Nick here. Been working on a couple of long-form projects (a film script and a micro-budget feature with Luke) each of which will have taken at least a couple of years to complete once they’re done. Just staying in the oven with those (and otherwise doing the odd band gig and recording for Rank Ideas) has been a new flavour of life, kind of fun and kind of hard. I should blog about it sometime, but instead I’m gonna blog about this little bit of acting out I did last week.
It’ll be a while until I get to do any new band recordings, and meanwhile some friends were bugging me to put my music on spotify. Just porting my band camp over seemed boring, so I had the idea to rearrange some of my existing recorded songs into some kind of new configuration. First thought was to canvas friends for their opinion on my ‘best’ songs, but that seemed like a recipe for stress (as much as I love the Greatest Hits format).
So then I started to pick the songs that I thought of as the most ‘me’- that is, that felt like the most distilled version of what I’m even trying to do as songwriter. Once I picked the first few songs a dominant vibe of un-chill indie-pop was prevailing, so I leaned into that for the rest of the selections. My friend Fi (who was the chief person bugging me to do this) made the cover art to my dorky specs, I had a deliberate rationale for sequencing the tracks but fuck if I can articulate it. Then I started DMing it to people, ’cause I don’t know how to actually promote things.
Presenting it as a ‘Singles Collection’ is mostly a cheeky exercise in alternative history- a history in which I released ‘singles’ over a consistent period as a pure Recording Artist, rather than embedded in chunks of multiformat performance art that have made it almost impossible for the audience to assess the songs on their own terms.
So this time people have been assessing the songs on their own. It’s been nice and funny for people who have been watching my gigs and videos for years to suddenly go ‘oh there’s some real consistent themes and ethos across years of your songs’ and ‘wow Nick you are very sentimental and earnest aren’t you?’ and ‘Nick is this death fixation real or a bit?’ Which confirms that some of the Persona and Story World stuff I do and will always love doing has made it hard for some people to clock that stuff before.
Part of this is me wanting to draw a line under my music output to date to set the stage for some new recording and album plans I have for the next ten years. But of course doing this means that these songs are suddenly new to a bunch of people, and I wasn’t expecting to have such a lovely experience of that. Looking forward to thinking about how I can keep misrepresenting my body of work to nice trusting people for my own enjoyment.
Nick here. I have two day jobs, one at a gym as a strength coach, one as a creative producer for You Are Here. Over the years I’ve charted You Are Here’s transformation from an over-maxed indie arts festival into a artist development org with stridently specific values.
A residency program with a tight and contained event season was the right arts work to be doing in 2020 Canberra, in terms of actually being able to do it. The general vibe of the whole planet having to re-examine how art practice can happen emboldened my boss Ketura Budd and I to further lean into the idea of presenting the artists and their making process as the actual most interesting bit. And look we were pretty arrogantly confident about that already.
This year we gave the residency program a name, Cahoots (I was aggressive that the name should be dorky and warm), to help Canberrans clock that we have a new format and easily to distinguish between the residency program and the event season. The latter point ended up being less critical than we thought, as our truly delightful gang of artists (including a filmmaker, a textiles artist, a poet, a clown, and the usual mess of hard-to-categorise interdisciplinary folk) were mostly in need of license and support to iterate and test work without the pressure of presenting something ‘finished’.
We presented our artists to the public as a suite of work-in-development called Cahoots Lab. Basically you could rock up and move through a series of rooms and interact with the artists and test versions of their work, often with specific offers to offer critical feedback of the work and where it’s up to. It’s likely that many of our audience interpreted this approach as a Covid response, a compromise on a big slick festival program. If that helped them be generous to the new structure then great, but the truth is this is what we’re gonna be doing now. Presenting work that is still being made is more useful to our artist development goals, plus we’re increasingly militant about the public’s potential to understand more about the costs and needs of art production, and engage with it with interest. It also allows for us to have the resources to present ambitious finished work by Cahoots alumni as a a parallel stream of our program.
It’s funny that I feel the need to do so much explaining of our public events when 90% of Cahoots is the residency sessions, the behind-closed-doors part where our special and generously-spirited artists spend months and months becoming a community of trust and support that can come at each other with honest critical feedback, and where each individual has time to create a development goal and process that is measurable and useful. If that sounds hard to actually do , it is, but it turns out you can do it. We think that in another couple of years we will have a model of creative community building that can be useful to the rest of the world. It’s such a good job, just so good, and the level to which is refining and reinforcing my hunches about the ways that art can be are sure to make me more insufferable with every passing year.
