Interview: Sydney’s The Preatures
Bianca Cornale talks to Gideon Bensen:
Since the release of last year’s debut EP Shaky Hands, Sydney outfit The Preatures have been going from strength-to-strength and style-to-style. And with their follow-up EP, the chart-smashing title track ‘Is This How You Feel?’, sold-out tours and recent acclaim from the Vanda & Young Songwriting Competition (which of course led to the brouhaha regarding a T-shirt), we were keen to suss out how the young band were faring. Obviously they’re faring pretty well.
From a noisy café in Sydney I chatted to guitarist and singer Gideon Bensen (pictured, top left). Previously I’ve made a habit of seeing Gideon only when I’m drunk/obnoxious, and this made me rather nervous to speak to him for fifteen sober minutes over the phone. But he kindly let me in on what it’s like to work from Sydney’s answer to Berlin, the p/arty grotto Hibernian House, the influences behind the soul grooves of the new EP and The Preatures’ much-anticipated debut album.
Hello Gideon! So we’re calling to talk about your new EP which has just come out. How are you feeling about it all?
Yeah, you know, it’s been pretty exciting. We’ve been chewing at the bit to get it out.
How long has this process been?
Well since the last one it’s been a year. And from then to now we’ve been working towards it. For us it’s gone really quickly, but it has taken its time. The response has been great so far, especially from ‘Is This How You Feel?’ so we’re just really excited.
You were working on your first EP in LA, as opposed to this one which was in Sydney. What was the decision process behind that?
I guess this time around we found a space and we had built it into a studio, and having that space was very much the inspiration to do it ourselves and make use of it. Jack, our lead guitarist, is a great producer, and engineer, so he decided he wanted to give it a go. It just felt like a natural progression. You know, you’re not working against the clock or anything like that.
How was it that you guys came to be working out of Hibernian House?
Gideon: We came to be working out of Hibernian (pictured, left) because [singer/keyboardist] Isabella and [bassist] Tom went to visit it – Alex from Seekae put them on to it when they [Seekae] were using it. So we just went in and asked them “do you mind if we renovate it?” Because it needed some love. They were cool with that, and we had every idea to convert it into a studio. I think everyone else in the other bands there were all for it, because everyone would be able to use the equipment and stuff like that.
It gets a bit crazy… in that in kind of… well, in Hibernian.
Yup. Yup it really does.
Was that inspiring? Or a challenge?
We did have challenges – we did everything we could to keep the noise down and respect our neighbours and things like that. But I don’t think we found it challenging specifically. We actually embraced it. So when you listen to the EP you’re not going to hear a void, you’re going to hear birds going by, and stuff like that, which is kinda nice, it kinda cements the time and place that you did it, more than anything. And it added vibe I think.
Did you find there was a difference in the end product and what you came out with, working in your own space as opposed to your previous studios?
I did, I did. Not having the time restraints we had before meant the ability to go about things and work on things that needed to be worked on more. And at any hour of the day, you know, I think I went out a couple of nights and found myself walking passed there at 2 o’clock in the morning and thinking “oh I might go up there and flesh that idea out.” We just had that ability. Within that we also had limitations, but I don’t think that they hindered us at all.
On your last EP you were working with a very few number of takes for each recording. Was that a factor of time restraint or was that a conscious decision?
That was a conscious decision. One because we had no time, but also to capture the moment. This time around, every track is treated differently, but in recording that principal still applied – that it’s all about capturing the moment. There are mistakes, but they’re sort of happy mistakes, you’ve got to keep them there because they add to the moment, and add to the track.
So you didn’t use that same technique on this EP?
We did and we didn’t. When it came to recording the track as far as the drums, the bass, the guitars – we did that all together again. But I guess when it came to putting it into this sound and making everything sound like what it sounds like now, we took our time.
You guys change up your style on this EP in comparison to previous releases – you get a bit more funky and a little bit more soulful and a little bit more seventies. What were your influences behind that? Did you have any people you wanted to emulate or any tastes influencing your style?
For us there was just a lot of David Bowie, and always Fleetwood Mac; that worked for everyone. We listened to a lot of hip-hop stuff as well. Different sorts of things. But I think what’s driven this EP was very much groove. And that was coming from Tom and Luke. There are songs, like the second single ‘Manic Baby’, which is again driven by Luke and Tom providing that groove. There’s a song called Revelation which Issy wrote which is a different groove again and then a track called ‘Dark Times’ that might have come off the end of the last EP. Which might be recognisable to people who have previously listened to our older music.
Did you feel that you wanted to move away from what you did last time or was this an organic progression?
This was very much an organic progression. I mean, there was a year between [recording] so as a band we progressed because we had moved from that. Not necessarily forgetting where we had come from or what made us what we are, but an evolution, which is what all bands do. We’re a band that moves very quickly. We’re continually writing. At the moment, after this, I’m going to go over [to the studio] with Issy and we’re going to work on a new track. So always working towards the next thing. You kind of have to move quickly because a lot of time when we’re touring you don’t have that luxury. So when you have the free time to do something you have to work on it.
You and Isabella often share vocal responsibilities. How do you decide who sings what songs? Is it an issue dependant on gender pronouns?
(Laughs) I don’t know, I think it’s just about what works – you know? With ‘Is This How You Feel?’ Issy wrote me into that song. She said “I want you to sing this” and “I want you to try this” and then on the other song ‘All My Love’ I looked at that and thought maybe having some Issy on there would be great as well. It’s whatever works, makes the song what it could be, or what would make it better. And if that means that one of us has to sing on their own or if we sing it together – it doesn’t matter.
I do recall earlier this year it was said that you guys would be releasing an album as opposed to another EP.
That was the original plan I think.
What changed? I dunno, I guess the way I should put it is these days there’s more people involved than just the five of us. And to be honest, looking back after having just done this EP, I think that now we’re ready. I think before we would have done an album that perhaps wouldn’t be out by now and perhaps to a listener it might not be as defined or cohesive. So I think it worked out for the better.
So when will we be seeing this illusive album of yours?
Probably in the New Year. We’re working on it now. We’ve got some tours coming up, we’re going overseas for a bit, going to come back over here to do some gigs and January is the time we’re looking at. Definitely in the New Year.
You can pick up The Preatures’ new EP ‘Is This How You Feel?’ on iTunes. They’re also playing a spate of shows across Australia, which are already selling out fast. So get your hot little hands on them keyboards and snag yourself a ticket in your town! Then they’re heading to the UK for a few shows, so keep your eyes open for dates.
Interview by Bianca Cornale