Inspiration for an Album:
Our first Odlaw album drops on May 10, and today I’m unveiling the track-listing and some words about our influences and inspirations for each tune.
WORDS BY MARK – 1/05/2017
TRACK 1 – Struggle town (sentimental)
The Love Junkies are right up the top of my ‘fave band ever’ list! They are the Perth first band to cross into that kind of adoration that usually only went to international bands when I was a teen. I remember when i got hooked, there was definitely a moment in between maybelene and the flight test EP in which my brain decided that they could never make a bad song. That no matter what the junkies put out i’m gonna adore the shit out of it.
Struggle town was a fun song to record. When i wrote it, I was worried about it. It was 3 verses in exactly the same tone. I always wanted to get a few different voices on the record and Mitch from the Love Junkies was the first person I asked.. Didn’t think he’d say yes, but he did, and now his voice is verse 2. I didn’t write the part for him, the lyrics are very much about me, the songs about trying to maintain intimacy while being extremely hungover and disgusted with yourself.
In hindsight, Parko (producer genius) changed then verese so dramatically that this song probably doesn’t need another voice on it. But.. if you have the chance to get your fave vocalist on your album, you do it! When Mitch was in the studio, we asked him to sing the second pre-chours and chorus. We soon realised that if we kept that, it would sound like a duet, about Mitch and I trying to make out while hungover… we abandoned that concept once we realised.. Kinda wish i kept it, cause that would have been a hilarious way to open the album.
TRACK 2 – Maida Vale
There’s this little organisation based in Perth called WAM. WAM runs a bunch of programs and events that help spread the WA music love. One of WAMs key activists is Nigel Bird. I met Nigel when i first started playing music while living in Denmark/Albany, I think i’d been playing guitar for about 2 years at that point, I had just turned 18 and had no idea about the music industry. Nigel became a mentor for me, I went to him for advice a lot, he helped my first band get some pretty amazing opportunities, and has had a massive role in getting me industry jobs and building my career. I get to work with him quite often these days, he still teaches me a lot.
Nigel plays in a band called Mo Wilson and the Drivers. Mo is an impressive songwriter. They put out a single called Mona Vale, around the time I was gigging in my first band, I remember seeing them play it at a community festival in Manjimup around 7 years ago. 2 years ago, When i started working in Midland I drove to work along Roe Highway passing Maida Vale twice a week. Whenever i saw the Maida Vale exit sign, I used to sing Mona Vale replacing Mona with Maida. Jago brought in the chord pattern, and Maida Vale was the first lyric that came out of my mouth. Song evolved from their.
I found the Mo Wilson album with Mona Vale at cash converters once. Paid $2 for it. They put out an EP called Black Angus last year. Its great. Check it out.
TRACK 3 – Coyote
Our first single from this album. I wanted to write a song that sounded like Metz. Dane and Jago changed the verse chords to add a point of difference. Dane made the comment that the verse reminded him of Pup. At the time i was listening to those 2 albums non-stop, i can hear their influence on our songwriting.. I like that.
TRACK 4 – Better
Lyrically I drift between 2 different types of songwriting.
It’s either in hindsight by a long way, I’m clear on what i’m writing about and can confidently mold lyrics and melodies around the message. It’s often more storytelling like it is in this song, i’ve got an endpoint in mind, it feels linear.
Or.. I’m writing from a recent place, and more often than not, it means I have no idea what i’m writing about. It’s usually therapeutic, a personal deep subconscious thought about me dealing with my issues. Sometimes, later on I’m able to step back and understand where that song was coming from. That usually happens quite a while after I’ve written it, it’s hard to see what i’m dealing with while i’m still in it.
The good songs, the songs I like the most. Put me back into that place, transport me back that time. It’s always weird going through that on stage, which is why I think this album is much more rock orientated, than some of my other touchy feely songwriting.
