Monday, 1 December 2014

#50. Ice Cream Headaches – The Extreme Sprinklers


Harry Fahey: drums, percussion
Matt Hewson: bass, backing vocals
Jade McLaren: vocals
Matt Neal: guitar

Lyrics by Jade McLaren and Matt Neal
Music by Harry Fahey, Matt Hewson, Jade McLaren and Matt Neal.
Written between October 2-10, 2003.
Recorded at Kellie’s Swamp, Warrnambool on January 2, 2005.
Additional recording done at Drum Drum, Warrnambool, in late 2004.
Produced, engineered and mixed by Harry Fahey.
Released on the Jamaica EP.


During Dion's Week Of Debauchery - a week-long recordingsession for 21st Century Ox at bassist Dion Barker's house - future 80 Aces singer Jade McLaren and I penned this icy little grunge ballad. At the time, we were infrequently writing songs for The Extreme Sprinklers; our Ween-esque project that we hoped to some day turn into a real band (spoiler alert: it did become a real band).

Pictured: A real band. The Extreme Sprinklers - (l-r) Matt Neal, Matt Hewson, 
Harry Fahey and Jade McLaren - at the 2005 Warrnambool Associated Music Industry awards, 
where we won "best recording" for the Jamaica EP. PIC: Michael Schack.

Jade had come along to the Debauchery sessions partly to enjoy the incessant partying but also to write and record some tunes with me in the downtime between Ox recording, which proved to be a lot of the time. Another factor was the opportunity to get down to Warrnambool from Melbourne - things weren't going well in his relationship at the time.

Sometime during that week, he got the phone call that his relationship was over. I can't remember if that was before or after we wrote this song but it definitely came into play (although I'm not sure we realised it at the time).

Either way, the song proved formative in a couple of ways. Firstly, it's a good early example of our songwriting technique. We would nut out the rough melody and chords and song idea then each brainstorm a list of words, phrases or lines relating to the song's theme. We'd then put the two lists together, decide/argue about which words, phrases or lines were good and arrange them into verses and choruses. It's that easy, kids.

The original scribblings for (apparently deliberately mis-titled)
"The Ballard Of Frost Bite Freezer" (sic). If you zoom in, 
you can see part of the list of possible keywords down the right-hand side 
(the words "Eskimo" and "igloo" didn't make the cut, apparently). 
And yes, my song book was a Buffy scrapbook at the time. Because Buffy rules.

Secondly, with this song we ended up writing a straight-up rock song, which was a signpost to the non-genre-hopping that would mark the second phase of The Extreme Sprinklers, whereby we would try to be a "normal" band and not some weird reggae/country/rap/blues bunch of Ween wannabes. Ice Cream Headaches seemed like a "normal" song compared to the genre-specific and jokey tunes we'd written previously.

I think it was Jade who had the idea of writing a song about an "ice queen" (whom we nicknamed Frostbite Frida). From there we listed a shitload of "icy" terms and began sculpting them into lyrics. Very early on in the partnership we had come up with a list of words we vowed not to use in songs: "hate", "pain" and "soul" are the only ones I can recall. But we broke our own rule here - the phrase "pneumonia in my soul" was way too good to pass up. There are so many lines in this song that I'm proud of - "a snowflake with sharp edges", "you give me ice-cream headaches", "you're human hypothermia, you're a glacier that crawls through my veins" and the use of the term "below Kelvin" in particular.

One of the first people to like this song was my wife Dannii, who I didn't really know at the time. It was she that suggested renaming the song from it's original title The Ballad Of Frostbite Frida to Ice Cream Headaches - a much better name. The fact I married her later is completely unrelated to this piece of information (probably).


The song appeared on The Extreme Sprinklers debut release - the Jamaica EP - and was among the first batch of original songs we played when Harry Fahey and Matt Hewson joined and turned us into a real band instead of a joke duo. For this recording, Harry recorded his drums at Drum Drum in Warrnambool and we tracked the rest of it in my makeshift studio known as Kellie's Swamp on my shitty PC. To be honest, I was blown away with Harry's ability as a producer during those sessions - I'd been making shitty demos for ages on that computer and was stunned to hear someone produce something on the same machine that sounded genuinely good.

The manifesto was to make the recording sound cold and stark, hence the wind sample at the start, the clanging rhythmic guitar non-chords, the sound of the bass and the guitar, and Hewy's tasty harmonics. Musically the song owes a lot to Nirvana's You Know You're Right - the chords and the dynamics are identical. But the band, the rhythm, the melodies. and Harry's production make it sound suitably different.


The other musical touchstone is The Wizard Of Oz - in particular the Wicked Witch's guard chant: "Oh-wee-oh, wee-oh-oh". Not sure how a variation of that ended up in the song, but it did.


Ice Cream Headaches remains a favourite of mine. It's super simple and not over-thought. It's basic, straight-up grunge-rock... and there's nothing wrong with that.

Below is the demo (and below that the full lyrics) which I think I may have recorded the night before Jade and I wrote the lyrics and melodies. Because of that keyboard melody, it was tentatively titled Arabian Nights. It was just something I threw together while the recording gear was lying around, and I got some of the other guys who were there - Ox guitarist Brendan Hoffmann and our sound engineer Dave Wilson - to add bits and pieces to it, perhaps with the idea it might become an Ox song.

Ice Cream Headaches (Arabian Nights demo)

Brendan Hoffmann: guitar, keyboard
Matt Neal: guitar, keyboard, drums, bass
Dave Wilson: acoustic guitar

Music by Matt Neal.
Written between October 2-10, 2003.
Recorded at the Barker Residence, Warrnambool between October 2-10, 2003.
Produced, engineered and mixed by Matt Neal.



Lyrics

All of my extremities
Are freezing off because you're so damned cold
You've got popsicles for fingers and an icicle instead of a heart

You're an avalanche of woe
You give me shivers like a sleep in the snow
You're a snowflake with sharp edges, you're the winter coat that keeps me cold

You give me ice cream headaches
You give me freezer burn
Your love gives my frostbite, yes, it does, oh-we-oh
You give chilblains baby
Pneumonia in my soul
Your love gives my frostbite, yes, it does, oh-we-oh

I'm always skating on thin ice
Frozen solid by your winter lights
You're human hypothermia, you're a glacier that crawls through my veins

You're below Kelvin baby
You're liquid nitrogen
Your love gives my frostbite, yes, it does, oh-we-oh
You're Frostbite Frida baby
Pneumonia in my soul
Your love gives my frostbite, yes, it does, oh-we-oh
You give me ice cream headaches
You give me freezer burn
Your love gives my frostbite, yes, it does, oh-we-oh
You give chilblains baby
Pneumonia in my soul
Your love gives my frostbite, yes, it does, oh-we-oh