Track by Track: Clio Renner guides us through her debut album Nothing Breaks, Nothing Mends

Clio Renner

Melbourne-based and multi-talented Clio Renner’s debut album Nothing Breaks, Nothing Mends is out and making waves.

The pianist, vocalist and songwriter has produced an impressive collection of alternative indie-pop tracks that delve into the truth of Renner’s life right now, exploring her thoughts, inner-dialogue and the people in her life.

Having worked with a slew of Australia’s most notable acts, including Angus and Julia Stone, Bob Evans and Alex Lahey, Renner’s abilities have been well realised over the years. The release of Nothing Breaks, Nothing Mends affirms this, cementing her talents in musical archive form, with Renner centre stage.

Downbeat pop and sombre track ‘Silly Girls’ sees Renner combine beautiful layered harmonies with her own heartening thoughts “Darling keep those eyes dry, we’re here to lend a hand/ Now I’m coming down from where you think you have me”.

Meanwhile the album’s namesake track ‘Nothing Breaks Nothing Mends’ mixes gospel-like backing vocals with hypnotic drumbeats, giving a perfect taster for what else is in store.

Heralding eleven songs with stand-outs like “Losing Time” and the beautiful, “Collide”, Nothing Breaks, Nothing Mends is Renner firmly emerging from the shadows as her own musician.

Read on as Clio Renner takes us through her track-by-track songwriting and recording experience.

I wanted there to be something thematic across the record, because stylistically it can get ‘confusing’ at times. The last song on the album, which I’ll get to, is the basis of that theme. There are interludes between songs that hint at the chord progression, and this opening prelude is another interpretation of that piece, written and performed by Xani Colac. She based her composition off these weird scratchy loops, which I loved, and ended up using at the end of the record too. The idea is that you can play the album on a loop and it sounds continuous.

Nothing Breaks Nothing Mends
I’d been playing this song with the band for about a year before we recorded it, which sort of made it difficult to approach from a production mind-set. You know, I used to just play what felt right in the moment. There’s something reminiscently early 2000’s about this and I can’t put my fingers on what it is. The syncopated synth and guitar part in the verse for some reason takes me there. Brian’s reverse guitar solo is a ripper, I don’t know how he managed to follow the harmonic progression so well, thinking backward. The portamento moog lines are pretty silly – I just didn’t want the album to start too grimly, it gets there by the end.

Silly Girls
This was the first single from the album, and I got to record the whole thing at Sing Sing Recoding Studios which was great. There’s a song-writing faux-pas at the end, in that the last chorus doesn’t have a lead melody, it’s just block harmony. I like the big choral sound. It’s a bit heartening, and brings in the key change with a kick. It was really nice to have Hannah Cameron sing BVs on this, we’ve done a lot together musically over the years.

A song about avoiding all things confrontational! Lawrence Folvig co-produced and played a lot on this song. The layered guitars are extraordinary, and the bass line pokes out at times in such a flirty way. A few of the BVs were inspired by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant, from their record ‘Raising Sand’, a real favourite of mine.

I have a friend who is a bit stuck in her life, and can’t seem to move forward in some basic human ways. I feel desperate for her as she lives with a lot of fear. This song is a wish for her way out. Vibe we were going for here was Crowded House ‘Into Temptation’, and Lawrence’s baritone guitar intro still makes me cry.

Slow Burn
‘I figured you’d make no one else bright eyed…’ is one of my favourite lyrics on the album. Though the story isn’t written from my perspective, I think the sentiment we can all tap into- feeling left behind. Block harmonies are again, a strong focus and work well, I think, against the fragile lead vocal delivery. Brian’s contribution to the BV parts across the record bring an incredible depth.

Losing Time
This song is a very frustrated inner dialogue about just being ok, bear what’s there and ‘turn to the grin’. The demo was very piano led, hinting at Fiona Apple aggression, and I love how we took Tamara Murphy’s bass line and made that the main riff for the guitars too. It’s wild. Lawrence’s guitar/organy soundscapes that ebb and flow throughout are also magic.

My imagination was really holding onto the idea that the harmonies in the bridge should sound like those wobbly choirs from old musicals, or Disney films. I thought we could use a Chamberlin to create something similar, but it ended up just sounding better au natural. As things often do.

She Plays Music
Another song writing faux-pas in this, rhyming a word with the same word. But it’s kind of what I was going for! The sound of the harmonium is quite refreshing, because it’s so acoustic compared to the rest of the record. The introduction gives the listener a space to breathe, and also hints, once again, at the theme of the record harmonically. I don’t think anyone would pick that up on first listen. The song is basically about not feeling like you’re good enough, but getting on with it anyway.

To the Wind
I think this is my favourite song on the album, and the last one written too. Brian co-produced, and we spent a bit of time getting it right. Unlike the other tracks, I didn’t actually have a reference point, so really we were working from scratch. Treading the line constantly between gritty, but not taking it away from pop realm. The layered moog and guitars almost chant the bass part, there’s something grounding about it. And the collection of BVs at the end are really exciting!

Keep Her Steady
This one was produced right in the middle of lockdown, Brian says he can remember the smell of the room at the time. I think that will be this year for so many of us, our memories marked so tangibly. Like the harmonium, the acoustic guitar part brings a warming acoustic timbre, and the introduction just feels settled, or something. It definitely has a ‘Carrie and Lowell’ flavour.

Taking Words from Peoples’ Mouths that Don’t Belong to Me
I set myself a challenge to write something through-composed, which means to have no repeated sections. It was cool to not have to think about a hook or a riff or something that a listener needs, and it allowed me access to better lyrics.

Nothing Breaks, Nothing Mends is out now and can be purchased HERE

You can connect with Clio Renner on Facebook and Instagram

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