Track By Track: The Morrisons – The Morrisons

The Morrisons
Image Courtesy of The Morrisons

The long awaited debut album from The Morrisons launched this week full of songs we’ve come to love from their live show over the last few years. James Morrisons, Jimmy Daley and Anna McInerney took some time out to run through the tracks on The Morrisons and give us an insight into the stories behind the songs.

“Cumberland Plain” – [Jimmy Daley] An old friend of mine from the mountains once told me a story about how when he was young they used to sing “Cumberland Gap” (one of my favourite old time folk songs) and change the lyrics to “leaving Balmain for the Cumberland Plain”. At that time (50’s/60’s), he told me that Sydney was changing, becoming more expensive and people who couldn’t afford it were getting forced out, much like what is going on now. Using his story as its genesis, the song deals with class divide between east and west in Sydney.

“Ruby” – [Jimmy Daley] I wrote this song a long time ago for my old band Bellyache Ben & The Steamgrass Boys. At the time I was listening a lot to the Osborne Brothers and The Country Gentleman. Those bands were so good at merging the sounds and traditions of bluegrass with pop sensibility, songs like ‘Rocky Top’, ‘Matterhorn’, ‘Fox on the Run’. It’s my favorite period of bluegrass music.

“Sugar Cane” – [Jimmy Daley] Another old one from the Steamgrass Boys days. I wrote this song when I was traveling around North Queensland. I was listening to Uncle Dave Macon – in particular his classic tune “Way Down The Old Plank Road” – and wanted to write something like that. In old-time music the hook that just goes ’round and ’round ’til your feet drop off. It’s so infectious. I love it. The claw-hammer banjo intro is a nod to Uncle Dave.

“Two Years In The Mines” – [Jimmy Daley] This song is about Gyzele Osmani, a refugee who came to Australia in 1999 during the Kosovo crisis. I have vivid memories of watching the crisis on the news as a young boy but having no idea of the gravity of what I was seeing. Gyzele’s story was the subject of an award winning essay and radio show. It’s a truly remarkable story of courage and determination in the face of terrible adversity (well worth a read). Unfortunately our own government created a significant amount of that adversity. She was held in detention in Port Headland for 7 months, with her 5 children. One of them had a broken leg and was denied adequate medical treatment. Gyzele was brought to Australia as part of our humanitarian response to the crisis and this is how we treated her, it’s absolutely disgraceful. The thing that made me really angry when I read about her story, was that our government talks about detention centres acting as deterrents to people who come here illegally, but here’s a woman who was brought here by the government under the banner of humanitarianism and she was kept in detention with all her children. It’s absolute bullshit! Thankfully though this story has a happy ending and she now lives and works in Canberra.

“Melina (Not For Long)” – [James Morrison] While in a low point in an in-between, on-again off-again, post separation/pre reparation stage relationship, I fell for a girl. She would remind me intermittently that she knew it wouldn’t be a forever relationship (although I don’t think I was aware of that at the time) because of my mess. She was right, and she was amazing.

“Whisky on the Brain” – [James Morrison] For three hours every Tuesday night for a year (2013-14), our band would wedge ourselves into the corner of Corridor in Newtown. We had to stack our instrument cases on the awning above King St to make space, and even then the room would be full with 50% band members. We would sweat, sing too loud and drink a lot, and this song is the memory.

“Route March” – [Jimmy Daley] As soon as I read Lawson’s poem “The Route March” the rhythm and melody started to form in my head, it just reads like song lyrics. A lot of his poems are like that, I’ve actually been working on a side project of writing an album of a capella music for a bunch of his poems, but knowing how long it takes me to finish stuff I’ll probably have that out in 2030.

“Good Christian Man” – [Jimmy Daley] This is a deeply personal song about doubt, self-reflection and religious contradiction, and about how in the absence of belief we try and find ways to be moral and decent to each other.

“Emmeline (Deeds Not Words)” – [Jimmy Daley] In her mid 30’s my grandmother decided she wanted to become a school teacher. She hadn’t had the opportunity to get much of an education as a child so she had to go back and do her HSC. So as a 30-year-old mother of two she donned the school uniform and did it! She then went to uni and became a primary school teacher. By this time she was married to my grandfather and thus had taken his last name, Pankhurst. The local paper did a story on her saying something like “The ghost of Emmeline Pankhurst rides again”. The surname is no coincidence either; my grandfather is a distant relation of Richard Pankhurst, Emmeline’s husband. The Pankhurst women, Emmeline, and in particular her daughter Sylvia, are some of the most important and inspirational historical figures I have ever encountered. In my mind they should occupy the same space in our cultural psyche as people like Martin Luther King and Ghandi. One thing we are really proud of is that we will be releasing the song as a single in conjunction with the UN Women Australia Group on 8th March, International Women’s Day. It will be a pay what you want thing with all the proceeds going towards UN initiatives to help disenfranchised women around the world. The theme for the day this year is “empower a woman, empower a nation”, very appropriate when speaking of Emmeline Pankhurst.

“Rabbit Skin Cheques” – [Jimmy Daley] My Grandfather grew up on a farm in Tamworth. They didn’t have much money and they also had a problem with rabbits. So he would kill the rabbits, skin them and then sell the skins to a shop in town to make some extra pocket money. What a great topic for a country song!

“Turn the Light On” – [James Morrison] This was one of our first songs, but was long forgotten and buried. After a cathartic moment walking home between recording sessions, it seemed relevant again, not as the lighthearted song about being in the doghouse, but now as a plead to not be shut out of a relationship.

