Track by Track with Dear Plastic
Melbourne-based five-piece Dear Plastic recently released their critically-acclaimed debut album, “The Thieves Are Babes” on vinyl. So we thought it was the perfect opportunity to ask them to talk us through it, track by track. Here are Scarlette and Josh from the band…
Scarlette: This was fun to write. I got a bit carried away making piracy puns.
Josh: I originally imagined this being a theme song for a spy movie, then it got all hip hop. The male choir at the end includes the vocal stylings of engineer/co-producer ‘Heavy T’ Neil Thomason.
Scarlette: Overwintering is what animals do to wait out the winter months – through hibernation or migration. I enjoyed being irresponsible with this one in the studio.
Josh: Love what Neil did with Cory’s drums on this one. I wasn’t there for when they mixed it. I came in the next morning and Neil had this look on his face, like he’d done something naughty – he couldn’t wait to show me. The kick blew my face off.
Scarlette: I thought that matter interacting with antimatter was a neat metaphor for a relationship. When antimatter and matter collide, they annihilate one another and release a whole whack of energy. (I hope you’re enjoying this mini lecture series so far.)
Josh: This one started ages ago! Danny made a heavily layered loop on his guitar and we loved it, so we put a groove over it. We really fucked with Scarlette’s lead vocal – through the modular and Danny’s pedals and looping. That was great fun. It was very tempting to have the whole thing in reverse, but that’d be dumb. There was a 12-string guitar part that got brought in to the studio. That got shut down real quick.
Josh: Our friends Blaire and Leigh are on this track. Blaire came in for the sax solo in the BOUNCE section. Leigh helped out with glockenspiel sounds.
Scarlette: It’s about fish or it’s about astronomy or it’s about a real person.
Josh: Zebra Danio and Epic Delay are the oldest tracks. We recorded them at an earlier session with Neil and they never really got used so we did some touch ups and mixed them with everything else.
Scarlette: It feels like we’ve been sitting on this forever. Some of the lyrics are almost a decade old now. I’m reluctant to say too much about it, because it’s particularly special to me. I hope that’s not rude.
Buck Up and Pay the Reaper
Scarlette: I really love stories about ‘the bad guy’. We recorded the vocals just a few minutes after I woke up in the morning to get the deepest, sleepiest sound I could.
Josh: We had so much fun with this in the studio. VIBES! I had the absolute pleasure of spending half a day with Roderick Greig. He was one of the loveliest people I’ve ever met, and he tore it up. Chorus backing vocals inspired by Isaac Hayes’ – ‘Hot Buttered Soul’. Danny plays a pretty evil ebow solo!
Josh: We recorded this one at home. Nathan had recently got his Octotrack and was getting in to its time-stretching capabilities. The little beat that comes in halfway through is a preset beat off a Roland CR drum machine – that thing sounds beautiful. We had a room mic set up and began rustling things to give the track a more intimate feel – I think we had bits of foil, paper and steel wool. At the end you can hear what my housemates were watching on television.
Scarlette: I was so excited when that creepy TV choir came through! This is, in my opinion, one of the best things Dear Plastic has made so far, and I’m not even on it.
Scarlette: I have two brothers and a sister. They are my favourite things, and these lyrics are a present for them.
Josh: The song where Nathan took control of the Mellotron. It was the best day of his life. It’s all he had. I think we were watching a lot of old Kung Fu stuff at the time. Neil was in good form on the day we tracked the Mellotrons. Come to think of it, maybe it was the happiest day in all of our lives. I really like contrast of beats in this track. Also lots of Yamaha CS stuff on this track, which I’m happy about!
Josh: There’s two things worth noting about this interlude/song/thing. One is good, one is not good…
1. Cory said that Danny’s loop made him cry and made him want to leave his girlfriend at the time.
2. Apparently it sounds a bit similar to the beginning of Shine on you Crazy Diamond.
Scarlette: I had these lyrics knocking around for ages, then one day Josh came up with chords that happened to fit snug. I have this fear: imagine you’re sharing a bed, and you get up to get a glass of water. You climb back in and find a totally different person there. Strokes in certain areas of the brain leave you unable to recognise people… what if you had a midnight stroke and didn’t realise it?
Josh: We had some fun with the vocals on this one. MPC chops of Scarlette’s lines at the end. Mixing this track was good times, we spend a while getting the right delay on the snare for that dub sound – Neil was smiling.
Ghost of a Better Place
Scarlette: I read that astronauts viewing the earth from outer space experience a similar mental state to monks in deep meditation. It’s called the Overview Effect. Seeing the tininess of the Earth creates this euphoria, they feel connected to everyone and everything. It puts all the microscopic turmoils on the planet into perspective.
Josh: We got strings and horns in on this track to give it some sizzle. When it all came together I was very happy, and it sounded fantastic. Before it came together I was having a minor meltdown. I fucked up the Sibelius sessions and there was egg on my face, a fair bit of egg. BUT, the guys were so awesome and absolutely cool – I love them so much for that night.
Scarlette: My understanding of climate change, and my concern about this terrible reality, is a bit at odds with my interest in seeing how the world ends. That’s a fun thing to write a song about, isn’t it?
Josh: I think this one’s my favourite, I was itching to get to this in the studio. The moment when the bass line drops and the drums come in feels great, especially with the horns in there to give it that extra kick. We went nuts with synth overdubs I think, fairly low in the mix in the end.
iii (the rot)
Josh: The third interlude thing. Danny with a looper. Yamaha CS15 and a space echo. It used to have a lot more layers. Now it doesn’t.
Scarlette: This is the delicious musical mulch that overtures the conceptual bloom ahead.
Everything’s Coming Up Roses
Josh: This was the last song we did. It was recorded at home. The main hook of the track is the MPC 2000 chopping up Danny’s loops. We got Blaire in again to play sax over the choruses and ending to add a bit more of an acoustic feel to the track – it was VERY synthy before that. There’s a few different versions of this songs floating around. We ended up cutting Nathan’s beat for the final half of the song for the album version – felt it was a more suitable way to end the album. More vibraslap?
Scarlette: This song is about lots of stuff, and I have lots of feelings about it. On one level it’s about someone who had a crumby life. He’s accumulated loads of grudges, and he’s bitter, but too tragic to actually do anything about it. Instead of resolving things he just waits to outlive the people he despises – that’s his sad revenge. On another level, it’s about my high school experience.