Monday, 15 April 2013

#6. Aquarium Life – The Extreme Sprinklers

Jade McLaren: vocals.
Matt Neal: guitar, backing vocals.

Lyrics and music by Jade McLaren & Harry Fahey.
Written February 2, 2004.
Recorded at Motherlode Studios, May 28, 2011.
Produced and mixed by Tony Peel.

According to legend, there was once a recording of this song made back in ye olde days, but those were difficult times, and the half-finished track was lost in the Great Hard Drive Meltdown of 2005. All that remained was a chord chart and some half-remembered lyrics and melodies, which remained half-remembered for many years….

The actual story goes like this: One night, after a long day and night of recording some early Extreme Sprinklers songs at drummer Harry Fahey’s place (which was nicknamed Burndog Studios), I headed home, leaving Harry and singer Jade McLaren to their devices. Instead of playing FIFA ’04 on the PS2 as they would usually have done, Harry busted out the keyboard and the two of them wrote this beautiful song about a little fish faced with a bigger fish moving in on his fishtank turf.

Fish yesterday.

Jade’s the only one who knows much about the writing of this song. While messaging the boys to get their recollections on Aquarium Life, Harry thought a) we were talking about a different song that was b) written somewhere else, but c) noted that it was “a bit ironic that the song I couldn't remember inspired my 'goldfish' nickname for my crap memory!”.

I think our crap memories might be a running issue throughout this blog.

Over to you, Jade:

“I can definitely say the song was written at Burndog Studio as I remember sitting in there and writing it. I also remember drawing two fish in a fish tank above the lyrics.

Yep, there's the fish. Eagle-eyed readers will note 
the last verse is different to the recording. 
That's because we recorded it from memory, then later found this lyric sheet.

“I can’t think of any real life impetus that the song was based on but I (think) the lyrics are strong. My favourite line is ‘stuck sucking scum from the pebbles’ - that kinda summed up what it is like to be relegated to second place.

“The melody, I'm fairly sure, was inspired by Jeff Buckley. Not from any particular song but just taking on the challenge to try to emulate one of the greatest singers of our time. I think I failed dismally in this (recording) but I'd like to think the Shoebox (aka Harry’s computer) Meltdown version was a lot sweeter. I guess we will never know - thanks Apple computers.”

This is where Jade’s and my recollections differ – he reckons the lost version was almost fully formed, but I suspect it probably wasn’t that different to the recording above ie. pretty much just a guide guitar and a guide vocal. But as he said, we’ll never know.

Here are some of my notes from that lost recording. 
Doesn't say much, other than questioning whether to keep 
some of the guide guitar and that I thought it should have a watery sound 
similar to Ween's The Mollusk.

As an outsider (ie. non-writer), I’ve always really liked this song. It’s simple and stylish and layered with symbolism and sly humour. The melodies are sweet yet soulful, and the structure of the song (and the way the chords fit together) was, well, epic. Harry didn’t co-write much in The Extreme Sprinklers, but when he did, my goodness, what gold.

Harry chord chart - the bottom half is the only half 
that's relevant for those of you playing along at home.

Admittedly this recording isn’t the greatest. I think Jade and I practiced the song once in the intervening six years since we stopped playing it live (which only happened a couple of times, I think), but one day in May, 2011, Jade and I found ourselves with some leftover time at the end of a demoing session with The 80 Aces. We seized the opportunity to finally get this song on tape and bashed it out in one live take. I guess it’s testament to how much we both love the song all these years on that we still wanted to record it, if only for posterity.


Stuck in a box for life,
you don’t have to worry about anything,
when suddenly there’s strife
and here comes the new addition.
Now food’s in short supply;
stuck sucking scum from the pebbles.
Because you’re lacking in size
he’s taken over the diver and the treasure chest.

Big fish,
they’re all around you.

Now little guy you’re gunna have to learn
don’t let anyone swim you around.
Breathing is your only concern
but now your life is on the line.
Compared to some he ain’t that big
and there’s a million out there.
You’ve got no hands so you can’t dig
so you’ve gotta fight your way out there

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