You Am I guitar-slinger Davey Lane has released his debut solo record Atonally Young, and it is a triumph – which isn't at all a surprise given his strong track record.
Sonically this album strays far from his previous work with rock band The Pictures, being a more varied beast – touchstones include The Nazz; Cheap Trick; Be Here Now-era Oasis; numerous great and under-rated '70s power pop bands; Lennon floating on a bed of reverb (and peace, and Yoko) in 'Mind Games' and '#9 Dream'; Bowie's 'Let's Dance'; and 'Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft'. Stand out tracks: the psychotropic opener 'Komarov'; 'Not An Option Now' (which Lane rightfully points out has that Cars feel) and the otherworldly, VHS-warped 'Portal To Another Lyfe' – in a just society this song would be number one on the charts right now.
We chatted to Lane about the record, his creative process, and being in the odd position of having both a hefty back catalogue, and a new 'debut' album.
First of all, congrats on the debut album. Does it feel weird to call it that, given you have recorded many albums with The Pictures, You Am I, plus numerous other projects. It is weird to then talk about this album as if it's a first strike?
You know, somehow it doesn't feel weird at all, even though, as you say, I have done all that stuff in the past ten or fifteen years. The Pictures were my only outlet for songwriting; retrospectively I look back on it, and I was sorta – for the most part – fumbling around in the dark. I hadn't really figured out how to write songs or how to sing them [NB: This clip proves Lane incredibly modest – and wrong].
I think it's taken this long to figure out what I want to sound like, and how I want to sing; I'm just really enjoying writing now so much. I'm already looking towards the next record now, so it doesn't feel weird having that tag of a debut record on [Atonally Young], because I feel like I'm now at a point where I can finally, proudly put my own name to something and not feel apologetic about it, like I may have been in the past.
It's widely varied as well, which is often a mark of a debut record – the first four songs, for example, don't sound at all alike. Was that on purpose?
It is a pretty eclectic record, but it's all basically rock and roll music dressed up differently. With my old group, The Pictures, we sort of painted ourselves into a corner stylistically, we did retro style rock and roll – or however you wanna label it. Now I'm putting my name on it, there's no expectation at all really, it's not like anyone's hanging out for me to make a solo record. There's no expectation what a record with my name on it will sound like, so there's a little more freedom in that regard. Also, I have a pretty short attention span, and records that sound the same start to finish bore the shit out of me. I like records that take left turns from one song to the next.
It's a side effect of growing up a Beatles fan, too: you just expect this of albums anyway.
Exactly. As much as I got to an age where you realise there's more going on than The Beatles, they are still the only band I'm nerdishly obsessed with, so that's always going to bleed in.
You also released an EP last year, and mentioned at the time it was the first of a series of EPs you planned to release. Did that plan change? Did they morph into the album?
Those EPs are still kinda sitting there, and I'd like to do something with them. I mean, it's not like those EPs will end up consigned to the scrap heap, I will end up using them for something or rather. There are three EPs worth of stuff; whether I incorporate bits of those for what I do with my next record, or I will put one of those out shortly. I mean, I just like to keep the ball rolling I guess. Now I'm thinking about what to do next, I need to have a sit down and work it all out.
You mentioned earlier you're planning a second record, too. How far along are you in that process?
I want to go in and make a start on it in the next few weeks. There's a couple of really great recording studios locally. There's a batch of songs that I'm pretty confident about going in and recording – it's all pop music with a slightly wonky edge to it – and I think I will go in and do a few at a time, just if and when I can afford to do so. I'm set up to record at home as well, so even if I go to the studio and record the basic bed tracks, and then do the rest at home, that's an option.
Was that same piecemeal approach how you did this record? Or did you bunker down in a studio?
No. The Pictures came to a halt four years ago, I guess. Since then I've been mucking around at home, and this is the first time I've gone in with the express purpose of making a record, with a producer, nine days in a studio booked out to do it. It was great to have a producer on board, I didn't have to worry about pulling the sounds together, or compression ratios – all I had to worry about was how I wanted the songs to sound and whether I'd gotten the lyrics right. I enjoy the boffin side of recording as well, though, and I probably can't afford a producer this time around either.
When did you record it? This year?
The start of May.
That's a pretty quick turnaround.
Yeah. I guess it's because, releasing records independently, there are no real hurdles. It's the quicker turnaround for any record I've been involved it, so that was a pleasant surprise.
And what's been the reaction been like so far?
Super positive. I don't really have a fan base so to speak. It's more a small handful of folks who like what I do. Somebody asked me the other day whether there's a big crossover of people who are into You Am I and into my music, and there isn't really – there's a small fraction of people who are into me because of that band.
It's a completely different beast. There shouldn't be too much crossover.
Exactly. With The Pictures, the similarities were more stylistically obvious – it was much closer to what You Am I were doing. But this is a completely different kettle of fish. And I've only had positive reactions, which is encouraging.
Almost certainly the answer to this will change by tonight, and again tomorrow, but what's your favourite track on the record?
Yeah, it does change. Plus, sometimes I listen back and think, 'I could have done that better', but you'll always think that with your music. It's probably 'Not An Option Now' – the fourth song on the record – it's the straightest song on the record.
It's an obvious single.
Yeah, it will probably be a single early next year. I was listening to Jen Cloher's album and for some reason I took it off the turntable and wrote that. I guess it's me writing what I imagine an FM radio hit to be, but in 1978. A bit of The Cars to it, and a bit of The Divinyls.
That was the quickest it's ever taken me to write a song. I wrote it in fifteen minutes and the lyrics were the first thing I wrote on the page – I didn't even think about it. I saw an interview with Noel Gallagher the other night, and he said that it's the songs you think about the least that become the most memorable.
30th October | Ballarat VIC | Karova Lounge
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