Saturday, 15 November 2014

#49. I Can’t Help Who My Daddy Was


Matt Neal: guitar, vocals, percussion, mandolin.

Lyrics and music by Matt Neal.
Written in 2012.
Recorded at Mandeville Court on October 1 in 2012.
Produced and mixed by Matt Neal.



Firstly, I need to state that my dad is awesome. This song isn't about him. I get along great with my old man - he's an amazing guy and I love the fact that after my troubled teenage years we now get along brilliantly and often catch up for a drink. He's a top lad. He's my mate and I love him.

Me and my dad.

Secondly, this song is going to appear on my new EP, which is coming out soon. The version above is just a demo I did myself - the proper version was recorded by the excellent Joe Gardner at his Old Elk Studios in Koroit backed by my new band The Apologies (top-notch drummer Jarrod Hawker and kick-arse bassist Brady Jones). Joe refused to listen to any demos before we recorded - instead he insisted on hearing the songs for the first time played drunkenly around a campfire. That's how he rolls, and it's kind of cool. 

Joe Gardner and Brady Jones wondering how they got themselves into this mess.

When the EP comes out, I'll probably have to explain to Dad that the song's not about him. Might be awkward but it's the truth. It's actually inspired by the awesome people I've known and still know who have shit dads and who have proven that you can be more than the sum of half your genes and patriarchal influence.

Having said that, there was no one person or incident that triggered writing the song - it was more that the title line popped in my head and I thought 'holy shit, that's a great idea for a song!'. I sketched out most of the lyrics one hungover afternoon while The 80 Aces were on the road playing a string of gigs in Melbourne, Geelong and Hamilton. I'd asked my band mates if they were up for writing a song, they said 'no, fuck off', and so I decided to finish off this bad boy.

This happened on that road trip. 
It was the most notable bit that didn't involve vomit.

Musically the inspiration is very much from Graveyard Train, who I've seen live a bunch of times and who  made me think differently about country music - I'd never really heard the genre subverted in such a dark and ominous way before and it occurred to me that style was the perfect sonic backing for a song about someone who's dad is the Devil (metaphorically speaking of course).


Another influence is Nick Cave, which a few people picked, especially when Doctor & The Apologies played it live (at our one and only live gig to date) and people came up to me afterwards and said "that song was very Nick Cave". I guess it's my singing style on this song that made people think that. In this demo I pushed my voice to its limits to do three vocal tracks. I suck at doing harmonies, so it's just three octaves worth of singing - the main deep part, my 'normal' voice and a falsetto. That's about the full extent of my range and it's not great but I think it adds to the alt-country roughness and singalong quality of the song.

There's also a big debt to Tom Waits in there, both in the guitar melody line that I may have inadvertently ripped from Goin' Out West and the found percussion I used to build the drumbeat. On this demo, the beat is made up of a half-full slab box, a floor tom, a Venetian blind, a cutlery drawer and my house/car keys. To replicate that in Joe's studio, we used an aluminium ladder, a toolbox, a heater and a garage door. Anything can be a drum. I can't wait for y'all to hear it.


Debut EP from Doctor & The Apologies - The Party No One Can Recall - out soon!

Lyrics

When I was born my mother cried 'cos I was the devil's son
She met him in a bar and he told her pretty things and who could resist such devilish words
Now I tell my mother not to cry 'cos I can't help who my Daddy was
I can't help who my Daddy was

Well the Devil was dressed in a red tuxedo
And he asked my mama if she knew how to tango
And nine months later I arrived
And that was the day that my mother cried

Now every day of my 18 years
My mother has struggled with maternal fears
"Will he be good or will he be bad
Or will he turn out just like his dad?"

Two scientists arguin' 'bout nature versus nurture
Couldn't accurately predict my future
My mama said "Son, now you better be good"
And I swear I did everything I could

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