“Wild Eleanor” – [Jimmy Daley] Another old one from The Steamgrass Boys, we released this as a single last year and won an award at the Australian Song Writers Association for folk/acoustic song of the year. We also played it on The Bachelor, ha. It’s been such a staple song for The Morrisons that we decided to record it again and chuck it on there. It’s very live, warts and all. That is a reflection of how we recorded the whole album really. We tried to do it as live as possible, without overdubs etc. That means you have to accept a few mistakes here and there but the spirit and intensity of your performance stays intact, which is much more important than your ego staying intact. Multi tracked, slick folk/bluegrass recordings for me miss the point of what is so powerful about this kind of music.

“Long Time Traveling” – [Jimmy Daley] I love harmony singing! It’s my favourite thing to do in music. If I could, I would sit at my computer all day every day writing, arranging and recording vocal harmonies. I wrote this song whilst traveling around China. I’m not sure where the tune came from but I’d just been humming it to myself the entire trip. The melody has a very pentatonic “asian” quality to it, perhaps it just seeped into my subconscious. We then went up to Inner Mongolia and the lyrics just poured out. It’s an incredible landscape but at the same time it’s marred by destruction and rapid urban development. Like the rest of China it’s a place of insane contrast. I remember sitting waiting for a bus and looking around me at this desolate construction site wasteland and seeing that just over the horizon cows and horses were roaming across the stunning Mongolian steppe the same way they had for centuries. The same grasslands on which Genghis Khan rode his horse. It was bizarre.

“Southern Flavour” – [Anna McInerney] A classic instrumental tune by the father of bluegrass Bill Monroe, “Southern Flavour” is a favourite of The Morrisons and has been in our set list for a long time. It wasn’t originally scheduled for the studio but the idea came up, we did a few takes and we had our album closer.

The Morrisons is available now from all the usual outlets. Download on Bandcamp here. For details of their upcoming tour check out the dates here as well as our review of the album here.

Track By Track: The Lonesome Sea – The Button Collective

Button Collection
Image Courtesy of The Button Collective

This Thursday 7th January Australian folksters The Button Collective will be releasing their brand new EP The Lonesome Sea. The EP was recorded by producer Steve Law at Sunroom Studio in Northern NSW and features two traditional and two original tunes.

After spending a couple of years in Sydney The Button Collective have traded in the security of the inner-city life to live on the road, travelling from festival to festival. As the name of the band would suggest the band is more of a collective, with members based up and down the east coast of Australia.

The Lonesome Sea features the entire Button Collective including Brodie Buttons (Vocals, Guitar), Quinton Trembath (Piano Accordion), Jake Pember (Double Bass), Ben Wilson (Banjo, Harmonica), Andrew Rickert (Violin), Christina Langham (Drums) and Jennifer Hankin (Flute).

The Button Collective’s frontman Brodie Buttons has kindly given Timber and Steel a little insight into each of the tracks on The Lonesome Sea.

“The Lonesome Sea” – I wrote this song aboard the 107ft two mast banks schooner that The Button Collective help crew every couple of months or so. Inspired by the hunger pains I was suffering after forgetting to bring any food aboard with me, I wrote about sailors suffering from scurvy and starving at sea while they reminisced about love left behind.

“The River, Pt. 2” – This song was written as a sequel to the song “The River” from our first album A Ship Sails. The original tells the story of a man who sails along his favourite river every day and learns to love it as a woman. After leaving the river to ramble the earth by land, the river becomes jealous and drowns him upon his return. This second part of the story is his apology to the river and tells of his newfound insight to its vulnerability and the damage it suffered due to his leaving.

“Paddy’s Lamentation” – This is an irish traditional about a “poor paddy” who flees his country of Ireland, leaving his farm and love to find a better life in America. Upon his arrival he is conscripted to the Union Army and sent to the battlefields of the American civil war. The chorus of this song is a warning to his pals back home not to make the same mistake as him.

“Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy” – This traditional song of the sea is a sailor’s last words to his love before embarking on a long voyage. He tells her of the perils he will face at sea to earn their wage. He finishes with the cruel irony of the hardships they still endure upon his return due to him having spent all his wages at the bar drinking to his wife and family back home, forcing him to once again return to sea.

The Lonesome Sea is available for streaming on Bandcamp and will be available for pre-order through Folk Til Ya Punk Records later this month. The Button Collective will be launching the EP at a bunch of gigs over the next month, including a massive show this Thursday in their hometown of Lismore. Check out the full list of dates below:

Thursday 7th January – Rooftop, Lismore, NSW
Sunday 10th January – The Union, Sydney, NSW
Thursday 14th January – Gaelic Club, Sydney, NSW
Friday 15th to Sunday 17th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, Bulli, NSW
Friday 22nd January – Smiths Alternative, Canberra, ACT
Saturday 23rd January – Swamp Collective, Newcastle, NSW
Sunday 31st January – Black Wire Records, Sydney, NSW

Track By Track: Air & Sea, Ainsley Farrell

Air and Sea
Image Courtesy of Ainsley Farrell

Sydney based singer-songwriter Ainsley Farrell releases her highly anticipated new album Air & Sea today and we’re very excited to debut it first on Timber and Steel. Farrell has a unique voice and this album is just spectacular.

