having seen them when he was drunk. Simon now has a new band, the alt-country outfit Potential Falcon.

- Mess+Noise Magazine

"Aleks and the Ramps Article/Interview"

The last time I saw Melbourne troupe Aleks and the Ramps it was a somewhat bewildering experience.

It wasn’t because they started their set with a choreographed dance routine to a Beyonce medley, or that one of them was wearing a tight leopard skin dress. In fact, I wouldn’t have expected anything less. But because the unusually low turn-out seemed very odd; there were not many people there at all. I thought the show was going to be a sell-out because of the collective buzz about the band: media coverage, positive reviews of debut album Pisces vs Aquarius, but mostly word of mouth.

Even though Aleks felt certain the show was going to be a success, his perspective was somewhat different. Maybe it’s the benefit of hindsight.

“I guess that’s the thing about being on a first time tour and being a no-name band, with an album that no-one’s ever really heard of and which isn’t available in stores. One thing I have learnt from playing in a band and putting on shows is that there’s absolutely no way of telling. No matter how much promo you do and who you tell there’s no way of knowing. It’s so unpredictable. Some of the most heavily publicised shows we’ve put on have sort of bummed out. Then two nights later you play a show that you haven’t told anybody about (or actively tell people not to come to) and they all turn up, I don’t even know how people found out about that show.�

I was convinced, however, that there was hype building and that the show was going to be huge; a ridiculous sexed-up dance fiasco of the funnest nature. It’s difficult to gauge.

Aleks and the Ramps

“I don’t know how you gauge success,� Aleks responds.

“There’s mentions of us in some of the music press, there have been a few reviews. But reviews come and go and bands come and go. I try not to read them. I figured out it wasn’t really a healthy thing to do. I’ve tried not to read the Mess+Noise article because it’s just really personal and I don’t feel comfortable reading it. But I really hate reading the reviews of the album and live shows. A review is never going to please an artist, I don’t think. Because, you know, we are so stuck-up and set in what we think it is that we do,� he laughs. “I just don’t really like reading them because I find myself thinking about it too much. I sort of don’t want it to taint the process of creation. But then again, the whole art of reacting to public opinion and press is also an art itself that maybe should be learned as well.�

This could make a lot of sense considering the nature of Aleks and the Ramps’ music. It seems like there’s a very big element of interaction with the audience, with the listener. They don’t do crowd participation or anything, but there’s definitely a gap that is bridged. Making audiences uncomfortable seems deliberate in a way, or at least challenging their expectations takes precedence.

“Some of my favourite art involves me being amused and uncomfortable at the same time. Todd Solondz is a pretty good example of that. It’s the sort of thing that we do actually strive for, partly at least. Especially in live shows, to maybe disturb people a little bit.�

“It’s a pet hate of mine in reviews where the band is compared by just taking two bands; like, ‘Oh, it sounds like Sonic Youth or The Beach Boys.’ But taking two film directors seems like a pretty good analogy for music, especially ours.�

Aleks has not heard The Fiery Furnaces’ Blueberry Boat, but elements of this record manifest themselves on Pisces vs Aquarius. Both are lengthy, quirky, all over the place; haphazard with moments of brilliance and often extreme poignancy. Theatricality plays an obvious part; some people might consider it brave to wear matching leotards and prance ridiculously, shrieking all high-pitched and wild-eyed. But acting silly is not couragous for Aleks and his Ramps.

“People have said to me before things like ‘Oh, you know it was really brave how you guys do that.’ I remember at Film School, making some kind of strange films that people had said were brave; it never really made sense to me. I guess bravery is when you have a fear and then you face it and you overcome it. We’re not really fearful of acting like idiots; it’s not bravery at all.�

Self-deprecation and just simply having fun is more important. It might be braver to just sit on stools and go through the songs in a mellow sort of fashion. But there is an element of the personal in their lyrics; like Aleks’ unwillingness to read personal-focused writing about the band. If there is bravery involved, it would be with the lyrics, even if they still could be described with words like absurdist.

