Press, 16 April 1997
- Love Struck,
- by Anthony Horan
not entirely uncommon at the moment for Australian artists to sign to a major label and
then spend an eternity waiting for their album to come out. For Melbourne band The
Earthmen, though, the wait between signing to Warner (after a long and healthy
relationship with local indie label Summershine) and the release of the album that would
take them to the world has been, to put it mildly, eternal.
The Earthmen had, in fact, already completed an
album, recorded by indie guitar expert Wayn Connolly at Periscope. But by the time the
contracts had been signed and the band were firmly ensconced in Warnerland, that record
was sounding less and less like the album the band wanted to debut with.
Fortunately, The Earthmen's new label
decided to take the route the band wanted, and put up the money for the recording of an
entirely new album, leaving the first attempt firmly on the shelf - though tracks from it
have surfaced as b-sides, and one was re-worked for this album, eventually given the title
Love Walks In. With Daniel Denholm (Frente, Max Sharam, Jan Hellriegel) at the
production helm, The Earthmen set about recording their latest batch of euphoric pop
songs, this time in Sydney. And the result, finally out this month after a lengthy wait,
has proven their decision to be the right one. Denholm and the band click, the elaborate
(and at times Spectoresque) production giving the songs a huge, epic sound that suits
"He and Brent Clark, the engineer,
were perfect for us at the time," says Scott. "I mean, our sound will be
different on the next record. But he was perfect for the time, and the both of them had a
really good sensibility about where we were coming from, and respect for what we were
trying to achieve."
While this album's long gestation period
has paid off, lead singer and song-writer Scott Stevens points out that it wasn't a case
of ditching a dreadful album and starting again, either to please the label or themselves.
"Nothing was actually wrong with it.
In some ways it just wasn't what we wanted - like any record, there are certain things
that, given another chance, you would change. And the thing was, we were given a chance to
change it. When we singned to Warner we had that album finished, and they said we could
either release that, or re-record. By that stage we'd written heaps more songs, for one
thing; and if that original album had come out, it would have come out about now, and that
record would have been really old. For us, that milk would have been pretty off. We pretty
much could record another album now, but we won't - we want to write more songs
Ironically, the delayed release of Love
Walked In - which was, like much new Australian product, pulled from release late last
year to avoid being drowned in the Christmas mainstream rush - has put the band in the
same situation, with the album's tracks left behind in favour of new, unrecorded songs.
"It's funny - you speak to other bands
and they go on about how it's pissing them off that their album hasn't come out even
though it's been recorded for a year," Scott says. "And I think that
psychologically, we knew that it wasn't going to come out within a month of us recording
it. We were pretty philosophical, we knew it would come out when the time was right. It's
just one of those things. We had the chance of being put out around Christmastime, and as
much as you don't write the songs to sell, you do have to sell records in order to keep
Wouldn't it have been better for the band's
artistic progress to just record and release immediately, though?
"Yeah, but the thing is, some of the
songs were written over a period of time, and I think that's a good thing - you have
different voices and different moods because they were written over different time spans,
rather than punching out ten songs ready for that album next week. And I think that shows,
that we did write those songs over a period of time with different moods and different
head-sets. All my favourite albums of all time take you on a bit of a trip - they have
different sounds and voices, they take you somewhere. That's what we were trying to
achieve. I think that's important, that it has ups and downs, highs and lows."
It took until the third Warner single for
The Earthmen to score major radio play, with the clumsily titled Whoever's Been Using
This Bed scoring long-awaited rotation on Triple J; that the previous single, the
veritable pop masterpiece Hug Me Tighter, was summarily ignored didn't perturb
Scott at all.
"It didn't surprise me. I liked Hug
Me Tighter a lot, and we wanted to put it out as a single because I liked it. But I
didn't necessarily think it was going to set the Earth ablaze in terms of getting played
by lots of radio stations. The best thing about Whoever's Been Using This Bed,
though, is that people have trouble pronouncing the title. It's quite amusing."
Meanwhile, The Earthmen still spend a good
deal of time telling people that despite what they may have heard, they're not trying to
be a Britpop band. By definition, or course, they can't be - but there's a solid
appreciation of English pop music well in evidence on the album, characterised by an
unmistakable preference for melody and texture over grunt and grunge. For Scott Stevens,
the Britpop references are starting to wear a little thin.
"I think that's a really lazy
comparison," he says with disdain. "I mean, the fact is that Britpop was a
nationalistic, jingoistic, xenophobic backlash against overseas music by the English
press. So how can we be trying to purport the defenders of the crown? It's a good tag, but
in our case I think it's incorrect."
Maybe it's the non-dirge policy of UK bands
that people are picking up on here, though...
"Well the thing is, a lot of the
English bands have a really good pop sensibility. But then, so did the West Coast off
America in the 1960s, an amazing pop sensibility. Amazing sounds. And we're just as much
influenced by that as anything else."
There's been some criticism levelled at The
Earthmen's live shows recently, with those who've seen their gigs coming away disappointed
at the lacklustre reading of Hug Me Tighter the band have taken to doing; could
this song have fallen out of favour in the Earthmen camp?
"I actually don't mind singing that
song, in fact I quite like singing it," Scott replies. "We still play some of
our old songs, but there's a couple of issues. Different people wrote some of those songs
and were in the band at that stage, and that's out of respect for them - that was part of
their heads and emotions too, and we have to respect that. Also, certain songs are about
certain times, places and people, and it just seems a bit wrong now."
The study of people, in fact, is the theme
of the album's sleeve - a piece of cover art that's actually quite surprisingly
confrontational given the album's pop positivity.
"I think it works really well,"
says Scott of the cover. "All of the songs on this album are about people,
representations of people and how people deal with each other. The whole ideas of
pixelating over the eyes and the genitals is important - the pixilation, when you look at
it from a distance, comes into focus. With people, sometimes things are clearer from a
distance than they are close up. Also there's the whole thing of, is this what the people
are really about, once you take away their eyes and their genitals."
A visual statement that hopfully won't
offent the moral minority in the process...
"I really don't care" Scott says
quickly. "It's not the least bit sexually exploitative of women." But we're
living in a very unnerving music censorship climate at the moment... "Yeah, and quite
frankly, I would be surprised if it did offend anyone. I mean, you can walk into a any
gallery and see more than that. And I'm glad it wasn't necessarily what was expected, but
I think it makes sense."