Friday, 1 April 2016

#72. Magic Shoes – The 80 Aces

Jarrod Hawker – drums
Jade McLaren – vocals
Kyle McLaren – bass, vocals
Matt Neal – guitar, vocals, keyboard
Steven Schram - keyboard 

Lyrics and music by Jarrod Hawker, Jade McLaren, Kyle McLaren and Matt Neal.
Written 2010.
Recorded December 2011-January 2012 at Motherlode Studios, Warrnambool.
Produced, arranged and mixed by Steven Schram.
Additional recording and engineering by Tony Peel.
Released on the Dollars EP.
Buy it on iTunes here!

There’s more to being in a band than just playing music, and there’s more to a band than just the people in it, so in this week’s (month’s?) blog I’m going look at some of the important people that can help take your music and your band further, as seen through the prism of The 80 Aces’ attempted hit single Magic Shoes.


The more things change, the more they stay the same, as they say in the classics. Last week I was interviewing a couple of members of The Dead Livers and they explained to me how a journalist mate of theirs became their de facto publicist in the late ‘70s, hyping the band in print and raising their profile. It worked a treat. “It was a media manufacture to some degree,” Michael Schack said of The Dead Livers’ early fame.

This “manufactured” publicity helped set the band apart from others in the scene. It helped get them support gigs, draw more punters to their shows, and scored them more airplay than they might otherwise have got.

Fast forward three and a half decades and little has changed. In November 2015, I was invited to join a music industry forum chaired by Music Victoria as part of Warrnambool’s Aus Music Festival, which was pretty cool, and towards the end of the panel, we were asked for the one piece of advice we would give to bands. My advice was this: Get a publicist.

Here I am on the panel. In a weirdly circuitous coincidence, 
this pic was taken by Michael Schack. 

It’s the dirty secret of the music industry no one talks about, but having a publicist gets you a lot further than not having one. Bands scrape and save to afford to record their music, mix their music, master their music and release their music, but they forget the vital next step after that - promoting their music.

After The 80 Aces recorded the Dollars EP, we decided to go all out and get ourselves a publicist. We had a limited budget, but we wanted to see what would happen. I spoke to a couple of publicists I’d dealt with through my work as a music journalist. One of them told me that my band was too old for his company to take on (three of us were in our early 30s) and another said we hadn’t given them enough lead up time for the release (most PR companies prefer a few months lead up). In the end we went with On The Map PR, who are awesome. Emily, who runs the company, is supercool and used to work at Sony and she liked our stuff. I think On The Map was just getting going when we approached them but now they look after Boy & Bear, Rufus, The Presets, Ella Hooper and more.

Here's Emily with Bruce Springsteen. As you do.

I’ll be honest - this shit is expensive, but we’d busted our arses for three years playing shitty covers gigs and saving every cent for shit like this. Unfortunately we probably needed even more money - although Emily did us a good deal, she told that if we wanted to get played on the radio, we needed to hire a radio pusher. Yep, that’s a thing. If you want to get spun on Triple M or even triple j, a radio pusher helps get you on their playlists.

Although Emily couldn’t help us with airplay, she teed up a whole bunch of press opportunities for us, including a day of interviews for TV, radio and online in Melbourne.

So we did stuff like this great interview with Noise11 that it won't let me embed for some reason. And this Tone Deaf interview and we were featured on this mixtape with The XX, Cat Power and TZU and we did this AU Review interview and got this review, as well as this Beauty & Lace review and this The 59th sound review.

And this review in Xpress in Perth.

And we're featured on this from 7:50 onwards:

But best of all, Emily managed to make this happen for us, which remains a career highlight:

Magic Shoes featured on Channel 7 footy coverage
Ok so, we thought that Magic Shoes was going to be played on the pre-game stuff before the Sydney-Collingwood clash. It wasn't. Instead they played about 30 seconds of Magic Shoes at the very end of the program, right after Collingwood sung their theme song. Only time I've ever been excited after a Collingwood victory. - Doc
Posted by The 80 Aces on Sunday, August 12, 2012

So that's our song being played underneath the end of the AFL coverage. How did that come about? Emily from On The Map PR knew the right person to ask and how to ask them. And that, in a nutshell, is what publicists do that you can't do. They know people you don't know, and they know how to approach them. Best of all, they know the right people.

We also appeared on this show for Syn FM but I can't find it anywhere.

So did all this make us famous? No. But if we’d been able to organise a tour and been able to afford a bigger PR push (and maybe a radio pusher), we could have been on our way. But hiring a publicist showed us how the industry really worked, and how easy it was to make it look like we were on our way. That’s part of the trick - looking like you’re on your way. Having someone else willing to publicise your music shows others that you’re worth being interested in. A good publicist will only publicise a band worth publicising - a shit band is not worth wasting their time/image/credibility on - and that says a lot to people.


If you watched the Noise11 interview in the link above, you would have heard Jade and I reveal Magic Shoes wasn’t even going to be on the Dollars EP. We all thought Girl From The Future was the single. But with a day left in the studio and the four of us unable to settle on a fifth song to record, we played the demos to our producer Steven Schram and let him choose the final track for the EP. With barely a moments hesitation, he picked Magic Shoes.

