“G’day,” says a friendly voice.
That would be Patience Hodgson, the recognisable front woman of Australian band The Grates.
The three-piece initially began late one night while watching rage. They’ve since changed however, with founding members John and Patience still remaining on top of the addition of newcomer Ritchie Daniell. The Grates no longer record in John’s Dad’s back shed. For their fourth album, they recorded in Sydney at Linear Studios, recruiting Owen Penglis (front man of Straight Arrows, producer of Royal Headache, The Frowning Clouds and Palms) to mind the desk. They got straight into it; they didn’t want to bother with the drawn out processes that so often partner the album release procedure. Instead – away with that. They recorded the album in six days, mixed it for four days thereafter, and now here we have the final product Dream Team; 11 tracks long and merely 24 minutes worth of listening. How did it come about? What took them so long between albums? How much fun did they have making it? Patience tells the story so far.
How it all started:
“I guess, really it was just a couple of months ago. We went into our record label. At the time we couldn’t see eye-to-eye as to how we wanted to release our next record. That had kind of been going on for a couple of years. It just got to the point where everyone had to acknowledge that we weren’t going to see eye-to-eye. We were lucky enough to be in a position where we had fulfilled our contract with them so we could release an album on our own if we wanted to. We decided to do just that. In conversation with our manager, we just had to figure out a way to make it work.
We didn’t want to do it in the traditional way because it takes so long, and it had already been so long between records for us.
We really wanted to be in band again and release music. We didn’t want to have it sit around in the mechanics of the music system, which albums just do. You record them and they take months; piecing things together before the album is actually ‘done’.
There is no reason to have to release an album that way anymore.
We decided. Let’s record it.”
The next question was, who did we want to make an album with?
“We really wanted to do it in Australia and we also really wanted to do it in Sydney, or Melbourne, or wherever. We didn’t really care. We thought about doing it in Brisbane but what I love about recording an album is when you go away. You are out of your zone- you get less phone calls, people aren’t dropping round, there’s no BBQ invites or anything.
We’ve always been big on Own Penglis’ work. I loved Straight Arrows and lots of what he had recorded in the last few years. We knew he was a really good guy. I guess we approached him first and he was like, ‘Yeah! That would be great, let’s do it.’ It worked out really well. He was overseas with Straight Arrows in Europe, pretty much for the entirety of October. It was a couple of days after he got back to Australia that we started recording.”
“Before we started recording we were getting the artwork ready and organising where we were going to get the cassettes and the CD’s done, and basically wording everyone up seeing where we could get the fastest turnover.”
The recording process:
“We started working on day one and it felt so good to do that. We just recorded to tape. We did a couple of takes and picked the one that felt right. If there were no mistakes, the tempo was consistent and the vibe was great, we’d go ‘yep, that’s the take.’
It is a pretty raw album in the sense that it’s just drums, bass and guitar. There are a couple of leads and stuff that John over dubbed on top of the songs. There were very few harmonies. A couple of songs have tambourine but it was really just raw and rad.
It kept feeling like we were kicking goals, everyday. Everyday there was another song that we could tick off the board and was completed.”
It was continuously and instantly gratifying:
“Owen Penglis, who we recorded with, I felt really understood us. Owen has really good taste in music, so his opinion I really respected.
For this album we put into place everything that we had learnt and then were given confidence in a way, by Owen. Having then the confidence to believe, by Owen saying ‘there was a little mistake there but man it sounds cool.’ Those bits of character may have been stripped out in previous stuff.”
How we knew if the music felt right:
“The only reason I really play a song to someone beforehand is to see how I am going to feel about it. It’s just really weird when you are asking for people’s opinions of your music. You might have a really good friend, but you only like 50% of their CD collection. Only 50% of things are aligned and maybe only a small percentage again of books or anything culturally, so there are probably differences between you and what someone else likes, even though you are really good friends. So asking someone’s opinion on what they think of your music- it almost doesn’t really matter. Everyone likes different stuff. I only listen to people who my tastes really align with or someone who I really feel understands me.
If I play friends a song and a lyric comes up and all of a sudden I feel embarrassed, or a chord change comes up and I feel embarrassed, I know I’ve got to change it. If I’m embarrassed it’s not really authentic to me.”
Writing for the album:
“I get heaps of inspiration from people around me and that’s the way it has always been. Every single record there has always been songs written about friends- I just can’t help it.
John and I write pretty much everything together. He writes the music and I write the melodies and lyrics- that is how it has always been with us.
Sometimes it would be nice to be someone else’s brain- like a singer songwriter who writes the music and the melodies at the same time. It would be amazing to be in their head to see how that is working. If they wanted to changed a melody, they would not have to have a conversations with someone and explain how to do that- then the vibe can be gone.
The fun part is that there are always surprises when one of us does something that the other doesn’t expect. It feels really good when you both happen to be on the same wave length.”
How drummer Ritchie Daniell joined the band:
“We had hired Ritchie’s X-girlfriend and she came around before she was due to work. She said that she was really sorry but she had taken another job with a friend and we were super disappointed, as you could imagine. She said not to worry, and that her boyfriend is looking for a good, and that he was a really good barista, better than her- we didn’t have anyone else to work so we had to take her word for it and if it didn’t work out, we would just have to fire him. He was just wonderful. We spent 40 hours a week working together, and listening to music and we really built a relationship. It was so fun to have that opportunity to get deep into a relationship before we started playing as a band.”
Vinyl, CD, cassette, online? Listen to The Grates any way you want:
“However anyone wants to listen to music is fine by me. I don’t see any benefit in trying to control or limit the way that people can be listening to music. There are so many ways you can listen to music and have peoples music. It doesn’t make sense to me to try and restrict or limit how people want to hear your stuff. You are going to kind of look out of touch in a way. You can’t deny that people just download music, or stream music. This is how people are doing it, there’s no point in fighting it, you’ve just got to evolve.”
Why The Grates keep making music:
“You cross your fingers, try your best and work hard. It’s great. We have got to do so many rad things. We have travelled heaps, played lots of great festivals and meet lots of great people and rad bands.
A pile of my laminated festival passes – that’s my pride and joy.
Making this record was such an awesome experience. It was really, really fun.
I just love that we get to do this, that we still have an audience, and we get played on the radio. It’s just fucking cool.”
Dream Team is available now via Death Valley Records.
The band plan to tour later next year. Visit TheGrates.com