I thought I’d see if I could record a demo in a day. Here is the result.
I’ve been loving Daft Punk so I thought I’d go where I shouldn’t with a vocoder.
The result is a lyric that is pretty much indecipherable, but it was fun making.
The song is dedicated to muppets like me who get up every day and navigate Melbourne train stations, put up with regular signal failures, get diverted to Flinders St so Metro can meet its targets, have their station skipped, have the pleasure of paying a couple of hundred dollars each month to then get pulled up by ticket inspectors with a zero tolerance for mistakes and a complete blindness to your history as a good “customer”.
Here’s to those nights when the train stops halfway home because of our antiquated infrastructure, when you get to have a surprise dinner in Hawthorn and wait for your spouse to pick you up, or you have to hang around the city until things sort themselves out.
Commuters take cars off our roads, carbon out of our air, and generally act in a civic manner. These virtues should be ignored.
We should be punished. We deserve the oppression. There are no limits to a state when enforcing a $10 fare.
(…except it’s easier to go after concessional card holders like students because that light goes on at the turnstiles)
Thanks to all the people who pimped our wares on Triple J. Your CDs are in production.
In other news, the EP has been reviewed by Ross Barber of ReviewYou. Check it out!
Artist: The Bent Legs
Title: The Bent Legs EP
Review by Ross Barber
Rating: 4 Stars (out of 5)
The Bent Legs is an Australian-based band made up of singer-songwriter Craig Lawton (vocals, guitar, programming), Rob Martin (drums), Jay O’Neill (guitar, vocals) and Niall Kennedy (bass guitar).
The boys certainly have a lot of experience between them; Lawton and O’Neill have been playing and writing together, within different outfits, since the early 90s. Martin has played in blues and rock outfits in the UK and Australia, playing many different styles throughout the years. Kennedy has also played in several bands in Ireland and Australia. The Bent Legs are truly international in their lineup, and this is also evident in their sound, which has been influenced by their Australian, New Zealand and Irish backgrounds.
These years of performing and writing have given The Bent Legs a strong foothold in which to build on. Individually, they are accomplished musicians, and together they perform with an energy and confidence that only comes with dedication and musical experience.
The Bent Legs EP was recorded at Toyland Studios in Melbourne, and features five tracks of alternative indie, performed with enthusiasm and self-assurance. The tracks are written around the themes of lost love and protest, and combine live studio recordings, strings, programming and layers of textured vocals. Opening track “Turnaround” is an upbeat slice of indie, featuring strings, which give the track a slightly more dramatic, epic edge. “Restless Moon” is almost a throwback to the Brit-pop sound that was popular in the mid 90s. In fact, The Bent Legs have taken many of the best aspects of 90s indie/rock and molded it into something up to date, and uniquely theirs.
“Be Like Me” takes a detour from the upbeat, driving sound heard in the previous three tracks. This is by no means a bad thing; in fact, it introduces us to a different, slightly more melancholic side to The Bent Legs. As the track builds, the hook becomes more prominent and becomes almost anthemic. In some respects, “Be Like Me” could quite happily sit within some of the softer moments of grunge, yet feels like a far different beast at the same time.
Closing track “Protest Song” features some great group harmonies, and is in a similar vein to “Be Like Me.” It is possibly the strongest, most emotive track on the album. The harmonies really make “Protest Song” stand above the rest of the pack, and make it the perfect song to close the album. It is also here that the guitarists are able to showcase their proficiency, without it sounding overblown or pretentious – it works in the context of the song, and feels right.
All in all, The Bent Legs EP is a very solid effort from a group of accomplished musicians, who are clearly capable of covering different genres and who have something to say. It’s a style that is difficult to categorize and deconstruct, but when the music’s good and the lyrics speak to you, how important is the analysis, really? If their next release contains tracks as strong as “Protest Song” then it will definitely be worth waiting for.
A quick word about a give-away we’re doing. The EP was a digital-only release but there are a small number of actual discs in circulation.
So what do you need to do to get one of these rarities?
