50/50 – THE CASSINGLE SAGA

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The other weekend Faux Faux Amis launched the cassingle for our song 50/50.

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Photo by Laura Milkovits.

 

It was a long time coming. We originally recorded the song with producer Nick McCorriston in January 2014. Nick was kind enough to invite us down to record with him in Melbourne. The band at the time was the OG crew – myself, Chris Gleeson and Kevin Lauro. We cut two tracks that day, 50/50 and Holiday Inn. Holiday Inn ended up remixed before being released as a video in August 2014. However, 50/50 was always meant to be the flagship release. It’s one of the best recordings I’ve been involved in and one of the purest distillations of the default sound I keep in the back of my mind. I’m so glad it is now out in the world.

We had a great experience down in Melbourne with Nick. His studio was a granny-flat-slash-garage behind his house. It felt cosy before we loaded in our amps and drum kit – combined with our four bodies and mid-summer temperatures, it was steamy. But Nick had a warrior-like focus and immediately got us down to the task at hand. I remember spending most of our time on 50/50, but I don’t remember playing it that fast – the recording is pure fire, and I reckon the song’s current gig tempo is at least 20% slower.

Nick was a producer in the classical sense – he especially did an amazing job getting the best out of me. Two stories:

  1. The guitar solo was brand new and I hadn’t yet played it for the rest of the band. Nick took a couple of listens and zeroed in on a section that sounded ‘busy’ – it was his suggestion that particular refrain not be played on the guitar, but instead chanted by the band. That’s what you hear; we added in the call and response backing vocal to the middle of the solo. It’s the kind of genius moment that once heard, you can’t imagine doing it any other way. I wish I could take credit for it, but it was all Nick.
  2. The last thing recorded was vocals, and particularly on 50/50, Nick pushed me. I don’t think I’ve sung it better before or since, and certainly not with the same intensity. Nick was consciously aware of crafting a performance, getting me to pull back from my go-to gravel in the verses before unleashing on the choruses (on the second chorus you can actually hear my voice pop). It was really fun to have someone that invested in my vocals (always a self-conscious thing for me), and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the results.

Nick’s mix was great – clear but tough. We got the track mastered by Bruce ‘Cub’ Callaway, adding a little extra crunch and space.

From the start, the plan was to release it as a cassingle – in fact, as our first recording. I specially ordered the cassettes from the UK (keeping the fifty-fifty theme, I found cassettes with different colours on either side), and was already talking up the release in March 2014.

cassettes blue and yellow

A couple of minor setbacks ended up derailing it – chiefly, I couldn’t find anywhere in Canberra that was able to dub audio cassettes any more (my fault for wanting to release in an obsolete medium). I looked into having it done in Sydney but the postage costs were prohibitive (they were close to being a ‘loss leader’ already). I bought a second-hand dual cassette deck and tried dubbing them myself but they sounded terrible. In the intervening months, Faux Faux Amis went on to gain two singers, record X, lose two drummers, and start making a lot of videos. The blank cassettes sat idle in my garage – in hindsight, I should have abandoned the cassette idea and released the song online. But you know, like John Lennon says, life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.

Cut to May 2016, and Kev asks, ‘Hey, whatever happened to 50/50?’. That set the wheels in motion again – this year I’d upgraded my digital audio interface and also bough a new cassette deck – the combination of the two meant I could dub the cassettes myself.

We finally launched the single on August 6th at the Phoenix, with support from fellow rascals Terrible People and Okinawa Girls.

I had a bit of fun shooting a quick stop-motion promo, and a lot of fun shooting a guerilla marketing promo that masquerades as a Youtube tutorial:

It’s the first bit of Youtube comedy I’ve done since One Pot Punk Rock and it really left me wanting to do more.

Being as it’s called 50/50, we tried to have some fun with half half / dichotomy / binary stuff. Firstly, all the cassettes are gorgeously half-blue and half-yellow. Next, half are in a blue case, the rest in a yellow case. And finally, they all come with an insert with the lyrics, but half the inserts have English lyrics and the other half have French (thanks to Karelle Duchesne for translating!). Oh, and we naturally only made fifty cassettes.

Face with shapes - v3 extra outlines

The cassettes themselves are a thing of beauty, and I wanted to match that with something special for the online component. I tapped graphic designer Fiona McLeod to do some artwork for the Bandcamp page. The brief was a picture of a face split down the middle, each side showing one half of a couple, with splashes of the same colours as the cassettes. As you can see, Fi knocked it out of the park! She also did some stellar pictures of the cassettes which now adorn both the FB and Bandcamp sites.

Faux Faux Amis are getting ready to go back into the studio next weekend to record our next album (tentatively titled Beg For Merci Beaucoup). We plan to re-record 50/50, and I’m excited to see how it turns out in the hands of our new line-up, 60% of which didn’t play on the original recording. I am certain we won’t better this version, but I like the idea of a world where multiple versions exist, some on limited edition cassette. It’s the trainspotter in me.

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