Track by Track: Kilns take us through their debut album You Can Bet Your House on Me

Last month Melbourne indie-rockers Kilns released their beautiful debut album “You Can Bet Your House on Me”. 

It’s an album that regularly visits themes of relationships, their fragility but is also joyous. Guitars riff and vocals soar with some sweet harmonies. There is also some sweet humour in there as well. It’s hard to believe these guys have produced such a polished album after only eighteen months together.

To celebrate the release, we have a stream of the album for you, and an exclusive track-by-track description written by each of the band members. It’s a fascinating read, with the affection that the foursome have for each shining brightly.

 

 

D  = Davey Noordhoff (Drums)
J   = James McGuffie (Guitar, Vocals)
M = Mickey Cooper (Vocals, Guitar)
S  = Sam Swain (Bass) 

‘Brain on Fire’

M: This was the first thing I wrote for Kilns when Davey and I were still figuring out what kind of band we were going to be. We hadn’t played music together for a little while, and the first time we worked on this song we hit all the same accents in the same spots. At the end of it we just started laughing. It was like putting on a favourite jacket again and finding 20 bucks in the pocket. 

S: Always a dream to play live. Mainly cause it’s heaps easy on bass and I just play as hard as I can while Dave goes crazy. 

J: First song from Coops’ original batch that I felt I could really step into. I was new to electric guitar back then and wasn’t used to thinking of guitar parts for songs, but with this one I could hear what the song needed so I fumbled around the fretboard and the pedalboard until the sounds in my head came out of my amplifier. 

D: This song was a real challenge for me as a drummer who usually meticulously plans their approach to a song. For the most part Brain On Fire doesn’t really have a beat, it’s just four to the floor and everything else is up for grabs. 

‘Go Slowly’

S: First Kilns song that really felt like it sounded like the band, not just like Mickey Cooper with drums. Mad bass riffs throughout although I play it way tighter live actually. 

D: To me, Go Slowly was the song through which we really started to find our feet as a band. I’d never played with Sam or James before Kilns and I think it was about this time we started having those rehearsal room nods like, “hey, I think I know what you’re gonna do next…” 

J: Had a really vibey day shooting the video for this one upstairs at Swainy’s old studio. It was a sunny May day and we each set up in a corner of this old, pretty naked room for the shoot. From my corner I had a window view that led down Ruckers Hill and across the city so between *smiling at Swainy and **staring deeply into Dave’s eyes, I spent much of the day gazing out at that sweet scene (*Director’s instructions **No instructions necessary.) 

M: A song that seemed to have an undeniable momentum and energy, right from the start. It’s partly a dreamy story about following a stingray out into the ocean, partly a song about refiguring relationships. James always told me he didn’t know how to play electric guitar, then when he came up with that wailing guitar riff in the outro we were all like yeah ok, who let Slash into the studio? 

‘Alka-Seltzer’

S: Always loved this song. Still not sure I completely understand it musically. Always felt like it existed in a limbo between familiar and unknown. 

M: Probably my favourite song on the album. One of those ones that you start writing and then realise that the song knows what it’s doing way more than you do. I like how patiently it gets to where it’s going and how cathartic it feels when it gets there. 

J: The start always makes me think of a car accident. I see ambulances and fire trucks and hospital beds. None of that has anything to do with the lyrics… but the imagery feels right for the music. 

D: I often think of Something For Kate when I think of Alka-Seltzer. Partly because the song fluctuates between being kind of jarring in parts and kind of pretty in others. Also Sam’s bass playing, like Steph from Something For Kate is badass in this song too! 

‘The House We Lived In’

J: I love stepping into Mickey’s brain with this one. This is some OG Mickey Cooper songwriting that hits me hard every time. I love what this song does to the energy in the room at our shows. 

D: Kid Sam’s one and only album is my favourite Australian album of all time and I was definitely thinking about the intimacy and the way your attention is drawn to the narrative on that record when approaching THWLI. Some of my favourite lyrics from the album are in this song. I think we fleshed it out in about twenty minutes and then recorded it the next week. That drum groove just fell out the first time Mickey played the song to me and I never thought it could be anything else. 

M: I love the drums on this. We always get so many comments about how much of a force of nature Davey is on the skins—which he is—but this song showcases his musical touch and understanding of what a song requires so well. The simplicity of the single snare/floor hit before the last chorus kills me. 

