Track-by-Track with The Preatures
We’ve been following The Preatures since forever, so we’re excited that their new EP has landed. We asked the band to talk us through it, track by track, in depth:
Take a Card
Isabella: Take a Card was quick and easy to write. We were taking the piss and it turned into a fun jam sort of thing, so we decided to write a pop song. I suppose we were a little frustrated at the time because the lyrics are about how shit music on the radio is. Then it got played on the radio, and people love it. So it’s sort of inverted itself. I’m still not sure how I feel about that but it reminds me of that line in Dancing in The Dark where he says there’s a joke here somewhere and it’s on me. Gideon came up with the verse/chorus turnaround after listening to this band Hacienda (Dan Auerbach’s backing band on his solo record), Jack and I wrote the pre chorus. Tom and Jack wrote the middle-eight. I wrote the lyrics, and Luke came up with the ‘call on the beat’ line in the chorus. The point is it was a joint effort. I remember having a lot of fun writing it and I like that the lyrics are a little cynical under all that bopping. It makes me wonder if people get it, but I know that’s not the point of a good pop song anyway.
Jack: When we were mixing we had a few channels up, heaps of reverb, breaking all the rules – Tony was saying “Just release it like this! It’ll fuck with people!” and I’m saying “No way, this is too weird and skeletal”, it was all drums and vocals and bass, really gaunt but really sexy. Later a more normal mix came together, which was clean and wrong, so I had this idea that we should mix the two cuts together.
Isabella: I actually wrote this song straight after listening to PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake, which is weird because you’d never pick that as the song’s influence, but I got a spark from the record and went with it. I originally wrote it as a duet for me and my friend Hero Fisher. We were gonna play it as a badass woman pop hit and dress up in suits and wear wigs. In reality we just got drunk and yelled at each other. So I took it to the band. Some songs take ages to feel like they fit, but this has a sexy Bowie-cross-Blondie vibe now and is definitely my favourite song to play live.
Jack: Threat was a riff that I had written into the demo of Pale Rider I sent to Isa, but it was just a passing idea that she latched onto and the whole song came out of it. I was really impressed by that. I love how such a little thing in the right hands can become this lush idea for something grand. I’m really proud of the choruses, and the architecture there, and the casual placement of the rhythms and parts.
Isabella: Jack played me the idea for Pale Rider in early 2010 and I loved it straight away. I was listening to a lot of Nick Cave and watching Westerns, and I’d just come across a Clint Eastwood film called Pale Rider. In the Bible the rider of the pale horse is death, and the film is full of biblical references. Eastwood plays a character called The Preacher who appears mysteriously in a frontier town overrun by thugs, and two women in the town fall in love with him. His character turns out to be a ghost, so he can’t love either of them back, but they’re devoted to him anyway. I really loved this idea, of being devoted to a shadow. And I think every girl can relate to loving a boy who behaves like a shadow, who is just completely non-present, and how magnetic and fascinating it can be.
Jack: I wrote this originally as a pop song like The Turtles, or something really cheesy. But I sent Isa a demo, which was a really fluid feeling thing with all the parts that she then re-arranged to become Pale Rider. It was so groovy when the band took it up, it’s still my favourite song to perform – it has magic. We have a demo from BJB Studios (now closed), which is still a really great picture of the intention of the song and I’d like to release it someday. Maybe we’ll even re-record it; maybe Isa and I will never be satisfied with it, but it’s our first grand creation.
The Sleeping Serial
Gideon: The Sleeping Serial is loosely based around a murder committed on May 23, 1987 in Toronto. Kenneth Parks had lost a good job due to embezzlement and a gambling addiction and, as a result, he experienced a high level of stress and suffered from insomnia. On the night of the 23rd he rose from his bed and drove to his in-laws where he proceeded to beat them with a tire iron from the car, then stabbed them several times with a kitchen knife. After the killing, Ken drove to the nearest police station to turn himself in, saying repeatedly “I think I have just killed some people with my bare hands”. Although Ken had severe cuts to his hands attesting to the struggle, he claimed he had no recollection of the events. Ken had a history of sleepwalking, so much so that during court proceedings Ken was acquitted on the grounds that he was in a semi-conscious state and could not appreciate what he was doing. While controversial, the verdict stood.
At the time I was listening to a lot of Americana but it was only after one night listening to The Drones that I thought I would revisit the story of Ken Parks and attempt to create something from it. I wanted to make some changes to the story though…
I felt it was only right that Ken be imprisoned for his wrong doing, it would reflect and justify a more menacing delivery. I also changed the method of killing from a stabbing to a shooting. The song takes place in a prison yard where Ken is talking with another inmate about the night of the 23rd. My intention throughout the song was to depict Ken as a criminal who had tried to cheat the criminal system by pleading his innocence, leading the jury to believe he was a victim of a sleeping disorder.
Musically the song follows the narrative, certain stops or breaks are punctuated in the song by key phrases, an example of this would be the dry single snare drum hit followed by the lyric “I got that single shot away. I’d like to think my wife she’d thank me everyday.” The rhythm section in the song moves as a unit, Tom’s bass line dances around Luke’s percussive patterns. The guitars are used in the song to enhance the richness of the story and to provide a break from all the lyrical content. Isabella’s vocal supports key sections in the song, helping lure the listener in with her top line harmonies.
The Sleeping Serial simply captured a sly and twisted man whose life was spiraling out of control. He murdered his in-laws because he panicked that they would soon influence his wife to leave him.
Jack: This song is as old as The Preatures, it was one of the first songs we had in our set and it’s still there. Recording in LA I had a brainwave sitting in the control room, the drums were being miked up and I picked up a Gibson LG-0 in Nashville Tuning – it was something I’d never used before. The sound took me straight away, I just knew it was the right feel for the rhythm. Something about telling a Canadian story through an Americana-inspired song treatment, it felt good and I loved performing the guitars on the record. I just plugged in weird guitars and let go, I did the overdubbed parts in a single take. I remember Tom coming up with the great spaghetti-western line in the “Is it true?” section he recorded on a classical guitar into a U47; it’s Guitar Land on this song.
Young Brave Me
Gideon: Young Brave Me tells the story of a man who doesn’t appreciate what he has. He loses his girlfriend after she finally becomes so frustrated with him that she believes he is no good for her, and needs to get out from under his spell. As time passes he realises how much he needs her and is sorry for the hurt he has caused her. It’s all too little, too late as she has moved on.
I had initially brought the song to the band with the intention to be played in a 3/4 Waltz time, but after seeing that this was not going to work Tom took the reins and provided a really solid bass line. Similar to what you might hear on a Chess Records/Chicago blues track.
At the time I had begun listening again to a lot of Van Morrison and wrote the song with Morrison’s Tupelo Honey in mind. I was intrigued how Van was so romantic but his delivery was really dry and insincere. I connected with this insincerity as I too had been insincere, doing wrong to someone who at the time had been good to me.
Jack: Sometimes you beat your head against a wall trying to get a song to work, then you realise all you have to do is change everything about it and it will be ok. It’s like black comedy for songwriters – you labour over this idea and craft certain textures and themes to reflect in music, and then say, “Great, now I’ve found the best way to make it sound like arse, I’m going to re-write it well.” It was the newest of the songs we took to the studio and, like Take A Card, that vitality is stored in the song because of that. We got really drunk on cheap whiskey from the chemist and sang the chorus vocals just milling about the studio, it was shameless good fun.
Words by Isabella, Gideon and Jack from The Preatures. You can follow the band on Facebook, get hold of their new EP on iTunes and – if you are in Australia – check them out at Peat’s Ridge Festival this New Year’s Eve. Tickets here.