We sat down with Ainsley Farrell ahead of today’s release to go through the story behind each track. Listen to Air & Sea accompanied by Ainsley Farrell’s thoughts below:

“Salt / Swallowing Sea” – The idea came to me from a reoccurring dream, in which I’m diving under waves as they gradually get larger and stronger; except in my dream I somehow manage to end up safe on the shore every time the waves get too big. “Salt / Swallowing Sea” is about surrendering to the sea and letting its powers swallow you. It also plays on blind love and tragic romance.

“Milk” – “Milk” is about being absolutely consumed by a relationship and then spit out. It’s about always putting the one you love first and loosing yourself through that process.

“Teeth” – I had a dream where all of my teeth fell out (apparently it’s a pretty common dream I’m told). “Teeth” can signify strength and health and without them one might feel a bit defeated. I think of little teeth bandits every time I sing this song.

“Bones” – Don’t drown in your hardships. Keep on moving on.

“Carried On” – I wrote this one about eight or nine years ago. It’s about never acknowledging the elephant in the room and just carrying on with life while the elephant continues to take up the best spot on the couch and insist on brushing its hair a hundred counts in the bathroom so that you miss your bus and are late to school everyday.

“Vegetables” – I originally set out to make a grocery list album, but things didn’t really go to plan. Maybe one day Fruit or TP will make it to the list.

“Air & Sea” – “Air & Sea” is about looking back to the beginning at the end of a long relationship. It’s about remembering how good it was and wishing it could have stayed that way forever.

“Honey” – “Honey” is about trying to run from the things that are difficult to face, but realizing they’ll all catch up to you at some point.

“Sleeves” – This is part of an instrumental piece I put together my first year in Uni (about seven years ago). My good friend Lachlan McCarthy plays a beautiful acoustic number over the top of it.

“My Man” – I think it’s pretty obvious what this one’s about so I won’t go into it too much. Part of the song is about the initial fantasy of being in a relationship with someone you like and holding that person up on a pedestal; then actually being in a romantic relationship with that person and realizing its not all you hoped or dreamed it would be.

“Threads” – Moving on and cutting ties (threads).

“Mahead” – “Mahead” is about the anger that first comes with heartbreak and betrayal and trying to show that you are strong and unbroken.

“Dream” – This dream starts out with me stealing all the free samples in a chocolate shop. A lady sees me, gets very angry and chases me out of the store. This doesn’t really have anything to do with the song. The song is about being chased around by tigers, lions and bears, but I’m starting to think that the lady at the chocolate shop was an Animorph.

“Charlie” – Charlie was my mom’s pet parakeet. Mom would take him out of his cage each night and let him sit on her shoulder while she taught him new sayings. I’m sure it also gave him a good chance to ponder about the meaning of life or whether or not his sunflower seeds were gluten free. Anyway, my mom also has two dogs, who have always gotten along with Charlie alright. However, one night Charlie got spooked and flew down to the floor and that was the last of him. I think he was a very misunderstood bird and no one gave him the time of day except for my mom. Hopefully he has found his keys in bird heaven. “Where’s my keys?” – Charlie R.I.P.

“Silent Woods” – Some songs are left better unexplained 😉

“Owl” – I once read how seeing an owl in your dreams signifies something in your life you no longer need.

“Home” – This song is about the comforts of home.

Air & Sea is available now via Bandcamp here. Ainsley Farrell will be launching the album at Hibernian House in Sydney tonight with Georgia Mulligan and Catgut – for more information check out the official Facebook event here,

Track By Track: Graceful Mistake, Tomas Strode & The Tour Guides

Graceful Mistake
Image Courtesy of Tomas Strode & The Tour Guides

Melbourne six-piece indie-folk band Tomas Strode & The Tour Guides recently released their brand new album Graceful Mistake. Lead singer and songwriter Tomas Strode has taken the time to take us through the album for a very special Track by Track.

“Graceful Mistake” – The title track was one of those songs that pretty much wrote itself. During the pre-production phase of recording process I sat down to write a song that outlined all the themes on the album, and this song was what came out. The song focuses on the constant motion of time, the need to always reflect on the past and the lessons learnt with growing up. I think it introduces a more mature sound for the band.

“Bella” – This song came together while experimenting with open tunings on the guitar. It’s a pretty common story about a girl and the end of a relationship. The production on this song was a lot of fun, the choice to use handclaps and beat-boxing for the percussion really landed this song in a great space!

“A Thousand Voices” – This would definitely be one of my favourite songs on the album. When I listen to it I hear everything I wanted the album to be. The mood of this one, set by Melbourne ladies Aluka, builds slowly to a big sound in the final section. The song itself is quite an old one of mine, a reflection of love lost…

“Don’t Be Offended” – Writing this song was the first step towards the bigger production you can hear on the album. Before the lyrics or melody took shape, I had already come up with horn lines and arrangement ideas for the song. The first demo of this one was a lot heavier, with a strong rock beat and distorted guitars, when we came to record the album we decided a more delicate approach would suit the overall vibe a lot more.

“Loaded Gun” – I wrote this song as a duet for myself and fellow Melbourne singer-songwriter/bandmate Amy Alex. It’s a classic boy/girl duet really, and maybe as close to pop song as I’ll ever get! In production it didn’t seem like it was going to be a highlight, but I think once we had finished the album it had become a stand out.

“The Sword” – This track was the lead single off our album and the first taste of what was a new sound for The Tour Guides. It was written around the idea of blame and how certain events can’t ever be the responsibility of just one person. The horns in this one really add to the upbeat 70’s style production, even though it’s probably one the of darkest themed songs on the album.

