Inspiration comes in many forms, sometimes it’s the simple sense of finding one’s self, striking the notion of ideals and remembering there are many, MANY ways to make good music. For Andy Bull, when it came to setting out ideas for album number two, it became a case of exactly which way to proceed. In the past, it had always been about the collaboration, with a band or with the producer, keeping a strict eye on direction. This time around, it became only a little more than a one-man production.
Keep On Running is the new single from Andy Bull, an artist rejuvenated and enlivened; refusing nostalgic restrictions and as he coins it on this song, no longer swimming in the sea of approval.
“I had this thought that if you try to swim in a "sea of approval", you can't stay afloat forever. All the other words flowed along behind that idea and that’s what drove the song, the parts, everything. I played some big warm analogue synth and guitars parts, but tried to keep it all pretty simple. I avoided big reverbs and stuff that would make it seem too lofty or impersonal. I didn't want to polish it, because it’s a song about feeling like a trash bag. It was all written and recorded in one day. In fact, most of it was recorded at the moment it was improvised.”
"After a few years in the wild" as Andy puts it, Keep on Running emerges brilliantly from the expectant silence, deftly sidestepping any assumptions created by 2010's acclaimed stand-alone release, The Phantom Pains EP. There is no doubt the voice remains – loudly and proudly – that of the Andy Bull we know and love, the one duetting with Lisa Mitchell on radio-hit ‘Dog’ or the one subtly reinventing Tears For Fears’ ‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World’ for triple j’s Like A Version. But the sonic landscape which the song inhabits is something different, albeit extraordinary.
He’s always admired the pop auteurs, the likes of Todd Rundgren, Prince, Shuggie Otis and more recently James Blake, Joseph Mount (Metronomy), David Longstreth (Dirty Projectors) and even Kevin Parker (Tame Impala) have provided a mixed bag of inspiration for him and the little worlds in which they bury themselves has always been appealing.
“This is the first time I've released a song that I've produced just on my own, so that gives stuff a certain character because its layer on layer of one person's instincts. It’s often practically challenging to work this way, because you have multiple roles to play - like you have to be creator and editor, but also it’s quite liberating because you can run a long way with an idea. It takes some confidence and patience, but I'm really happy to be doing it this way, and just completely thrilled to be part of what I consider to be a kind of golden musical age of accessibility and participation.”
As 2013 begins to unfold, Keep on Running throws the door of opportunity wide open for Andy Bull. He is no longer constricted within sanction of others; while he knows he is on a dubious quest, he just can't seem to help himself and the tangible sense that he may end up exactly where he wants to be.
In 2009, Sydney singer-songwriter Andy Bull released his impressive debut album We’re Too Young; a sprawling, imaginative collection of songs that earned him critical acclaim and the reputation amongst his contemporaries as Australia’s “songwriter’s songwriter”.
Less than a year after releasing his debut, Andy has returned with the Phantom Pains EP a 6-track EP that casually defies the conventions he established for himself on his first release. Recording the EP in a single room with no separation between instruments, Andy and his long time producer Tony Buchen have discarded many of the formalities of the studio in favour of a raw sound that speaks to the vulnerability implicit in Andy’s lyrics. Phantom Pains may prove to be Bull’s musical coming-of-age. “A lot of the things I used to be very concerned with, musically and personally, started to fall away, and continue to fall away, like a period of correction. I guess I like this idea of a necessary correction” says Bull, who’s elegant lyrics reveal a surprising melancholia, as on the title track, a story about a man who cuts off his own hands to atone for a shameful past, or ‘Dog’, a song about killing a menacing dog who silently stalks him, (a song which also happens to feature the haunting vocal flourishes of his old touring buddy Lisa Mitchell).
The Phantom Pains EP is Andy’s most personal and exciting work thus far, and his musical contemporaries seem to agree, judging by the impressive list of friends who stopped by his house while he was recording it just to ‘do their bit’ and be a part of it all - a list that includes luminaries Lisa Mitchell, Little Red, Adrian Deutsch, Hungry Kids of Hungary and Deep Sea Arcade (whose bassist Nick Weaver and drummer Carlos Adura have become Bull’s rhythm section). “I can’t believe my luck; it all just sort of happened.” says Bull.