Max Easton is a writer from Sydney with work appearing in publications including Mess+Noise, Sydney Review of Books, Meanjin, Science for the People, VICE and The Lifted Brow. He is the creator and host of the underground music podcast and zine series Barely Human, and has played in Sydney punk bands BB & the Blips, The Baby, Basic Human and Romance. His first novel The Magpie Wing was published by Giramondo Books, and was longlisted for the 2022 Miles Franklin Literary Award. His second novel is due for publication in 2023.
Barely Human is an underground music anti-history focusing on the evolution of the independent, DIY ethic from sixties counterculture to contemporary subculture. Beginning as a zine series in 2016 (issues on Randy Newman, Butthole Surfers, Country Teasers and Low Life), it was adapted into a documentary style podcast in 2020, expanding to twenty-four music groups of declining renown. The project continues via intermittent zines and cassette tapes discussing elements of underground music culture.
The Magpie Wing (A Novel) - Giramondo Books, September 2021
The Magpie Wing is a novel that charts a timeline from 1996-2021 and the space between south west Sydney and its inner city. Junior rugby league, punk/experimental music, and radical politics all set the framework for its characters struggle for a sense of belonging, dictated by the external factors of the generation they're a part of, or their own impulses to quit or commit.
- Longlisted (2022 Miles Franklin Literary Award)
- Highly Commended (2022 UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing).
- Podcast interviews discussing the book: Beyond the Zero, The Rugby League Digest, The Write Way, Progressive Rugby League, Final Draft, Getting Lit Pod.
Tempered is a collaborative journal featuring contributions by members of Australia's underground music communities. Compiled and edited by Max Easton, designed by Daryl Prondoso and published by MoodWar, it offers insights into the outsider mentality of backwater Australian music. With a tone both loving and critical, themes included space, gender, class, autonomy and relocation, providing a window into what drives local underground art, and declaring a space from which to improve it.
- Vol. I (2015) is out of print
- Vol. II (2018) is available in limited quantities here
Selected available online essays are linked below, while archive versions pertaining to underground music in particular will be published intermittently on this substack.
Can the Magpie Speak? - Sydney Review of Books, 2021
"Whenever I try to link these kinds of events together, I hear this great big voice telling me it’s a conspiracy, that I’m cherry-picking factoids to prove a point; that I’m spouting ‘tremendous bullshit’ in linking the history of my lost rugby league club to timely events that suit the publication deadline of this essay."
One For the Indebted Class - Meanjin, 2021
"The broader political project of the creditor class becomes clearer when reading between the lines of debt history, thus revealing the link between contemporary Australian debt traps and the historical crises of sovereign debt abroad—an increase in indebtedness proves to be remarkably good for economic growth."
After the Charcoal Economy: Australia and the Green New Deal - Sydney Review of Books, 2020
"If we were to be so bold as to draw a line back to a point where anthropogenic climate change was not in effect, Australia finds itself at a time before the invasion and colonisation of Aboriginal land, before the construction of financial markets and pollutive industry: and if colonisation and capitalism were the starting points for the long curve to where we sit today (on an island that was on fire for six months), then surely we can see a burning case for spinning back the dial."
Snake and Friends Review: Scenius and the lens of collective contribution - Difficult Fun, 2018
"While an individual can often foster a sense of community (and in the case of remarkable figures, can even draw attention to it), the notion of individual art ignores the world that helped build it."
Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys & Sex Tourists Review: Experiencing adult fantasies in disappearing towns - Difficult Fun, 2018
"The narrative thread of why Sydney (and cities like it) might be disappearing are already storied and beginning to tire, but there are frayed ends I like to follow. I tend to think less about state planning legislation and more about why the city’s young punks turned in their drum kits and embraced the drum machine."
Band projects dead and alive:
- Adult Baby 7" (2019)
- Cassette Tape (2018)
- LP (Coming 2022)
- First Steps Tape (2019)
- Winter Tape (2019)
- 'Seven Inches of...' EP (Coming 2023)
- 'The Sickness Tapes' (2022)
- Shame Job LP (2018)
- US/Canada Tour 2018
- Demo Tape (2017)
- Tape (2015)
- 7" (2015)