So musical history month blazed through November before it finished and then skipped December - how about that? As a quick aside - Ben, whom I stole the idea of the personal musical chronology off, is at it again. He’s updating the last few years of his own musical journey on his blog.
We knew for a while that Tommy was heading off overseas at the beginning of 2010 so the dissolution of Willows was not a surprise or break-up as such. Just a hand-shake and a parting of ways. Before he left, it was pretty important to us that we record the last batch of songs we got to write and play. This initial list was a little longer than what ended up on the record but we got ruthless and decided to prioritise a bit.
As usual, we were plagued by issues. Mostly a self-inflicted inability to organise but some things were definitely beyond our control. Unfortunately, our bad luck extended to James Jackson who had agreed to record us again. A pretty integral (and expensive) piece of his outboard gear wigged out while we were doing some pre-production and we were running short of time before Tommy’s looming departure date.
Another friend, Matt Cook, had begun studying music/music technology and was also beginning to get into the recording space so we asked if he would help us out with the recording. James was also kind enough to help with the tracking and lent us some gear as well.
We had initially intended to begin tracking in October/November 2009 but didn’t get started until maybe very late December or even January 2010 at the end of the drama. Thanks to heaps of stacked delay pedals and the fact that we had actually only written most of the songs in the preceding few months it took us quite a few Sundays to get this tracked.
We asked a few friends to contribute to the record too and thankfully they all said yes. Max Buchanan (currently, of Palisades fame) added an awesome trumpet melody to ‘Pageant of the Transmundane’ and both Shane Collins (Headaches, The Gifthorse) and Anthony Morgan (Arrows) both contributed some vocals to ‘My Head in your Hands’. Tommy belted out his vocals in Jackson’s living room while recovering from a night that saw him missing both a shoe and a wallet, a good effort despite the circumstances.
A few weeks later (I think?) we played our final show. We did a Brand New cover (Jesus Christ) Our Anatomy came up from Melbourne to play, as they’d just released their EP, and Arrows played also. It was also The Gifthorse’s final show - which meant the turnout was great. I’ve never seen a line up all the way down the stairs of Fat Louie’s and out into the street. Michael Harris also did this gnarly poster:
So after Tommy left complacency kicked back in. I’m not even sure if we’d completely finished the tracking properly at this stage. I think we still had some more guitars and bits and pieces to do. We finally got it sorted about 6 months later after some very generous time spent by James Jackson mixing the record. We didn’t have any money left or any way to launch the CD so we didn’t see it as a worthwhile venture mastering the record properly. We then spent another month or two putting together some handmade cases for the CD. This involved a typewriter, wax and a wax seal, ink stamps, some cardboard sleeves and a shit-tonne of time.
Our friend Johnson took some pictures of the finished product here.
So that was it for Willows. We made 100 of these CD’s and they’re pretty much all gone. I’ve still got a few sitting on my desk if anyone is super keen to get one. We eventually ran out of wax and the last couple just had an ink-stamped cover.
I’m pretty stoked on the finished product of this record. Any parts I don’t like are probably more about the songs than the playing so, for me, it’s hard to fault. It’s also nice to have a more definitive full stop on this part of my musical history.
Have a listen:
Next: the inbetweeners (not the british comedy show).
So I’m continuing with the Willows flavour because I didn’t want to squish 3 years of accomplishments into a single post.
Immediately following the release of the Demo we blasted down to Melbourne over the Australia Day long weekend in 2008 to play some shows. It was a pretty intense couple of days. 20-hour long drive with only breaks for food and fuel, partying, two fun shows and another 20-hour drive back.
Here’s a video from just before this trip - back in the days of ‘Fuck Yeah Fridays’ upstairs Rosies shows:
We continued to play shows and began to redefine some of our earlier songs (some of which were on the previously posted demo). When Rosetta toured in mid-2008 with The Surrogate we played the Brisbane show and put out a 3” mini-disc split with the Surrogate. We ended up totally reworking the second half of a song from the initial demo and re-recorded the newer version for the split:
We played a shitload of shows (for dudes with fulltime jobs and other bands/commitments anyway) over the next 12 months or so and started recording 2 songs for a split CD with our pals in Our Anatomy and Distress Calls. Things started taking a really long time (mainly on our behalf) to get the tracks done and the momentum behind the split got lost. We ended up putting one of these tracks on a split CD with Light Sleeper for a mini-tour we did through some central/north queensland towns in August 2009. This was a pretty fun couple of days again, but very focused on getting to our locations in as little time as possible so there was only about 1 day where we didn’t spend over 7 hours in the van.
Willows formed sometime in mid 2007 as Lorna Slavin was preparing to play their final show. I mentioned previously that I played the first show in my new band as an opener to the final show in Lorna Slavin and this was that band.
A few months prior, some other local bands had disbanded or lost members and with it came the creation of a new wave of Brisbane bands. Tommy’s band Jonnydiedsmall had called it quits a few months prior and so had Nathans band Mary Magdaline. My housemate at the time, Jackson, had just decided to leave his band Ryu Vs. Ken and the demise of some of these bands had left a few of us without a creative outlet.
Jackson invited me to jam with Nathan, Tom and himself as they were looking to do something a bit different; instrumentally focused with (hopefully) some pretty harmonies, soaring guitar melodies but still maintaining a ‘heaver’ tone that some post-rock bands tend to shy away from.
I liked the formula and after 3 jams we had 3 songs written (generally coming in at about 7-10 minutes each) - we decided to play the final Lorna Slavin show as a bit of a reminder (to myself, mostly) that none of us had really thrown in the hat on music, just that we were doing something new.
We played pretty regularly for quite a while but took some time off occasionally to write and record. We recorded our first demo sometime during the summer of 07/08. It was all tracked live in a practice room in Coorparoo and recorded by our friend James Jackson, who had just started to dabble in some home-recording projects. We didn’t have any cash (Jackson, Tommy and myself well are still in uni at the time) and James agreed to do it for free (I think we bought him a bottle of Bourbon - such cheapskates).
Our housemate Mel painted up a 20” x 10” canvas that we intended to use as the demo cover. We asked her to make it look like the band name was burnt trees and really ‘metal-band font’, because we were definitely not a metal band. I never found out if we ever tricked some unsuspecting metalheads into buying our ‘feelings-laden’ music by the font/artwork alone, I sure hope so. My girlfriend secretly scanned it on her work scanner in pieces and I put it back together for printing. We also paid her work like $20 to print a bunch of the covers in colour and I managed to jam their printer by using a paper stock that was way too thick. This was one of many times that I fucked up the spelling on some of my friends names on a CD artwork.
I’ll forever hate this demo as the one where the channel switching is all out of time - mainly because Jackson was using a distortion pedal and I was using my amp distortion. The amp had a slight delay in switching channels that the dirtbox didn’t so even though we were hitting our footswitches at exactly the same time there is still a very audible gap/lag between guitars changing.
Because we recorded live and it was really just a demo there was no way to fix it and no reason to re-record. Retrospectively, I think the first track was probably one of the weakest so we didn’t do ourselves too many favours in the sequencing on top of the technical issues.
Recorded completely live, warts and all. Released in very early 2008.
Track 4 was also released on a compilation called Stranded: A Compilation of Brisbane Music 2007-2008. A 3-disc compilation with some really awesome bands from Brisbane. You can find some more info about the release here. The proceeds from the launch show and CD went to help the Red Cross and we had an opportunity to be on a CD/s with some of our friends and favourite bands, as well as some bands that had, or went on to do some pretty big things. Here is a quick review of the compilation that says some nice stuff.