Interview & Listen :: Brighter Later ‘The Woods’
November 27th 2012
Melbourne’s Brighter Later are releasing their debut album early next year, but for now you can get a sneaky ear in with this impossibly gorgeous track ‘The Woods’. The single hearkens back to a time before the Internet, when humans would pick berries in the forest and place them in wicker baskets carried by woodland animals wearing petticoats and suspenders. If you’re into that, sweet deal. Check it out here.
If you’re not into that, let Jaye Kranz, the spark behind Brighter Later, persuade you.
You’ve worked in radio, written fiction – you seemed to be getting your vagabond on in America for quite a while there. What made you want to commit to recording a full length album? Any specific turning points?
It’s something I wanted to do for a long while, prior to forming Brighter Later. The songs were piling up too! I’d recorded some earlier tunes, but never released them. Ditto with Brighter Later. So it almost felt as if we’d done an EP already, even though no-one ever got to hear it. A full-length album felt like the next step – it’s just that no-one else knew that, if you know what I mean.
There are too many turning-point moments to mention. But I remember one day, when I knew I wanted to start putting some songs down, I called up a guy who made his own pre-amps. I went to his place and we listened to all these pieces of gear. Then I spotted something else in his racks and ended up driving home with this beautiful old 60’s Telefunken pre-amp that looked like it could’ve been some mysterious piece of equipment from an old German warplane. When I got home and plugged it in – and this sound still gets me – it made this beautiful, crackly ‘whooshing’ sound in my headphones as the valves warmed up. It was just a piece of recording gear, but I remember, it’s like that sound ignited this whole part of my imagination and I couldn’t wait to play with this thing to capture the songs.
What took you to new Orleans and what brought you back?
There? Music really. I had a feeling to sing for the first time, to go back to playing piano and also to immerse myself in and learn as much as I could about blues, rhythm & blues, gospel, jazz, and the music of the south. New Orleans was an obvious place to do that. I’d also been told the whereabouts of a spare key to a friend’s unoccupied apartment there, so that helped bring the parts together! The place had an old white piano that used to stop making sound when the humidity got too high, which was fairly often. I grew to love that about it.
Eventually, it was just time to come home.
Seeing as it’s the first time you’ve actually engineered music, how do you think that affected the finished product – or even the process?
I don’t think the two can be separated. Firstly, if I’d have been more experienced, I’m sure it would have happened much faster! I made some time-consuming mistakes. Also, because I didn’t always know the way things usually get done, I made some choices that were problematic at times, but also probably gave the recording its own sound. There’s a freedom sometimes in not knowing things. It also meant we had the luxury of time to let the sound of the album unfold as it went along. It was good fun, going in with open ears and just discovering what each song was going to sound like. Drums, though, I would never be able to engineer. Producer Casey Rice came in to track those. Casey and Shane O’Mara were always a phone call away when I had obscure questions about impedance or mic-placement.
You guys are releasing the LP in early 2013 – will there be any more sneak peek tracks like ‘The Woods’ gracing our ears before then?
We hope to release another single before the album comes out, so watch this space. It likely won’t be like ‘The Woods’ though. There’s a few of different feels on the album, so the next single will probably show a different side of the album and the band.
So you recorded in a church, admittedly that’s pretty hep – but was that anything to do with getting a certain sound?
I wanted to try achieve a sound that was intimate, while at the same time very wide and open. Or to at least see if that was even possible. The church was the perfect place to shoot for that. I loved the natural reverb it gave things too, and the way there was always spill. It was an expansive place to work in. It’s also the place we usually play music and rehearse in, which meant we were comfortable.
Oh, and it’s my home too, so we weren’t on the clock!
There were some other sounds that came with the package too though: my snoring dog, passing trains, thunder, delivery trucks, the local brass band and whomever and whatever else passed by on the street outside on any given day. Listen closely and you might catch some unintentional inclusions!
Anything unintentional in ‘The Woods’?
Before the recording started, a friend gave me some good advice. I’d already written the songs for the album and thought that was the end of it. But he said: be open to writing a song or two during the recording time and be prepared for that to change things. It did. I wrote two tunes and The Woods was one of them. A couple of songs that were meant to be on there fell by the wayside. In fact, it was the last song to be written which is perhaps why it’s different to the rest of the album. It was like the song that points you in the direction you might go after the album.
It also taught me the limits of my old once-trustworthy PC desktop. One percussion layer too many! I think it might have been the kitchen forks part that sent it over the edge. Farewell old friend…