How Bad//Dreems put together their record across two capital cities

How Bad//Dreems put together their record across two capital cities

Words by Sosefina Fuamoli

Bad//Dreems’ third studio album, Doomsday Ballet, is a musical snapshot of a band in a different space, creatively and personally.

Over the last year, the Adelaide rock group have grown and developed, as you’d expect — life happens while we’re busy making other plans, as it goes.

Careers, relocations and newfound fatherhood descended on the band’s members and changed their approach to capturing the sweat-soaked grit that has become synonymous with their sound. Speaking with vocalist and songwriter Ben Marwe, working on Doomsday Ballet was significantly different from the processes of previous albums Gutful and Dogs At Bay.

“It really has been a team effort,” says Marwe. “Releases in the past, especially early on, Alex [Cameron] was…I mean he still is a chief songwriter, but he was the predominant songwriter. This has really been an organic team effort over a long period of time. We recorded 95 per cent of the demos with Ali at his studio in Grange, workshopping them from home and through Dropbox folders. It feels like a unified sound.”

With drummer Miles Wilson and bassist James Bartold now living in Melbourne, and the rest of Bad//Dreems still in Adelaide, the recording of Doomsday Ballet came together over multiple sessions in both cities under the watchful and incredibly knowledgeable eyes of producer Burke Reid and musician Tim Rogers (aka Jack Ladder).

“First of all, Burke has a crazy work ethic,” Marwe explains. “He’d be in front of a screen for 11, 12 hours straight. We’re constantly looking to him for guidance and having the answers to unlock the doors to different avenues we can take the song when it’s not working, in the middle of an Adelaide heatwave.

“It can be so frustrating, his poise and commitment to sticking with an idea because he can see something in a song or a riff or a melody. It’s the next level of professionalism that we’ve never really dealt with before.

“Paired with Tim who, as a creative and lifetimer of music, is constantly putting out good product. He’s got an encyclopaedic knowledge of music and is able to draw references from the canon of our influences.”

Having your band split between two cities can affect the overall dynamic and when it comes to Bad//Dreems, the group’s dynamic has always been one of the drawcard elements of their entire aesthetic. So how did this Melbourne-Adelaide dance work out for Bad//Dreems when it really came down to it?

“It made the sessions that we did together more of an explosion of creativity, rather than it feeling like a grind. We’d all be doing home demos at our respective houses and then when we’d come together, we’d smash it out over a weekend in Adelaide or Melbourne. Lay the tracks down and then go back home, workshop them again. I think it almost benefited it more than hindered it.”

Marwe remains realistic about the band’s perception — he knows the term ‘pub rock’ is a favourite label attached to the band — and how they’re potentially changing it with the release of this new album.

“We actively wanted to do a studio album at the risk of it maybe being tough for us to be able to nail the songs in a live environment,” he admits. “You need that progression, you need to take the next step. Especially with third albums, I think they’re always weird ones. Especially with rock bands, you can easily fuck them up.

“You think you’ve got this body of work behind you with two albums and some EPs and other singles, and you feel like you’ve maybe gotten a bit ahead of yourself in wanting to change things up too much. From a lyrical standpoint, we worked hard on every word and every line, on how every syllable was delivered. It was gruelling, but worth it.”

Doomsday Ballet is out now, give it a spin via streaming services.