WATER FOR THIRSTY DOGS (OMN Label Service) is the title of the third album of TRACER, band from Adelaide (Australia) that on 27 of July will return to play in our stereo and headphones of our iPods. It sees the debut of new bassist Jett Heysen-Hicks next to the frontman/guitarist Michael Brown and the drummer Dre Wise.
Les Fleurs du Mal has had the opportunity to chat with the band shortly before of the release of the album and that's what we said. Enjoy the reading.
Les Fleurs du Mal: Hi guys and thanks for giving us the opportunity to talk with you! First of all I would like to ask you how the adventure of Tracer started: when did you begin to think of founding a band?
Michael Brown: I had been playing in a blues band with my brother for a few years. Starting when I was about 11 years old, we travelled around Australia playing Stevie Ray Vaughan covers and classic blues songs. That gave me my first taste of what it meant to be in a touring band and I was hooked. When I got to high school I started to get into bands like Audioslave, Pearl Jam and the Chili Peppers through the drummer in the high school jazz band Andre Wise. Since then we’ve been inseparable. We started Tracer after a couple of jams and found that we had a thing going on. In 2012 my brother left the band and we got long-time friend Jett into the band and since then we’ve gone from strength to strength.
LFdM: Did you have in mind what kind of sound you wanted to give to the Tracer or your style has built gradually, while you also were growing up as a band and as individuals?
I always wanted Tracer to sound bad-ass. Something a bit too scary to play in front of your grandma but still with musical integrity and great songs. With Water For Thirsty Dogs we had a definitive goal of making it sound aggressive, loud and exciting to listen to. I think art gets created when everything is moving towards the same goal. Some of the subject matter in the lyrics is quite confronting and angry and so we wanted to reflect that in the band production.
LFdM: How would you describe the way you make music to someone who does not know you, but would like to deepen your knowledge?
The number one rule we’ve found is that you should never slip into a formula while writing. That’s the best way to have all your songs sound the same. Try different things and experiment. For this album we really pushed ourselves outside of our comfort zone and found that we struggled quite a bit to open the doors to different and weird ideas but once they were open, a whole bunch of new ideas and sounds lame out. Remember you can always pull back but it is important to go to the outreached of your creativity to see how you can get away from the crowd. Another thing is write all the time. If you don’t use it you lose it!
LFdM: Your way of making music is very visceral, passionate, almost it seems to draw its influences and inspiration from the "old school" of the 70s. Is it just me or in your way of making music and get close to it is actually an approach of this kind?
That is the only way to write music. Fuck people that write music for money. How is the world meant to evolve if we don’t through individuality, personality and passion into music. Thats all the people in the 70’s were doing. I mean, listen to Led Zeppelin records back to back. They basically re-invent themselves every record. Yet instead of taking their core belief, of innovation and striving constantly for something new, we have a lot of people copying what already exists. I would say that if Led Zeppelin were still writing music it would sound nothing like Black Dog or Whole Lotta Love. It took time for us to realise this ourselves but now we look up to artists like David Bowie and Queens Of The Stoneage that constantly innovate and come up with something new.
LFdM: Your debut album is Spaces in Between, 2011, followed by El Pistolero, 2013, produced in collaboration with Kevin Shirley, who worked with Iron Maiden / Led Zeppelin / Silverchair / Joe Bonamassa... What kind of experience was for you, young talents of music, to get closer to a personality so prominent on the international scene?
It was eye-opening. It was a great experience that reconfirmed how we like to work. Kevin did a great job in what was really only a weeks worth of recording. For Water For Thirsty Dogs we made sure we had more time to write, rehearse and do pre-production as we felt that El Pistolero could have been even better had we had less of a rush to get it done. I think WFTD is the pinnacle of what a modern rock record should be and it’s due to the time we had to get there.
LFdM: Your music will also earned an award, the "Best New Band" at the Classic Rock Award in 2012 as best young bands around, a nice recognition especially now that there is a certain tendency to produce music that sounds all the same. You are a nice exception, a breath of fresh air!
Thanks man. That’s exactly what I was saying above. I’ve always found it difficult accepting this award because on one hand I was in a room with all these legends of the music I love. People that, in their day, innovated and pushed the boundaries. But I quickly realised that we were only re-celebrating music that had already been celebrated thousands of times. This is why rock isn’t evolving. If we keep celebrating this stuff, new bands will keep writing music that sounds like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin and we won’t get anything new! I personally want something new. I want to love or hate something. No grey areas just a whole bunch of bands going after individuality. So what if it divides listeners, at least we won’t have “beige rock”.
LFdM: It's time to talk about your latest album, Water for Thirsty Dogs... very interesting title. Is there any particular story behind it? I personally I got my idea, let's see if I’m right.