But here it is – four emcees, two producers, six tracks and two interludes! It sounds amazing to me. Each track has a theme (the Heist one, the Revenge one, the Diss track, etc.) and hearing each of the other guys take the concept and go off is a pleasure. Coolio Desgracias and Housemouse have long been one of my favourite groups so to share an EP with them is pure butter.
Production wise, the beats I contributed come from my earliest attempts at sampling, before I knew all the do’s and don’ts. I love that phase of learning an instrument – you come up with stuff you will never do once you are more polished! The samples I used are from all over the shop – a scratched up Toots record I’ve had for years, an early 70s soul song I jacked from Youtube, and a snatch off Female Prisoner 701: Scorpion that caught my ear while watching the movie (I grabbed it, with foley sound still intact, straight from the blu-ray). The Female Prisoner 701 series also formed the lyrical basis for that particular track – Grudge Match – hence my shout-out to screen goddess Meiko Kaji!
And like all songwriting, but especially sampling, I was helped by a good splash of serendipity. I had just watched a video of Marley Marl explaining how he layered two breakbeats on top of each other for LL Cool J’s Mama Said Knock You Out and tried it for the song that became Goin’ Through My Mind. It worked perfectly – so good in fact, I’ve never been able to replicate it for any other song!
Lyrically it ended up being a combination of writing in the room and woodshedding at home – I’m pretty happy with just about holding my own among such esteemed company. When it came to Zonin‘, I had already written a couple of verses on the topic for an impulsive early remix – so what to do for the real thing? I ended up using the second verse of my original track but in trying to fit it in, I rapped most of it in double-time.
Coolio and I mixed and mastered the tracks, adding a few flourishes as we went along. He had the brilliant idea to add some audio of our favourite Youtube drum sensei Stephen Taylor talking about zoning to Zonin‘, and I went widescreen with sound effects on Crackerjack.
I asked Gustavo to do the cover again – it was Coolio’s idea to model it on The Doors’ Strange Days, but with the Mandalay Van in the background.
I wasn’t sure what the Brazil-based Gustavo might make of the iconic Canberra eating spot, but he said he was excited to draw a dope-ass bus after getting requests for the same sports cars over and over for other rappers’ album covers!
NICK: This one didn’t seem to take quite so long to me, cause I was just coming in as a rapper as and when we were all free. I wrote most of my stuff in the room with the other guys which was handy for maintaining a sense of healthy competition. Which probably isn’t apparent from the mid-paced slackness of my rhymes, but look the others are all so hard on their fast-and-nimble tip that it’s kind of the obvious hole to fill! I appreciated having a brief to work to for each song, and then I just did my usual Babyfreeze shit of making raw personal disclosures in a context where they will never be read as such.
I was a deliberately terrible team player on this one, scrolling my phone for any part of the sessions that didn’t require me to write or record, but I like to think I made a pretty good contribution with the chorus to Zonin’ which is easily one of my favourite things I’ve ever written for anything. That was a case of just vibing on a loop that Simon had on one of his many mixtapes, and yeah now that I think of it Luke is right I wrote that literally years ago. Anyway, the others all did a great job of writing to the theme of Travel Braggadocio, and of general world-building across the record. In fact I would love anyone who listens to the record to send me their best wikipedia summary of the NSU biopic that is suggested by the and includes the plots of all these songs.
The deep friendship that Chris Endrey and I formed (after being pushed together, Gilgamesh and Enkidu style, by the reckless deities of the Canberra Arts Scene) could easily have just resulted in us just spending a lot of nice time together hanging out. But of course it couldn’t actually, because we are the people we are and so we had to design a shared artistic endeavour that has a good chance of lasting the rest of our lives.
Chris suggested we do a podcast despite the fact that he doesn’t listen to any or know anything about them. I love podcasts and had a million opinions on how to do one but have also purposely cultivated 0 skills in audio production, even the really basic ones. So about the same ratio of arrogance-to-actual-subject-knowledge that any podcasters start with.
We have contended with the default podcast format of two-non-expert-dudes-sharing-their-opinions by attempting to be the MOST that. Rank Ideas is a podcast where Chris and I will systematically rank every human idea against each other in a giant master list, the best idea down to the worst idea, in order. We spring from the assumption that the most qualified two people to do this task are whichever two people decided to do it.
