Wednesday, 23 July 2014

#44. Housework – The Extreme Sprinklers

Harry Fahey – drums
Matt Hewson – bass, backing vocals
Jade McLaren – vocals
Matt Neal – guitar, backing vocals

Lyrics by Matt Hewson and Matt Neal.
Music by Harry Fahey, Matt Hewson, Jade McLaren and Matt Neal.
Written in 2005.
Recorded on February 24, 2006, at Motherlode Studio, Warrnambool.
Produced, mixed and engineered by Gus Franklin and Tony Peel.

I’m not sure why, but Extreme Sprinklers bassist Matt Hewson and I have never written many lyrics together. It’s strange – we both love to write and both seem to be on the same wavelength creatively, musically and intellectually (I think). Yet I can count on one hand the number of things we’ve written together, despite being friends for close to 15 years and playing music together for nearly a decade in 21st Century Ox, The Extreme Sprinklers and The 80 Aces.

One of the few things we have written together is the lyrics for Acting Like A Child (click the link for more info, yo) and another is the lyrics to this song, Housework. Here’s Hewy to explain the genesis of the song.

Jazzing out together at the Timor Street art house party. PIC: Colleen Hughson.

“So at the time I came up with the tune for this, I was playing a bit of guitar and expanding my own songbook as an after-party amateur guitarist-singer,” Hewy said.

“I was listening through my iTunes and came across some You Am I stuff, and I'm pretty sure the idea for the beat came from Good Morning, which is a tune I really dig. So I sat down with that beat in my head, came up with the chords, and then heard Tim Rogers singing a melody to it in my head. Voilá."

“Unfortunately, my internal Tim Rogers didn't help me out with lyrics. I needed Doc to help me with them, and I'm pretty sure it was a one-session job out in my studio*. I think Doc and I found a bit of a synergy with the creative use of words in that one, so the lyrics are actually pretty cool, even though I had a hand in them.

“This is maybe the only tune I've brought along to the Sprinklers/Aces that they didn't seem to secretly (or not-so-secretly) hate at first listen and forever more. It's probably the pop/rock tune that I'm most proud of having a big hand in writing, and I have always been pretty stoked that the rest of the band always seemed to enjoy playing it a lot.

*May not be actual studio.”

Me and Hewy, prior to being falling-down drunk at 
Kennedy's Creek Music Festival. PIC: Pudgey O'Keefe.

In fact, this song outlived Hewy’s longevity in the band. When he quit to go and be a jazz superstar (this may or may not be the actual reason he left The Extreme Sprinklers, which had morphed into The 80 Aces by then), the song continued on in the setlist, and was even recorded by the current line-up during a demoing session at Tony Peel’s Motherlode Studios a couple of years ago.

But I’ve got to say it never sounded as good as when Hewy, Harry, Jade and I played it. That line-up built the song up around Hewy’s cool seventh chords in the verses and that killer chorus progression and it just felt more natural when that line-up got that swing going. The version at the top of this blog is the best take from a live session we did in Peely’s studio with Gus Franklin at the helm. I’m not sure why exactly we were recording – I think we were just demoing.

While Hewy hears Good Morning, I always thought there was something a bit Green Day-ish about the song, in particular Longview – maybe it’s just the same groove. But, in my opinion, the song that Housework is most reminiscent of is this:

Drummer Harry Fahey agrees, although he said he also heard something “Ben Folds Five-esque” in the backing vocals in the chorus.

“(It was a) fun song to play and bop to, but listening back I wish I had played less notes on this one,” Harry said.

“In fact that seems to be a common thought for me with a lot of these songs, less would have been more. Thanks hindsight, you tricky bitch!”

The Extreme Sprinklers, playing too many notes in The Shed. PIC: Glen Watson.

Hewy agrees with Harry's Ben Folds Five sentiment: "As a huge BFF fan the harmonies were definitely influenced by them," he said.

"The chorus chords were also deliberate modulations to Bb and Ab, and those ultra-poppy harmonies helped make the strange sound familiar. I think that's all I've got (about this song), except that the lyrics were really fun to write as well."

Lyrically I’m pretty proud of this one too and enjoyed the process. Hewy and I definitely got on a wavelength and conjured up a scene of domestic "unbliss" that we figured a lot of people could probably understand.

On a wavelength after a gig at The Cally in Hamilton.

Final word from singer Jade McLaren:

“Lyrics were great … ‘Our crosswords have no clues’ ... love that line.”


I awake to my alarm
She’s already gone and broke the morning calm
Waking up begins the day
The sour taste of breakfast always is the same

I’m going crazy
But is it you or is it me
Give me something
Won’t you tell me what you see from your side of the room

Midday movie tells the time
Head to head but never seeing eye to eye
You know our crosswords have no clues
The housework’s not the only work we have to do

The table’s set, let’s take a seat
Dinner’s cold but we both know we’ll still eat
Things will go bump in the night
Maybe next time the sunrise will make it right

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