Nobody Could Hear Us is the seventh studio album from singer-songwriter Catherine Traicos, and the first in which she is the sole songwriter, performer, arranger and producer. Having studied sound engineering, Catherine had always wanted to produce her own work, but the opportunity did not arise until she recently spent time in Western Australia, geographically far removed from the musicians she usually works with.
Catherine contacted her long-time collaborator, producer Nick Huggins (The Dirty Three, The Marquis de Tren and Bonny Billy) and asked if he would be interested in working long distance with her, mixing and mastering an album that she would record and arrange. The resulting album bears Catherine’s trademarks of raw, emotive lyrics, moodscape melodies and deceptive textures. There is a genuine streak of optimism, strength and joy through the tracks, evident most notably in the lead single ‘And I Ran’ and the love song ‘In the Light’.
Of ’And I Ran’ Traicos says “When I wrote this song it was just the music and that unconventional structure that presented itself in about three minutes in someone’s living room, on a borrowed guitar that hadn’t been played in so long the tuning has gone down a tone. I sat on the song for ages, trying out different lyrics and structures but nothing felt quite right. And then I put it away for almost a year!”
Traicos continues “Then there was a definite point of change in my life where I was able to sit back and be angry and that is when most of the songs came together. I feel that often when things are bad you are just engulfed by them and often they can be so bad that you bypass and can’t process emotion. So when I finally wrote the song I was in the post bypass state of utter fury at events, at certain people and mostly at myself. But the piece just couldn’t work as an angry song no matter how much I tried to push it in that direction. I latched onto the amazing bliss that was also concurrently present in my life (go reality!) and wrote about that instead. “And I Ran” is fun, it’s joyful in a way that only comes after the struggle; pure, unadulterated but still very new and a little bit tender.
With its minimal and carefully chosen instrumentation, stark and clear vocals and the beautiful analogue effects Huggins brings to the mix, Nobody Could Hear Us is a deeply personal and welcome return from Catherine Traicos, one of Australia’s most intriguing and captivating artists
CATHERINE TAKES US THROUGH ‘NOBODY COULD HEAR US’ TRACK BY TRACK
Fire There were two stages of songwriting and this track heralded the second and more motivated one. I was playing around with software instruments, determined to make an album without guitars. But then of course, one day, I reached for my guitar and could not walk past that lovely sound, which I got out of a tiny three watt Orange desktop amp!
Never So Lost This song was written in half an hour. It’s written for my uncle who was a most wonderful man. He told me to keep going with music and it was in large part because of him that I was able to find the motivation to make the album. And then when I was a few songs in I heard he had died, very suddenly and unexpectedly. The album title comes from this song. We had all been at my cousin’s wedding just weeks earlier. It was a Greek wedding and of course all the singing was in Greek. My uncle loved to sing and I was standing with him and my aunt and in the middle of this long song that was amplified throughout the beautiful church, I heard my uncle softly singing along, just the notes, no words, and I started singing too. It was so like him, and a beautiful shared moment. He loved to sing and would dance at the drop of a hat and draw anyone around into the dance with him.
I think being an artist, a musician, a poet, whatever you are, is a constant choice. There will always be doubts and you just need to make the decision each day to continue being that because it is worth it for you and others. Some days are harder than others. My uncle was a truly good man with the most gorgeous sense of humour and I miss him a lot.
Safehouse I didn’t realise just how angry I was about a certain situation until this song poured out of me. Wow. Such biting fury. I wondered if it was over the top and then realized it was just a bit amusing – like it’s that anger that you can’t actually do anything about so why not embrace hyperbole? There is a whole track of guitar noise underlying it all which is sort of representative of the static that can be present in you when you are in one of those situations that are so bad you just can’t actually deal in the moment. It’s as if you’re wrapped in a blanket of “I’m Fine”, but your emotions are setting the lining of the blanket on fire. Hmm. This one sort of tells its own story. I did the weird percussion.
Dirt I feel this is the heart of the album. I mentioned there were two songwriting stages – this one came from the first stage. It’s two notes only and I liked that it gained a sort of mood through the repeated simplicity and lack of trying. I remember I’d had a chat with my uncle one night and the next day I woke up and knew that this song would somehow become the core of the album and shape the rest of it. I recorded it first and could only do two takes of guitar because the distortion would set the dogs next door barking and after two takes they were well into it! I don’t like cutting and pasting, I’m not Stock Aitken Waterman – I wanted full takes.
When I wrote the lyrics I was thinking about how a person I loved and who professed to love me had treated me like dirt. And then I remembered a poem by Blaga Dimitrova (a poet, novelist, political activist and Vice-President of Bulgaria) where she writes about how it can be okay for people to walk all over you: as long as you are grounded in yourself, they can’t take what is important from you, they can only behave in a shitty way and that is them, not you. “Trodden grass forms a path”. That path is your path, one of true strength and integrity. The book of poems was given to me by a beautiful friend who sadly took his own life. Nick ran it through a tape delay. He worked magic on this album.
Secret Song I thought I had deleted this file and then Nick (Huggins) sent me a mix of it. We chatted about ditching it but he said I should give it a chance. So I did.
Silken I really love my cat. He really loves that I feed him.
In the Light A positive love song and one that was fun to make. I think it unnerved me as I don’t write positive love songs a lot and so I did the double vocal to hide what I am saying in case anyone sees, notices that I might be in love… The sort of silvery noise is achieved through scratching back and forth on a borrowed glockenspiel with the bottom end of a paintbrush. Nick put a beautiful natural reverb on it and I just love it. He is a master.
Call the Sun I was concerned that this might be too aggressive, but then again, it suits the sort of situations that I am singing about, namely the very subtle and embedded aspects of the patriarchy that can directly diminish and hurt another person and that are just accepted by society. Gaslighting is so prevalent, it almost requires something close to aggression and assertion, feistiness, in order to shift thefocusbacktotheperpetrators. Again,thedogsbarked at the guitars. Again, Julian Ramsay worked wonders on drums in a short space of time.
Burn/ Shine This is one close to my heart and is a vow to myself to honour my creativity and love for music.
And I Ran In terms of the structure, I’ve always loved bluegrass and the blues and the way you can get so much scope in a song from just two chords and that made me keep the song as it had appeared to me in its original format. I also banged out some mad ascending chords on my old piano (which I found out is about a hundred years old) and Sabian Wilde played some swooping yet minimal bass guitar. When I was in London, Julian Ramsay nailed the drums in about fifteen minutes – we were really pushed for studio time, but he did it! The piano really makes the album for me, it’s such an alive instrument. One hundred years old; she should receive a letter from the Queen any day now.
Check out Catherine Traicos’ website to find out more!