Like Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer’, ‘Unit’ also foresaw the predominant role that technology would play in the lives of citizens of the 21st century. It is fitting, then, that The Gurge will headline the EB Games Expo on the Gold Coast with a special 20th anniversary rendition of ‘Unit’, replete with holograms and video games.
At the Expo, which also features Art vs Science and 7Bit Hero, attendees will be able to experience the latest developments in virtual reality gaming; a theme that Ben Ely examined in 1999 on the band’s follow-up to ‘Unit’, ‘…art’, as he explains.
“‘Virtual Life’ is kind of about being lonely and socially ostracised and all of your connections being with machines; it’s not about people anymore, which is weird because it was before you had all these super computers in your pocket, which you have now.”
While the themes of the band’s work have withstood the test of time, so to has their eccentric and stylistically divergent back catalogue. Ben believes they are a band that defy categorisation. “There’s so much music out there and as a band, we don’t have a peer so much.
"We kind of feel outside of the Australian music industry, we feel like the nerds in high school sitting around in their group, hanging out playing Dungeons and Dragons or something.”
The drastic metamorphosis that occurred between the group's second album ‘Tu-Plang’ and ‘Unit’ may have temporarily alienated a portion of the band’s original audience, but ultimately loyal fans embraced the old stuff and the new stuff.
Ben is grateful for this open-mindedness. “We do jump around a lot and it’s really nice that those people follow along with those changes that we make over the years.”
Ben is a music lover, not a genre lover. He recognises the various purposes that the art form can serve. “I like to cook dinner and listen to some nice, ambient, classical music.
"Different music has different effects. If you’re getting ready to go out, punk rock’s probably a good one to listen to if you want to dance with some people at a party, [or] you want to listen to some funk or hip hop or something.”
In another project, the band will pay tribute to one of their influences, The Velvet Underground and Nico by performing the album of the same name in full; with the help of Seja on keys and Mindy Meng Wang on guzheng as part of the Brisbane and OzAsia festivals.
It was an album of profound influence, says Ben. “You get any kind of interesting music that’s made today, they’ll all probably remember the first time they heard that record [' The Velvet Underground and Nico'] or they’ll place it as an important part of their influence.
"Even if bands don’t necessarily sound like that record, they are inspired by it because it’s not technically challenging but it’s interesting and it’s all about the lyrics and the drive and the content; it’s not necessarily about your skill; almost this punk idea where anyone can do it which is the good thing about it.”
The Velvet Underground and Nico ShowsWed 20 Sep - The Tivoli Theatre (Brisbane Festival)
Fri 29 Sep - Adelaide Space Theatre (OzAsia Festival)