Verge Meets: Bad//Dreems – Part One

From the blistering heat of South Australia, Adelaide’s Bad//Dreems is a five-piece band that operates like a well-oiled rock machine. The band’s thundering drums, meaty riffs and grisly vocals have domestic venues packed to the limits. With two critically acclaimed albums, their latest single ‘Double Dreaming’, and a ripper third record coming out this October, The Baddies have their eyes firmly on replicating their national success overseas.

Ahead of their opener for Aussie icons Midnight Oil at 02 Academy Brixton early last month, Verge caught up with lead guitarist Alex Cameron and drummer Miles Wilson at Pop Brixton. In the first part of this two-part series, we picked their brains about their latest single and the blood, sweat and tears that have been put into their forthcoming album.

The team line almost was ‘less pub and more art’

So you guys are fast approaching the end of your UK dates, how have your shows been so far?

Miles: We’ve actually got one more in Southampton with another Aussie band called Dune Rats and a band from the Isle of Wight called Fat Eathers.

Oh Fat Earthers were on at the Monday night gig they were bloody brilliant!

Miles: Yeah that’s them, and we only found out at the gig we were doing the same gig, but they’ve been really good, obviously with the Midnight Oil shows, I grew up watching videos on Youtube and DVDs and VHS’ of bands playing there so its pretty crazy to be on the stage to be seeing all those fans that you’ve idolised with. Our own shows haven’t been too bad, yeah better than expected because it’s pretty hard to build a profile so far away. The Birmingham show was really fun, we had pretty good numbers, the Shacklewell one was pretty good, small venues but reasonably full so it’s so far so good. Hopefully, the pommies are into it.

So you released “Double Dreaming” only a couple of weeks ago and its been pretty well received, could you tell us a bit about what went into putting the song together?

Alex: We ended up for this album recording 50 demos, Ali [Wells] the other guitarist has a studio and we actually recorded pretty much 50 songs. “Double Dreaming” wasn’t the strongest demo that made it onto the album. In fact, opinions are a bit divided whether it should go on, and (engineer/producer) Burke [Reid] gave it a pretty big overhaul. Initially, it was a bit of a 60s hoedown in a way, but he kind of suggested to straighten it out, increase the pace and he really pushed Miles. Miles’ drumming is really intense in it and it’s quite fast and also then Ben’s vocals are very pushed to the limit.

So that was probably one of the songs that changed the most. Then as is often the case it became the single. It always had the lyrics and the main sort of components but changing the groove to it and a bit of the arrangement really brought it to life.

Nah brilliant, so what was the process like recording 50 demos, because that’s a lot and obviously you’ve gotta cut it down to get the album together?

Alex: So there were a few things that forced our hand towards that. One was that the band was living in different cities, so instead of the usual way of us just being in the room together and doing our demos that way, we had a limited time to record the drums and bass and then we’d work on them by doing guitars and vocals and lyrics.

And secondly with some label stuff we were delayed, so instead of getting frustrated we just recorded more and more songs so we were able to keep active that way. I guess as well we wanted to make this album the best possible thing we could do. The first two albums had been more of a live type of thing, we just had live songs that we laid down pretty simply, whereas this one we wanted to make more of a studio album so to do that I guess we were preparing much better.

Cool cool. So along with making it more of a studio album, what does the album coming out in October explore and how does it compare to your past work? How is it different or similar?

Alex and Miles both mull over the question for a moment…

It’s a hard question I know.

Alex and Miles (left to right). Photos: Tom Hinsley

Alex: We first recorded [our albums] with a guy called Mark Opitz whose actually coming tonight, a bit of a legendary figure in Australian rock and roll, recorded pretty much every 80s Australian rock band apart from Midnight Oil actually. We changed this time to record with Burke Reid whose closer to our age, did Courtney Barnett’s first two albums, DZ Deathrays, The Drones, and he really brought a fresh set of ears to what we were doing. The team line almost was “less pub and more art” because even though the name had been foisted upon us, “pub rock”, we’ve never really considered ourselves that. That kind of describes what we’re trying to do, and that’s what we wanted to do as well.

In terms of the production, there was more effort going into actually arranging the parts, dissecting them, the guitars are more angular, looking at the bass and the drums and the groove and pushing it to its maximum extent. Another interesting thing that I found disconcerting at first was some of the songwriting has been relatively simple in terms of the music [itself], and well, it’s like, the chord progressions aren’t overly complex and again he pushed us in songs to chuck in an extra chord here and there. I mean we didn’t go full Radiohead but, it was something we wanted to do and Burke was great to facilitate that. What do you reckon Miles?

Miles: Yeah I think everyone on their individual instruments had a bit of a different time, like, I had to do heaps more takes than usual, we took out fills in favour of just a bit more of an obscure, quirky or eccentric beat if that makes sense? We took cues from bands that perhaps we wouldn’t have in the past, like, Devo and Gang of Four and we tried to make it a bit more stilted and really adopt the style that made them quite unique and cool. 

Alex: Yeah it’s much more of a post-punk record than punk or pub rock.

Miles: It is yeah. We’d go and listen to like, old Joy Division songs or old bands from the 70s like NRBQ and bands we weren’t even familiar with at the time and listening intensely at what they did differently that made that era of music so unique and poignant. And I guess Burke soon identified that there’s a bit of a lack of it at the moment? It’s certainly a rarity now that bands are doing that stilted, kind of broken groove type music and rhythm sections. So it was certainly different for me, certain things were sped up, taken out and beats were made to be quite strange and eccentric whereas the previous two albums were four to the floor rock, just like pounding AC/DC drums the whole time.

Alex: The other thing is that Burke is an absolute fanatic perfectionist so we were very lucky we found this studio in Adelaide that’s awesome. This guy basically built, a guy that looks exactly like Louis C.K. which was a bit weird but he’s an absolute legend, what was his name?

Miles: Oh man… uhhh…  John?

Alex: Yeah John! John is a legend, but basically he’s an electrician by trade and built this studio out the back of his house in an industrial area, which is as good as any studio we’ve ever used but it was really cheap and we could use it 24 hours. We did 17 days straight and the hours were like, 15 hour days. 

Miles: It was gruelling.

Alex: And Burke was just a fanatic. 

Miles: He was the first one there, last one out, he has this ability to focus on stuff for so long it’s like “does he even eat?” I don’t know how he manages cuz we’re all just knackered and bitching and moaning after a couple hours of drum takes, I’m like “I need a rest I need some water.”

Alex: Yeah every single person at one stage got pushed almost to breaking point because he was searching so hard to get things perfect that you’d spend an hour doing a part to his liking and then he’s like “Nah it’s the wrong amp” and you’re like “I’ve wasted my time.” 

Miles: He was just trying to get the best out of you and you look back and you’re like, f**k I sound good. It was a bit torturous but with the best intentions. We cracked the sh*ts a bit, it was very exhausting physically. Doing drums takes all day, you can’t drink enough fluid for how much you’re losing cuz the rooms really hot [in was the middle of summer]. It was really tough, yeah, but it always worked out for the best so then you felt a bit silly for moaning about it.

Tune in tomorrow for Part Two, where Alex and Miles drop some knowledge on how their approach and philosophy to making music has changed over the last two years, how much they’ve loved touring the UK, and what else that have in store this year. You can give Bad//Dreems a listen on Spotify and iTunes, keep up to date with the lads on social via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, as well as check out all thing Baddies on their website.

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