Transformative rock band, Dirty Rascal, are injecting a fresh new sound into the Australian music landscape. Blurring the line between funk, reggae, pop and country rock, Andrew McSweeney (Midnight Hunting Crew), Jerry Speiser (Men at Work), John Fleming (Scared Weird Little Guys) and Andy Dixon take you on an emotive journey with their unique sound and soulful lyrics.
The Upside News got a chance to talk to legendary song writer, Andrew McSweeney about Dirty Rascal’s latest single release, What Would Love Do and coinciding tour, politics and motivations, what it was like working with the late great Ross Hannaford and plans for the future.
The Upside News: Thanks for taking the time to Talk with The Upside News Andrew. You’ve just kicked off the “What Would Love Do” Tour in Bendigo; how was it?
Andrew: It was good. It wasn’t a massive crowd but the people who were there really dug it, it was a good response and some people had driven a fair way to see us play which was great.
TUN: You’re all such experienced musicians, it must be nice getting to do this passion project now?
Andrew: Yeah it is, it is a lot of fun actually…. What we are doing as a band and as individuals is we’re trying to be better people, we’re trying to let go of stuff, we’re trying to let go of stuff that doesn’t serve us and bring in the stuff that does serve us and our music makes us feel good and we want other people to feel good and come to our gigs and feel good. I mean, the single we’re touring is called ‘What Would Love Do’, its like looking at all the things that are going on in the world and then coming back to that most essential thing and coming back to that as a foundation as a place of how we make our decisions, as a place of how we spend our time, that act of love.
TUN: I think that definitely comes across in this song and I resonated with it so much… where the world is at the moment, this is such a positive song to put out there to refocus peoples thoughts onto what it is that actually matters.
Andrew: Absolutely, and now more than ever we need to come back to that. If the Trump’s of the world and our politicians came back to that place then their decision making would be different. We’re going into the Federal Election, and I look at how Bill Shorten defended his Mother against the Murdoch press, that brought him back to a place of love and that’s a really powerful thing, and when a person is in that position the media cannot fight that. Because he’s not looking for a fight, he’s just talking about how he feels. It’s very powerful and if your decision making can come from that place, I don’t think it’s possible for politicians to do that but maybe they need to in the future. It’s being forced upon us to get real with what’s going on around the world. This is the climate election as they say.
TUN: One thing I find really intriguing is the balance or feminine and masculine that you talk about. Roots and rock traditionally operate within a masculine setting and performance, how do you find this project subverts these standards?
Andrew: It’s not so much our sound, but more our attitude. We do a few things with our tuning; a standard concert pitch is A440Hz and we tune what’s called A442Hz, which I’ve played with for years. People call it the tuning of the universe, or tuning of the heart and some people just call it bullshit. We try to get a laugh out of that and have some fun with it. For me it comes down to how I feel, and how these songs make me feel is the benchmark and it’s not that someone can come up and tell me that things should be a certain way, but for me playing at A442 tuning feels really good, relaxed, less stressful, it’s a great way to sing. So to start we do this. We acknowledge the country we’re on wherever we play, we feel that’s really important to do. It’s another level to connect with the land we’re on. We have a song called Self Made Man and we like people to sing along with that song. It’s an acknowledgement of the men in our lives and we ask the women in the crowd to sing it for the men in their lives, their Dad, or their brothers, uncles, whoever it is. Sing it for the masculine. And then we have another song called Finger In Between which is about the feminine and being in the power of Mother Earth. That’s the balance of the two songs in the set, and we want to acknowledge both the masculine and feminine.
TUN: I feel like there’s such a theme of you all getting to do what you want with the music here, and not take on any external driving forces; seeing all of these statements, it’s quite unique in terms of the music landscape in Australia.
Andrew: Last week we played in Bendigo, And this woman came up to us after the show and said “I need to thank you for acknowledging country, I’ve never heard a band do it and I had chills when you did that.” It’s really nice to hear that because what we’re doing in the band at the moment is really tough. It’s hard work, though we love it. All those little bits of feedback we really appreciate. And they buoy us, and keep us going.
TUN: Its such a respectful thing to do and speaks to the ethos behind the band too which is wonderful to see. This single, What Would Love Do, features guitar from the late Ross Hannaford, such an iconic musician in Australia and such a gentleman as well. So does this single take on a bit of extra meaning for you?
Andrew: Yeah it does, and it’s something that not many people have picked up on. It was a great experience having him. He was such an incredible and unique guitarist. There was nobody else like him. He was like Australia’s Keith Richards and he was so humble, such a wonderful player and a wonderful man. He ended up playing on four tracks, one we didn’t use so three are on the album and it was more written in bits and pieces that he played but it was just really cool to have him involved. We haven’t really made a big deal of it but it’s certainly, especially on this track, you can hear him all over it. It’s just that wacky style that he plays, like nobody else plays and it was an unforgettable experience to have him record, sitting there next to him and watching him play. I’m a guitarist too, and I’d wonder “How did you think to play that?” “What was that trick?” He doesn’t think at all, he just plays.
TUN: Which shows true talent and someone who’s in tune with what’s going on inside. And such an amazing experience to have. Speaking of amazing, is there any new music on the horizon outside of this tour?
Andrew: We’re older gentlemen and we do need to provide for our families and that sort of thing so our time is limited. But we do have plans set, we’ve probably got another two singles we’d like to release off this album and then we’ve already got more than half the next album written, and we’re playing it live already. So in the new year we’ll look at how we’ll start to release those tracks. We’re also adjusting our show and we find the rock and roll environment isn’t maybe the best for us. We’d like to play small intimate rooms, more of a theatre space where we can create a more intimate theme and have more of an impact. The challenges show us the direction, if that makes any sense. We have to make choices, like those pubs that want us to play until 1am and we’re knackered after 11pm, maybe we don’t play them anymore. Because we’re only just playing there to sell beer then and keep the pub open, which isn’t really what we’re about. Have you seen the film clip?
TUN: I have yeah, with the shop front and everyone writing on the windows, you all look like you’re just having such a great time on it.
Andrew: Have you ever walked a labyrinth? I love labyrinths and that’s on a friend’s property in Melbourne, just in his backyard. They’re a great thing to do and the reason we filmed at that labyrinth is that, to do a labyrinth is a form of meditation and reflection. If you can ever find one to do, it’s a process that’s very simple and gentle. There’s one way in and one way out and you can see by the mood of the clip, you’ve just got to stay the path, focus, keep walking, you’re changing direction all the time but then you get to the centre and you look up. There is a shift, it might be subtle or it could be magical, once a person has walked a labyrinth. And I walked out of the labyrinth and wrote this song, that’s when the words started to come and things started forming. And then John has this idea of doing the shop front window and they’re both in the same location, on the same property.
TUN: It’s so beautiful that it got to come full creative circle and be filmed at the same location you first imagined it.
Andrew: And the bizarre thing was as well, as we were looking at the site and I showed John the labyrinth on Google Maps, and he said “hold on a second”, and when we swung the street camera on the computer around, on the other side of the road to the shop front we spotted the film maker’s office for who we were using. It was incredible.
Dirty Rascal will be performing on the 24th May at The Wheatsheaf Hotel, supported by Laura Hill. Find tickets here.
Take a look at the new film clip to coincide the ‘What Would Love Do’ Single release and Tour.
For more information on the band visit: www.dirtyrascal.com.au/
By Sarah Burley