Saturday, 3 January 2015

#51. Identigirl – The Extreme Sprinklers


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

Lyrics by Jade McLaren and Matt Neal.
Music by Harry Fahey, Matt Hewson, Jade McLaren and Matt Neal.
Written in 2005.
Recorded on February 24, 2006, at Motherlode Studio, Warrnambool.
Produced, mixed and engineered by Gus Franklin, Harry Fahey and Tony Peel.




Much like Guitarzan, this song started with a really good portmanteau - another one of The Extreme Sprinklers' singer Jade McLaren's made-up words that work as song titles/lyrics because you instantly know what it means even though you've probably never heard the word before.

This was written in the heady days of us playing a shitload of cover gigs in 2005 at every pub that would have us. During that time we saw a lot of identigirls - these young women who dressed the same, had the same hairstyle and behaved the same. They're still around and probably always have been. Does that make this title and theme timeless? I don't know.

Here we are rocking TAFE. Apparently, beanies were the fashion of the day.

When Jade told me his new made-up word, I agreed it was a good idea/name for a song and we set about writing it at his place in Liebig St above Mac's Snacks in Warrnambool - the same place we wrote a lot of our songs in the early days. I've got the feeling Jade wrote a lot of the lyrics before I came to the party - I think my main lyrical contribution may have been the "strawberry swirl" line, which I seem to recall Jade disliked but begrudgingly agreed to use because rhyming with "girl" is tricky and he couldn't come up with anything better.

Musically, this was an opportunity to rock out for the band. We were finally moving away from the genre-hopping and becoming a rock band, embracing the style of music that we were enjoying playing in our alter-ego cover band The Front.

The Extreme Sprinklers jamming in The Cellar circa 2005. PIC: James Colquhoun.

Identigirl is in dropped D tuning on guitar and largely based around what I like to think of as the power chord version of a D minor 7th - at least that's what makes up most of that striking rhythm in the verses and the intro. Speaking of the intro, that was an attempt to find a way to start a song that was different to the two most common ways of starting a song - ie. “all in” and “one person starts then all in”.

We recorded this at Tony Peel's original Motherlode Studios, with my old schoolmate Gus Franklin (of Architecture In Helsinki fame) helping Peely produce and engineer it. I'm not entirely sure why we got Gus to come down from Melbourne for what was effectively a demo session but my gut tells me it was to try to draw a slightly different sound out of Peely's studio, as well as being an excuse to work with an old friend.
We tracked this live - vocals and all - only doing three takes. If I remember correctly, Extreme Sprinklers drummer and sound whiz Harry Fahey did some clever editing to tighten the whole thing up and fix up the shit bits, and the resulting recording ended up as the title track on a limited release EP. I don’t actually have a copy of the EP so I’ve got no idea what else was on it but I think it was entirely comprised of songs from this "demo" session with Gus and Peely.

The EP featured this awesome cover artwork by Phil Cooke
who is one seriously talented motherfucker.

Jade and I were obviously proud of the song because about eight years later when we were shortlisting potential tunes for The 80 Aces debut album (coming out in 2015!) we both picked this as a wildcard of sorts. We even got so far as to run through it a couple of times in the studio during the recording of Tales Of Great Adventure (coming out in 2015!) but it wasn't quite there; the reason being we hadn't hardly played it in the intervening years after Harry Fahey and Matt Hewson left The Extreme Sprinklers and we morphed into The 80 Aces with Jarrod Hawker and Kyle McLaren. Me and my fellow Aces we’re never going to be able to pull it off after only a couple of rehearsals. The above recording is a good example of what happened when Hewy, Harry and I really locked together, tweaking and fine-tuning things through weekly rehearsals. And I’d just like to point that Harry’s drumming is absolutely rad in this song – the way he drops in disco beats, some great fills, half-time beats, and then perfectly switches into the 6/8 ending ... it's all gold.

Some Harry gold. PIC: Glen Watson.

I’m not sure what the main influences are in this song (aside from Jade’s rather obvious Kaiser Chiefs bit in the breakdown/build-up) but I just love how noisy and clattering the whole thing is. That distinctive rhythm makes it stand out a bit I think, and I don’t know which one of us came up with the time-signature-change ending but I always thought that was pretty clever and cool. It was also reasonably catchy for something so grungy.

It remains one of my favourite tracks, and if nothing else, I think it showcases what The Extreme Sprinklers could do at the top of their game – be loud, rocking yet still poppy and kind of smart.

Lyrics

Well all right
I said shit goddamn

We're all here to fill a small silence
So what's your decibel level?
She can barely see you
you're at the back of the queue
another extension of her crew

Step out step out step out step out
The carbon copies of yourself

Take a ticket just like the other one
You're only here to have fun
I guess you're an identigirl
The new model it spins and twirls
and it's got the strawberry swirl