Track By Track: The Laurels
Some philosophical mantras and self-help tips masquerading as a “track by track” by PIERS CORNELIUS and LUKE O’FARRELL from Sydney’s The Laurels.
Piers: The power of the fluid. Water makes up a large percentage of your body and brain, so it's best to live like it. If you flow enough, eventually you can even wear away (a heart of) stone. Bruce Lee once said the best way to know oneself is to study oneself in action with another person, which is essentially what this song is about. We sped this song up from how we used to play it live so hopefully it comes across like a carefree dolphin bursting through waves while surfing, rather than a slow moving tidal bore. Kate [Wilson's] drums sound like they have sea water slowly rising around them with ocean spray leaping off every cymbal hit and Luke's guitar in the verses sounds like a pod of whales. The "oooh ooh ooh" sections are inspired by New Order's 'Temptation' (another clue for y'all), but more insipid. What's the chorus all about? A love story called Harold and Maude.
‘Changing The Timeline’
Luke: People can sometimes let their thoughts define them, there's a seemingly eternal struggle to remain grounded in the present. You can long to change the past or daydream about the future, so this song is just a reminder that all we have is now. I guess it was written during a period where I was engulfed in thought, so I can see how it might come across as self-deprecating. We are by-products of experiential learning, every experience is a lesson whether it's good or bad. Our experiences are what shape us as people, it's how we develop our understanding of the world and adapt to changing circumstances. It's important to remain mindful of that and to keep moving with the natural flow of life. It always takes us ages to tune up for this live, three strings are tuned to D and the other three to A. We've got [Sydney musician] Jasper Fenton helping us out at shows now, although he currently does not own a tuner, so it's still proven difficult. It's just nice seeing his smiling face side of stage while we are playing.
‘Traversing The Universe’
Piers: This track was intended to sound like Sly Stone sipping on a cup of mushroom tea before walking out his front door (or the gaping hole in his wall), on his way to meet up with John and George from The Beatles. They had planned to spend the night together staring up at the stars (Sirius in particular), but Sly never made it out of the house. Instead he stayed home and listened to Spiritualized, even going so far as to look up the meaning of that word in his dictionary. Our producer Liam told us that the outro harmonies reminded him of the song from The Neverending Story, and I suppose he was on the right track. Anthroposophy. Conor [Hannan's] bass on this has more swagger than a young (50-year-old) Mick Jagger, and Kate's drums near the end remind me of fireworks going off. The track time was supposed to run for 4.20 as a tribute to Douglas Adams, but in true comic style the mastering fade out cut it to 4.19. Good joke Douglas! Do I always do the right thing? Nah, but I do like “Spike Lee Joints”.
‘This City Is Coming Down’
Luke: This is about daydreaming in transit to work, staring out the train window wishing you weren't about to spend eight hours doing mind numbingly boring tasks. I think it's increasingly understood that humans should be exploring themselves on a deeper level, rather than getting caught up in what society has come to expect of them. The idea of conformity is drilled into you from an early age and then it just becomes routine, authorities establish boundaries that are adhered to without question. The majority of the population spend their whole lives chasing ideals that are no longer relevant when we have this wealth of knowledge at our fingertips. Most people are too sceptical or scared to look deeper, but there are so many ways to access a far more intricate understanding of the universe.
Bill Hicks said, "True nature is spirit, not body", that's basically what the song is trying to say. Conor's bass playing is definitely the highlight for me! Our friend said it reminded him of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but we were going for Blur or Pavement. Maybe it’s more Frusciante than Coxon? Have I just put that idea into everyone's heads? I hope not, I hate John Frusciante! That's not true, I just hate Anthony Kiedis.
Piers: The silent observer. Sometimes when all the questions accumulate and weigh you down it can feel like you're moving towards the truth as slowly as a glacier. Chill! We all get to the same place in the end. Luke and I used lots of clean, icy sounding guitars on this song to make room for the menacing bass and driving drums. I like to think [legendary producer] Martin Hannett would have been proud. We also stacked on lots of vocal harmonies to make it sound as monolithic as we could. Nothin' like a glacier to make you feel insignificant. The arpeggiated guitar in the right speaker was meant to sound like Chris Isaak ripping off Roy Orbison. We know what you're doing Chris! In dreams, a glacier can represent your emotional well being or eternity.