Take 5 minutes to do these 3 steps:
1. Go to Triple J and register if you haven’t already:
2. Then go to our band page:
3. Click Rate on “Protest Song (Radio Edit)” or another song and give us a review.
It’s that easy. At the end of next week we’ll look at the best reviews and give away 5 of the discs.
In other news, we’ve been asked to play quite a few gigs but at the moment we’re working on new material for a larger album release later this year.
Also Rob got engaged!
We’ll keep you posted.
I know I know see all the people waving; They’re on their way home; Not much to say no-one to understand them more than you know.
Love will find a way
Are we going to turn this thing around?
Turnaround started because I wanted to write a song in a strange key. Neil Finn from Crowded House had expressed a love for F-minor so I thought I’d give the key a crack. Also a lot of songs I loved had a strong opening riff or melody so I was doodling around in the F-minor until – bang – I had that nice moody, jangly intro. I then discovered the verse chords that went with the melody.
I never wrote the lyrics down. I just kept playing the music and adding words until it got silly. Then I’d stop repeat and try again until the words got silly again. I had no idea what the hell it was about really.
At the time there was an increasing paranoia in Australia about boat arrivals from The North and the words started to evolve around this theme.
Then I got to the tag line, the hook, the chorus…. “Are we going to turn this thing around?”.
My logical brain flipped. Are we going to turn the boats around? Not really my politics man. Are we going to turn the situation around? What the fuck are we turning around?
Then I thought, the lyrics fit so who cares if it doesn’t make complete sense. In fact I think music works well with ambiguity. It forces the listener’s mind to at least engage with the ideas and make their own interpretation.
“In jazz, a turnaround is a passage at the end of a section which leads to the next section. This next section is most often the repetition of the previous section or the entire piece or song” – The Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music and Musicians.
The song then evolved incredibly during the recording process. The final mix is almost unrecognisable from the original take. There are background synths, pads and sirens. The vocals are distorted and flanged. The original guitar solo was augmented with some background flourishes that then themselves became the solo. And there are lots of vocal overdubs and harmonies.
And Jack mixed the hell out of it and gave it a strong, angry, balanced mix. It became the perfect opener to the EP.
Over and out of your imagination; Speaker on the end of a phone; Caught in the eye of your imagination more than you know.
I’m not afraid
How we gonna turn this thing around?
I really didn’t have any idea what this song was about when I wrote it. I had no agenda, no plan, just four chords and some mumbled lyrics in a demo.
I took this tune to the band to see what they could make of it. As such it was the least finished before rehearsals started.
Everybody wants to be like me, everybody wants to sing like me, everybody wants a song that that they sing when they’re down on their luck in the lucky country yeah
Everybody wants to move like me, everybody wants to walk like me, everybody wants a dance that they do when they’re living on the edge of a gone memory.
Everybody wants to believe. Oh
The run of verbs moves through being, singing, moving and dancing, suggesting further and deeper corruption of the individual. The corruption runs deep until a person is no longer sure who they are or what they believe….
The song is so wordy. It feels like I’ve sung an essay and the tune is less than a minute in.
The lyrics are a little uncomfortable and feel egotistical to sing. It’s a song about a country with a reputation for anti-establishment larrikins becoming a country of anxious conformers.
Everybody wants to be like me, everybody be real like me, everybody wants to know who they are, what they said, better say, better go, better leave
Everybody wants to be on the edge, nobody wants to be too fringe, everybody winds up in the middle of story that is told, that is telling to the end.
Everybody wants to be free
Everybody is cautious, concerned with taboo, wants to be considered as someone with an edge, but ultimately it’s only skin deep. It’s a clothing label, a sleeve tattoo, an ironic tee.
Night-walking in the middle of the road, still talking about the end of the world, road forking to the left to the right turnaround sit down contemplate what you owe.
Everybody wants to…
Teenage nights wandering suburban streets looking for mischief, talking and solving the ails of the world, drinking wine cooler, parroting what our teachers, parents and media taught us.
The song is out of words now. Jay comes in with some lovely harmony lines and the song builds a swinging momentum through the guitar solo, the solo ending with the rumble of Rob’s toms blasting like thunder out of the late summer sky.
