Wednesday, 30 September 2015

#64. Kick Out The Housemates – The 80 Aces

Jarrod Hawker – drums
Jade McLaren – vocals
Kyle McLaren – bass
Matt Neal – guitar

Lyrics by Matt Neal.
Music by Jarrod Hawker, Jade McLaren, Kyle McLaren & Matt Neal.
Written 2010.
Recorded at Motherlode Studios, Warrnambool, May 28, 2011.
Produced and mixed by Tony Peel.

Change is scary. When The Extreme Sprinklers’ drummer Harry Fahey told us in late 2006 (quite abruptly and just as we were about to start rehearsing) he was leaving the band, I was terrified. Harry was the only drummer I’d played with over the preceding seven years – a length of time that bridged two bands, dozens of songs, and hundreds of gigs. We’d developed one of those unspoken musical connections and had become best mates. Our birthdays are on consecutive days, which meant joint birthday parties every year. Not playing in a band with him seemed like a weird and frightening proposition.

Pictured: Something not weird and frightening. Picture: Glen Watson

The remaining Sprinklers – Jade McLaren, Matt Hewson and myself, soon to be renamed The 80 Aces – began the daunting task of looking for a new drummer. We had a stack of cover gigs already on the books, as well as quite a few original shows, and we needed someone who could learn about 50 covers and 20 originals. Harry agreed to play on ‘til we found a new drummer but we didn’t want to stretch the transition out, for all our sakes.

Jon Emry, who in my eyes was the best drummer in Warrnambool at that time, came and had a jam with us in our rehearsal shed behind the old La Porchetta restaurant (now Reunion) but you could tell he was too busy and not totally interested. It ended up being a cool jam though because we ended up drinking beer and playing Ween covers.

I'm just gonna leave this here and mention that me and Jade were at this gig and it was the greatest motherfucking thing ever:

I think it was Hewy who suggested Jarrod Hawker. I knew of Hawk, but didn’t really know him. We’d probably crossed paths somewhere on the scene and his reputation for being a great rock drummer preceded him. He turned out to be the perfect pick for The Extreme Sprinklers, who were about to be renamed The 80 Aces. Harry was the ideal backbeat to the first half of my musical career, and Hawk has been the perfect percussionist for the second half.

Hawk joining the Aces not only sparked the name change (which was voted on over a drunken poker game in a smoky room following a gig at Hamilton’s Cally Hotel) but it began a beautiful musical relationship and a solid gold friendship. Through The 80 Aces and on into Doctor & The Apologies (new EP out now!) with the occasional Gutsy As!! diversion in there, it’s a partnership that’s been going for nine years. 

"Doc, you're guitar's not plugged in." Picture: Leesa Donkers

I mention all this because this song Kick Out The Housemates is a good example of what I like about working with Hawk. When I asked him recently about this song, he just replied that his drumming was “very loose”, which is totally ignoring the fact that the drum patterns are really cool and kinda weird, and that Hawk played a massive part in arranging the track – I basically brought in the chords and words but Hawk really drove the arrangement. The final 30 seconds in particular were his idea, inspired by a Supergroove song I believe. There’s a bit at 2m47s where it all straightens out in a good way and we both agreed it should have done that more often in the song, but this was probably one of the first (and last) times we played this track. More playing would have probably locked that shit in.

Supergroove. Fuck yeah:

I’d written this, incidentally, about the place where Hawk was living at the time. He was sharing a house with three other dudes (one of whom was Jade) in Merrivale, and the place was a regular hangout and after-party spot. There were also three or four girlfriends at any one time who were also calling that sharehouse "home" and it occurred to me that the almost-constant parties, poker games and songwriting sessions going on in the house would have made it pretty hard for any of the guys and their partners to do something as simple as hang out on the couch and watch a movie together (or “Netflix and chill”, if you will).

"All right - I'm chipped up, now get the fuck out of my house." Picture: Matt Neal

This realisation didn’t stop me going around there getting hammered four or five times a week, but it did inspire me to pen this song. It never got much of an airing in the band unfortunately, which is a shame because I love the way Hawk’s beat, Kyle’s bass line and my guitar rhythms marry up in the verse and how it gets loud and grungey and screamy in the chorus. Jade put the kibosh on it though, saying it was murder on his voice, but realistically I don’t think it really married up with his vision for what The 80 Aces should sound like. Shame - I thought it rocked, and with a little bit of polishing would have come up alright. Sure, it was kinda like bad RHCP mashed up with bad Foo Fighters or something, but I thought it was cool. Not my best effort lyrically, but cool nonetheless.

I wish we hadn't decided to take band photos 
when we were all in such a nonchalant mood.
Picture: Gareth Colliton

This demo was made with the able assistance of Tony Peel at Motherlode Studios. We went in there for a day in May, 2011, to lay down a version of every song we hadn’t recorded yet in preparation for the Dollars EP, which we recorded in December that year. This “Demo For Dollars” session saw us smash out live takes of 16 songs in one day, giving us recordings of song that otherwise would have been forgotten (such as Elevator) and plenty of extra fodder for my blog.

Hawk during the Demo For Dollars session. Picture: Dannii Hale


This place stifles
It’s full of people
No room in this crowded house for kisses
I’m here, you too, and so many more people cramping, squeezing, suffocating the pleasing

Kick out the housemates
Get the motherfuckers out of the way

All this public
No privacy just static
Grasping, wishing, a bodily friction

Friday, 11 September 2015

#63. Karma Comes Around – The Extreme Sprinklers

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

Lyrics by Jade McLaren and Matt Neal
Music by Harry Fahey, Matt Hewson, Jade McLaren and Matt Neal.
Written summer of ’05-‘06.
Recorded at The Shed, Warrnambool in April, 2006.
Produced, engineered and mixed by Harry Fahey.

