RENDEZVOUS: A Quick Catch Up With Borneo

"We're all conditioned to think, live and become a certain way... it's diabolical. We're also taught that our identity is all we are, when actually our true nature is something so much more free and timeless than that."

BORNEO by Milena Dambelli.

BORNEO by Milena Dambelli.

Sydney five-piece Borneo recently signed to Habit Music Co. and released their excellent debut, the 'Alert!' EP. It's an upbeat fireball of pop-rock that'll make you think and dance that little bit harder. The best thing is, these guys don't take themselves too seriously, resulting in one of the most dynamic live shows on the Sydney scene at the moment. We had a quick catch up with Tim Pembroke (vocals/guitar) to see what's up.

Please press play before you read on - the mood needs to be just right.


When did you first start making music together as Borneo?

The first incarnation of Borneo was back in 2012. We used to jam at our mate Charlie's house in Mosman. Every session would be interrupted by a haranguing from Chris, the neighbour across the road - he didn't hold back in letting us know how terrible he thought we sounded. 

Lyrically things get pretty personal, and at times political. Who writes the songs? Is there an overall message you're trying to push with your music?

The songs from the ‘Alert! EP’ were all written as a band in a room. We do things democratically which can make the songwriting process slower, even simple two chord tracks can take months to flesh out, but the end result is everyone feels some sort of spiritual connection to a song, like they've had a role in crafting it. Conceptually, myself and the Proph (Nick Colbey - vocals/bass) craft the lyrics. The ‘Alert! EP’ is tied together by ideas of breaking out of societies container into a state of freedom. We're all conditioned to think, live and become a certain way, 'Here’s your name', 'here's your education', 'wear this' and 'don't say this', 'here is a selection of hampster wheels, which one would you like to hop in to?' It's diabolical. We're also taught that our identity is all we are, when actually our true nature is something so much more free and timeless than that. As the Proph says in our song Alert! - "There comes a time in your life when you must decide. Am I The Spaghetti? Or Am I the can?"

Your songs are very dynamic. What was the weirdest instrument or recording technique you used when making the EP?

Instrumentally the EP is pretty conventional. If you listen closely you might hear Julian's dog Toba in some of it. I'd say Jules' coffee percolator had the biggest influence on the record - definitely the frenetic pace. 

Your live shows are pretty wild. How important is it to maintain that element of theatrics?

We absolutely love the live stage, it's where we feel most comfortable as a group. We encourage spontaneity in each other which always brings positive results. One of my favourite memories was at a show on the Gold Coast last year. During a song, our drummer Jack decided to get up from his stool and started running towards the crowd. I'm told this wasn't planned, but out of nowhere, Rory Switzer (the drummer from Gold Coast band, Yes Sir Noceur) appeared at the kit and started hammering the groove. I turned back to the crowd to see Jack, held aloft, crowd surfing with a classic smile. I was happily confused, and I do believe the drummer switch wasn't planned after all.

It feels like a lot of people are rebelling against the Sydney Lockouts by putting on more shows, playing more shows and attending more shows. How important is it that people keep that up?

The community response to the lockouts has been 10/10. Every week you can go to quality shows and parties with live music in Sydney. A mate recently took me to a thumping late night bunker in a mystery spot and I was there until sunrise. So amidst the chat of a declining night culture, I feel like there is 100% a wildfire of new energy. 

I also pick up glasses at the Captain Cook in Paddington each week. Some weeks we're getting 100-200 kids jammed into the venue to watch their mates new band. I've never seen half of these kids before, so it's exciting. There's a tidal wave of good times coming towards Sydney. 

Who are some local artists you've been listening to lately?

I listened to Ainsley Farrell's new EP this morning which was a treat. Shining Bird's first record has been getting a solid spin, making up for lost time. Last week I saw Elizabeth Hughes and Georgia Mulligan down at Golden Age Cinema. Sydney's overflowing. Tom Stephens' & Julia Jacklin's albums from last year. Sampa, Royal Headache, The Jezabels new album, there’s too much to get through. Keep your eyes out for Wartt Gunn, three mates from Bondi - really buzzy!

Finally, you obviously have an ear for music. How do you go on the dance floor?

I have to admit, I don't step out into the dance circle like I used to. The young bucks out on the floor are doing it differently. There's too much groin these days. Sometimes I find myself thinking: Dance floors are changing.. then I realise that Boney M are pumping out over the sound system and that my very perception of disco is a miracle in itself. When in doubt, I'll go to Freda's to spin around. That George Michael tribute was all time. Freedom!

You can buy Borneo’s ‘Alert!’ EP here. You can also catch them live in the coming weeks. Tickets here.

Friday 26th May, Rare Finds, Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane 

Saturday 27th May, The Great Northern, Byron Bay 

Sunday May 28th, Prose Art Space, Gold Coast

Thursday, 1st June, Woody's, Collingwood, Melbourne

Friday 2nd June, The Yarra, Abbotsford, Melbourne

Thursday 8th June, The Lass O'Gowrie, Newcastle

Friday 9th June, The Captain Cook, Sydney