10 Apr Husky – Ruckers Hill /// OUT NOW
The second half of 2013 was a period of feverish song writing for Husky Gawenda. The result of that time of intense creativity is Ruckers Hill, the second album for the much loved band, Husky.
While the songs sometimes came in a rush, there were times when Gawenda had to search for inspiration in the most unlikely places. He would walk around his local neighbourhood in Melbourne’s Collingwood and down to the Merri Creek recording snippets of ideas and poems and word plays on his phone. He borrowed a 1970’s Hermes portable typewriter from his father, the renowned Melbourne journalist Michael Gawenda, to try and make the ideas come.
At one stage he would drop into a Smith Street café every morning for coffee and while there he would read Leonard Cohen’s 1966 novel Beautiful Losers in tiny portions. The café had it in its bookshelf; he would take it out, read a page or two and put it back for the next morning.
The record took a long time to make, through 2013 and into this year. There were those periods of intensely creative songwriting but there were also times when the writing came slowly. “The first album was hard but this was really hard. Albums are difficult to make.”
“I was alone some of the time, but a lot of the time I had Gideon (keys and co- producer) working with me, testing, re-arranging, and being brutally honest about what he thought worked and what didn’t.’’
So here it is. Ruckers Hill, named after a spot in Northcote, Melbourne. The band have a new drummer – Arron Light – but Husky (vocals, guitar), his cousin Gideon Preiss (keyboards) and Evan Tweedie (bass guitar) remain.
Gideon, Evan and Husky and later Arron, worked on the songs, refining and deepening their sound and their resonance. The feel of Ruckers Hill came from
playing live so often and always wanting the show to be bigger and better and bolder. “We wanted songs that would take the show to another level.”
So how does it sound? Ruckers Hill is a sophisticated record that is both delicate and tender – as we have come to expect – but also has an endearing simplicity and keen sense of fun. At a base level, it is great to sing along with. At a critical level it is a record that advances Husky’s songwriting and the band’s musicianship to dynamic new levels, where both the small beauties of a life and the universal wonders of that same life are documented. Gawenda says the songs are less burdened with detail (even though he acknowledges that as one of the band’s trademarks). He says the songs are more in the moment and more immediate.
Ruckers Hill is a little different to Forever So, the adored, breakthrough debut album of 2012. But this is Husky. It’s still Husky. It is still a very particular sound that only they could create: that sense of classic song writing after an adolescence filled with America, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, George Harrison, Simon & Garfunkel and Leonard Cohen records and infused with a very exact lyrical expertise.
And so we have songs like the title track and album opener named for a spot in Northcote where Gawenda used to live and where he remembers the city looking pretty in the distance with a particular girl on his arm. It’s a song about memory and identity, like much of the album.
Or try the psychedelic Heartbeat, name checking Johanna Beach on Victoria’s ruggedest coast, where a road trip’s journey toward the unknown becomes a meditation on the traveller’s inner landscape. Fats Domino takes the listener right into the detail of a writer’s wonderings, into his days and nights. And then Saint Joan which is a search for the redemptive power of love.
The wonderful song Deep Sky Diver – so tender as to mirror Nick Drake – was written about a close friend who was troubled. “We are always in the end, alone,” he says, “trying to reach each other.” Gawenda wrote the song after Gideon played him Love Me Tender by Elvis. “I’d heard it a hundred times obviously, but I’d never really listened. So beautiful, so simple, so perfect.”
Ruckers Hill was mixed by Phil Ek (Fleet Foxes, The Shins, Band of Horses) except for the single I’m Not Coming Back which was mixed by Peter Katis (The National). It was produced by Gawenda and bandmate (and cousin) Gideon Preiss except for a clutch of songs co-produced over many sessions with storied Sydney producer Wayne Connolly.
Recording was done in several Melbourne and Sydney studios but also at Gawenda’s home in Collingwood and at a place called Echidna Studios on Melbourne’s semi-rural fringe.
“It was a simple studio, in a beautiful spot in the hills overlooking the Yarra Valley, with Fella the dog and two goats roaming around the garden. We dreamed the record into life out there’’ Gawenda said.