Los Angeles via Geelong via Brisbane art rock/orchestral rock band The Red Paintings have been on an epic journey to get to their debut album.
It’s been ten years since their formation, although formation is a confusing term in itself because The Red Paintings really is frontman, song writing and creative force Trash McSweeney. With players strewn around the world, McSweeney has travelled both physically and emotionally to get to this point in his career – from a seizure that brought on synaesthesia, the catalyst for the band’s creation, to a residency at LA’s Viper Room and global touring, it has been a long and difficult road.
Relying entirely on his own money and fan donations to fund The Red Paintings, McSweeney has taken a thoroughly independent road solidified by a less than amicable brief signing with Sony. “Back then, things were changing a lot for bands and I went through all that being very naïve and feeling very upset and angry, feeling like I got the raw end of the deal,” McSweeney says. “I still say to this day that I got the raw end of the deal but I also didn’t have enough experience or information to make choices. You learn a lot from experience and from that, I have been able to be smarter in my moves and smarter in who I was gonna work with and who I wasn’t.”
The Red Paintings have a dedicated cult following around the world, but McSweeney has often felt the brunt of judgment from the industry for his approach to music making and the difficulty people have separating him from his band.
“I don’t have an alter-ego – although some people seem to think I do – and I never step away from it and look at myself from afar, but you do need to separate yourself in a way,” he says. “Business is business and art is art and I think that can be a problem with artists, they think they can just get away with doing the art and the business side is something they don’t bother learning. I know The Red Paintings has taken so long to get to where it has because of that. I wasn’t the best business guy making the best business decisions but oh my god did I learn a lot about life in the last five years.”
The Revolution Is Never Coming, The Red Paintings’ debut album, has finally been completed – a task that seemed doomed to fail at many points along the way. McSweeney is particularly moved by the fact that engineer Bryan Carlstrom (Alice In Chains, The Offspring and many more) passed away shortly after delivering McSweeney the mix that he was finally happy with.
“In five years of making that album, spending over $230,000, knowing I’m never gonna own a house because I’m in so much debt, the first seven and a half mixes of that album devastated me,” he says. “This was the only mix where my body – this is weird but I relied on my body telling me it was right – and when my body felt tense I knew it wasn’t right. I went with that every time and that pissed a lot of people off but it was like fuck, I wanted to put this album together because I wanted my fan base to feel my heart for the first time ever. Every single time I listened to it my body relaxed and I knew it was what I wanted to achieve.”
While most artists like to pretend they really don’t care what people think of their art, McSweeney admits that this album will either launch The Red Paintings on an unstoppable trajectory, or spell the end of a truly epic era for him. “I really do care what people think because I put so much on the line, so it’s a make or break album for The Red Paintings,” he says. “My goals for the success of this album are fucking huge and if I don’t hit them then I’ll crumble as an artist. I’ll go on to do other things in my life, but this will be a chapter I’ll have to close.”
BY KRISSI WEISS
The Red Paintings play Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle on Thursday June 13 and The Hi Fi, Sydney on Friday June 14. The Revolution Is Never Coming is out now through Bird’s Robe Records/MGM Distribution.