Andy Bull has released two singles that cracked the Hottest 100 in 2013, and with an impending album and Groovin The Moo appearance, we caught up with him to have chat about what 2014 has to offer.
You’re sets are awesome and full of great songs, but we’ve only heard EPs, when can we expect the album?
Ha-Ha, you sound like my record company. I’m in the process of finishing it now. I don’t want to paint myself into a corner, but I think best case scenario I’m maybe a couple of weeks away from finishing it. I mean yeah it’s not 100%, but I think we’ll be alright.
You hear about people like Chet Faker scrapping their album in entirety, are you a perfectionist, and have you gone to those levels?
When I heard that about Chet Faker, I was like wooah, man. I’m a perfectionist and that has a good side and a bad side, and I’m sure Chet will say the same thing. I mean you have this habit that you want to keep making it better. But at the same time you have to accept that no more work or perfecting is going to make it better. You really have to be wary that you don’t believe you can polish a turd. If you write a song that is kind of average, then you can work and work at perfecting those musical techniques, but if the seed of the song isn’t good, then it’s not going to be a good song. That means that perfectionism can also fool you into making you can make things better, even when the soul of the song isn’t there. If the seed of the song is not very good, then it can effectively fool you into thinking the song is better that it is, and that’s also bad.
You talk about polishing a turd, does that mean you spend more time focusing on the lyrics to ensure that the seed is good.
I mean if you are singing, then you have to like what you’re singing about, if you are going to sing about it. I discovered that the thing I like about my music is my voice. And the melody and the lyrics are always the most important thing. And you don’t want that to be true because it seems old fashioned. And I don’t want it to be old fashioned, I don’t want to be old fashioned at all. But it is, and you cannot escape that old fashioned element. I mean you can mix it up and try different techniques, I could write the best synth sounds and do the best production and all that sort of stuff but at the end of the day it’s still a song. And still a song I have to sing. So, if the lyrics aren’t good, it doesn’t matter how good the synthesizers are because I don’t want to sing it because it doesn’t click. If the song wont click if it doesn’t stick with you personally. And sometimes you will click with it in the moment but over the time it will grow out of it. Perhaps that’s what happened with Chet Faker. At the time when you write it your like ‘this is great’, but with some reflection you may be like, this is more of an old habit, or these are other people’s ideas. I don’t know if that’s what happened, but I know that’s happened from my own experiences.
Are we going to see more of that synth pop on the new record, like with your two singles or are you going to drop some old school sounds on us?
I used the synthesizers a lot. I love the sound of it, it’s sort of the in-between of sounding futuristic and sort of nostalgic as well. You know what I mean, there’s something pretty beautiful about it, but then it always has some sort of alien element to it. It’s very, very beautiful sound. I have been watching a lot of documentaries on synthesizers lately, and in the 60s these were huge big instruments that took up half a room and nobody wanted to use them. But then you could put a lot of heart and effort into them, and really love them. And now everyone has a synthesizer, you can get them on your computer or your iPhone, and just make music there. But I only use real synthesizers. So to answer your questions, yes there will be a lot of synth on the album, but there will also be other instruments.
Yeah, that kinds of brings me onto the next question, will you be doing all of the other instruments, the guitars etc. as well. Because traditionally you have been a one man band.
Yeah, but I did use a drummer. Carlos who plays with me live is sampled on the record, and he pretty much makes this organic sound with the drums. So I have used that, and made my drums out of his basically. Bu there are some guitars and stuff, but a lot of it is very electronic.
Outside of the music, where have your influence been coming from, have you been listening to other bands in particular?
As a musician you are always listening to what other people are doing, and you need to be wary of what the trend is. That doesn’t meet you need to be in it though. But yeah I have been listening to a lot of albums like Dirty Projectors, Blood Orange, Metronomy, and even Kanye West. They are the ones that have release records lately that I’m really listening to.
Wow you really love your synth.
Ha-ha yeah. But then I couldn’t sing like Kanye West because it wouldn’t sound write. I couldn’t even sing like Blood Orange or Metronomy, because they are different songs, and because the lyrics are very important to me. It’s important to find the key. I mean my voice is an instrument as well, and you have to ask ‘what are your strengths’? What does my voice sound good doing? And I think my voice is better suited to being explicit about neglect and shame and devastation Ha-ha. So I guess that is what I focus on in the writing.
You mention at your shows you have a very high voice. Have you ever just tried to put on a fake baritone or something just to mix it up?
Ha-ha believe me I have tried everything.
You are playing the Groovin The Moo shows, have you done anything to try and adapt your shows to the festival stage?
