Sunday, 6 April 2014

#39. Girl From The Future – The 80 Aces

Jarrod Hawker – drums
Jade McLaren – vocals
Kyle McLaren – bass
Matt Neal – guitar

Lyrics by Jade McLaren and Matt Neal.
Music by Jarrod Hawker, Jade McLaren, Kyle McLaren and Matt Neal.
Written early 2011.
Recorded December ’11-January ’12 at Motherlode Studios, Warrnambool.
Produced, arranged and mixed by Steven Schram.
Engineered by Tony Peel.
Released on the Dollars EP.

When it came time to record our Dollars EP (buy it here!) – our "push at the big time" EP – we acquired the services of producer/mixer Steven Schram. He wasn’t cheap (he’s even more expensive these days seeing as how he’s just done the new Paul Kelly album) but he was worth it – not because we made the big time, but because we learnt an incredible amount from him.

This song is a nice example of the simple things a good producer will do if you let them fiddle with your songs. Compare the above arrangement to the demo below, which was just smashed out live in rough fashion among 17 other songs we demoed that day.

Demo recorded and mixed by Tony Peel at Motherlode Studios, May 28, 2011.

Schramy’s adjustments were simple – get rid of the pre-chorus bit which slows the song down (and sounds like Limp Bizkit, he reckoned), halve the intro, keep the groove steady, chuck a bit of tambourine in the chorus, add a few splashes of secondary guitar, tweak the build-up in the last verse, and BAM, Bob’s your auntie’s live-in lover. Also, he made it sound fat (or 'phat', depending on which school you went to).

When we told people we’d brought in a producer who was changing our songs, they were a little taken aback. Why would you let someone do that? The answer was that it made the songs better. Schramy knew what he was doing, more so than we did. Having an outside pair of ears take over is not necessarily a bad thing - at least not when it's someone as good as Steven Schram.

It was predominantly his work on Ground Components' An Eye For A Brow, A Tooth For A Pick 
that made me and Jade suggest Schramy to the other guys for the Dollars EP.

As usual when compiling this blog, I asked the other guys in the band what they had to say about the song. Drummer Jarrod Hawker’s input was typically inspiring.

“I like it, despite the fact it's a blatant rip-off of Runaway by Bon Jovi,” he said.

I had to find that song on YouTube to see what the fuck Hawk was talking about. But there it is - the first two chords of the verses of Runaway … well, that’s pretty much the entirety of Girl From The Future right there. Damn.

Jarrod then went on to point out that: “Runaway is, in many scholars’ opinions, the greatest song of all time. Ever.”.

“But seriously, the premise (of Girl From The Future) is cool and the four-bar, single phrase chorus line ("That's what happens...") is a particular highlight.”

Hawk in action, channeling his inner Bon Jovi while demoing 
Girl From The Future in 2011 at Motherlode Studios. PIC: Dannii Hale.

That line – “That’s what happens when you fall in love with a girl from the future” – was the song’s original full title, but APRA wouldn’t let me use that many letters in a song name so I had to shorten it to Girl From The Future. Damn.

That line was also the beginning of everything for this song. I read it in Grant Morrison’s awesomely weird comic series The Invisibles and instantly thought, “I have to put that line in a song”. It practically dictated its own melody and guitar line. When 80 Aces vocalist Jade McLaren and I sat down to write the tune, we pretty much had that bit sorted within five seconds of starting.

You should read The Invisibles. It's mental.

As well as coming with its own melody, the line instantly opened up a world of lyrical possibilities. It was partly a throwaway gag for a hook, but it made me think about what problems you would have if you fell in love with a girl from the future, which then made me realise that those problems would probably be the same problems most relationships have. With all that as a starting point, it made the song one of the easiest to write.

“Doc came to me with just one line, asking if it could be a song title,” Jade recalled.

“At first I was kinda puzzled until he explained the idea. I thought it definitely had merit so we began working on it sitting in his carport with a few beers.

“My favourite section of is the line, ‘with both hands on the clock you cannot speed up time’. It’s very indicative of the lyrics we write. We think we’re being clever and tricksy with our witty lines but I don’t think anybody has ever picked up on it so it’s (probably) a waste of time.”

On the left our my suggested words and phrases for the song, on the right the resulting lyrics.

Bassist Kyle Mclaren called it one of his favourites, labelling it “a great blend of rock with witty pop (and a) great chorus”.

“I loved the stabby verse bass and vocal together also,” he said.

What Kyle is neglecting to mention is the song is pretty much two chords (A minor and G for those of you playing along at home). I guess it goes to show what you can do with just two chords. Plus, if we’d added more, it probably would’ve ended up sounding like a total rip-off of Bon Jovi’s Runaway….

At least we had some band shots to suit our Bon Jovi sound. PIC: Gareth Colliton.


She gets up too early, you go to bed too late
She says time is short, you say there’s time to waste
But you’re always coming back with the right thing to say
Unfortunately it’s always on the next day

You can’t remember things that haven’t happened yet
You can’t correct what hasn’t gone wrong yet
You can’t finish things that haven’t begun yet
But that’s what happens when you fall in love with a girl from the future

You say all the things that she already knew
You live in the past, she lives in déjà vu
But with both hands on the clock you cannot speed up time
She’s two steps in front, you’re 20 steps behind

You say she’s post-modern, she says you’re out of date
Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be anyway

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