Friday, 25 May 2012



I created this blog with the express purpose of documenting a few of the bands that I have played in over the years. All of the recordings I’m making available for free download here are no longer in print. In most cases, I only have one or two actual hard copies in my possession, so there is no point in contacting me about getting hold of Bruna’s Lawns and Misfortune EP, for example. If you actually own any of these recordings – more power to you!

None of the musicians involved in writing and recording these artefacts ever expected to make any money out of their creativity. It was (and remains) a labour of love, and I think it is high time that the fruits of this labour became available again to anyone dedicated enough to have tracked down this obscure blog. I sincerely hope you enjoy what you hear.

René Schaefer


As I said, I’ve been involved in making all of the records to be found here. Usually, that has been as guitarist, writer, and occasionally as singer. My singing sucks, but for some reason that hasn’t stopped me from dabbling. I’ve been very lucky in that I found other musicians, generally more skilled than I am, whose ideas I could feed off, and who were open to collaborations.

When my family arrived in Melbourne, Australia, from Germany in 1982, I was set on becoming a visual artist, but the isolation of the artist, locked away in a garret somewhere, has never appealed. Music provided a more direct form of communication and a way to find a community of like-minded misfits.

Not being naturally musically gifted, my earliest musical efforts were experiments with noise, primitive multi-tracking on modified tape decks, and chaotic improvisation. Back in 1986, my earliest group, The Grots, drew inspiration from the post-hardcore mess of Flipper, Butthole Surfers and No Wave. Distortion, atonality and repetition ruled. As an end in itself, noise was pretty cool, but I kept thinking how much better it would be to actually be able to write tunes.

In the mid-1990s, following a few more or less humiliating gigs with a shambolic instrumental jam band by the name of Driveway (which included my friends Scott Robinson and Michael Foster), I decided to get serious about songwriting, and within a few months I had filled up about 25 cassette tapes with embryonic catchy dumb songs. From messy beginnings, this learning process soon led me to a more minimal and restrained approach to music.

Around 1997, Scott and I started collaborating on the first set of songs for our new band Bruna. Scott’s darkly depressed lyricism instantly appealed to me, and I found it easy to enhance his strumming with skeletal melodies. I roped in Laura MacFarlane, who was playing in Ninetynine, and had previously drummed in US riot grrrl band Sleater Kinney. She stuck around long enough to drum on our debut album Lumber (1999). 

Bruna was quite a prolific live band at the time, carving out a niche in Melbourne’s then-bourgeoning slow-core indie scene. Sharing a house with Scott meant that we had plenty of time to kick around ideas and write songs. When Laura left the band, we immediately drafted in Sandro frontman Gareth Edwards, who shared our morose sensibilities and had recently decided to teach himself how to drum. 

This line-up is documented on the second Bruna album Pale Era (2000), recorded by Nick Carroll in a squalid and claustrophobic house in North Melbourne. It sounds like a million bucks though. Unfortunately, following the Lawns And Misfortune EP in 2001, Bruna began to run out of steam. Maybe the formula we had developed had reached its limit, or maybe Scott and I were moving in different musical directions… who knows?

I guess it didn’t help that I had fallen in love with Kirsty Stegwazi, a wonderful and prolific songwriter, who had not only been a member of Adelaide’s fabled feral pirate punks The Bedridden, and had recorded several astonishing solo releases, but had guested on about a million different indie records throughout the 1990s.

It took us a while to overcome our shyness and start playing music together, both afraid that we might not actually click in the band room. We needn’t have worried though – the magic was palpable instantly. Following on from our first song, ‘Mexican Wave’, we pretty much wrote the bulk of The Bites debut album White Lines And Runways (2003) in a few frenzied weeks.  

With Gen Blackmore (ex-Radius) adding a third guitar, and occasional vocals and song ideas, The Bites quickly turned into a non-stop rock party monster. Monika Fikerle (ex-Sea Scouts) replaced original drummer Ieuan Weinman quite early on and added some serious thump to the Bites sound.

Things weren’t all smooth sailing though, and following a somewhat gruelling (but also amazingly fun) tour of New Zealand, and the recording and release of the album, the band began to fragment. First Monika left to join Love Of Diagrams, to be replaced by equally dexterous sticksman Simon Parker. Soon after, we parted with Gen, which left The Bites to carry on as a trio.