Will the rain come this year and clean off the scum, the veneer, the gentrification, the sunburnt hypocrisy? Will the great south land be as great as the one it could have been?
Everybody wants to be like me, everybody be real like me, everybody winds up in the middle of story that is told, that is telling to the end.
The threatened liberation never occurs!
It’s a cold November there’s a chill in the air. We laughed all morning cause we didn’t care. You’re telling stories again, I can’t keep from laughing, my friend in England, you sorted me out.
Like most songs it starts with a simple musical part. The verses are basically two chords with a little embellishment. But when I played them they felt English. Weird hey?
The song is simple but the story is complicated. On one level it’s about a day I spent with a friend in England and another level it’s about the fear of returning home.
I was inspired by ‘Brick‘ (Ben Folds Five) to use time markers in the lyrics to place the story so I started with ‘November’. The story is set. It’s coming up to Christmas. I’m a nervous wreck on a ‘working holiday’, trying to find my place and never quite settling.
We’re walking around London having a laugh but I’m also anxious. I’m wondering if I’ll be loved when I return to Australia. She tells me that it’ll work out, we laugh, we spend the day laughing and don’t care about anything. She will return to her man in Brisbane, I’ll stick it out in London and hope that Anna will join me.
And tomorrow is calling, but I want to be still, still in this moment, but we’re not meant to be still, and it feels like we’re falling and the lights have gone out, do people return to be apart.
Take the way home, was the answer back there, you’re telling stories and the endings are never quite clear, I tried to listen but the sounds had gone from the air, you were my Friend in England and now you’re not here.
I wrote the chorus in one go. The hairs stood up on the back of my arms and neck. It’s the best part of song writing, feeling like you are conjuring words from nothingness, a muse whispering in your ear.
Back to the story, I’m wondering if she will find something good when she returns home and I’m wondering what there is for me.
Come December, I’m out of here. I’m back in Melbourne for my Christmas cheer. And the Mallee wind, it blows in a new year.
Nothing’s changed round here; it’s still the same. The cold winter wind calls out your name. Nothing’s changed round here but something is missing.
I return and find the world at home hasn’t changed that much but everything is complicated. I’m there 10 days or so and I fly back to London.
When I get back, the house I rent a room in is empty and the snow is falling softly. I have a connecting flight to Edinburgh in about 14 hours time. She has returned to Australia. I’ve flown around the planet and back.
A new year has blown in, and the moment has passed.
The song “Restless Moon” was conspired one lonely night in London. I was staring out the front window of a house in Crouch End, staring at the rows of English houses, watching snow gently drift to the ground. The house was empty. My landlord and housemates were away. And I thought of a girl I once knew, I thought of her plans, I thought of her free spirit, and I wondered where she was in the world. All while staring, like a caged animal, out the window at the moon. The guitars start then Niall’s smooth bass brings the band in.
Watching, waiting, looking at the ceiling, trying to remember her telephone number.
I could remember most of her phone number that restless night. But the numbers were jumbled in my head. I picked up the phone to call but never dialled.
She had plans to travel the country, on a bus bought from the company. I wonder if she got there, or if she never left home.
She had this crazy idea to buy a big old bus and convert it in to a traveling home and just go around the country hanging out and visiting people. On this particular crazy night I wondered if she ever did it, or if she shelved her dreams. Her life had tragic elements but I never knew where the fiction began and the fact ended. That restless night I needed her to be in her bus somewhere north, up the coast or in the desert.
I had some chords lying around. I’d discovered the main riff of E minor to E major and I was quite proud of that, as I’d never seen it done before. I had the chorus line and I had an idea of making each chorus one line longer than the previous one. To try and make the song jar, matching the restless mood.
I’ve been missing you
She always wanted someone to write a song for her so I thought I’d give it a crack. By the end I’m not sure what the song was about. Like many songs, the constraints of rhyme, structure, time and instinct take the writing to surprising places.
(Six) years in the desert and I wrote this strange dialect. What here does that mean? Like I never did stumble.
It was six years since I knew her. But then the song went off in strange new directions. I guess the desert is a metaphor for loneliness.
I’ve been missing you. But it’s so late at night.
