Having spent the majority of 2012 as an absentee, Sydney piano man turned pop adventurer Andy Bull made a strong return within the first half of this year with single ‘Keep On Running’. Alongside the latest effort, ‘Baby I Am Nobody Now’, it presents listeners with an artist more or less a world away from his earlier work, replacing brisk piano and jazzy drums with buzzing bass synthesizer and a considerably lower vocal range. As Bull continues to work towards an as-yet-untitled second album, these songs appear to be an indicator of what to expect – and, needless to say, it’s a bold departure. A conscious effort, as well.
“Coming into this bunch of songs that I’ve been doing, I really felt as though I wanted to destroy everything I’d done before,” Bull says. “It felt like a kind of therapeutic cleansing of history. One of the things I always felt about my older stuff is that I wanted to get out more of my personal discomfort, but it never properly translated for me – I was trying to scream, but it comes off sounding more melodic and luscious. It’s even harder as a keyboard player – when you’re playing piano, there’s no distortion pedal; and if you start bashing it, you just end up sounding like Ben Folds. I wanted to hear something different – something stronger, a bit more powerful.”
With ‘Baby I Am Nobody Now’, it feels as though Bull is closer to achieving the shift he desires. Bitter and exasperated in its delivery, it portrays a decline into isolation and loneliness. Not exactly a new topic in the world of songwriting, but Bull performs the song as if it’s the first time it’s ever been sung about. He says the song documents the anguish that comes with a fear of missing out.
“We have this constant stream of Facebook and Instagram, always telling us what we’re missing out on. It chews up your mental space – there have been studies done that link social media with depression. You’re constantly made to feel envious or jealous, or not good enough. It’s not good for you. I mean, no-one would read New Weekly all day every day, but that’s essentially what we’re doing.”
The single will be launched with a run of dates down the east cost, starting in Newcastle and including a slot at Oxford Art Factory. Although regular drummer Dave Jenkins, Jr. will not be playing due to touring commitments with Kirin J Callinan, Bull’s band will feature former Deep Sea Arcade and Tim Finn drummer Carlos Adura, guitarist and long-time collaborator Alex Bennison, and keyboardist Ned Cooke (also of Dappled Cities). The sets will be a mix of songs from Bull’s 2010 EP Phantom Pains, his 2013 singles and perhaps some brand new songs.
“It’s yet to be seen how much new stuff we’ll be playing,” says Bull. “I think we’ll be retiring some of the older songs after this run of shows – some songs we’ll always play, but there are some of the older tracks that are in the minority. I definitely feel as though this is a fresh start and I want to put together a set that will reflect that. After all, it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day…” He cuts himself off before breaking into a Nina Simone lyric, but you know how he feels.
BY DAVID JAMES YOUNG