Hope Downs is a gigantic iron ore mine set in the outback of Western Australia, miles from civilisation and producing over a billion tons of the metal stuff per year. It’s also the title of the debut album from Aussie five-piece Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever.
“It feels like somewhat of a metaphor,” Joe White - one of the band’s three vocalists - tells us of the mine, on the phone during a day off on the band’s sprawling debut US headline tour. “There’s miles and miles of a big flat nothing, and then a giant hole in the ground.”
The album itself is far less hopeless than it sounds on this showing though, promise. Ten tracks of bright, catchy surf punk lathered with the sunniest of guitar melodies and popping basslines, it’s far more suitable for soundtracking sunny days with tinnies in the park than the somewhat existential crises from which it was born (it also features some of the best song titles we’ve seen for quite a while, from ‘An Air Conditioned Man’ to ‘Cappuccino City’).
Though three of the band write and sing, there’s a great deal of common ground to be found across the record, the trio of songwriters congregating around the idea of a fictional world for the album to exist in, with the great, immovable mine as its centrepiece. “We came at it from this single idea of this ‘Hope Downs’,” Joe expands, “and this great expanse of dread in the world, but interspersed with personal experiences and vignettes of stories to find meaning within the world we were trying to create.”
Album highlight ‘Mainland’ is a gorgeous, melody-packed throwback to the ‘80s, with simplicity at its core. It’s why, in Joe’s words, “people seem to find a lot of nostalgia in our music, and why there’ve been more than a few grey heads at some of our shows.” New single ‘Talking Straight’, meanwhile, is a suitably straight-to-the-point shimmy through propulsive indie-rock with distinctive, almost-spoken lyrics. “Lean your face; hopeless, no embrace. I wanna know where the silence comes from, where space originates,” Joe sings, before a sunny chorus comes in, the duality between music and words impossible to miss.
“It definitely also looks at the brighter side of things,” Joe confirms of the album’s motives, “from the more human side of things, and by viewing the interpersonal relationships that exist amongst the great expanse. And musically, it’s a pretty upbeat, poppy album. If people don’t read into it too much, it’ll probably just make them feel quite happy.” And if they do read too much into it? “Then they’ll find hope.”
‘Hope Downs’ is out 15th June via Sub Pop.