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.

Track By Track: Damascus, Faith Lee

Image Courtesy of Faith Lee

Following on from her wonderful singles “Life Long Friend” and “Golden Girl” Faith Lee has just released her debut EP Damascus. Recorded in the studios of legendary country singer Bill Chambers and mixed by Mark Myers (The Middle East), we’ve already been fairly forthcoming in our love for this EP.

We asked Faith to talk us through Damascus for our first ever Track By Track and this is what she had to say:

“Waiting for the Days” We played all the songs on Damascus live in the studio. I didn’t want to produce a product that was perfected and sounded like a recording; I wanted it to sound as if you were listening to my live show and so we thought what better way to achieve that then to play it live. “Waiting for the Days” was done in two takes, it’s funny because we were happy with the first take but decided to be on the safe side we’d do another. There was only one thing that made us go with the second take rather than the first – it’s almost stupid but if you listen closely you can hear the sound of the piano pedal being lifted off at the very end, it makes a bang that for some reason we loved.

“Golden Girl” I think “Golden Girl” is the hardest song for a listener to understand on the EP. This song is the only one that I felt didn’t come naturally, rather I worked it over a few weeks and had to almost force this one – but in a good way. I really enjoy this process more than the others as I actually felt like I had created a song rather than the song creating itself – that sounds strange but I find it more rewarding having to work on something that I feel is being perfected by me with each line I write rather then it flowing out of me in 20 minutes and having a song written that I am not sure I had anything to do with as it just came out. I had full control of this song and it took me weeks to write, therefore it’s hard to pinpoint what it is specifically about because every sentence has a different meaning that ties into a time and a situation in my life that I now know as “Golden Girl”. That’s vague I know – does it help if I tell you that I’m not the Golden Girl?

“Life Long Friend” “Life Long Friend” is the only song on the EP that is not written about a personal experience. I’m actually the least attached to this song out of them all I think, I just struggle to relate to it when I’m singing it even though I wrote it. You see, I wrote it one night after talking with a friend who was arguing with me about his ideas on life and woman and the statement “Life Long Friend” was thrown around somewhere in the conversation in regards to him having many love interests and whether it was okay – which then lead to me writing this song.

“I Could Not” This is the only track on Damascus that was not recorded at the Bill Chambers studios. We recorded some demos early 2011 and I guess we just felt that the demo had a lot more heart in it then than the studio version did. I think it was due to the timing of the recording and the idea behind this song was more relevant to me earlier in the year then it was in late September.

“Father” This is my favourite track on Damascus. This was the song that changed the most from beginning to end. It started as the most delicate little folk song and transformed to an intense Americana country tune. It’s a tricky song to play at a solo gig as the band is such a big part of this song, but even still it always reminds me of the more country version of myself and a side of me that is still very much a part of my music and I think comes out the most when I have a full band playing behind me.

Damascus is available from iTunes or CD Baby. Faith Lee will be launching the EP at The Vanguard in Sydney on the 12th August – tickets and details are here.

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