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Album Premiere: Adelphi by Even As We Speak

Even As We Speak
24 July 2020

Even As We Speak – Photo Credit: Joshua Morris

Renowned veteran indie/cosmic-pop band Even As We Speak formed back in 1986 in the inner city of Sydney, Australia, entrenched in post-punk aesthetics instead of the glam look at the time. The next year brought about their effervescent DIY record “Blue Suburban Skies/Bizarre Love Triangle” became the most copied 7-inch single of the twee pop genre.

Even As We Speak became one of the best-loved Sarah Records bands, carving a sparkling pathway through the twee-scape of the early ’90s with their pop roller-coaster ride Feral Pop Frenzy. They regularly hit the Indie Top 10 charts, recorded three Peel Sessions, played on BBC1 Radio, and were the talk of must-reads NME and Melody Maker.

The band broke up in 1993, but an unexpected rebirth occurred in 2016 at New York Pop Fest, and the following year saw the release of the Black Forest EP. A UK tour and sold out shows happened in 2018 through early this year with a slot at Cologne Popfest.

Even As We Speak continues on their stellar trajectory, releasing their new album, Adelphi today via Shelflife Records.

Big Takeover is over the moon to host the premiere of the LP in full. The band once again defines new musical territory and continue its career-long mission to defy pop conventions and neat classifications.

A dense and cinematic effort, it takes us into the unfashionable terrain of middle-age lyric themes, mixing dark electronics, detailed production, and guitars with pop melodies and beautifully crafted songs that revive the art of the album.

The band reveal details about the creative process and outlook behind Adelphi:

“Making an album after a 27-year break could seem like a daunting task in an industry based on age (for new acts) or nostalgia (for older audiences). You make albums within the zeitgeist of a particular time in the hope that it stands up over time. Feral Pop Frenzy was recorded in 1992. Adelphi was recorded across 2018-19. Questions you ask are – do we really want to make a record that sounds like the last one? (no); is this an exercise in nostalgia? (no); how will audiences take to the audacity of a bunch of middle-age people making a new record? (don’t really care); what will we do for the videos? (look older and be proud about it); do we have anything further to say? (lots); what should the record sound like? (let’s see where it takes us); will it be as good as the back catalog? (yes).”

“So, after we dealt with those questions without too much hand wringing, we just got on with climbing the mountain. Even As We Speak have never been about following any kind of fashion or scene. It’s a music and pop culture blender. The Sarah Records era brought us attention as part of the roster and scene, but if you listen to Feral Pop Frenzy it’s hardly conforming to most people’s understanding of what a band on that label should sound like. We were and still are Australian fish out of water, unapologetically doing our own thing. We value this quality.”

“Adelphi was made over a long period of time (across 2018-2019) and so it has had more care and attention than anything we have ever done before. As a result, there is depth and detail in it that wasn’t really possible when we used to record with tiny budgets and in a hurry. Modern technology meant that we could work on it for as long as we liked and largely remotely from each other, which is what we did. We let it go when we were ready.”

“The interesting thing about this record is that these were new songs that we had never rehearsed or played live before. The process started with Matt sending out rough demos of the songs on acoustic with a guide vocal and sometimes a keyboard line or two. So, every track was constructed in the recording process, piece by piece, without any kind of live band reference at all. We then established basic rhythm parts, recorded those, and from there each arrangement and the specific parts were built like a giant Lego project. Julian spent huge amounts of time exploring and refining arrangements and sounds at home. We would then exchange revised or additional parts over the internet as we discussed tracks over a chat channel. We mostly only came back into the studio to record the main vocals after that long process. So the album rendering of the songs literally came into view, bit by bit, as we were making it.”

“Thematically, Matt’s lyrics tackle middle aged themes head on. They are brutally honest and make the difficult experience of middle age poetic – unmet aspiration, parenting, failed relationships, ageing, the looming reality of a finite life span and what we might all amount to in the end. As such the album is darker and more broody but it has plenty of ironic twists and dark humor that shine a light through it all. There is also glimmering pop as a counterfoil to melancholic darkness.”

shelflife · Adelphi

The Matt and Julian of the band also kindly took some time to focus on each song and spill details about their composition and meaning:

“Someone”

Matt: “This song addresses the loss of opportunity as we age. We become consigned to the reality of meeting our day to day commitments, knowing that our chances of making an impact, creatively or otherwise, is limited by our years.”

Julian: “The basic parts for this one were played together as a band. The electric guitar is a first take guide, so it’s the closest to a conventional full band live performance on the record. Gameboy electronics and drum destruction come to crash the party.”

“Forgiving”

Matt: “People love songs about romance – that feeling of meeting that person with whom we will share our life. But few people are writing songs about what happens after that, when you are 25 years into that relationship and the gloss has worn off. This song addresses that issue, and in particular that we are all imperfect beings, and for love to be sustained we need to endlessly forgive our partner their faults, an in turn they need to forgive us our own. We are after all, only human.”

