It is easy to get lost in the Melbourne alt-pop/rock/indie/electro scene and whichever flavour of the week band is being hailed as the second coming of Christ. Or Bowie. Either/or. Sift through the stove pipe-clad bearded rubble and you will find shiny alt-pop five-piece Buckley Ward. The Melbourne-based band have just released their new album So Pretend, which has been quietly yet constantly picking up favourable review after favourable review. Tone Deaf caught up with lead singer Jimmy Allen to talk about the at times difficult making of So Pretend, hecklers and zombies.
Having started work in late 2010, the early sessions So Pretend sessions were scrapped. “We started demoing with a different version of the band and it didn’t really work so we didn’t really start writing properly until mid-2011. We mixed it over summer.”
“We did a record in 2010 and decided we’d do another one. We went to a studio and tried to do it and it just didn’t work. I got a bit disenfranchised and just started doing stuff at home. Two of the people that were in the band ended up leaving and then the record started to take shape. It took a fair while, like probably six months, for it to come out.”
For a record that floats on its effortless pop melodies, the nuts and bolts of putting it together was another matter altogether. “It was weird because it could have been so many different records as well. I find that really odd. We could have just pushed through and said, ‘Right, we’ll do it now,’ and it would have been shit and totally different,” says Allen.
“We did it all at home … when we started it the first time round we went to a proper studio and I traded a guitar amp for studio time so it was a bit of a mess. I was stuck in my little horrible room and it was cold, [the songs] kind of came alive through doing the again and again and again. There were so many songs that I had that were terrible but eventually they start to take shape. It starts to come alive and you think ‘Oh, that’s how it’s going to sound’. It’s interesting.”
Allen continues, “It was a weird process; it wasn’t organic but that’s what happens if you’re in a room for a really long time. Interesting stuff comes out because you start to go a bit nuts.”
Having finally finished So Pretend, Buckley Ward recently released the video for their single ‘Into The Darkening Blue’. The video is all sweeping shots. And Spam. And Zombies. Laughing, the singer explains, “I love film clips that are beautifully shot, really simple and make you think, ‘What the fuck is happening here?’
“We thought we’d do one for ‘Into The Darkening Blue’ and we will make it really boring, basically like a band playing in a warehouse – you know the basic film clip. For some reason I was like, I don’t know, what if we do some more interesting shots like a hand under a door and make it really subtle? The guys who made the clip were like, ‘You mean like zombies?’ and then it turned into something with a narrative. It’s cool, it looks really good but it did go a lot more zombie than we originally intended.”
Having recently supported the likes of Howling Bells, San Cisco and Big Scary, Buckley Ward is kicking off a national tour this month. When talking about favourite venues, one springs to mind in particular. “Anywhere big is great because the PA is usually really good. We have played a bunch of shows at the Northcote Social Club and that is really nice venue. “
Playing a full run of headline shows, do they ever worry about the ever present drunken heckler lurking about in the back? “I’m a bit of an arsehole so I love getting heckled. I don’t know why.”
One particular incident stands out for Allen “I remember one guy, we played at the Brunswick Hotel one night and he came in. He was like this old Italian guy who was completely shitfaced and we played this one song that we had that was a bit more upbeat.”
“He was dancing along and doing this weird old kind of dance in front of us and there weren’t many people there. I looked at the set list and there wasn’t really anything upbeat left so I played a slow song and he was just standing there like looking at us like ‘No, it’s not hot! It’s not hot enough!’ He was literally standing two metres in front of me, in the middle of the song, just standing there shaking his head on the dance floor and a few of our friends were sitting watching going, ‘Well, this is awkward.”
“People are generally usually a bit too nice. People will stand through something horrible and just watch it and go, ‘Oh that was great,’” laughs Allen.