It’s been a long and inspiring journey for Adelaide musicians Andrea Murray and Jake Brookes but the best part of the voyage is just beginning.
The duo make up the core of Adelaide outfit Mantracoda and they’re about to head into the studio to finish up their latest album, Door to Amaze.
Following the recording of their EP Soundunes in 2014, Mantracoda’s new LP Door to Amaze has had a journey of its own.
The band name ‘Mantracoda’, guitarist Jake explains, is a combination of creativity and positive affirmations.
“The whole mantra thing comes from an old design my grandfather gave me when he was alive. I discovered there were mantras laced through all my songs. Most of them were positive affirmations saying ‘despite what you go through, you will come out of it and everything is going to be alright’. So all of these positive mantras were in the music anyway,” he says.
“And ‘coda’? Well that’s a beautiful thing because ‘coda’ is the alternative path you can take in music; so as a classically trained violinist, I love the coda. I fell in love with codas because it gives you a chance to create a different version of the main streams; so the idea of cruising in the mainstream but taking the coda is the path that’s least travelled. Combine that with the positive mantras and enjoying the journey and you’ve got Mantracoda.”
Producing a unique soundscape of blues, desert rock and symphonic folk, Mantracoda have hooked up with Paul Dangerfield of Dale Street Recording Studios at Port Adelaide to complete a collection of music which is both Jake’s life’s work and his new beginning with Andrea.
Andrea explains, “We’ve been working together about two years but Jake goes back a long way. I played the flute for many, many years for my own enjoyment and then I picked up the djembe and played that for about four or five years. When I got together with Jake, I started improvising and experimenting and really going in a different direction with the flute. It’s been fantastic.”
“I’ve always been in music,” Jake adds. “My dad was a musician. I grew up listening to him. I started playing classical violin and piano, played in symphony orchestras and string orchestras. Apparently that wasn’t so cool when I was in high school, so I traded my violin for a guitar and started lessons. Then I started writing my own music.”
The former front-man of Victorian band Manifest then went overseas and gained some notoriety with his music there.
“In London, I worked with the sax player who worked with Paul Simon, the drummer who worked with Ry Cooder and all these dudes who were floating around the scene. They heard a buzz about this Australian guitarist who was cruising around playing in London and I started jamming with wicked dudes over there,” Jake says.
“When I came back that just continued. I’ve always linked on with whatever’s going. I follow synchronicity and see where it’s going to take me. I have done some wicked gigs but it’s really exciting working with Andrea because we’re just taking it to a really different level. I’ve never worked with a flautist before. She flaunts her stuff when she’s a flautist,” he laughs.
Although Jake does most of the writing, he and Andrea collaborated musically on their metaphorical and literal journey along the highway.
“The thing that brought this album together is that we went on an epic road trip. We went all the way down the coastline towards Margaret River and up the west coast. We packed up a station wagon, chucked all our stuff in the back,” Jake says. “We took a recording device and, this is when we were really seriously developing our music. Some nights, we were in the middle of the Nullarbor and we’d set up the recording device. The best recording studio in the world is the desert. We started improvising, jamming and getting excited about it!”
“We didn’t have any pressures on us at all and we weren’t having an expectation of doing a gig or anything fixed,” Andrea interjects. “It was absolute freedom. We had this seemingly unending stretch of time in front of us and there was the Nullarbor and all the excitement of the stars and it was really liberating. When we listen back to some of the stuff we did, it’s great. We were only just starting to work together.”
Clearly connected by music and love, Andrea and Jake have created an album of songs that represent their continuing life expedition.
“Most of the songs are gems Jake has from the past. He’s been working on them for years,” says Andrea.
“One track took me fourteen years to write,” Jake laughs. “It’s the title track to the album. It’s over nine minutes long and it’s got many movements in it, which reflect the classical background most of us have, in a rock, contemporary folk sense. It’s very mysterious.”
“I’ve saved a whole body of work and I’ve been waiting for the right moment in time. Some of them I wrote when I was twenty years old; that was half a lifetime ago. I’ve sat on them, but this was the time, it was the moment for them to emerge and come out.”
The band sampled noises from their road-trip to include in their music, like a road train hurtling down the Nullarbor at three o’clock in the morning and waves breaking on the rocks.
Door to Amaze promises to be an adventure of sound and emotion; Mantracoda want to travel with their music and they want you to hitch a ride.
“‘Summer Song’ would have to be our favourite track on the album,” Andrea smiles. “It’s the song we wrote together and it represents the road trip, being on the highway, and the open-ended nature of all the possibilities of life and our journey. It’s got such beautiful energy. Our style encapsulates a sense of freedom and passion. It’s inspiring music.”
“We want our music to be heard throughout the world,” Jake says. “We want people to get great energy from what we’ve done. We’ve been called ‘intelligent adult contemporary kickback space lounge’ by someone recently,” he laughs.
“We’re highway journeying music with classic influences from blues to rock to jazz, folk, flamenco and even Arabic scales. It’s a sonic journey. It’s the soundtrack to people’s lives.”
Door to Amaze is set for release later this year so keep an eye out for this unique band who want to inspire and excite you.
Watch the clip for ‘Holly’ filmed by Adelaide artist and videographer Steve O’Connor:
By Libby Parker
Photos by Mantracoda