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Sydney garage rockers The Buoys take us inside ‘Unsolicited Advice For Your DIY Disaster’

We pick the hottest new acts so you can tell your friends you heard them first. Meet The Buoys and dive into their huge new record 'Unsolicited Advice For Your DIY Disaster'.

Just under 20 minutes of pure beauty that will punch you in the gut, wrap its way around your heart, and wiggle its way into your ears – that’s what you’ll get with The Buoys’ latest EP Unsolicited Advice For Your DIY Disaster.

If you are unfamiliar with the Sydney four-piece, now is the time to change that. The Buoys have been relentlessly carving their path across stages around the country from day one, releasing two previous EPs, and accumulating a dedicated, loyal following thanks to their punchy, unforgettable live shows.

Started by vocalist Zoe Catterall when she was still living in Cronulla, it wasn’t until she moved to Sydney – and was looking for some new friends – that The Buoys really took off. In a wonderful turn of events (that’s sure to make for a great story), things were set in motion when a failed Tinder date led to Tess (drums) joining the band – and the rest is history.

Here, five years in and on their third EP, The Buoys have pushed themselves to new heights, and the result – Unsolicited Advice For Your DIY Disaster features some of their biggest, punchiest tracks to date.

As liberating as it is ferocious, across its six tracks, the EP brings together a collection of life experiences, trial and error, and ultimately, a timeline of self-discovery.

After locking down their current line-up on their 2020 EP All This Talking Gets Us Nowhere, The Buoys have continued to step things up, now sounding more confident than ever before – allowing the four-piece to soar to new musical heights and dive to new emotional depths; balancing vulnerable, raw reflections with razor-sharp hooks and driving, earwormy melodies made to get stuck in your head.

Solidifying their spot as a band to watch in the Australian music scene, 2021 has seen The Buoys sell out headline shows across Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney, and score nods from tastemakers and critics across the board – including triple j, Richard Kingsmill, Spotify, Apple Music, Shazam, and more. Even becoming the most playlisted Australian act across streaming platforms in the release week of single ‘Lie To Me’.

It starts with the admission of leaning into bad habits and fantasies, and moves on to big ouch heart break, and then onto questioning what is important to you or what you want, before finishing on the realisation that you are happy where you ended up. Top to bottom in a way it outlines the relationship you have with yourself when going through the motions of navigating life, and your connection with others but mostly yourself.

Zoe Catterall on Unsolicited Advice For Your DIY Disaster

To celebrate the release of The Buoys’ new EP, we sat down with the band to take us on a deep dive through Unsolicited Advice For Your DIY Disaster.

The Buoys – Unsolicited Advice For Your DIY Disaster (EP Listening Party)

The Buoys Story

From the beginning 

Zoe Catterall (Vocals, rhythm guitar): “I’ve played music since I can remember, mostly piano from a young age. I wrote my first proper song when I was about 13, before this I had written so many comedic/parody style songs on a tape recorder from the age of 8. As a teen I was obsessed with Sarah Blasko, Bertie Blackman and the like, so I started to hone my skills around this style, and was at the time still just as focused around storytelling. I’d always loved rock, but making the jump to electric guitar scared me. The older I got and the more gigs I went, and to the more confidence I gained to give it a go. Seeing other women on stage especially inspired me.”

Tess Wilkin (Drums): “From as young as I can remember I was obsessed with the music my dad would play. It was just the classic Australian dad type stuff – Crowded House, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Eagles. Mum got me into piano lessons when I was in kindy, but I just wanted to play rock. In year 5, I wanted to join the rock band at my primary school but they already had a keys player, so they asked if I wanted to learn drums instead.
I remember being so shocked because I thought only boys were allowed to drum. We did covers of Bush, The Kinks, The Beatles. Once I got to high school though, I didn’t have any friends in bands and my only option was to join orchestra, which I hated and quit pretty quickly. I still played a bit on my own, and after highschool I met some friends who I could jam with sometimes. Four years ago, I moved into a house with musicians and was so encouraged that I took up drums again, and I met Zoe and joined The Buoys a few weeks later. I just said I could do it and then practiced like hell before rehearsals and have somehow managed to pull this whole thing off as a musician!”

