Andy Bull digs a little deeper – Interview
Sydney-based musician Andy Bull has just released his latest longplayer, ‘Sea of Approval’ and is hitting the road in September. Melissa Oey had a chat with him to find out more:
Sea of Approval is noted for touching on the struggles of simply existing but in such a deviously catchy way. What is your secret to balancing all the heaviness with light?
It’s a good question, and hard to answer succinctly, because I don’t think there’s a formula. I think when the balance is good between elements you can just feel it. It feels convincing, or it feels like it has a spark, or depth. The way I think about it is that life is complex, full of contradictions and ambiguities. The more I’ve accepted that, the more I’ve been able to accept my own music, and in that way it’s like a personal decision that’s had a creative flow on. So maybe, on a practical level, the contradiction happens in the choices you make about lyrics, melody, chords progressions, sounds and so on; perhaps they pivot off each other in a particular way. Prosody and contrast.
The songs on this LP seem to reflect a restlessness and a progressing towards breaking free from expectations – was there an intentional irony in naming this album ‘Sea of Approval’?
The album title is meant ironically. There is possibly no moment in our lives wherein we meet the imagined standard of the imaginary audience, win all the prizes, and the outside world hands us our special badge of self-acceptance and the journey is complete; we don’t get handed those experiences, there is no final arrival, there is no sea of approval to swim in. If moments of self-approval come at all, they’re never perfect, and they probably have to happen internally, slowly, with difficulty, and despite the very presence of our imperfections, our wounds, and not because of their absence.
Sea of Approval’s sound has been accurately described as ‘open and personal’. Is there ever a question of how much Andy Bull can be put out there or which inner demons you can release unto the masses?
I think I’m always trying to get more fluent, more able to say things, and what holds me back is that I perhaps aren’t yet fully able to articulate things with what I believe is the required deftness or subtlety. As you get more confident with the language, you can say more, you can say it more meaningfully. It took me time to get a handle on the language, but I think it was less an issue of, say, vocabulary, and more an issue of approach. When I first started writing lyrics, I think I went through a long period of just skimming along the surface. It may have just been a matter of experience. Perhaps some things need to be better reconciled internally before you can put them into song. Nobody runs out of inner demons though. The demons you are born with are yours for life, and if you’re going to make it through you’ve got to accept it and learn how to manage them. That’s the deal of living, I reckon.
Did this change knowing you were recording something that would also be completely self-produced?
Without a shadow of a doubt, working on this album in such a solitary manner provided me with the time and space I required to start digging a little deeper, as well as to experiment musically.
I know it’s still early days but what, if any, new soundscapes do you see informing the next phase of the Andy Bull evolution?
I’ve already started thinking! One of the things I’m quite pleased with on Sea of Approval is that there are tighter, punchier moments and then looser, more stream-of-thought ones. I’d like to continue in this way, pushing in both directions; but I think I am excited to utilize more live musicians in the future. I recorded Sea of Approval so much on my own, and I think it might be interesting to take a more “live” approach in general, but to keep using all of these things like synthesizers and drum machines within that context, kind of how we do it when we tour. It might make a subtle difference to the outcome or a very dramatic one, I don’t know yet.
With the national tour for Sea of Approval in sight, are there any pre-tour or pre-show rituals you’re looking forward to being reacquainted with?
Well, since I joined the illuminati, it’s a bit harder to talk about, but there’s usually a bit of chat and banter. It’s good to have a bit of two and fro before the show.
Andy Bull interview by Melissa Oey