Words by Jack Herz
Brisbane band The John Steel Singers are gearing up to release their third album Midnight At The Plutonium to the world. The album will be their third effort following on from previous albums, Tangalooma and Everything’s A Thread. I spoke to frontman Tim Morrissey ahead of the albums release about their influences, working with animals, and the importance of not making the same album twice.
With your last album you said that you wanted to record it yourselves, but that it took a while to reach that decision. Was it a similar case with Midnight at The Plutonium?
For the last album, we had our own rehearsal space where we wrote a lot of the songs but it got shut down, so we went looking for a space to build another studio. We eventually found a place which we called the Plutonium and with that, the decision to record the album ourselves came really easy.
I’ve heard you’ve had a few other artists and bands come in and record some of their own music at the studio too.
Yeah Blank Realm did their album there, we’ve had Tame Impala and Cloud Control as well as The Creases, The Goon Sax and Robert Forster. It’s been really cool working with all of them.
The ‘Weekend Lover’ film clip you guys recently released actually seems to have a bit of a story around it. What led you to base your film clip around the antics of a cat and a couple of dogs and what kind of reaction were you looking for from people with this film clip?
Well we didn’t have much money, but we had some of our own gear and some good dogs—Luke owns the Cocker Spaniel, I own the Dachshund—so we just thought, let’s film them as well as we can and put them in slow motion as much as possible. We knew we wanted to have a good shot of them running along the beach in slow motion and the rest of it kind of just came together. It also happened to be that as we were shooting, Luke’s cat strolled in to the shot and that’s how he came to be in the clip too.
Your other new track, ‘Can You Feel The Future’ has a really strong driving groove and a lot of the effects get really crazy in some parts. How do you go about recreating some of those sounds in a live setting?
So for this tour and for our live shows since we’ve been playing that song, we’ve actually added two new permanent touring members, Jonathan Boulet, who played percussion on the album and his partner Kirsty Tickle who’s an incredible singer and saxophone player. They definitely helped us flesh out some of the saxophone parts live and Jono also has samplers that he triggers in addition to playing percussion.
There’s no doubt that you guys are making very different music now then you were a few years ago. Listening back to Overpass and other songs from the first album in context with the newer songs on the upcoming LP, it’s clear you guys are testing new waters. What led you to this change in sound?
I think it’s just listening to different music, having different influences and not wanting to make the same album over and over again. If you look at someone like David Bowie, each album is completely different to the last and that sort of evolution keeps things really interesting. Obviously we’re not in the same ball park as Bowie but just his ability to be someone completely different from album to album was a big influence on us.
The vocal harmonies are one aspect of your music that you haven’t lost with newer releases. What drew you guys towards these kinds of harmonies to begin with and what made you decide to keep using them?
One of our favourite bands is The Byrds, we’re all really in to that whole style of 60’s, harmony driven music which blends pop, garage and psychedelic rock. Basically we like the idea of changing the style of our music but still keeping those sort of harmony-based vocals in places as much as we can
You’ve mentioned before in other interviews that your childhood dream was to play in a band but that you didn’t tell anyone this until you were 21, what held you back from realizing this dream earlier?
I guess I was just waiting to find the right people to form a band with and it just took 21 years to find the right person. I’m almost 33 now so I’ve been playing music with Scott (who plays keys, trumpet and shares vocal duties) for quite a while now. It was obviously worth the wait because we still enjoy playing music together and I imagine we’ll continue to do so for quite a while.
‘Midnight At The Plutonium’ is set to be released on the 8th of July through the bands own record label Plutonium Records and Create Control.