Romeo Walker Track By Track On New Album ‘The Shape Up’

With introductory singles Mood & Transformer inaugurating Romeo Walker as a prolific, experimental musical figurehead, Benjamin Witt (The Chemist, collaborator with Pond, Empire of The Sun & Meg Mac) has forged onward under the Walker moniker, delivering a smooth, Cuban-rock-fusion titled Ketchup, in preparation for his debut album The Shape Up. A continued evolution of sound & spirit for Romeo Walker, Ketchup functions as a notable showcase of the additional layers within his creative palate.

Radiating warmth and vibrance from sultry guitar lines, paired with Cuban-inspired percussive elements grooving underneath, Ketchup is luscious & oscillating. Inspired by rap and beat poetry, Romeo Walker spits surrealistic jive talk about foredoomed characters, who are compromised by their self-indulgence and oblivion. The record is a culmination of Walker’s influences, experiences and exploits throughout an on-going, illustrious career. Guided by psychedelic pop, experimental music, Ethiopian Jazz & Cuban grooves, the album forms a noir-esque, rock record to be released in collaboration with Perth label Tone City Records. Benjamin takes Hi Fi Way through The Shape Up track by track.

The record fades in with some warped jazz chords and a repeated bass line melodically informed by Ethiopian jazz & sonically informed by 80’s post-punk. It’s a turbo tempo and a few minutes of trash talking a clown lounging in his kangaroo court condemning everyone’s endeavours in onanistic self-regard.

This kind of ended up feeling like a Nick Cave meets Mulatu Astatke swamp rock number, I think. The verses are portraits of panic and a loss of control, however, the refrain is about overcoming and breaking on through to the other side. It’s a three minute espresso shot for the soul.

Ketchup talks of foredoomed characters compromised by their self-indulgence and oblivion. It’s informed by Cuban music, rap and Chinese erhu music. A few years back I was watching martial arts film Hero and loved the music. I went home from my mates’ place and tried to find a way to imitate the Chinese Urhu on guitar using volume swells, vibrato, pentatonic scales and a style of phrasing. You can hear me using this technique for the guitar hook.

This is a modal piece and a sonic sketch of a modern mood. I was going for a sci-fi film noir atmosphere with a beat inspired by Timbaland’s beat for Ludicras – The Potion and Moondog’s percussion work. I had thoughts about political discourse manifesting as entertainment or a form of sport and the commodification of outrage for ad revenue. All that is juxtaposed with a “car crash farm”, the endless tragic events we briefly observe and sigh at before driving on. The title mood is somewhat sardonic given its place within the online vernacular.

This song is about imagination, new ideas and perseverance. It originated on prepared guitar where I thread card between the strings to give it a Kalimba like quality. I also tuned the third string down a tone to disorient myself a little and leave some harmonic occurrences to chance rather than by conscious design. The string arrangement is by Josiah Padmanabham. He’s one of the most musical people I’ve ever met. It was a lot of fun working with him on the arrangement, sending references back and forth, pushing each other. The four women who played the strings are elite musicians and it was truly impressive witnessing them nail it so quickly.

I wrote this after watching a film about a murderous cab driver, though I thought the film was kind of shitty. I put it all down fast when writing/demo-ing, not ever intending to record the track properly or for it to be heard by anyone. It was just something to do whilst drinking wine on a Friday night. I think I was reminiscing and listening to some garage rock bands at the time like The Sonics and The Gories. I had forgot I ever made the track but when me and Sam (co-producer, engineer) were going through my hard drive listening to demos, he thought it’d be cool to have a track like this on the record.

This is the only track I wrote in the studio. Me and Sam got turnt up one night after a session and we were talking about records having musical passages that aren’t exactly complete ‘songs’ and how they can make an LP feel more whole and less like a collection of songs. So I stumbled back down stairs and kind of spewed out the vibe and words without thinking too much. We used that performance as the guide and tracked everything to that. None of the original vocals were kept because I sounded how I looked that night.

The impetus for this track was thinking what it might sound like if the Avalanches made a track with jazz singer Chet Baker. It’s about ephemeral periods or moments in life that leave indelible impressions.

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