Their life last year was similar to that of cult film Lost in Translation.
Well it was for one night, or twice, in Tokyo, when they ended up at Karaoke-kan (the infamous karaoke bar), sake deep, hitting the real high notes. The second time was leaving Tokyo, wiggy and fragile, after four months of touring and being tightly guided by management, having to find their own way to the airport was “like infants being carried to a car”. But they managed to reboot their independence and everyday-life-skills by “literally just having to catch a cab by ourselves.”
Who can blame them? For Johnny Took, Matt Mason and Tommy O’Dell, 2015 was a year lost in translation and unworldly transition: from their days of self-recording at their digs in Buckland Lane, Newtown to being evicted; from throwing together an EP in 2014 to working on material with a heavyweight industry producer; and eventually, creating a debut album with lyrical undertones of transitioning out of a relationship into the abyss or moving from their hometown Sydney to touring the world extensively.
“It’s a little bit schizophrenic you know, when you’re in that weird stage where you’ve moved on from a relationship or something but you’re confused with what you’re doing and where you’re at and you think the old life was good but you know you just need to look ahead,” says Took (guitarist).
“And I think a lot of people can relate to that.”
Production-wise, it was still pretty DIY as the majority of Hills End was written, tracked and recorded in Took’s flat. ‘Blown Away’ features Tommy O’Dell (vocalist) playing drums for 30 or 40 seconds before Took received abusive phone calls from pissed-off neighbours.
“But we got the 30 seconds and it was sweet. So yeah it still worked,” says Took. But due to the abusive phone calls from pissed-off neighbours, they definitely got evicted so Hills End is kind of like a valentine to Buckland Lane. And a parting-fuck-you-gift to said pissed-off neighbours.
“I’m just happy that while the album was tracked it was still done in that apartment because that’s where all of the songs were written and where all of the demos were recorded and everything that was kind of our sound, was done in that room.”
The boys also experimented with some pretty foreign sounds and whipped out the ol’ Guzheng (kind of like a “Chinese piano”) which Mason casually acquired from an antique store a couple of years ago. He does that often, apparently. A Dobro is also used in the riff for ‘Play It Out’. It’s a square-ish guitar, typically played flat, which originated in the Czech Republic and was traditionally used in blues music.
“Some Americans brought it over on their way to Antarctica in 1936 or some shit and now it’s ours,” says Mason.
So with some extra gear, the magical touch of English producer Mark ’Spike’ Stent and a gift intended for Antarctica, Hills End felt like a “healthy experiment” from EP to album.
“I feel like we’ll always write big melodies and have noisy guitars but it felt good to experiment with other weird stuff,” says Took.
Hills End isn’t too weird, instead, it’s a pretty natural progression from DMA’S’ self-titled EP and welcomed extension from their 7″ ‘Laced’ / ‘So We Know’. The record sounds bigger and fatter and like it was produced by a band that would struggle in airports and kill it at karaoke.