Track by Track: Brisbane’s Concrete Surfers take a deep dive into their Calamities EP

Concrete Surfers

Brisbane rockers Concrete Surfers today dropped their latest EP, Calamities, a well-crafted four-track collection of high-octane surf-rock. With grungy vocals, a driving beat and songs addressing issues that relate to the youth of Australia, it’s another winner from the boys from Brisbane. They live-tracked the EP, capturing the energy of their renowned live shows. It’s rowdy, it’s honest and it’s high-energy. There are tracks on this record that we can all resonate with.

The EP was recorded at Airlock Studios in Brisbane and produced by Paul McKercher (Ball Park Music, You Am I, Eskimo Joe, Pete Murray, The Vines, Tumbleweed).

To celebrate the release of the EP, the band has put together a track-by-track breakdown.  So crank up the volume, take the load off and have a read of the background to each of the tracks. The boys have gone into considerable detail, so it’s well worth a read. As an added bonus, there is an insight into the three videos that have been created, so fire them up as well.

 

Calamities from Concrete Surfers – track by track

“Driving”

The song is basically about finding solace doing a certain thing when life is throwing you some curveballs. In this instance, I found comfort in driving as I had gotten my license and gotten my first car from my instructor (1990 Camry wagon was the bee’s knees I think about that old beast every day) and it just gave me the ability to go anywhere which is what I needed at the time!

I had the guitar riff and verse lyrics written when I showed it to the guys. I was unsure what meaning or direction was going to take but we all jammed on it and stripped it back and it came together really quickly which is nice because it can take a while to get a solid idea down at times! The chorus and bridge parts came really naturally and it was fun to do some different things in regards to timing in the chorus which made the overall songwriting process really energetic and enjoyable.

We actually recorded the entire EP completely live with no click which is something we have been itching to do since the songs were written. Paul McKercher really understood the sound we wanted to encapsulate in the recordings and it made the sessions flow really nicely. As a band, we put a lot of time into rehearsal and we wanted to capture that feeling in the record and I believe we managed to pull that off which is great!

When we do videos we like to take certain elements of the song and create a narrative that isn’t directly related to the meaning of the lyrics. It’s a fun way to make the song engaging and listen to it through a different lens. The video follows the story of this character played by our friend Jack that thinks that cyclists need to pay rego to use the roads and becomes irate when he receives an overdue rego notice in the mail. He then makes it his mission to cause havoc to cyclists throughout Brisbane. Concrete Surfers act as superhero cyclists that need to stop this character from doing any more harm to bike riders and restore peace to Brisbane city.

We filmed the video across two days with our friend Max Gerard Beech directing and Matisse Langbein as camera operator. We had to get creative in some shots as shooting from a car proved more difficult than anticipated but we figured some workarounds like using two cars and working with different angles to compose the shot properly. It was good to film outdoors for the majority of the clip as Brisbane is such a beautiful city and we wanted to capture that in the video. The green screen stuff was really fun to do as we haven’t done that before either, but we realised that Sean’s costume was green too which blends with the green screen. We decided to leave it as we didn’t want people to take the video too seriously as it’s supposed to be comedic and lighthearted. We really enjoy thinking outside of the box with our videos and straying from the ‘textbook’ ideas that should accompany the music. Overall we had a blast filming it, especially doing Mainies on our push bikes, in tight lycra around Brisbane and seeing peoples reactions.

“Eat The Rich”

“Eat The Rich” sort of stemmed at the beginning of COVID lockdowns in Australia. Just to see the lack of overall government support for industries such as tourism, music and arts and hospitality made me angry that as a country that is quite wealthy couldn’t give transparent support to industries that contribute so heavily to the economy. So it’s a bit of a fuck you really and do better.

The lyrics, rhythm guitar and bass were all written as separate ideas for other songs and I realised that instrumentally the guitar and bass would work quite well together. The bridge chord progression came from another demo that was written a little while ago but the song wasn’t quite strong enough to warrant recording; reduce, reuse, recycle. The vocal melody was really challenging for me to write as I wanted dynamics between the verse and chorus but in the end I just figured I would belt the whole thing as it sat nicely with my voice and the message of the song.

