“The Southern Cross University (SCU) band comp … produces some amazing bands, many of whom go onto bigger and better things … these guys [the winners] have the potential to go far,” says presenter Rohan Langford at the North Coast Entertainment Industry Association’s Dolphin Awards in Lismore on September 8.
“Yamba’s Nocturnal Tapes are not your typical live act … consisting of sonic shapers Harry Suttor and Lachlan Mulligan … they’ve melded the sounds of electronica and psychedelic rock.”
Prior to that performance, the duo won the Queensland final of the National Campus Band Competition and, last week, took out the national final in Sydney.
Suttor, who is about to graduate from SCU with a music degree, and Mulligan, who has been biding his time working at Harvey Norman in Maclean, got together in January this year.
“We played at the Yamba surf club, supporting Caravana Sun and the Dooms of Gloom,” says Mulligan.
They were well received, too, he says. “We knew nearly everyone that was there, because it’s a small town. Caravan Sun [a headlining band at last year’s Surfing the Coldstream Festival] came up to us and said how big the sound was and talked about our instruments and how we put it together.
“After that gig we kind of knew we had something.”
While the pair had played together at informal jam sessions with other musicians, a series of random events brought them together to form Nocturnal Tapes. “The last time the Wetsuits [Suttor’s previous band] played at the Pacific Hotel, I did the sound for them, and we decided we should try something,” says Mulligan.
“Harry and his brother, Jack, came over to my home studio and we wrote a song together as a three-piece. Jack was playing bass, but he left to go over to Europe, so me and Harry just continued.”
Suttor says he had no expectations when he entered Nocturnal Tapes into the SCU band competition. “It was just playing with a bunch of my mates from uni,” he says, “I thought, ‘it’ll be fun’, and now that we’ve done this I don’t know what to think, but it’s really exciting; it’s a good birthday present [Suttor turned 21 on Sunday].”
After playing his “first gig at Wooloweyah” he’d made up his mind about what he wanted to do. “When I went into music [at SCU], everyone was trying to convince me to go into a teaching degree … family and that, but I knew I just wanted to do performance,” Suttor says.
“Now I’ve finished my course [performance, guitar and audio engineering], I’ll have a lot more time to put in – we’ve been lucky to get one practice in a week. Now that I’ll be moving back home, we’ll be able to practise, record and write a lot more.”
Mulligan is a trained classical pianist who started studying as a five-year-old.
“I studied classical performance at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) in Toowoomba,” he says. “I did one year of performance and moved over to education. I finished my education degree in music, so I’m a qualified high school music teacher.”
However, Mulligan never took up a teaching position: his heart wasn’t really in it; the lure of his hometown’s lifestyle was too strong.
But those years at USQ proved to be pivotal. “During the last few years of my degree, I met a dude who was right into the electronic scene and that’s where this [interest in electronic music] started,” he says.
And the name: “The tape side of it; I was reading a lot about original recordings and magnetic tape; about how [it was done] before digital, I was really interested in the warmth and the quality of audio recorded with tape.
“And we are both nocturnal people; our sound lends itself to the late night stuff. It went from magnetic tape to nocturnal tape.”
The two musicians don’t yet have any plans for the immediate future, but they’ve come a good way in a short time, almost by accident; but that’s often the way it goes with contemporary music: they’ve invented something fairly unique while appropriating what has preceded them.
Finding shows to play hasn’t been too difficult: “It seems that each time we play, it roles onto something else – even weddings, because young people like our sound,” says Mulligan.
“We’ve had regular gigs in Lismore and Byron Bay at the Beach Hotel and the Great Northern – we’ve got supports with Triple J touring artists coming up.”
Perhaps Dolphin Awards presenter Rohan Langford had a handle on their appeal when he said: “My 15-year-old daughter is sitting in the front row; she says Nocturnal Tapes is ‘amazing; the act of the evening’.”
See and hear their performance at
Start playing the video at 1:06:50.