Hilary Geddes (Guitar): “I gravitated to the guitar at a really young age. I begged for years before my parents relented and bought me one. I was six years old, so in hindsight I totally understand why they might have been reluctant to get me one any earlier! There was always heaps of music playing around the house – lots of blues, roots and Americana, but my heroes were Angus Young from AC/DC and Murray the Red Wiggle at the beginning. I didn’t really get into playing lead though until much later. I think I was in year 4 when I started my first band with two other friends. We did Maroon 5 and U2 covers aha. High school was all singer-songwriters like Jack Johnson and Britpop like The Kooks.”

Courtney Cunningham (Bass): “First thing I remember is turning on RAGE every Saturday since I was probably five years old. I would whip out my pots, pans, pillows, and chop sticks and just air drum to everything I liked. Then it happened, ‘Scar Tissue’ came on RAGE and it absolutely blew my mind. It was the first song I learnt to play on a crappy old three-string acoustic every time it came on. No secret that Red Hot Chilli Peppers are my favourite band of all time for that reason.
My parents had amazing vinyls like Simon and Garfunkel, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix. Paramore was a big one for me at the time, Kings of Leon, anything ’90s grunge I’m there. I started learning everything I could by ear, began vocal lessons and guitar lessons at ten, hated guitar lessons, loved the vocals. First band was when I was 11, we were called Dislocated…(we sucked). End of high school, I went straight to TAFE and studied music for three years there and went on my national tour at 19 – and everything has just been growing from there. I feel like all my hard work over the last ten years in the industry is finally paying off and I couldn’t be more proud to do it with my sisters.”

What you’ll hear 

Zoe: “The Buoys sound has changed a touch over the years, it’s hard to know where it all comes from as I listen to everything from classical to metal and lots in between. Hardcore music was a huge part of my childhood, as well as the early 2000’s indie explosion. I just love a fuzzy guitar when it comes to The Buoys – that, and I’m obsessed with telling a story. When I listen to music that’s what really hooks me, the story being told. As a whole, The Buoys sound is still very Buoys but has most definitely evolved over the years because the band is filled with absolute weapons.”

Tess: “Between the four of us in The Buoys, we all have very different music tastes and inspirations. Interestingly, we rarely even swap music that we are listening to. We all write our own parts to songs, and after Zoe comes to us with an idea, we all work on it to make it Buoys. I think all of our different inspirations coming together is what makes our sound. And our wholesome love for each other and that we just froth on each other’s musical talent!”

Hil: “Strong guitar hooks, big drum fills, fuzzy bass and lyrics that rip your heart out and put it back together again. When I first joined, the aesthetic felt very ’90s garage rock to me (although I have no idea if the band would actually agree with that description) and that wasn’t a genre I’d really checked out a huge amount. Most of my listening background was more ’70s rock and blues, so it’s been super fun to broaden my ears out a bit and swap and share influences.”

Courtney: “Since joining the band the sound has changed, also the way we play our instruments. We have really leaned into the rock guitar solos (RHCP) vibes and I love it. Fuzzy, melodic, Zoe’s lyrical ability is absolutely BONKERS. Someone did say Hole and I agree, ’90s rock era for sure, mix in some Arctic Monkeys. It is cathartic, melodic, driving, crunchy and there is always space for some chaos.”

The Buoys – Drive Me Home (Lyric Video)

Influences & Inspiration

Zoe: “My family, my friends, Wolf Alice, Taylor Swift, Chicken burgers (lol)”

Tess: “Definitely my friends and the Sydney music community, and every song I ever listen to! Also Matt Helder’s (Arctic Monkeys) drumming. I dunno if this is a thing, but Bonham was famous for following the lead guitar instead of bass, as classically drums do. Helder seems to follow vocals which gives so much personality to the Arctic Monkeys music.”

Hil: “Anything and everything. Could be a particularly great day, could be a particularly bad day. Feel very lucky to have a lot of love and incredible people in my life so friends and fam are definitely massive influences and inspirations. In terms of music, Vanessa Tomlinson, a zillion people in the Sydney music community, Carl Dewhurst, and Ry Cooder are probably up there for me.”

