Saturday, 30 January 2016

#69. Lose Control - The 80 Aces


Gus Franklin - percussion, effects, additional guitar
Jarrod Hawker - drums, percussion
Jade McLaren - vocals
Kyle McLaren - bass, backing vocals
Matt Neal - guitar, backing vocals
Steven Schram - bongos

Lyrics by Jade McLaren and Matt Neal.
Music by Jarrod Hawker, Jade McLaren, Kyle McLaren, and Matt Neal.
Recorded at Motherlode Studios and The Hai Bin, Warrnambool, August 19-31, 2013.
Produced by Gus Franklin.
Mixed by Steven Schram.
Additional engineering by Tony Peel.

Released on the album Tales Of Great Adventure.



In case you don't Spotify or it doesn't work:


THE ORIGIN

The song started life around the time Jarrod Hawker joined the band on drums (late 2006, according to the archives). Matt Hewson was still playing bass with us at that stage. Singer Jade McLaren brought the idea in, which was just the chorus guitar riff and bass riff serving as both a verse and a chorus. Hawk “impregnated the song with the riff/middle section but Hewy gave birth to it”, according to Hawk (whatever that means).

I like the middle section, but I wasn’t feeling the rest of it. It felt like a poor man’s Take Me Out at that stage. It lacked dynamic - it was basically the same thing the whole way through until it got to the middle section. I don’t think the song ever made it out of the rehearsal shed at that stage.

Me, Hawk, Hewy, and Jade in the rehearsal shed. Picture: Dylan Buzolich.

THE RE-WRITE

Jade is nothing if not relentless, as he proved with Bandwagon. Much like how he thought that song would be a hit, he wouldn’t let this song (then called The Dancing Song) go. So when it came time to write some tunes to fill out The 80 Aces album Tales Of Great Adventure, Jade had this at the top of the list of tracks to work on.

The second attempt at writing this song happened in a semi-renovated mansion called Narrapumelap near Wickliffe in December 2012. Jade, Hawk, bass player Kyle McLaren, myself, and our good buddy Chris Hedges decamped to this mansion to write and demo some new tunes.

This is Narrapumelap. Seriously.

We came back with four or five songs. Among them was Attack Of The Killer Butterflies (which was already written by that stage and just needed to be demoed), Space Junk (written and recorded there), and The Dancing Song V2.0 aka Lose Control.


Seriously, this place is fucking rad. The weekend we spent there
was one of my favourite times with The 80 Aces.

What the song had been missing was a verse section. Jade was pretty set on the chorus and the rest of us dug the middle riff, so it was up to Kyle and I to find some funky groove to get it all started. At the time, I was on a bit of an INXS kick (pun intended) so my opening guitar riff is an attempt to get something like Need You Tonight, New Sensation, What You Need, or Original Sin. Maybe a combination of all four. I’d also seen Nile Rodgers & Chic play at Golden Plains earlier that year so there’s a bit of that in the opening guitar lines, with the crossover being Rodgers played on INXS’ Original Sin (but you all knew that, right?).


Here’s the demo from that session. Note the lack of guitar solo/production trickery:

Recorded at Narrapumelap by Chris Hedges.
Mixed by Chris Hedges.




Also note that this was one of our first times playing the damned thing.

THE PRE-PRODUCTION

Gus Franklin is a musical genius, in my opinion. He can play any instrument you throw at him, plus he’s got great ears and mad production skills. We played in a band together called Ted Dancin’ when we were in high school - Gus had already won a triple j Unearthed competition with his band Gramps by that stage, so we all knew he was destined for greatness. He went on to play in The Smallgoods and Architecture In Helsinki. Greatness, I tells ya.



Anyways, we knew we wanted Gus to produce Tales Of Great Adventure - if nothing else, we thought it would be cool to hang out with him for two weeks while we made a record. And we knew he’d make the album better than it ought to be (which he did).

