Even are doing things in their own time
“I’m not like a Benny or Bjorn songwriter."
“I can’t lock myself in a cabin and come out with a Waterloo,” says Even guitarist and songwriter Ash Naylor. Naylor is musing on the still mysterious creative process of songwriting as he explains the state of play with Even’s new album, originally commenced in 2014. “Writing tunes is never a problem, finishing off lyrics is a problem. But it’s a good problem to have because it’s a fun thing to make a record.
“The object is to make the music sound effortless. And that’s the hard thing - you put so much effort into making it sound effortless and light and buoyant.”
The two-year timeframe for the album suggests a laborious production process; the reality is that the domestic and other musical commitments of Naylor, bass player Wally Kempton and drummer Matt Cotter mean that studio time is difficult to find. In fact, Naylor suggests, Even has probably spent as much time in the studio as it did when it recorded Less Is More over four weeks in the late ‘90s.
The fact that Even isn’t beholden to a label means that there’s no external pressure to complete the album. “You’re making a record for its own sake. You’re playing to an unquantifiable audience. In effect, it’s pure in the sense that you’ve making a record for your own artistic purposes. And that’s a good feeling,” Naylor says.
Less Is More, released in 1998 and now released in 2017 on vinyl for the first time, was named after a self-help book published around the same time. The title also reflects Naylor’s view that a record shouldn’t be over engineered. But, as a perfectionist songwriter and musician, Naylor admits he’s prone to “lumping shit” all over his songs. “The new album isn’t intentionally a bookend, but we’ve reverted the trio recording as a unit and there’s less overdubbing. It’s pretty well the sound of the bass, drums, guitar and vocals, which is basically how we recorded the first few records, with minimal additional sounds,” Naylor says. “I’ve been trying to exercise a bit more economy in the sound. Hopefully there’s a bit of breath in these songs, a bit of space.”
It’s not just Even’s songs that have a bit of space. In contrast to Even’s halcyon period in 1995 and 2004 when the band toured regularly, Even shows are at a premium these days. “We used to play all the time, and it was a bit of a whirlwind back in that first decade. And then the rhythm of life changes, for everyone really,” Naylor says. Looking back on that time, and Naylor’s only regret is that he didn’t take time out to enjoy the fun.
“I look back on it now and think it was a great period in my life. Hopefully I can speak for Matt and Wal as well, it was a great time to be in a band, from the early ‘90s to 2000s - and it still is now,” Naylor says. “We’re so infrequent now, so it’s a big event for us when we do play. But I don’t tend to be too philosophical looking back. We’ve made the records and wherever you stand in the overall scheme of Australian music, it doesn’t really matter.”
Even will soon return to the Corner Hotel to play its annual Christmas show. Also on the bill is Western Australian band Header, with whom Even played on their first national tour in 1996. “They were a really powerful rock band with really good melodic songs, and we could relate to them,” Naylor says. “They were good guys and we became good friends. It’s great that they’ve reformed for this gig.”
The fact that the show will be at the Corner provides an added level of sentimentality and emotion. It was at the Corner in 1996 that Even played with Header on the Melbourne leg of its Australian tour. “Back at the peak of our powers the Corner was the Madison Square Gardens for an indie rock band. Every night in my head I’m playing Madison Square Gardens, whether it’s the Flying Saucer Club or the Enmore Theatre.”
By Patrick Emery