City Calm Down are one of the most dynamic bands currently making music in Australia. Ten years after forming, with a new album up their sleeve and over six million streams on Spotify, plus a decade of touring behind them – including multiple sold-out headline tours and major Australian festivals (Laneway, Splendour In The Grass, Falls, etc.) – City Calm Down have forged a reputation as a fierce live act not to be missed. With their highly anticipated second album Echoes In Blue out now, this Melbourne four-piece are set to undertake their biggest Australian shows to date in June 2018. Hi Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles spoke to Jeremy Sonnenberg about the album and tour.
Normal job by day, rock star by night!
That’s what we all do, it keeps us sane in a way. I haven’t really thought about it like that as it’s not unusual for me to work four or five days a week, that’s how we’ve operated. Playing in bands with Jack our singer for nearly fifteen years and we have always either been in school, or uni or working full time. The band has always been something that we squeeze in on the weekend when we can.
The juggle must get a bit challenging?
For sure, that’s a mental thing and we all beat ourselves up about it to varying degrees. I would love to be able to throw my everything at music but at times when we’re at our instruments a lot more we’re tighter as a group, as individuals, as song writers. The more you put in sometimes the more you get out. At the same time having it being such a finite period of time in our lives has made us when we have the chance to write new music or jam together everyone is pretty amped. It’s rare, it’s exciting and great to be able to break from the mundane nine to five.
No doubt City Calm Down is one of Australia’s best kept secrets and hopefully this album will break the band in a big way. Do you feel the pressure with this album?
It’s been done for a while and we’ve been fortunate to have been able to sit with it for a bit. I think definitely when we were making it or thinking about the fact that it took us so long to release In A Restless House, it took us a while to figure out what we wanted to do and where we wanted to take our sound. With album two it was a chance for us to keep improving and we did. I definitely noticed that we have become and understood each other more as musicians and when we get together to write music. However that plays out, everyone understands our different styles. Even though writing was quite segmented in little time windows I feel that were a lot more efficient. We are still our own worst enemies and so much stuff got canned. This time as opposed to doing the recording in one stint we had a chance to write and record in little time windows which meant we could come away from it and look at what we were doing, feel good about it and then go back and add more.
When you sit on it a little bit more did the band start to over analyse it? Was it hard letting go?
It is, whilst I’m singing the praises that it was nice to be able to sit on stuff obviously it can be fraught with danger. I think I have a tendency to over analyse my own playing to an extreme degree. We’re all like that in the studio as well, Malcolm our producer he would trick us in to doing takes and telling us he wasn’t recording. We wanted the recording process to feel less produced and more natural than the last one. Working with Malcolm again was great and everyone is so relaxed with him and he knows how to work us psychologically so we get what we need to get done and not get stuck in the over analysing territory and over cooking stuff, mulling over stuff and worrying that stuff is missing when it is a totally non-issue. Recording is a psychological game, I’m still really excited for the whole thing to be out and people to be able to hear it and play it through as a record.
Do the songs that didn’t make the cut ever get revisited?
Nothing is ever dead idea wise, some of the stuff on Echoes In Blue, stuff that didn’t make the cut or we didn’t have solutions for or didn’t know what to do with when we were writing In A Restless House there are ideas from quite a vast time frame. Sometimes you might not be able to place a little part, a melody, or lyrics or pinning sounds to certain parts… we keep our hard drives safe and don’t delete stuff because they didn’t fit the vibe at the time. There’s always an opportunity to revisit stuff, we get a lot of great ideas from that. Also, by the same token it is good to be able to go in totally blind and just us jamming has yielded just as many results as well as being diligent working through music in a controlled setting. Different results come through at different times and sometimes it’s just a matter of switching it up.
The band must be looking forward to hitting the road this June. Does the old and new work together well in the set list?
Definitely, in the last big run of shows we did which was Laneway we played quite a few newbies in that set mixed with In A Restless House and our first EP right through to tracks that haven’t been released or played in radio from Echoes In Blue. It’s good!
How about when you get to Adelaide you play a three hour set so you can play everything?
Oh gosh! I think we’d bore you to death! I love to play headline shows so we can work with the audience and engage them, taking them on a journey which you can’t necessarily do in a half hour or forty five minute set at a festival. Echoes In Blue really suits the live experience and will be great to play all new stuff. Hopefully everyone is in to it like we are. We love playing in Adelaide and there’s something about that room at The Gov with that circular nature of the stage wrapping around, it feels good as a band being able to feel the audience with a good connect.
Interview by Rob Lyon
Catch City Calm Down on the following dates…