In the lead-up to recording Tales Of Great Adventure (available now on iTunes), we sent a big digital pile of steaming hot demos to Gus. Gus replied with some helpful (and brutally honest) notes.

Here are the notes he wrote for Lose Control (which was one of the songs he didn’t hate):

- i love disco

- very good vibe… would you want the drums to be that spacey all the time?

- we could go all Daft Punk - "Random Access Memories," on this?

- sounds like The Police in the verses and i like that.

The Daft Punk thing struck a chord with me. Get Lucky was the feel good hit of the year and it happened to feature Nile Rodgers. So we were on the same wavelength there. We agreed we should try to get that real Nile sound in the guitars.


Here’s Gus:

“I decided early on in the process of making the album that Lose Control was the best potential single. Therefore we worked it hardest. I had it in my head that if the song was good enough, it might surpass triple j and fly onto Triple M somehow. This level of delusion is how I roll day to day. Some may say I'm a dreamer… etc, etc.”

THE RECORDING

We spent five days week recording at Tony Peel’s Motherlode Studios in Warrnambool - I think we smashed out the drum and bass tracks for the 10 songs (we’d already recorded Magic Shoes) in two or three days and spent the remainder of the time there recording guitar parts.




Day three of recording begins!
Posted by The 80 Aces on Tuesday, August 20, 2013


The guitar sessions for the album took about four or five days all up though. We relocated to The Hai Bin - our rehearsal space - to finish off the guitars. Kyle, Jade and Hawk would pop their heads in, see me and Gus were still going through guitar tracks, and promptly bugger off again. We spent more days on recording guitars for the album than anything else, which was awesome.



Day 4: Doc steps up to the plate. Gus checks his Rock Emails.
Posted by The 80 Aces on Wednesday, August 21, 2013


“The guitar sessions with Nealy were a lot of fun,” recalled Gus, adding that the “big riff in the middle section” of Lose Control was particularly fun to work on.




Here's a sneak peek ;\
Posted by The 80 Aces on Thursday, August 29, 2013


In the remaining three or four days of recording time, we raced through the vocals and then got stuck into the bells and whistles, such as recording the massive drum fill that leads into the choruses of Lose Control:





Day 9: All the drums!
Posted by The 80 Aces on Friday, August 30, 2013




THE LYRICS

This song had no lyrics right up until Jade recorded his vocals. We’d played it live heaps, but Jade had pretty much made word-like sounds each time, never bothering to write any real words. When we got around to recording the vocals at The Hai Bin, Jade and I sat down with Gus to put together some lyrics. Initially, I wrote down what I thought Jade had been singing all this time (I thought there were words already, to be honest), and then Gus directed us.

The song checklist.

“I asked Jade and Matt to re-write the lyrics to be really dumb and easy to get,” Gus explained.

“Basically I asked them to sell out. I remember the writing session and some groaning at how the lyrics were getting really cheeseball.”

I guess we figured if we were gonna write a big dumb pop hit, we may as well make the words seem like they were from a big dumb pop hit.

THE PRODUCTION


Aside from a few of Jade’s vocal sessions, I sat through the whole recording process with Gus. He said my job was to make sure he didn’t get too fixated on one thing or get bogged down in trying to mix stuff too much while recording. Basically, I’d lie there on the couch, usually with a beer, and listen to Gus go through the same five seconds of a song again and again for half an hour before I’d say “Gus - time to move on, mate”. It worked well.

"Gus - time to move on, mate."
"Doc, can you just fuck off a little bit?"

But the whole time, I was trying to learn stuff, which is the best bit about working with producers. From Peely to Steven Schram, from Gus to Joe Gardner, I’ve learnt something from each of them while making various recordings over the year.

Gus worked his arse off on Tales Of Great Adventure. It was basically an impossible task - we were never going to be able to make our magnum opus in just two weeks. But he fucking nearly did it. He worked 14-hour days and by the end of the final day he was nearly broken but the record was almost finished.

