Iconic Australian band Custard makes a welcome return in 2020 with their superb eighth studio album, Respect All Lifeforms which is out now. The album kicks off with lead single, the irresistible nationwide lock down hit, Funky Again – a catchy pop offering that mentions the Russian winter of Operation Barbarossa AND home renovations in one convenient three-minute package. The accompanying video, directed by long-time Custard collaborator, ARIA Award winning Andrew Lancaster, skilfully combines the band’s three true loves – Jacobean architecture, social distancing, and late 70s New York funk. Glenn Thompson from the band speaks to Hi Fi Way about the album.
Fantastic that Custard are back with another great album.
Thank you so much, I’m so glad you like it.
Was it debated heavily in the band about whether now is the right time to release the album or follow the trend of pushing it back to later in the year?
We were in to the process of doing it when COVID-19 hit. Paul Medew spoke to us and said he didn’t know if this was the best or worst time to release an album. I agreed, I think there’s posiives and negatives. We can’t tour to promote it but people are hungry for new things to listen to so it is a bit each way.
How do you keep the momentum going when traditionally an album gets released you’d lock in and go on tour?
It’s hard to know, we love playing, it is great to get the reaction and see how the new songs go live because we’ve got no idea about what they are going to sound like live. It is a shame to miss out on that and who knows when we can do that again. I suppose when we can it will be another facet to the album. I’m not too worried about it, there’s lots of other things to worry about.
Has the band continued to write and work on new songs making the most of the time?
I’ve been in my studio as much as I can, not Custard things though at the moment. I’ve had a bit of a break from that for a while and get on with other stuff. It is a good time to get on with projects that I’ve had on the back burner and in the back of my mind.
Is it hard to evolve as a band but not alienate the fans too much with what you might do with an album?
We do whatever comes out, it is hard to control so we don’t think about that too much. The funny thing about it is when we start playing again, back in a room, the first half an hour was a shambles and then it fell in to place. When the four of us get together it sounds like Custard I think. Whenever we do new songs and the albums we have recorded since we’ve got back together to me sounds undeniably Custard. Sometimes we think it sounds like another version of one of our songs we’ve done before because there are a lot of similarities. We do sound much the same, lyrically it evolves, musically it isn’t as fast or snappy compared to when we were younger, it just comes out naturally. We don’t think about it too much.
Since getting back together is this the happiest you’ve been in Custard?
Yeah, it definitely is very satisfying, it always was so. It always has been easy and quite pleasant to play in Custard and to make albums. Everyone is pretty easy going about what we do, who does what, it all comes out pretty easily. I’m happy that we can do what we do do now, it doesn’t sound forced, it sounds good enough that we’re happy to keep going and doing it. The way it is done now is completely different to the way we used to do it and that’s very rewarding as we have a lot more control over what we are doing. We have a lot more skills in recording music so we don’t need to rely on other people, and all the costs of all that, as much as we used to.
Does the creative process work any differently for Custard these days?
For this last one we all happened to all be in the same place at the same time. We were heading over to Perth to play a festival over there, February last year, and we all decided we wanted to fly over a day before so we didn’t play the same day we flew. We were all at the same place at the same time so we booked a studio to see if we could do anything. David had a bunch of songs, I had a couple and Paul had a few which is often how it works. We plugged in, set up and just go. Luckily enough we recorded eight tracks that day and six of them are on the record. That got it started, that’s the process pretty much, just start playing a chord progression and some changes then see how it goes. This time it went really easily, when we made Comeback All Is Forgiven it was similar but there was some more jammy things going on that time because we spent more time together doing it and more opportunity playing to see what would happen.
I love the cover Take The Skinheads Bowling, what’s the background that one?
That’s a Camper Van Beethoven cover that we just started playing live. One day we said how about we do this one live, played it and thought that was good. We thought it would be nice to record a cover for an album which we haven’t done in a while.
Are there any plans to play any online shows to celebrate the release or are you going to wait it out? It would be great to hear the album in its entirety live.
We haven’t done that before, I think it would be fun to do play the album start to finish. There’s no plans for any online gigs at the moment. I’m not so sure about the whole idea, I can’t get excited about it, being in a room performing to a camera. I’ve been wondering about it as it might be ages before we can play, it might be fun to do but I haven’t worked out what would be the best way to do it maybe a guerrilla gig somewhere and someone record it. It is hard to make a whole band sound good for a live recording that way. Not sure about that! Initially when I started thinking about this I thought if I’m going to spend time in a room with everything mic’d up to play I’d rather record another album but that doesn’t really help promote this one.
Hopefully Custard can tour later in the year…
I hope so, it is so hard to tell at the moment because we are in that phase between can we or can’t we. Still, we’re lucky with the musical art form that we can record it and send it out so easily to people.
Interview By Rob Lyon