Last week Sydney singer/songwriter Imogen Clark released her latest EP, Bastards. This is an EP that demonstrates strength and resistance, as Imogen dissects relationships that have impacted her in her journey the past few years.
Imogen was able to collaborate with some great talent on the recording. Some of those that pitched in include Eilish Gilligan, Colin Hay, Benmont Tench and Pete Thomas. Bastards was produced by Mike Bloom in LA. All-hours Zoom calls were the order of the day during the creation of this EP.
To celebrate the release, an extensive tour across many towns in NSW, Victoria and Queensland have been announced for August. The dates and links for tickets are listed below.
Fans of Joni Mitchell are also in luck. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the release of her classic album, Blue, Imogen is putting on a show at Mary’s Underground in Sydney, where she will be playing the entire album. Again, see below for ticket links.
Imogen has kindly put together a track-by-track breakdown of Bastards. So, press <PLAY> and read the background to each of the tracks on what I think is her greatest recording to date.
IMOGEN CLARK – BASTARDS EP
Forget About London
(Imogen Clark, Eilish Gilligan)
In the middle of 2019, I went through a really tough breakup and was stranded in London for the aftermath. I got swept up by this guy – I was on the rebound and found myself falling for him – but in the end, he led me on and left me heartbroken.
I came back to Australia thinking the change of scenery would help me get over it, but I couldn’t escape the now tainted memories of this romance. I walked into a writing session with Eilish Gilligan with all of this weighing me down, and we decided to write our best Taylor Swift style breakup banger.
It’s fitting that a British rock legend – Pete Thomas from Elvis Costello and the Attractions – came up with that amazing drum pattern that anchors the track. It was his favourite track to play on, and I think it was his way of apologising on behalf of London for the shit I’d gone through there.
Writing this song really helped me put all those memories in their proper place, and now I can’t wait to get back to the UK and play this song at a gig in London when that’s possible again.
(Imogen Clark, Sam Telford)
There’s no way to end a relationship without hurting somebody, even when it’s the right thing to do. Sam Telford and I wrote Casualty about holding on to something that deep down you know should be over – the sunk cost of still loving somebody when you know you can’t be with them.
It really seemed like it needed to be a duet – my first time ever having another singer come in and sing the other half of the relationship – so I called my favourite person to sing with, Timothy James Bowen, and asked him to sing it with me. We’ve written and toured together many times over the years, and as soon as he opened his mouth in the studio, I couldn’t imagine the song without him.
We were listening to a lot of jangly 90s rock when we cut this track and I think you can hear it in the way this came up. Even though it’s a kind of devastating song, it’s such a fun song to play live.
Eat You Alive
(Imogen Clark, Justin Halpin)
This song is me talking to my younger self, giving myself the advice and warnings I wish someone had given me. When Justin Halpin and I wrote it, we talked about mistakes I’ve made, disappointments I’ve let myself put up with and time I’ve wasted willing something to work when it just didn’t.
When you rationalise away what your heart and gut are telling you and let yourself get comfortable in a situation you know you don’t belong in, it eats away at you over time.
We recorded this a few weeks after my first gig back since COVID, and having my keyboardist Sarah Belkner and bass player Zoe Hauptman come in and put down those beautiful backing vocals, like a Greek chorus surrounding me on the song, it was one of my favourite moments in the recording process.
Never This Time
(Imogen Clark, Taylor Goldsmith, Jason Boesel)
Two things run in my family: anxiety and alcoholism. I’ve struggled with the former for as long as I can remember, and I’ve seen the latter ruin so many people in my life. I’ve always been scared to talk about it or write about it, but somehow Taylor Goldsmith, from my favourite band Dawes, and Jason Boesel from Rilo Kiley created such a safe space for me to confront this when we wrote together.
The heartbreaking thing about alcoholism is how it twists people you love, turns them into strangers. This song is about something I’ve learned the hard way – you can give people chance after chance, let them make promises to you and break them, but in the end, if they don’t want to change, there’s nothing you can do. You just have to cut the cord before they drag you down with them.
Having Jason’s incendiary drums on the record gives it such a cathartic energy. I had to tap into something so raw to write this song, and I think you can hear that in the finished track.
First Class Man
(Imogen Clark, Colin Hay)
When I was 14 and just getting started as a musician, I met an incredible guitarist named Glen Hannah. Glen became an instant mentor to me and was a key part of some of the biggest, most important musical milestones of my life, including the first time I played with a band and the first big crowd I ever played in front of.
Glen came on the road with me a lot towards the end of his life as the musical director of my band, and was a constant presence on the other end of a phone call when I needed advice from someone with experience and wisdom who I knew only had my best interests at heart.
In 2019, Glen lost his battle with depression, a battle I had no idea he was waging through the years we knew each other. It really goes to show that you never know what people are going through under the surface, and Glen was a classic example of the phrase “still waters run deep”. He was one of the most humble, talented, kind and generous people I knew, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about Glen and wish I could have done something to help.
When I sat down in LA pre-pandemic to write with one of my songwriting heroes Colin Hay, I knew he would be able to help me get these feelings out into a song which was proving too hard to write on my own. The song is for Glen and everyone who misses him, and I hope it reminds everyone to always check up on your friends and family if you think there’s a chance they might be hurting, because you’ll always regret it if you don’t.
I’ve been playing in bars since I was twelve years old, so I’ve spent half my life keeping my chin up in the face of every type of entitled, gross and patronising male behaviour you can come across.
Even with all the anxiety that was roiling through my veins all the time, it forced me to build up a thick skin, and recognise those same types of people as an adult when I have to deal with them in life or the music business. This song is basically a way of saying ‘Fuck you, I see through you and I don’t need you’.
It’s a reminder to never let the bastards grind you down, because being underestimated can be a powerful position. While someone is busy undervaluing your abilities, you’ll be running circles around them and they won’t know what hit them.
I wanted this song to feel like a Molotov cocktail, especially in the choruses. Having two rock icons – Pete Thomas and Benmont Tench – on the track, gives it such a powerful energy. I love closing this record and my sets with this song, leaving that energy on the stage and hopefully sending some girls in the crowd home with a fire in their bellies.
UPCOMING TOUR DATES
Friday 2nd July – 50 Years Blue – early and late shows – Mary’s Underground | Tickets HERE
Saturday 3rd July – Torch Fest – The Factory, Marrickville | Tickets HERE
Tuesday 10th August – Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle | Tickets HERE
Thursday 12th August – Black Bear Lodge | Tickets HERE
Friday 13th August – The Zoo, Fortitude Valley | Tickets HERE
Sunday 15th August – Studio 188, Ipswich, QLD | Tickets HERE
Friday 20th August – Live at the Bundy, Bundalaguah, VIC | Tickets HERE
Saturday 21st August – The Workers Club, Fitzroy, VIC | Tickets HERE
Friday 27th August – The Lansdowne, Sydney | Tickets HERE
Saturday 13th November – With Timothy James Bowen | The Barn at Wombat Flat, Neales Flat, SA | Tickets HERE
Header image credit: Daniel Boud