in ,

A-OKAY

As Brisbane four-piece band VIOLENT SOHO release their fifth studio album, Everything Is A-OK, this month, singer-songwriter LUKE BOERDAM takes us through it track by track…

“SLEEP YEAR”
We originally played around with the idea of the acoustic song “A-OKAY” being the opener, but as soon as I demoed the guitar “chuggs” at the start of “Sleep Year”, I knew the record had to open with it. I don’t think there’s another song I’m more desperate to play live! I found it difficult with guitar tones on this song not to make them more gained and thicker like our older songs, but Greg [Wales, who produced the record] convinced me to keep it cleaner so you could hear the bends and let the riff really come through the amp with nothing but tubes. This song best epitomises the different guitar sound on the record. It’s not over-saturated, its more pulled-back. It’s letting the drums push most of the energy. Lyrically, it’s quite short, it’s about giving up on confrontation, kind of being swept away in a mess with no control over how we act in a moment.

“VACATION FOREVER”
Funnily enough this was actually the first song written on the record. A bunch of shit happened in my life and basically I was at my parent’s house with a suitcase and nowhere to go. I just wrote every day because that’s all I could do – the song is really just describing where I was at the time, basically it was pretty… shit. The lyrics came together pretty quick, that’s the bonus that comes with a painful epiphany. Lyrically, I’m trying to describe a certain frustration. No matter what I did in life I always ended back there. I was living in the that room when I wrote our first record, the second time I had to go back there was after we got dropped by our American label in 2010, and now I was back here again years later – the same damn f—king room! To me it sounds like the mothership of the record – it instantly framed everything. I knew exactly where to take the whole record after that.

“PICK IT UP AGAIN”
This was one of the earlier songs written for the record, along with “Vacation Forever”. We got to try it out at Big Pineapple Festival in 2018. We rarely get to try out new stuff live so it was great to see an instant reaction. After we played it we knew it had a place on the record. Took loads of influence from older Aussie bands on this one and I feel like you can hear it. It’s got a swing in the chorus kind of like You Am I’s “Berlin Chair” and then breaks into a mosh-centric chorus, like something more from a Grinspoon song. I really tried to give it a more laidback feel than our older songs. It’s probably one of the most personal songs on the record – just about finding resolve and moving on.

“CANADA”
I can’t really explain the lyrics on this one, as soon as I came up with the riff the lyrics just came to me. I had this image of planning to escape to Canada because of doom/gloom scenarios with global warming and it being some sort of last remaining outpost. The main guitar riff just got me reminiscing of a holiday and all the times we toured through Canada. It’s always been like home but at the opposite end of the world. It doesn’t have this overt cultural identity to get your head around like America – the people are nice and they’re laidback, a bit like Australia. I’ve always found it so funny you can literally cross the border from Niagara Falls, arrive in Toronto and confidently say it’s feels like Melbourne.

“SHELF LIFE”
This track questions how much control/agency you have over yourself and your actions – i.e. one of the lyrics “Secret Soul came out and through my veins”. We’re always told we have so much control – each decision we make leads to an outcome that is directly within our reach. How much of what you desire or base your identity on is actually a construct of opinions/ideas around you? It feels like everyone is shopping for an identity and Instagram is the supermarket.

“SLOW DOWN SONIC”
When I demoed this and approached the band, I kind of thought it was going to be thrown to the back of the record, or not even make it. Stylistically, it’s a bit different – sometimes acoustic songs become too unnatural to fit with everything else on the record – but as we jammed it we knew it had a place and it felt amazing to attempt something different and more laidback. We’re connecting with that sound more than our heavier stuff. Lyrically, it’s drawn from personal experience but essentially it’s about looking for answers that aren’t there and accepting it.

“LYING ON THE FLOOR”
I don’t think this needs explaining – it’s all in the song. A lot of this record was triggered from personal experiences I’ve had over the past few years, and writing and recording them has really helped. I’ve never really felt that with music in previous records, because I’m usually singing about “non-personal” stuff.
This time it was really a form of catharsis – both a rejection and acceptance of the world how it is, and moving forward.

“EASY”
I remember I was trying to write a song that sounded like Shellac, but it ended up having the really heavy “pop” chorus. Think this is some of Mikey’s best drumming – the demo was shit but once he played on it the whole thing opened up – it was amazing.

“PITY JAR”
Although lyrically spawned from personal experience, this song took another direction. It’s about how we’ve been trained to turn every connection and image of ourselves into a brand and, in turn, think each sentimental comment has more impact than a global Nike tagline. In reality, however, you’re just a digital “bit” among billions – your emotion and agency in the world, which used to be signified by meaningful human connections, is now lost in an attempt to advertise the soul. You can cry, scream and tag all you want, but it all just ends up being thrown in another “pity jar”.

“A-OKAY”
The last song written before recording the album. I was writing and working on demos at the Grove (where we eventually recorded) in a secluded barn house at the other end of the property. I had one day left after a week-long stint and was pretty much packing up my gear, but thought I’d better try one last idea. I nearly didn’t finish this song – it was just an unformed scrap of notes written from a year-old iPhone recording I stumbled upon. I’d given up any prospect of it actually going anywhere but the band had paid for the studio time so I thought I better attempt another track! I remember wanting it to sound lazy/laidback kind of like Mac De Marco and have everything sound close-mic’d in a small room – like earlier Elliot Smith. Once I started recording, the whole thing came together really quick. The more I layered all the guitars it started to get this “Built to Spill” thing happening and I couldn’t stop. The whole song was super influential on heaps of guitar sounds I pulled for the rest of the record. It opened things up in a way – that’s why it’s such a good title track. Lyrically, a lot of my songs are about escapism but this song is about looking straight at the mess we’re in and accepting it – we can complain all we want but where will that get us? ■

Violent Soho’s Everything Is A-OK is out April 3

PHOTOGRAPHED BY IAN LAIDLAW

For the full article grab the April 2020 issue of MAXIM Australia from newsagents and convenience locations. Subscribe here.

What do you think?

Shaik, Rattle & Roll