Melbourne’s Initials got the official launch of their new album ‘Leave Expired‘ taken care of over the weekend, and will spend March / April touring around the country in support of the release which is out now on Arrest Records. This week, Adam from the band answered our On The Record questions to tell us all about the release. Expand this post to take a read of his answers and see their upcoming tour dates while streaming the tracks. You can grab the album now on vinyl [Here].
—- Listen while you read —-
Tell us about the release title.
The record is called ‘Leave Expired’, which is also the title of the opening track. That song / title has special significance to us, as we’d taken a short break from playing and in those few weeks all of us had experienced the loss of somebody close to us and there was a job redundancy on top of that, just for good measure. When we got together in the jam room for the first time after that, the music that came out of us was dark and fierce but also a massive release and I guess it showed us how much music helps keep our shit in check. The song title comes from your leave balance expiring and having to return to work and life, while making an attempt to hold everything together. Wow, what a downer of a start to an interview, haha!
Tell us about the artwork.
I (Adam) handled the artwork myself. One thing I wanted to achieve was to allude to the musical content in a visual sense, keeping it aesthetically pleasing but with an inherent sense of tension and uneasiness that’s hanging out in the background but still very obvious. While keeping the record title and the themes of the title track in mind, I’d also been toying around with concepts of existentialism and wanted to somewhat ambiguously symbolise a general idea of trying to make the best for yourself in circumstances and the unavoidable trade off that comes along with it. While the front cover is quite sparse and involves some symbolism related to the title of the record, when you flip it over the scene continues with a grainy image of a man holding using what looks to be an umbrella to protect himself from weather, but upon closer inspection it’s in fact a juxtaposition with a jellyfish, the stinging tentacles actually causing more harm than the original need for protection. A remedy worse than the disease. I haven’t actually explained anything behind the artwork concepts to anyone, even the other guys in the band – they let me run loose with my ideas, so this will be the first chance they get to learn more about the artwork!
What format/s will it be released on and how will it be packaged?
It’s currently available on vinyl and as a digital download, a small run of CDs may come down the track a little. We’re really excited to have a few variants of vinyl colours – milky clear with green and black splatter, translucent green with light green splatter and black for those with more classic tastes. It comes in a matte finish jacket with digital download and each record has had a hand stamped recycled envelope containing lyrics and liner notes inserted. We love the personal touch that vinyl can offer over CDs – I thought the idea of a sealed envelope insert was a little different that adds to the tactile nature of a record experience, and it also ties into the lyrics of ‘Drones’.
Who will it be released through, and when?
Arrest Records Australia have released the record and we are really stoked to be working with a label that shares the same ideals as us, not to mention has also worked with some of our favourite Australian bands. The record has just been released and we had an official launch for it on February 22 at Public Bar, North Melbourne with Fear Like Us, Corpus, Kissing Booth and Daybreak, with tour dates in support of the record along the east coast going through until the end of March.
Tell us about the studio and why you chose to record there?
We decided to record at Three Phase in Brunswick again, we recorded our debut 7” there just after we formed. A lot of our favourite Australian records in recent years have been recorded or mixed at Three Phase and it was the logical choice. Myself – I love the drum sound that can be achieved in the live room, there’s a really nice vintage SSL console and schmick preamps, as well as lots of great mics at the studio to help us get the sound we were after.
Tell us about the producer / engineer and why you chose to record with them?
We recorded with Sam Johnson, who also mixed the record, and engineered and mixed our 7” – we had each worked with Sam on various recording projects at Three Phase prior to forming the band, which also made for an easy choice – it always makes the recording process so much easier when there’s mutual understanding between the band and engineer as to how each other works. Not to mention, Sam also engineered and mixed A Death In The Family’s ‘Small Town Stories’ so that’s pretty much the kicker right there. We sent the mixes over to Jay Maas of Defeater, who mastered them at Getaway Recording in Massachusetts, he’s doing some great stuff.
Did you go into the writing process with a clear direction in mind?
We were all quite adamant that we wanted an album with no two tracks that are were alike, but were also a cohesive package as a collective. I guess there’s some stuff that’s more noisy and discordant like ‘The Ticking Clock’, then there’s the melodic, 90′s-esque emo influence on ‘Call To Reason’, ‘Take Time’ is a pretty straight up punk rock blast. There’s some more restrained and atmospheric moments and there’s also some moments where we’re all playing as hard as we can, and I think it encompasses both our range of influences as well as what we were trying to achieve musically and sonically. Thematically; as far as lyrical content is concerned, there’s some personal introspection dealing with loss, the breakdown of relationships and themes of hope, compassion and standing against repression. There’s definitely a few good smacks of social and political commentary. ‘Drones’ is from the alternating viewpoints of a friend serving in the armed forces on the other side of the world and the loved one at home he’s writing to; ‘Between Lands’ is from the viewpoint of a refugee attempting to make a new life in Australia.
Were you listening to anything in particular during the writing / recording process that influenced the songs at all?
We’re all very much influenced by, and listen to a lot of the types of bands that played at the Arthouse (and now the Rev), and I think the ones that influenced us most are those that have an unmistakably Australian sound like A Death In The Family, Blueline Medic, Hoodlum Shouts and The Nation Blue. To me, A Death In The Family just exemplifies ‘the sound of Melbourne.’