“Bible Learned” – As the title might suggest, this songs tackles the idea of religion. I wrote this song quite a while ago, so when we got to the the pre-production stage it was really nice to work this onto the album. We let the arrangement for this song write itself. While in the studio we recorded a number of different takes of everything then pieced it together while mixing it. It was a real pleasure to watch it grow over the six months of recording.

“Broken Road” – This song surprised me, being the favourite of nearly every person I spoke to. I didn’t start off liking this song a whole heap, but it started to grow on me once the band pushed it for the follow up single. It was such a pleasure having the Aluka girls feature on this album, I think they really made this song special … We also have a cool little video clip for this one, you should check it out!

“Saved By The Bellé” – When it came to recording, we decided we would reinvent this song and feature it as part of the album, even though it was on our original EP The Cat & The Fiddle. It was one of the first songs I wrote as a songwriter and because of that it has stuck with me. Simply put, it’s about growing up.

“Too Busy Digging” – This one almost didn’t make it onto the album, it was problematic right from the start, I don’t think any of us had really settled on a solid idea. After piecing it together in the studio, we decided it would be a nice way to finish the album. I’ve always had a bit of a love/ hate relationship with the lyrics of this track, I think maybe because I never saw myself writing politically themed songs. It turns out, in fact, that people really love this song.

Graceful Mistake is available now via Bandcamp or iTunes.

Track By Track: All About To Change, Patrick James

All About To Change
Image Courtesy of Patrick James

The long-awaited EP from Patrick James, All About To Change, was finally released a couple of weeks ago and the reaction so far from the Timber and Steel bullpen has been ecstatic to say the least. The EP may only be 5 tracks long but it’s 5 tracks that perfectly capture an artist that has come into his own as a songwriter. We asked Patrick James to take us through each of the tracks and he helpfully sent over some lyric videos as well. Check out the All About To Change Track by Track below:

“Brighter Lights” – This is the first track off the EP. I originally wrote this song on guitar and tried to incorporate only a little piano/keyboard line. After recording that version we decided it didn’t work for us in that form and we chose to experiment with how we could change the song up and build on the layers throughout. We had a lot of fun adding the 2 main piano lines and vocal swells and we really wanted to make the recording represent the “wall of sound” that we were going for. This song wasn’t heavily focused on lyrics but rather the production and instrumentation.

“All About To Change” – This song is the title track on the EP. I wrote this about the idea that everyone at some stage is lost or struggling with something in their lives but find a way to turn that around and move on. People can make what they want of the lyrics though. It was a very fun song to record with the country drums and many underlining instruments throughout. We even had some sneaky blues guitar solos going on!

“Golden Sun” – A few years ago I was very inspired by a movie call Morning of The Earth. Its basically a film about surfing in the 70’s and the lifestyle that goes with it. Not to mention the soundtrack is incredible. With a surfing background I really related to this so I wrote this song with that idea in mind, to try and create a vibe that reflected a retro feel but also the times now. Also, the chorus harmonies and instrumentation were influenced by a lot of Elton John and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young songs that I love.

“Burn Away” – When I listen to the EP, it feels like this song is almost the turning point in the mood. It’s a very simple song but again we wanted to create a build up in sound and production, this time in a more gentle way. The song it self is written as a sort of meditation which just flows along and grows at its on pace. The recording features a choral vocal part which was a lot of fun. We went to our old school and got a bunch of kids to sing a line towards the end of the song which is essentially the climax. We got to test out our conduction skills!

“Stay” – I wrote this a little different to other songs on the EP. I had these lyrics floating around but no music, it was just a simple poem. Normally, I tend to write songs through melody first and then lyrics but I was interested by the simplicity of the words so I came up with the chord progression to match after that. It features a vibe motif and electric guitar to create the darker mood. As the last track of the EP, I think it sits nicely and rounds the project off.

All About To Change is available on iTunes here. Patrick James is supporting Emma Louise (along with Thelma Plum) on her national tour – remaining dates are below:

Thursday 9th May – The Yarra Hotel, Geelong VIC
Friday 10th May – Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC (SOLD OUT)
Saturday 11th May – Karova Lounge, Ballarat, VIC
Thursday 16th May – Great Northern Hotel, Newcastle, NSW
Friday 17th May – Metro Theatre, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 18th May – Zierholz @ UC, Canberra ACT
Sunday 19th May – Heritage Hotel, Bulli, NSW
Thursday 23rd May – Woombye Pub, Sunshine Coast, QLD
Friday 24th May – Hi-Fi, Brisbane, QLD
Saturday 25th May – Paradise Room, The Arts Centre, Gold Coast, QLD
Sunday 26th May – Great Northern Hotel, Byron Bay, NSW
Friday 31st May – Tanks Arts Centre, Cairns QLD
Saturday 1st June – Flinders Social, Townsville, QLD
Tuesday 4th June – Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 7th June – Darwin Railway Club, Darwin, NT
Thursday 13th June – Prince of Wales, Bunbury, WA
Friday 14th June – Fly By Night, Fremantle, WA
Saturday 15th June – Amplifier, Perth, WA

Track By Track: Reckless, Kathryn Rollins

Kathryn Rollins
Image Courtesy of Kathryn Rollins

Fremantle based singer-songwriter Kathryn Rollins released her brand new EP Reckless late last month and it’s been seeing a decent amount of buzz since. We asked Kathryn Rollins to take us through the songs on Reckless for the latest in our Track By Track series:

“Courage” – I wrote “Courage” at a time in my life where I was having an epiphany about my own ability to push through difficult and uncomfortable situations and emotions. I was learning how to endure hardship in a new way and it was a powerful realisation. I wanted to write a song that reminded me of that feeling and illustrated the contrast between the dark times and the discovery of my inner courage. It’s a very hopeful song.