At the top of each episode we have a chat about which idea we might rank and then pick something. Then the theme song; then we discuss the idea for as long as it takes to unpack every important aspect of it (usually somewhere between 25 and 50 minutes). Then we rank on the list against all the other ideas we’ve ranked so far, always in it’s perfect and permanent spot. We sometimes do topics like Boat Cruises and Shorts, but more often it’s broader more conceptual stuff like Generosity or Fairness or Free Will (or directly in between stuff like Pornography or Imprisonment).
My default joke has been that starting a podcast has just been my mid-life crisis arriving right on time. But the embarrassing truth is that it’s been an incredibly valuable and nurturing experience for me personally. Having a space to both expound on but also process/shape my thoughts on sensitive topics, in a way where Chris and I can take as much time as we want and only stop when we’re finished, and people will only engage with it if they want to- factually it’s just wonderful. And that’s mostly because of who Chris is as a conversation partner- chatting with him is never a Debate (an idea that ranked very low on our list), it’s always a shared investigation done in the spirit of openness. We both frequently change our minds about things while discussing them, in deep ways that are effecting our actual approaches to the world outside the recording sessions. I can’t imagine the same outcome or sense of safety doing this with any other person.
And look it’s Chris and I so of course we’re goofing and joking the whole time. But some of my friends have expressed surprise that it’s not more of a goof, that we are in fact taking it seriously. And then they remember what they actually know about me and they aren’t surprised at all.
We’ve recorded 58 episodes so far and the list to date is right below for your perusal. If you find any of the rankings curious then I’d love you to sample the episode for that topic!
I approached Coolio Desgracias about doing a quick EP to keep busy in the first few weeks of lockdown. He jumped on the idea, suggesting we model it after Champion Sound – both of us working separately, spitting over each other’s beats. We immediately hooked in, a fun no-stress exercise smashing something out ahead of the long-gestating Northside Swag Unit EP (more on that next time!).
Needless to say, Coolio’s beats were awesome. For my production, I sent him a handful of beats with samples chopped from records from my last trip to Japan – consider it the latest Lion’s Mansion instalment – and some of my recent raids on new mecca Championship Vinyl. Coolio has an inherent distaste for ‘keyboard beats’ so I sent him my most Madlib-esque flips. Though my favourite track ended up being Nonsense Rhyme where I mixed 60s psychedelic rock with my own trap production, an arrangement idea I took from Pusha T’s Come Back Baby.
As a rapper, I knew I needed to put myself into a box. My rules for this project were 1. No standard hip-hop flexing, slang or ebonics, and 2. No stream of consciousness – every song had to have a story.
Firegolds, Part One is a 1920s mob vignette, about a young buck’s first day bootlegging and the bloody outcome – crime doesn’t pay, kids! The ‘part one’ is a nod to the fact the song abruptly ends at its most climatic moment. There’s definite flavours of A Prince Among Thieves, especially my roping in of Nick to play a between-verse radio announcer and Coolio to play a heavy!
Tierwater Blues saw me riffing on the first chapter of T.C. Boyle’s A Friend Of The Earth. I was so taken with the imagery and premise I started trying to turn it into a song before I finished the chapter. Consequently, both stories start in the same place and slowly deviate. The wizened voice I adopted was character-acting, reflective of Boyle’s aged, ornery protagonist. And yes trainspotters, that is an interpolation of Prince Far I’s classic UnderHeavy Manners in the chorus!
Lone Wolf & Chillcame about differently – I heard a flow before I had a concept. I quickly got it down on my phone, vocalising a mixture of nonsense words and broken Spanish. The Spanish felt natural as I was hearing an open vowel sound on the end of most of the lines. At first I thought I might even try writing the rhymes in Spanish, but when my thoughts turned to what other languages have similar phonotactics, Japanese came to mind. Pretty soon the couplet ‘Back in Edo / Ogami Itto’ came to me and the rest fell into place. I definitely would like to write more like this in future.
We both finished the tracks quite quickly – Coolio crushed it, listen to him go full Chali 2na on Get Your Boat On! – but getting the cover artwork delayed it somewhat. The first artist fell through and while I was organising a second one, I suggested we do one more track with both of us rapping on it to tie the project together. Day In, Day Out was the result – I provided the chop and Coolio provided that killer hook, which still gets routinely stuck in my head.
Day In Day Out was the only song to make reference to the lockdown – we saved the rest for the cover. I asked Gustavo to draw us as The Big Lebowski and Mad Max, a la:
I also suggested he draw us in the Fortress of Solitude, another reference to lockdown. And lastly, we called the EP ‘For The Good Of The Realm’:
I love Simon and this was such a free and easy project to do – can’t wait for the next one!