Phase 2 of the Bites was by no means a lesser entity though, as evidenced by recordings from this period. If anything, the sound became tighter and more propulsive, inspiring some spirited dancing and sing-alongs at our shows. The promise of a record deal with legendary local indie label Unstable Ape prompted us to splurge on recording time at the ritzy Sing Sing studio to achieve a more polished sound. Ironically, Australia’s national youth broadcaster TripleJ still rejected our single I’m Not Coming Down (2005) as being too lo-fi.

Ultimately, offers to play with other bands lured Simon away from The Bites, and his departure pretty much spelled the end of the band. We self-released half of the unfinished second album as the This Is A Full Stop. EP (2005), but both Kirsty and I had no desire to re-learn the same old songs with yet another new band member, leaving several new songs un-documented.

Instead, we decided to start from scratch, under the new name of Hand Hell. The idea was not to revisit the past (although we freely pilfered from its vaults). Having already been approved for an Australia Council grant to finish The Bites’ album, we wangled it so that this money could actually finance a whole new record. Songwriting had never been a problem for us, so the material once again came together in record time, old and new songs blending into a seamless whole.

Our friend Jen Tait (Go Genre Everything) became the latest amazing drummer to lend her DNA to one of our projects. The understanding was that she would strictly be a hired hand for the album sessions, which took place at the warehouse/studio where I worked as a mosaic artist at the time. Recording was a breeze, but the process of mixing with engineer Keith Urquhart became quite drawn-out and tiring.

Still, we were thrilled with the results. So much so, in fact, that our little recording project was soon translated into a live band, with the help of expatriate kiwi drummer Ricky French (Actor/Model). Despite a lack of new songs written over the next two years, Hand Hell built up quite a following amongst Melbourne’s indie cognoscenti. An enthusiastic fanbase wasn’t enough to keep us going though. 

Maybe I’d just had my fill of concise 3 minute pop songs for the time being. Instead, I became increasingly engrossed in the experimental noise scene, which seemed to offer a lot more freedom and sonic possibilities. With Dan Lewis, I started Aktion Unit in 2007, which quickly became my main musical outlet.

Aktion Unit never practised, and we never played for longer than 20 minutes. We didn’t even discuss what we were going to do before getting up on stage. This embracing of chance and chaos extended to us inviting guest musicians to perform with us, with no instructions, or indication of what we were going to do. 

In the spirit of spontaneity, our releases were recorded live and subsequently put on our blog. Occasionally, when touring interstate, or in New Zealand, we might burn a handful of CDRs to sell at the merch desk. I guess our most successful release was Harsh Shit Reality (2008), which affectionately parodied The Dead C’s Harsh 70s Reality, in both content and appearance.

With Kirsty now living in rural NSW, I continued to immerse myself in other musical projects, such as the post-punk duo Bad Cabin (with singer/drummer Simone Marie) and the Krautrock band Lamefoot, alongside my old housemate Dannie ‘Bean’ Johnston (Little Ugly Girls, The Dacios, Bulls) on drums, Matt Bailey (ex-Paradise Motel) on bass, and Evan Purdey (Twin Vickers) and Lisa McKinney (Mystic Eyes) taking turns on droney vintage organs. 

All this improvising kept me contented for a while, but a chance encounter with Ross Adam, at a gig in 2010, got me excited about playing fast, jangly power-pop again. I think it was a common appreciation of The Wedding Present, actually, that made us decide to have an informal jam at Ross’s house. Soon we had ideas for a bunch of songs, but seeing that neither of us wanted to write lyrics or sing, I called up Clare Hourigan and posed that age-old question: “Do you want to be in a band?”

Well, she did, and Scale Models was born (the name, of course, comes from an old Bruna song). Drummer Danny Martinov was a long-time fan of The Bites and Hand Hell, so there wasn’t really any doubt as to the stylistic direction of this band. We wrote just enough songs to make up our self-titled album (2012), and then promptly went on hiatus following its release, because Clare moved to Brisbane for work.

Which brings us pretty much up to date (May 2012)…

I’m going to keep adding music, images and information to this blog as I go, so keep your eyes open for new stuff, old stuff, weird stuff and irrelevant stuff.

Bye for now!


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