Luke: This pretty much sums up what happened to me when I was made redundant at my last job. The company secretly began outsourcing the entire office to New Zealand, gradually cutting shifts without giving any reasons to their employees, sacking us all over the phone a few weeks later. The song is essentially a "fuck you" to the notion of employment, I just found how management handled the situation despicable. Predictably, I didn't have any savings and decided to throw away what little money I had the ensuing weekend. It's a weird cycle of escapism that people have developed to come to terms with what they do during the working week. I'm kind of worried that the message of the song might be misinterpreted as an ode to getting shit-faced, mainly because I slur the words incoherently. It's the total opposite, it's pushing people to grow out of that pattern.
To be fair, I just stayed home and smoked a lot of pot while I was unemployed, so I guess I can't really preach to anybody. We just wanted it to sound like something off Revolver, so it's all major chords and backwards guitars that are drenched with compression. I really like Kate's drums in the outro too, the song breaks free from that chugging rhythm - which is kind of reminiscent of a Nurofen kicking in after you've woken up with a terrible hangover. Conor might be able to shed some more light on that topic!
Piers: During the Mesozoic Era, the Earth was ruled by reptiles and the temperature fluctuated greatly. On average though, it was hotter than it is today. It was a time of significant evolutionary activity and the super continent Pangaea also broke up into separate land masses. This song is essentially about falling in love with a dinosaur and watching a relationship go extinct when people begin to drift apart and refuse to adapt to new situations. It's structure is repetitive and laborious, similar to relationships that don't work out. It is also an exploration on people whose creativity only seems to flow when they purposefully put themselves in positions that cause them grief. It should always be flowing! Conor's bass playing and Kate's drums remind me of a dinosaur sauntering along, while Luke's guitar sounds like one that has collapsed on the ground, writhing in agony after its heart has been broken. My favourite dinosaur is the Stegosaurus because of it's defence mechanisms and the spikes/barbs in its tail (which should explain the reasoning behind the harsh outro to this song). Stegosaurus also had poor posture and a small brain.
‘One Step Forward (Two Steps Back)’
Luke: It's about being conditioned into a certain way of thinking, relying on something that has no real foundations and that isn't grounded in reality. I lived in a daydream world for years, and this song is really just me coming to terms with the situation and teaching myself to view things objectively. I guess it's about how much love has the potential to fuck with rationality, so in that sense it's quite a personal song. We wanted to make it sound like Ed Kuepper had written a song with The Beatles: really gritty, punchy guitars, but taming the ferocity of the instrumentation and lyrics with the etherealness of the melody and harmonies. There's this weird mellotron kind of thing that comes in during the breakdown which is actually a guitar loop that was cut up and played on the pads of a sampler - I'm hoping we can experiment more with that sort of stuff on the next record!
‘Sway Me Down Gently’
Luke: We really wanted to keep this stripped-back and bare because we'd been listening to a lot of Neil Young, particularly Zuma. Conor even bought a Zuma shirt before we went away! (He also trialled a new hat and sunglasses while we were in Wollombi, NSW) Liam brought his beautiful ’60s Guild hollowbody with him, we tracked a rhythm and lead guitar using that and then overdubbed a very subtly bowed acoustic guitar. Kate had grand plans to put vibraslap on there too (see Calexico's ‘Ballad of Cable Hogue’), but unfortunately the one she brought with her was broken. The performance is pretty loose, but we wanted to keep it that way so it had that groggy Crazy Horse feel to it. It's one of the older songs on the record, it was written while Piers and I were living in a shitty little apartment next to the train line in Marrickville about three or four years ago. I used to take diazepam so I could sleep through the diesel trains rumbling past the window at two thirty in the morning, so essentially it's just another song about escapism.
Piers: This song is about arriving at a place where right or wrong don't exist and no one is better than anyone else. Exploring inner- and outer-space along the way leads you to the realisation that you are not your thoughts but rather the observer of them, which results in quite a change by the time you come to the end of your journey. The outro/ending attempts to demonstrate this transformation by sounding completely different to the rest of the song, even though it is essentially made up of all the same notes and riffs as the chorus. Everything can change shape. Someone told me recently that I think too deeply about things, but you have to capture the good thoughts and focus on them if you want to manifest anything. The best evidence of this is the last section of the song which is about UFOs and meditation. It was written quite a few years before Luke and I first spotted a UFO from our futon in the backyard. Disclosure. Like most things, exploration is easiest to accomplish when sitting down. As Riley Martin said, "If you think that you are alone in this universe or that you are the guardians of this universe, then you are rudely mistaken."