Interview: Tripping on echoes with Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever

Interview: Tripping on echoes with Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
Lisa Businovski
Words by Shane Bardsley
Photography by Lisa Businovksi

The Melbourne indie rock royalty are back with their most cinematic and stylistically diverse album to date, a self-produced answer to isolation.

Endless Rooms, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever’s recently released third EP, remains a love letter to the creative experimentation and the collaborative spirit that the band has forged together over the last couple of years.

Having recently made a cathartic return to the stage for the long-awaited tour of their highly acclaimed sophomore album Sideways to New Italy, an album released amidst the ambivalence of the 2020 lockdowns, Rolling Blackouts C.F. are back with new and ambitious material that showcases the live power of the band.

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“Finishing that album was an exhausting process, we threw absolutely everything at it,” says vocalist and guitarist, Fran Keaney on Sideways into New Italy. “I’m really proud of that album but releasing it during the pandemic was like releasing this bird into the ether, and then it was like … what now?”

Isolation turned out to be a period of creative experimentation and realisation for the band, with Keaney and fellow members Joe White, brothers Joe Russo and Tom Russo, and Marcel Tussie taking time to experiment with their sound during quarantine. Unknowingly at the time, these riffs, lyrics and ideas would eventually form the raw material of their newly released third LP Endless Rooms.

“We had all these disparate ideas which when we finally got back into a room together, we started to make feel our own, ideas which really came to life in that house.  I remember thinking we should record as soon as we’re together and just see what happens, and so we and tried to bottle that initial spirit and spark.”

With guitars buzzing down from the upstairs mezzanine over booming bass and drums setup below, the tracks of Endless Rooms were laid down live around the lounge room fireplace of the transformed open plan living space of the Rolling Blackouts C.F headquarters and Russo family retreat.

Spontaneously created and conceived within the group’s initial creative quarantine, the retreat’s acoustics have played a vital role in creating and unifying the sound and material of Endless Rooms. “Having such a big space to play around in, with all these different surfaces to bounce off and mics all over the roof picking up all that noise, without any of the cymbal wash getting in the way, suited a lot of songs that have these big washy celestial soundscapes – which is the guitar amplifiers running absolutely hot,” recounts Keaney.

With bold tones that unify the sounds of Australia’s natural landscapes with the zeitgeist of the people who live there, Endless Rooms is an album that remains emblematic of the country house it was recorded in. Invoking ambient field recordings of fire, rain, wind, and birds from the lakeside locale, the record conveys the impact that the aesthetic of the space’s natural environs had on the production and recording process.  On the effect that the house had on the album’s production, as well as the quality of communal time shared amongst his long-time friends during the process, Keaney remarks:

“Being thrown out of lockdown into this country splendour was a real special time and that’s why when it came to thoughts on the album cover, Joe White suggested that if it lives here, we should have the house on the cover.  We had the fireplace going the whole time, you’d wake up and someone would be tending to the embers, someone thinking about the meals we were gonna cook, while others worked on overdubs and vocals.  We’d eat together, keep plugging away at it all, and then sit around the fire having a few knockoffs while taking in the country air and beautiful stars.  Those two weeks were the highlight of the year.”

Motifs of longing and belonging somehow conveying a desolation of social anomie, alongside the euphoric fervour of being at home in solidarity feel tangibly lucid in the urgent sensibilities effervescing throughout lead single The Way it Shatters.  Reflecting on the motions of being apart and coming together Keaney adds:

While the songs were written in lockdown the LP itself is a culmination of this return and celebration – themes of being separated and coming back together again, which was really life-affirming.

It felt like, man I’ve missed this so much, it was this real ‘fuck yeah!’ This is what it’s all about! I hope people really feel that energy.

The release also sees the band return to their self-produced format of early EP’s Talk Tight and French Press, and with it, a sound for those familiar with their back catalogue that echoes a sublime nostalgic melancholia. By the same token, it inflects a more reflexive nocturnal alterity, creating a dynamic contrast evident between anthemic earworms Tidal River and My Echo.

“I think of it as a self-titled album that has a name.  It’s an album we’ve always had in us, it’s a bit darker, but those songs had just never found their feet,” states Keaney on the process of the album’s creation. “It feels like a real solid pronouncement of that.  And being self-produced alongside Matt Duffy who we did our first EP’s with, it felt like this natural return, but also an expansion of that.  Endless Rooms feels like you’re there in the warm cocoon of that space, and I hope people turn it up really loud as then you’re properly enveloped in that feeling.”

Towards the end of May, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever embark on a huge world tour that will see them playing shows across Europe and the Unites States of America. Kicking off at Festival Tomavistas in Madrid, they’re playing a run of shows across the UK and Europe where they will once again rock Primavera in Barcelona. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever will be heading back here for Splendour in the Grass at the end of July and then they’re jetting off again to play Lollapalooza for the final leg of gigs in the US.

“I’m really looking forward to playing this album live!” Keaney states on taking the album on the road. “I feel like as a whole, it’s closer to what we’re like live, there’s more boom to the drums, the guitars are wider, and it’s just a larger sound.”

If you missed their recent Melbourne show at the Brunswick Ballroom last month, don’t worry – you’ll have a chance to catch these home-grown legends back in Australia at the end of the year. Fresh off their tour around Europe and the States, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever will be embarking on a national headlining tour of Endless Rooms in October, tickets on sale now.

Endless Rooms (Sub Pop/Ivy League) is out now via Ive League / Sub Pop. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever will be playing Splendour In The Grass in July, and you can catch them at Northcote Theatre on October 21. Find out more info here.