Melbourne four-piece CITY CALM DOWN have just released their highly anticipated second album Echoes In Blue. Frontman Jack Bourke takes us through it track-by-track…
“Joan, I’m Disappearing”: This song is about the dissolution of a long-term relationship and how workaholic neglect led to its breakdown. Although not autobiographical, the lyrics were written at a time when we were in the depths of recording Echoes In Blue. We were working our jobs during the day, then heading to the studio in the evening and on the weekends — this continued for a number of months, and placed a lot of pressure on my relationship with my wife. Despite its darkness, the music was written on a sunny, hot December day in Castlemaine, rural Victoria.
“In This Modern Land”: This ruminates on the struggle to form meaningful relationships in an age where so much of our interaction occurs digitally. It seems that it is becoming increasingly difficulty to have courteous discussions on difficult subjects, perhaps because people of different political/ideological persuasions are constantly having their views reinforced online, instead of challenged, which causes those views and ideologies to become entrenched. It’s a trite observation, but the progress of a society relies on persons of different ideologies and backgrounds affording each other respect, which enables them to have meaningful discourse.
“Distraction/Losing Sleep”: This is about being obsessed with the meaningless drivel that saturates the internet and TV. It was the last song we wrote and recorded for the album. After we started recording it, we realised we weren’t happy with the chorus we’d written — a pretty brutal realisation, given we’d just finished 20 days of recording and thought we were on the home straight. Thankfully, we were able to come up with a new (and better) arrangement within a few days!
“Blame”: A parable about deflecting blame onto others when our reckless behaviour leads to negative consequences. It follows a couple on a bike ride on an early winter morning. When it came to producing the track, we were trying to enhance the “coldness” and drama of the lyrics. Sam [Mullaly, keys] and I spent a lot of time on our own creating weird sound textures to create the chaotic crescendo — there were a few arguments during mixing about whose sounds should be the loudest.
“April 18”: When we were writing “Blame”, we felt that it should just be one part of an extended piece of music. I wrote “April 18” during my summer holidays, between our NYE Falls Festival show in Lorne, Victoria, and our show in Fremantle, WA, the following week. Even though it’s a short piece of music, it was incredibly time-consuming to write because we hadn’t written anything to follow it, so it had to be quite open-ended.
“Decision Fatigue”: Narrated from the perspective of an estranged lover who has put their plans on hold their whole life for the sake of their partner’s ambition, this song is very much an homage to Johnny Cash’s cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt”, which I was listening to a lot at the time. There’s also a connection between the lyrics in “Decision Fatigue’ and the lyrics in “Hurt”, in that the narrator in our song could be the person subjected to the “hurt” inflicted by Cash’s narrator.
“Kingdom”: Australia’s obsession with houses is utterly bizarre, and the amount of debt people are taking on to buy property is staggering. How much of life’s enjoyment do people sacrifice to own a patch of dirt and concrete and “keep up with the Joneses”? And how much of Australia’s intellectual, innovative and creative potential is dissipated by needing to service debt?
“Blood”: This is inspired by a stand-off I had with a former employer over getting time off work for touring. Ironically, Malcolm [Besley, producer] and I ended up pulling numerous late nights to complete the vocal, so I feel as if the song ended up being about the process of recording it, which is bleak. We clocked on at about 9pm one night, finished up at about 5am and unfortunately, we had to go to work the following day. We didn’t end up using the take from that session, instead stuck with the original, because Mal found a way to treat it without highlighting the distortion.
“I Heard Nothing From You”: This is about missing signs that a relationship has ended. We wrote this in an out-of-town writing session in Trentham, Victoria. Sam came in with the guitar part and started noodling at around 2am, when we were all quite delirious. Luckily, someone had the foresight to hit record on their phone! It took us a few attempts to record the final version — Will [Fletcher, guitar], Lee [Armstrong, drums] and I ended up recording the guitars at my place one Friday, when all my housemates were at work. Through successive attempts we realised we had to record it without a click track, so it could ebb and flow through the various sections. Will pretty much had to play through each take in one go, and I was being a pain the arse about certain inflections in the performance.
“Pride”: This explores the feelings of lashing out at loved ones due to personal insecurities and pushing them away without explaining why. The inspiration for the difficult time I had in my teenage years and early twenties, when I developed severe eczema, which affected the skin on my face. There were times when it was particularly bad — it looked like I’d experienced burns to a large part of my face — where I would withdraw from family and friends for months at a time, because I was so embarrassed by my appearance. I was very fortunate to have good friends who looked past the condition. “Pride” is the first time I’ve tried to explore how I felt during this period of my life.
“Echoes In Blue”: Follows a couple in the final throes of their relationship, where trust has broken down and they are consumed by doubt about the other person’s intentions or actions. Like “Blood”, it was an enormous challenge to produce due to the changing time signatures, tempos and polyrhythms. We were really focussed on making sure that the changes weren’t obvious, which required us to overlay the changes across several bars and transition different instrumental parts across sections.
ECHOES IN BLUE TOUR DATES
JUNE 8: The Tivoli, Brisbane
JUNE 9: The Gov, Adelaide
JUNE 15: The Forum, Melbourne
JUNE 16: Metropolis, Fremantle
JUNE 21: Bar On The Hill, Newcastle
JUNE 22: The Metro, Sydney
JUNE 30: Odeon Theatre, Hobart
JULY 6: Whammy Bar, Auckland, NZ
JULY 7: San Fran, Wellington, NZ
ECHOES IN BLUE IS OUT NOW. FOR MORE INFO GO TO: citycalmdown.com or follow them on Twitter @ccdmusic and Instagram @citycalmdownmusic
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