With their second highly anticipated LP due at the end of the week, mischievous Melbourne outfit, Northeast Party House, have very little time to stop and smell the roses. The group is about to embark on one of their grandest tours to date, crossing the country in celebration of Dare, the band’s finest studio achievement. From the percussive engine room, Malcolm Besley took a moment out from their tour preparation to divulge the goss on the creation of Dare, from conception to production, and everything in between.
Where was the new LP recorded and over what time period?
We never had an official start. We began making demos in early 2015 and the demos grew into songs that we kept adding and adding to until they became the final product. We recorded live drums in April 2015, so I guess that’s when we said, ‘okay we have enough good songs for an album’. The songs never really stopped being recorded until we sent them off to be printed. On the final night of mixing we were still tracking parts and having a conversation about potentially re-writing elements. Most of the album was done in Melbourne at Rolling Stock Recording Rooms, The Studios In The City, Sing Sing Studios, Smooch Records and Hackney Road Studios in London. Some of the final parts were done on our flight to Europe and in the tour van in driving around Germany.
Where do you guys begin when it comes to writing music for a record?
We are always experimenting and staying open to new ways to happen upon a creative moment. It still feels like starting a song is something mostly out of our control. Zach often gets a vocal hook stuck in his head out of nowhere and then records it at home usually over a synth bass line. The bass lines are usually the first sound he comes across so he can get the idea down as quickly as possible. They usually sound absolutely terrible. The unintentional lo-fi nature of Zach’s demos allows us to see the core of the idea. If it’s good enough to resonate even in such a poor format, then you know you’re onto a good thing. ‘For You’ and ‘Calypso Beach’ were made this way.
Mitch will work on a song on his own at home and tends to wait ’till he has the bulk of the song written before we hear it. Mitch has a much more specific vision for what he writes. Usually, it’s a chorus and an instrumental section, sometimes just a verse, and sometimes a finished song. We then all work on it together and refine the ideas. As with the ideas that come from Zach, Mitch’s demos will often go through a lot of re-writes from all of us. Sometimes they end up with nothing from the original idea, sometimes they are pretty much the same. Wallflower and Heartbreaker evolved like this.
“Sometimes we just jam without any real intention. It often ends in us playing ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ or really really really aggressive punk songs with Jackson singing about Centrelink and anxiety.”
The same again but from Jackson. Jackson is by accident a genius synth producer. He doesn’t really understand how a lot of audio software works so he often accidentally creates these insane sounds. It’s funny because he’s usually trying to re-create a sound or idea from other artists he loves, but the whole thing falls in a heap and something completely different evolves. Jackson often really dislikes what he has written but one of us will love it and take it off his hands – leaving him completely bewildered as to why we would want it.
Sometimes we just jam without any real intention. It often ends in us playing ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ or really really really aggressive punk songs with Jackson singing about Centrelink and anxiety. Afterwards, Sean or myself will filter through hours of audio and find any cool ideas that may have chanced and we try to recreate them in a fresh way on the computer. Your House was started like this.
Do you have any unconventional or perhaps unusual studio routines?
Off the top of my head no, but I guess the fact that we all write is pretty unique. The way we approach technical nerdy stuff is not really unique but I guess a bit less common. We don’t care much about gear or equipment. It frees us from romanticising things like ‘analogue’ and just listening to what the music actually sounds like. That’s not a routine though, more an approach. There was an ice cream truck that would drive past Smooch Records so we would have breaks with choc dipped soft serve a lot.
“We aimed for the album to be more intelligent, fun, and we spent more time on lyrics that actually meant something to us. We really had a better idea of our strengths a band this time round. We made an effort to make sure there was no ‘that will do’ attitude.”
Are you more likely to have a structure sit down approach to writing or do you feel it’s more of a spur of the moment?
Yes, more of a structured sit-down approach. However, we do sometimes create some gems in the middle of a procrastination jam when we are supposed to be rehearsing for a gig.
Was there anything in particular that felt different entering the studio for your second LP compared to 2014’s any given weekend?
We made a conscious effort not to try and create an album that all six of us liked every single part of. It’s easy for the music to be compromised and watered down to satisfy the group but without any individual being totally happy. We decided it was better to have songs that say four people absolutely loved and two hated, rather than a song that all six of us kinda liked. We all have similar tastes and are from similar backgrounds, so I think for the most part we all like most of the album equally.
We actually talked about what we wanted to sound like this time round instead of just throwing ideas at a wall. We wanted to make something more unique sounding and experimental. I’m not sure if we achieved it but we tried. We aimed for the album to be more intelligent, fun, and we spent more time on lyrics that actually meant something to us. We really had a better idea of our strengths a band this time round. We made an effort to make sure there was no ‘that will do’ attitude. It had to all be ‘Full Steez’.
“When I’m drunk or whatever I love everything. My standards hit the floor. You could just play me an open E string and I’d love it. When sober I’m at my most difficult to please so it forces me to work harder for more interesting ideas. If you can make my sober self-happy then drunk/high self is going to be in bliss.”
What’s one thing that get’s easier as your recording experience goes on?
One thing that comes to mind is how we approach writing. We have a better idea of what environment allows us to be creative. It’s important to create time in your life to write and organise yourself so you’re not stressed or anxious in that allocated time (maybe some people write best when they are anxious).
Aside from instruments etc, what are some of the studio essentials?
Coffee and Tea. All varieties but traditional afternoon tea, 4/5 strength rating. We get pretty wild. I think alcohol and drugs (other than caffeine) are terrible when writing. When I’m drunk or whatever I love everything. My standards hit the floor. You could just play me an open E string and I’d love it. When sober I’m at my most difficult to please so it forces me to work harder for more interesting ideas. If you can make my sober self-happy then drunk/high self is going to be in bliss.
Who’s the most serious in the band?
It’s totally situational dependent. We are all a bunch of rat bags so I can’t say anyone is serious. Sean was reading a book about death while we wrote and recorded in Europe so he can take that one.
What is the best part of spending hours in a studio with some of your best mates?
We have a bro bond through experiencing intense pressure and coming out the other side, so that’s good. Heaps of laughs. hanging out and making music and not really thinking about anything other than being in the moment is good.
Describe your ultimate house party.
I’m djing, so it’s nothing but my favourite songs. Probably a Karaoke set up for when the moment hits. Everyone dancing. Not too many people, 25-40, is a good vibe but a super tight crew. Inner city suburb. Need a backyard and shit carpet so a town house is ideal. Someone needs to make out that you never expected to, someone who never parties need to embarrass themselves, at least one person to vomit. At least one annoying person that you wish your friend didn’t bring. Finish the night by the fire with a remaining handful of random people who never hang out but in that moment are best friends. Go to bed before the sun comes up. Wake up and eat salty food while watching Pixar / Amelie / Lord of the Rings with whoever stayed over. If you don’t wake up and immediately feel embarrassed about yourself then you didn’t have a good time.
Northeast Party House are touring throughout September and October alongside Polish Club & Twinsy on selected dates. For tickets, visit www.northeastpartyhouse.com.