S: Best song on the album. Really, really, really… pretty good. 

‘Split’

J: Have to change basically every pedal on my pedalboard for this one when we play it live, and Coops usually runs out of banter when I’m halfway through tinkering (cue “you better be ready, I’m counting us in” eyes being sent my way). First 30 seconds of this song is always a blur for me because I’m usually trying to work out which pedal I forgot to turn on or off. 

M: Took a while to think of this song as anything more than a throwaway ditty. It’s definitely the one that gets people’s shoulders moving the most at gigs. Bass is killer. 

S: Only time this particular bass was used on the record. Random modern jazz bass thing that I tried to make sound like a double bass cause my bass’s output jack had just decided to unsolder itself. 

D: My favorite thing about playing Split live is that I know Mickey will turn to me at some stage with a big smile on his face and we’ll share a look that to me says, “I’m glad you’re here with me”. 

‘So Close’

S: Super strong and confident with some interesting chords/bass moments. 

M: Written in a single-car trip between Melbourne and Geelong. Sam heard the chorus in a completely different harmonic way and his bass part gives the song another level of tension and payoff. 

J: So Queen. This is the fun one with the big three-part harmonies. We’re not quite ready for the falsetto Galileos and Figaros, but I still think Swainy jumping on the mic is magnifico-o-o-o. 

D: I love the three-part harmonies on this song. It makes me wish I could sing more good. 

‘Pinky Finger’

D: This was the only song on the record which had its own dedicated recording session and I think it shows in the attention to detail. Particularly love our little nod to Crowded House in the bridge and the way the song opens up for the last chorus. 

S: Actually probably the best song we’ve done. Only tune to be in-and-out, totally recorded in one day. And I think you can hear that – bit of a magic hour vibe, everything in its right place moment. 

J: Such a strong song. For me this is the best we’ve collaborated so far as a band. There was a real synchronicity when we all jumped in on this one for the first time. Still feels just as good every time we play it. 

M: Obsession, anxiety, hallucinations, and the capacity for the brain to turn against itself in a myriad of ways. This was probably the first song where everybody came to the table with such clarity in their own parts, and how they wanted to contribute to the song. James’ guitar playing in particular is so, so smart and good. 

‘Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday’

S: Bloody fun to play live. Dave can never remember the kick pattern in the chorus so I have to watch his leg to see what he’s gonna do. 

D: The groove of this song is so sweet to lock in to, even if I can’t always remember the kick drum pattern. I always loved James’ guitar line in the pre-chorus and the bridge. 

M: I realised driving to the studio on the day we recorded this that I’d forgotten to write the lyrics for the second pre-chorus. There was a huge smoke haze over Melbourne that day from CFA controlled fires on Mt. Dandenong, so I wrote it about that. Davey and I grew up out there so it’s a nice little hometown reference. 

J: Genuinely thought Coops wrote this song about the fact this his birthday is really close to Christmas. 

‘How Far Back’

M: Very fun and very exhausting to play. Whiskey required. This song felt like it fell out of the sky and I was kind of just in the area when it landed. It’s all heartbreak and harmonies and Davey hitting the drums really, really hard. 

D: There’s something about the words for HFB and the way the chords sit with me that really stirs my emotions. When we play it live, everything that I’ve been going through in that week / month / year always spills out in the last stanza. Usually I’m wound up pretty tight and when we play this song I unwind myself through my ride cymbal and I lay into it as hard as I possibly can – it’s a really cathartic experience for me. 

S: A little further back I can tell you that much. First Kilns demo I remember hearing. Last bit speeds up like crazy which is pretty mad. 

J: Love locking in like Neil and Tim on this one. Such a vibey chorus and outro, some nights I wish it was about 4x longer. 

‘Risk’

D: I think we jammed on this song one time before recording it. It’s often the one that people mention after a show. I think it’s the simplicity and the directness of the message that people connect with; it is for me too. 

S: Actually probably the best song on the record. Very moving. Always forget how to play it on bass too. 

M: Written the night before a day in the studio and recorded that day. For my Grandma Cooper. 

J: One of the most beautiful messages on the record. I don’t know how this song lands on other people, but for me it’s really uplifting. Love is totally worth the risk.

 

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