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Feature Interview: Simon Jones 'The Holidays'

The Holidays

AAA Backstage’s Navarone Farrell caught up with Simon from The Holidays to talk about their upcoming album set for release early next year.

You’ve traveled a lot recording for the new album, why’s that?

It was good, we kind of—it was more like… when we finished touring for the first album, we were in London for a month or two, and the rest of the band went home, and I did a bit of a sojourn around Europe, staying in different places and writing in like Berlin and Paris and stuff like that. I was trying to get a feel for what we were gonna do next, so I ended up sitting alone in apartments in cool cities for a while. That was part of it, which was cool, you know, Berlin’s an awesome city to write in. Stuff like that. And obviously bits and pieces… I came back and we worked on bits, adding to the picture. It was quite a long process. I went on holidays to Japan in between, writing when I was there, I think the way we make records is so disjointed and collagey. We had guitar bits that were recorded in Berlin a year and a half ago, bits that we did in studio, bits we did in Melbourne, bits we did in Sydney, it’s kind of all over the place. It all comes together as one. It’s the way I like to do it. I can’t do the old-school thing of just sitting down and writing and then going to the studio and recording it. I have to experiment over a long period of time.

Tell me about how you write, not the traditional format of just locking yourself away clearly?

Oh… I do sometimes just lock myself away… but when it comes to writing these days, like, I used to just sit there with an acoustic guitar and just write classic style, but I find it hard to do. I just find it really uninteresting. And once you’ve written a lot of songs, you find your fingers go to the same place. You’ve got to find ways to get out of your own box. The idea of going and sitting in a room and coming out with an album, it works for some people, but it doesn’t necessarily work for me. I get too frustrated. I have these tricks… almost like little challenges to get me writing good stuff. Kind of set up ways of working that add to the creativity of the process. I have systems that I use to make myself write and a lot of it’s based around… I’ll find a beat I like to get the juices flowing, then a particular sound I like, or an instrument that I haven’t used much before, like a weird synth or something like that. It’s not even so much about the sound, it’s just taking yourself out of your comfort zone and you end up coming up with a good lyric or a good melody, something while you’re screwing around, that’s how a song happens. Like I said, I can’t sit there with an acoustic anymore.

How did environmental aspects of your travel affect your frame of mind for writing?

I think a big part of writing for me, especially this album, because this album is really environmental sounding—in my head—things like that, and imagery, it helps me… what’s the best way to explain this… if I think of a sound, I think of it in terms of imagery, and the crazy shit in Japan, like bullet trains, and the mass of people, and those sorts of things. It’s really helpful if you’re sitting there working on music or whatever, and get this sound, or something that kind of gives you this feeling, and if you start to imagine those sorts of scenes, you kind of drift off a bit, and I find that that helps me write. Especially lyrics. Lyric writing is such a weird thing, I don’t know a person that sits there with a piece of paper and writes lyrics. I find… the best thing I ever heard, was, “Try and sing to the feeling, not to the meaning,” and I think that works really well for me, if I have this sound or… or this song and I’m thinking about these distant imagines in my mind, I can word out lyrics. And they will be that feeling. And I think that’s what this album is, it’s this collage of scenes and images that come together, and when you finish the song, you think, ‘Hang on, this makes sense meaning-wise as well,’ but yeah, I’m trying to paint pictures.

The film clip for Voices Drifting is cool, how did you come up with the concept for that?

A friend of mine, Will Mansfield, is a video-artist, and he’s really into concept kind of things. Just simple concept things, he does installations and stuff like that. We were talking about it, I just that a lot of video clips have lots of bad acting and they’re just trying to tell a story in three minutes with no dialogue, it’s hard, and like, we’ve done those clips in the past, and been like… it’s a bit whatever. So I’d rather do something that’s a bit weird, even if it’s just one shot. So he said, “How about you sing the song underwater?” So I went… “Righto,” and trained to hold my breath for quite a while. We didn’t really know if it was going to work or not, we were thinking, ‘Are people gonna be bored watching one shot of my face for three minutes?’ And then we did it in one take, the thing that we didn’t think about it was that me being underwater isn’t the main thing, it’s me struggling for breath and the pain on my face that gets worse as the clip goes on and the anxiety builds, and worked out perfectly. It wasn’t even something that we’d considered beforehand. I really like it, it’s just simple. I think we’ll aim for that in the future, just one simple thing done well. It wasn’t fun to make, it wasn’t fun to hold my breath underwater like that, but it was just so easy really when you think about it.

You’ve got the east coast tour next month, what can fans expect—hopefully a further taste of the new album?

Yeah, we’re gonna try and do quite a lot actually. It’s tough hearing new stuff live in a noisy club, but I think we’ll do a few old songs, but I wanna try to get these new ones fleshed out live. We’ve never played them before, so it’ll be fun. I wanna see how it feels and how it’s different. We’ve been rehearsing a lot lately, and some of them are coming out really good. It will be a slightly different experience.

The album is dropping early next year?

Yeah, it’s more or less finished, we’re just mixing everything at the moment. Just scheduling-wise, it probably won’t be until early next year.

As far as scenes go, Sydney isn’t really known for its indie music, how did that affect your initial slog as a band?

That’s funny isn’t it. Sydney isn’t really known for anything. When we started there was a bit of a scene you know, there were bands like Mercy Arms and Ghostwood that were kicking around when we started, there were some good bands. I’m sure there’s good music in Sydney, but it doesn’t feel like there’s a scene definitely not like the indie scene in Melbourne or the Bris-rock scene. We’re not really part of any scene. When you start out you really wanna be part of a scene, but there wasn’t anything… it’s weird.

Any advice you can offer to young musicians?

Umm… I’ve had this question a few times in the past, I think umm… the only good advice I could give anyone in a band, is make music you like. Not the music you think you should be making. Your only prowess as a song-writer or as a musician, is your own taste. Your own taste is good and you like it, that really comes through a lot stronger than trying to manufacture something you think people will like, or Triple J will like, or something like that. It’s really… I’ve personally spent time… you write the songs you like, then people say, “What’s the single, what about radio-length,” and you start to second-guess and go, ‘Well, hang on is it gonna be played on radio, is it a radio song,’ it does your head in you know, do what you like! Because, it’s hard sometimes, if there’s any negativity around it, or is like, ‘This is the formula you have to do,’ so it makes it hard to stick up for your own stuff, cos you can’t just go, “My shit’s awesome,” yanno, but if you really stick to your guns you won’t be disappointed.

 

 

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