“I know that people will make all kinds of assumptions on my character and personality and other people’s personalities by listening to lyrics and the music in general I guess. I don’t really like people thinking that I’m a pervert weirdo,� he laughs, “but I don’t necessarily care that much. It is hard, writing the lyrics for Pisces Vs Aquarius was much harder than writing for the previous EP. On that, I wasn’t really expecting anyone to really hear it; the lyrics were quite perverse and really strange. But once you actually sit down and put pen to paper with the knowledge that other people are going to hear this stuff, it shifts; there’s a complete difference in the mode of writing�.

In the current climate of Australian music, I do genuinely think Aleks and the Ramps’ approach and concepts are different from the rest, unique. It might be a little bit overt for some; it could even be slightly reactionary compared to more conventional trends and aesthetics in this country’s music. The notion of a novelty aspect to their music seems unavoidable, but it obviously has the potential to be reductive. Having a point of difference doesn’t have to equal novelty; it just so happens that the band’s points of difference are fairly novel. They don’t play post-post-punk. Is it reactionary?

“Partly, I think. But it’s just where I find inspiration. I think I enjoy and get inspired by really ill-conceived ideas that are badly executed. Just because, you know when you go to see a band and it’s really full and everyone paid $30 to get in, and then they’re pretty crap and everyone still seems to be digging it. I started thinking about what I would actually want to see. It’s not so much that I want to start a band to draw attention to being different from other stuff happening, it’s more just like there’s a band out there that I want to see that doesn’t exist at the moment. This might sound a bit weird, but I imagine being an audience member and what would please that person the most if that person was me. In a roundabout way, it’s about making music to please yourself; but not yourself as in the individual playing music, moreso as the listener. It just seems to me that there is a massive void in music sometimes.�

This makes sense to me; especially considering the sort of Australian music that gets the most attention. It’s probably just the nature of the music industry, but to me it seems the mainstream of Australian ‘indie’ that is most publicly focused on can tend towards the similar, the post-post-punk or the standard rock with record label driven hype being the most important factor in getting heard and thus getting popular.

That might sound cynical. But the cyclical nature of music today begs the question of the fate of the ‘novelty’ band.

“We’re having a break at the moment because we’re looking for another drummer,� Aleks says. “We’re probably going to go in a different direction after that, whatever that is. But as far as reacting to the novelty tags, up until this point we’ve been doing what we want to do, regardless of what people say or what people think and the ‘N’ word has been thrown around, but has only been thrown around really over the past couple of months. Whether or not it will affect what we do in the future, I’m not sure. It sort of doesn’t really seem worth thinking about. I don’t even really know what a novelty act is. And I don’t know if there’s any point in trying to be or trying not to be. We don’t like it when people say the ‘N’ word in regards to us, we don’t like it; we’re not really that thick-skinned. But at the same time, we make music that we want to make and people can do with it what they want; if they think we are a novelty band - maybe we are a novelty band? - but I don’t know. Whatever�.

The novelty is at its peak in their live show, even if their album does have a cover of Roxette’s ‘It Must Have Been Love,’ sung in Spanish.

But the future could hold a slightly more serious change, whatever ’serious’ is for a band that blurs the lines between stupidity and poignancy.

“It’s one of the reasons why I’m sick at the moment, I’ve been up really late working on some demos we’ve been doing at home,� reveals Aleks. “Without really meaning to, the new batch of songs have been turning out a lot more melancholic and sad; not that I’ve been either of those, I’ve been fairly happy recently. I’ve just sort of wanted to listen to sad music. So I guess I’ve been writing sad music too. The next album is still going to be pretty strange, but I don’t know just what the new stuff is going to sound like.�

Pisces vs Aquarius is available on Cavalier Records/Mistletone.

