You Am I are back even bigger and better than ever before with their eleventh studio album The Lives Of Others. Wow! The pandemic has made for challenging times for many bands and You Am I were no different recording the album from different states forcing them to find a new way to work to deliver one of their strongest and most powerful albums of their career. Hi Fi Way spoke to Davey Lane about the creation of this mighty fine album.
Congratulations on the new album The Lives Of Others, I was well and truly blown away.
Thanks man! The last few records we have done I have been quite happy with them and to a point listen back to them. I don’t listen back to things too often. When I have listened to the last few I think we could of done this or that better, switch this bit around with this but this record it has been the most hands on we have been ourselves ever and maybe that’s why we’re extra proud of it. The songs are really strong and it’s a good thing.
The band must be chuffed to have The Waterboy played on commercial radio?
Absolutely, when Tim and I went in to Triple M the other week to do an interview was kind of weird when you think you have exhausted all those opportunities as a band. Maybe they played Jewels & Bullets and Cathy’s Clown back then but just to know you’re getting a crack again reminds you that there is a bit of juice left in the ‘ole tank.
Did 2020 end up being a silver lining in a lot of ways for You Am I compared to other bands?
I think the record benefited from having that extra time to hone it and also, for me personally, I’m really grateful that I have got my recording gear set up in the next room in my house. I wake up, have a coffee, have a shower and go next door and start working on music which is godsend for me. It would have sent me insane if I didn’t have that outlet to put the record I did last year and a whole bunch of musical things that has kept me sane to have that little space there to work on stuff.
Reading some of the information about the album it sounded like a new album might not have been a yes decision?
It wasn’t something in the time leading up to, we toured pretty extensively in the back half of 2019, we did a lot of regional touring and that was great but I don’t think it left the band too terribly energised to say let’s make another record. There was a few months and I think we played in Adelaide literally a week before everything started closing down. 2020 had its plan for what was to happen for all of us. I get really restless and I was working on my music of my own as well. Talking to Tim, Andy and Russ on the phone, I don’t think any of us are complete luddites but at least started throwing around ideas around which was what we did. Tim would come over to my place and we were only working on songs with a view to working on demos and sending them around. With us Victorians down here not being able to travel we couldn’t meet up with Andy and Russ so let’s work on some songs and shoot these ideas around to everybody so when it becomes time when we could meet together in a room we’ve got everything worked out. We had time to work on the songs and our own parts. This was in March and April thinking that whatever that was happening in 2020 would only last a month or two but we just kept working. There was never any spoken part of the process where we said to each other we wouldn’t be making demos any more or we’re making a record. The word organic is bit over used in my opinion but that’s exactly what it was. There was nothing spoken until we got a point where we were close to having finished an album now. It was fun, it was a lot of work, a lot of editing but time was of no essence.
Was there ever any concern about what Tim had described as ‘losing his funk’ and what that might mean in terms of writing new songs?
The benefit of having the time and also saying we are at a point where we wouldn’t be able to see each other for a while and absence made the heart grow fonder. I think the thing that having time away from intense touring which we were doing in the back half of 2019, I don’t know, I spoke to Tim a lot about what he was thinking at the time and he wanted to explore other ways. That’s the thing with Tim, he is never Tim, I don’t want to speak on his behalf, but he always wants to challenge himself. I’ve know the guy for twenty four years now and I have always found that a really inspiring thing. Look at the guy! He is fifty one and still looks like he is built to play rock ‘n roll music. As much as Tim wanted to explore trying different things, he isn’t the best song writer in Australia by happy stance, it’s what he is meant to do.
What was your reaction reading the lyrics to The Waterboy for the first time?
