With the release of Crowded House’s new album, we chatted to new recruit Liam Finn about what it’s like to join the seminal band on a permanent basis.
The first completed album of original Crowded House material since the unveiling of its new lineup: led by Neil Finn and fleshed out by Nick Seymour, Mitchell Froom and brothers Liam and Elroy Finn, Dreamers Are Waiting represented something new and exciting for the band and legions of fans alike.
Then March 2020 came on by to put its greasy pandemic-ridden mitts on progress.
Catch up on the latest music interviews, news and reviews here.
Fleeing back to New Zealand (or Ireland, for Seymour), Crowded House were forced to finish the new record apart from one another. Though it was a scenario that could have stunted creative momentum, the musicians rallied and instead, have produced an album driven by reinvigoration and pure fun.
For Liam, who has long enjoyed successes as a solo artist, experiencing this new band dynamic brought with it a new perspective on the music he had grown up with; not to mention his musical relationship with his dad.
“We got to record as a band, which was dad’s vision,” Liam remembers of those initial sessions. “To make music that was going to be fun to perform live.
“That was really at the forefront of his drive for it, to make it fun and energetic. Not indulging, which quite often happens in the studio; you can get a bit too comfortable and it can be quite mellow. Songs always take on a more energetic life when they start getting played live and he just wanted to make sure that we were always … I was never sitting down and playing. I was always standing up. There was this urgency about it, which was great.”
‘Urgent’ is a good way of describing Dreamers Are Waiting. The release of lead single ‘Playing With Fire’ already lit a fire within the fandom and for casual Crowded House listeners too, it was a head turner of a moment to see remixes by Tame Impala and Unknown Mortal Orchestra drop soon after.
Tame Impala and UMO? Remixing Crowded House?
These are bright new times and frankly, the album in its entirety is a whole damn beacon of light.
The natural spirit of Dreamers Are Waiting and by extension, this new edition of Crowded House, is something that Liam is proud to have captured on record as it was. It’s a fitting introduction to the band’s new dynamic and a reminder of the warm and enveloping nature of Neil Finn’s storytelling.
“I think that’s what makes it feel inviting to listen to. It doesn’t feel really self-conscious and forced, you know?” Liam says.
“I think that’s what actually makes records hard to listen to for the artist; if they can hear the struggle they had creating that record. Creating a record is always a struggle at some point, they have to be. To have the foundations of it be born of quite fun and playful jamming and experiences, it has that spirit. If anything it becomes about trying not to lose it or destroy it by covering it up with production ideas.”
Quite a significant portion of the album’s recorded instrumental stems from the first playthrough Liam did with Elroy. Working out of Valentine Recording Studios in LA for what was meant to be pre-production, the Finns’ studio work was recorded to tape and eventually, kept for the final cuts of certain songs.
“A few songs like ‘Sweet Tooth’ and ‘Playing With Fire’, those were pretty much the first time we played through the song,” he remembers.
“There’s something that always happens, from my experience, and I know dad has the same thing … when you start demoing a record you quite often think, ‘This is not the finished product, this is not the thing that’s going to be heard’, so you subconsciously record things really purely. It’s the first time you’ve had the idea and quite often, you’re always chasing that original demo. It’s got the spirit about it. You can’t put your finger on it.”
Working on the album through lockdown meant that the band’s input and production of Dreamers Are Waiting centred on a shared Dropbox folder that became the source of tension and anxiety for everyone involved at some point or another.
Deleting crucial files is nightmare fuel for anyone who’s been stuck in this ‘work from home’ hell. Magnify that feeling tenfold when your band’s whole album is at the mercy of the cloud.
“I’m amazed nobody actually deleted the whole thing.” Liam laughs. “We didn’t realise how dangerous it was. Our engineer, who was overseeing it, was biting his nails the whole time.
“As long as you weren’t working on the same song at the same time, we could all work on it and it would update everyone’s folder. You’d be working and then you’d see, ‘Nick Seymour has deleted kick drum’. You’d call him up and be like, ‘Nick! What did you just do?’. He’d go, ‘Oh I just emptied my hard drive, my hard drive is full’.
“He was just going in and deleting files! There were almost a few disasters but in the end, I think it added to it … We captured the spirit that we’d hoped to, and didn’t mess with it too much. Even when we were working on Dropbox, we knew that we always were going to fall back on that original performance. We knew that we had something pretty cool.”
With Dreamers Are Waiting now out, Crowded House’s focus has turned to their eventual return to the live stage. For lucky fans in New Zealand, a short tour in March gave the band their first opportunity to debut some of the new material but moreover, provide a much-needed moment of unification following the grimness of the previous year.
“We wrote it to be of maximum enjoyment for everybody because it’s what was needed.” Liam recalls. “It was better than we ever could have hoped for. The energy of the band. It reinvigorated me.”
For Liam, these shows proved to be especially significant for him as a musician. Having grown up with the music of Crowded House running through his veins, Liam has now found himself contributing to a beloved legacy he himself adores as a fan.
“All the lineups, in my opinion, have been great and I idolised those guys growing up. But getting to be part of this new movement of it, we’ve paid attention to some of the old records that maybe hadn’t had a look at.
“There’s certain nuances that I know, as a fan of the music, that I always missed. I’d be seeing a show and going, ‘I miss that weird little ghostly chorus’, and that’s my role now. Finding the things that were subconsciously the biggest hook of the song to me, making sure that happens. It’s really great.”
Crowded House’s new album, Dreamers Are Waiting, is out now via EMI Music Australia. The band will be screening a recent live performance to celebrate the new album on Saturday June 12 at 4pm, 6pm or 8pm AEST. More info here.