The eagerly anticipated album Carnival of Fools from Brisbane dirty-soul band Blues Arcadia almost didn’t get made! Alan Boyle abd Chris Harvey explain why …
Hello Al and Harv! Thank you for taking some time out to speak with FOCUS. You’ve had a big 2018 recording Carnival of Fools as a follow-up from your award winning self-titled debut EP in 2016. You have stated this new album “is the sound of a band falling in love with music all over again”; can you elaborate on this notion for us?
Al: We had a bit of a rough period after the initial buzz of our first record, where we were working probably a bit too hard on the gig front and forgetting that we had a follow-up to do. I guess we just got caught up in the novelty of travelling for ages to get to a place we’d never played before and actually having people there excited to see us! It’s a weird state of affairs maybe, but most musicians are desperate to have people pay attention to what they do. Then, we lose the plot when it happens …
Anyway, we had some internal dramas that led to the band falling apart over a period of months, which is much more painful that a quick explosion, believe me. We’d gone into the studio and began recording the album, but it was an ugly mess. One of us was going through a divorce, I’d just finished a degree and found myself without an income, and another one of us had other major issues going on. Eventually we had to decide to move on without one band member, and immediately the doors of creativity just flew open again. It was extraordinary how easily the music came back, and how great it felt to be doing it again. We’re not a band that can go through the motions – it’s always 200% with us, or it’s not worth doing. To feel that again was like a rebirth.
The album has such a distinctive blues and soul feel to it. What are some of the tracks you’re most proud of personally?
Al: We’ve actually got a very broad range of influences between all five of us, but our sound is totally rooted in blues and soul. It doesn’t get a lot better than being compared to your musical heroes, to be honest, so we’re stoked when people pick up on those influences.
But we’re songwriters firstly, so it’s about taking what we know and love and making something fresh with it. Personally, I’m really proud of The Ballad of Sir Tralyne. It was one of the first new tracks we worked up with our new drummer Casper Hall, and it came together almost instantly in the rehearsal room. Normally Harv (Chris Harvey – guitar) and I work the song up together until it’s done, but this one we just gave it a pat on the bum, and away it went! It’s funny as hell, and it’s a song about depression. That’s something most of us in the band struggle with, and it felt great to finally write about directly rather than write around it.
Liars and Thieves has been growing on me too, since we got the album back from the printers. That was a song which was a bloody drama to record, but I reckon it points the way forward for us, and not just musically.
Another statement I’ve read about the tone of Carnival of Fools, is that “there is deep joy woven into the fabric of each song”. Is songwriting and coming together as a group something that inspires you both personally and collectively?
Al: Writing a song with someone is absolutely the most fun you can have with your clothes on. Then, bringing it into a room with your closest friends and having them add their style and personality to it, and seeing people react to that in a live situation is beyond special. It’s the greatest feeling in the world … we’re addicted to it! We’re lucky to have each other to make music with, and even when life is the worst kind of sh*t, it just takes a gig together to put each of us back on track.
You are embarking on an East Coast tour commencing in March. How do you find the process of performing live as opposed to recording in studio?
Harv (guitar): Well, as Al has previously mentioned, recording can be nightmare! I think one of the main challenges is to try and capture the energy of the band in the studio. The live experience for us is a release of energy; it’s our bread and butter, so to speak.
We work hard on the show rehearsing and making sure the songs flow nicely through the set. We have a few set pieces, as in one song will go into another, but we don’t from an audience point of view become predictable. So, the set will change according to whom we are playing in front of.
We want the audience to feel that they don’t know what’s coming next, and if they do, we’ll change it. Playing live is also a good test to see if our new songs are working or not, and also if the older tunes are still resonating with people. I personally live for the stage; it’s like home to me, and sometimes I don’t want to leave!
Who are some of the industry greats that you look up to with your own music?
Harv: This a tough question. Our influences are really broad; we’re looking to capture the soul sound of the ’60s with whatever we can throw into the mix, but with the blues being our grounding. The bands that we look up to really have the freedom to write and play whatever they like – blues/soul/funk/jazz/Latin etc. A great example would be Tedeschi Trucks Band; they can do whatever they like, but still retain their own sound and identity.
What are your plans or vision for the band going forward?
Harv: Well, to keep writing songs and developing our own sound and to get our music to as many people as we can. Basically to get better at what we do; songwriting is a craft that you have to work on, and we’re doing just that.
Interview: Sarah Dunstan.
See Blues Arcadia at Port Panthers on April 6.
Doors 7:30pm | Support 8pm | Show 9pm.
Presale $22 | Door $27.