At the beginning of the year you guys came up with 30 new songs for the second half of Soul Shake. How do you go about choosing which ones make it onto the album in the end?
Rian: We kind of jam it out.
George: And do pre-production.
Rian: Ja, pre-production is a very vital part of making an album, I think. You check which ideas work and which don’t, but then on the other hand, we have one song which is a combination of a whole bunch of things that didn’t work together. Now I think it’s my favourite song on the album.
George: It’s weird. You listen back to it during pre-production and you can hear what other people hear because when you play it, it’s very different. You’re enjoying the jam and you’re in the vibe but when you listen back to it, it doesn’t come across in the same way as you feel it. We found a balance between what we really enjoy and what sounds good on CD.
How did writing an acoustic album before this influence the writing of Soul Shake?
Louis: I wouldn’t say “influence”, but I would say it definitely helped during the songwriting process, because in the past we used to write songs in the rehearsal room with very loud amps and loud drum kits and stuff. They came out well but for the acoustic album we wrote on acoustic instruments and the majority of this new album was also written on acoustic instruments in a basement, so you have to kind of like pay attention to the quieter side of the song. You can’t hide it behind just bashing drums and lots of distorted guitar. It’s a very cool way of writing because if your song translates on an acoustic instrument, it will definitely translate being played loud and brash but not necessarily the other way round. In terms of songwriting, our acoustic album helped us a lot.
You guys have opted for songs with a simpler arrangement this time around. What brought this on?
Rian: Simple is always best. Once you start overthinking something, I find that it loses the essence of what you’re trying to do in the first place. Although we did spend a lot of time honing the songs, there were certain aspects of it that we weren’t that familiar [with] or sure of when we went into the studio and jammed it out there and took some guidance from Rusti, who was recording it with us. I suppose that’s where the simplicity comes from, the fact that it was new to us as well. When I listen back to some of the stuff, I couldn’t even remember playing it or doing it and not because I was drunk.
Jason: I think for us, we’ve been around for a while. We’ve learned what works and what doesn’t work. I think that that’s something that we’ve learned now.
George: We kind of took a lead from our influences like The Stones and The Beatles and [those bands] are really simple. There’s no real complicated stuff and if you can write a simple song that translates well, then you’ve done your job instead of trying to complicate things.
Jason: You don’t need to be different for the sake of being different.
Rian: At the end of the day, if you want to make a living out of this, you can’t be a musician’s band. You kind of have to challenge your audience in a certain regard but you still need to show them a good time without going to class when they come to your shows. They’re coming to rock out.
Jason, you were a lot more involved in the writing of Soul Shake. What was that like?
Jason: It was cool, but it’s like …
Louis: Don’t be modest.
Jason: Louis and Rian were doing Beast and George took time off for Wembley. I don’t have a side project so I’m always writing music. I brought a lot of ideas to the band and the songs wouldn’t be the same without them but I mean, instead of just jamming them out, we started with the basics of structures and chords. Louis brought some ideas and Rian as well.
George: And George.
Jason: And George. Sorry George. Just checking if you’re awake. When I joined the band, a lot of the songs were still from the previous bass player and a lot of the songs were carried over to the unplugged album, so as a band, these 11 songs are pretty much us. Except for one, it’s a cover but it has pretty much our flavour to it.
George, you write your lyrics in studio. Am I right?
George: I don’t write them in studio. I write them during the recording process because as Rian said earlier, sometimes there’s little things that change in the studio. “Brainmash” for instance. He [Rian] did something different on the guitars and it was a totally different chorus and once I heard that, it inspired me to write a different chorus that’s a lot more catchy. It helps to write with stuff that sounds a little bit more proper but you always have a basic melody down and sort of an idea of what the ideas are going to be like. I just refine it during the recording process.
Is there any significance behind the album title, Soul Shake?
George: When we set out to do this album, we wanted to do a party-rock album, get back to our original roots of just rocking out because our unplugged album was chilled out. That’s where the whole “soul shake” thing comes from. We want to move you from the inside and the outside. Music for the waist down. You don’t have to think about it too much but it hits you [there].
There’s a little story behind “Singing Monkey” – something about a smashed-up guitar. Can you tell me a bit more about that?
Rian: A mate of ours was on some film set and one of the props was some cheap-ass Fender Strat copy. One of the things they had to do with it was to smash a guitar while filming, but whoever did it didn’t do it properly – it was still working. It had one of the tune knobs missing and that string had to be on a certain pitch so I tuned the rest of it so that it would fit in with that string and it ended up being an open tuning so you could strum it easily. I think [Jason] Ling and Louis had left one night after rehearsal and George and I were still hanging around. He was jamming this little lick on the thing and I saw what he was doing and took that and he started singing over it and that’s how it came about.
Photos: Christelle Duvenage