Slow Fades are a new project with an impeccable Australian indie pedigree. Led by songwriter Ben Birchall (Klinger, The Corrections, Duke Batavia) and multi-instrumentalist Dave Rogers (D.Rogers, Ben Lee), Slow Fades is the widescreen sound of four musicians who know each other inside and out, but are still searching for something just over the canyon.
Their debut EP Canyon Songs uses their well-worn indie rock as a starting point, but has one eye on the bittersweet sound of the 70s rock of Tom Petty, Jackson Browne and Bruce Springsteen. The result is a polished, accomplished debut release, produced by multi-instrumentalist Rogers. Veering from the hooky, anthemic Leave The Canyon to the spiky Knocking, to the George Harrison-via-Brian Eno drone of Vikings, Canyon Songs is a debut brimming with confidence. Ben Birchall answers a few questions for Hi Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles.
Is the formation of Slow Fades the most excited you have been musically?
For a long time, yes.
How did Slow Fades get together?
We’ve all played together in various bands for the last few decades. Most notably, we all played together in a band called Klinger in the earlier parts of this century. I had written a new batch of songs that I felt suited a band more than a solo format, and couldn’t think of a better group of musicians to bring them to life. So early last year we got into a room to see if it worked, and it did.
Is there any hidden meaning behind the name?
I’m not sure it’s that hidden. We’re a bunch of guys who would be considered well past their prime in an indie rock sense, trying our best to slow down the inevitable decline of our creative relevance. Too deep?
Do you still remember the vibe of those early jam sessions?
The vibe was really relaxed. We didn’t want to put any pressure on it, and nobody was asking for it to happen. So we just ran through the new songs to see where they’d go. It was apparent really quickly that we still had a really great chemistry that can only come from playing together for a long time. Our drummer Darren and I have been playing together for twenty two years. Dave, Darren and I have been playing together for twenty years. Glenn and I have been in four bands together now. But rather than fall back on old habits, we tried to use that chemistry as a basis to try new things and push ourselves.
Did the songs for the EP come together quickly?
I wrote Leave The Canyon and Eucalyptus in a really quick burst, which set the tone for what Slow Fades was going to be. Vikings and My Damn Life also came together soon after that. With the sound established, I dipped back into my back catalogue of songs that had never found a home, and Fall Fall Fall and Knocking fit the widescreen, 70’s in-spired sound we were after. So some were super quick, others have been kicking around for…gee…ten years.
How was the recording experience?
We’re in the ridiculously fortunate position of having a really accomplished producer and engineer in the band. Dave led the sessions, which started in a little studio at his work, and we finished at his home studio. That meant we were never watching the clock, and we had time to experiment, play with structures, and layer different instruments and sounds. Dave’s wife Amy played strings on it. Darren played percussion by rubbing a pas-ta strainer on his pants. It took a little longer than we thought it would, but we’re thrilled with the result.
Did the songs change much from when you wrote them to recording them?
Some of the songs changed drastically, others were pretty straight. Knocking is pretty much as we ran it in the rehearsal room, but Vikings is unrecognisable from the version that we originally recorded. It was a guitar-based, almost folky thing. Dave took it into his studio and painstakingly pieced together samples of eastern instruments, synths and an amazing George Harrison slide guitar. Completely different to what I had in mind, and I fucking love it.
What are the shared influences for Slow Fades?
I guess our shared influences are great indie rock bands like You Am I, Sloan, Wilco, The Strokes etc. Then around the edges, we have slightly different tastes. Dave loves Guided By Voices enough that he flew to the states to go to two shows this month, Daz leans to-wards harder edged So-Cal punk, Glenn has real rootsy, country tastes, and I’m on a real 70s tip at the moment – Jackson Browne, Tom Petty, The Boss, Brian Eno.
Where to next for Slow Fades?
Figuring out our live sound, and giving the songs a chance to breathe and find their own space on stage. We’ve only played three shows, so there’s plenty of room to grow. We’ve also added Amy Bennett to our lineup, playing keys and it’s really added another dimension already. We’re looking into some interstate tours, so we can go and find our audience. Adelaide radio has been super supportive, so that’s on the list. Then we’ll head back into the studio in around March to get the next release underway.
Interview by Rob Lyon