We normally double-track our vocals to give a nice stereo spread, but we decided to use a single track in the verses to help the choruses expand and I think it was pretty effective! In terms of vocal production, Paul had set up a SHURE SM7B which world really well for me as I’m quite a loud singer, in conjunction with a SHURE green bullet as a character mic. The Character Mic was really neat as it added a unique flair that would be difficult to replicate with plug-ins as it’s such a unique sound!

Sean suggested the idea of doing a ‘yacht rock’ film clip one time after rehearsal and we kept the idea in the memory bank until the right song came around. When Eat The Rich was recorded it seemed like a no brainer to us to use that concept as the video! We were searching for months trying to source a yacht or a bigger boat to hire but we couldn’t really afford it so that’s when we decided to use little fishing tinnies. As a whole I think it actually helped convey the message of the song with the video just being one big piss-take on wealth disposition really. We got the inspiration to wear white suits from Fantasy Island, Step Brothers and Duran Duran film clips; And it’s just something we wanted to wear because we thought it was funny.

We realised that we were going to need two boats in order to get the angles we wanted (Cinematic and not just stationary) so our friend Nic who plays in Hot Reno was happy to lend his boat and drive it for the cinematographer Harley Jones. We also needed a camera stabilizer as the boats were pretty rocky in the water. It was actually the easiest video we have ever shot; I think we were filming for around 3 hours total and as it’s mainly a performance video we didn’t have to keep a narrative in the back of our minds!

“Cricket”

Cricket is about how Scott Morrison attempted to deflect the attention on the 2019/2020 bushfire crisis in Australia towards the summer cricket season. I was outraged when I heard of this happening as it placed the disaster second to a sporting event which just makes no sense at all. Politicians need to be held accountable for their actions and under this government, they seem to get away with so much scot-free.

The song came together really quickly and pretty much wrote itself! The lyrics and chord progression were finished in 2-3 days and I think the whole song was finished in around 1-2 weeks which is pretty fast for us! I think it just was one of those songs that I needed to write so we didn’t really get hung up on any parts and we knew when it was done and didn’t need any more tweaking.

This was the only song on the record that we recorded to a click due to its slower tempo. We mapped a click to speed up slightly in the chorus for more energy and turned the click off in the last part of the song as we wanted the wheels to fall off a bit. Trent used a Hollowbody bass too for this one to give it a more rounded sound which really worked for it! This was the only song that didn’t have any guitar layers too. We tried not to layer too many instruments as we want the record to feel really live and what you could expect from a live show.

“Friends”

Friends is about somebody facing an inner conflict between partying and sobriety in addition to addressing toxic situations and environments. The song isn’t about anybody in particular but once I started writing the song it just came together so quickly that I must have been subconsciously thinking about it for a long time! I wanted to include a greek mythology reference that I’ve always liked (A pillar of salt) depicting that this character the song is based around is trying to clean themselves up and wanting to get out of the environment they’re in.

Myself (Jovi) and Sean were mucking around after practice one night and I jumped on the bass and wrote this bassline out of nowhere. Next practice I showed Trent and he really liked it. The chorus was already written by me so it was just a matter of putting all the parts together! This one happened super organically and made it a really fun and energetic song to write.

We lost so many hours in the studio the day we were supposed to record this song for the EP. Paul’s flight got delayed and we had to pick him up from the Gold Coast which took 5 hours return in peak hour but once we got back to the studio we got stuck in and smashed out a live take that we were happy with in maybe 3 takes? That’s all we had time for that day because of the fuck around but I think it added to the energy of the session anyway. During the mixing sessions with Paul we struck the idea to make the bridge really saturated and blown out which we thought was cool. I was listening to heaps of Ty Segall’s record ‘Melted’ and thought it would be a cool sound to replicate somewhat.

 

Justin Stewart Cotta

Calamities is out now on all digital platforms. You can give the band a follow on Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | WebsiteYouTube

Bruce Baker

Probably riding my bike, taking photos and/or at a gig. Insta: @bruce_a_baker

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