Were there any albums you were referencing to aim for a certain type of sound production wise?
We were aiming for a record that deliberately wasn’t too polished, that gave a warm and organic feel (and sounds great on vinyl), akin to something like Restorations first LP or Small Brown Bike’s ‘Dead Reckoning’. We all really like the human element you can hear on records like those, there’s nothing worse than an album that has it’s soul taken away from it with over-polished production. While taking some queues from albums like those; at the same time we also wanted to make a record that sounded unique, production-wise in comparison to a lot of other stuff that’s coming out at the moment and I reckon we did that.
How long did you spend in the studio recording?
I think it was about 7 days, divided up into various sessions in between member’s work commitments and doing stuff where we could.
Tell us a little about the recording process the band used?
Like I mentioned, we really wanted to keep the human element present in this record. We recorded with no click track, which allows the songs to naturally ebb and flow – to give energy where the song needs it and likewise, to hold back and give it some tension where required. We also wanted to make an album that sounded true to our live show – being that we are only a three-piece, we didn’t want ridiculous amounts of different guitar parts overdubbed and walls of multiple vocal harmonies and it not be something we can pull off live. Since we’ve put up the record for streaming there’s actually been quite a few people make special mention that the record is a very good indicator of our live sound, so I’m happy with that!
Was this any different to previous processes you have used?
When we recorded the tracks for our 7” with Sam, the studio was basically set up like a rehearsal room and we recorded live off the floor with all of us and all of our gear in the same room together. For this recording we went with the more traditional track by track approach to recording.
Any guests involved? if so, who.. and what did they do?
Yes! We were really, really stoked to have Jamie Hay come in and record some guest vocals on the closing track ‘Between Lands’. Jamie’s bands have all had a huge influence on us so it was really awesome to have him as a contributor. We also had Grace from Kissing Booth sing on ‘Call To Reason’, quite a while ago we had decided that we’d really like to include some female vocals on an album track and despite Grace’s and Jim’s voices being at complete opposite ends of the vocal spectrum, they simultaneously contrast and work together really well on that track. Kat from Ramshackle Army came in and played violin on ‘Leave Expired’ and ‘Drones’ and she absolutely killed it. We really love the different dimension and musical textures the violin adds to those tracks and a few people have mentioned that Conation comes to mind, so that’s gotta be a good thing!
Any particular equipment outside your usual live gear used in the process?
Gear wise, it was pretty minimal – I used a Frankenstein drum kit built out of pieces of several different kits that gave me the sound I was looking for. Pete brought a few of his SGs and a Les Paul into the studio but ended up using a lightly modded Fender Tele that gave him the tone he was searching for on a lot of the guitar tracks. Jim used a modded Fender Jazz bass that he ran into a Darkglass pedal, which gave the bass tone the nice amount of snarl that we were looking for.
Any memorable studio moments?
We had a whiteboard divided up by song and part to show us what had been tracked and what was still left to do.
The working title of the album was at the top of the board and was constantly updated to a new working title whenever there was some new (probably phallic) in-joke we’d made, I don’t think there’s any I can mention here for purposes of decency… It was always a good time coming into the studio late at night after work and seeing what the ‘new’ title of the record was going to be, haha. We also had tonnes of fun playing with the ‘de-esser’ filter and making all of Jim’s vocals sound like he was singing with a lisp and putting ridiculous autotune on vocal tracks to make a capella remixes. Oh, also the day before I started drum tracking I’d had a bit of an online stoush with a very prominent Australian music industry figure that I won’t go into here, but there was a lot of time in the studio spent almost in tears laughing at all the unintelligible hate-tweets I was receiving (and continued to receive for about a week!) from ‘fans’ of his. What a great laugh!
Any additional tracks recorded that didn’t make the cut but may see the light of day sometime?
We recorded a single track called ‘Worn Thin’ about 6 months previously, especially for the Restless Years compilation that I put together. We re-recorded it with Sam with the idea that we’d put it on the album but ended up omitting it because we felt it worked better as a stand alone track.
What track/s are you most looking forward to playing live?
I really love playing ‘Leave Expired’ live, the song materialised around a kinda airy, yet bombastic drum groove I had written, which is also the intro to the song. We’ve been putting it first in the recent set lists and I love starting our set with big roomy drums and restrained guitars that progressively build and becomes busier and heavier as the song progresses – I guess that song runs the gamut of the musical spectrum of the band. For our launch, we will be joined by Kat on violin for this song too, and I’m really excited about that.
How would you compare the final product to previous releases?
Our previous release was our debut 7”, which was recorded literally within a few weeks of us becoming a band. I think those tracks capture the rawness and energy of being a brand new band, but ‘Leave Expired’ provides a much better indication of where we’re at musically.
Anything else you want to say or about the release?
Thanks everyone who has supported us in the relatively short time we’ve been playing! If you like what you hear, you can pick up a copy of Leave Expired from your local good independent record store, or through the Arrest Records bigcartel. We’re really looking forward to getting out and hitting a few different states to play on the back of the record with some of our favourite bands. Let’s have a few beers and high fives or hugs.