[MUSIC: Interview] Dallas Frasca
No Holds Barred
By Benjamin Cooper
Dallas Frasca tells me that she’s got itchy feet – but before any potential fungal concerns arise, the Melbourne blueswoman quickly clarifies that she simply wants to tour again… Now. “We just love being on the road so bloody much,” she says. “It was actually really hard for us to stay still long enough to take the required time to make the record. Getting back in the van and catching up with the people who love our music is really exciting for us.”
The record in question is Frasca’s sophomore release Sound Painter. The twelve tracks, devised by Frasca alongside guitarist Jeff Curran and drummer Pete McDonald, represent a continuation of the snarling melodies from her 2009 debut album, Not For Love Or Money. If it seems like Frasca’s particular brand of howl wears her heart on its sleeve, it’s because it damn well does. “I’m definitely a passionate person and I really like putting myself out there in the songs,” she says. “I think all of us in the band are like that, and I reckon that honesty is something that our audience relates to.”
Frasca is unflinchingly honest in her lyrics, but that’s not to say she treats her music like a diary – there’s a massive amount of consideration that goes into the band’s songwriting. When talking about the album’s lead single ‘All My Love’, Frasca is typically frank: “That song was a bitch to get right. In many ways it felt like the benchmark of the album – it’s got that big, rocking riff running through it, and I think you can really hear the sense of momentum that the three of us are able to create,” she says. “There was a solid four months of writing that occurred here in Melbourne before we went to New York. We tracked the album over there for a week, and it was perfect timing because it felt as though we were musically peaking, as we’d spent so much time beforehand bashing the tracks out. To finally feel the culmination of all that time spent agonising over tiny bits and pieces was an absolutely huge rush.”
The band recorded at Brooklyn’s Rola Pola studios, which belong to fellow Australian Andy Baldwin, and held particular attraction for the band thanks to the vintage 1960s Fender audio gear lying around. “We don’t use any bass – it’s just Jeff and I thrashing away on our guitars – so it was absolutely necessary that we get the feel of the live energy our music creates. Thankfully Andy’s studio is pretty much perfect when it comes to nailing down those beautiful blues tones, but the gear also gives you enough of that low-down element amongst the dirty riffs,” Frasca explains.
The decision to work with Baldwin was an obvious one. Though the man himself is apparently quite an understated character, the band knew from their first meeting that their paths were inevitably intertwined. “Andy is one of those divine souls who never feels the need to dominate a room, and is always completely honest,” Frasca says. “We first met at a festival in December 2010 when he heard our band playing from a distance and hung around to have a beer after our set. Next thing we’re hanging out the entire weekend, and it wasn’t ‘till we got back to the city that someone told me that’s he’s this incredible expat producer who works with people like Björk all the time!” …Not to mention fellow Aussies including Midnight Juggernauts, The Drones, The Living End and The Cat Empire.
Frasca lucked out with the chance meeting – especially considering the otherwise tumultuous genesis of Sound Painter. After returning from a national tour in 2011, the band were waiting for their luggage at Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport when disaster struck. “I was carrying the bag with all the cash takings from our tour, and I turned around for five seconds to look for another piece of luggage. When I turned back around some asshole had nicked the cash bag from right in front of me!” Frasca laments. “It was a shitty thing to happen, there’s no denying it, but we also were not going to let it ruin our desire to finish the album. We took the theft as an opportunity to kick on with our fans – so we put out a pledge through pozible.com, requesting financial assistance to help with the remaining album costs.” It was a massive success, raising close to $5000 to help with mixing and promotion – and in payback, fans were invited to an exclusive listening party for the album in a Melbourne warehouse.
The evening brought with it a few surprises for the band as well. “Bloody Andy decided to fly out from New York to surprise us!” Frasca exclaims. “So once we’d recovered from all having coronaries at that shock, he then proceeded to be even more of a darling by whipping out the little monkey mascot from his studio, Wal, who apparently had some issues clearing customs due to being a monkey…”
But the most rewarding part of the evening was realising the importance of the music to Dallas Frasca’s fans. “When people were nominating their favourite tracks on the album, the choices were not the ones I thought of as immediately appealing or necessarily being single-worthy. But then I realised that it doesn’t matter what we think of the music any more: new connections have formed, and now the songs belong in the hearts and ears of everyone else.”
What: Sound Painter is out now on Spank Betty Records, through MGM
Where: Sandringham Hotel, Newtown / Music Oz Awards @ Sydney Opera House
When: Saturday May 5 / Tuesday May 15 – tix through the Opera House website