Character Building is out now!
Image: Gracie Woodsford.
Melbourne’s Bad Bangs recently unveiled their debut album, Character Building. We caught up with the four-piece to chat about the release, their beautiful chalky white vinyl, creating during Melbourne's lockdowns and so much more!
Guitars, drums, electric vocals fill the sphere of Bad Bangs. Can you take us deeper into the sonics present on Character Building and how the album evolved from start to finish?
This album felt like a whole new step up for the band. Previously sticking to gritty, garage tones, we gave ourselves more room to play and expand on this album. The songs themselves are quite independent from each other which allowed us to explore different sonic directions throughout without too much restraint. We were super fortunate to work with producer extraordinaire John Lee at Phaedra Studios who’s worked on some of our favourite releases like Laura Jean’s Devotion, Crepes’ In Cahoots and Blake Scott’s Niscitam. John has such a diverse repertoire and really gave us the space to experiment and add depth to our sound. We had some fun integrating jagged synths and keys across tracks like Faces and Different which contrasts to the warm, dusty piano in Spell. John has this big wall of wacky percussion instruments and we decided to layer a heap of them into the second half of Can’t Dance as a last minute idea while the two of us were playing around with the mix after tracking. It was a pretty open space to add unexpected elements that we would usually steer clear of out of fear that we wouldn’t be able to emulate these in our live performance. This recording process really felt like we were building on our established live sound and flirting with new directions purely in a studio environment.
We’d lost count of the amount of reschedules it took to eventually get into the studio after lockdowns, but I think coming off the back of so much time apart it gave us this funny sense of freedom to approach the songs with relatively fresh ears. While they were all pretty fleshed out by the time we got into the studio, I guess we weren’t super tied to any one idea and had a lot of fun collaborating and exploring weirder directions than we’d usually go for. The songs definitely evolved throughout the production process.
We want to talk about your latest single. Break down Can’t Dance for us. What is your third single from Character Building all about?
Sophie De Fazio: Can’t Dance is about allowing your emotions to succumb to a problem too big and out of your control. It’s unapologetically bratty and embraces a sense of hopelessness, but rationalises that when push comes to shove, self-pity is all part of the process to weather the storm. There’s a sense of comfort and optimism in indulging in that. While the lyrics are pretty moody, I’d say the second half of the song’s instrumentation offers a more optimistic shift in tone.
How does your previous All In All fit on your album Character Building? Compared to your first single Sweet Thing, All In All gets your heart racing and blood pumping. How did pace come into play when creating your album? Because you create a wonderful ebb and flow on the record. And All In All to me really makes a mark on the album.
Because the songs are all pretty unique and stand apart from each other, track listing was kind of challenging, though I think this diversity gave us freedom to play with the pace of the album. Listening from start to finish we wanted to keep it pretty punchy and take some unexpected turns, not letting anyone get too comfortable. It’s the first full body of work that we’ve written so maybe the subconscious approach is to write singles... which incidentally created a pretty dynamic momentum throughout the album. Ben jokes that our mantra or goal when writing is ‘All A side no B sides’.
All In All does have a good gallop to it - as a live unit we all feed off of each other’s energy and build on that pace, so it felt important to capture that dynamic on the album. It was pretty considered to spread these kind of high energy tracks throughout the album so I guess All In All is a lively one you wouldn’t totally see coming on the B side.
All In All is about coming to conclusions and how nostalgia can come to shape your view on the present. What are some things in your own lives that fit this school of thought? Nostalgic memories that influence your present?
SD: It’s easy to measure everything against an idealized view of the past really. All In All is about the positives of a past experience clouding your perception of the present. It was written in the context of romanticizing relationships in this way. Moving between different relationships throughout your twenties, it’s easy to chase that initial buzz and find comfort in the memory of that than embrace the point it actually reaches.
Within the lyrics you talk about the power of letting emotion outweigh logic, a really interesting notion that links to your idea of how originality and authenticity can be hard to come by in the world. What original or authentic thought best represents you?
SD: I guess nothing is completely original, it’s all been thought of at some point by someone else. An honest thought about authenticity is that everything can be reimagined and reshaped into something different and exciting. I think it’s refreshing to hear bands adapt and take new spins on genres, instrumentation and performance shticks. It’s that fine line between familiarity and innovation that’s so hard to hit but so impressive!
Your nine tracks will be presented to the world on a chalky white vinyl, with the artwork designed by Shelby. Can you take us through the thought process, inspiration and creative process when it comes to the design of the vinyl, the images and artwork accompanying it?
