Indie stalwarts Even have just released their new album, Satin Returns, which is their first studio release since 2011.
Australia has managed to burn through six prime ministers in that time, however Even singer/songwriter/guitarist extraordinaire Ash Naylor explains that there were many reasons for the long wait.
“Well life has changed for all of us, really. I’ve got a family and I’ve got a whole list of other things that make me busy. Around the family and around the kids’ school activities. And my other music work, my work with Paul Kelly,” he says. “These are things that take up a lot of time but in a good way, because they give me a livelihood and a chance to live a multidimensional life.”
Even released Satin Returns on their own label, El Reno Music, which also helped the band take as much time as they needed on the release.
“Even don’t have a deadline anymore. There’s never been any panic. We actually started recording in 2014, so it took us about three and a half years to actually complete the record. And the record had been finished for over a year before it was released. We just tended to some final details and a year can go by in a flash sometimes, if you’re busy. Anyway, it’s out now and hopefully the wait between this one and the next one won’t be as long,” Ash says.
With such a long time between starting and finishing the record there is always a risk that the finished product could sound like different parts of albums taped together, but Ash credits Even’s recording process with making Satin Returns sound cohesive.
“Thankfully we didn’t have that (cohesion) issue because we recorded the bulk of the songs at the one studio,” he says. “Every drum track and every bass track, bar maybe one, was recorded at Head Gap in Thornbury so we had a uniform kind of sound to the basic tracks. And then, nine of the tracks were mixed by the same person, Michael Badger, who did what I think to be an amazing job on this record. He’s an absolute star. The way he mixed this record is just sublime.”
“And Tim Johnson and Ben Kane, who mixed the other two tracks are also good friends, close to the band and know what the band is about. So there’s only two tracks that weren’t mixed by Michael, so that gives it cohesion.”
The album is full of great songs with equally affecting lyrics, which Ash says he likes listeners to interpret to suit themselves, like with the lyrically ambiguous, gentle rocker ‘Victoria’.
“That’s the key,” he says. “Part of the intention was to not be so overt, to refer to a personality or something geographical. So I tried to keep it a little bit ambiguous, because you want to keep it open so that people can either figure you’re singing about a loved one, or a place that you love. And on this occasion, without getting even more ambiguous, it can be either.”
“I like a bit of ambiguity. Sometimes it’s nice to not be told things in songs, sometimes it’s nice to be given an impression and different songwriters have different intentions. “
And because he wants people to interpret the right lyrics, Even has printed the words to Satin Retorns on the album sleeve – mainly because he realised he’d been singing the incorrect lyrics to an REM for some 30.
“The song is ‘Begin the Begin’ off Life’s Rich Pageant. And I knew the verses, I’ve known the verses very well, but the chorus, I never knew what the words were. And you sort of phoneticise, you sing what you think the lines are, words are. And then one day you read them and you’re like, “Wow, is that what Michael Stipe’s singing?” So it was kind of cool. I think subconsciously, maybe I like the idea of clarity with the lyrics,” he says.
“Which leads me to the idea of printing the lyrics on the sleeve. This is the first time we’ve ever done that and I’m not sure why I wanted to do it this time. But I think, I don’t know, maybe there’s a thread in the songs that I felt that they’re so simple they’re almost like really basic couplets, you know?
“I don’t know why I wanted the lyrics on there, but it’s something I’ve probably done, over-analyse, is the lyrics. I just try to make it sound if it was, I want the words to flow. I don’t like words that are too jarring. And too many heavy consonants and too many concepts that are a little bit too clunky.”
Finding a title for the new album was a bit of a task, with Ash looking to the stars to find a suitable title.
“I was searching for a title and I was throwing some titles up in the air and firing them out to the band, and none of them were sort of landing. And that one just came out of the blue,” he says. “I looked up ‘Saturn Returns’, the astrological meaning of ‘Saturn Return’ and also to see if any other bands had released albums by that name, which they had. And being big glam rock fans, I thought Let’s check the word Satin, as in the fabric and make it a little bit of a pun. Sort of, almost Teenage Fan club-esque, so a little bit of a play on words.”
Satin Returns is Even’s seventh studio album, by which time often a band has progressed to the point where they have a completely different sound. However, Satin Returns represents Even’s sound journey as more circular, as Ash points out the band writes and records music in a similar fashion to when they first started out.
“Well if anything it kind of bookends them to a point because sonically it’s just the sound of the three members. We didn’t bring any extra musicians or outside sonic influences. We just played our own instruments and sang our own parts. I purposely wanted to omit the sonic options and just revert to the three-piece band,” he says.
“So to me it’s sort of, it’s more a throwback to the second EP, Ten to Forty-Six, an album whereby it’s pretty all guitar, bass and drums. That was kind of the intention of the band from the get go without getting too scientific, we’re not scientific people.”
The film clip for the aptly named opening track ‘The Opener’ is a real back-to-basics performance style clip washed over with purple. As Ash explains, the choice of colour was deliberate.
“I was trying to match the colour scheme of the album which was sort of black and pink, so that was the magic link there to the album cover. So doing a little bit of a creative link to the aesthetic of the record,” he says
The clip is also a nostalgic trip back to Even’s beginnings as a pub-playing rock band in the 90s as well.
“Yeah that was a throwback to our 90s heritage. Just playing the music, me showboating out in front of a green screen. And I didn’t realise until a few weeks later that Rage don’t play those kind of clips anymore or they tend not to, they prefer more sort of story-based clips. And I thought that was hilarious, because if I had known that before, we might have just done something more kooky. But that said, the next clip might be a little more conceptual,” Ash says.
Even is a rare breed of band that has managed to keep the same members for the entirety of their almost 25 year existence. Despite being together for almost half their lives, there is an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ vibe to the way they approach recording.
“I tried to not be a slave to technology. We tried to record as we did back in the 90s where you rehearse a song, record it pretty much in one take, and hopefully keep as much of that first take as possible,” Ash says.
“So a lot of these songs, the basic tracks are the band playing live together. So songs like ‘Falling Down’, ‘Little Piece’, ‘Victoria’; in fact, the bulk of the tracks the basic guitar, bass and drum tracks are what went down at the session and then I did the overdubs accordingly.”
“We were doing the basic tracks when the three of us were there. Which is great, because sometimes it’s just Matt and I, sometimes it’s just one of us doing an overdub. It was us trying to revert back to the way we did it when we were in our 20s and on the crest of a wave.”
September will see Even tour Satin Returns around Australia, which Ash says the band is looking forward to playing in a straight-up, classic, rock ‘n’ roll fashion.
“The only special antic that we employ is old-fashioned band turning up, band playing songs, audience having a good night, fingers crossed, you know? We are pretty old school, but I think hopefully old school becomes a novelty in itself now. In the sense that we’re traditionalists but almost by stealth, you know?” Ash says.
“We don’t have any master plan, we just play the music that we have recorded and we do our best to ensure one enjoys the night. I love seeing bands and I love being in a band, so hopefully I can have a foot in each camp, make an enjoyable night at Jive, which we haven’t played for a few years and I absolutely love Jive. I cannot wait.”
Even plays Jive on Friday September 28th. Buy tickets HERE.
Satin Returns is available to purchase from Even’s website. Purchase it HERE.