Courtney: “I literally will listen to anything from Motzart all the way to 2pac and all the way to Slipknot. RHCP of course, loved those early 200’s pop punk bands, Avril, Paramore, Simple Plan, Coldplay, Kings of Leon, Avenged Sevenfold,  The Clash, Nirvana, Sound Garden, Rage Against the Machine. Incubus is another really BIG band that changed my life, melodically, sonically and what I love most is they are all multi instrumentalists. John Frusciante and flea big influences, chad smith, Tom Morello, lianne La havas (vocally AMAZING).”

Inside the Unsolicited Advice For Your DIY Disaster creative process 

Tess: “It was a really different process to what we did for our previous EP. We worked for the first time with a producer, Fletcher Matthews, who really pushed us. This process taught us all so much about songwriting. His approach was very much to just try everything and see how it sounds, rather than trying to just nail it from the get go. We recorded a live demo, then built the track on Pro Tools. We could then shuffle sections around or record bits easily without having to learn how to play the whole song. Fletch had infinite patience, it was a much longer process than we were used to.”

Hil: “We definitely tried out heaps of different ideas before settling on the EP in its final form that you hear now – lots of throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks. We were lucky to be able to trial a few of the songs live before recording to help work out what was working and what wasn’t. Ultimately, it was a pretty open experience – it was exciting that there was so much fluidity to the songs and that we had the time and space in the studio to try different ideas.

Down memory lane  

Zoe: “Eating several fried chicken burgers in Fletcher’s apartment (girls gotta eat multiple times a day, and sessions are long) but most notably, Courtney’s spoof of our lyrics to include the word ‘crabs’ wherever she could, things get very silly when the days are long and strenuous.”

Tess: “It ended up being a song called ‘you gave the crabs crabs’.”

Hil: “Courtney’s director cut commentary for sure!”

Courtney: “We went in knowing what we wanted to do, we had rehearsed pretty hard and considering we were in the middle of the pandemic and ongoing on and off. Being it was the first time we as a band had worked with a producer (the amazing Fletcher), we didn’t really know what it meant to get pushed to make the songs as good as they can be so it was certainly a learning process.
We made the whole thing in his apartment, other than the drums and little bit of vocals. Pretty sure we spent a week at Fletcher’s just getting weird, Zoe ordering chicken burgers at any cost, me just making random ad libs over all the tracks as we went along. I will say, personally, I was on some strange vibes (aha!!). Strange enough ‘Lie to Me Again’ was the final addition and my absolute favourite. Last minute before releasing it we actually made a bunch of changes, as we felt it wasn’t ready and MY OH MY what Fletcher did and Zoe vocally changed the whole song and for the better. All in all it was a great experience, I certainly feel as though we have been one of the most productive Sydney bands over the last 18 months, the hard work feels like it will pay off. Can’t wait for everyone to hear this piece of art :)”

Tell us the story 

Zoe: “We sort of came about the idea of DIY Disaster in that, and I think Hilary put this perfectly, your early 20’s are chaos, and we’re all out here just doing our best.
I like to think of it like, there are times you could’ve mended something a little better with good glue and patience, but you used tape instead. The EP tackles being real with yourself and your mistakes, and just understanding that we’re all human, and all the little parts that come along with navigating those challenges or experiences.”

The Buoys – Lie To Me Again (Official Video)

Audience Takeaway  

Zoe: “I hope they have fun! I hope it’s a warm hug or a gee up and something that connects them to other people through shared experiences.”

Courtney: “Just know it’s a fun EP, there are certainly heartbreak moments but we are speaking our truths through music. Hopefully this EP can help people who might be suffering as well. This has been a really testing time for everyone, so I just want people to know our music is also to heal as well as head bang to :)”

Say it in a sentence  

Tess: “Brought to you by Marrickville Pho PhD and fueled by Chargrill Charlies” 
“You gave the crabs crabs”

Hil: “Unsolicited Advice for your DIY Disaster.”

For the love of music 

Zoe: “Doing it with friends! I wouldn’t want to do it any other way. I also love that songwriting and playing music can get you out of any funk.”

Tess: “Being able to do something creative with your best friends. Rehearsals are like support sessions, we all catch up and talk about the highs and lows of our weeks and love lifes. Then as we have been playing bigger venues, getting more exciting gigs and opportunities, we are sharing these incredible experiences together.”

