Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever on their new album: “It’s weirder… it feels exciting”

Fran Keaney tells us all about their "gnarly" new sound

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In our recent 2020 album preview, Fran Keaney, singer and acoustic guitarist in Melbourne’s Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, told us all about their new record. Naturally it had to be edited down for publication, but here’s the full transcript of our conversation – expect Patient Strudels, “gnarly” sounds and jamming…

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UNCUT: How’s it been going in the studio?
FRAN KEANEY: It’s a big day today, the second to last day in the studio, so we’re approaching endgame. We’ve got the chart up of what we’ve got to do. It’s been good – I suppose it’s always the case, no matter how much time you’ve got it’s always a mad rush to the finish. We’ve had just over two weeks, almost three weeks, which is a fair amount of time. We thought we’d have enough time to be comfortable, but you never are, you always use the time that you’ve got… or waste the time you’ve got.

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What stage are you at with the recordings?
We’ve got a big day tomorrow – we’ve got all the vocals done, we’re just doing some guitar overdubs and then various percussion, handclaps and things. It’s really exciting, it’s going to be nice to step back from it and hear it – you’ve been imagining the songs for so long, you get your iPhone versions of it, but you’re constantly striving or straining to hear what it will be like, so I can’t wait to actually meet our children.

Where have you been recording?
Head Gap in Preston, a suburb of Melbourne, not far from Northcote, Brunswick, Coburg… It’s a lovely studio. There’s a kitchen here that we’ve been using – mainly the coffee machine – and we brought a table tennis table in here as well in the spare room. It’s been a good distraction. We’ve all got our own table tennis pseudonyms – I’m The Patient Strudel, because I’m about as exciting a table tennis player as a strudel, but quite effective.

Who’s on the leaderboard?
The Strudel’s actually stepped up recently. The Prince Of Peace or Peter Pan, they’re not getting a look in.

How many songs have you recorded?
We’ve done 11 songs, they’re all feeling really good. It’s really exciting. It’s funny, all day you sit in the studio, these songs are all you talk about and think about, and then you get in the car to drive home and the first thing you do is you plug your phone in and you listen to the bounces to see how it’s sounding, even though that’s all you’ve been listening to all day! You’re constantly striving to get some objective fresh ear on what you’re doing, to step outside yourself, and it does help when you’re listening on a car stereo, somehow it’s different. When you have it rushing through the funnel of the car stereo you hear it a bit more objectively. It’s really exciting, the whole thing. We’ve been working on it for a while, so it’s been a long time coming. We’re all so excited to have it in our hands, to have it done.

You were in the studio earlier in 2019, weren’t you…
We did a session earlier this year, yeah, at Head Gap with Burke Reid as well. Burke Reid is producing the album, he did Courtney Barnett’s albums and Julia Jacklin’s Crushing. He did a few Drones records, he’s done a bunch of stuff. We did one song earlier this year, ‘Big Fence’, which we played on our last tour. With that it’ll be 12, so it’ll just depend on whether that one fits in with its other brothers and sisters – I have a feeling it will, but it remains to be seen how they’ll all hang together. I feel like the new songs are slightly weirder, slightly more fun. Fun and weird.

You said a while back that you were going a bit ‘outback disco’…
[laughs] “Not Tonight” is one of those ones – I suppose the whole album is a bit more gnarly, country twang, a bit more disco… which on paper sounds horrible, but it feels exciting. I feel like one of the songs, “Cars In Space”, has got this disco Motown feel, which feels natural. A lot of the songs on this album we’ve been just trying to find grooves and jams that we’re excited about, and then we’ve been chasing the song down after that. In the past songs have been, to varying degrees, the rudiments of the song are there, and then we flesh it out and make it feel our own and then maybe find a chorus or a verse or whatever. But with this one we went thinking let’s just throw some half-ideas in and see where they go. So we’ve been conscious to not rally have anything written at all before we go in, and then tear it apart. That’s been a longer process because we’ve taken [each idea] down these rabbit warrens and across valleys and highways and McDonald’s drive-thrus or whatever… through all the backroads. And some of them have made it and some of them have ended up just leaving. But it’s been a really good way to get our heart in each of the jams, in each of the songs. “Cars In Space” has this disco feel which Joe Russo and Marcel Tussie always lock into really well, and Joe’s got this nice ethereal disco guitar. It’s probably better to just hear it… but it’s a bit weirder and overall probably a bit more fun. I’d say it’s harder to say who’s song is whose – but at the end of the day we write the lyrics that we sing, so you can always tell one singer from the other perhaps. We haven’t fundamentally changed it – we all write our own lyrics still, so that’s gonna feel the same, but overall it’s more collaborative, there’s a bit more of a blurring of the lines than there might have been before.

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So you’re letting Marcel show off his chops a bit more this time?
He’s been free to roam, which has been good. Actually he’s free to get his leg fixed! He did his leg in before we went on tour in May, we did Australia and then the US and Europe, then we came home and started in earnest working on the album. Now we’ve been recording it – now he’s got his operation tomorrow. He’s been nursing those delicate knee for the last few months and now he’s able to have his leg fixed and recover for the next month or two before we start shows again.

With the debut album being received so well, have you felt any pressure making this one?
Not really, I think the only pressure we have is our own pressure. We just wanna make something better than we’ve made before. I think at the back of our minds we think if we’re happy with it… there’s not really any point thinking about how other people might respond to it – if you’re happy with it and you’ve invested your heart in it, then that’s the only thing really that matters, that’s the only thing you can control. So I don’t think external pressure is something we think about, we’re too busy thinking about our own stuff, pouring our heart into it and making it feel good. I don’t know how you would use pressure, if you thought about other people too much you’d probably end up going crazy and making something pretty bad. It’s better to focus on what you can control and what you enjoy, what feels good. That’s all you can really do. You don’t wanna write the same thing that you’ve done last time, but I don’t think we’ve done that – I also don’t think it’s a completely new band. It’s a nice, fun, slightly weirder, batch of songs. I think overall it’s a bit more positive, hopeful, there was still a fair bit of doom and gloom in the last one, but this one’s a bit more fantastical and weird. But we still haven’t really met our children yet, I don’t really know what they look like, so I can’t really be objective about it at the moment.

 

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