Music / Premieres
Track by Track:
Laughing Gear - Freak Lemons
Words by James Lynch
Friday 3rd December, 2021
Off the back of the release of their debut album in October, we got in touch with Laughing Gear to dig into the glitchy and agitated synth-punk that makes up Freak Lemons.
While the duo is made up of two regulars amongst Melbourne’s underground scene - Bryce Sweatman has played in Chrome Dome and Brando’s Island, and Fergus Sinclair is a member of Romero and Eyesores - Laughing Gear feel like something of an outlier. Although there’s undeniably no shortage of nervy and eccentric post-punk bands floating around this city at the moment, few local acts manage to make frustration sound as invigorating as Laughing Gear do on Freak Lemons. Described by the band as “an exercise in catharsis aimed at dissecting the tribulations of gentrification and classist warfare”, across these eight tracks, the pair blend unrelenting electronics with an impenetrable punk energy, all tied together by Bryce’s confronting and incisive howl.

Opening track ‘Possession’ is a perfect entry point into the haphazard world of Freak Lemons. Built around a relentless programmed beat that tangles with fluctuating synthesisers, jagged guitar chords and Bryce’s looming vocals, it’s an introduction that feels as compelling as it is overwhelming. Up next, ‘Private Sector’ and ‘New Estate’ are just as wired, both tracks unravelling around frenetic drum machine grooves and sinister synth work.

As the album continues on, Laughing Gear barely let up. ‘The Wheel’ is harsh and menacing, ‘Fillet Station’ could almost be a dance track if it wasn’t so anxiety inducing, and closing track ‘Tread Count’ rounds out the listen with an enigmatic and unsettling six-minute soundscape. From beginning to end, it’s a thrillingly defiant listen and one that leaves us keen to discover where the duo might go next.

To pull back the curtain on Freak Lemons, Bryce kindly walked us through the album track by track.

Our songwriting process generally starts with me making a drum pattern, then experimenting with sounds and effects on the synths until I find something that I’m happy with before hitting record. We like to make sure there is enough space for both guitars and vocals to slot in comfortably when we’re drafting up a structure, hence the minimal framework initially. ‘Possession’ was the first Laughing Gear track Ferg played along to and gave us a glimpse of how the band was going to sound with him on board. ‘Possession’ is about particular lives that revolve around material possessions/cash and then tied into an idea of fractured relationships and how these possessions can be comforting. It’s my favourite song to perform.

Private Sector

DAF, Los Iniciados and Nervous Gender are all massive influences on the band. This song is a bit of a homage to those artists. The bassline slaps! Drums are running through a Moog Ring Mod pedal which gives it that metallic alien sound. I love that pedal. We decided the song deserved some breathing space to let the synths do their thing as there was already a lot going, hence why there is no guitar. But we thought it would be weird for Ferg to stand around and do nothing when we played it live so we’ve added some of Ferg’s guitar recently which has slotted in quite well.

This song was written out of growing frustration for places in Melbourne that are getting out of hand in terms of mass development and a growing feeling of seeing the town you love slowly lose its soul. I had some fun imagining Brunswick in the midst of a dystopian class war 20 years into the future, with mass homelessness, burning apartment complexes and the military patrolling the street. Melbourne is a pretty tame city so it was funny looking back at lyrics like “Melbourne’s going to look like a military zone” and how they rung somewhat true during Melbourne’s stay-at-home orders.

New Estate

The one song on the record which uses a different drum machine. The Boss DR-220. The machine’s intended to sound more like an acoustic drum kit. Sounds huge! Keen to use more of it in the future and utilise it alongside my regular Roland CR-8000.

The song is about modern housing developments. Home and land packages built on disused farmland, industrial areas and swamps with endless isles of cheaply built houses that act like a mirror image reflecting down the street. Made up suburbs with no culture or infrastructure. The great Australian dream. The bubble. The mad rush to break in. Chuck it on the card.

The Wheel

We had ‘The Wheel’ open up our demo tape initially but all the guitar feedback in the outro made it a good closer for the A side. You might find us opening up a show with it however! There is a bit of a Think Lady Shave or Sex Dwarf vibe about it. Ferg had guitar parts over the whole song but I snipped some out as I thought the song needed a bit of breathing space. I love his riff the end. The lyrics are really bratty and I think it suits the sound.

In a Tank

Drum pattern was based off a beat I was playing on the drums at home. I love Ferg’s guitar solo on this one. The lyrics are about kicking on at the Tankerville after all the bars have shut. It’s amazing how shitfaced you can actually be and still get into the Tank. “Hands pass through bars to satisfy you” refers to people selling drugs and handing cigarettes out the iron bars in the smoking section. I’ll see ya there.

Fillet Station

Channelling big YMO vibes on this one. I was struggling to get a vocal melody for ‘Fillet Station’ for a long time before Ferg’s guitar work ended up really driving the song as opposed to much of the rest of the tracks and then gave me what is heard on the record. We’re looking at incorporating more of this idea in our newer song structures. The synths and drum machines are intended for you to picture pelicans gliding into the ocean and coming onto land to feed off all the guts fishermen would dispose of when cleaning their catch. The lyrics are pretty much about being stuck in a dead-end job and getting nowhere with it.


One of the more slower tempo tracks on the record. Also the noisiest. Ring mod on the drums again. This track resulted in Dom being asked to leave his studio. Don’t think they liked the guitar feedback that much. This song is about substance abuse, the track has a woozy, helpless vibe to it and leads into ‘Tread Count’ nicely.

Tread Count

Heavy Machinery suggested that the release hit the thirty-minute mark so in order to properly classify the record as a being an album. We then had a week to provide six minutes of sound to get it to “album status”. I live right near the Citylink freeway and there is an underpass that I sometimes walk through at night. The reverberation of passing vehicles and different engine sounds create an emptiness that I found somewhat soothing. We borrowed a friend’s portable recorder and captured half an hour of this sound. We then just went into the studio with the CS-10 , guitars and a whole bunch of pedals and improvised over the field recording. We were really satisfied with the result as soundscape experiment.

Freak Lemons is out everywhere through Heavy Machinery Records as part of Flash Forward - head to to grab the album on limited edition vinyl.

You can catch Laughing Gear tonight at Nighthawks with Body Maintenance and Silva.