Fabulous Diamonds: ‘I Would Never Describe Us As Drone’
Calling their third LP ‘Commercial Music’ was completely serious, Jarrod Zlatic of Fabulous Diamonds tells DOUG WALLEN. That is, as long as you don’t measure 'commercial' by what’s in his bank account.
Fabulous Diamonds are often labelled a drone duo, but keyboardist Jarrod Zlatic isn’t keen on the term. And Commercial Music, his third album with singer/drummer Nisa Venerosa, is more pop-fixated than any of their previous work. So what does that mean for a band who only recently began titling their compositions and still revel in foggy repetition? It means this “clean, slick, adult-sounding” record – relatively speaking – may just be a portrait of the Melbourne duo in flux, as Zlatic says they won’t be doing any more “long instrumentals” in the future.
Why did you record at the John Curtin Hotel?
Oh, pure convenience. [Producer Mikey Young] knew the owners, so we got it for cheap. And we could set up there for three days uninterrupted, so it was quite convenient.
Were you in the band room or somewhere different?
No, it was upstairs in the band room.
Was it also that you’d played there and thought you sounded good in the room?
No, it was purely convenient. We didn’t have anywhere else. We didn’t have an alternative.
And you’re launching it there.
Yeah, well, that seemed kind of appropriate. Come full circle with it. It was conceived there, so we’re gonna give birth to it there as well.
What did Mikey bring to the record?
He has software and microphones. I mean, I don’t know how to record. He does. I couldn’t really tell you what he brought, because I don’t think he necessarily had any kind of preconceived recording style he wanted to do. It’s just about capturing the sounds. He records and I know how they want to be arranged in the best way to capture the song, so obviously we come to a halfway point. He did lots of post-production editing to the stuff, just tidying up bits and pieces.
Did you and Nisa have anything specific in mind?
I wanted to definitely make it more 3D, because the last one didn’t really have anything [extra]. No overdubs. So I went to town a little bit, putting extra sounds on there. But we didn’t go in there and say, “It has to sound like this.” You start recording and, if we’re not liking the way the drums sound, you talk about it and come to some way to make them sound the way you want them to. You don’t really know what you want until you start hearing it. It’s a gradual thing.
Were any songs jettisoned while recording?
Yeah, there was one. We recorded the vocals. We decided it was not very good and scrapped it.
Is it one you do live?
Not anymore. We did it for a little bit. We’re never, ever, ever gonna do it again. It’s a pretty cheesy tune. I don’t know what we were thinking. No one’s ever gonna hear it.
The M+N reviewer saw a balance between pop songs and more drone-y stuff on the record. Did you guys notice that dichotomy?
Sort of. I don’t really have much interest in doing that kind of longer stuff. I got bored of that. I mean, it’s pretty boring to listen to. I feel like if you’re not in the right headspace, so to speak, it can be a bit dull. I just got bored of doing those long songs. It was kind of cliché. I mean, I like them on it. But I guess I see that. It depends: the first long song [‘Inverted/Vamp’] is kind of a song; it has singing in it. It’s not like a long instrumental. But we don’t plan on doing any more long instrumentals.
But it’s still sort of a drone band, aesthetically.
I would never describe us as drone. I mean, we’re not consciously drone. I guess it’s drone-y, but I wouldn’t say it’s drone.
Well, what would you say if someone forced you to chose a one-word genre identifier?
Pop? I don’t know. Music? It sounds cheesy, but I don’t really think in those terms. It’s pop music. That’s how I would describe it.
Does that play into the title? I’m sure some people will think it’s tongue-in-cheek or completely sarcastic.
Oh, it’s not. It’s serious. It’s commercial music. Maybe it’s not necessarily what other people would conceive as being commercial, but maybe in a perfect world it might be commercial? [Laughs] I don’t know. In terms of my bank account, no. You can see it as being tongue-in-cheek, but really it’s completely serious. It’s a clean, slick, adult-sounding kind of record, for me. It’s considered. It’s commercial music.
I know Nisa does Bushwalking; what are your other things on the side?
Oh, I’ve got heaps. I’ve got Free Choice Duo, Mud Brick Couch, Safeway Café, Interzone, Demister. They’re all the active ones at the moment. As for non-active ones, I can’t remember. All those bands have things that should be coming out sooner or later. Free Choice Duo has been going for ages. We started recording an album. We kind of get bored of our material and then go in a new direction. Interzone’s meant to have a 7” coming out, and Safeway Café definitely has a 7” coming out. Mud Brick Couch has got a 7” and a tape hopefully coming out soon. Demister has a tape coming out.
Does Nisa have anything outside of Bushwalking and Fabulous Diamonds?
Not that I know of, unless she’s keeping anything secret from me.
There seems like a bitter quality to the album’s vocal songs. Are they a sort of venting about real people?
I don’t want to give away any secrets, but I guess they’re social observations about things. People. They’re not about anyone in particular. But I guess they’re bitter social observations, or kind of bleak character portraits.
Are you planning to tour beyond the two launches?
We’re tentatively doing Europe in February, but that’s not confirmed yet. Unless someone makes a really good offer, which they won’t, I don’t plan on going back to America anytime soon. Or ever. It’s just a big country and there’s a lot of people doing different things. It’s fine; it’s just so big.
What about the rest of Australia?
A couple of people from Perth got in contact with us [but] I’m leaving [in] September and Nisa’s going to India in October. I’m heading off to Europe for five or six months.
So this is the time to catch you guys.
Well, we hypothetically won’t be playing [Melbourne again] until like June or July next year.