Nick and Chris Endrey are producing a podcast – 32 episodes and counting! – where they rank all ideas in human history. It’s ambitious and silly, a niche both have experience within. They composed the Rank Ideas theme in real time during an episode, immediately performing it acapella. Nick asked if I would like to take a stab at a fully realised version, their intention to eventually get multiple interpretations by some of their fave artists. Of course, I said yes.
The first challenge was figuring out what chords to lay underneath. I toyed with putting it to a minor key or doing a jazz take, with lots of ninths and suspended chords (I love Adam Neeley’s versions). But I realised I was getting ahead of myself. Any subversion first needs something to work against – you need the puntal before the contrapuntal. As the first ‘proper’ version, this had to provide that baseline. Thus I went with some traditional pop, though I was pleased with throwing in that F#m7 on ‘sometimes commotion’.
After the chord progression, I needed to choose a genre or instrumentation. I had been wanting to experiment with a vocoder again and thought I would try it here. But again, I noticed I was taking a contrarian position, opting for something intentionally novel or strange, which – importantly – may not have been in service of the song. From that revelation, it was easy to work backwards to identify what I was opposing. In an effort perhaps to challenge myself, I was dismissing – before I think I had even consciously considered it – doing the most logical version, a take in the style I have played most in the last 20 years.
So I made a lo-fi, crunchy guitar, full-throated vocal take. It was fun – I don’t sing enough like that since Faux Faux Amis! The drums are based on what I would have done if I could record my kit – need to figure that out this year! – and there’s consequently more subtlety and variation in the patterns than I would have programmed pre-drum tutelage.
Nick and Chris begun including it from episode 25 – listen to the show here!
LUKE: I certainly didn’t predict the popularity of Canbeurovision last year (who did?). All I knew was I hadn’t been performing much and this felt like a fun way to get back into it. Plus as one of Queanbeyan’s top three songwriters, I had to rep my hometown. I do recall Nick being skeptical when I first told him I was entering – though he came around quickly to help me with my entry – so it wasn’t without a smirk that I agreed to be involved in his bid this year.
The first thing to note is Nick’s song was brilliant – a hilarious, honest and hook-filled history of Braddon’s ongoing transformation. He gave me carte blanche with the arrangement, so I drew the chords into my DAW, then played around with different accompaniments. I started with one – the organ and shakers you hear on the bridge, my attempt at a Loadedvibe – and then I did another one… and another one… and another one. Pretty soon I had takes in styles including punk rock, techno, soulquarian, trap, and 70s piano ballad. The only one we didn’t use was a Pavement-does-reggae thing, which, you know, it’s time will come. It felt like developing Casio presets, though way more fun than that sounds.
Chris Finnigan and Nick came over and we had a fun session arranging it – I suggested it open with a tinny drum loop a la Stop Making Sense, which they both got excited about. That gave the whole performance somewhere to build, opening with just Nick, before me, then the dancers and lastly some tasty lashings of Fossil Rabbit.
I ended up doing all the backing track and the video, partly because I am bad at saying no, and partly because I really wanted to perform at the Playhouse and didn’t trust anyone else (maybe Lou is right?)
The video was a whole different beast – syncing superimposed text is not hard, but it’s mandrolic to put together. Still, if we were to have a video, it made the most sense. We knew a video would definitely up the slickness of the whole endeavour and set us apart – though Nick told me not too make it too slick lest we be seen as tall poppies (yes, we were very confident).
Video also allowed us to double down on a few gags but I mostly played it straight – it was a supplement and I didn’t want the audience distracted by it. Reuben’s footage of Braddon’s vacant lots, construction sites and pre-boom government flats added a poignant counterpoint to all the frivolity.
All my heavy-lifting was thus done before the performance, so I was left to be, well, ‘Handsome Luke’ onstage. Nick would welcome me on after the first verse, at which point I walked on and ‘cued’ the track from my laptop. I learnt enough of Zev and Nickamc’s choreography to chime in at key parts but mostly I did what I do at Babyfreeze gigs, lip-syncing along with Nick with dramatic poses thrown in. The backing track was hardcoded into the video, but when I walked onstage with my laptop – strictly a prop – I freaked out Bevan who hadn’t factored it into the sound set-up. He told me afterwards, feigning a heart attack.
The night of the heat was great – Smiths was at capacity and I had to peer in through the door just to see the other acts. When I saw The Murray Darlings, I felt sure they had it in the bag – the song was catchy as, the costumes fabulous and they had a horn section. It was a scientifically engineered crowd-pleaser. I attribute the fact we WON our heat over them to fortuitously playing last and thus being at the forefront of voters’ minds.
