Last Friday marked the release of Husky’s stunning new album Ruckers Hill (out via Liberation) a result of a feverish song writing period during late 2013 for Husky Gawenda.
Gawenda explained the making of Ruckers Hill as “this was really hard. Albums are difficult to make.”
“I was alone some of the time, but a lot of the time I had Gideon (keys and co-producer) working with me, testing, re-arranging, and being brutally honest about what he thought worked and what didn’t.’’
But finally after lots of songwriting, struggles and visits between Melbourne and Sydney to record we have the stunning new release from Husky. To celebrate its release, Gawenda has given us a track by track run down of the making of Ruckers Hill.
Strap yourselves in ’cause it’s a long one, but totally worth the time.
“For four years I lived in Northcote, Melbourne, with a girl, in a house, with a big back garden and a sunny front porch, in an old rambling falling apart cottage full of charm and dust and mint growing up through the window sills and little spiders hiding in the corners.
We used to walk, at night, up to the top of Ruckers Hill where we could see the city sparkling in the distance, arm in arm, talking of our future as if it were certain, as if it already existed. That time is gone now. And yet I search for it still. For that time, that place, those dreams of the future, those city lights shining in the night.
Months before I wrote ‘Saint Joan’, a melody came to me and with it these lines:
‘I woke up thinking that I might be dying
But I was only in the belly of a whale
And I recall I saw the red sun rising
As he spat me out and the wind it caught my sail’
I had no idea what it meant or where it came from, but I recorded it into my phone and wrote down the words and forgot about it. Months later when I was listening through ideas I had recorded I came across it and started writing ‘Saint Joan’. These first lines ended up being the bridge of the song. While there are biblical and historical references, it is not a song about God or religion or Joan of Arc really. It’s about the redemptive power of love.
This song is part road trip, part hallucination, part relationship elegy. I wrote it after a big new years eve, on a road trip down the Great Ocean Road. I woke up new years day with a wicked flu and fever and was bed ridden for days. Hence the slightly feverish, dark, psychedelic edge to the song.
In the production, Gideon and I wanted to tip our hats to some of the classics we grew up listening to – America, the Beatles, The Band. We also decided to keep it fairly simple production-wise, to give the vocals space to soar and to allow room for the story to live and breath.
We decided to introduce the drums only in the last chorus, so that throughout most of the song there’s a feeling that something’s coming, and it’s always just around the bend but we don’t arrive until the very last chorus and then it’s over in 30 seconds, so that we reach our destination, but the satisfaction is fleeting. I also remember Evan used a 1960s McCartney style Hoffner bass on this song.
For To Make A Lead Weight Float
This is my version of King Canute and the waves. The story goes that the 11th Century king of the North Sea Empire asked for his chair to be brought to the shore where he sat facing the ocean.
He then ordered the waves not to rise and set out to hold back the tide. The tide rose, of course, and with it the waves, washing over his chair. Whether he truly believed that, with all his regal power, he could turn back the tide or whether he set out to show that it is futile to try to stop the inevitable, the legendary story touches on the flawed human struggle against the inexorable. For to make a lead weight float. Or to save a relationship that is already doomed. Like King Canute, holding back the tide.
I’m Not Coming Back
I wrote this song not long after moving into a new house in which I set up a small studio out the back. I discovered after a little while that I was directly beneath a flight path and at night, the planes would fly low over the courtyard outside the studio. Most nights, I’d sit outside, in the courtyard, and for a while watch the planes seemingly glide past, mechanical birds moving through the night stars.
I wrote ‘I’m Not Coming Back’ one night when the stars were particularly illuminating and the airplanes seemed to be twinkling in their reflected light, gliding through the night, moving towards a new destination. The obvious sentiment of the song is the need to escape, to cut and run, to leave it all behind. But there is a back story, only hinted at, some kind of hurt that is driving the need to go. That’s what interests me most about the song. This one didn’t take long to record. We were two days into a week long recording session and the band was really cooking at this point. We worked with a few drummers on this record, this song was played by our good friend Nick Martyn – one of Melbourne’s best.
Gideon and I recorded this one at our houses. The guitar and vocals were recorded in my wardrobe (the clothes create a nice, dead space to record in) and the piano at Gideon’s house on a beautiful upright he has.
My sister, Evie, sings harmonies on this song which makes it a particularly special one, for me. Evie and I grew up singing together and my very first gigs were busking with her on the streets of Melbourne, when we were kids.
