When Adelaide’s Bad//Dreems came together half a decade ago after meeting at a local football club, none of them could have realised the impact that their collective musical efforts would have on the world of music both here and abroad.
After winning the praise and admiration of thousands of adoring fans, and gaining recognition from a large number of their musical peers, the group have spent the last few months readying their highly anticipated second record, Gutful, which was released yesterday.
We sat down with the group’s guitarist, Alex Cameron, to get an idea of just what went into the record, and what makes Bad//Dreems a force to be reckoned with.
Despite the unrelenting riffs that he delivers on stage, Alex is an affable gent, all too keen to talk about the group’s latest effort and their collective excitement to unleash the new record onto the public.
“It’s a nice feeling,” he says. “We’ve been living with this record for about four months now, and it’s quite satisfying to finally get it out to the fans.”
“The best thing about the release day is that it’s the day that the fans finally get to hear it, which is exactly who we’re making it for,” he adds. “Once all these other aspects like the art, the video clips, and interviews are done, the album finally takes on a life of its own – which is then really added to once the fans get to it.”
“That’s when it stops being your own and becomes its own entity, and then becomes part of other people’s lives.”
Check out Bad//Dreems’ ‘Feeling Remains’:
Despite the group’s affinity for their hometown of Adelaide, Gutful, like their first record, was recorded in the cosy Melbourne suburb of Brunswick West, with production duties being tackled by the legendary Mark Optiz (Cold Chisel, INXS), and engineered by Colin Wynne (Monique Brumby, Matt Walker).
“We tried to basically make this a refinement on the first record,” Alex explains. “Which is that of a live band, focused on songwriting, recording in the studio without too many overdubs or too much production or sheen. What we did want to do a little bit better was capture the sound of what the band is like live.”
As Cameron illustrates, the first record featured more of an ’80s sound, which came from the favoured production style of Mark Opitz, but this time around, the group tried hard to push the album’s reference point back to more of a ’70s guitar vibe.
“More of a dry room sound, referencing bands like Television, The Saints’ first album, the Australian X, and even the early AC/DC albums, which Opitz worked on with Vanda & Young,” Cameron offers.
“We’re really happy, probably more happy with the sound of Gutful overall, as compared to the first one. But that’s due to a number of factors, not least because we’re more experienced, better players, and working with Mark Opitz and Colin Wynne a second time.”
“We haven’t really worked with that many producers, but what sets Mark Opitz apart from a lot producers today is that one of his key phrases is ‘feel is everything’,” Alex explains. “With modern recordings, a lot of people give in to the temptation of editing, since everything is done digitally on ProTools, to save time and money – people edit things quite heavily.
“Say your drum track is out of time, you can fix things in five minutes rather than spending the whole day getting it right. Whereas Opitz will argue that all the great rock and roll songs go in and out of time, usually speeding up throughout the course of the track, and that there’s a relatively indefinable feel to it. That’s the sort of thing that can only be captured by a band playing in a room together.”
Gutful is definitely a record that takes an uncompromising look at the current state of affairs, with tracks like ‘Mob Rule’ sounding like an Aussie revival of Billy Joel’s ‘We Didn’t Start The Fire’, and the title track addressing racism, drug use, and Donald Trump.
“I would say that the first record was one that was more inward looking, written during that time of us being in Adelaide, when the band was just starting,” Alex says. “This record is more about the world at large, that myself and the band have seen as we’ve toured around the country and overseas. ”
“You write songs about things that are strongly on your mind, whether it be unrequited love, or the rise of Pauline Hanson or Donald Trump, and the issues that you feel strongly about. Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last 18 months, its hard not to have those things on your mind.”
“I don’t think we would ever set out to be a political band, because we’re not overly politically motivated people in terms of having a manifesto or particular political messages to convey, but we are a band of people who like to think critically and deeply about certain things,” he clarifies.
“We want to communicate that in a way that fits in with the kind of music that we’re making.”
“I’ve described it before as trying to combine highbrow and lowbrow culture. Trying to deal with ideas that deal with the disillusionment of the everyman, as seen in the title track, and how it feels like he’s been bustled in between the inner city elite, and on the other hand, people like Trump and Hanson – while in the middle there’s a gulf where I like to think the majority of Australians sit.”
Check out Bad//Dreems’ ‘Mob Rule’:
Gutful also sees the Baddies expanding their horizons somewhat, experimenting by way of the inclusion of a Hammond organ in ‘Pagan Rage’, and taking on a more sombre approach in the closing track, ‘A Million Times Alone’, which includes a saxophone interjection by Keith Wilson, father of the group’s drummer Miles.
“That was probably my favourite part of the album, and one of my favourite experiences in the studio,” Alex admits. “Miles’ dad was the music teacher at the school we all went to.”
“I’m a fair bit older than the other guys, so I didn’t actually know them at the time, but Miles’ dad was the head of music, and I played a lot of music at school – not guitar, but the violin. It wasn’t until I left school and started playing and writing music that I looked back and realised how unique and valuable that experience was.”
The group have also received a large amount of attention from music legends both here and abroad, with The Go-Betweens’ Robert Forster expressing his fondness for their track ‘My Only Friend’, being hand -picked by At The Drive-In to support them in Australia last year, and now with Midnight Oil tapping the group for the support slot to their Adelaide show later in the year. “It’s satisfying, and reaffirming,” he says. “They’re all just the most lovely, humble people.”
“It was such a highlight when we met Robert Forster – he basically just rocked up unannounced to our soundcheck in Brisbane. Ben and I were trying to do an interview with a young journalist up there and we kept getting interrupted, so we locked the door of the band room,” he explains. “There was a knock at the door; I thought “Who is it now?”, and it was Robert Forster.
“He was just such a nice man, it was almost annoying, we just wanted to ask all these questions and talk about his music and songwriting, but we could hardly get a word in. He just wanted to ask questions about us, and I just thought, ‘We aren’t the Australian musical legends here!'”
Check out Bad//Dreems’ ‘My Only Friend’:
Much like their newest single ‘Feeling Remains’, the question remains, what exactly is it that sets Bad//Dreems apart from the rest of the rock bands going around these days?
“I still find it hard to think of ourselves as a force to be reckoned with, because we’re still doing this very much on an amateur level,” Alex offers. “The blessed few hours where we play shows and you get snapshots of people who obviously really do love the music and have paid money to come and see you, I still find it hard to believe that people are into it.”
“I think that people like us because we’re fairly normal guys; we did meet at a footy club. We’re not particularly virtuoso musicians, or academic in our approach, and I think that people appreciate that honesty and authenticity. They’re two words that since the start of the band we’ve tried to live up to.”
“I’d hope that if one day I was in the position that some young person met me, and for some reason looked up to me musically, then I’d be the man that Robert Forster was to us. I think people just respond to that honesty, and down to earth approach. People like something that people can grasp onto, and I think its been a long time since people, and especially in Adelaide, have had a band like that they can champion.”
Bad//Dreems’ Gutful is out now through Ivy League Records, and you can catch them touring the record across Australia this June, dates below.
Check out Gutful by Bad//Dreems:
Bad//Dreems Gutful Tour
Supported by The Creases
Thursday, June 8th
Woolly Mammoth, Brisbane, QLD
Friday, June 9th
The Metro, Sydney, NSW
Tix: The Metro
Saturday, June 10th
Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Friday, June 16th
Badlands, Perth, WA
Saturday, June 17th
The Gov, Adelaide, SA