IT FEELS like Melbourne, Australia, is having a moment.
Courtney Barnett. Dick Diver. Total Control. Deaf Wish. A whole bunch of indie bands from Australia's second-biggest city have made a stateside splash recently.
Here's another: Twerps, the four-piece pop combo whose excellent new album, Range Anxiety, came out earlier this year on Merge Records. When presented with the idea that Melbourne is a musical hotspot right now, guitarist/vocalist Julia McFarlane politely disagrees.
"Something's always been happening there. It's such a good, kind of fertile place for creativity," she says. "I suppose a couple of things have spearheaded that and maybe for lack of other stuff going on, people have turned [their attention] to Melbourne, but I don't know whether it's any different. There's always been a handful of really inspiring bands from Melbourne... that people never talk about."
Fair enough. Any Melbourne "moment" aside, Twerps are fully deserving of the attention they're receiving. The band formed in 2008 and tickled ears around the globe with their self-titled 2011 debut, a charming collection of jangling earworms that placed Twerps aesthetically alongside acts like Real Estate, Pavement, Yo La Tengo, and another Aussie band, the Go-Betweens.
Twerps was a nice listen, but Range Anxiety is a significant step forward. Sonically, it shares several qualities with its predecessor, but in terms of songwriting, it feels more patient, more mature, and more rewarding as it veers between bouncy indie-pop and gauzy, gently chiming ballads. The common thread is Twerps' knack for melodies that stick in your skull and eventually seep into your system.
McFarlane has a less romantic take on the album.
"We are just constantly trying to survive. Just trying to keep putting one foot in front of the other [by] recording the thing that we've been intuitively making to the best of our ability," she says. "We might've had a couple of conversations about how to articulate the less cohesive energy of the album. I'm sure other people don't see it that way, but we felt like it was kind of all over the place. So we talked about getting a bit collage-y about it and embracing the nature of it in that sense."
At the time of our interview, McFarlane and the rest of Twerps—guitarist Martin Frawley, bassist Gus Lord, and drummer Alex Macfarlane—have just made the long trip from Melbourne to New York City and are preparing to embark on a month-long US tour backed by solid album reviews and the considerable muscle of their label, Merge. Nonetheless, McFarlane approaches it all with typically tempered expectations.
"I'm looking forward to it," she says. "It might be shit or it might be awesome, but who knows? It could go either way."