Although self-described “outsider rock” band Bad//Dreems still call Adelaide home, nearly all of their members have been distant from the city of churches in more recent times. Drummer Miles Wilson, for instance, packed up shop and relocated to Melbourne last year. Meanwhile, lead guitarist Alex Cameron – lovingly referred to by his bandmates as ‘Camo’ – and bassist/backing vocalist James ‘Bart’ Bartold found themselves working on the other side of the country. When you see the track names on Gutful, their second studio album – songs like ‘1000 Miles Away’ and ‘Million Times Alone’ – you know for a fact they’re coming from a very real place.
“[Camo and I] were both working up in Darwin,” begins Bartold. “We were working at the same hospital – Camo was actually working in it, and I was doing the business side of things; helping people get in and out faster. He was living up there for about six months, while I was flying up for a few days each week to work there. It’s quite a way to travel, but I think it was good for us in its own way.
“It was especially good for Camo, having the isolation that comes with going to a place like that. When we were sitting down to write stuff, we were definitely on the same page of being inspired by this place in the world that most people haven’t ever been to – even people in Australia. It definitely gave us a new sense of perspective and a new-found appreciation for the country.”
Gutful arrives some two years after the band’s debut LP, Dogs At Bay. That record took Bad//Dreems to sold-out tours in their own right alongside major support slots with At The Drive In, The Living End and DMA’s, and they could easily have ridden the momentum for a year longer. With the creative juices flowing again, however, the band opted to work towards album number two – and, in doing so, reflect just how much had changed along the way.
“The way that we write and record has actually changed quite a bit since we first started,” says Bartold. “Our early days was just Camo firing off songs by himself in his bedroom. It evolved over time into us forming songs as a group and working on them together. Dogs At Bay was such a mismatch of pulling songs together from across that whole start-up period you have on a first album. With this one, we were testing a few songs out live, and then heading into the studio to see if they were able to work once we had them recorded.
“From that point, the songs came together really quickly in the second half of last year. When we’re recording, we tend to split it up a bit – we’ll all be there for the first part, and then one half of us will piss off for a couple of days. If Ben [Marwe, vocals/guitar] and Camo are doing guitars, then Miles and I will give them some space. It’s especially good if you’re in a band with someone like Camo, who can just put on guitar after guitar after guitar on a track.” Bartold laughs, before adding: “I can remember Colin [Wynne], our engineer, and his joy when we’d walk into the studio. He’d slowly turn around in his chair, and I’d ask how many guitar tracks were on the song. He’d just say, ‘At least 55, James.’”
The first hint of Gutful came with the release of its lead single, ‘Mob Rule’, in October last year. It was followed up a matter of months later with ‘Feeling Remains’, which – while a fine song in its own right – was completely overshadowed by the hilarious music video. The clip imagines Bad//Dreems as an up-and-coming Aussie band in the ’90s, doing what most bands of the era were doing at that time – performing live on Recovery, the ABC Saturday morning music program hosted by the eccentric Dylan Lewis. Not only is the clip shot in a classic VHS style, it also features Lewis himself reprising the role of host and famously awkward interviewer. As far as Bartold is concerned, making the video for ‘Feeling Remains’ was a dream come true – even when it got a little too real at points.
“It was something that we all wanted to do for ages,” he says. “Anyone who’s met me drunk at night has heard me go on about recreating Recovery for a video – ‘We’re gonna do it,’ I kept saying. We ended up lucking out, because Ben’s brother actually works with Dylan. We pitched it to him, and his immediate response was, ‘Absolutely – you little bastards aren’t doing this thing without me.’ The next thing we know, he’s here and it’s all happening.
“I remember Ben [Helweg], the director, asking Dylan if he wanted anything prepared for him before we started filming. Dylan just looked at him and said, ‘Mate, this is my fucking show!’ As soon as we were rolling, it was straight off the cuff with that classic Recovery weirdness. I was filming behind one of the cameras, and it actually made me feel a bit ill from how awkward it was. When you’ve got two guys that are that naturally awkward together… it was two very strange individuals having a very strange conversation.”
Gutful is out Friday April 21 through Ivy League. Bad//Dreems play the Metro Theatre on Friday June 9.