Interview: Civic’s Jim McCullough Talks Touring The US, Their New Reissue Compilation, and Holding Onto Your Day Job

Since their formation six years ago in a Japanese bowling alley, Aussie proto-punkers Civic have laid down some of the best bad-ass, rock’n’roll influenced punk around. Over the course of three EPs and two full-lengths, they have started to forge their own legacy, one that will certainly lend comparisons to some of their homeland’s best, from which they draw inspiration. Recently, they just completed their first major tour of the United States and released the EP and singles collection, New Vietnam & Singles, to coincide with this recent run of dates.

Their first U.S. tour was a major success. They started the run of dates at Goner Fest in Memphis and ended at Levitation Fest in Austin. “The tour was great. It was pretty intense for our first time there, doing that many shows, but we like it that way. I’m already ready to get back,” vocalist Jim McCullough says. “The audiences were great. People came up after the shows, and we had some great chats and made new friends. Some cities were more responsive than others, but we don’t expect a circle pit every night. We just want people to be having fun.”

In fact, McCullough and his bandmates, which includes guitarist Lewis Hodgson, bassist Roland Hlavka, and drummer Eli Sthapit, were looking forward to coming to our country and experiencing it in all its ragged glory. “On a whole, I think the place is pretty special. We grew up in a time where it was projected as being this kind of wonderland(which I still think it is) so many characters I looked up to and still do are from there, so I was always going to have this kind of fascination going there. Seeing each city’s different flare was nice too. I like that, and I chase it. What’s this place got to offer, or what’s it known for,” McCullough says.

In addition, playing these two respected festivals to book-end the tour was pretty special. “We were supposed to play Goner a few years ago, but It didn’t happen for obvious reasons. It was nice to finally check it off the list. We had a great time. We got to play with and watch some sick bands like Sweeping Promises, Poison Ruin, The Mummies, to name a few. It was also sick to hang out with some of our OZ mates that were there at the same time. It seemed like every other band was from Australia,” McCullough says.

“Levitation was also a good time despite the rain. It was our last show of the tour, so we were all pretty smoked, but we got it done. There’s a dope Mexican place down the road from Hotel Vegas where we went at SXSW, so we hid in there and drank frozen margs most of the afternoon.”

In addition, U.S. fans were treated to quite a show by the band. They are a “must see” live act. It’s all their approach. “At the moment we are approaching our live sets with a pretty primal kind of attention. The songs are much faster, Lewis is playing through two amps; I’m moving around a lot. This kind of just happened and we just went with it. It’s making sense to us right now to approach our live sets like this anyway. And we are getting a good response from the crowd. But it will most likely change,” McCullough says.

That brings us to the release of New Vietnam & Singles, which is a reissue of their debut EP along with other EPs and singles for their United States fans, by their current label ATO. It’s the first time New Vietnam has been issued on vinyl in the United States. They did this for practical reasons.

“I guess it had been some time since NV came out, 2018 to be specific. We’d just had a bunch of people hitting us up saying they couldn’t get the vinyl in the states, or what was out there was bullshit expensive. And speaking for myself here, and I like rare records and shit, but we wanted it to be in people’s collections if they want it to be,” McCullough says. “So yeah, News Vietnam was the E.P, the first thing we did. Then straight after we recorded a seven-inch called Those Who No, which had three songs and a cover of ‘Needle In the Camel’s Eye’ by Brian Eno. Then one weekend, we just decided to record another few songs for another seven-inch. so we made the Selling. Sucking. Blackmail. Bribes record,” McCullough finishes.

Listening to New Vietnam & Singles, one can hear the band in their formative stages. After listening to it, and then the two full-lengths that followed the music contained on it, in Future Forecast (2021) and this year’s Taken By Force, one can see how the band has developed their sound over the course of their short career.

“I think you will always naturally progress as a band, if you are open to it. Which we are. We are always sharing new music with each other and talking about music. Future music, what’s next, what needs to happen, what should be happening. This kind of stuff,” McCulloug says.”I think for us, we started off with a goal to make a record that sounded a certain way and had certain references etc. And now those goals have changed, not for the better or worse. Maybe to some. But for us, it’s just different. It keeps it exciting,” he finishes. They have a rising profile, a ton of critical accolades from all around the world along with a bunch of successful touring under their belts. With all this going on, they still don’t do this full time. All the members of the band still hold down day jobs while doing all this awesome stuff.

For McCullough, this balance is key to keeping him happy. “We all still work our day jobs. Speaking for myself here but I don’t mind it. I like routine; I am almost lost without it. So having something mundane like driving a truck a few days a week adds more fuel to the fire of me doing what I actually want to do which is create,” he says “You can still create whilst you’re at work. The idealism of working is just something I like. Even if we did CIVIC full time, I’d still treat it with the same ideals. I mean if we aspired more towards quitting our jobs for the sake of saying we are full-time musicians I guess we could. But yes, it would be nice one day to just do music or painting, but for now I’m happy to do both,” he finishes.

Buy New Vietnam & Singles here.

Photo Credit: Robyn Daly

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