Slow Fades are a new project with an impeccable Australian indie pedigree. Led by songwriter Ben Birchall (Klinger, The Corrections, Duke Batavia) and multi-instrumentalist Dave Rogers (D.Rogers, Ben Lee), Slow Fades is the widescreen sound of four musicians who know each other inside and out, but are still searching for something just over the canyon.
Tomatrax caught up with the band to ask a few questions.
How did the band form?
Dave Rogers: Ben had a batch of new songs that he was planning to play at a solo show, supporting some friends of ours. He wanted to try a couple of the songs with an extra guitar but that quickly turned into thinking about the songs as band arrangements. We had a rehearsal with Daz and Glenn who were also in Klinger and it felt right. We looked around at each other and said “We might have ourselves a band”
Where did the name Slow Fades come from?
Dave: We’ve all been playing music for a long time and we wanted a name that reflected that. Yeah, we’re fading but we’re doing it as slowly as we can.
Ben: Dave originally came up with ‘The Fades’ and I thought we might be around longer if we slowed it down a little.
You’re about to put out your debut EP, hoes does it feel to have it finished and ready to go?
Dave: Feels good, man! We haven’t made music together in a long time so to create something new with people you have long histories with is one of the best things. We didn’t have strong expectations of what we wanted it to sound like and let the EP find it’s own path.
Where did the name Canyon Songs come from?
Ben: The first two songs I wrote for Slow Fades were a bit of a song cycle set in Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles in 1970. The first one, Eucalyptus, is about the hot, dry summer after the Manson Family murders, from the perspective of a young screenwriter trying to make it in LA amidst bushfires and vapid people. The second, Leave The Canyon, was about somebody’s misguided attempt at saving somebody from what he sees as a bad situation. But you can never save anyone. When it came to naming the EP, it felt like there was a theme running through the songs – falling down and getting back up again. Sometimes that can feel like a canyon.
What was the inspiration behind the EP’s cover?
Ben: Our drummer Darren is a really talented graphic designer who works with a lot of bands and our brief was basically to make something feel old and new at the same time, and to take inspiration from architecture as much as art. He came back with that cover and it felt like ‘windows’ into the world of the songs. Which we dug.
You recorded the album in bursts over the past 12 months, what made you take on this approach?
Dave: There was nothing deliberate about this approach and ideally, we would’ve knocked it off much faster but everyone in the band is involved in a lot of projects and time to get everyone together was hard to find. In a way though, being able to take our time made this recording stronger. We were able to let ideas sit and mature and push ourselves outside what we’re normally comfortable with
Was it hard to maintain the EP’s musical continuity when recording in this manner?
Dave: Not at all. The songs have a strong thread that ties them together and I don’t think there’s anything we could have done production wise to take that away.
Each of you have been involved in numerous projects over the years, did this make you feel any pressure when working on your latest work?
Dave: The opposite was true for this EP I reckon. We put no pressure on ourselves to make the music sound like anything we’ve done before or for us to be anything we’re not. That’s why I think there’s a ring of honesty about these recordings. There are rough edges and rock ‘n’ roll moments that we deliberately didn’t flatten out in mixing. There are scratch guitars and one-take vocals all over this thing.
You previously played with Klinger, how does your latest project compare with Klinger?
Dave: Klinger was very good to us but that was a long time ago and it’s been great to make music with the same people and not have to sound like we’re 20 years old. It’s nice to hear how we’ve grown as musicians and to hear the confidence we have around the decisions we make. It’s grown-up music which I wouldn’t have wanted to say in the past but now I don’t give a fuck.
Klinger appeared in TISM’s video for ‘Thunderbirds Are Coming Out’, how did that come about?
Dave: I don’t know but Ben probably knows the story. They needed 80 Melbourne indie bands for the video and we were one of them. All I remember is having to get to the location at 6am and waiting for about 6 hours for them to start shooting.
Ben: We were on the same label as TISM at time, Shock Records. And Shock basically strong-armed all of their bands into showing up at 6am to an abandoned wharf at Docklands. This is before it was Docklands, when it was just…docks. It’s funny, people really react to that video, and there is a family of musicians who can say ‘we were there’. Nick O’Mara, who plays in Raised By Eagles and Amarillo (who are supporting us at our launch on November 25 at the Thornbury Theatre) was in it too! So we’re family.
You’ve been making music for around two decades now, is it hard to keep coming up with new material?
Dave: Yes and no. The coming up with material is less of a challenge as making time to come up with new material. Ben and I can write and work fast when the conditions are right but we’re still listening to new records so we’re never short on inspiration.
Ben: Constantly reinventing and playing with new themes helps. Even jumping around instruments can help. This is the most direct, indie-rock stuff we’ve made in a decade or so, but we needed to take some time off to get back to it.
Do you ever listen to your own music?
Dave: I produced the record so I feel like I’ve listened to these songs a million times but after a few months break, I’ll go back and listen with fresh ears.
Ben: Sure. Not all of it, but some of it. I’m really proud of the music we’ve made and like to check back in from time to time to remind myself that we made it.
What other music do you listen to?
Dave: Ben been obsessed with Brian Eno recently and that informed some of the decisions on this EP. I think the new Robyn record is killer.
Ben: It’s true, I’ve been in an Eno hole for the last few months. Years maybe. But I also love good honest direct guitar music like East Brunswick All Girl Choir or Courtney Barnett (any of the Milk Records stuff really). Also new stuff that reminds me of old stuff, like Father John Misty or Foxygen.
What do you have planned once the EP is launched?
Dave: We’re already writing the next release so we’ll get our calendars out and find some time to record in the new year. I want to hire a house in the country and set up for a week and make the record that way.
Ben: Yeah half way through writing the next release, and being more collaborative with Dave for the next one on the songwriting front. We’re working some of his songs into the live set and getting him on lead vocals for a few. So the next release will feel even more like a band record.
Check out Slow Fades’ website to find out more!