I was excited to play the final as I have never performed on the Playhouse stage – a capacity Playhouse would also be the biggest crowd I’d have played for in some time. Unfortunately, life got in the way and I had a funeral to attend that day. Rather than cutting my bit, Nick got Sweaty Pits wunderkid Miriam Slater to play ‘Handsome Luke’ – proof that codifying my stage look down to a few irreducible elements has been successful! When I got to watch the performance later, I was blown away – they’re more Handsome Luke than me!
NICK: Me, I’m the one who predicted the popularity of Canbuerovision! Or more accurately just assumed it, as it’s the perfect trifecta of what gets Canberrans excited:
Anything that makes art a competition
Anything that allows Canberrans to talk about ourselves
Anything with a generally Rock Eisteddfod-y ‘put-an-item-together’ vibe
As the Mean Average Canberran I am particularly susceptible to these vibes, but more importantly NO ONE was going to do a song about Braddon before me. I moved to the suburb in 2010, meaning my life here has tracked almost exactly to the gentrification cycle that has played out across the decade. As an arts producer who works in a gym and eats all his meals I am as culpable as any developer for what has been wrought here. If I was ever to be the Bard for a moment than now was the time.
You all know I love a restrictive songwriting brief. Writing a song about this specific a topic, with a huge singalong chorus and actually funny punchlines throughout, was either gonna expose the limits of my ability or be one of fastest songs to ever tumble out of me. I used The Violent Femmes as a reference for how to make extremely wordy pop songs that people will sing along every word to. As always I set myself the most restrictive rhyme scheme possible and that did most of the heavy lifting. My only songwriting tip ever is just BECOME A MACHINE THAT RHYMES.
After the black belt effort Luke put in on the track and the video it was gutting not to have him on stage with us for the final, but our performance squad did every perfect thing to help me live my Talent Show Dreams. The sold out crowd of 600 seemed to be made up of 10 Smiths audiences smooshed together, I’ve never felt such a home ground advantage. In the end we took third place behind the truly righteous Murray Darlings and the titanic West Belconnen team (check em out check em out check em out!). Judging by the type of people who came up to me at the after party, we were the favourite act among the bitter and disaffected. Which I will happily take.
LUKE: Nick came up with the idea of reinvigorating our old songs by producing EPs with different producers. It’s a ploy I toyed with for Faux Faux Amis that never got off the ground. I am always keen to hear how others interpret my music – I’m never more chuffed than when someone covers one of my songs. Moreover, some of these Babyfreeze songs date back to our inception, so I was pleased to give them a facelift.
I’ve been friends with Reuben a long time and shared many a stage, but never worked with him in a musical capacity. His alter-ego Dead DJ Joke is my favourite deejay to dance to, so I knew it was going to be heaps of fun. The choice of second producer furthered the entwining of Simon Millman and myself – I’ve now mixed and mastered songs for him, shot press photos and film clips, contributed guest verses to his Coolio Desgracias project and we are both founding members of the Northside Swag Unit (six track EP dropping soon!). Oh, and he’s also my drum teacher!
We gave both Reuben and Simon a bunch of our old demos to sift through – each selected different tracks, with the exception of Interview. This song – one of mine – began life as a Cool Weapon demo (quick anecdote: the Modgeulator said that of all our sex-focussed material, this was the only one he ever felt the need to shut the door of his room for when working on it), and has been in Babyfreeze’s sets since our first gig. I was confident – rightly as you can hear – that both producers would bring something different to it. Simon latched on to its greasy essence while Reuben brought it into his shiny hi-tech world.
The whole thing was a blast, but some highlights for me are:
the horns on Water Is No Liar! Just perfection!
The Soulquarian vibe Simon brought to Ghost Breath
Fossil Rabbit’s Arabic guitar swells on Ghosts From The Ground
Everything about Tattoo Shop. What Reuben managed to do – turning it from Gun Club to S Club 7 played at double-speed – is nothing short of remarkable.
I’m happy Chris and Grahame got to feature on the EPs – my intention is to have them far more involved in the arranging and playing of the next album.