This song has a story, It’s about being in bands, it’s honest. Brutally honest. It’s about being unhappy with my career path. It’s about my frustrations with previous bands, and feeling like i should have done better, tried harder.
I channelled Courtney Barnett and Paul kelly in this song. This entire song is the same chord pattern the whole way through, but it doesn’t get boring.
We asked Dane’s super talented wife Renae to come in and track backing vocals over this tune (and a few others). After we finished recording, we decided that Renae’s voice was a super important element of this song and asked her to join the band.
TRACK 5 – Sport
I’d be listening to a lot of Modern Baseball at the time, and I wanted to write a song with the word cunt in it. Cunt is a wonderful word. No other word has the kind of power and effect that the word ‘cunt’ has. I got this idea in my head that i should write a super poppy song about being unfit, and this is was my opportunity to use the word cunt.. And we used it a lot. We did group vocals with all five of us yelling cunt over and over again. It was a magical moment.
TRACK 6 – Ryan Adams
I didn’t really like this song after we recorded it. I was having a bad day when I wrote it. Somewhere i saw something about Ryan Adams, and I vented my frustrations into a song with some words about Ryan Adams. I have no problem with Ryan Adams, and the songs not even about Ryan Adams. It has 4 references loosely about Ryan Adams.
When we recorded it, we had fun with it. I had already started to dislike the song, mostly because it felt mean to put someones name on an angry song that had nothing to do with them. But also because i couldn’t really remember why I wrote it, I feel the weird frustration in it, but I can’t remember what made me write it.
There’s something kinda special about recording a song that you care little about. We tried fun percussion stuff and I tried some different singing styles, I remember trying to channel falco from Future of the left during the second verse, and ending up sounding more aussie than i ever have before. I like this song now.
TRACK 7 – Chumps
I’m so happy with how this song turned out. I wrote it after working for WAM during the WAMFestival in 2015. I got to witness a bunch of people i admire and respect vent about their frustrations in a certain person who will remain unnamed (mostly cause i can’t even remember their name).
It was at the end of a long festival week. We were all pretty drunk and tired and I remember that moment vividly. A lot of the lyrics in this song are word for word what i heard that night.
This was a fun song to write and we added this 3/4 time change into the end of the song, trying to sound as close to the beach boys as we could, I can’t help myself when it comes to writing dark psychotic lyrics with poppy moods. Parko had recently recorded Pat Chow’s album called ‘Are You Okay’. That album is amazing, and the feeling and guitar tones on that album are incredible. I used it for a references when describing the kind of tones and moods i wanted on this album. The closing song of Are you okay has this wonderful sway to it. We tried to find that vibe on the end of Chumps.
TRACK 8 – Not Now
Another song about regrets and feeling like i’ve wasted my life.. Probs have.. The bridge in this song reminds of Emperors. Parko recorded Stay Frosty, Emperors first record. This album was one of the main reasons I wanted to record with Parko. Every part of this record sounds great, drume sounds, guitar tones, harmonies, all of it.
TRACK 9 – When A Stranger Calls
I watched the 1979 film ‘when a stranger calls’ when i was fairly young. Scared the shit out of me. Loved the title of the film, must have left a pretty good impression on me, cause it snuck into this song pretty early on in the writing process and stuck around after i changed almost all the other lyrics.
This song reminds me of old Odlaw. Its the kind of guitar writing that I did when we first started. And I can’t help but wonder what sort of song this would have been if we still had Will Blackburn playing drums in Odlaw, probably more like our first (ever) single Cabins. Will moved to Sydney pretty early on in the band, and we got super lucky to get Dane on drums. They couldn’t be more different as drummers, and Dane has made a huge impact on Odlaw. Helped us transition from some kinda pop rock act, to a band with direction. Will now plays in a syd based band called Flowertruck. They’re doing really well, probably thanks to Wills impressive face.