“Who Shot The Bird Down?” – This song is all about contrast, vulnerability and rage. It’s a song about being taken advantage of, both as an individual and on a larger scale. The bird represents innocence, glory and beauty and then someone comes along and shoots it. I was channeling some anger from past hurts when I wrote it.

“Reckless” – I wrote “Reckless” when I was 18 or 19, it’s the oldest song on the record. Looking back I was in the midst of a transformation from my teenage self into my adult self and was struggling with some difficult emotions. I was in a relationship where I felt like I couldn’t control my actions, I was too overcome by subconscious needs that I didn’t know I had. They translated as neediness and intensity, whereas I wanted to just be cool, calm and understanding of the other person. Reckless is about that self-induced pain that’s especially true when you’re a teenager and you have all these expectations of who you should and shouldn’t be.

“Cold Water” – This is probably my favourite song on the record at the moment because of its simplicity and clarity. All of the other songs are a lot more conflicted and dark whereas Cold Water to me is an admission of the basic need for other people in your life to love you and bring you comfort. I love its purity in terms of arrangement as well, it very much represents my sound from before the EP was recorded.

Reckless is available on iTunes here. Kathryn Rollins will be appearing at the Grace Darling in Melbourne on Thursday 9th May

Track By Track: Before the Morning, Tigertown

Before the Morning
Image Courtesy of Tigertown

Sydney’s very own indie “family band” Tigertown recently released their brand new five track EP Before the Morning. We asked the guys from Tigertown to talk us through each of the songs from the new EP in the latest Track by Track. Here’s what they had to say:

“Morning has Finally Come” – We wrote this just after we finished our first EP. I think after about a year of writing together, we finally felt like we had found our sound and it was also the time that the rest of our brothers and sisters were joining the band so there was an over all feeling of anticipation. It was a year later that we recorded it but it still marks the start of being a band. We had just been to Peats Ridge Festival and were pretty inspired so I think everything we did in this song we imagined playing it at a festival.

“Lions and Witches” – We are big fans of C.S.Lewis. His stories were a big part of our childhood and the idea of brothers and sisters running through another world resonated strongly with us as a band, being all related. Making music that creates another world to go to is pretty important to us so we went all out in this one. The film clip was actually just us reliving our childhood in dress ups and home made props. It’s a pretty big sound, and it only came out of playing together more as a six piece through out the end of last year.

“All We Stand On” – We had a picture of two people stranded in the Arabian desert and this song is really just trying to paint that picture. The desert represents a situation in a relationship. One character wants to move on while the other is being held back by something. The end section always gets intense when we play it live so we were happy with how we captured this in recording. Fun fact: We weren’t able to finish this song until we had dressed ourselves up in scarves and saris and danced around the house.

“After Hours”Chris: This song is about three years old. I wrote this song when I first met Charlie, and we hadn’t even started dating. I guess I wasn’t in a place to be dating someone and was trying too stall things a bit, but pretty soon we were married. I think those first couple of weeks of meeting someone are really intense and we’re glad we have a record of that time on this EP. The drum sound in this recording is my favourite drum sound ever. Kurt’s a monster when it comes to snare sounds and Jimi, our producer, captured it perfectly.

“Monsters”Charlie: Chris bought me the book Where the Wild Things Are for Christmas. It made me feel like a little kid again and I got lost in it. We tried to make the song a journey like the book. The way it starts, it could be just me in my bedroom. It builds its way into a pretty big world but just like the book, it ends the same way it starts. The crickets in the recording are from our original demo that we recorded at home. Cronulla crickets are pretty loud in summer.

Before the Morning is available now. Tigertown have two more dates on their national tour this weekend – and keep an eye out for the band on the festival circuit over the summer:

Friday 26th October – Barsoma, Brisbane, QLD
Saturday 27th October – Bon Amici Café, Toowoomba, QLD

Track By Track: Autumn Lawn EP, Fanny Lumsden & The Thrillseekers

Autumn Lawn
Image Courtesy of Fanny Lumsden & The Thrillseekers

You’re going to see a lot of love for Fanny Lumsden & The Thrillseekers on Timber and Steel this week. Their brand new EP Autumn Lawn will be available from all of the usual outlets from this Friday 31st August. To launch that very same EP Fanny Lumsden & the Thrillseekers also have shows planned in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide over the coming weeks. So we thought the time was right to ask Fanny Lumsden to talk us through the Autumn Lawn EP for our latest Track by Track.

“Apricot Sunday” – It’s a string of images that I keep having of a lovely little orchard and a small town parade with floats going down the mainstreet. There is lots of lovely sunlight and for some reason I think its in North West of the US in a high rainfall area. However I wrote this song in the lounge room of my sharehouse in Surry Hills. I usually only ever understand what I wrote a song about a long time after I’ve written it. My Thrillseekers all play on this with pizzazz and a lot of the time when we play it I imagine us all in a really terrible film with fruit displays on our heads dancing calypso-ish and then driving in a car and not watching the road whilst a fake back ground whizzes past. This is nothing to do with the meaning of the song. Just the feeling. It’s merry.

