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Timothy Nelson & The Infidels

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Timothy Nelson & The Infidels launch their new album, Terror Terror, Hide It Hide It, at the Rosemount Hotel, this Friday, August 1, with support from Institut Polaire, The Avenues and Colab. BOB GORDON invites Nelson into his kitchen. Their time starts now. 

Timothy Nelson’s music has changed somewhat over the years. It’s been a steady evolution, but there’s been bumps, shall we say, along the highway, that have helped it along. 

He and his band, The Infidels, have just released their second album, Terror Terror, Hide It Hide It, a suite of songs dressed in full pop finery. It’s a long and different way from the folk yearnings of yore, and while such changes do occur over the course of a long game, he can also pinpoint the change in heart and circumstance to a singular moment.

“I started writing more songs on piano when I broke my wrist a few years ago,” Nelson announces over a delectably cooked meal of pie with mushy peas, red wine and a Stax compilation album.

“I broke it at the Hydey,” he continues, citing the old Hyde Park Hotel, back in 2009, “it was the last day they were open. We got there at the start and we were there at the end. It was the three-lamp light fitting at the stage floor, which turned out was the only light that was on, because I ended up swinging from it and it came out of the roof and I hit the ground and the whole place blacked out.

“Everyone got turfed out and people were ripping curtains down. Everyone was kind of standing around in a circle singing, ‘it’s closing time’. The funny thing was that Benny Watson, from Project Mayhem, at that exact time had jumped up on the bar and was about to do a crowd surf, people were looking at him but at the second he launched off the bar I was swinging from the chandelier, so they went ‘what?!’ and all turned around and he just ended up face-planting on the floor. He hurt his hand as well. Mine was in a cast.”

It does seem a strange catalyst for the transition from simple folk music to pop music, but it did indeed help Nelson on his way (Watson has been busking with an acoustic guitar around Europe this year, clearly it had the opposite effect).

“I just realised that I wasn’t listening to much folk stuff anymore,” Nelson says, though the last of this output was released on his 2011 LP, I Know This Now.

“I was listening to tons of ELO and Michael Jackson and pop music. I tend to listen to lots of pop music… it just tends to make me feel good. I’d write that stuff but tend to think it should be for someone else. I started trying it for myself, out of lack of having anyone else to sing it. There was this moment of, ‘oh I’m just gonna do this!’ and it went from simple acoustic tunes to Jeff Lynne things with 700 chords. I wrote like that for a while and then I met Joel.”

He met Joel Quartermain of Eskimo Joe and resident song/production boffin at Wasteland Studios, to be precise. And he’s your go-to guy for that kind of caper.

“We just started talking about songs,” Nelson says. “He and Dale Shearsmith (from Nelson’s other band, High Horse, and a co-writer on the new album) they’re the two dudes I can talk about songs and songwriting with in the way that Luke and Joe (Dux and Grech, Infidels guitarists) would talk about guitars. It’s developed from there. Eskimo Joe had just built a studio and were doing their record and he said, ‘you should come do a record with us’. We talked about it for a year before we actually did anything, and that was about two years ago when we started doing this.”

Nelson says that there was a middle group of tunes that didn’t make the last album, nor this one. The first song Nelson worked on with Quartermain was a breakthrough in all kinds of ways, and set the new plan in stone.

“The first song I did with Joel was Mary Lou,” Nelson says of his best-known single, “but we’d had a plan to do another song with him. I’d gone into the studio and we’d worked on this song just one-on-one and it was all ready to go, the band were gonna come in in a few days and we were going to record it as a single.

“Then I played him this thing on my phone that we recorded at a jam, previously, and it had the chorus of Mary Lou and some rough lyrics. He said, ‘we should do that’ and he convinced me. Before that I’d never been one to pay to record in a proper studio, a song that hadn’t been finished. I was like, ‘really?’ and he said, ‘yeah it’ll be wicked, we’ll do it as we go’.

“So in a sense he kind of joined the band for that session and we made that song. And it was cool, instead of pressing ‘go’ and recording a thing that the band had been playing for two years, it was sort of going on a journey in the studio. Once we’d done that it just excited us and we just kept doing it like that. It was cool.”

Nelson says that there are some songs on the record that are up to five years old, however they received the same treatment as songs that he had written the day before he went in to record them. Inversely, the band’s last single, Born In The ‘90s, did not make the cut. The vision proved malleable.

“We had this grand idea of making today’s version of Ram, by Paul McCartney,” he confides. “It was going to be a vintage sounding ‘70s thing.

“It just… didn’t happen. We just went on doing our own thing with it. It was pretty cool, actually, because on the last album I was fond of paying homage to my favourite bands, with this one if something sounded too guiltily like someone else, or there was just a deliberate reference, it was like, ‘let’s mess it up a bit’.”

If it sounds as though the rest of the band – Dux, Grech, Hayley-Jane Ayres (violin, viola, keys), Brad Forest (bass), Peter Forgus (drums) – simply gave way to this because it has Nelson’s name on the tin, it’s not the case. While he’s an out-and-out songwriter, collaborating with a songwriting craftsman no less, it actually served to enhance the band’s internal, creative dynamic.

“It used to be like that but since the last album we went through a few line-up changes and it’s ended up with this great new unit,” he says. “I really enjoy bringing songs in half-finished and working on them with the band.  We were already becoming far more collaborative, then working with Joel just added to that vibe.”

Not that anyone is too needy in the Infidels. A band of multi-instrumentalists, all of the members play in a multitude of Perth bands, seemingly all of the time.

“That’s why we took two years to make 10 songs,” Nelson laughs. “It is a pain in the arse, just the organisational side, a six-piece band where everyone plays in other bands, but if you enjoy the result of it enough it makes it all worth it. And it most certainly is.”

Get your tickets here!

Buy the album here!

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