Riding high on the heels of their recently released second album Gutful, Adelaide outsider rock band Bad//Dreems are copping the moniker of being a “pub rock” band by releasing songs that comment on and critique pub conversation. JOSEPH WILSON spoke to drummer Miles Wilson on the band’s live approach to making the album and their date with Badlands on June 16, supported by The Creases.
How does it feel to be touring again?
We have been doing a couple of promo videos for the release of the album and there was all this touring footage in there and we missed it so much. It felt so strange not doing it and you start to get apprehensive about not playing in ages.
You have to master all the parts that you recorded in the album because you changed a few things in the studio and you actually have to learn that again. It’s a weird, apprehensive feeling but also its an itching to get back on the road because its heaps of fun. But it’s been the longest in our entire tenure as a band that we haven’t played live. It’s going to be different this time coming back from so much time off but it makes it more exciting in way.
Has the recording cycle changed for the band?
This is the second album which we did at the same studio in Brunswick West. The process was similar but this time around there was much more time spent pre-production wise. Just for a second time around we did more rehearsals and streamlined. We weren’t as YOLO in the studio as we were in the first album. Some of the things in the first album came out really well and some of my favourite parts about it were things that happened on the day in the studio because Mark always wanted to record live and get that feeling, he wanted it to be very humanised and he stands there in the room while you play live and he paces throughout the room and throws his hands in the air and really gets you this exciting vibe.
He wants the band members to gel with one another really well, so the songs have this really live and natural feeling which is exactly how we execute them whilst on stage. There are little tiny errors where you can hear us talking that we just wanted to leave in just to make it really true to ourselves and what we are like live.
Does Gutful feel like a live album?
Hugely, it’s super-live. We recorded demos live at Grinch Records, which is a place down the beach at Grange in Adelaide, run by this guy called Alistair Wells who plays as our fifth guitarist. We would just do one or two takes of the demos there and then refer to them in the studio with Mark and Colin and make sure prior to the studio we hadn’t played it too many times. We were still open to changes and we still had the feeling that it was new and we were jamming on something that was very fresh. There’s very little done to the recording in terms of manufacturing parts.
As a band you guys like to focus on the songwriting, does that happen in the studio or come together over time?
Usually a very raw idea is presented from someone’s bedroom, for example Alex will come with a chord progression and maybe he has a melody that he is humming over and then Will and I will put our heads together in the rehearsal room and flesh out the parts and then you do it over and over and over again until it turns into a song. Later lyrics will come together, when we are going through that process Ben will adlib and freestyle lyrics and parts. Afterwards when we listen to the recording on our phones usually Alex will look at refining the lyrics and throw around some ideas and we will go back and forth on email and decide on the theme.
Gutful is about a very typical Australian male who is perceived to be a really nice guy but is actually quite aggressive and unkind underneath the layers. Then we go OK, he’ll pen some ideas and songs come together like that as it’s mainly done outside of the studio. In the studio you get a closer listen to really refine parts, the process is very natural and live in the rehearsal room beforehand.
Has the band always been this observational with societal debate in its albums?
This record has a bit more societal debate, a bit more social commentary than the previous ones. But they all have that theme of commenting on the state of Australia and its people and how it is socially and politically without being a really politically driven band like Midnight Oil or Rage Against the Machine. We don’t want to attack people with political agendas, but we find it interesting to comment on people and what people say with political correctness, feminism and all those things that are rife in pub conversations – commenting on that kind of thing on a more fly-on-the-wall at home type level.
A lot of the songs are about love and distance and longing for another person, it’s not all about social and political commentary but in a way I think they all go hand in hand because people are the way that they are because they are a product of their surroundings and a product of their experiences. It’s a roundabout life psyche of the Australian person that goes to work and goes to the pub and goes to gigs or has these opinions; says these things on Facebook.
So Gutful is more commentary rather than protest?
More of a commentary than a protest, just flagging things by saying we’re sick of this, we think everyone is. People are sick of politicians; people are sick of violence, king-hitting and buffoonery. It’s just saying, “Hey, we are sick of it too, people are noticing this and we want to express ourselves.” By saying this isn’t ok or this guy is not nice, he has these really unkind things about him; people can be misleading and have agendas, ulterior motives. We are just trying to comment on those sorts of things. Ben is very good with his delivery and he really feels those lyrics and you can hear the aggression and frustration coming out of his vocal delivery, which really helps get the lyric and sentiment across. But we never had the intention of starting a protest outside of parliament house or anything. We are just commenting on society in general, and part of that is political just by association.
Do you think more Australian musicians should comment and make music about what they see around them as well?
I think so, and I think that’s becoming more apparent in the storytelling singer-songwriter stuff that is coming out. Like The Smith Street Band, it’s definitely becoming more apparent and vocalised – the problems people have with the society in which they live. People feel oppressed or depressed; anxious. All these things which are a product of in the world in which they live, so we talk a lot about anxiety and mental health issues inadvertently but it’s all in there and Feeling Remains is about that and acknowledging that stuff. Anxiety can be a real thing that people struggle with.
People in the band have often struggled with mental conditions, and all those things that are essentially a product of the environment that we live in, its good to be outspoken about those things and to say that you feel this way and I think it will help people admit to others and themselves they aren’t very happy and they may have these problems. I think that in a lot of ways it’s a first step into resolving those problems within you. It’s potentially saying we wanted a voice that is being voiced more in music which I think is doing great things for those aspects of society and our demographic.
Does Bad//Dreems derive a lot of its sound from older acts?
Absolutely – like Died Pretty and My Ex , The Church, Australian Crawl. A lot of our stuff is very similar – also The Queen and some of that New Zealand stuff. It’s weird because we really like Cold Chisel, AC/DC and all that kind of stuff but I wouldn’t really say they are the most direct influences of ours yet.
Sometimes it’s a bit misleading to pass us off as “pub rock” I think because with that comes bad connotations often with beer swilling idiots who are obnoxious – we’re not like that at all. That’s the very thing we are outspoken about, being against. But at the same time you could argue there is a bit of flattery there in saying that we’re pub rock and likening us to those bands. But those bands just don’t really feel that fitting but fair enough if people want to describe us like that, it’s entirely fine by us. I feel it takes away from the thought, or intellect we are trying to put into it.