Dappled Cities’ career of 18 years has not seen such a long wait between albums as the one that spans their last title Lake Air (2012) and their forthcoming fifth album, aptly titled Five (stylised as IIIII). But it’s worth it; frontman Dave Rennick believes this record brings the group’s sound full circle, back to their early days as Dappled Cities Fly.
“We started off as a live band, and then we went into a more progressive production realm, typically in computer-based production, where you can cheat the band – create musicians,” Rennick explains. “Then we came back around on this last record and were like, hang on, I forgot that we’re actually quite good musicians when we just play, and play together. So that was very much the ethos heading back in: just to sit in the room and play as musicians.”
This live atmosphere and freedom led to improvisation, particularly with melodies. “That’s what comes out when you are playing the songs live – you can just go for it and just see where it takes you,” Rennick explains. “At some points we were unplugging things and changing the sounds mid-song, just ‘cause we felt like it, or someone would stop playing the guitar and walk over to the piano and start playing that, just to see.“ It was one of these more spontaneous moments which took their second track, Stone Men, to an unexpected place. “There’s a three-way battle at the end between a really whacked-out guitar solo, that [wobbly] synthesiser, and a saxophone, which was literally a dude who just came in from next door and just stepped on his sax and played along. It was very cool.”
A portion of the band’s recording time took place in Oxford Street, Darlinghurst, which inadvertently provided an interesting range of ambient details. “There [are] a few funny sounds that have stayed,” Rennick smiles. “There’s a bus driving past in one of the songs. There’s definitely some rain. I’m sure there’re sub-woofers coming through from Oxford Street clubs and so on. It was really fun. Ned and I just spent two years after hours pretty much every night of the week, making the most ridiculous things, and then some of them just so happened to turn out to be incredible songs.”
Embracing a warm, indie-disco vibe and an abundance of cowbells, Dappled Cities intention to create a congruent album fused together by complementary songs almost came unstuck when their favourite track, That Sound, didn’t appear to have a home. But they couldn’t leave it behind. “[That Sound] doesn’t quite fit anywhere and we really wanted to make [IIIII] a complete work. We wanted to make this album very cohesive and a work in itself. It is a bit like the ugly duckling – but I guess that’s why we tucked it second last.” And why not the bookend? “The song that’s last [Driving Home At Night Alone] was just begging to be there. These are things that are going through your brain when you’re sequencing a record.”
The gorgeous synth- and acoustic guitar-daubed Stone Men still went on to make its mark as the first single of the album, but Rennick won’t pin a justification. “We have no rhyme or reason when it comes to picking singles – it’s a dark art and anyone who claims to know what single you should do is an idiot,” he chuckles. ”We basically just picked it because it was our favourite song at the time, and it was very much decided by its live manifestation.”
Speaking of live, Dappled Cities are on tour this very month; get your tickets from the Dappled Cities site.
5th May @ The Record Crate, Sydney
6th May @ Howler, Brunswick
12th May @ The Foundry, Fortitude Valley
4th Jun @ City Recital Hall, Sydney
IIIII is out Friday May 5 via Chugg/MGM.