As Melbourne’s Pierce Brothers get ready to release their latest album, Into The Great Unknown, tomorrow, the pair have taken us through each of the tracks on their finest record to date.
It’s been a little while between drinks for Melbourne duo the Pierce Brothers, with the familial pairing of Jack and Pat last releasing a new album by way of Atlas Shoulders back in 2018. While a live record arrived in 2019, plenty of touring and writing (oh, and a year put on hold thanks to old mate COVID) has preceded the release of the group’s latest album, Into The Great Unknown.
Though the last year featured the release of a handful of singles in support of the new record, it wasn’t until November that the record was formally announced.
Recorded at Jan Skubizeski’s Red Moon Studios from April to June (that is, between the Victorian lockdowns), the process saw Jack and Pat spending most of their days working hard in the studio, with evenings in the guest cottage working on new material. Add in some Gang Of Youths-inspired string arrangements by Ross Iwrin, and you’ve got the makings of one of the year’s finest releases.
With Into The Great Unknown officially released into the big wide world tomorrow, and with a Victorian tour kicking off in just a couple of weeks, Jack and Pat have been kind enough to give us a run-down of each of the tracks on this new record to add a bit of insight, context, and levity to one of their greatest efforts to date.
Check out the Pierce Brothers’ ‘dentist’:
Pierce Brothers walk us through Into The Great Unknown
This was the first track that we worked on when we hit the studio. Originally, we wanted to put together a chilled acoustic surf folk album. This changed halfway into recording this track, when I leaded over at the crescendo build and said, “that’s where the orchestra comes in!”
Right then we knew we weren’t going quietly; we were going loud and large! ‘white caps’ was written as I (Jack) watched a squall come rolling in upon the shores of Elwood Beach. The wind was raging, and the sky was rumbling, white caps were coming ever closer to shore until the storm hit and the skies opened. A sense of foreboding and worry about the unknown certainly underpinned 2020. This song was a reflection of the time.
This was the first song to come out of a lockdown song writing challenge. Each night I’d sit down and try to write three different songs one in 10 minutes one in five minutes and one in 90 seconds this was the 10-minute song titled dentist. What came out of this song was an exploration of the vulnerability that we feel when we’re sitting in the dentist chair.
This further explored the themes of the great unknown that had been cropping up time and time again throughout the song writing process for this record. we wanted to do a classic-folk style track very much in the mood of Augie March. The harmonica recording on this was one of our favourite days in the studio and was completely improvised on the day by Jack.
This song has been five years in the making. Written in the back of the car on the way home from Bluesfest in 2015, this song sat unused for a few months as we didn’t know what to do with it. The first time we played this track was at a sold-out show at Paradiso in Amsterdam our biggest European show to date. We really wanted to impress the audience and start a big singalong, but we didn’t know which track of ours we could use to make this happen.
Pat then had the idea that we could add on a sing-along chorus to this song ‘brother’ that we’d written, and we’d make the song a sing-along. It was one of the best nights of our lives when the audience started singing it back to us at the end of the track. We tried to put this down as a studio version for five years and each time we came up short with a track that sounded more like a footy club song.
Under the guidance of Jan Skubiszewski as producer, we reworked the bridge and added a solo, which changed the entire dynamic of the track, with the low first half building into and the galloping end. I’m incredibly proud of how this track ended up sounding.
Check out ‘brother’ by the Pierce Brothers:
This track was written in two sections, years apart, over two separate time periods, ‘it’s alright’ is truly the joining of both sides of the Pierce Brothers. Jack wrote the chorus while trekking through the mountains of Switzerland in 2018 and it sat in a drawer unused until Pat took the track and re-worked it, writing all new verses and giving the track a new blues-inspired life. The last song we recorded, capping the bridge in as the final thing recorded at Jan’s studio in Gisborne.
It’s a song that we really tried to bring our roots back, with high energy and minimal instruments. It’s one of the most fun songs to play live!
This was a song written for my wife about hiking through the mountains together. We recorded this with the great Garrett Kato producing (Kato worked on two tracks for this record, ‘la montagne’ and ‘kanko’. Both named for mountains!). While laying down the vocal for the chorus I received a call from my wife that she was pregnant with who would be our little girl Rowan.
I came back into the studio buzzing and didn’t tell Pat until afterwards on the way back to our accom. This became a real classic Pierce Brothers track in the same vein as previous singles ‘Amsterdam’ or ‘Golden Times’. We picked up some beers to celebrate!
