Boom! Bap! Pow! launch their new album, So Heavy, this Saturday, August 10, at the Rosemount Hotel with support from The Love Junkies, Huge Magnet and Dux N Downtown. BOB GORDON chats with vocalist, Novac Bull. Their band name might sound like it’s all cartoonish good times, but Boom! Bap! Pow! are chock full of good old-fashioned showbiz ethic.
Tour then tour some more, that would be, and it’s helped shape their just released second album, So Heavy.
“Because we are so self-deprecating we’re usually the first people to tell you we’re a better group of friends than we are a band, which has been a result of many a sweaty, smelly, snorey night spent top and tail on a tour,” says vocalist, Novac Bull.
“Most of the better songs on this record were written on the road. Clint wrote Suit after I was perving on a hot bar wench at the Espy in Melbourne. I said something about wanting to get a bit Buffalo Bill with that one, and the rest is history. We never would have ended up there and got inspired to write the song unless Dave our drummer misdirected us to the wrong Espy, where we didn’t actually have a gig.
“For any bands new to Victorian touring, there is an Espy in St Kilda and one in Queenscliffe too… thanks Dave.”
The thanks are in order as Suit, the first single, from So Heavy, is a dynamic little number that in its own way shaped the rest of the album.
“We’ve been playing My World for years to close our sets, but re-wrote it after we started playing Suit to try and beef it up to match,” Bull explains of the first single’s direct effect on other material. “It was more a case of us just rocking in and playing our live set than thinking about how it would hold together as an album, but we’ve got Luke Dux from the Floors playing lap steel on a handful of tracks and Brian Krueger on keys for three, so there are a few different textures that keep popping up and tie everything together.
“Suit was always going to be the first single. It was the first song we recorded and once we had that down everyone got a lot more relaxed.
The second single (and lead track off the album) Keeping You Happy was one of the last tracks we cut and is pretty much a balls-out, Diamond Dogs-with-too-much-coffee affair. I think the boys were all reading Keith Richard’s biography around that time so Clint and Paul were trying to out-Keef each other on the guitars.”
Bull reveals that one of her personal favourites on the album is the title track, So Heavy. It took a re-visit to get it just right.
“We tried recording it once before,” she notes, “but didn’t quite get the feeling right and canned it. So I was committed to nailing a definitive version this time around.
“It still sounds a little raw to me, because that’s the emotional centre-piece of the record, but it had to be that raw, I think. There’s a little bit of a country vibe that creeps in through So Heavy and a few of the other tracks with Clint Bracknell playing a battered old acoustic guitar on them, something we never use live but which strangely seems to make the tracks sound weightier and more tactile on record.”
The album was recorded over five days back in February, 2012, and given also that Boom! Bap! Pow!’s first LP was pretty much a tool to launch the band, they’ve been itching to get it released.
“For this album we more or less knew what we were doing as a band, who has to play what instrument etc, and wanted to make a good old rock’n’roll album,” Bull explains. “We run on a shoestring really, so we just got in and did the job. We got a little carried away toward the end and some bits were overdone like stringy clam, or a Karnivool demo. At the end of the day most of us had no idea what we ended up with and just sent it away to get the ends chopped off.
“We’re keen as to finally stick it out there. The longer you sit on an album the harder it is to love it, like how parents with their 30 year-old children living at home must feel. Still, we put this one aside for the last six months and only listened to it when the pressings got done last week and are infatuated with it all over again. The songs are old friends, well and truly worn in now, but it’s refreshing to hear them played with the vigour associated with new things.
Boom! Bap! Pow!’s live shows are a thing of energetic repute – musicianship, soul, funk and sass colliding to considerable effect. In the centre of it all is Bull, who has taken notes from the past and the present.
“Etta James was a huge initial influence for me personally,” she says “due to her intensity as a vocalist and her dynamic range. She can be sweet as sugar one second then she gets her ‘growl’ on and manages to send shivers up your spine every time.
“More recently I’ve been influenced by Sia, Spoon, Feist, Jenny Lewis, Peaches, Tina Turner and just about any of the awesome acts I go see.”
As well as their own headline shows and numerous festival appearances, the band has supported the likes of Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reed and Royal Crown Revue. Winning over another artist’s crowd is a difficult scenario, but Boom! Bap! Pow! are all for the challenge.
“It’s always hard to tell if you’re winning crowds over,” Bull says, “but folks got their dance on and bought stuff, so that seemed a good indication they thought we were okay.
“The guy from Deal Or No Deal was at one of those shows and was raving about us afterwards, except he told all his friends we were called Sang Choi Bow, which is a bit racially insensitive, if not misleading.”
Armed with an album release they feel strongly about, Boom! Bap! Pow! are set to go hard at it, touring interstate in the spring and still striving for a song of theirs to be played in the diner at Summer Bay.
Some televisual achievements have been notched, however, with
Suit picked up by Bonds for their latest advertising campaign.
Quite the door-opener, one might hazard to guess?
“Not really,” Bull says, “but they gave us a little bit of money and at least half of the band wear undies so it seemed win-win. We’ve been advised that once a band gets featured in an undies ad it means you’ve made it… so look out Birds of Tokyo!”