“It’s been giving me an itchy arse sitting on this, for sure. It’ll be a huge relief to have it out, it’s been the noose around our neck for so long now. All of us want to move on to the next thing!”
French Rockets launch their new album, Arc, at Jimmy’s Den on Saturday, July 4, with help from Dream Rimmy, Alzabo, Mayor Dadi and DJ Thÿrd Pseich. ALEX GRIFFIN reports.
‘Long-awaited’ is the kind of music journalism cliché that’s best left alongside the ‘the next Beatles’ and the word ‘urban’.
Aside from reducing the whole process of interacting with music to something like scanning a bus timetable or a magazine in a waiting room, it ignores how complex it is to get a record out in the world. Considering how remarkable French Rockets have been since emerging early last decade, though, you’d be forgiven for being impatient in the intervening years since 2010’s 1×1. The Perth-based quartet of Carl Properjohn, Roger Poustie, Jamie McDougall and Jamie Sher have been melting faces at home and abroad with their cosmic, skyscraping soundworlds live, but the silence on the recorded front has been conspicuous.
However, with the barnstorming Arc set to drop this week, the wait has been well and truly worth it. Recorded largely at Sumo Studio between 2010 and 2013 with the experienced sound maven, Laurie McCullum, the lengthy gestation of Arc was the work of a thousand moments, rather than a concentrated hibernation, as Jamie McDougall explains.
“We recorded it all a while ago now! But something I want to say is that while the album did take two years to make, it’s not like we were in the studio with Laurie that entire time. It was recorded quite sporadically; a day or a few here, a week there, whenever we could afford it or whenever Laurie could sneak us in! A lot of work was done at home in the meantime, but everything got solidified at Sumo Studio.”
Despite being quite an extraordinary band, French Rockets had the usual obstacles to answer to during the whole process, as McDougall explains. “The most prohibitive factor during the whole thing was something none of us have any interest in, and that’s money!” Fortunately, when it came to mixing the final product, the Rockets managed to get the very best at a good price – the legendary Bob Weston of Shellac, who sports a CV even longer than an Amon Duul jam.
Reaching out to him was a bit of a no brainer for the band: “One big reason we went with Bob was because we knew he wouldn’t squash the music with over compression or excessive volume. That was important for us and something we were very mindful of, since the album was mixed and mastered a certain way, it’s all quite deliberate. We didn’t want a loud brick-walled album, we want it to be turned up, with all the dynamic and feeling that comes from all those transient layers between. This was something we spoke to him about and it became pretty clear that this is where his head is at, so he was our guy. Being reasonably priced helped too!”
In other words, better late than never, but sooner would have been great. “It’s been giving me an itchy arse sitting on this, for sure. It’ll be a huge relief to have it out, it’s been the noose around our neck for so long now. All of us want to move on to the next thing!”
Incongruously with their disciplined, airtight live show – sort of like being beaten ticking the head by one of Dali’s clicking clocks – part of the delay came down to figuring out some of the finer details, unavoidable when opting to independently release, with decisions like artwork becoming protracted debates.
“We spent about a year deciding on the cover art – the first time I saw it (the iconic RGB pattern now proudly emblazoned on the finished product) I took one look at it and thought ‘I hate it!’” Having been collaborators now for over a decade, McDougall and Properjohn are still working it out by working on it, as the former explains. “Some people think we have a tense relationship,” he laughs, “but it’s just because we don’t talk about it, we just do it. That’s how we work!”
Joining the pot brewing the soundscapes within Arc is Adalita, of Magic Dirt fame. Having become acquainted as the much missed Dean Turner of the band had a major hand in releasing their debut record 555 in 2007, she fell naturally into the process, with her vocals adding a mesmeric sheen to Keep Burning and the intense, pulsating lead single, Stuck In A Moment.
“She’s such a lovely person,” McDougall says. “We’d known her back then through Dean and sent her the tracks, and it worked perfectly.”
Beyond Arc, the Rockets have a lot more on their plate. Aside from new material they’ve been crafting in the interim that they’re ‘itching’ to work with, there’s a live set recorded with Dave Parkin featuring tracks from Arc that’s likely to drop before the end of the year. Beyond that, French Rockets have another big priority – hitting the road and plying their trade as far and wide as possible. Having demolished the Eastern States before, McDougall is raring to head over anew, and that’s not all they have in mind.
“We want to go to Ireland and hang around in some castles!”
With the brain splitting majesty of Arc finally revealed to the public, the kingly folk of French Rockets have earned the right to do exactly that; even if it’s another five years before we’re granted a private audience with them.