When we were on a tour we were going through some photos with our photographer Benon Koebsch and he showed us this photo of a clearing in the forest with a bucket with the words “Water For Thisty Dogs” scrawled across it. When I saw this photo I thought it was the deepest metaphor I had ever heard. It was almost a magical intervention! At that time we felt like we were constantly being asked to do things for others and not necessarily seeing anything from it. It was like we were working our arse of to make others rich, so the title felt right for that. As it evolved and we started to really get deep into what was wrong with the music industry, we thought the music loving public were the dogs, thirsty for a fresh injection of new rock music. Tracer are the water for that!
LFdM: In terms of the evolution of style, we could say that Water for Thirsty Dogs is an album much more mature than the previous, but also very dynamic and rich. Can you tell us about the genesis of the album?
We really pushed the boundaries of what we thought Tracer was. It’s the beauty of having so much time to write and really experiment. We took ourselves way past our comfort zones as far as different sounds, different cards and melodies and musiciainship. At one point we started writing and jamming on things that we physically weren’t able to play! We got to take every band members idea through to completion before making decisions on the song. It was the most rewarding experience we’ve ver had while writing but it was tough. We had more arguments about the music than ever before and at times it was tense. But getting to the end of writing a song, having gone done all those different roads to end up with a song was incredible. We still listen to Water For Thirsty Dogs and think “Wow! Did we really create that? Thats fuckin awesome!”
LFdM: Do you think there are real differences between your previous works? Or you see your path as an organic, evolutionary course, but always related and consistent with itself?
No, we want to keep giving people the unexpected. I think WFTD showed us what we were capable of and I think it will surprise most people that listen to it. It set us apart from most rock bands as it is a different beast now. It’s got it’s own voice. I hope that the next albums and be twice as innovative and different as this one. I want to keep evolving, keep getting weirder and more different. There’s enough vanilla rock out there, we want more.
LFdM: Water for Thirsty Dogs is also the debut album of Jett Heysen-Hicks on bass. What was it like having to deal with a change in the line up?
The change in the line up happened in 2012 so we were really comfortable with each other by the time it came to do the writing for this album. Jett brings a style of his own to the band and he was really the catalyst of the band pushing themselves. I doubt the album would have come out as great as it has if Jett wasn’t in the band.
The world! Usually the world as I see it, mind you. The frustration I have with the music industry at the moment (like I described above) had filtered down to everyday life. It seems that the smartphone is the peak of human achievement and humans are starting to de-evolve because of it. We seem so dependant on technology that we have lost sense of self. Songs like We’re Only Animals and Lazy and Us Against The World are like battle calls for people to wake up and really take stock of what they are doing with their lives. Think. Use your brains. Don’t let the powers that be think for you. Obviously it’s not all doom and gloom, songs like Homeward Bound and Tremors were written with girlfriends and families in mind.
There was a special moment during the recording of this album that has particularly excited you? The recording of a song, a particular sound that you managed to capture, perhaps unexpectedly...
The whole recording process was incredible. Erik Reachers at Echo Bar Studios is a magician. He could get the sounds that were in our heads and amplify them beyond what we thought possible. We had 2 months in the studio and it gave the chance to do all the experiments we had always wanted to do. We built a bass fort to try to capture a better bass sound. We used shitty amps and guitars mic-ed awkwardly to get unique sounds and we created our own machine using trash cans and power tools. It was more fun than any other record we’ve ever done!
LFdM: You are a band that gives a lot not only through the album, but also in live shows: how would you describe your show to those who have not had the chance to see you on the stage?
Loud, sweaty and dangerous!
LFdM: Until today what have been the unforgettable moments of your musical journey, even just in terms of promotional tours?
We’ve been very fortunate in touring with great bands who were also great people. We still stay in contact with the boys from Royal Republic, The Answer, Black Stone Cherry and even Black Label Society. It’s always good to learn how other people go about their business on the road because it can drive you fuckin insane!
LFdM: With the tour of Water for Thirsty Dogs you will share the stage with Apocalyptica, a great contrast of sounds and musicality: do you already know this band or the beauty of a tour is to be able to tread the stage with different bands, enriching in this way your own musical knowledge?
I can’t wait to see what they do live. I’ve not really been into their music but I think it’s such a bizarre meld of musical style with Tracer and Apo that the results could be epic!
LFdM: What do you expect from this tour?
On the back of this album I think the sky is the limit for us. We feel incredibly excited to embark on our biggest tour to date and finally be able to play these songs live!
LFdM: Last ritual question: advances of the date in Italy? At Les Fleurs du Mal, we hope to be in the front row to sing your songs. We really enjoyed your album and renew all our compliments!
See you at the show! Cheers and beers!
LFdM: Once again thank you for your time and ... see you in October!