Augie March preserve an archetype within their songs. It is not wholly attributed to the sound, but rather buried in the lines, the phrasing and the stories they write of. In an understated way, the band, like wordsmiths, painters and poets before them, pay heed to the land of sweeping plains, of cattle, of drought, of eucalypts and the Australian sky and terrain.
The band fell quiet to the outside world for a time. Songwriter Glenn Richards went south of the country, residing in Hobart, Tasmania; a peaceful breakaway point where one can peer across the streetscape and look up to see a snow capped Mount Wellington looming large. Meanwhile, down below there is a warm, drenching sun, accompanied by a cool breeze brought in by the salty sea whereupon tugboats chug by and long and large ships on the horizon pass by, into the churning waves and out of sight. This is a part of Australia which can give a writer or an artist something, from simply being and seeing.
The front of this album is a patchwork quilt of Australia, and in many ways the songs have been stitched together over time as five characters, five friends, assemble what they hear, see and understand the landscape of life and in the music that they inhabit.
Interestingly, the album title is derived from an old (1918) English poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins. In the 1900s and indeed in the early twenty century, many Australians referred to England as the ‘old country’ and English literature was a frequent resource for those living in Australia; thus, the band is obviously well read to have selected the particular source for their title. It is not entirely clear why, yet it is eluded that it is a play on words, and ‘dumb’ is meaning mute or silence.
An excerpt from the poem Heaven-Haven reads:
” And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea. ”
Beyond the exterior, and dug in the dirt, the title of their new album Havens Dumb signifies a regeneration for Augie March. Their growth has been gradual and secluded.
Now they reemerge, and guitarist Adam Donovan gives us an insight into their latest collection of songs.
We were always making an album, making pace slowly. We had a batch of songs over a few months and then went into the studio and recorded them over a few months, and then again a bit later so it was a stretched out and drawn out process. In the end we were trying to make something that we were happy to listen to and liked to listen to.
It is a nice idea to let songs just happen and not force the process, but I don’t think we will do it that way again because it is really drawn out and if we had of packed it all together we probably could have got it done in a month, I suppose, of studio work. I think I would have preferred that in a way.
The album process:
It was a different process this time around. Glenn [Richards] is the songwriter, that was the same. Some songs were demos that we put stuff on top of but the rest were built from the ground up, playing live in a room together keeping to that with most of the fine tuning done at home when the clock had stopped running and we were weren’t paying money for studio time and that type of thing.
Glenn was in Hobart and the rest of us are in Melbourne. That was another thing that caused a few delays, but there was lots of great file swapping going on. I would work on stuff in Melbourne and then upload it and Glenn would then be able to collate everything on his computer in Hobart and then we brought it to the studio to mix.
Being our own boss:
Taking the role of director in the studio ourselves gave us a lot of freedom. We were paying for it so we got to decide on what we wanted.
The hiatus was not as long as it seems:
The break we had gave us a chance to go off and do our own things and everybody did, and did all sorts of things; but I think, in essence, for us, we only had a two year break as we had toured and then went on a break after that and then two years later we started to record so it wasn’t a huge gap.
In my time off I was exploring other interests and playing in other bands here and there but I didn’t have that much at stake – I was just helping out friends and things like that, but it enabled me to enjoy the time and keep playing music.
Having time on your own:
This way we could have greater freedom without people looking over your shoulder. We could make a lot more mistakes – some takes are not so good, some are and you try and repeat those at your own pace. That was quite a good thing.
Keeping some flaws:
To have something seamless and structured, it can lack in character. Things that were a bit messy could sometimes have an emotional impact or something like that, so we made an effort to kind of keep bits of stuff like that in there and it does add to the character of a song, I think.
Playing live again:
The live shows are the best thing I get to do. We did rehearse quite a lot, just because it has been quite a few years where we hadn’t played together, but the more we play, the more we are jelling together. It felt pretty natural being back together again. It has been falling into place pretty quickly.
It is nice that people are still interested and it is always great to be playing in front of people opposed to an empty room – it makes it all worthwhile.
The support acts on tour:
We choose all of our support acts because we really love their music and have listened to them in any case. They are all really talented people and it is a really nice introduction to the shows. A lot of my friends are musicians, and really great musicians at that! and I stop and realise that it is quite a good feeling and nice quality to have in your close friends.
Some months on, looking at the album:
I think it is a good collection of songs. I like the artwork on the front cover. I like the Australianess of it.
So much of this record is imbued with an “Australianess”. It is a slow burner, and one that can be appreciated in the written form as well as the auditory.
Havens Dumb is out now.
Augie March play The Sydney Opera House – Sunday the 25th of January.