Hil: “It is such a joyful act. I think that is a truly beautiful thing about The Buoys as well – it is a creative space that is full of love and respect from one another. What could be more fun than getting to make and create with mates?”

Courtney: “Everything!!! I feel like as a listener when you find a track you like, you then want to jump into the people behind and get to know who they are. My favourite part is always touring and playing live, meeting new people and seeing new places gets me excited. You never know what the next show is going to be like. Hanging with your mates from other bands and expressing good vibes all round with my sisters.”

Kicking goals 

Tess: “BigSound was an incredible week for us. None of us realised how far our music had reached, we were just hoping to not play to an empty room. Then to find that the venues were completely packed for our set was so incredible, and we played some of the best shows we ever had. 
Hilary getting on stage to shred for DZ hehe

Hil: “^^^ literally did not sleep after that one! Playing quite possibly the sweatiest-ever Landsdowne gig supporting Violent Soho was also very special. It was such a visceral and joyful experience – I remember looking out to the crowd and trying so hard to clock how I was feeling in real-time so I wouldn’t forget. The atmosphere was absolutely wild.”

Courtney: “Touring with DZ, Bigsound, opening up for Violent Soho at The Lansdowne. Becoming friends with Phil Jameson and mastering the punk bass air kick.”

The Buoys – Bad Habit (Official Video)

Overcoming struggle town

Zoe: “We were lucky to squeeze in recording before Sydney went into lockdown. I think the biggest challenge I faced personally, and it’s probably the same for a lot of us, is that we’re normally together to celebrate the little wins with big hugs and big shows. We zoom a lot and call each other to celebrate those wins and that’s been a huge comfort in lockdown, but I definitely can’t wait to hug my Buoys and get on a stage with them.”

Tess: “At the time we wrote this EP, we were gigging a lot and it was really hard to make the time to properly finish writing our songs. I was also finishing a PHD and half way through a Masters at the time, so I was doing uni work in every spare second while at the recording studio.”

Hil: “A big part of our band identity has been that we rehearse a lot and love love love playing live. And I think because we were hanging out together so often, that’s when we would also do the checking-in-on-each-other/share-big-life-news stuff. Now it’s more of a conscious check-in, and spontaneous group calls have become the norm to drop the big goss.”

Courtney: “If anything, working with a producer for the first time, All this Talking Gets Us Nowhere really felt quite lo-fi in the production. We got in the studio, plugged in as a band, and just chugged everything out, and I don’t think we thought so much about actual production quality and pushing the sounds to the limits. With this EP, even with all the chaos of COVID, we are finding a more mature sound, the vibe and production quality is all there – obviously still very fun, raucous. Tracked everything individually and then really played with more ideas and layers etc.”

The year ahead

Zoe: “We’re writing as much as possible at the moment and that will probably continue, but it’s safe to say we will probably not slow down on the shows. Where some people might sit back and focus on writing, I’d say we’ll be doing it all at once cause we love playing shows too much.”

Hil: “Playing together again! Honestly so pumped to be able to get back to the weekly jams/rehearsals again. I miss my Buoys.”

Courtney: “Tour, tour, tour and also writing as many songs and working towards that album YAH DIG!! :D”

The Buoys (Zoe Catterall) – Lie To Me Again

Essential Listening

The Buoys – Bad Habit

Tess: “Bad Habit, which was our first single, was the last track to make it onto the EP. We were all on the fence about it so left it off, and at the last minute switched it with another song. It ended up being one of our favourites!”

The Buoys – Carpark

Tess: “Carpark is about a guy Zoe saw in her carpark at work some mornings and had a big crush on him, but she could never get the guts to say hi. She would call me at 7am in the morning to tell me there was a sighting, and I would try and come up with some kind of scheme to get her to talk to him. She never did though! So she wrote a song about him instead!”

Zoe: “Ok crush is a stretch hahahaha, I more let my imagination run wild in lockdown madness given my lack of human interaction…but Tess is very right in saying that I would call often as if spotting a rare bird. I haven’t seen him since lockdown ended, and I wonder whether he was just a figment of my imagination.”

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