Monday, 6 May 2013

#9. Bandwagon – The 80 Aces


Jarrod Hawker – drums, backing vocals.
Matt Hewson – backing vocals.
Jade McLaren – vocals.
Kyle McLaren – bass, backing vocals.
Matt Neal – guitar, backing vocals.

Lyrics by Jade McLaren.
Music by Jarrod Hawker, Matt Hewson, Jade McLaren, Kyle McLaren and Matt Neal.
Written 2008?
Recorded December ’11-January ’12 at Motherlode Studios, Warrnambool.
Produced, arranged and mixed by Steven Schram.
Engineered by Tony Peel.



Bandwagon is the song that would not die. Or more to the point, it was the song 80 Aces singer Jade McLaren refused to let die.

He’d written some really complex melodies that he thought were really catchy and paired them with some cynical lyrics about the music industry signing bands that are similar to what’s a hit with the kids - I think his reference point was the heavily accented rock acts that came in the wake of Arctic Monkeys, and perhaps the Franz Ferdinand-alikes that came even earlier.

I’ve got to admit I wasn’t a fan of the melody or the lyrics when Jade brought them to me to put chords to them. But also, I couldn’t figure out what the hell was going on melodically, so I struggled to find some chords to fit. As a result, I gave up and sent him to our then-bass player Matt Hewson, who was more up to the challenge because he’s a freakin’ musical genius.

“They were a bit tricky,” Hewy acknowledged recently, probably just to make me feel better.

"It was certainly a tricky melody, both in the anthem bit and the verse, to put chords to. Perhaps the reason it never really worked was the chords I put to it - they fit the melody perfectly, but I wasn't really coming from a pop perspective. It was at a point for me where I had a lot of jazz composition knowledge but hadn't actually gotten into writing much jazz, so perhaps my internal, frustrated jazz composer sabotaged what could have been a more straightforward progression.

"In any case, it was all Jade's fault for coming up with that melody. I certainly thought the band had beaten it into it's most presentable form just prior to changing it during those recording sessions with Schramy.

"In all honesty, I rarely enjoyed playing it. It certainly had potential, but for one reason or another we struggled to realise it," Hewy said.


Hewy, struggling with his internal, frustrated jazz composer.

When we first started rehearsing the song as a band  I don’t think anyone was sold on it. Also, we could never figure out a satisfying middle eight but stuffed one in there anyway, which Hewy reckons was a group effort.

No one – except Jade – was very enamoured with the song but we got it gig-ready, played it a couple of times, then quietly left it off the setlist after that.

But Jade wouldn’t give up on it. He pictured a whole stadium singing along to that chorus melody - completely oblivious to the fact it was way too complex - and was desperate for it to be on the next EP. Somewhere along the way, he convinced Hawk, new bass player Kyle McLaren and myself to rework the song, which basically just meant playing it live again but with a new middle eight and getting Kyle to sing a harmony to Jade’s ‘soccer chant’ chorus.

Jade got his wish and the recording made the shortlist when it came time to make the Dollars EP with Melbourne producer Steven Schram (Little Red, Ground Components, The Vasco Era).

This is as good a place as any to insert the demo that we did prior to going into the studio with Schramy:

Recorded at Motherlode Studios, May 28, 2011.

Produced and mixed by Tony Peel.



Here’s Hawk:
“I was never settled on the song until we listened to the demo we did at (Motherlode Studio with Tony Peel) for Schramy. I liked that version and that version only. I thought we had an almost Silverchair thing going on and, of course, Schramy changed it again to something that I feel struggles along. Also I don’t think he ever captured the stadium chant thing that we were after for the chorus melody.”

To be fair, I don’t think that stadium chant thing was ever gonna work, but it was worth a crack.

Here’s Kyle:
“I’m not sure why the song never stuck for me but it never stuck for me. I think it was something we tried to be really clever with, a catchy song that’s not simple and has a complicated melody, but it just was never quite there. And I think the song sunk its own ship as the melody was too complicated to be catchy for listeners. The best part was the new bridge that was written in the studio.”

Kyle hard at work while recording the Dollars EP.

I tend to agree about the new bridge, which Schramy made us create right then and there mid-recording, rejecting certain progressions, getting us to add chords, cut chords, change chords until he got us playing exactly what he wanted in the middle eight. It's my favourite bit in the song, especially the feedback-soaked guitars we spent over-dubbed on it.

I don’t know what Schramy thought of the song because he never really told us what he thought of any of our stuff, but he helped us knock it into shape by discarding the intro and making us come up with a new middle eight. The big ‘soccer chant’ was achieved by triple-tracking Hewy, Hawk, Kyle and myself.

video
Here we are recording the "soccer chant" in the studio. Eventually....

Before and after the EP launch, Bandwagon made its way back into the setlist… and then slowly began disappearing again. It’s now the only song on the EP we don’t play regularly anymore.

The final word should really go to Jade:


"Ok, so Bandwagon was written at Fishtales. I'd had this strange melody just pop in to my head from nowhere and as I sung it to myself I began to think it could make a pretty sweet chorus melody.

"I wrote the lyrics about a made up A&R person - someone whose job it is to keep their finger on the pulse of what's happening in music. Too often a band comes out and does really well and is the hip thing then all these other bands that sort of have a similar sound to the original band start getting more airplay. I'm not sure it happens as much these days but I thought it has to be someone's job out there to find these new bands. I think the lyrics work well and I've always enjoyed singing them.

"Despite the fact the song was never as strong as what I'd envisioned it to be, there were times when it almost sounded like a single. And then there were other times when it sounded like a mess. I'm sure the other guys are blaming me for having the song on the last EP but the truth is we voted for it as a band.

"I'm still proud of the song and it certainly breaks the mould on the EP that it appeared on."

Lyrics:

He saw the scene and he gleaned what he had to
Plundered a dream and he deemed it plausible
He aims to please and he's pleased to be aiming at
you

Cos he saw the scene and he seized the sound from them
They signed on the line and they ride on the bandwagon
cos they believe the hype and he's hoping to hock it to
you

He's hoping to hock it to you

Jump on it

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