“Firing Line” – Again is based on images. Forever stretching plains. Again written in a small room in a small terrace. Space issues. For those of you that know the story behind “The Cat Song” – “Firing Line” is a distant cousin. It’s really about watching and observing rather than being in it. How we keep kicking trying to be “ME” and then we end up as some combination of our parents and environment. Battle lost. Battle won. Leroy Lee features on this track on Banjo and Harmonica. He subbed in for a while with us over the summer until our current Banjoista-Ben was caught in the net.

“Shotgun” – “Shotgun” is perhaps the only song written about a subject or an event. It’s about my Uncle Ken who accidently shot his own toe off. No joke. Then he had to go to court because apparently one needs a licence to shoot am appendage off. Go figure. It’s a little cheek I suppose, about how when I tell this story it make my family sound as though they are living the hillbilly dream. Although a lot of “hillbilly qualities” are present to the eye of someone who hasn’t grown up in the bush it’s not really as extreme as it sounds. We have facebook and grew up with flikflak watches. This is a cracker to play live.

“Hello Bright Eyes” – This song was written when I was driving a Chaser bin (which is a tractor with a tailored trailor that follows the header to pick up the grain at harvest time) for a neighbour two summers ago. I was all day in lovely big paddocks and I think the sunlight made me a little vague. We recorded this one and “Firing Line” in the Blue Mountains with a Shetland pony looking through the window. Perfect setting to grab this track.

“Hail all ye Thrillseekers” – Band namesake. Song came first. The lyrics of this song were written maybe three or four years ago and then were put in the “deal with later” pile. One day late last year I began trawling through old lyrics and the particular scrap paper it was written on gave me a paper cut-so in revenge I revived it. Take that. The band really brought this song to life. Again the lyrics are what came out of images in my head so when ever I sing it I still see the dark track through the pine forrest, gumboots smashing to the ground with the weight of cement and furniture hanging from trees. The guitar solo/instrumentation part in this song is my favourite part in the whole EP.

Autumn Lawn EP will be available from the 31st August. The full list of dates for Fanny Lumsden & The Thrillseekers’ EP launch tour are below:

Thursday 30th August – Hellen Rose Schauersberger LabOratorium, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 1st September – Pure Pop Records, Melbourne, VIC
Sunday 2nd September – The Workers Club, Melbourne, VIC
Sunday 9th September – The Wheatsheaf Hotel, Adelaide, SA

Track By Track: Break Your Own Heart, Jack Carty

Break Your Own Heart
Image Courtesy of Jack Carty

Jack Carty’s amazing new breakup-inspired album Break Your Own Heart is already sitting near the top of our “Best of 2012” list, which just goes to prove that heartbreak and inspired folk music goes hand in hand. In the latest installment of our Track By Track series Carty was kind enough to take us through each of the songs on Break Your Own Heart, giving us a unique insight into his songwriting process.

“The Length Of Canada” – I came up with the guitar riff and a draft set of lyrics for this song whilst I was staying in L.A on the way back from playing at the Canadian Music Fest and SXSW in 2011. A couple of days later I went to have lunch with Dan Wilson who is an amazing songwriter and artist over there and I told him about it. He invited me over and we finished the song together the day before I flew home to Australia. This was definitely the moment when I knew I was writing for a second album. Its about travel, because that was the big thing on my mind at the time, specifically the way that the more you do it, the more amazing people you meet and the more you end up missing somebody, somewhere wherever you are.

“Too Many Things In Too Many Places” – Let’s not dance around the issue, Break Your Own Heart is a breakup album and this is a break up song. I had just moved out of the house I had been sharing with my girlfriend of 5 years and was staying on the couch in my manager’s studio till I figured out my next move. I ended up there alone one night and it was cold and I started questioning what I was doing and why I was doing it. This song is an attempt to work it out. I remember the lyrics came really easy. I wrote it on the guitar, but just before we recorded it I started playing around with it on the piano and liked how it worked, so we ended up using that heavily. Gabby Huber (Maples) sings harmonies on the song to – that was a conscious decision to get a female voice in there, I feel like it gives the lyric a bit more scope and hopefully adds another layer of meaning, having another side of the story represented like that. I am in awe of Gabby; she is such an incredible songwriter and singer and also one of my closest friends. It was really exciting to have her involved in the record.

“Everything, Unhappily” – I wrote this song after a one-off random night in Melbourne with a girl I had grown up with but hardly seen since. For some reason we got in contact just before I was coming to town and we made plans to catch up. I was on the tram going to meet her and I noticed that she was sitting right in front of me. It was a pretty great night. I hadn’t seen her for years, but we had grown up together and so there was a lot of trust there, and she seemed to be in a very similar position to me at the time in terms of the things she was experiencing and questioning. This isn’t a love song, its more a song about two people finding each other at the right time to help each other out. Its also a little bit of a piss take about how incredibly hipster she had become in the years since I’d known her – I cant remember what the original line in the chorus was, but I remember being in a cab with Leroy Lee and him suggesting I change it to “Everything, Unhappily”; I liked it and it stuck, and Leroy got a co-writing credit. We recorded this song really quickly in the studio and I think it works well like that. It’s a very direct, honest portrait of a moment in time and so we wanted to just let that be and not cloud it up with production and over thinking.