A little while later, I went up to Melbourne and stayed at Gus’ place so he could finish off a few arrangement things. He had done a bit of mixing and the songs were taking shape. In particular, he spent a lot of time of Lose Control.

Over to you, Gus:

“We were going all Max Martin/Daft Punk on this to try and make it sound like Get Lucky/current-pop-hits basically. It was the style of the time. I blame the current climate of pop music for the production on Lose Control. It’s not my fault, yer honour. I remember spending ages on the chorus hook - “la la la-la”. Pretty sure Matt Neal has heard that loop a billion times. I have too, but it’s my fault so I can’t really be upset about it. It’s still not very good, that hook, but we were worked as hard as we could with the skills that I had at the time to try and make it as good as possible. By the way, I played some sneaky guitar at the end. The really high one that comes in to finish the song. It’s pretty shit.

“I think what also should be noted in the summary of the making of this song is the pretty stupid pop trick-hooks - the swoops and pings that I decided would be good to put in the track at the last minute. I’m not ashamed of them, but they’re shit. But I think they make the song better, if that makes any sense.”

"Hawk, can I mic up your dip?"


THE MIX


Steven Schram produced, mixed and arranged the Dollars EP, which turned out pretty awesome, so we thought it might be good to get him to mix a track off Tales Of Great Adventure. Schramy was super-nice about it and offered to mix the whole record at a cut rate, but we couldn’t afford it, which was a shame. We had enough money for him to mix one song (at a cut rate) and that was it. In October of 2013, we sent him Lose Control - he was just about to head into the studio to record Paul Kelly’s Merri Soul Sessions but made time to mix our single. What a swell guy.

The first mix he sent back got rid of the Nile Rodgers guitar sound. I jumped on the phone and explained how that was the one thing we really wanted to keep sonically speaking. He thought for a second before saying very wryly, “How very 2013 of you”, but he did what we asked.

I also asked him what the hell he did to make the chorus so ballsy. He explained that there are THREE bass guitars in the chorus, each with different tones and levels of distortion on them. Whoa.

It’s worth noting (and Gus reminded me of this) that Schramy added some bongos to the song. They kick in around 2m33s and are there in the last chorus too. It’s a great touch and something we wouldn’t have thought to do. He’s a freakin’ genius.

THE FILM CLIP


Damn, that’s a good film clip. I had absolutely nothing to do with it, so I think I can say it wholeheartedly and with a fair amount of objectivity. Jade McLaren did a bloody good job with that video. He had some help from James McAnulty (who filmed the clip for I Am Trying To Read Your Mind) to shoot it, but it was pretty much all Jade. He painstakingly edited that damned puppet head into every single frame, having previously danced around Warrnambool like a goon with a green hood over his head and Jim Hensoned the shit out of that puppet in front of a green screen.

Hawk and I share similar sentiments regarding the song itself (more on that in a minute), but we also agree on the clip.

“I was pretty bloody impressed with Jade’s effort on the video,” he said. “(My) hat came off briefly.”

Jade said it’s the hardest he’s ever worked on something. Given it took six months to make, I’m not surprised.




So apparently we're back ladies and gents.And to celebrate our second coming we would like to invite you to join us on New Year's Eve at The Loft to get a sneak peek at our upcoming album "Tales of Great Adventure". Single release and film clip to come sometime in the new year. Hope to see you soon. xox
Posted by The 80 Aces on Saturday, December 27, 2014


THE AFTERMATH

Gus did an amazing job with the song, Schramy’s mix is rad, and Jade’s film clip is awesome.

As for the song, well, it’s probably my least favourite 80 Aces tune. In hindsight, it was an attempt to find a middle ground among us all. Jade wanted to write pop bangers (he now listens to K-pop and nothing else) while the rest of us wanted to rock and groove. We were hoping to create a worthy successor to Magic Shoes, but it didn’t work because it wasn’t as good. There are good bits to the song, don’t get me wrong, but as a whole I reckon it sounds like a bunch of guys with very little pop nous trying to write a pop song. It’s trying really hard, and in the end, it’s a bit try-hard.

