Hey again! Just before we get into this blog post I just wanna mention that I am supporting Soren at the Gasometer in Melbourne tomorrow night (Wednesday 7th April). I will be playing at 9pm with my band, I hope to see you there!
I'm gonna be letting something pretty personal from me trickle out pretty slowly.
I wrote the album 'Shame' back in 2018 - my first year out of school. I knew that I had some songs that I wanted to release but I didn’t really have the vision to attack them until midway through the year - when I smashed my own glass ceiling and recorded a lot of music in not a lot of time.
I had a lot of confidence from my lack of familiarity to releasing music, and I grew pretty ambitious with the release of my first album. So ambitious, in fact, that I ended up writing a whole ZINE about my album, going into much detail about each song and theme on the album. I had pictures and layouts planned, but in the end releasing it did not become a feasible option.
Because I have this opportunity to make a blog and release words on here as I wish, I have decided that I will be periodically posting titbits about each song, artwork, influence and more, unaltered from when I wrote the zine from September 2018 to January 2019.
Welcome to the Shame zine! This zine intends to be something extra to supplement this album I've been working on. This will feature insider information on all of the tracks, including where they originated, what inspired me to make them the way I did, what the lyrics are, what the lyrics mean, why I asked for the single artwork to be the way it is, et cetera, et cetera. This will try to answer the question and queries you haven't thought to ask yet.
I started wrestling with ideas for this album immediately after I released my first EP as Orange Orange, ‘Study Period’, and only really decided on the overarching theme of the album and its title in the following April. I quietly worked on production of these songs until the end of August, where everything was set and all my ideas were brought together to create a cohesive, meaningful record.
I'll be honest. I love this album so much. I’ve been listening to the demos of the songs from this album for many months now almost obsessively. I am so proud of what I've done. I believe these songs will stay with me for the rest of my life.
But why “Shame”? What does it mean? Well, it’s not a single specific idea that explains why the word “Shame” means so much to me, but rather a culmination of ideas. The overarching factor, however, is the notoriety of the word in the culture I consume. I saw the British band Everything Everything perform live in Melbourne on the 5th of January 2018, and I still remember my absolute elation once the band walked on stage to ‘Night of the Long Knives’. The chorus of this song incessantly repeats the lyric “Shame about your neighbourhood”, and that definitely had me thinking about the word ‘shame’ since it was released in August 2017. What surprised me most about this live performance was that Jonathan Higgs (the lead singer) added an extra lyric to the chorus of that song, to fill a bit of the mostly instrumental chorus. It was the word “shame”. It seemed to be a throwaway ad-lib but this extra lyric got stuck in my head for many months after this gig, and I would repeat it randomly to myself, like how a song would get stuck in someone’s head.
While this lyric “shame” was still embedded in my head, I started my first year of university. One of the main classes of my course was this wild class that focused on cultivating creativity within artists, which contrasted many of the traditional ‘note-taking’ classes that I was taking simultaneously. The lecturer of the subject said something very profound about shame in our first class, and at the time it spoke to me. The gist of what they were saying was that experiencing guilt after doing wrong was normal, but allowing that guilt to manifest into shame and letting it confine you was not okay. This reignited my interest with the word “shame”, this time less with the way it sounded but more with its meaning in my life.
Of course, thinking about the concept of shame so much made me realise that there is a lot of shame in my life, whether it be from past wrongdoings, present wrongdoings or from wrongdoings I’ve yet to commit. You must understand that this album comes from a very personal place of my life, and therefore a lot of emotions towards many people I know as well as myself are present in this album. These people will remain anonymous for their privacy, as well as my own.
However, I am hoping to see if my own strange feelings would connect with other people, if people had endured similar hardships in their lives, and if there was a way to minimise the chance of encountering these hardships so that future generations can explore different, more challenging hardships. Even now there are people I know who are going through similar issues in their lives, so I hope they can subtly be pointed in the right direction from the ideas that I preach in this album. To me, it’s really interesting how humans pass down knowledge in science so that future generations can expound upon this foundation on knowledge and further it, yet a similar thing cannot be done with anything relating to human emotion. I guess that’s just the nature of the mind in the time that I live in.
Ultimately this album is about my own personal journey with my perceived shame, but through my analysis of it I hope many people who harbour similar issues will connect with the songs and help sort out their own shame as well. This album is not merely a collection of songs, but something holistically bigger, at least to me.
I hope you get something out of my record, or in reading through this zine.
Even before I could comprehend what I wanted to make a record about, I had the image that became the album art in my mind. I always believed that the still image of someone so young weeping innate tears as such a powerful idea in my head, and it is very possible that this internal image influenced the core direction of the album. One day a page on Facebook that I followed uploaded a photo of a school photo of a young female and her face was always so striking to me. Maybe I had seen it before in my life, or just knew I would be seeing it regularly for the rest of my life? Who knows, but I ask Alexandra Smith, the lady who drew the album art, to mesh the concept of a young person weeping with such a face, and she delivered. I met Alex (@gingie.art) early on at university and was amazed by her artwork. It still amazes me today.
My Baby Is In Love:
The crux of the opening intro is a sample of an Arbes song called ‘Flutaar’. When making the upbeat section of Gigant more cohesive, I played with this sample and tried pitching parts of it to the chorus before overdubbing it with synth keys. About a month later I listened to the repitched Flutaar sample and I knew that this glitched fluttery noise was the way I wanted the record to start. This was the seventh piece I wrote for the album.
The phrase “My Baby Is In Love” was a profound statement that got stuck in my mind in the same way that other words and phrases that directly relate to my life, such as “shame”, can get stuck in my head. The phrase can be interpreted in a manner of ways. I interpret it as being freed from one of your burdens, but to still be cautious if something is awry, as if your child no longer needs your love because they have a new source, but may unexpectedly lose control of that source any day. In a sense, it is a cautionary feeling of relief.
I enjoy thinking of this album as a sequel to my first EP ‘Study Period’, both through my songs and through narrative, and I imagine that this opening is like an interlude between the two collections of music, bridging the two together. Going even further, this song could allude that all the problems discussed in the Study Period EP are “in love”, do not need to be given love by myself and can be given much less thought.
The way I interpreted the album before I created this track was akin to a comatose experience. This opening track, coming before the ‘coma’, tries to detail descending into this coma, where you hear voices from the outside mesh with old memories and ideas that your mind create, like a dream. This is what inspired me to interject pleas from a young child to wake up, as opposed to pleas from myself or other young adults, to represent that mashing of past and present, and an acknowledgement from a very innate and pure place that you'd want to just “wake up” from whatever problem you're having. But you can't.
The voices present on the track are the voices of my friend Lily and her younger brother Frankie, who was four years old at the time of recording.
Say it really slowly, like you’re in slow motion.
“Please wake up!”
“Wake up! Please… wake up…”
So, what did you think?
I just wanted to make a note that Alexandra Smith now does artwork under @alexsmithart on Instagram. Follow her!
I'll be posting more from this zine in the future, but I do think I should finally complete the list of my top 10 Foals songs next week.
Anyway, until then!