One of Australia’s hardest working and critically acclaimed bands The Drones are dropping into our locale this week, supporting the release of their new album “Feelin Kinda Free”
Despite having been around for in excess of ten years, writing seven studio albums, touring incessantly and receiving critical acclaim for their work, they are not exactly a household name yet. Their sound itself, as we read below, is in a process of experimental evolution, currently incorporating technical electronic based sounds into their live show, as explained by frontman Gareth Liddiard, this album and the events around it have really given the band ‘new legs’.
Prior to their show at the Great Northern on this Saturday evening, we spent a few minutes chatting with Gareth, digging a tiny bit deeper into how this album came about, and what it truly means to be free.
CG – Hi Gareth, what are you up to today, getting ready for the tour?
D – Yeah man, just out in the country at the moment getting ready to go to Melbourne, have one last jam before we head off to Adelaide and then up to you guys, next weekend I think
CG – Yeah that’s right, Byron. You don’t normally play a lot of regional shows as a band do you?
D – No not really
CG – What was the decision this time around that influenced you coming to a regional show, was there something in particular that cause you to do this?
D – Yeah, kind of boredom of playing the same old places and because for years – everything’s happened really slowly for us – as the years have gone on, the thing that kept us away from regional shows was no one had every heard of us. Unless it was a city it was impossible to get people there, but that’s slowly changing, after about fifteen years.
CG – Yeah, myself who follows Australian music as close as I can, I have only just had a chance to listen to you guys after 7 albums. So you’re starting to get a bit of traction now?
D – Yeah, you have to be a music nerd to know about us or get into us, you know? You have to be up on your musical chops in a way. We’re not one of those beer bands that are universal to people.
CG – So you guys have just released a new album a little while ago, have you had a chance to play it for anyone yet?
D – Yeah yeah, we finished making the record and did a tour of Europe, so we did a bunch of songs there. Most of the songs off it have seen the light of day, and it’s been nice to ease them all out instead of doing them all at once because they’re hard to play.
CG – What do you find hard about the songs?
D – Well our previous record kind of sums up us sort of default mode, in a way. Us at ease. We wanted to get away from that because, a) You don’t want to be like ACDC doing the same fucking thing forever, and b) Because we’re into way more music than just guitar music and it’s not like we cant do something weird. So, we decided to do something weird and it was about getting away from habits and trying out new shit and new technology, and that’s the difficult thing.
If we do shows where it’s just us playing old material we don’t need to rehearse, and we can just drink a hundred beers before the show, go out and do it unconscious. With all this new shit, you have to be on your game.
CG – Have you found a lot of growth in this new album, both as a band and as musicians?
D – Yeah totally. It’s really fresh, we’ve been doing laps of the country and the world for about ten years and it’s not like things were bad, but that’s going to do something to your head, the repetition starts to do something to your head.
Then, our drummer left, and our original drummer came back, with all of his enthusiasm. That, and just trying to do a bunch of whacked out original stuff made everything like it was ten years ago. It’s exciting; we’re just like a bunch of teenagers again.
CG – That’s pretty good timing, bringing that enthusiasm to tour. I was going to ask you about Christian (drummer). How has that affected the creative process? Has there been a vast change and was he a large influence behind the album being so different?
D – Totally. Like, Chrisso hadn’t played for literally ten years. He had a family and a mortgage, so when we started getting bigger and touring constantly, he couldn’t do that anymore cause we weren’t earning money or anything. So he left, we stayed on really good terms and everything.
When Mike left, he kinda burnt out, Chrisso came back in and he’s super fresh and isn’t jaded at all so we were like dude, if we fuck with the drums a bit and do something that isn’t that stock standard monotone seventies power acoustic drummer shit, if we mix it up and do a little bit of electronic stuff – and not that stuff where you just press play on a drum machine – that means we can get away from all this boring shit. A weird drummer opens things up for you, and he was always into it, he’s always been into it.
So that, and his enthusiasm really gave us new legs.
CG – From a technical point of view, is he drumming on a kit as well as pads?
D – Yeah! We make stuff up in the studio using anything, whether it’s a Casio drum machine or something, we’d make stuff up, and then he’d learn how to incorporate it into his kit and play it, then we’d record that. He’s like this human drum machine.
CG – Pretty exciting.
D – Yeah it’s awesome, it’s something I’ve wanted to do for yonks and yonks.
CG – I’m getting a little excited to see that now. So, with the album now – would you say this one more of a political album?
D – Maybe… In a way. Usually, I write songs that are long and stretched out, and when you’re putting words over something like that you can crap on for ages. This one I wanted to make each song more short and succinct, we haven’t done that before, and it’s something to keep us and me moving forward. So, we had to choose the choicest cut, and organically the political thing that’s always been in my songs came to the fore. I think particularly because I was editing everything down to shorter lengths. For me, everything is political, and everybody get political. Even if they’re sitting at a bus stop in the morning and they’re looking at their phone saying to the person next to them ‘this Donald Trump guy is a cunt’, and that’s the only political thing they do all day then they’re political. Know what I mean?
CG – I do, I agree
D – I’ve never split it up into ‘this is a love song, and if you’re doing that then you only do that, then this is a political song’, and so on, I’ve just mashed them all together because, in real life, that’s what it’s like.
CG – A lot of the time when I speak to artists about selecting the tracks for an album, I quiz them on whether they specifically chose the number and order of tracks or whether it just came about organically. What was this album like for you in that respect?
D – Yeah, there was definitely a lot of work on the order, and we wanted to keep it to eight songs because the songs are pretty dense, there’s a lot in each one, you don’t need twelve of those sort of songs because it becomes too much. My favourite albums over the years – albums that are quite out there – they’re always quite short because otherwise it would wear everybody out. We wanted it like that, and we could tell early on if a song wasn’t working and if it was crap, so we cut them out then. The whole process is kind of getting the ball rolling and the half kicking it down the road, half trying to keep up with it. If you see a finished product, and it’s like this, a kind of political thing, it’s not necessarily a choice that I’ve made or anyone’s made, it’s kind of how thing’s worked out.
CG – What about the album name itself, Feelin Kinda Free, what’s the thought behind that?
D – That’s a good example of what I just said. An album needs a title, so there’s your first thing, you’ve gotta have one. I don’t know; it’s in the chorus of the first song and in the context of that song it’s pretty ironic, but then it’s kind of not. It’s feeling free in the worst way. I was reading a book the other day about Jewish partisans in World War 2, and they’re just freaking out because they had always wanted to be free, but didn’t realise this is what freedom is. All their people are dead; their villages are burned to the ground, and they’ve lost everyone they’ve ever known. Suddenly they’re standing there with a machine gun with a bunch of other people who have been through the same thing, living in the forest and just killing who they want to kill, and that’s freedom. It’s like “Wow, I’m free. This isn’t what I expected freedom to be”. Feelin quite free, but maybe not?
CG – That parallels something I was speaking about the other day, about true freedom. If we were all truly free, it would just regress to that.
D – Yeah, human nature right? It’s animal stuff, it’s full on.
CG – Yeah, and I guess at the moment in the world right now that’s happening.
D – Definitely, there’s always a little pocket somewhere in the world where things are feral.
CG – Mate thanks for speaking to me today
D – Yeah cool, thanks.