The EPs had a long gestation, partly because we weren’t in any rush, and then because of Nick and my general apathy towards arranging gigs (in this case, the EP launch). We’re happy to play at the drop of a hat, but no one starts a band because they love event management and logistics… I ended up curating and organising the event – another guerrilla gig at what we named ‘Commonwealth Park Stadium’ (not to be confused with Stage 88). It was a bitterly cold night, but we still got around 50 people attending, which is what I would have expected at Smiths. The other acts – MC Krewd, The Burley Griffin, Coolio Desgracias & Housemouse – were all brilliant and I can’t thank them enough.
The covers were mostly my idea – I was sure I wanted them to feature myself and Nick with the producers. An early inspiration is this incredible Gravediggaz cover – I love its energy and how every person draws your eye.
Though obviously the New Love Universe cover morphed into a direct homage, the most important factor of the In The Yurt cover was, well, the yurt – though I think the fonts are suggestive of the EP’s relative genre and intent. The Yurt cover was shot at local legend Jim Sharrock’s house, in the yurt he built in his backyard. Shooting up into the ceiling was my first idea but the initial shots were nothing special. We then spent an hour shooting in and around the yurt before revisiting the idea with Lou now manning the camera, and voila! That was our cover.
Listening back to both EPs, Simon’s radical re-workings – turning Autopilot from a Suicide blues to a laconic lounge groove, and use of a range of musicians on theremin, saxophone and more – contrasts heavily with Reuben’s shiny plastic 90s style. What’s clear though is that they areboth auteurs, by which I mean they set out and delivered on a specific, unique vision. Utter triumph.
Late last year, independent media figurehead and Canberra luminary John Griffiths asked if I’d do a theme for a podcast based on the Winchester murder. John has been an advocate of my stuff for a minute, and I was chuffed he thought of me. The brief was lean – ‘something gloomy and late 80’s early 90’s sounding’ – and I turned it around in a day or so, built from the bassline out. It was a great experience – I’m comfortable with short songs, but 10-20 seconds is another level again, and it’s fun fitting a beginning, middle and end into such a bijou package.
The Winchester podcast is yet to be released, but when I saw John was doing Totally Tanked I offered my services. Again the brief was straightforward – ‘Boom! Crash! Aargh! Oh My God The Tank is on fire! Zoom!’ – and I decided on a full 180 from the contemplative instrumentation of the last one and to go full-on punk rock with it. The drums are programmed – I haven’t got an easy way to record my own drums yet – but draw on all my live experience this year. Listen here! And hit me up if you’ve a podcast in need of a theme!
After years of doing bands that are really performance art troupes and wrestling classes that are really theatre shows and music videos that are really short films about mortality, I’ve kind of forgotten how to do things with some ordeal-based high concept-y structure. How to do this just cause. So now have a band that’s just a band again, and it’s very slow going to get it all off the ground properly, because I’m still remembering that you can just book gigs to book gigs and play songs just to play songs. This isn’t self-deprecation though, the new band rules.
I’d always wanted to play at the National Folk Festival (after seeing so many of my friends play really special sets there) but I’d never had a band that was in the right genre pocket. So I applied with the country-fied recordings I did for the second of my EP-In-A-Days and lied that I had a band to play them with, Once they’d accepted me I had proper artist fees to offer I was able to ask my dream line-up of musicians to join me there for the weekend.
The nucleus of the line-up was Jacq Bradley and Matt Nightingale, a multi-instrumentalist couple who normally play in about six different bands across that festival. Jacq and Matt both embody the stereotype of the calm collected accompanist-who-is-really-the-stealth-bandleader. They have acres of song sense, tons of good humour and throats full of aching beauty. Perfect foils for my melodramatic, fidgety, over-syllable’d, hammy energy. Completing the line-up was the rhythm section from PROM, Sam McNair and Matt Lustri- I was only able to let that band finish up because I already had plans to rope them into this. It was great to let Matt play his actual main instrument of guitar again after nudging him into that two-year side session as a bass player.
I treated the National as Glam Country fantasy camp. We worked up a set of any and all of my songs that could even half-work as country, which included some songs of mine I’ve always really dug and never really got to play live. We played three sets across the weekend and it was everything I had hoped for. I wasn’t planning to push my luck more than that, but to my delight the others all expressed that we should play more gigs.
My delight and my terror, as my gig-booking fitness has atrophied and the realities of juggling schedules with a bunch of other 30-somethings are stark. But also I’ve been writing Americana-ish ballads and stompers for as long as I’ve been writing and it’s such an indulgent joy to finally get to play them live as one set (turns out I have more upbeat songs about death than even I thought I had). Crowd response has been really good and playing with humans like these is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So I’ll probably deal with my angst around it all by writing a four-chord song about it, one ready-made for sick harmonies.