“When did Faker rename themselves Calling All Cars?”
“Have the band members of CACbecome addicted to ice? Have you slapped an album together to pay your dealers?”
“Get back to your rockin’best – this is terrible!!”
These were just some of the responses to the material Melbourne trio Calling All Cars have released in 2013, which would give one the impression they have either done something incredibly right or incredibly wrong. There’s no time for fence-sitting anymore when it comes to this band – and that’s exactly the way frontman Haydn Ing likes it.
“I love reading that shit,” he laughs from outside the band’s rehearsal studio. “It makes me laugh. Obviously, people are either going to love or hate what you do – that’s always going to happen. You have to start expecting that when you’re onto something new. At the end of the day, we love it. If people can’t get behind it… whatever.”
It’s a confidence that is not only exuded through Ing’s words, but through his musical actions. This year has seen the band (completed by bassist Adam Montgomery and Haydn’s brother James on drums) drop two new songs from an as-yet-untitled third album – ‘Raise The People’ and new single ‘Werewolves.’ The former sees Haydn spitting half-shouted, half-rapped vitriol like a hybrid of David Byrne and Ezekiel Ox, while the latter employs a breathy falsetto that recalls a young Trent Reznor. It’s a world away from the meat-and-potatoes rock of their debut, 2010’s Hold, Hold, Fire; and still a considerable distance from its 2011 follow-up, the more expansive Dancing With A Dead Man. What’s perhaps most interesting about these songs, however, is the fact they nearly did not exist.
“When we started out writing for this album, we went away for awhile once we finished our tour,” explains Ing. “We pretty much finished another album of songs, but they ended up sounding so similar to our first two albums that we decided to bin them and start again. We were just over that kind of thing. Every time we thought, ‘Calling All Cars would do this,’ we’d do the opposite. We wanted to keep it fresh and exciting for ourselves.”
So far, it feels as though they are succeeding. The new songs essentially work as a reset of sorts, delivering a succinct message that one should forget everything they know about Calling All Cars. The band has arrived in bat country, delving into territory that’s darker, funkier and even slightly more intense. Ing, however, isn’t so sure about tracing back to a single influence over their change in direction.
“No matter what you listen to, I feel as though it will always affect the way that you write. We went into these songs with the intention of creating something hip-shaking and moveable. It’s a bit of a hip hop thing and it’s a bit of a dance thing – our songs are at around 120, 130 beats per minute. I started off listening to hip hop and blues while I was writing, trying out some different things. Things took their natural progression from there. We wanted to make an album that we all really enjoyed.”
Given how gung-ho the band is about where it’s headed musically, it’ll be a curiosity to see how the upcoming east coast tour will fare. Not only taking in the capital cities, the band has added dates in places like Surfers Paradise, Booval and Newcastle. So, is there any kind of concern that perhaps the old isn’t going to gel with the new on this run of shows?
“Nah, not really,” says Haydn nonchalantly. “The new songs are translating well when we’re rehearsing them, and we’ve got a couple of new things to play with live. I think the new direction that we’ve gone with on these songs and this album is starting to rub off onto the old songs, as well. We’re kind of reworking the older songs a little bit – and we’re actually coming up with things that work better than before. With some of the songs, we’re actually wondering why we didn’t think of these ideas when we were actually recording them.”
Having just signed to Cooking Vinyl in the UK, the band will release album number three via the independent label in early 2014. We’ve also been told to expect a new single by the end of the year – one that Ing “think[s] the fans will really like” – as well as plenty more shows. In the meantime, the band is focusing in on the Werewolves tour as a reintroduction of sorts to its Australian audience. Ing notes particular excitement over the fact they will be joined by Canberra’s Super Best Friends on the tour, as the bands’ connections run deeper than you might think.
“We’re originally from Narooma on the far south coast of New South Wales. That’s where Johnny [Barrington, SBF guitarist] is from, too. We grew up together and were in the same bands as teenagers. It’ll be good to do these shows with them – kind of makes it all feel full circle.”
BY DAVID JAMES YOUNG
With: Super Best Friends, The Sinking Teeth
Where: Goodgod Small Club
When: Thursday October 10