Debut albums can be a terrifying beast to tackle – after all, you only get one chance to make your first full-length record. As such, some bands spend years – decades, even – going out of their way to make the strongest records possible crafting opulent, conceptual epics primed to make musical history. Some bands stick to the bare necessities, focusing on a smaller list of ideas to ensure each one is executed as sharply as possible. And some bands know right off the bat that they’ll be late bloomers, so their debut albums are little more than glorified demos – they’ll save the real good shit when they’ve got an audience lined up.
Bakers Eddy are none of those bands. They’re a bit paradoxical in their process – they’re resoundingly strong songwriters and look at every new track as an opportunity to improve, but they also don’t really give a shit about impressing anybody. Their just-released debut album, Love Boredom Bicycles, is about exactly that: love, boredom, and bicycles. It’s not exactly avant garde, but it’s much, much more than something strewn together in a few casual weekends. They prioritise simplicity by searching for a key motif that hits incredibly hard, then framing an entire song around that one idea.
This isn’t always the kind of band Bakers Eddy were, either. Love Boredom Bicycles saw them retool their musicality, and the ways they approached it, almost entirely; it’s less a culmination of everything they’d done until this point, and more an introduction to an altogether new iteration of the band. Australian Guitar caught up with frontman Ciarann Babbington (and briefly bassist Ian Spagnolo) to vibe on how it all happened.
What’s your philosophy behind writing a f***ing sick guitar hook?
Oh, it’s got to be hot. I love The Hives, and one thing they do really well is progressions – all of their progressions, and their playing style, are so hot and on-the-edge… I think ‘Concertina’ is a Hives progression, actually – I’m sure I stole it from those guys [laughs]. But it’s just all downstrokes and it’s all really heavy, and that’s my favorite thing to do. But then on the other side of that, I like holding simple chords – that are quite dissonant – over the top of melodies that are going all over the place. Like in ‘Hi-Vis Baby’, in the chorus, all I’m playing there is just one chord, the whole time. And it’s sat just below the bass, where it kind of creates this, like, nostalgic swell. I like stuff like that. All of it’s got to do with power chords and downstrokes.
I can totally picture myself being at Splendour In The Grass, watching ‘Hi-Vis Baby’ just soar out across the fields. Do you have any settings or particular moods in mind when you’re writing a song?
I don’t reckon that was something we intended on when we went into the writing process, but definitely after hearing the mixes – or even after the demos – I would be riding my bike with headphones on, going, “Yeah, that would that would go down really well at The Forum.” Or, like, “That would go down really well at Splendour, at the 2pm, 39-degree slot in the tent.” I think they’d all sound pretty good in a dive bar – as long as they’ve got the tick from the dive bar, then it’s cool.
Is there a balance you have to hit, between the fun shit and the more serious shit?
We’re trying to escape from the whole “lad band” scene. There is a lot of those boisterous, like, “out with the boys” kind of bands, and we noticed ourselves being seen as one of those bands. So I think we intended on trying to escape that [with this record], in a way. Maybe by cleaning up the sound and yelling less – my singing voice changed a lot. But the fun stuff is a big part of [Bakers Eddy], especially with the way we recorded it.
When we recorded drums, for example, all of us made a point of being in the room with Jamie. I was running around the whole time, jumping up and down and throwing shit, and we were all just having a good time. I think that was the most important thing, going into it – the songs need to sound good, but they need to sound like we do live. And that’s the kind of band we are live – it’s all just a bit chaotic and falling off the edge.
I think this record has a good mix of breeziness and intensity. What were you going for with the musical vibe?
That was completely intentional. Because prior to recording with Oscar [Dawson], we had been running a lot of fuzz – that was what we thought we were going to do with our sound, just make it as fuzzy as possible, and use a lot of open chords as well. But I think we discovered that that wasn’t really “us”. I think when you chuck so much fuzz on a guitar, you lose a lot of the character that comes through with the pick strokes, and being able to hear the strings twang a little bit when you don’t quite hit the fret properly.
We wanted to go for more of a crunchy sound. We’re quite high gain-y, high treble-y sounding with our guitars. And heaps of mids – I reckon the mids are where all the fun is, so we crank the mids. And when you do that and you do slop around a bit on the guitar – you’re not quite so clean – you hear all the strings twanging in the air, and you can hear how hard you’re picking. That was something we all talked about, like, “Alright, we’re gonna just clean it up a little bit, but play way harder. And play sloppier almost.”
Is it true that you all started this band when you were 12 years old?
We were little babies, yeah. I played drums at the School Of Rock in Wellington, but I got sick of playing drums because I was always behind the guitarist, and the guitarist in our band used to bully me. He was 12 at the time and I was 10, so he was on a bit of a power trip.
You know what a nookie is? He would do that to be before the shows, in front of people, and it was incredibly embarrassing. I was like, “I’ve had enough of you! I’m going to start my own band, and I’m going to be the guitarist! I’m going to sing!” And Jamie was a really close friend of mine – he used to play the bongos, so I was like, “That’s close enough, you can just play the drums. I’ll give you my drum kit!” And then the rest is history. And that kid never bullied me again [laughs].
So what’s it been like to literally grow up together as a band? Did that kind of intrinsic, almost brotherly kind of bond come in clutch when it came to the working on the album?
Babbington: It’s helpful, because we can be very honest with each other. We have arguments all the time, but then we apologise and have fun.
Spagnolo: There’s a lot of brutally honest truths that come out. Especially in the studio.
Babbington: Which is good! It’s better they come out in-studio, while you’re tracking the thing, rather than a year later when someone’s like, “I didn’t like how you spoke to me about that guitar solo.” It’s like, that’s not helpful. I’d rather you just be like, “That’s a shit guitar solo, don’t do that.”
Spagnolo: But yeah, growing up together – especially through the teenage years – was very formative. We we know how to talk to each other, so we can be brutally honest. And sometimes it can be a bit cruel, but we know how to get it across.
Babbington: Usually the things that we’re cruel about are extremely petty. I don’t think we’ve ever had a serious argument about anything.