“Traveling Shoes” – I feel like this song is a bit like the axis the album pivots on. It definitely captures the events surrounding the process most completely. It came quite quickly one night in Sydney after I had been playing around on my guitar for a good few hours to pass the time, and I started playing it and workshopping it in a live setting more or less straight away. It essentially tells the whole story of my year up until the point the song was written. I like that, having a permanent reminder of the things I learned. When it came to bringing in the band to make the album (Sophia Felton on drums and Gus Gardiner on bass) this was the first song I brought to them and we used it as a reference point for the feel and sound of the rest of the record. I love how understated and brooding Soph’s playing is and the way Gus holds notes so that it almost feels like the progression teeters on a precipice for a second before falling into another cycle. That’s what we wanted, a raw, sincere sound. I feel really lucky to have had those guys play on the album because we really seemed to click and they nailed it straight away.

“A Point On A Map” – This song was written after a day spent busking on Darby St in Newcastle. It was cold and wet and I needed some cash to buy a flight to Melbourne, so I spent the whole afternoon playing my own songs, mixed in with a couple of Ryan Adams and Bright Eyes covers while it rained. It was a strangely lovely and cathartic thing to do. I got home with the main melodic motif in my head and wrote it out. It’s another song very tied to that exact moment in time, another song where I am trying to work things out by getting them out. Instrumentation wise, it was originally written on an acoustic guitar, but I liked the brightness and attack the electric brought to the melody line, it almost makes it sound a little bombastic to me – sort of hyper-melodramatic or something – so we went with that. Gus composed the string parts the night before we recorded it and played the Cello and Viola on the recording – the guy is amazing.

“She Loves Me” – I wrote this song on the banjo originally and it had a completely different feel. This one really came into its own when I showed it to Soph and Gus, that’s when I finally got my head around it. They brought an almost dirty groove to it that I think really moves the whole thing along. I made a conscious decision when I started writing for this album to use my vocal range more and be more ambitious with my melodies, I think “She Loves Me” reflects that too – it’s a lot of fun to sing. The piano line was an afterthought of the recording process that stuck. It’s simple but I like how it works rhythmically around the bass and drums. I played all the piano parts on this record myself and I don’t really play the piano – half the time I didn’t know what I was doing but I think that allowed me to feel it out a lot more rather than cerebralising everything too much. It’s a hopeful song, maybe naively hopeful. That’s the main reason I like to play it.

“A Master Of All Things” – This begun as a poem, it was a optimistic time in the middle of some pretty bleak shit and I was staying at my sister’s house in Bellingen trying to think of a way of being romantic long distance. So I wrote out the words as a poem and took a photo of them, then sent that where it needed to go. I can’t remember writing the guitar part at all – but it must have been sometime after that. From memory I had gone to Bellingen to try and slow down my thinking a little bit and simplify things in my mind, I think the lyric reflects that – its pretty honest and simple in its directness. It’s in an open tuning: DADDAD, which is the same one I use for “The Length of Canada” and also for “One Thousand Origami Birds” off the first record. I like it because you can get these really rolling and melodic guitar lines going which seem to compliment a lyric like this. Again, the piano flourishes and electric guitar parts were all things I had thought of whilst workshopping this song in a live setting but which really came to bear in a studio setting. I was lucky like that on this record, in that the atmosphere in the studio was not a hurried one and we could experiment a bit with the parts we wanted. I remember when I asked Gus to put some double bass down for the track he got a blister on his finger because of the way every verse just holds a droning “D” for its entirety – he seems to have forgiven me though.

“Waiting, Waiting” – Another song I wrote in Melbourne. The line “I met my girl at the end of the world” was intended to be a bit of a play on words and reference that, because Melbourne is about as far south as you can go on the east coast of Australia’s mainland. I originally wrote it for a bluegrass project Leroy Lee, Jordan Millar and I had talked about putting together – We were going to call it Belltrees. So the chorus originally had a staggered three part harmony on it that made it sound really old-timey. I ended up liking it better without though. When we came to recording it we did a couple of takes with double bass and drums before settling on the more bluegrass-centric instrumentation I had in mind when I wrote it. Leroy even played the banjo part – so this is possibly the closest Belltrees will ever be to actually existing.

“Break Your Own Heart” – This one was written at my mum’s place in Newcastle. I was mucking around with different time signatures on an old, cheap ¾ sized nylon string guitar she bought for me when I was little. It’s literally just a bit of plywood with strings on it. The intonation is out and it has the resonance of a cement block, but I like playing around on it because if you can come up with something that sounds good, chances are it will transfer well to a nice guitar. I thought I’d keep the vocal line pretty straight and simple because the song is quite busy both rhythmically and in terms of instrumentation. This one was a lot of fun to work on with the band. The trumpet was a bit of an afterthought really, but I am so happy it’s in there – I think it adds a whole other dimension to the song, an uplifting one, which is appropriate because its sort of about the happiness that can come from accepting the things you cant change. What’s that Voltaire quote? “Man is free at the moment he wishes to be”?… I like that.

