It’s been a reasonably lengthy time between drinks and Cooper admits Gold On Gold’s unexpected rise elongated the time between records. “Because it got such a strong positive reaction and got the great Pitchfork review, [Plant Music] ended up saying, ‘We better put this out properly,’ so they stretched out the release time to do the most that they could with it. Then we went back to our mate Alex Goddard who shot the first few videos and decided we’d do videos for the rest of the songs on the record and do remix packages for the rest of the tracks as well. That ended up taking ages.”
As with the first album, Clubfeet produced and recorded Heirs & Graces themselves, but it wasn’t an entirely slap-dash lounge room assembly. In addition to recording drums late at night in a friend’s Melbourne studio, the band took themselves to the beachy South African city of Cape Town to get stuck into making the album. Their production tact shifted slightly from the first album, largely due to increased experience playing live.
“The first one, if we were in doubt we’d just throw more parts at it and add more fills and more synths. This time around, because we’d played the shows on the back of the Gold on Gold record and we’d been playing a lot together in the rehearsal room, we were definitely more conscious of how we want it to be more of a band record. Even though some of the songs are still very electronic, it wasn’t 50,000 parts. Even though it’s a synthetic sound or a synthetic groove it’s not five different things interweaving.”
There is great depth of detail in the arrangements but the album maintains a breezy amount of space. The band members’ production-savvy capacities ensure a good portion of time is devoted to refining the recordings.
“The last month or two of making the record is fine-tuning stuff and changing arrangements and fixing it up and trying to be not in songwriting mode. When you’re a band that produces your own stuff, you’re writing and producing at the same time. The last stage is not doing any more writing and focusing on the production.”
It’s inevitable that multiple production perspectives won’t always concur in perfect harmony, but Cooper stresses that diverging viewpoints are in fact a major asset of collaborative ventures.
“We don’t always agree and sometimes there’s friction, but in the end we always have to agree. It’s part of being in a band, each of us makes the odd compromise on things that if it was just yourself you wouldn’t do it that way. I think that’s why usually – not always – groups produce more interesting music than solo acts. I reckon that tension is what makes it good.”
The first single from the album, Heartbreak, features the starbursting lead vocals of rising Melbourne pop artist Chela. While vocal duties are passed around among the band, Chela is the only guest vocalist on the album. Cooper elaborates on the visions of ‘70s extravagance that impelled them to recruit a female vocalist for the track.
“That song’s got a bit of a ‘70s MOR vibe and nostalgia to it. We were almost imagining a Tina Turner/Jimmy Barnes Simply The Best video for that song, really ‘70s, Chelsea wearing flowing white robes. Something about that song evoked that kind of vibe.”
Similar sun-soaked allusions to the ‘70s are heard throughout the record’s ten tracks. Cooper regards the flourishes of majesty, as well as corresponding flickers of injury, as rooted in their individual characters.
“I think they’re all a bit of a reflection of us. At some levels, I reckon, the songs are funny and tongue in cheek and grandiose; delusions of not just grandeur but delusions of glamour. A lot of stuff there’s a bit of melancholy under the surface. There’s a bit of an underpinning of loss on lots of the songs as well. It’s not like we set out and went, ‘This is what the record is going to be; it’s going to be rooftop pools in Acapulco and heartbreak,’ but in the end that’s the stuff that seems to keep coming back as moods.”
Ultimately, whenever someone expresses themselves with music, aspects of their outlook and experiences will surface in the created work. Cooper attests that specifics of the band’s lifestyle certainly resonate through their music.
“Unless you’re writing to a specific story you have in mind, you’re really writing by whatever mood captures you when you’re writing. When we were in Capetown we were partying lots and on the one hand leading a pretty off the hook existence, but the back end of that is you’re often a bit worn out and frazzled and over tired and emotional and there’s a bit of a darkness creeping around the city anyway.”
BY AUGUSTUS WELBY