Hawk described it as “poo” but admits it’s “poo that sticks in your head”.

Jade said he’s proud of the song, particularly because it doesn’t sound like anything ever recorded in Warrnambool by a Warrnambool band before. He got that right.

It's definitely one of the better songs recorded 
in an abandoned Chinese restaurant using a vocal booth 
made out of an old poker table. Picture: Gus Franklin.

And here’s a final word from Gus:

“I actually reckon the song’s really good. It’s basically ahead of its time - it’s the Can’t Feel My Face of 2013.”

I think he might be joking.

Lyrics:

It’s too late
We’re gonna blow up
No escape
We set the fire
Escalate
It’s gonna burn us
All through the night

You make me wanna wanna lose control

See you sway
And get beside you
Just a taste
I’ve got to try
Bump and grind
We cannot fight it
All through the night

Saturday, 9 January 2016

#68. Like Wine – 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 and Tony Peel.



Every songwriter eventually writes a song about getting old. The trick is to not write that song for as long as possible. This is because the second you write it, you’re doomed to think of yourself as a naive unappreciative fool in only a few years time.

Me and my songwriting partner Jade McLaren managed to wait until we were the ripe old age of 25 before we penned this ode to feeling like life had started to pass us by. To be fair though, it was Jade’s idea. And to be doubly fair, and I’d already penned a similarly themed song when I was 23 (the aforementioned Nobody Buys Videos Anymore).

Definitely not old in 2005. Picture: Warrnambool Standard

Perhaps having already been down this path and, ironically, having gained wisdom with the passage of time meant I had a very different perspective on this song to Jade. If I remember correctly, Jade’s angle was something like “I went to the Gal and I felt really old”. My angle was “getting old can be a good thing… like how wine gets better with age”.

I’m not sure if the two perspectives match up, but that’s the gist of this song. Jade was responsible for the melodies and most of the verse lyrics I think. I just remember trying to match chords to his vocals and coming up with the outro, which was my attempt at replicating the “I got soul but I’m not a soldier” crescendo of All These Things That I’ve Done by The Killers. That song (and the album Hot Fuss) came out around the time we wrote this and I was blown away - it's an amazing track from an amazing album.


As for the rest of the song… I have no idea what it sounds like or what were trying to sound like. At the time, we were outgrowing our genre-hopping inclinations and transitioning into a rock band and this song was very much an attempt to hit the rock button. I don’t think it really worked though - Harry Fahey does an amazing job on the drums to keep it all together, while Matt Hewson’s fingers are working overtime on the bass, but the whole thing is a bit too stop-start and lacking in groove.

Harry slightly disagrees:

“Just having a listen now and loving it. Great work everyone on tying together some really rockin’ verse patterns without destroying the groove of the tune.”

Here we are rocking the old TAFE caf a few months before writing this song (I think).

Hewy is also a fan of the song:

“I'd completely forgotten about this tune, but it was one of my favourites. Listening back, it was probably one of the only legitimately good rock tunes we came up with. The lines were cool, the vocals were loose but appropriate, and the change up with harmonies was a fun singalong.”

Personally I think we had plenty of better rock tunes, such as Identigirl, Ice-Cream Headaches and Karma Comes Around. But that’s just me.

Pic: Dylan Buzolich

The recording was done during a demoing session where we roped in our good pals Gus Franklin and Tony Peel to twiddle the dials while we played live in the studio. It was a fun session.

Anyway, now that I’m 35, I’m going to go away and write a song about getting old…..



Lyrics

What happened to you?
It’s like you’re see-through
Thrown out of the loop
It’s time to face the truth
New faces, no names
Less laugh lines in the frame
This is the new age
Too old to act this way

I feel like wine
Drink to my health
The passing of time
Increases my wealth

The shelf life of youth
Race past and show your proof
Didn’t you get the news
Back away you’ve been excused

I am the wine
Drink to my health