Exciting times for Melbourne three-piece Exquisitor who have released their new album The Luck Of The Draw. Together they share a belief that music should always keep an audience guessing as well as entertained. Expect to hop across genres as they bring their unique mix of songs that are sometimes serious, sometimes funny but always there to make you think. Jesse, Alan and Ken drop by to answer some questions about their new album and how they are managing their way through the current lock downs.
How is the band navigating its way through the current health crisis?
JESSE: We were really fortunate that we were over 90% of the way through mixing and producing the album before COVID hit in earnest. We all live in Melbourne, so we were locked down for most of March, April and May, and now we’re locked down again and can’t meet up. That’s frustrating but we are staying in touch and we are fortunate to live in an age where we can keep in contact remotely. We had one jam in a studio to get back to songwriting when restrictions were a little more relaxed, but we’re back to zoom catch ups and a group chat at the moment.
ALAN: Although it’s frustrating not to be able to catch up, its worth focusing on the things you can still do. So for the first part of the lock down that was getting the album completed. Now with the next phase it gives a chance to kick off the songwriting process for the next album. We all love making music so it is awesome to have that network of friends to keep working on something fun with all the doom and gloom around.
Is it hard for the band to try and maintain momentum and try to release an album?
JESSE: The album was mostly recorded early last year, and we’ve been mixing, producing and adding layers since then. We did have to record some backup vocal tracks and other bits and pieces during isolation. Some of our attempts to finalise edits and mixing over Zoom were challenging to say the least!
ALAN: For me the biggest disappointment is that we cant play any gigs at the moment to launch the album. I guess it’s just something we will have to wait for. At least we have the technologies now to release music digitally, and build our fan base for when we can gig again.
KEN: I think it was hardest for me as the designated engineer/mixer in the band with a decent home studio. Having everything always available to record can lead conversely to increased procrastination. It’s a bit like the person that lives the closest is always late. I’m rarely late to be clear though, that’s rude.
Congratulations on the album, is it a relief that you got there in the end?
JESSE: Absolutely! We were chuffed when we got the master back and heard how everything had come together. The album was about two years in the making, and our third anniversary as a band has just passed so it’s great to have something to show for it!
ALAN: It’s awesome to hear it all come together. There were periods of time where certain tracks felt like they weren’t working in the recording compared to our live sound. But we persevered as a band and tried a variety of approaches until we made it work. I’m really proud of what we produced in the end.
KEN: we had our third anniversary and nobody got me anything?
What did you think when you played it back for the first time?
JESSE: We aim to keep the audience surprised and engaged with our music, so I was pleased that we managed to achieve a diversity of styles and feels through the album but also maintain a consistent Exquisitor sound.
ALAN: I’ve been running a lot since being in lock down. So as soon as we got the master back the first thing I did was download it to my phone and hit the footpath. I remember being pumped with the energy and diversity of tracks that we put together. After being so close to parts of songs in the mix, it was so refreshing to step back and hear it in its entirety. Definitely got a bit of extra pace that day.
KEN: this sounds great but I’ve heard these songs like a thousand times each already. Can we please make another album now guys? Also… I hope these ear worms colonise some new skulls out there and those poor souls in turn come to respect their new overlords.
How would you describe the Exquisitor to the uninitiated?
JESSE: We all have different influences and we’ve tried to allow each of our creative visions to shine in this album. I think the album and the band’s sound really reflects the broad array of music that has inspired each of us. We’ve found a way to use our instruments to support each other’s vision for particular songs. Often throughout the songwriting process one of us would take the lead arranging or writing a particular song. Another member of the band would suddenly suggest beats, licks, riffs or vocal parts that the lead arranger hadn’t thought of, and those small suggestions or tweaks would take the song to the next level. We write in a really collaborative, open way and I think that comes through in the music we create.
ALAN: At the core we are a three piece rock band with a real passion for mixing up our sound and playing different styles. We have fun and don’t take things too seriously.