“She’s Got A Boyfriend” – This song is definitely autobiographically inspired, but I also wrote it largely to tease my little brother, who is a raging hipster and actually does wear Kaftans in real life. It was really just an attempt to lighten up and see the bright side, to neutralize a bad situation by trivializing it. Because of that I never really thought of it as a serious contender to be on the album until very late in the process. I remember running though it with the band in one of our rehearsals prior to recording just because I thought we could use a change of pace, and it worked really well in that environment. That was the first time I even considered recording it. I think I knew we’d keep it for sure when one of the engineers Steffan and I added that spaghetti western sounding electric guitar part, but before that it just didn’t really figure in my idea of what this record would be as a complete piece of work. It’s funny how things work out though because for all that, it is definitely the song that has received the most attention from radio, and we even did a film clip for it with a guy called Jefferton James who also did all the artwork for my first album. The night we recorded the gang vocals was a lot of fun – I sent out a group msg saying that we would supply the beer and pizza if people would supply their voices. We had a party in the studio and it got so hot in there due to all the body heat that the power supply to the mixing desk shorted out. It was a really nice moment, singing an upbeat song about sadness with my dearest friends. Nice for its irony.

“Giveth & Taketh Away” – This song was written in the penthouse of The Cullen Hotel on Commercial Rd. in Prahran, VIC. I had the penthouse because I was there to play a show on the roof of the hotel called Tuneful Tunes and for some reason they gave me the best room they had – I have never stayed in a hotel room as nice in my life, before or since. It was a really strange day because even though I had somehow found myself in 5 star accommodations in a city I love, to play music, it kind of felt like everything else was falling down around me. It seemed like a validation of my decisions and sacrifices and also a complete rejection of them all at once. When it came to recording we decided to keep it pretty sparse and let the narrative speak for itself. There is some slide guitar in there played by Leroy Lee, and I make my recorded banjo debut on this song too.

“I Hope You’ll Come Around” – I don’t really remember writing this song at all. The only proof I have that I did is a piece of paper with draft lyrics written on it and a scratchy demo recorded on my iPhone. I went to New Zealand in January straight after we finished recording and spent a lot of time listening to the rough mixes of the album whilst we were driving so I could get my head around it all and make sure I was happy with how it had come across. I ended up coming up with a slightly different melody to this song than the one we originally recorded and so I went back in and re-sang the vocal when I got home. I am really happy with how it turned out and I think it serves as a nice bookend to the album both thematically and musically. That was important to me, to leave it somewhere I was happy with on a record as personal as this one. I think of it as a full stop and a new board to spring from.

Track By Track: Little Father Time, We Are The Birdcage

Little Father Time
Image Courtesy of We Are The Birdcage

Sydney duo We Are The Birdcage are currently in lock down in the studio, hard at work on their next release. But we were lucky enough to entice amanda.k – one half of the band – out into the sunshine just long enough to talk us through their wonderful EP Little Father Time for our latest Track by Track. Check out what she had to say:

“Sweet Sue” – The title of our EP Little Father Time, and our track “Sweet Sue” are references to a book by Thomas Hardy, called Jude The Obscure. I was making my way through his collection of novels last year when I was particularly struck by the writing and the story of this book. It was easily the gloomiest story I have ever read, but was written so beautifully that I was captivated by it. This style was something that I connected with immediately, as it approaches writing the same way I often do. “Sweet Sue” is a snapshot of a moment in the book, sung from Jude’s perspective. He longs for Sue, but she won’t commit. Jude has just discovered he has an illegitimate son – Little Father Time, and so is trying to do the right thing by both Sue and the boy.

“Lonely Stones” – “Lonely Stones” is my attempt at the kind of story telling found in traditional folk music. It tells the tale of a girl refusing to settle for a guy who has strung her along for too long. He has everyone fooled into thinking that he is decent, but she doesn’t buy it. I suppose in one sense it carries a fairly pensive air, but is ultimately about sticking to your instincts despite what others may think. Although she feels alone, she holds on to the hope that love will come one day. Matt and I really enjoyed recording this song. Layering the vocals and guitar right through the bridge section made it really come to life. Usually when we play this song live, we play with an acoustic and electric guitar, and belt out our vocals to hopefully have the same impact as the rhythm section has on the recording.

“Crook” – “Crook” was one of the toughest songs to get right in the studio. For the majority of the tune, the lyrics are quite cynical and dark, but then it takes a turn in the bridge and becomes more reflective; so we wanted to make sure that that really came across in the song.
Essentially “Crook” is about a difficult conversation I had – when I was really disappointed by what I was hearing, but yet for the sake of the other person, I wasn’t able to convey how I was feeling. In hindsight, that conversation saved me a lot of trouble and I learnt quite a bit about myself.

“Two Left Feet” – “Two Left Feet” is a bittersweet song about having to admit to yourself that you are flawed. It’s about owning your issues, because the alternative is often damaging to relationships and hurtful to others. The opening lyrics “Maybe it was sewn in, part of my design” acknowledges that it is within our nature to think or behave selfishly at times. The song is not meant to be self-depleting, just a humble apology. Our video was written, directed and shot by our good friend Javed Steritt, founder of Lion Says Roar. Javed made our first video clip for our single called “Up & Leave” earlier in the year.

“Much Too Small” – “Much Too Small” is another song about not always being good with words, struggling to communicate. It follows many of the same themes as our song “Two Left Feet” and both were written around the same time. The main lyrics in the chorus “So I’ll put it in a note for you, cause I should’ve learnt a thing or two” is about finding an alternative way to say what you need to when it feels too hard. In this case, writing a letter. It is potentially my favourite tune on the EP, as I was really happy with how honest Matt and my vocals sounded. There’s nothing too polished about it; it is sincere and conveys the emotions I felt when writing it.

Little Father Time is available to purchase on iTunes. Stream the EP exclusively on Timber and Steel here.

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