“The creative process is sh-t,” says Gareth Liddiard. “You’ve got to make it seem like it just flows out of you. But it doesn’t, it’s awful. It’s stunted and it’s painful and it’s just sh-t. But it’s do-able.”
What the singer-guitarist and the rest of his five-piece have done on new album Feelin Kinda Free is innovative as a Rube Goldberg machine (although the consequences are anything but pedestrian), with guitar lines that snake and chomp at sudden, thick chords, and Liddiard’s spat lyrics lurching away from the babylike responses of bassist (and Liddiard’s wife), Fiona Kitschin.
Incredible lead single Taman Shud – which Andrew Bolt has loudly scorned, much to Liddiard’s amusement – is about a little-known Australian murder mystery. The randomly scrawled letters on Feelin Kinda Free’s cover are an unsolved code found written on a scrap of paper – which was ripped from a book found in a random man’s car footwell – which ended up in the pocket of an unidentified corpse on Somerton beach in Adelaide in 1948. “It’s well known,” Liddiard says of the tale. “Everyone in America knows about the whole f-cking thing, but no one in Australia is interested in anything Australia.” His idea is that much of our cultural cringe stems from the fact that if we look into our own history, pretty soon we’re going to get to the mistreatment of our indigenous race, and then we feel uncomfortable; this guilt fosters offensive behaviour towards both Aboriginal Australians and immigrants.
The clip for Taman Shud features a whole lot of hilarious and powerful imagery including two Ned Kellys making out, Gina Reinhart as a toad spewing coal and Liddiard in ANZAC fatigues singing in front of various photoshopped ads which piggyback the ANZAC legacy. “I just think they’re shameless,” he says. “Once you realise that you can just put ANZAC bullsh-t on the cover of your Harvey Norman catalogue, you can get away with it, so why not? I don’t think people realise that. People should not suffer fools and they should not suffer scams like that, so it’s everybody’s fault.”
Liddiard sees the weird sounds and chugging rhythms of Feelin Kinda Free as something of a full circle return. The myriad effects which permeate the album are, for the most part, all created on guitar – even Then They Came For Me’s high-pitched, airy whistle (which mimics the terrifying Jericho trumpet Liddiard mentions in the lyrics) and the singing saw sound on Tailwind, which suggests the creepy astral close of Radiohead’s Pyramid Song. “The whole thing was to not have blues guitars in it,” Liddiard explains. “I’d been listening to really old four-track tapes from the ‘90s that me and [former The Drones member] Rui [Periera] made, and they’re all totally bizarre. It was almost as though having two guitars playing American-ish, country-ish, blues-ish guitars music – that was a stretch for us. We had to learn how to do that. But just being completely f-cking weird is so natural. It was a relief. Everyone was on side, everyone was cool.”
Feelin Kinda Free is out now via TFS Records.