I heard it all at the same point, I’m sitting in the chair now when Tim came in and played the song to me for the first time. It wasn’t even a thing of let’s have a listen to the song and look at the arrangements. Tim has always got really clear ideas as to how he wants things to go and with the band coming in. We’ve all got our own idiosyncrasies as musicians and when it’s all pulled together that’s what makes it sound like the band. When he first played The Waterboy to me we were recording it literally. What you hear of his guitar and vocal on the actual record was the first time that he played it to me. What you hear when you put the record on, what he is singing and playing there, is what I was hearing exactly for the first time. We ended up not changing his guitar and vocal for that song. Obviously, there are all kinds of rye references in his lyrics that I love and find fucking heart breaking or really funny, that one all the geographical references I knew what he was talking about. The way that the song ties in all these different things in three and a half minutes is why he is the best song writer in the country.
The way that you worked on the album will this set a blue print with how future recordings might go?
I don’t think so, nah! It was born of the necessity of how we had to do it. I certainly think it will make things easier in future for the writing process. Nowadays bands don’t have to much of a budget to make records with, it will make pre-production and the writing process so much easier to do it like that because we are doing it on our own clocks. We’re not spending our own money or anyone else’s doing it. I think it has opened up a new way of making preparations for a new record. I think next time we would all like to be locking eyes with each other when we’re going for takes of songs.
How would you describe this album sonically to the most staunchest of You Am I fans?
I have always jokingly referred to how You Am I sounds as punk Floyd because there’s the immediacy of really short, sharp, punchy pop songs and with a little bit more of an exploratory thing going on. I think there are equal measures of all that on this record. I don’t really find it comparable to any, certainly there are bits of pieces of songs where something like Readers’ Comments could be on Hourly Daily or people could argue that Rosedale Redux could have been on Sound As Ever or Hi Fi Way and that’s fair enough. I think there are other songs such as Rubbish Day I don’t think could have been on any other You Am I record to date. That’s the thing, there’s enough of that exploration going on so songs like The Third Level just have this familiarity to them and have really great choruses to them. Once that song sets up its place it sounds like a classic You Am I song to me.
What is the story behind DRB Hudson?
Lyrically it’s about a poet, Tim would occasionally read some of his work. It was a little bit of duffer for the cat for Tim. Tim came in and played that song to me which was very much in my wheelhouse as a music fan. It came together and hearing what Rusty does on that song, Tim and I were locked up in our houses, and we felt nervous on the days that Andy and Russ were going in to the studio. Not because we were unsure about what they were doing because it always has been a group thing in the studio putting songs down. Hearing what Andy and Russ had done on The Waterboy, The Third Level and DRB Hudson and coming back at the end of the day with rough mixes we got sent, it was an emotional thing in my room here and hearing us all play together on these songs. We make bones we weren’t together playing these songs at the same time it was an emotional thing.
How was it getting back together and playing these songs live?
Nothing short of glorious, I have missed us being in the same room. I can’t speak for my friends but they feel the same to. It has been a lovely thing doing what we’re supposed to be doing together again.
Was there much discussion about the different colours of vinyl available?
Absolutely not, that was all Rusty’s mastermind. He came up with the ideas for all of that and that’s another one of the facets for this record being the most hands on its creation and gestation. Rusty does a lot of work for Daptone and when it comes to records and vinyl and things like being rolled out we have one of the best heads we could imagine in the band so why not have him curate that.
Are you looking forward to playing Spring Loaded? It must feel like a Big Day Out/ Homebake Alumni reunion?
Yeah, a lot of those bands are people we see on occasion anyway. It is always fun to see all those groups and when we are doing our own shows we like to keep our ear to the ground with what’s new and out there at the moment. We don’t have our head buried in the 90s but goes without saying people really enjoy that kind of thing. It is nice to play with those groups and hear what they are up to at the moment. We will be playing a lot of our new record on those shows and a lot of those other bands will be as well. It will be a great thing.
Are there plans for You Am I headline tour at some stage once there is a bit more certainty with the current climate?
I think there will be but all that stuff is starting to find its feet again. I dare say we will be looking at doing our own thing at some point. We aren’t thinking to far ahead at this point, last year there wasn’t any forward planning as to us making a new record so we are happy just to get to this point and scope it out from there. Who knows! As the world starts to gain some normality it would be amazing to go overseas and play these songs but who can say when that might be.
Interview By Rob Lyon
Also on tour with Spring Loaded