We hired Schramy because we liked his sound, particularly on the Ground Components album An Eye For A Brow, A Tooth For A Pick, but also because we wanted to see what a hot-shot producer would do with our music (I think he was fresh off working with San Cisco at the time - he’s since worked with Paul Kelly). Part of the agreement was we had to do what he said. We did, mostly because his suggestions made total sense, but also because he was higher up the musical food chain than us.

And also because he produced this, which is fucking rad:

Below is the original demo recording of Magic Shoes, which we knocked out live in the studio with about 18 other songs in one live session at Tony Peel’s Motherlode Studios. The wonderful Mr Peel also served as engineer on the Dollars EP, and was a great help, but I’ll talk more about him in another blog.

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

You’ll notice some major changes between this version and the finished Dollars EP version. I think every song on the EP underwent some kind of change in Schramy’s hands, but Magic Shoes had perhaps the most dramatic alteration. He loved the intro, verses and chorus but had issues with the bridge - he called it “the Limp Bizkit bit” and decided it had to go. He asked us to come up with something else - on the spot - to become a new lead-in to the chorus. Schramy wanted something pop. I presented a G chord, followed by a G7 chord (I was thinking Beatlesy pop) and he went “yep, that’s it” and away we went. The solo also got chopped and changed and my Gran’s old Yamaha keyboard that had been sitting in my car all week finally got a guernsey. I think Schramy actually played part of it. The song ended up 45 seconds shorter than the demo version.

Recording the Dollars EP. Pic: Tony Peel

To all of us, Magic Shoes sounded like a pop-rock nugget, and as cool as the “Limp Bizkit bit” was, it derailed the song slightly, taking it out of the pop realm. The lengthy solo was also probably unnecessary. I think Schramy was right. That’s why he’s on the big bucks.


I can’t talk about this song without talking about the film clip. The inspiration for the tune was an old guy called Chris who is a regular at The Loft. Somehow, with all four of us working on the lyrics together, we took Chris’ love of music and having a dance at The Loft into the story of a guy with a magic pair of shoes … well, kinda.

Anyway, Jade had the idea of shooting an entire music video from the knee down and I thought it was a stroke of genius. No one had done that before. We had to do it for this song.

Here’s how I described it in one of our press releases (sent out by On The Map PR, no less):

“Jade came up with the idea for the clip and at first we thought it might be too difficult to pull off with no money, no crew, no time, and nothing but favours… but we knew the song Magic Shoes was the ideal opportunity to use the concept, so we just went for it!”

This is from one of those video interviews we did that you didn't watch. 
See what you missed out on?

I called in a massive favour to get it made “with no money, no crew, (and) no time”. I had worked on a couple of short films for former Warrnambool filmmaker Johnie Stanley in the past, serving as an on-set gopher, helping with script re-writes, and doing some music for two of his films. I asked him if he was keen to shoot this because I knew he had the skills to make it work and Johnie agreed, partly because he keen to get a film clip in his show reel. He brought down his cinematographer Sasha Whitehouse and together they crafted what I think is a very under-rated local music video.

Jade and I wrote a list of things that could happen in the film clip that made sense to be seen from the knee-down. Basically we wanted to show a night out on the town, but at knee level. Johnie then picked out the bits he wanted to shoot, and away we went.

So many people helped make it happen. We roped in some girls from Melissa’s Dance Elements (that’s them in the dance-off sequence), my lovely wife Dannii played the lady in the red shoes, and a heap of our friends helped make it look like a full dance floor at The Loft. It was a big effort, shot in just two days. To my eye, the end result looked professional and smart. Like I said, I reckon this clip is under-rated.


If you’ve made it this far into the blog, thanks for reading. Here is some bonus material to reward you for your effort. Here’s our good mates Hyperdrones doing a cover of Magic Shoes because they’re a bunch of swells. Having another band cover your material is the ultimate compliment.

And here’s a bonus live version (featuring the “Limp Bizkit bit”):

And here we are playing the damned thing on Channel 31:

And finally, here’s a shitty “dubstep” version of the song I did for shits and giggles one day. I'm not sure if this is a prize for making it to the end of the blog or not.

Matt Neal: programming, vocals 
Recorded at Mandeville Court, Port Fairy in October, 2012. 
Produced and mixed by Matt Neal.


Ooh yes, get it right now

Well I could tell right away when I walked through the door,
The charm’s gonna work tonight
I get my shoes and I step on the town
I feel alive like I’m high with a bop in my walk
I’m gonna get it right
I check my phone and the feel tonight

I could tell right away when I walked on the floor
You get the clues to my moves now you’re asking for more

Walking round picking wallflowers off of the wall
Because that’s where they grow
But secretly they all wanna get down
So many are reluctant to answer the call
They don’t wanna know
Too bad so sad oh they miss out

Extra demo lyrics:

If the shoe fits, I think I can do it
If the shoe fits, I’ve got the kicks to prove it