TRACK 10 – 20,000 douche canoes in a field of sweaty flailing limbs
This songs about music festivals. Drinking in the sun and hating everyone. Dane wrote the chords and rhythm for this song. I struggled to write a melody to it at first, did my best to sound like Cloud Nothings, and found something else. I can still hear the influence from their album ‘here and nowhere else’ on this tune.
TRACK 11 – Luc Longley
Odlaw have gone through quite a few lineup changes since forming. Odlaw started with me and a brilliant songwriter called Ben Macri. A former Bunbury dude who used to play in a band called The Words. I love that band. Still love Ben’s songwriting.
When Ben left I didn’t think we’d last very long. Got super lucky when David Jago formerly of Mezzanine joined the band. Much like when we replaced Will with Dane on drums. Jago brought a totally different feel to Odlaw.
Jago wrote the chord melody and structure for Luc Longley. I’m pretty sure this was the first thing that he brought to the band when we started writing this album. I don’t think we knew we were writing an album at the time. Dane and Jago brought so much to the band both as personalities and songwriters that we ended up recording everything we had, and never really felt the need to cut anything.
TRACK 12 – Balls
This might be my favourite song on the album. It’s the oldest of all the songs. There’s an early version of this song up on Michael Strongs Brainiac website which has Ben playing guitar before he left and Jago joined the band.
This song was written after I attended a Black Rebel Motorcycle gig with Ben Macri. I didn’t really know BRMC that well, but i like seeing gigs at Metros Freo and I had recently moved close by. I was super intrigued by their brand of drone like blues guitar riffs, and this tune came from me trying to capture that.
This song was recorded live. It wasn’t planned. We didn’t do any overdubs.
Parko is an incredible producer. When you record with Parko, you spend the first day or two recording scratchies. Scratchies are guide tracks. It’s also Parko’s opportunity to listen to the songs live, get the feel right, adjust tempos and drums. Sometime we change song structures, but mostly, he just figures out what we are trying to do and makes sure the big structural flaws are gone.
We came in for the first day of tracking after scratchie day and Parko played this tune back. All he’d done is add a bit of reverb overall and the song felt great. I’m pretty sure he said something like: “we can track it all if you want, but i feel like we are gonna spend a full day trying to get as close to this as possible, and this feels great” in the end he moved jagos intro around slightly, and doubled up the heavily distorted guitar with some digital effects, but we didn’t have to record anything else, and I don’t think it took him long to mix it.
The Key to writing a press release:
WORDS BY MARK – 21/4/17
1. Always include links to streams and downloads of songs
2. Keep it on one page
3. Don’t take yourself seriously.
ODLAW release debut album
REGRET CITY with national tour
“Full of frenetic energy. Nice work” Dom Alessio, Triple J
“It’s a straight-up balltearer” Sonic Masala
“very nice indeed” Caitlin Nienaber, RTRfm
Odlaw is 5 piece rock band from Perth, Western Australia, fronted by me, Mark Neal. I’m your friendly music obsessed industry shithead. I’ve spent most of my life floating between other bands with better songwriters and found myself somewhere on the outskirts of the music industry being the frontman in a band that are too good for me.
Like a dark cloud formation slowly moving over your friendly family picnic, Regret City sets in and drowns out any thought of happiness. I regret everything.. seriously fucking everything.. all the good stuff I’ve done, all the bad stuff I’ve done, all the shit I did and didn’t say. It all eats at me on a regular basis. More recently I found being busy is a great distraction, and when that doesn’t work writing songs about my irritations seems too.
That’s what this album is. 12 tracks of me trying to help myself with support from a bunch of fucking legends. Maybe that’s what life is? Fuck life! I already regret this press release.
May 25 – Frankie’s Pizza, Sydney
May 26 – The Retreat, Melbourne
May 27 – The Metro, Adelaide
June 3 – The White Star Hotel, Albany
June 9 – Prince of Wales, Bunbury
June 10 – Badlands, Perth