After winning Triple J Unearthed competiton in 2011, Husky’s debut album, Forever So saw them nominated for an ARIA, an AIR award and Jusky Gawenda was awarded the national APRA PDA Award for songwriting in 2013. Having just released Ruckers Hill, the stunning new follow up album vocalist and keyboarder, Gideon Preiss chatted with CG in the lead up to their performance at Mullum Music Festival this November.
You say that albums are hard to make, why do you think that is? In my experience, creating any significant body of work is hard. I’d imagine the same goes, for writing a novel, making a film, producing a play etc . In the beginning, the writing process alone requires many hours of hard, concentrated, focused work. And of course, this is just the very beginning. Once a song has been dreamt into life- mostly done alone by Husky Gawenda, we still write many more additional parts, arrange each song, knock it and beat it into shape, jam with the boys, and finally, put it down in the studio making sure we’ve captured the perfect take with the perfect feel, groove, tempo and vibe. If you want to create something you can look back on be proud of, it takes a lot of hard work – for us anyways.
Why do you think the songwriting for Ruckers Hill was more challenging? I’m not sure that the songwriting for Ruckers Hill was more challenging than the last record. I think it was challenging in a different way. We wanted different things out of this record and the truth is that things have changed a lot for the band since that record. When we wrote and recorded Forever So, we were unknown, had no fan base and had very little experience with touring. This time around, we had a new set of challenges to navigate, different pressures, different obstacles. But I do think that the greatest challenge for us was always, and has always been the pressure that comes from within ourselves. More than anything, we want to make something that lives up to our own expectations.
What were the expectations you had set for yourself for this album? After the release of Forever So we toured very extensively for over a year across Australia, Europe and America. It was an amazing time for us all, very challenging at times but also a huge learning curve. You learn a lot about playing live when you do it every night, and something we felt from playing so many shows was that we probably needed a more dynamic show. In the past we’ve written more dreamy, atmospheric, folky tunes, like those on Forever So, but this time around we felt that we needed some more upbeat ones also.
How did the touchstones like your uncle’s typewriter or Leonard Cohen’s Beautiful Losers help shape the vision? I think the idea there for Husky was to try different things in his writing process to produce different results. I’m not sure whether this was achieved with the use of the type writer but he definitely did some of the writing for this record on it. Leonard Cohen for us both has always been a writer, if not the writer, that we look up to. I have very early memories of listening to his recordings on vinyl at Husky’s house when we were growing up. It’s very difficult, if not impossible to explain why he’s the greatest, as words won’t explain it properly, but everything thing that you’re reading, watching, listening to and going through in life when you’re writing has a way of seeping in, whether you’re conscious of it or not.
Once you held the album in your hands, how did you feel about the outcome? Are you able to stand back and look at it critically? It certainly felt good to have it in my hands, but more because I know how much work went into making this album. In terms of my feelings around it or my ability to look at it critically I think I’ll need some time to look back on it. At this stage I feel too close to it to be able to stand back and make those kinds of judgments!
What is your process when it comes to songwriting? For this record, Husky got into an incredible flow, and was writing at a pretty hectic rate. At a few different stages throughout the writing process I’d get sent a batch of the earliest roughs of songs. I guess in that beginning phase, I acted like a filter and a sounding board and together we’d make a call on which songs to pursue. From there we’d get together to start writing, jamming and arranging the songs often with the help of the other boys to bring them up to a point where they were ready to be put down in the studio.
What are the progressions that you can see in yourselves as songwriters and creators of music? I think it’s hard to see these changes in yourself as your creative fabric is always changing. It’s probably easier for someone else to see the progressions but I think we’ve learnt a lot about each other and the way that we each like to write and be creative, so perhaps the progressions are more about what we find in one another than ourselves.
Your song Deep Sky Diver has reflections of Nick Drake – what is it about Drake that you think has such timeless resonance for musicians? He’s like the artist that artists love… Both me and Husky have at different times gone through big phases of listening to Nick Drake, so it’s great to have that comparison made. He’s another one of those artists that when you try to explain why he’s so amazing, you can never quite capture it. One thing about Nick Drake is that you don’t realise how complex his writing is until you take time to peel away the layers. One of the hardest things to do as a writer is to write some both simple and complex. He does it especially well.
Why do you think it’s possible to capture a memory or the feeling of a time or place with a song? Song has a power to take your imagination, your senses, your feelings somewhere unlike anything else. It offers the listener a window, a framework with which to attach your own experience. Song’s push you to open up, to look inward and to feel something. So, by encouraging all these feelings, music will often take you back to a particular time or place in your life.
And what should we expect for your show at Mullum Music Festival? Mullum Fest is one of the great Aussie festivals. It’s both the artist’s and the people’s festival, where the musicians and the punters all blend in to one, the way music is supposed to be shared. So we’re expecting a good old time and are happy to play amongst so many great Aussie acts. By the time the festival rolls around we will be about 3 weeks into our national tour in support of the new record so the band should be pretty gig fit and hopefully sounding tight!
For more information about program and ticketing go to mullummusicfestival.com