It felt particularly fitting to have her singing on this song because it is about time and memory and the way in which the things you do are eternal, your actions reverberate through time – ‘The steps you take will chime’, as the song goes.
We recorded ‘Arrow’ with producer/engineer Wayne Connolly and he always said it had what he called the secret ingredient – the happy/sad factor. He believed that the key to a good song, a song that people will respond to, is that it is both happy and sad at the same time.
This was the only song we recorded with Wayne that made him dance, pretty much any time it was playing. So we considered that a sign that it was either really good, or really bad. We went with good. It’s probably also the rolling drumbeat – an Arron Light special.
Wild And Free
This is one of my favourite songs on the album. I like the way it progresses from soft folk ballad to bent blues rock out. The band shows its different sides on this one – piano and bass are particularly brilliant.
I wrote the song itself as a simple folk song and the band transformed it into something much more than that. In terms of the story – it is a tale of two lovers, travelling through the night, and no matter how far or fast into the darkness they travel, they find that they cannot outrun their past.
I also like the backing vocals in the chorus, the oohs, which is me recorded twice, doing my best to sound like female backing singers, from the 1950s.
This is a song about the days and nights of a writer. I got very wrapped up in the writing of the album, I was living and breathing and dreaming it.
I think I was pretty weird to be around during that time. And I think the same can be said for the recording and producing of the record. We are transformed by it. We become different creatures, we barely recognise ourselves. The studio is like a black hole – you can disappear into it.
In a way this is the odd one out on the record, which is why we wanted it on. It’s different to the other songs, seems to come from a slightly different place. It’s a bit of a diversion from the general flow of the album but again, that’s one of the things we liked about it. The song has an expansiveness to it, but it also has a lot of layers, a lot going on, and you really have to climb inside and explore it. Great piano line on this one – we used a mini toy piano for it.
I wrote this song on a really hot Melbourne day, sitting in the sun at Fitzroy Pool. It came together quickly in the studio. It’s probably the most straight ahead song on the album. It’s got a nice momentum and buoyancy. It feels good to sing this one – it conjures a very specific time in my life that I can still really relate to. A time when everything was still possible. A time when I’d have done anything for a kick or a good time or a break from reality. I still like to escape when possible. I try to use songs for that these days, instead of booze, if I can help it.
Gold In Her Pockets
This is the second last song on the album, but in a way it is the beginning of the story. It looks back on a time before things got real, when life and love were fables. It speaks of a girl ‘with gold in her pockets and a green thumb’ and of a time when I was ‘the king of my days’. It speaks of hearts ‘overgrown’ and ‘eyes of white Queen Anne’s Lace’, of the sea and the moonlight. It’s a kind of fairytale about memory. I really like the trumpet lines – they seem to ring out from a time long gone.
Deep Sky Diver
I wrote this song after Gideon played me Love Me Tender by Elvis one night when I was at his house. It was simple and beautiful and sad in a way that makes you glad you’re alive. His voice and the guitar were full of longing that pulled on my heart in the sweetest way. So I went home that night and wrote Deep Sky Diver. It is nothing like Love Me Tender, but nothing ever comes out the way you intend it to. It’s a song about a friend who was lost. Thankfully, she seems to have found her way lately.
Husky Tour Dates
Fri 7 Nov Bridge Hotel, Castlemaine VIC
Sat 8 Nov Karova Lounge, Ballarat VIC
Thu 13 Nov Oxford Art Factory, Sydney, NSW
Fri 14 Nov Small Ballroom, Newcastle NSW
Sat 15 Nov Transit Bar, Canberra ACT
Sun 16 Nov Brass Monkey, Cronulla NSW
Fri 21 Nov Spotted Cow, Toowoomba QLD
Sat 22 Nov The Zoo, Brisbane QLD
Sun 23 Nov Mullum Music Fest, Mullumbimby QLD
Supported by Jed Appleton
Wed 26 Nov Hotel New York, Launceston TAS
Thu 27 Nov Republic Bar, Hobart TAS
Supported by Ali Barter
Fri 28 Nov Adelaide Uni Bar SA
Sat 29 Nov The Hi-Fi, Melbourne VIC
Sun 30 Nov Queenscliff Music Festival VIC
Supported by Childsaint
Thu 4 Dec Dunsborough Hotel, Dunsborough WA
Sat 6 Dec Prince Of Wales, Bunbury WA
Supported by Green Stone Garden
Sat 13 Dec Studio Theatre, Darwin NT
Wed 31 Dec Beyond the Valley, Phillip Island VIC