MUSIC FEEDS: INTERVIEW W/ BEN MICHAEL X
Now on their fifth album, entitled Dark Magic, Melbourne’s Sand Pebbles are a band whose members span almost all of the period of rock and roll’s expansion, with a member born in every decade of the genre’s heyday, from the 50s to the 90s . This smorgasbord of generations within the band has informed their work on the new record, which sees the band fusing together their various voices and influences to craft an album that speaks across the full stretch of rock and roll, having recruited the likes of Galaxie 500′s Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips, Tim Holmes from Death In Vegas, Will Carruthers from Spaceman 3 and Spiritualized, even Malcolm McDowell.
MF: So, there are some pretty impressive names on the record; how did you get all these great people involved?
SP: Our Drummer and twenty-year-old dynamo Wes went on a wild trip overseas armed only with a 7 inch vinyl we’d made. He ended up at a bunch of parties and gave it out to some of our musical heroes and they, in turn, offered to do some mixing. It has given the album a sonic edge. Playing with people you admire is one of music’s true joys.
MF: It seems that collaboration was central to this album, both between individual members of the band as well as the various collaborators you brought in; can you tell me about that?
SP: Alfred Hitchcock would have a film in his head, everything worked out, and he’d make sure it came out just like that. Francis Ford Coppola gets a bunch of creative people together and goes on a trip. Many minds make light work (better). While I dig both of my fatties, I’ll take The Conversation over Rope any day.
MF: The theme to this was, and stop me if I’m wrong, to try and draw from the collective experience of the band members to present a sort of slide show of the history of rock ‘n’ roll, more in terms of drawing inspiration rather than blatant imitation. Can you tell me how yoU think that came out in the music as well as how you came to try such a task?
SP: It just happens naturally; we’re all at such different stages of our lives. It’s one of the keys to the band. Some of us are tripping, some changing nappies, some awaiting grandchildren. That has to come out when you play. And we’re the better for it.
MF: How did the writing process work with this album? Did you all bring in ideas individually and work on them together or were all the ideas work-shopped as a group from the ground up?
Spring Time was a real group effort. The others are more a band member bringing in an idea type situation. That said, we all share writing credits, which is as it should be. A beautiful guitar solo is as important as the lyrics. A drum beat as cool as a melody. Let’s be honest, singer songwriters are kinda square. It feels very old fashioned. Everything changes, everything can be made better.
MF: How would you say this album compares to your earlier work?
SP: Every album has its charm, and they are all very different: different personel; different moods in the band at the time. I think it feels like a Sand Pebbles’ album but with a softer side showing. It’s more concise. Like a stock: boiled down to is essence. It compares wonderfully. But I think all our records, with the exception of our debut, are brilliant. The debut is just plain old great.
MF: You’re about to set out on tour; are you guys a band who loves touring or who tolerates it?
SP: We’ve never really done it, so who knows. We are a band insanely dedicated to the music with pretty much zero dedication to pushing ourselves; it seems kinda tawdry. But that said, it may be time to spread the word a little further. One thing’s for sure, it’s going to be an adventure; and life without adventure isn’t life at all.
MF: With the live show do you set out to recreate the album or offer something different?
SP: No. Never! A live show is a one off, in the moment, thing. It must be a roller coaster. It should always feel like it’s about to come off the rails. Tension. Bands who sound like records are actually evil and against nature. We are naturists. The natural state of being is unpredictable. Live shows should capture that feeling.
Sand Pebbles 2011/2012 Tour Dates
Friday 2 December - The Front Canberra (album launch), with The Sun Blindness
Saturday 3 December – Goodgod Sydney (album launch), with The Sun Blindness & Astral Kaleidoscope
Friday 9 December – Byron Bay Brewery, Byron Bay (album launch), with Black Cab and The Windy Hills
Saturday 10 December - Eight Miles High Festival Brisbane, The Zoo, with Black Cab, Richard In Your Mind + more
Saturday 17 December – Grand Pooh Bar, Hobart (album launch), with Hey Mook!
Friday 23 December – The Espy Front Bar, Melbourne, with Matt Sonic and The High Times, Buried Feather + more
Friday 6 January 2012 - The Nash, Geelong, with Black Cab