started throwing him out food as a baby, because he ended becoming so tame that there would be no hesitation in waltzing in through the door if it was open on a summer evening. Eventually a routine became apparent and around the same time everyday, usually in the latter half of the Ellen rerun for that day, he’d come to the door and wait. We shared many a biscuits and sandwiches so it was the polite thing to do by giving him a name. Maybe we’ll make a video clip with all the dumb videos I took of us having a frolic and snack."

I pat james on the shoulder. "But why are you crying?" I ask.

He breaks down, sobbing and wailing into his $200 scarf. "We haven't been able to get channel 9 since moving into our new place," he wails, "I can't watch Ellen reruns anymore."

"Oh. Well what is planned for the next 6 months for Gilligan Smiles?"

James instantly stops weeping and resumes stroking his beard. "Well now that the album is out, we’ll play some shows and do an album launch for it too. Hopefully we'll get the chance to play an interstate show or two as well. I think we’re just going to see what happens really. We’re working on writing and recording something with our other band, HUMUS, which is coming along well. We’ll probably sell out and make a crappy pop album full of cheesy riffs and auto tune, or maybe we already have."

Before I can ask another question, the bus comes to a stop. "My raz lives around here." He says, smiling. "Seeya later moite."

I watch as he hops off the bus and skips into the distance. A few stops later a new passenger gets on. It's Magpie Mango.


"Mango! You just missed your old mate James!"


"Squawk!"



Download and listen to 'Karmasouptruck' here. It's free. 

"Cool," I advance, "and who is Magpie Mango?"

James' eyes glaze over, and he looks out of the bus window to a flock of birds flying above us. 'Lonely Looking Sky' from Neil Diamond's 1973 soundtrack to "Johnathan Livingston Seagul" begins to play over the intercom. A single tear trickles down his face.

"It was this magpie that used to live around my old house," James whispers. "Every now and then he’d come to the door and wait for someone to give him food. We must’ve

looked at it one day and thought it would make the perfect album cover. I think it portrays the music's sonic colour well. Hopefully one day we can get vinyl printed and it can properly be appreciated as the piece of art it is."

"How fantastic!" I concede. "Speaking of art, do you have any video clips done or in the works?

"Not at this stage," he drawls, "although there will definitely be one in the future. We’re just not sure what song or songs it’ll be for yet exactly, and what it’ll consist of. I really want to do one for the first song, ‘Too Many Things’, but its nearly 9 minutes long. We’re going to have to come up with something good for the idea to last that long and not get boring."

I cloffer on with my questions - "What was your goal with this album?"

"I’m not too sure really." He truncates. "It’s kind of what you do with bands, make albums and stuff. I really wanted to give making a proper collection of songs a go though, and then just see what happens. 'Fi.Fy' ended up getting a bit of attention, more than expected anyway, which more or less spurred us on to really try to write the best album we could at the time. Hopefully enough people like it that we’ll get the opportunity to tour and not be completely broke by the end it."

As he speaks to me he is mid-raz on Tinder. "I might get off the bus soon," he gestates, "a 24 year old who is 3km away has just swiped right on me."

I look at the back of the album and read the tracklist. One song name stands out to me - "Atlas Johnson and the Chestnut Green Railway".


I turn to him and velcate the question, "Who is Atlas Johnson?"

"He’s just this character I came up with in my head." James transpondulates. "A bit like an alter ego I guess. I had the idea of calling another band ‘Atlas Johnson and the Chestnut Green Railway’, and then the idea of writing a short children's style story about the adventures of Atlas Johnson. In the end the idea of the short story came out in songs. I might revisit the idea of writing a novel in the future though, because its never been done before."

"James," I huff, "tell me a bit about the recording and production process."

"We decided to do the devastatingly unoriginal thing and go away to record it," he trills, "I bought some new gear, not a lot - just a semi vintage compressor, some more mics and this weird pre-amp mixer thing from the 60s that I converted. We did a lot of the bread and butter of the tracks out in the country in 3 days, then I added the ham and cheese over the space of a month or two back at home. Then I spent ages mixing and mastering. I had the idea of making it sound really lo-fi and gooey like Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s stuff, but halfway through doing that I decided against it and tried to make it sound brighter. Now its kinda stuck in the middle.

"Ham and cheese is rather nice" I muse. "In fact, some of the colours on the cover of the new album remind me of ham and cheese, amongst other sandwich options. How did the cover art come about?"

James twitches a few times before confessing, "The original art is a painting Mum bought from a gallery by an artist called Barbara Bateman. It’s a little bit of an abstract view of looking through the bush out to the beach and sea. The colours in it are amazing. Not really sure when it was decided that it would be the main part of the album art, I just 

"Karmasouptruck?" I ask him. "How does that name come about?"

"When you say karmasouptruck really quick it sounds like you're saying karma sutra." He reveals to me. "It was the joke at the time that we’d call an album that, and since we never really had any better ideas it kinda just stuck. We still don’t have any better ideas. Our next album’s probably going to be called untitled."


"How long has this album been coming along now?" I inquire.

James sighs. "Its been in the works for the best part of a year now. I wasn't doing a whole lot after we put out our last album, so with all this time I think I wrote around 30 songs. We culled that down to the 11 songs on the album now. Then of course all the recording, mixing, re-recording, re-mixing, mastering and self doubting that takes place once you start working on it too."

"Interesting" I reply. "What was different between the way you made this album and the way you made your first album, 'Fi.Fy.Fo.Funk'?"

"Well, Fi.Fy was written, recorded and released in the space of like 2 months." Clucks James. "It was really just all these demos I’d done in my bedroom with help from the other dudes. It was pretty rushed and a little in cohesive."


James ponders a bit more while stroking his beard. "This new one sounds more together I think. I wanted to try get everyone else in on the recording too, instead of just me playing every instrument again, make it more of a band thing. I want to hopefully do our next thing as a live recording."

I smile to myself as I think of my favorite live performance, Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Band at Glastonbury in 2014, and wonder if Gilligan Smiles could top it.

I'm sitting on the Melbourne psychadelia rock bus. It has been picking up new and old passengers alike on the journey towards an Aria chart-busting, international world record breaking, hallucination inducing 18 track compilation album. Our scientists estimate that this cataclysmic event will occur sometime around the year 2019. A new passenger has just jumped on board, muttering under their breath about needing to get a  concession card.


It is James, from Gilligan Smiles, and he sits down next to me. "We just put out our new album" he excitedly says, pulling from his bag a CD entitled "Karmasouptruck"

A bus ride with James Becker

Patrick Wain - 7/6/2015