Yea it’s really different because people aren’t stuck in a room with you, they can just wonder off. So we are trying to develop a set that has a lot of flow to it. I think that this will really be in mind as we prepare to it.
The several times I have you seen you, you have been in small venues which really adds to the intimacy. How are you going to capture that on the festival stage?
I want to try and keep that intimacy, but it’s really hard to capture that in such an open space, so it will be interesting to see how that goes.
I loved your duet Dog, with Lisa Mitchell. Have you got any other collaborations lined up, perhaps with some of the artists on Groovin The Moo?
All those collaborations tend to happen quite organically. When those things happen they tend to happen when you’re with friends and hanging out together, it’s not like a record company thing. It doesn’t happen that way. So there are so many bands on the Groovin the Moo lineup that I think are awesome, and I would love to do things with. I actually can’t wait just to meet them all, it’s a bit like the first day of school if you get what I mean.
Aside from Groovin The Moo, and potentially an album later in the year, what’s planned for Andy Bull in 2014?
We have a lot of big things. So we have GTM which is quite immediate, and then finishing the record which is quite a big thing. I think once we finish the record that will set of a chain reaction of things. I imagine that once the record is done, I will be doing a lot of touring in support of that. I also signed a record deal overseas, so I will probably go there and suss that out a little bit. Really just to keep going and see where things take me really. I mean you work so hard, but so much of life is out of your control, so I will just see what happens and ride that wave.
Do you feel that because the record company has put a lot time and faith in you, there is more pressure on this record to succeed?
Yeah there is definitely pressure. What I have discovered is that a lot this is dependent on me because I am on my own. If I’m not working on it, nobody else is. There are aren’t other people working on finishing tracks, writing stuff and things. And as other people aren’t making this record, if I stop doing it, take a break, then progress on the whole record stops. So I have to keep working on it, that there is a lot of pressure on me, but I have to remain pretty mellow and not let the pressure get to me. I don’t think pressure to succeed or finish is good. You kind of need to be calm, mellow and a bit humble if you want to be able to finish.
Or you might just end up writing some angry punk rock?
Ha-ha yeah. You really have to let your mind wander, and that takes time. It was said to get an hour of good writing, you need to be alone for four hours and you need to be able to let your mind wander. You have to kind of create a space where those pressures and worries don’t really exist, or something like that, but it’s really essential not to let it get to you.
Well we can’t wait to see the end product, and to catch you at Groovin the Moo, thanks for your time.
Ha-ha me neither, hopefully it isn’t too long a wait. Thanks
Ball Park Music just released album number 3 last Friday, kicking off a huge tour in the process. We caught up with lead singer Sam to talk ‘Puddinghead’, the upcoming tour, and the joys of having your own studio.
Album number three is coming out, ‘Puddinghead’. Singles ‘She Only Loves Me When I’m There’ is the first real taste. What can we expect from the rest of the record?
I guess that the single is a good taste of what to expect on the album. We tried to create a record that had a consistency to the sound, and I think that the two single represent the record really well. We tried to make a whole album of singles really. After the first album we reflected on the process and decided that trying to write songs that you can release as singles is a good way to approach it. Overall the album is pretty short, sharp and direct. There are a couple of longer album tracks but yeah.
The first record and EP, were very fast and punchy, whilst museum had a lot longer more mellow tracks. Is Puddinghead more like your debut stuff, more like museum, or something different entirely?
Yeah, after we had done the first two albums we sat down and talked about what we did and didn’t like about the records. The first record was really good, very upbeat and direct, and that was something that really resonated with our fans. I felt like some of songs on ‘Museum’ were trying out new ideas, and the songwriting wasn’t quite as strong on ‘Museum’, like it wasn’t bad, but it could have been better. On ‘Puddinghead’ we wanted to explore the studio a little more and incorporate new sounds into what we do. We are trying to take the sonic elements even further again and I guess that is a driving force behind us getting our own recording studio. But we wanted to combine the really lovable easy to digest songwriting from the first record.
Given you have set up and recorded this album in your own studio, does that change a lot of things in respect to the sounds we will hear on ‘Puddinghead’?
It doesn’t change things completely, but it does offer some new opportunities. I think previously, even though we have worked in great studios with great people, the time you spend in that studio means that you can rack up huge amounts pretty quickly. This time we have spent about the same amount of money we would normally spend on recording to get all the gear and create our own studio. In the main week we opted to go back and redo tracks, and rerecord them, it bought us more time. It meant that we could make progress on our sounds. We could change our process a bit to cover new ground. We had more time which allowed us to record songs more than once. There were some songs that we recorded three of four times. That was something that allowed us to try new things, and record it differently, and really led to us producing a sound we were happier with.
