After cutting their teeth in the Adelaide scene for a year, South Australian trio Idly By have launched their debut self-titled album this month. It follows on from their first single Concerned Realists, featuring fellow Adelaide-based songwriter Bec Stevens, which received a warm reception securing airtime on various stations and landing them on bills alongside Press Club, The Lazy Susans and Bugs. BRAYDEN EDWARDS caught up with frontman Leith James as they prepare to set out on a national tour, to discuss the making of the album, their WA connection and evolving from a songwriter that “cries in to a pillow” into one that “yells at clouds.”
So how did Idly By by come to be and how long has this album been in the works for?
Idly By was originally going to be called Idly Bi, in reference to my sporadic interest in hooking up with dudes. We steered away from that when someone informed us that the term “bi-sexual” plays into the gender binary and that language was sure to evolve in the near future…fair enough. Labels are dumb. Kiss your mates.
This is our first album. I’ve been working on some of these songs for years. I think that I’m moving out of my “crying into a pillow” phase of writing with lots of obsessive content about being an alcoholic and flinging myself about in creatively self destructive ways, into a new phase of writing in which I yell at clouds about how shit humans are and counting down the inevitable heat death of our species.
There’s a WA connection in the band too?
Christian Hancock, or Tian as he is known in Adelaide, or T-bag as he prefers, is co-front man of Perth pop punk outfit Suburban and Coke. I thought they died but I hear they are still twitching. Hopefully we hear from them again soon!
You’ve said your music channels influences from the last 30 years of punk rock. What are some of these and how do you feel Idly By do music different from both their contemporaries and also their influences?
All music before our album played it’s part in what we created. All music after will seem a little grey in comparison.
You’ve featured fellow Adelaide based Bec Stevens on the track Concerned Realists, how did she come to be involved in the recording and why was she a good fit for the song?
We wanted to bring in a guest on this song because it was co-written by a dear friend of mine from Canada, Lindsay Mitchell, who used to sing it with me. We have been friends with Bec for a long time. Bec is a good fit for any song because she has a dope voice and is a fucking legend.
What else was involved in the recording process? Were there songs that took on a new direction when you were bringing them to life in the studio?
The dark horse on the album for me was Never Learnt to Fly. I wrote that song for a friend of mine and felt very attached to it but I wasn’t sure if it was holding up sonically to the rest of the album. We tracked it thinking it might need a bit of reworking but it came through way stronger than expected and stands out on the album for me.
And do you think there is a theme that ties this album together in a lyrical sense? What kind of things were you doing or thinking about while writing the songs that came through onto the album?
I think every track at least touches on mental health and addiction, for the most part that is the theme of the album. I don’t think that translates on the first run through because the tracks are quite upbeat and bouncy but if you spend some time with the lyrics there are some wells of struggle and sadness pitted throughout. I tried not to be too egocentric and write all about my issues but then I’d just end up writing about my friend’s issues instead.
I’m happy with the theme of this album. We should all feel free to talk about our afflictions and share that load. We can be so inhibited in that arena. We bury our vulnerability when we should celebrate it.
The new tracks that are coming together are leaning more toward a broader perspective of the world around me. I’ve done an album looking into myself, now I’m looking outward and shit is well fucked up out there. We are all complicit in some horrendous shit and we just keep bouncing the power between two political parties that don’t seem to give a hot fuck. So that’s what I’m writing about now.
You’re following this album release with a massive national tour, what else is in the pipeline for Idly By in 2019 and beyond?
We have our album launch show in Adelaide on September 13 at The Jade with a huge line up of Adelaide’s sickest party bands. We just booked some studio time with Alex Upton at South Bank Studio to start putting down some new tracks we’ve been working on. Heaps to announce for 2020 but we will get to that once we’ve survived 2019. We are stoked with all the support we are receiving on the album and so keen to take it on the road.