SD: We wanted the title Character Building to speak for itself across the artwork. Thematically the songs all felt quite independent standing alone from each other. The nine tracks each reflect on different experiences and learning curves - so the phrase Character Building felt like a fitting notion to tie everything together, essentially to take something away from the experiences had. I wanted the artwork to speak quite directly and opted to keep it pretty clean. I think something minimal and bold often packs a punch on a record stand. Some favourite covers include Kraftwerk’s Autobahn and Tim Presley’s I Have To Feed Larry’s Hawk.
So the title Character Building is spelled out, aligned across a grid meeting somewhere between random movement and rigid structure, the letters independently build on each other to form the phrase. The portrait shots in the album sleeve are a bit of a cheesy rockdog ode to some older inspiration records behind Character Building - in the vein of T Rex, Big Star and Buffalo Springfield. And the chalky white vinyl...it’s pretty lux...we couldn’t resist haha this album has been a long while coming so we figured we may as well go all out!
You’re based in Melbourne, how have you found creating, writing and making music and visual content during such a tumultuous time?
It’s been a weird pace creating and releasing this album. The plan has changed too many times to count. We were originally meant to record at the start of 2020, but with the big lockdowns it ended up eventually being possible by November/December. It was a blessing in disguise as it gave us some more time to flesh out the tracks and also add a fourth member! I was living with Soph at the time and was sharing demos/having little jams and one thing led to another, we ended up adding in an amazing lead guitarist by the time we finally got into the studio. 2021 has felt like more of a hustle year than a creative one with the focus on releasing the album, which was also set back quite a few times. But it’s been so wonderful working with big time bosses Nat and Sophie at Blossom Rot who have got this baby out in the world and given us so much support along the way!
If you could play three songs from Character Building to make someone an instant Bad Bangs fan, what would you choose and why?
Hmm All In All gets people going for sure, Faces is a fun one to belt and Here just kind of catches people by surprise moving into this weird fuzzy jam section. I feel like that’s a good live gateway to Bad Bangs! We want people to be hooked throughout a whole set and catch them off guard at times.
Can you sum up in one sentence, what can be expected from your album Character Building?
All A sides, no B side.
What is character building to you?
Character Building is a long time coming, in every sense of the phrase.
If Character Building was a piece of pre-existing art, what would it be and why?
Francisco Goya, Saturn Devouring His Son, except ‘Saturn’ is Bad Bangs and ‘his son’ is a concise and fluent album release cycle.
What can audiences expect from a Bad Bangs live show?
A good time. You can expect to lock in to the steadfast pace of Bangs’ rhythm boys Tim and Ben contrasted with unbridled fuzzy guitar and lush vocal harmonies between Sophia and Shelby.
In no particular order - Cate Le Bon, T Rex, Neil Young, Ty Segall, Angel Olsen, The Murlocs, Big Star.
Dream collaboration? John Parish.
Album that has had the most impact on you?
Maybe too big to answer...Ty Segall’s Manipulator was pretty big for me.
How do you define your musical style in 3 words?
Fuzzy, fiery, flirty.
Best song of 2021 so far?
Unsmart Lady - Dry Cleaning.
If you could create the soundtrack for any film, which one would it be? Thelma and Louise.
Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus?
Miley because Billy Ray.
What was the first song you loved to sing?
I taught myself how to sing in the car when I first got my license, so it was probably something on an old mixtape. Maybe a Karen O belter? Heads Will Roll?
A song you would love to cover on tour?
Steely Dan - Reelin’ In The Years.
Album you would listen to on repeat on a road trip?
Kylie - Fever. Mostly because that cd has been in my car for at least 3 years and always hits the spot.
First concert you went to?
The White Stripes at Festival Hall.
Best concert you have been to?
Ooh very hard to say, in recent years it was probably Cate Le Bon at The Croxton or Cash Savage at Boogie earlier this year.
First album you ever bought?
Probably Jet - Get Born...oops.
Would you rather be a Spice Girl or a Backstreet Boy? Spice Girl for sure.
If you were a Spice Girl, what would your spice nickname be? Fuzz spice - there’s an obnoxious amount of fuzz in our pedal set up at the moment.
Most memorable show you’ve ever performed?
The last show we played pre lockdown at The Curtin was probably our finest yet as a four piece but historically speaking it’d have to be the Brunswick Music Festival closing show with Cash Savage and Pinch Points - it was at the Moreland Hotel in the centre of a fake parthenon under a fibreglass statue of David.
Guilty music pleasure?
Kylie - Fever.
If you could support any artist on tour, who would it be?
Right now it would be Dry Cleaning because I’m obsessed.
An artist you think has had the most influence on the music industry.
Lou Reed, maybe not on the industry but on any good band for sure.
What advice would your current self, give your future self, for a year from now?
Learn how to use garageband proper.
The moment you knew you wanted to be a musician? The first time I went to the Old Bar.
Character Building is out now! Get your hands on the chalky white vinyl here.