“There’s often whisky involved,” asserts Taasha Coates, “which is an essential ingredient in writing a good song.
“There’s often whisky involved,” asserts Taasha Coates, “which is an essential ingredient in writing a good song. If [Tristan and I] start to get stuck, we’ll change locations. We’ll go down to the pub or go down to the park or somewhere that will freshen it up.” Refreshment was crucial for The Audreys’ third album, Sometimes The Stars. After releasing their ARIA Award-winning debut and sophomore albums – Between Last Night And Us (2006) and When The Flood Comes (2008) – as a quintet, The Audreys have returned to their initial entity as a duo on Sometimes The Stars. “It was the first time Tristan [Goodall – songwriter/guitarist] helped me with the lyrics,” says Coates. “In fact, I don’t know if I could write a song with anyone else.”
The line-up change came naturally and without bitter sentiments. “It happened by accident – the other guys in the band left and have gone on to do other [musical projects],” Coates explains. “In fact, I saw them all on the weekend – they’re lovely boys. But Tristan and I found that once we got into the studio to record, it felt really liberating because we could really free up the arrangements and have different instruments on them and get in different guests, so it ended up being a really positive thing.”
Another liberating element to the creation of the third album was allowing themselves more time, as opposed to the rushed writing process of their previous album, When The Flood Comes. “It was much needed,” Coates avows. “I think we figured we actually couldn’t do it the way we did the second one, so it was kind of ‘either we do it like this or we don’t do it at all’.”
Prior to the writing of Sometimes The Stars, Coates embarked on a backpacking trip across India. “I went for a five-week holiday with my partner – I used to do a lot of travel when I was younger,” Coates relates. “I’ve done a lot of travel with the band, but it’s so different ’cause you have to lug around your shoes and your nice frocks and make-up. I wanted to travel with one pair of jeans, one pair of shoes and a sleeping bag – it was just a really nice thing to do. And it was just before we went into the studio, so it was a nice refreshing break for me to come back and fuel that fire of making the next record. “I think it was more of a personal journey than an artistic journey,” she adds. “But I’m sure they’re interlinked in a lot of ways. It’s an incredible place – it’s beautiful and it’s confronting; I’m always seeking out experiences like that. I think that’s my personality more than my choice as an artist.”
Coates was also adamant about recording her vocals in single takes to capture the spontaneity of their live performance. “It was the first record that I’ve really tried to do that on,” she affirms. “I’ve always been a bit of a perfectionist and I really wanted to challenge myself to free it up and just try and capture a good performance in one take. That was something I had never done before and it was a challenge at first, but I think it worked really well.” The album features the inspired contributions of acclaimed jazz pianist Paul Grabowsky and former John Butler Trio drummer Michael Barker, while Tim Rogers’ vocal harmonies complement Lonesome Valley.
Coates asserts that Sometimes The Stars is the most personal album that The Audreys have released to date. “I think we were more confident as songwriters and maybe more willing to be more personal,” Coates muses. “And they’re also songs about characters, stories and murder ballads, which is something we’ve always loved doing. But I got my heart really badly broken,” she concedes. “And I couldn’t help myself – every time I sat down to write, it just kept coming out… it was really annoying,” she laughs.
So which records and songwriters proved the most reliable source of comfort as Coates cried herself to sleep, pillow affixed to chest, during that badly heart-broken period? “I got a little obsessed with Ryan Adams, which I’ve done before,” she chuckles. “I had my little Ryan Adams moment… I went to see him at The Forum and his new record, Cardinology, made me go back and listen to his beautiful old records and just completely obsess over them. That was a bit of an indulgence.”
Not only did The Audreys win Best Blues & Roots Album for their first two albums, but they triumphed over fierce competition (Bernard Fanning, Lior, The Flood and Xavier Rudd in 2006; Angus And Julia Stone, Jeff Lang, Mia Dyson and The Waifs in 2008). “They were both a complete shock,” exclaims Coates. “Both times we weren’t the favourites; both times people told us we weren’t gonna win. It’s very bizarre. Inevitably, next time we will be the favourite and then we won’t win,” she chuckles.
“At the second one, my dad was my date. He was so cute – all the photos he’s looking a bit freaked out by what’s going on around him, but he was a great date; he was a real sweetheart. When I came back from interviews backstage, he was still in shock and bawling and so proud of me.”
Coates is surprised by the diversity of the band’s fan-base, but such a quality can be attributed to their superb musicianship. “We had someone get on our facebook and say ‘I usually listen to metal but for some reason I can’t stop listening to you guys; I don’t know what’s wrong with me’,” Coates laughs. However, she’s been just as shocked by her own tastes, namely those of yesteryear. “My mum told me the other day that when I was a kid, I used to know all the words to Barry Manilow… it’s the worst. I had to bribe her not to ever tell anyone,” she laughs, “and then I just went and told you.”
Oh dear. Well let’s move on, shall we?
“I’ve actually been listening to a lot of old stuff on vinyl,” Coates enthuses. “Fleetwood Mac, Creedence, The Band, old Dylan and Neil Young records, Sticky Fingers by the ‘Stones, Station To Station by David Bowie… I’ve been on a total ‘70s kick.”
With a new line-up and reinvigorated vision, The Audreys will be launching Sometimes The Stars at the Corner Hotel next Friday: “I think there was a nice chemistry between Tristan and I that we had forgotten about in the old line-up a little bit,” Coates ponders, “because Tristan didn’t used to have a microphone or talk to the crowd. “It’s changed; it’s fresh and I’m really excited.”
THE AUDREYS launch their beautiful new album, Sometimes The Stars (out now through ABC Music) with a massive launch show at The Corner Hotel on Friday November 12. Tickets are available from The Corner box office (11am-8pm Monday-Saturday), 9427 9198 or cornerhotel.com. They also play Ruby’s Lounge on Thursday November 11, and The Royale Theatre in Castelmaine on November 13. Info and tickets through theaudreys.com.au.