Julian: “The glimmering pop in this acts as a great counterfoil to the lyric. You find yourself singing the hooks only to realize what the lyric is. Production wise I gave it the gloss of mainstream pop, tight female stack harmonies and synth fizz but it features the kind of ‘beefy Motown’ retro rhythm section that you hear on a few tracks on the album.”

“Sun”

Matt: “I often worry about the environment, and in particular I worry for the sake of my children who will have to make their way on such a degraded planet. This song addresses the greed of the rich, the madness of our empty politicians and ends with a dystopian view of a world where we work in carbon belching factories and come home to dream of a world which is gone.”

Julian: “This track is a reel sleeper. For some early listeners it’s been a favorite. It references classic ’60s Beatles psychedelia, but it adds in odd numbered repeats to make it wonkier. The dramatic scenario resonates with the absurdity of the current wave of conspiracy theorist nutters and the mysterious retro phone call sets the scene. The electronic vocal harmony stacks pull it into the 21st century.”

“Leaves”

Matt: “Another song about relationships and how they survive the passage of time. Sometimes, through neglect, our love seems to quietly drift off without us even noticing. It asks the question – “Will my love be there where I left it so long ago?””

Julian: “This track was entirely unchanged from Matt’s demo. It didn’t need anything. It worked beautifully and was complete. It was really about getting the right emotional register in Mary’s vocal performance. This meant leaving it direct, uncorrected and vulnerable. Sometimes you have to know when to do nothing production/arrangement wise when the song speaks so powerfully in its most stripped back form.”

“Unknown”

Matt: “This is a song which I think is dark yet beautiful. Time and again people avoid the subject of their own mortality, shrugging off the topic with a laugh or a platitude. I think a full life requires a contemplation of this subject, because it brings into sharp focus the issue of how we choose to live in the span of time we are given.”

Julian: “This was the first song we recorded. In contrast to Leaves, it changed more than any other track from the demo. It started as an acoustic guitar demo with the main vocal. I first added the electric piano part, programmed some drums and a bass part (which Rob and Anita came in to replace with live performances). Then I built up all the lush electronic layers. It’s got that 10cc ‘I’m Not in Love’ vibe going on. It’s deeply evocative and spacey which I think supports Matt’s beautiful lyrics and Mary and Matt’s vocal performances.”

“Stronger”

Matt: “This is a song about my teenage daughter. It acknowledges the difficult passage through those years but celebrates the strength these young women show in staring down a world that would dismiss them as mere girls.”

Julian: “Did anyone say ‘beefy Motown’? That rhythm section theme is tied into this. It’s a kind of glue across the album along with the acoustic. 4 out of 5 of us have daughters. I think we can all relate. This one juggles Morricone (Matt’s traditional EAWS cowboy guitar solo) with string arrangements I added along with a Bulgarian choir which might seem unlikely, but the sound of those voices just seemed to me to be so ‘teenager daughter’ who can ‘crush you with one stare’.”

“Blind”

Matt: “Another song about relationships, but this time the relationships in which we failed. I started off with a more generalized view of the topic, however, like much of this record it soon became personal. As a group of middle aged people we have many shared experiences. In making this record we each influenced each other, always feeding back into a loop of ideas as the project progressed.”

Julian: “This one is also very close to the demo and a traditional band performance. As a two-hander male/female vocal dialogue the best thing to do is to stay out of the road of that and let the lyrics do the work.”

“Signs”

Matt: “Over time we allow ourselves to be limited by an accretion of ideas, preconceptions, social rules and similar. Under the weight of all this obligation we can lose sight of the conceptual nature of these restrictions and that we have the ability to cast them off.”

Julian: “This track is like a divining rod for modern political consciousness. Paranoia, conspiracy, symbols, imagined saviors. To emphasize the nowness of it all, I went with modern punchy electronic drums and a sequenced bass and added spacey washed out guitars and a reverse guitar solo. Trainspotters will note the recorded vocal debut of Anita who steps out from behind the kit to do backing vocals.”

“Child”

Matt: “As the title suggest, this song is about the love that you feel for your newborn child. However, there is a note of melancholy that comes with the experience. We promise to keep this child safe, knowing at the same time that life will not spare anyone their share of suffering.”

Julian: “Another one to just let the song breathe naturally and be direct via a traditional band performance. I love the emotional honesty of Matt’s lyric here. Those of us who are parents resonate with it immediately.”

“Light”

Matt: “Like many my age I have struggled to just let go and live in the present. In the process I discovered that living in the present does not make the past go away. The past, with all its disconnected fragments is eternal, and like the moon, it silently follows you wherever you go.”

Julian: “I think we all really like this one. As an album closer we’re not sure how many people will really listen to it. We hope they do. It’s a very powerful song. At its core it’s a conventional band performance but I surrounded Mary’s intimate, close vocal with a lot of ambient color and more abstract background guitar atmospheres. Turn it up loud and swim inside it.”

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