Tuesday, 11 November 2014

#48. I Am Trying To Read Your Mind – The 80 Aces


Jarrod Hawker: drums.
Matt Hewson: bass, backing vocals.
Jade McLaren: vocals.
Matt Neal: guitar, vocals.

Lyrics by Matt Hewson, Jade McLaren & Matt Neal.
Music by Jarrod Hawker, Matt Hewson, Jade McLaren & Matt Neal.
Written some time between mid-2005 and early 2007.
Recorded at Noise Studios in mid-2007.
Produced and mixed by Marcus Jennings.
Released on The 80 Aces EP.


I guess this is the closest thing The 80 Aces had to a “hit”. Magic Shoes may have been played at the end of an AFL game on Channel 7, but this got played on Triple J. Twice. Thank you, Dom Alessio.

None of us heard it the first time it got played on Triple J but the second time was one of the coolest moments of my musical life. My fellow Aces Jade McLaren, Jarrod Hawker and I had just finished our week of recording the Dollars EP with Steven Schram and we were feeling pretty good about ourselves. We were enjoying a beer, listening to Triple J on my porch, when out of nowhere I Am Trying To Read Your Mind came on. It took a while for us to realise it was our song – at first I was thinking ‘holy shit, someone’s ripped us off!’. Then I realised it was us.

On the "set" of the film clip for I Am Trying To Read Your Mind
with director James McAnulty.

“It was this song that ticked off the most significant box on the bucket list - randomly being played on radio without our prior knowledge,” Hawk recalled.

“That moment was made even more special by the fact that it happened during recording of the Dollars EP.”

Unfortunately our bass player Kyle McLaren wasn’t there to enjoy the moment, but hell, Kyle’s not even playing on this track, so fuck him. That’s former Ace Matt Hewson busting out the tasty bass on this track.

Tasty. 
PIC: Dylan Buzolich.

“I liked everything about this song – from the time we had it up for live performance it was my favourite to play,” Hewy recalled.

Hewy helped Jade and I write the words on this one, which came up a treat, I reckon. Hewy agreed.

“The lyrics had been really written collectively, unlike many of our tunes, and while some of them were very clever it was more about how they all fit together – although the fact that we got the line 'It matters not if I was [sic] Sherl...lock Holmes with Jedi mind tricks' in there pleases me greatly,” he recalled.

I agree. I fucking love that line, although I can’t tell if it’s incredibly smart or so-dumb-it’s-awesome. Or maybe just dumb. Whatever.

Before taking the song to Hewy and Jade, I already had the chorus written (the title line is inspired by Wilco’s excellent tune I Am Trying To Break Your Heart). In fact the chorus kicked around for a year or more because I couldn’t figure out what the hell to do for the rest of the song. I knew I’d written the chorus, but it was probably going to be fairly quiet and mellow, which seemed a bit weird for a rock band.


Eventually I had an epiphany. After constantly trying to find different ways to approach songwriting and to come up with unique song ideas, one had just landed in my lap – instead of doing the traditional quiet verse/loud chorus dynamic (as seen in most Nirvana or Pixies songs), I was gonna flip it. Loud verse, quiet chorus. Fucking simple and blindingly obvious, but a very underused trick.


“It was fun having a tune where the verse is rocking, but the chorus is comparatively light – a deliberate turn-about that I know Doc was also quite happy with,” Hewy said.

“The harmonies were a lot of fun to sing, too. The form was straightforward with a few quirks – the 14-bar chorus, which includes a six-bar phrase along with an eight-bar phrase, is echoed in the cyclical six-bar outro. The chorus and outro chords themselves sound simple (and they are), but they move in ways not typical to pop rock, nor to our usual writing. The riff is a bit of a corker too.”

I showed Jade and Hewy the punkish verse riff I had to go with the pretty descending chorus and they seemed enthused about the idea of reversing the usual dynamics. Bouncing off the chorus I’d already written, we quickly came up with a list of ideas for verse lines relating to psychics and mind reading and general communication breakdown shenanigans (the type that happen in probably every relationship) and whipped the song into shape in no time at all. At some point I convinced them both that I should sing the verse and Jade sing the chorus, thus accentuating the dynamic different between the rough and raucous verse and the smooth and gentle chorus (ie. Jade’s voice is far prettier than mine).

Pictured: A pretty voice and a not-so-pretty voice.
PIC: Dannii Hale.

Hewy also praised Hawk’s drumming, and if I was still unsure about whether the song was going to work or not, my fears were quickly allayed when Hawk started fitting his beats to it with his typical skill and style.

“I … love the drumming throughout, as Hawk uses excellent space in the chorus, then drives hard with a double snare through the verses and a straight rock beat through the outro,” Hewy said.

Another shot from the filming of the clip.

“The tune isn’t rocket science, but I always felt it had that blend of ballsy energy and intelligent songwriting that, if I may say, we often strived to reach without quite getting there, or at least not in such a natural-sounding way. And the result was that it was effortless to play live, and the whole band would lock in and nail it every time through sheer enjoyment.”

Hawk reckons I Am Trying To Read Your Mind is the best song The 80 Aces ever wrote  He might be right. It certainly captures perfectly that blend Hewy was talking about, as well as the two elements that were always fighting for oxygen when we wrote a song – the grungey rock and the singalong pop.

If nothing else, the song is something of a marker. Buoyed by the Triple J airplay (it also got played a fair bit on Coast FM, which is a rarity for a local band), it made us aim higher, as if the next level was just within our grasp.

The film clip even got played on Rage, which buoyed us even further. It was filmed very simply and quickly one night at the old Hai Bin Restaurant where we jammed, and put together by the very talented James McAnulty. Our only feedback to him in the editing phase was to crank up that shaky camera effect. He did a great job.


Lyrics:

A body language that I can’t speak
Subconscious hide and seek
A mind game with no rules
Divination, try to scry
The crystal ball of your eye
And I’ll consult the oracles

‘Cos I am trying to read your mind
So that I don’t break your heart
Into pieces hard to find
So that I don’t break your heart

You, you’re speaking in ESP
You thinking in prophecy
I’ll telephone all the psychics
Your implying and I’ll infer
It matters not if was
Sherlock Holmes with Jedi mind tricks


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