In the lead up to the Commonwealth Games Australia’s mainstream media have had their sights firmly locked on India’s infrastructure and its obvious shortcomings.
In the lead up to the Commonwealth Games Australia’s mainstream media have had their sights firmly locked on India’s infrastructure and its obvious shortcomings. But those who can look beyond the fact that Australia’s number one homophobe, Stephanie Rice, may have had to squat over a dirt hole for a couple weeks (if she wasn’t ‘injured’) realise that India is a landscape of dazzling contradictions. It may be the antithesis of first world ‘order’ but remains the centre of tangible spirituality and it was in India where Bag Raiders’ Chris Stracey credits the inspiration and resolve to finish the Sydney electronic act’s self-titled debut album.
“We’d been working really hard on the record and felt like it was pretty close to being finished,” Stracey explains.
“I sort of had this holiday to India already booked and Jack (Glass, the other maestro behind Bag Raider) had a trip booked as well – to Spain. So we both took a month off and I think it was really cool for us, because it gave us a month to experience some really cool stuff and sort of forget where we were at with the album.
Stracey concludes that – for both he and Glass – this was a welcome break to the recording process. “When we came back to listen to it with fresh ears,” he adds, “a lot of the real changes were made and parts added.”
Stracey explains that it was India’s visual beauty that played a large part in inspiring him. “I took 1500 photos!” he laughs. “I edited it down to like my favourite 250 photos so I could just put it in a little album on my iPhone. But ma-an,” he grins, “it seemed like everywhere I looked it was a photo opportunity. It was my most farthest removed from normal living and it was really cool!”
The first single from that self-titled album is called Way Back Home and plays out a dreamlike vocal line over the top of a driving beat. The song features the lyrics: “Do I find you / Will I follow / To forever and a day / I can feel you in the distance / But you seem so far away”. Stracey admits that the theme of the song is quite personal and seeks to explain the disconnection felt when you’re life consists of one show after another along way from home.
“It was written at the time we were on tour in the ‘States and probably the longest time that we had been on tour,” he explains, before disclosing exactly where and when Way Back Home was written. "That song actually had its creation in a hotel room in the Romada Plaza in West Hollywood. And it was just one those ‘Wow I wonder what about bands that are always on tour and never go home’ moments and I guess that’s where the song came from.”
Martin Soloman from Sydney alt-folk act WIM, who provided vocals for Way Back Home, has a disconnected and slightly husky vocal style that fits in perfectly with the song’s lyrical sentiment. However, Stracey explains that the album features a range of vocalists from British glam-synth crooner Dan Black (for the song Sunlight) as well as two very special guests that know each song intimately.
“I sing on a couple of tracks, one called Gone Away and another one called So Demanding and Jack sings on a track called Always… and I back him up in the chorus as well. It was a mixture or collaborative singers and stuff we did ourselves,” Stracey explains, his voice bobbling with a super-stokedness that’s indicative of his overall enthusiasm for the album.
He then plays down the idea that there were any nerves about singing on the album, adding “There was a little bit of nerves,” he grins. “But I think where it has been most apparent is in the live show, because we sing everything. So that was a little bit of a transition I suppose.”
What this means is that when Bag Raiders perform live, Stracey and Glass are singing on every song, from Shooting Star to Sunlight (well, that’s unless Dan Black happens to be on tour with them, as occurred at Parklife with the British pop-star performing live with Bag Raiders for Sunlight).
Alongside Sunlight there is another memorable track on the album, entitled Snake Charmer. For this track, Marimba and other tonal calypso rhythms create the foundation for a chirpy flute melody that contributes a mesmerising overlay to the beats underneath.
When talking about the inspiration for this song Stracey returns to his trip to India. “I got the idea for it when on my holiday. India opened my mind and eyes to all this different cultural living with all this different music; I actually saw a couple of snakes charmers and stuff and I came back and was just kind of messing around in the studio and I had the idea for the kooky little flute thing that comes in and I was like ‘ahhh that is kinda like…’ it just reminded of that whole experience [in India].”
Finally, the previously happy topic of the album and its material comes to a pointed rupture as it’s put to Stracey that pressures beyond his and Glass’ control led them to include their two year old song Shooting Stars on the album.
“Not at all, we were like ‘for sure let’s put it on there’,” he counters. “We wanted to do a lot of new stuff, but the thing is whilst that is our biggest song to date, there’s probably a lot of people that haven’t heard it or don’t know it’s our song.”
BAG RADIERS excellent self-titled debut album is out now on Modular and the album’s official launch is happening at Billboard on Friday November 19 with The Holidays and Flight Facilities. Tickets through billboardthevenue.com.au, ticketek.com.au and 132 849.