Does having your own studio also allow you to work quicker too, given that this is your third album in 24 months?
I guess it does speed it up a little, but we have always worked quite quickly. We had built our own studio which was exciting, and this was our own space. It meant we could go there like every day, or one of us could go there and play. I found myself going there often by myself or with one other person to go through song lyrics and melodies. We had only had the studio for 6 months and we already had enough songs to finish the album. So we took some time off, did our overseas tour, came back and added a couple of more tracks. We then tinkered and re-recorded some things, and having the studio allowed us to do that. Previously we didn’t do that, we recorded 12-13 tracks and we didn’t get to re-record them, those takes had to be our album.
If the first two albums are single takes, then you guys are sounding pretty good.
Ah thanks man. But yeah, there are definitely some things on our previous album that we never got to record the way we wanted to, and I would love to re-record those.
Your debut record had songs such as iFly, with the ‘I fucking love you’ lyric, ‘It’s Nice to Be Alive’, ‘All I Want is You’. They are all a pretty positive take on modern love. Then Puddinghead comes along and it’s much more negative, with ‘She Only Loves Me When I’m There’. What’s been going on in the background?
I don’t think anything has really changed. It’s interesting you point that out, because I think all our releases have aspects of positivity and negativity. Even the album you mention still had negative tracks, I mean ‘Sad Rude Future Dude’ says, “I Only have sex with myself, etc.”. There was ‘Shithaus’, so it wasn’t all happy, just more the singles made the album reflect that way. On ‘Museum’, ‘Coming Down’ definitely has a bleak message to it. I guess we have always tried to channel whatever feeling I’m having, but I will try and set it to an upbeat song. Whether I feel good or bad I try and write a happy song. I think people perceived the first record as a happy record, and they perceived us a happy band. And I mean, the music was happy, but a lot of the lyrics were quite deep and emotional, and it was really just an illusion created by the music. And I think this is the same on ‘Puddinghead’, there are some dark themes, but the music is all quite upbeat. I love songs that sound happy, they are upbeat, but have this really sad message behind them. I think it’s a challenge and so fun to write songs that sound fun, but have these heavy undertones. The one example I always like to refer to ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ by Joy Division, because it is one song that is upbeat but has these dark tones.
So where did the idea to call the album ‘Puddinghead’ come from?
We first decided that because ‘Puddinghead’ was a song we recorded for the album, and we loved the name so much we picked that. But strangely it didn’t end up making the cut, so it will now be released as bonus track maybe on the iTunes version etc., but yeah we kept the name for the title, because we liked it so much. The song had this chorus that goes ‘If you don’t run with me you are a Puddinghead’. It’s a term I first heard about in high school, we were studying a Shakespeare piece, and I remember asking the teacher what that meant. He said it was a Shakespearean insult, which I found really funny because, it was almost like a pretty weak insult, it was almost loveable. So we went on the internet and googled it, and it basically means fucking up the unfuckable, and that was a sentiment that we liked and made us laugh so we stuck with it. Embrace the inner nerd I guess.
‘She Only Loves Me When I’m There’ has these thick baselines and is heaps punchy, what tunes have you been listening to that have really shaped the sounds on this album. Or have you guys stuck to the same process.
It was definitely the same process. We tend to be very open, funnily enough there are a whole bunch of bands that all 5 of us dig. So when we’re are writing it’s a very flexible and open-minded process and if we all like and get into something it will stay. Previously we were recording in quite dingy areas and we didn’t really let any of that come across in our music, so this time we allowed that to come across in our music with some particularly funky rhythms. Yeah, so this time we tried to mix things up and used some more funky rhythms. I mean a lot of the ones we are trying are older bands like the Beegees, and more instrumental bands that nobody really listens to these days. Sometimes we listen to more indie bands like the Dandy Warhols. They just have some great indie rock hits that have crossed over into mainstream singles. We were trying to write songs that would take our band to the next level, so we were kind of channeling their vibes.
Half of The Dandy Warhols live in Melbourne, you should totally try and organize a tour with them.
Oh yeah, I vaguely recall that. That would be sick, they are a great band and we love them. That would be very cool.
You’re about to head off on the Puddinghead tour. The last tour was the ‘Thank Ewes’ Tour. Who’s the person behind the witty names?
