On the crest of the release of their second album, THE BLACKWATER FEVER’s SHANE HICKS talks with SAM HOBSON about expanding their sound, and his secret desire to move into film.
Head to the website for local grunge-blues band The Blackwater Fever, and you’ll be greeted by something that, while not a promotional tool in its essence entirely different for a band to put out, is nonetheless a refreshing approach to drumming up some pre-release hype. It’s a video teaser for their sophomore album, In Stereo. But instead of being the ordinary montage of tracks set to studio footage and backstage happy-snaps, they’ve settled on a dark, fetishised noirshort about a foot massage. Yes, a foot massage. With no sound but the aching flange of a bluesy guitar, and with the fading images separated only by seductive French subtitles, it’s indeed a striking thing to behold. Watching this, it’s ostensibly apparent that image is an important facet of the duo’s aesthetic. But it’s all send-up, claims Hicks; a blackness in comedy, far more than it is in colour.
“We have lots of ideas for visuals. Clip ideas, and stuff. We just never really got around to doing that,” he explains. “That teaser, it’s meant to be a bit of a joke – some people get it, and think it’s great, and some just don’t understand it. They take it onboard that we’re literally trying to be sexy, and play sexy blues, and set this theme up of listening to our music while rubbing your partner’s feet, and having a glass of wine.” He pauses to laugh, perhaps a little embarrassed by the whole thing. “It’s meant to be totally tongue-in-cheek… in the end we’d rather just be recording the music.”
Onto recording, and In Stereo is a beast of an album. Shoving a defiant middle-finger at the proverbial pitfalls of the sophomore release, the Brisbane two-piece – who, post-album have in fact recruited a third member: Jed Walters, playing bass and keys – have fashioned a snarling, hulking brute of a record; an affront to their statistically limiting size, and one bolstered by some truly excellent production.
“We recorded it locally,” Shane recalls, “at Borough Studios’s – Skritch’s place, from Mary Trembles – we finished recording it in January last year, and we probably started it the end of the year before that. We just sort of did it in drips and drabs.” And the album’s definitely worth the wait. Carrying ‘size’ this time as a core aesthetic different from what we heard on their debut Sweet Misery, Shane goes on to describe the freedoms the studio brings a band of such (technically) small stature.
“To play live, and to write as a duo, it is limiting,” he concedes. “It’s kind’ve cool to work with something so minimalistic, but then when you record it’s open ended; you can put 100 guitars on one track if you wanted to. We didn’t want to be duo purists, or anything – [we didn’t want to make an album] of just how we played live.” He intimates that, while they can’t bring the same exact largeness to their live shows, the next best thing is to have a ‘what-if’ record that can speak to that potential for them in the meantime.
And for the band’s future, Shane sees a larger potential still. Having just commissioned one of their tracks for the upcoming Aussie horror-sensation The Tunnel, he reveals something of a fondness for breaking into the fi lm world at large, citing influences ranging from Hollywood blockbusters, to the recent collaborations between Nick Cave, and John Hillcoat.
“I hope we sort-of get a relationship going there,” he gushes, speaking of the deal the band’s brokered with The Tunnel’s producers. “We have some tracks on some HBO ads in the States, and I’d really like one day to get into that cinema [side of things.]”
Perhaps we’ve a budding Tarantino on our hands, foot-fetishes and all.
WHO: The Blackwater Fever
WHAT: In Stereo (Plus One/Shock)
WHERE & WHEN: Woodland Friday May 6