KEN: I’m in this band called Exquisitor with two other guys. Nice dudes to hang out with. Three nerds making rock and roll. Well we play lots of different types of music really, it’s pretty fun. I’ve heard people call us punk which is pretty funny. I guess we play too loud.
How was the studio experience and did it all go to plan?
JESSE: The original plan was to release a four or five track EP, and we recorded a set of drum tracks to start with on a day in the studio. After working those tracks up over the next couple of months, we booked into the studio again and laid down the remainder of the album because we were so pleased with how the first few tracks were sounding. We weren’t able to get back into the studio to record live drums for Crumbs due to COVID, so I recorded my part on the electric drum kit in Ken’s home studio. We chose to keep the song on the album because we love the track, but we also thought it was a nice little homage to how COVID impacted this album’s story.
ALAN: It was really a collaborative and educational experience for me. I’d previously been involved in recording a bunch of demos but this was the first time to be involved in the detail and focus that it’s required to create an album. I think the recording mostly went smoothly although we probably didn’t anticipate just how much time it would take. Ken loves getting new music equipment, and during the recording process he’d get some new plug-in and we’d have to rework some of the mixing. Ultimately it was great for getting the right sound out of the songs, but tough in the moment where you realise everything you worked on the previous weekend is redundant!
KEN: I think we’re ready for next time now. It’ll be faster and more efficient but also more elaborate now that I understand more of the production possibilities. It’s an endless learning curve though.
What bands would you consider as being significant influences for Exquisitor?
JESSE: My main influences include punk rock bands like Rise Against, Rancid, Green Day and Bad Religion, but my drumming has always been influenced by Rage Against the Machine, System of a Down and TOOL.
I try to draw on all of these different influences when I’m writing a drum part for a song, trying to work up something that draws on the rhythmic creativity of Danny Carey, the driving power of punk rock drummers like Brooks Wackerman and the flourishes and fusion of John Dolmayan and Brad Wilk’s drumming.
ALAN: I’d have to start with Mike Patton and his array of bands and projects. When Ken and I first met he was one of the artists that we both had at the top of our lists. Other bands that I like and bring some influence are Soundgarden, Queens of the Stone Age, The Mars Volta and Radiohead.
KEN: I think QOTSA and other 90’s era rock is the most obvious influence. I’m a huge fan of bands like Ween and King Gizzard. A little bit of Primus influence sneaks through in my bass playing but it’s a shadow of the man.
What’s the next challenge for the band?
JESSE: We have some new material we’ve been working on that we want to polish up in the studio as soon as we can get back together in person. We’re excited to use The Luck of the Draw as a springboard to our next project together.
Our next album will pick up and expand on some of the things we developed in The Luck of the Draw, including the experimental album closer Twitches and the heavy, melodic instrumental section in Tuned and Retuned.
ALAN: I think that will depend on how long we have COVID restrictions in Melbourne. If we are in lock down for some time then I think we will have to adapt our songwriting approach to make the most of collaborating remotely. But hopefully things will improve sooner, and then it will be about getting back into regular jamming and gigs. Depending on which way it goes I think will influence our second album. Either way I’m excited about what we might create next.
KEN: Convincing the guys to do a concept album next.
How much are you looking forward to touring resuming?
JESSE: We can’t wait to get out and gig post-COVID. We played a show in January this year with some friends at the Retreat Hotel in Brunswick and we had a blast. Little did we know it would be our last show for some time!
ALAN: Really looking forward to playing live again, but I must admit I’m pretty apprehensive about what the live scene is going to look like. It’s been so tough on venues at the moment. I really hope we can have a fast recovery. I hope that people continue to support local music.
What is something that people don’t know about Exquisitor?
JESSE: One of the cool little Easter eggs in The Luck of the Draw is the outro to Twitches, which was sung and performed by Alan’s daughter Phoebe. I think it’s the perfect finish to the sometimes hectic 11 tracks on the album and it leaves the listener with a kind of hopeful feeling after the brooding darkness of Twitches.
KEN: bands with names derived from Latin are cool.
Interview By Rob Lyon