We are all particularly interested in puns, but when we put ‘Museum’ out, we thanked everyone in the album booklet by writing thank ewes. When it came to do that tour, we felt like we had already done so many tours, and that before we went AWOL to write this next album we should really thank all the fans who have been so supporting so far. So “Thank Ewes” it was.
So you have the Puddinghead tour coming up. Where are you going, and are there any shows you are particularly keen for?
Yeah there are a few new places we are going to that we have never played before, so we are all pretty excited to stop there. We are playing a lot of more regional places that I am really excited for, like Darwin. Not that Darwin is regional, but you know what I mean. So we have Darwin, Coffs Harbour, Tasmania, and Albany in WA. Then we have all the capital city stops. Capital cities are always exciting and fun, but then we are stopping at some truly beautiful places along the way. And those smaller cities are great, their hospitality is incredible, and their crowds really interesting and get into it. So we really are touring all of Australia which is exciting cos it’s been a while, and playing new material. So yeah, can’t wait.
Wax Witches have just dropped their latest punky gem ‘Social Introvert’.
Alex Wall of Bleeding Knees Club has a solo project called Wax Witches, that has an array of stuff out and is pretty cool. However, this latest number ‘Social Introvert’ is a real step up. I loved the more melodic riffs, and the way that ‘Social Introvert’ manages to provide more structure and a punchier sound than previous numbers. Yet, it also hasn’t strayed from the fast paced, angsty punk rock that made Wax Witches so appealing in the first place. With an album out in July, prepare yourself for more Wax Witches.
Tarantism is defined as the uncontrollable urge to dance. Harts is the cause of my Tarantism, because ‘Lovers in Bloom’ is freaking catchy.
Harts is a one man show, who we have always loved, and ‘Lovers in Bloom’ is another example of the incredible talent this guy has. If you love indie disco, and are a sucker for instrumental dance music, then you will love this track. There is so much funk, some very classy guitar riffs, and you cannot help but cut a groove. Now I just have to learn how to dance in a socially acceptable manner.
The Brisbane garage pop-rockers are back with another choice tune called ‘Ramona’.
Continuing their trend of single with girls names, ‘Ramona’ is a welcome return to the airwaves for Velociraptor. Armed with a plentiful supply of back up harmonies, abundant reverb and that care-free poppy vibe that has almost become a staple in Velociraptor numbers, ‘Ramona’ is a more than welcoming track on the ears. Although lacking the punch of previous tunes such as ‘Cynthia’ or even some of Jeremy Neale’s singles, the chilled vibes of ‘Ramona’ is certainly to my liking, and left me keen for more Raptors releases.
The opening night of The Jungle Giants Tuss Tour was certaintly one that I am not going to forget in a while. This is in part because of a sweet line-up of music, and part because it made me question whether mid-twenties males are allowed to like indie pop. (After careful consideration, and the way I bopped along during the night, I decided it was ok).
We got there just after Shortstraw finished, and based off the yells and screams of the crowd, they must have done a pretty good job. However, its always hard to tell at underage gigs, because they squeal excitement at anything. Even when Dom from Millions suggested they buy their shirts.
Which brings me onto Millions. A band I have followed since they first popped their singles up on Triple J Unearthed, it was great to see the guys decked out in matching white outfits ready to wow the crowd. A little clockwork orange in their appearance, they delivered a solid set with a host of favourites ‘Slow Burner’, ‘Those Girls’, and closed out with their most popular tune, the thumping ‘Nineteen’. They also played a host of new songs, and announced they have new music coming out soon, which based of the newly trialed numbers is pretty exciting. In fact my only criticism is that they dropped ‘Guru’ out of the setlist. Yeah, pretty devo about that one.
When the Jungle Giants came out, you would have sworn you were at a One Direction concert based on the number of teenage screams that erupted from the crowd. I felt very over aged, and insecure at how deep my voice was. Nonetheless, the Jungle Giants came out guns blazing and played a set that ensured all those fans would be back again. Although the significance of the lyrics may have be lost on most of the crowd, ‘Domesticated Man’ went off, along with ageless debut ‘Mr Polite’, and modern classics ‘Skin to Bone’, and ‘She’s A Riot’. It was a fast paced energetic set, that had everyone dancing, including us older folk who were cutting a much more conservative groove. Oh, and the notable shout out for Sam who crowd surfed on teenagers pumped full of red cordial and fizzy drinks.
With the Tuss tour in full swing, Groovin’ The Moo, Live It Up and Triple J One Night Stand to come, there are plenty of opportunities to catch The Jungle Giants. Despite my above cynicism they are one sweet live act you don’t want to miss out on.