Cairns five-piece AREA 13 bring together a cumulative century worth of experience to create their debut long-player Parachutes For Puppets. The band members – Rob Midgley, Julian Cliffe, JP [John Paul], Paul Southwell and Kev Boorman –found their passion as children, progressing into jamming with local bands as teenagers and eventually playing gigs and releasing music. Individually, they haven’t stopped since. It was fortuitous then that the five members ended up crossing paths – it was that shared passion for music that brought the band members together, each harked from elsewhere, drawn to the the Far North for its lifestyle and climate. A little over two years ago, aptly on the 13th of May, they joined forces under the guise of AREA 13 with a common focus of creating solid original music.

The result is the ten-track Parachutes for Puppets – an eclectic mix of rock, blues, soft pop and reggae influences – that showcases each of the band members strengths. In fact, the band believes it is their strong background in music that has helped bring the AREA 13 project through to fruition. They all went into the recording process with a firm idea of what they wanted to achieve, and because of the years spent honing their craft, they weren’t afraid to take on other people’s ideas to help create the best sound possible. There were no egos in the mix – just a desire to create the best music possible. The vabd answer some questions about the album for Hi Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles.

Are you surprised how intense the process is to finish your debut album Parachutes For Puppets?
I wasn’t necessarily surprised. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to get a product ready. For financial reasons we had a deadline in the studio and once we’d finished the recording process, we found it quite frustrating going through all of the other peripheral processes that are needed.

Is there a hidden meaning behind the album title?
Not at all. We were playing as 13th Floor when we made the decision to record and brief search of the internet turned up a Sydney band by the same name. We spent weeks looking for new band names and eventually narrowed it down to “Area13” or Parachutes for Puppets. The majority leaned towards “Area13” for a band name and someone suggested we use the other as the album title.

Sonically, how would you describe Parachutes For Puppets?
I find it’s a bit of an eclectic mix. We’ve all contributed to songs to the album. The result is that all of our influences seem to have surfaced at one point or another. If it had been me holding all the parachute strings, I wouldn’t have gone down the path of a reggae tune. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like the song, just a musical preference. I tend to be more inclined towards rock songs with plenty of grunt but I think we’ve come up with a product that captures a little piece of all of us. Something which I think is important for us as a band.

What moments do you remember most from the recording sessions?
Probably Nigel’s bad jokes. Nigel engineered and mixed the album for us at Pegasus studios in Cairns and his knowledge and understanding of how get the best out of people stood out. He made some of the worst jokes I’ve heard but it had the effect of relaxing us to the point where we got great result.

How did the band meet?
JP, Rob and Paul had a band called 13th Floor going around in 2016 and at the same time, Jools, Paul and myself were going around as a three piece called Timeslider. We’d all met at one time or another during that year. I was in Japan on holidays in April 2017 when I got a text asking if Timeslider could sit in with 13th Floor for a couple of gigs as they’d lost their drummer and one of their singers. We said sure, no problem. We just never stopped jamming and by the end of 2017 we were talking seriously about recording.

Is there a story behind the band name?
It all started on the 13th Floor of JP’s apartment in Cairns with Rob and JP jamming. They called their band “13th Floor”. When we got the itch to record, we found another band by the same name so we went through a ridiculously long list of names and settled on “Area13”. I think there was an sentimental interest in keeping the “13” in the name from some.

What are you favourite songs from the album and why?
I love Gypsy Man because I get to play this wild, bluesy solo at the end. I’m also a big fan of Secret World because it has a bit of serious message about the direction our politicians and our society is moving. I’ve always loved bands like Midnight Oil because they haven’t shied away from making tough statements about “our world”

Who has been the biggest influence on Area 13?
I think influence is fairly well shared. In the recording process, we all had our say and there were some heated discussions but in the end I think we came up with a pretty good product.

Is there a tour planned and will you make it to Adelaide rock city?
We are having discussions about how to facilitate a tour and would love to make it to Adelaide. Nothing firm has developed yet but we are working on it. It’s somewhere I’ve always wanted go and to do it as part of promoting our music would be awesome. You’ll have to watch this space on that one.

What’s next for Area 13?
We’ve been gigging a lot since we finished the album but the process made us eager to do even better next time. We’ve started writing again and we already have some pretty cool candidates developing for the next album. Not sure when that will be but I’m certainly keen to get in and do and do it bigger and better.

Interview by Rob Lyon

For more information on Area 13 head to their official website.

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