- Cyclic Defrost Magazine

"Live Review, Sept. 2007"

The stage at Rics is impossibly small at the best of times, but with one Aleks and five Ramps its all but disappeared beneath their excitable jumping and stamping feet. For this Melbourne band the clear space just in front of the stage (uninhabited by both fans of the group and those who had stumbled down from the hip-hop party jams upstairs) inevitably became the perfect space for the necessary breaking down of barriers between band and audience. Acoustic guitarist/keyboard twiddler Joe frequently leaped around the floor area accosting audience members all wild-eyed and sweaty-haired. It can be confronting, lightheartedly of course, because this is not what bands usually do. Their actions match their music: schizophrenic pop that at times reminds of The Fiery Furnaces, noise bursts scattered between pop gems, a group cacophony of the most joyful nature with dynamics that give way to some amazing moments in pop and melody.

The smirk on Aleks' face told of a willingness to subvert the regular boring rock etiquette. Eschewing the more sensible sides of music and rock posturing for sheer ridiculousness is definitely something to be glad for. Aleks vocals divide time between soprano and baritone and there's a fair amount of yelping, animal noises, banjo freak outs and strange harmonies, all the while managing to hurdle across the stage. Live, the Ramps assemble and have the right idea: a live show is a show; but this is far more than an ostentatious display; they entertain with the musical goods to back it up. - Mess+Noise Magazine

"Live Review, Feb 2007"

Prior to the rampage, the crowd was thirsty and sweating profusely, the joint was jam packed and the Ramps needed additional floorspace, so they pushed everyone back a bit, this caused much beer spillage, more sweating and unhappy campering in general, but only for a moment because once the mash-up began and their fetching dance routines got underway the people�s mood lifted and stayed elevated for the better part of the evening.

On the ground pumping their pelvises into our hearts, the foursome, dressed in matching basketball uniforms (surely Doveton�s finest) leaped on-stage to Abba�s Knowing Me, Knowing You and if they ain�t Alan Partridge�s favourite group since E.L.O. I will eat my pencil.

A kind word about new single They�re Recording Everything We Say: fuck yea. Super cut of the super cool variety going from paranoia to perversion Pulp-style via a weird, banjo tropicalia beat and a full-on assault of the drums courtesy of Schultz, who�s body is so good it�s laughable. The first time I met Schultz he said some complicated things I didn�t even know if he knew what he was talking about, but he did and he said them. I could sniff his underarms from where I was standing. A curious melange of juniper and teen spirit overcame me.

My goodness they all have such nice legs. Purdiest in rock. Pertiest even. Bassist Janita had a posse of girl in front of her, captivated by her every whim. I believe they were lesbians, quite attractive with adequate taste in footwear. A melodic guitar player is good to find and The Ramps got one in Simon Connolly. Joe did lots of things, manhandling the keyboards like Rick Wakeham, serenading us on acoustic guitar, he jumped on me while I had just inhaled an unreasonable stack of smoke. Accgh! Accgh! Accgh! I complained of harsh throat after the show. �I jumped higher than ever!� Joe exclaimed, impressed by his sheer athletics.

Additional sources of inspiration: Roxette, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Todd Solondz (they cover the Theme to Welcome to the Dollhouse on the new single � it�s ace - go buy it already!). Didn�t make no difference where you were when the goodness hit � they rocked trousers from within or without you. - Beat Magazine



'Aleks' EP self-released


'Pisces Vs. Aquarius'
Album, Cavalier Music


'Midnight Believer'
Album, Stomp Entertainment

'Antique Limb'
7" Single, Self-Release



In 2005 in a year off from Film School, Alex recorded a solo EP and changed the X in his name to KS for no real reason. The EP proved to be rough but impressive debut. A band was formed solely for the purpose of having a launch for the EP and thus the ramps were formed.

From these unintentional beginnings, Aleks and the Ramps slowly morphed into a 'real' band that played regular shows and composed music in a collaborative process. Performances began to feature choreographed dance moves, ill-fitting basketball uniforms, injuries and equipment breakages due to wild stage behaviour accompanying their schizophrenic pop tunes.

The band has put out two albums since then, toured overseas a wee bit and are currently working on a film project tentatively called "aleks and the ramps: the musical"