This Friday sees the arrival of Live Well, Change Often – the second album from Dublin trio The Minutes. Another blast of high energy rock ‘n’ roll, it reinforces their position as one of our most in your face bands. To celebrate, we’re delighted to bring you an exclusive album stream and our in-depth interview with the band’s Mark Austin – starting with just why it’s taken them so long to get back to us…
“Yeah, well it’s been three years since the last one and I don’t think any of us thought it would take this long for it to happen. It was only when it was done, when it was all fucking finished and mastered and the artwork was all finished and it dawned on us that it’s been three years. To anybody that’s a long time. It’s definitely good to have something there so we can get back out”.
Was it a case of you finishing the album but having to sit on it for a while?
Well, we went over [to Canada] at the start of May last year and spent three weeks there…once that part was done we had some bits and pieces that we did ourselves back here. We sort of wanted it that way because it was so concentrated in Canada that I don’t think we had time to even think about what we were doing, we just did it. Then, after we got home and listened back we thought ‘ok maybe we need to get it right’, you know what I mean? We fixed a few things that we wanted to change and added a few little things. But in saying that it’s pretty much, I would guess, about 95% the record that we actually recorded in Canada.
So you must have had most of the writing done beforehand or did you do some over there?
Yeah, we were really, really well prepared. We had the whole demo process done, I think, from September to January the year prior to recording.
Was that deliberate?
Yeah, we took that time out and just made a point of recording everything ourselves first in our little studio, finishing all the demos. We didn’t really fancy leaving anything to chance, we just wanted to have the songs and we wanted to know that they were going to be good so we worked on them for six months and made them the best that they could be before we committed to going and recording them forever.
How did you come to be working with Gggarth Richardson on this album?
We didn’t know when we were demoing that we were gonna end up working with Gggarth. That just kind of happened. We needed a producer at that stage and it wasn’t like we specifically aimed to work with him. It was a coincidence really. We were working with the label trying to figure it all out and we knew that we were going to record in May for a two or three week period. From there we we just sort of put the feelers out to see who was available for that time and who was interested in working with us. Of all the producers that were available he was the one that the label wanted us to work with because of his track record. For us it was a bit of a leap of faith, you know what I mean? It’s not like we were mad into any of the records he has made before or anything like that but his track record speaks for itself. The volume of sales that he has behind him as a producer you just can’t argue with. We took a chance and it worked. When you hear ‘Cherry Bomb’ is on the radio…put it this way, I don’t think we ever thought any of our songs would be as appealing as that, but this guy just knows how to make fucking tracks that work for the radio, you know what I mean, it’s crazy.
Well now that you say it, ‘Cherry Bomb’ sounds quite different to your previous stuff. It sounds far more polished, would that be fair to say?
I would definitely say so. But that’s just Gggarth’s strong point. His production is big time, very…very big, even though it was recorded in Canada it reminds me of American rock. It’s like you gotta work with a big “rock” producer, I think, once in your life, you know what I mean? And that was our turn and it’s totally different to the way we made the last record… which I think is good because we could have easily done the same shit we did on the first record. Sonically the songs would be great but they would just be the same as on the first record. We really trusted him [Gggarth] and that he knew what he was doing.
Did he have much of an input in re-writing any of the songs or was it a case of you telling him this is exactly what we want?
As I said, we had our songs in pretty good shape before we went over. We spent so much time honing them that by the time we got there we had about two or three days pre-production with him. Basically, in that time we sat around played the songs and he just listened to them. There were, maybe, two changes that he made that we stuck on the record, one of them being ‘Cherry Bomb’. The version we brought over was about half the length, the exact same song, but he figured that the verse was so catchy we needed to make it happen again. That would never occur to us because we are, like, do it now and get it done, get the chorus and fuck off – we don’t want to wreck people’s heads, you know? It was that kind of experience. It was something that, as a band, we definitely learned from. The last time [on Marcata] we were sort of lucky, we just fucking did what we wanted to do. Which was crazy. Although, you might say, if you are in a band you should always do what you want to do. But we took a chance…okay maybe chance is too strong a word because we’re always open to working with somebody, but Gggarth said to us “I’m in the band for the three weeks that we are recording and my opinion is as valid as yours”. We went with it, you know what I mean? You can’t go halfway in.
Good point. On the album there are some songs that broader – songs like ‘Lo and behold’, ‘Mystery of Om’ and ‘Holy Roman Empire’ which have a far different sound than anything on the first album. They are groovier, would you agree?
With ‘Lo and Behold’ for example, that was a tune that was probably one of the last songs that we wrote for the record and we didn’t know what the fuck to do with it…I mean what is that song? We don’t make songs like that so we brought it with us anyway just to see what would happen. It turned out to be the song…which for us is poles apart from the others. But in the scheme of the record I think it makes sense because it’s a bit of a break. There was asbolutely no break on the last record at all and it was just a case of ‘here we are…go fuck yourselves. See you later.’ I think there is definitely more of a groove on this record.
In what way?
I sing a hell of a lot more on this than on the last one. There are far more melodies. On ‘Holy Roman Empire’ and ‘Mystery of Om’ there are three part harmonies. Mainly because when we were demoing them I would do the main vocal, and then I’d think ‘I have another idea for another vocal, give it to me again’. At this stage, though, we didn’t really worry about how we were going to do it live, to be honest. Not that it’s gonna be fucking crazy to do any of those songs live, but for us to have three part harmonies on a song, well…
Is this a sign of things to come? Would you move forward in that vein?
Oh, I think so yeah. Before we used to make demos ourselves and then we’d just go fucking crazy with them; putting as many vocals on it as we wanted. I love doing harmonies and shit like that. And as it happens Shane is a very good natural harmoniser with me, he can so easily pick them out. I don’t know why, but he just is; him and both of his sisters. They are just conditioned that way so it’s cool when we do stuff like that because Shane automatically gets the harmony that I am thinking of…so when we were writing the songs for Live Long Change Often it was sort of like fuck it, lets make some songs and lets make the best songs that we can fucking make; it doesn’t matter if there is loads of shit on them, let’s just go for it. And I think the songs are probably better for it. I can play you any of those songs sitting down with an acoustic guitar whereas the ones from the first record, maybe only half would translate the same way.
Were there any influences on this album?
Not really. I don’t think there is any one thing that you can definitively pick out. I know there was one or two records that I was into. Both myself and Shane got mad into the Tame Impala records, we were listening to them a lot and there is a groove on that stuff, it’s deadly. So, we had 6 months leading up to fucking writing these songs, every day 9 to fucking 5 Monday to Friday and we would be sitting there talking about shit that we were listening to. The one that actually sticks out is Tame Impala. I can’t think of anything else that we were all listening to cos we are all so different. But I would’t go as far as to say it was an influence.
How did the success of the last album change your approach to recording this one?
It made us want things that bit more, you know? When we made Marcata we didn’t have anything. All we wanted was maybe somebody to put the record out and just to play some shows. That’s all we ever wanted. But then we got to play lots of shows, we got to play some fairly big shows and we got a taste for it. Once you get a taste for it you’re like ‘ok I want this again.’ It gave us a lot of confidence. We knew we were a good band before the record even came out; we knew we were a fucking good band. But then we were put up againt it, playing support for all these big fucking bands and we thought that we could be bigger. Eventually we just figured that if we work hard enough at getting our music out there that we would get to the point where we’d be playing to two or three thousand people a night. That’s where our minds are now.
The Minutes photographed for State by Olga Kuzmenko.