‘lights of London’
We wrote the basis for this track while on tour with Tash Sultana. We wanted something that we could get stuck into that we could build up a crescendo and then explode with our classic, unabashed Pierce Brothers energy. We were driving from Baltimore, Maryland to Asbury Park, New Jersey (home of Springsteen) after an incredible show supporting Tash.
We were SO jazzed up and had a few hours ahead of us, so we started jamming ideas for a new big party track. We were about to go straight from the North American tour to a European tour, and thoughts of missing home was on our minds. This is a classic “missing your loved one” track.
What was originally an intro to ‘trouble’, ‘reflecteur’ soon became Pat’s compositional exploration of building tension through vast instrumentation and incredible melodic hooks. Pat worked on this track in a second studio base we set up in the small cabin in which we lived throughout the recording process at Red Moon Studios.
Tinkering away on his midi keyboard and searching for new sounds with a glass of wine after a day of recording. Pat sent the midi tracks he built to the exquisite Ross Irwin (Angus and Julia Stone, The Cat Empire) to help compose the string arrangements. The day we recorded the strings was one of the best studio days I’ve ever experienced!
Check out ‘it’s alright’ by the Pierce Brothers:
Pat had been working on this looped track for a while and explored many different avenues before settling into the groove of ‘trouble’. With hooks all over, this track follows in the exploration of self and tension. Pat had an exact idea of what he was doing from start to finish and navigated the waters perfectly. Probably my favourite hook in the album is the bassline that sets in when this track gets going.
We co-wrote this track with Jan Skubiszewski as a high energy rock track about the things that people let themselves get caught up in. It’s tracks like this that make we wish we have a full band for every show! Whenever we tour with the full band again, I can’t wait to jam this one fully!! I think this track has some of the best hooks in the album!
‘waves of winter’
This one came to me (Jack) at a show in London, fully formed, while warming up. I found a corner to play the guitar and just let loose. After a few minutes I was transcended to a full flow state and what came out was this track. We held onto it as a “back pocket” kind of track that we’d explore if we had the time. We decided to give it a go about halfway through the album recording process.
This was a track we co-wrote with producer Garrett Kato. Originally titled ‘Mountain Song’, it speaks to the feeling of getting away in nature and leaving the world behind. This was something we sorely missed during the lockdowns in 2020. We’ve done a lot of varied styles over the last few releases and we really wanted to get back to our folk roots, simple songs with heart and a basic message behind them.
We’ve taken some time off touring for the first time in 8 years and this song is about going to that place. Going to be free. Finding solace and freedom in the mountain air – that’s what Kanko is; a mountain I visited while travelling in Japan, when we came home I loved it so much that we used the name for my dog.
This is a song all about becoming a father for the first time. While hiking through New Zealand my (then-pregnant) wife and I stopped in at a remote hotel after a 5-day hike. While Laura was napping, I sat outside in the sun, enjoying a couple of beers and listening to Gang Of Youths cover ‘Blood’ by The Middle East for Like A Version. I was so moved and inspired that I immediately started writing this track, and had the lyrics done and dusted within 10 minutes.
The problem was that I had very much copied the melody of the song, so we couldn’t use it! It wasn’t until we’d completed the vast majority of the album that I brought this track to the team. Pat sat down with me and we re-wrote the song, while maintaining most of the lyrics. This is one of my favourites. A love song to my princess and my queen.
Pierce Brothers’ Into the Great Unknown will be released on March 5th via DITTO, with pre-orders available now.
Check out ‘one’ by the Pierce Brothers:
Pierce Brothers – Into the Great Unknown Victorian Tour
Saturday, March 20th (Sold Out) The Old Coal Mine “The Shed”, Wonthaggi, VIC
Sunday, March 21st
Halls Gap Hotel, Halls Gap, VIC
Saturday, March 27th
Chapel Off Chapel, Prahran, VIC
Tickets: Chapel Off Chapel
Friday, April 9th
Volta Arts & Culture, Ballarat, VIC
Saturday, April 10th
Pier Bandroom, Frankston
Thursday, April 22nd
Barwon Club, Geelong
Friday, April 23rd
The Espy, St Kilda, VIC
Friday, April 30th
Corner Hotel, Richmond, VIC
Tickets: Corner Hotel
Friday, May 7th
Sookie Lounge, Belgrave, VIC
Friday, May 21st
Sandy Point Music Club, Sandy Point, VIC
Saturday, May 22nd
Westernport Hotel, San Remo, VIC
Tickets: Westernport Hotel
Also appearing at:
Saturday, April 4th
Bluesfest, Byron Bay, NSW