By the start of 2006, The Extreme Sprinklers were on a roll. We were playing just about every weekend, there were some great support gigs (67 Special, The Exploders, Regurgitator, The Vasco Era), our own headline shows, plus plenty of cover gigs to help us pay the rent on the rehearsal shed we shared. Singer Jade McLaren and I were writing more songs than we knew what to do with, the band was building up a strong local following, and the after-parties were plentiful.

And we looked fabulous. Picture: Glen Watson

Sometimes I had to forego the after-party and be the designated driver, purely because I drove a stationwagon. So did The Extreme Sprinklers’ drummer, Harry Fahey. That meant that when we packed up following a gig, the kit and the bass rig went in his car, and the PA system and my gear went in my gear, and we were the poor sober bastards who had to drive drunken Jade or drunken bassist Matt Hewson home.

Pictured: Drunken Jade and Hewy.

After once such gig (at the Seanchai I think), I drove home and pulled up out the front of my house. It was about 3am and it had been a long night of entertaining drunk punters while having to stay sober myself (which makes long covers gigs even longer). I really couldn’t be fucked loading all the gear out of the car and into the house as usual, so instead I just loaded my gear inside and left the PA in the back of the wagon. You can probably guess where this is heading.

When I awoke the next morning, the car was still there but the PA was gone. I rang the cops, who came out and dusted the wagon for prints. They pointed out there didn’t appear to be any forced entry, which most likely meant I’d left the car unlocked. Idiot. I knew a lot of the cops at the time because I was on the police rounds at The Standard and spent a lot of my spare time drinking with cops and lawyers, so they didn’t give me too much of a hard time about leaving the car unlocked.

Not pictured: Cops and lawyers.

“Don’t worry,” the detectives said, “we think we know who has your PA, but we’ll put the word out at the music stores just in case they try to sell it. We’ll keep you posted.”

I rang the rest of the band and broke the bad news. I can’t remember if I mentioned the bit about possibly leaving the car unlocked, but it didn’t matter – either way, we had lost our PA, which we’d worked our arses off to buy. We figured we’d never see it again and starting working out how many gigs we needed to play to buy a new one and how much it was going to cost to hire another one in the meantime.

"Ok everyone, we're just going to pass Doc's hat around...."

Amazingly, within a couple of days, the cops recovered our PA. A couple of knobs had been busted off the head, and the back had been taken off one of the speakers so it could be wired up to a stereo apparently, but otherwise it was in full working order. Great work, Warrnambool police.

That incident sparked this song. If Jade had gotten his way, it would have been a song about going out and inflicting violent retribution on the thieves. I threw a mild tantrum and said I wouldn’t be a part of a song that promoted violence as I didn’t believe that was an appropriate response to such an incident. The tantrum must have worked, as Jade agreed to my approach of passive resistance. I’m not religious at all, but I like the Buddhist notion of karma, and Jade eventually agreed it was a better angle for turning the PA theft into a song. We were angry at the thieves and Jade genuinely wanted to go out and inflict violence upon them, but I was content to let the universe have its revenge (which is both the last line of the song and the title of another song I had written prior to this one – it will be in a later blog).

Artwork: Jade McLaren

The chorus – “You can’t stop us, you can only slow us down” – is Jade’s lyric, I’m pretty sure. It sounds like his sense of bravado anyway, and reflects his more assertive and defiant mindset about the theft. But the rest of the words were a real team effort.

There’s one line in this song I particularly like (and I honestly don’t know who came up with it). It’s the phrase “like a panic in your skeleton”. I really love that – it’s so weirdly evocative of that deep down feeling something is wrong. It sounds like a Thom Yorke lyric. Jade obviously liked it too – I found a file recently that he’d put together compiling all the Extreme Sprinklers lyrics and it was titled “A Panic In Your Skeleton – The Complete Extreme Sprinklers Songbook”.

Artwork: Jade McLaren

This recording, made during band practice one night in 2006, is a good example of Harry, bassist Matt Hewson and myself clicking together. It's a little rough (especially my falsetto at the start) and Jade forgets a few lines (full correct lyrics below), but otherwise this rehearsal recording is pretty cool. Everyone is on song (or at least “close enough for jazz” as they say in the classics). I always loved the middle section of this song – it gave Harry and Hewy a chance to go nuts and I got to make feedback and noise rather than solo, which played to all our strengths to be honest.

Rehearsing in the shed. Picture: Glen Watson

The intro, I realised belatedly, sounds a little bit too close to the Coldplay song God Put A Smile Upon Your Face but I’m not sure what the rest of it sounds like. I dig it though. It's rocking and each bit feels interesting. When Harry left the band not long after this recording, this was one of the many songs that fell by the wayside, probably because it was hard to dance too or some similar bullshit.


Karma comes around to make some waves while ships are safe and sound. Now our precious spice, our livelihood which grew from good advice, is paying dividends. We can score so much more again. Stealing through the night... something’s coming. Things are running right....

A wave of karma, like a panic in your skeleton

You can’t stop us, you can only slow us down

Stealing through the night, son of a snake - you can’t take the light, like a nuisance leech, siphon blood where it is hard to reach. You won’t drag us down to where you’re from - hiding underground. Karma come around and salt the leech that tries to breach our sound.

A wave of karma, like a panic in your skeleton

You can’t stop us, you can only slow us down

Slow down

Stealing through the night comes the breeze and it sees it right. Karma comes again - the universe will have its revenge.