Winding back through ancient dust, Outback rumble to memory past, living breathing forward through, an iris blue, a sky clouded in mood, golden and clear, shed no crocodile tears.
The bridge is my favourite part of the song. The break to C and E minor makes easy work after the verses. The lyrics dripped off my pen without any consideration for interpretation. Reading them now, there’s a yearning for home. There’s a sense that when you’re anxious, lonely, fearful, your focus narrows and you loop bad material in your brain. It’s about winding back and seeing the wider truth.
Living in a coma, like I’d ever go and phone her. When the moments passed, was it ever that good?
I’ve been missing you. But it’s so late at night. Restless Moon is shining bright.
Not a very romantic ending I admit. But hey memory makes everything seem idyllic. Let it go man. I love singing this last chorus with Jay.
The ending became a band jam with momentum building through each repeat. Rob loves banging out the drums to the end. The rest of the song has been hard work; all strange section lengths and changes. Now the song has made its mind up and it’s a simple three-chord race to the end with some nice organ overdubs.
‘Protest Song’ was written because I’m a Midnight Oil fan. Detractors always said they played too much ‘complaint rock’, but Rob Hirst always retorted that it was better than ‘compliant rock’. Sadly, Aussies prefer compliance to complaining.
The song began with a meandering chord progression. In my head I imagined the first word sounding like “Oh”. If you listen to the song you’ll notice that the song starts with the word “So”. And that’s how the song started…
One of my songwriting heroes released a song called “Wings to Work” and I was impressed by how the music was so simple and repetitive but built up with each verse adding something, the song slowly building to a rousing ending. And… I was sick of trying to find catchy choruses.
From these threads the rest of the song grew. I wrote the verses in order. The lyrics were born out of a frustration with politicians and shock jocks. I had a feeling that they were always talking about issues I either didn’t care about, or if I did, they weren’t asking the questions I wanted to here or talking about what I wanted… and sometimes I didn’t even know what I wanted to talk about any more. They’d stolen my words!
The song was played originally on acoustic guitar but as it was jammed and demo-ed I imagined more and more singers joining in with multiple harmonies.
Whilst practicing the song Niall came up with a cool descending bass line between the 2nd and 3rd verses and later on Anna sang the lovely high harmony both of which really pushed the song along.
Paying homage to another Midnight Oil song, “Hercules” and also to the Paul Kelly Classic “From Little Things Big Things Grow” we banged out a long instrumental powerhouse at the end. And that is why the song is 7 minutes long!
EXTRA: The line “pushed that sedan” was morphed from another Midnight Oil lyric. Brownie points to anyone who can get it. The song is off Head Injuries.
Formed during the naughties when the world was becoming increasingly inward looking and fearful The Bent Legs came together to capture some of the mood and love of the time. Tunes banged out after midnight in the inner North. The drummer with a bung knee who would turn pale occasionally when the songs stopped. We kept playing late into the night, holding on, not knowing that all our lives were about to change.
The Bent Legs are Craig Lawton, Jay O’Neill, Rob Martin and Niall Kennedy.
A few years ago we started jamming in Brunswick. The tracks here were laid down in Northcote and then they were almost lost amongst house moves, child-raising, breakups, operations and an almost deportation.
Then late last year Vital Mastering in New York took a stab at restoring and remixing the original takes. The resultant mixes were sent to Studios 301 in Sydney to be mastered by Steve Smart whose credits include Washington, You Am I, The Jezabels, Crowded House, The Living End, Midnight Oil, The Cruel Sea and Regurgitator
And now you have a chance to listen The Bent Legs self-titled 5-track EP.
During the next few weeks I’ll be updating the site with some funny stories about the recording sessions, the lyrics and some of the back-stories. Subscribe to this blog – ie. join the fan club – by entering your email address in the box in the right sidebar or alternatively follow on Facebook or Twitter.
Followers, subscribers etc. will get access to a FREE acoustic live track during the next month so get on to it.
There are many options for getting hold of the tracks so check out the Buy page. And after you’ve listened to the songs, write some reviews because it helps us out and we also get to know what worked well.