Features

Track By Track: Brighter Later

JAYE KRANZ self-produced ?The Wolves?, the first album by her project-turned-band Brighter Later, in the former church she calls home. The process involved plenty of happy accidents, special guests and overall thoughtfulness.


?All the World?

?It’s in the way you say my name??

Sometimes you realise later that a song hangs on a sound. Your ears learn to wait for it. The autoharp on this chorus is like that for me. It’s as if it splits the song open when it runs the length of it strings. Maybe it did the same for the record. It was the first song to be fully tracked and it came out nothing like we expected. We were taking a song-by-song approach as far as how the album would sound, and when this song went the way it did, it opened up the sonic spectrum for the rest of the album. It set a kind of production style in motion too. One of the fuzz guitar parts was played through a miniature Radio Shack speaker. The drum machine was an old Rhythm King recorded in Austin, TX. That swirly E-bow on the outro is played on Brendan Finn’s handmade resonator. He made the guitar entirely from parts he found in a Melbourne junkyard. He’d never made a guitar before. But it didn’t sound like junk!

This song is all start-stop. When you don’t want to start something, but secretly you know it’s too late. It’s already started.


?The Woods?

?Up in the woods it’s never late…?

This was a lot of fun to track. The sheer quantity of overdubs, though, spelt the end for my trusty old eight-year old PC. I think it was the picnic-forks percussion part (3:30) that sent it over the edge. They were 1960s ones from an op shop in Lismore, NSW, which was the town where [bandmate] Virginia Bott and I first met a good few years ago. That seemed like a good enough reason to have a piece of Lismore in there.

There’s a lot in this song to do with coming out of hibernation. I have no idea how it feels for a bear, but for us it can be hard! It took the longest to mix, as we suspected it might. It was like the mix had to be coaxed too. We wanted to keep it cohesive despite all the parts and changes that draw the ear in different directions. It was worth it though, hearing it come into its own on the last day. We never thought we’d keep that high strings part at the end of the instrumental (at 4:04). It seemed so cheesy. But we got attached to it, called it ?Burt? (for [Burt B](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burt_Bacharach) of course) and cranked it up in the mix!


?All the Great Lakes?

?What wouldn’t you do??

I wrote this song while I was reading a biography of the late Townes Van Zandt. To say he took risks is an understatement. It got me thinking a lot about that idea that we can never know what we have in us. I like to think we are all more than we can know and that’s what I wanted the production on this song to allude to. The closeness of that which we know. The vastness of that which we never will. The absurdly talented Shane O’Mara came in towards the end with his trusty lap steel and laid down a beautiful slide part. When I stacked his takes and picked out the parts that worked together, it sounded like a deep string section.


?Come and Go?

?And soon, we are young…?

We mixed The Wolves at Andy Stewart’s beautiful studio, The Mill, in South Gippsland. It’s a mixing studio, but also it’s full of guitars, old organs, photos of Neil Young’s ranch, logs hauled in from the shoreline, Andy’s dog Rupert and a drum kit. This was the only song that had something added to it at The Mill. It was almost there, but the choruses weren’t sitting right. They were missing something. That was perfect for the verses, which needed to feel emptier, like an absence. But the choruses needed to feel like you’re flush with someone, or with a feeling. Andy, who’s also a drummer, got on his kit and nearly blew my ears apart. He compressed the hell out of it and turned it way down, but it brought the song home.


?Magnolia?

?Is it the things we steal or the places we kneel…?

I came into possession of an Optigan not long ago. An obscure Mattel instrument from the ?70s that was like an early sampler. When it came to recording the keyboard/vibraphone part for this song, which is so central to it, I was kicking myself for having sold it. I had to settle with a sampled version of a Mellotron instead. Still, the sample retained that beautiful and strange ?breath? that those instruments seem to have. They kind of heave. We could have cleaned that ?noise? up in the mix, but that air around it felt really important. It’s something we tried to retain on the whole record. The space around things. The clunky bits. The marks. This is a love song, after all.


?Slow Roller?

?C’mon, there’s always two ways home??

There were a couple of songs which we never planned to have on the album but found there way on there. This was one of them. Virginia and I decided to track it anyway, to have a recorded version of the song. Cameron Potts played that rolling drum part with his hands. What we tracked was a very different song to what you hear on the record. It was a lot straighter.

When it came time to lay down the main guitar part, I confused the open tuning and recorded it in the wrong key accidently. So the bass and keys were in one key and my guitar was in another. It changed everything. That’s how the song took a turn, with the vocal very low and the whole thing kind of a bit … bent. The key change towards the end is where we decided to let the song move back into its ?original? key. Doing that gave a lift to the whole song at the second chorus. The journey of the song was one of those good bad mistakes. But somehow, it speaks more to the story behind the song. When I was in the Snowy Mountains one summer, I’d heard about a girl who’d died there the winter before. She was walking back to her lodge on a clear day. Then, too quickly, the clouds rolled in and she lost her way.


?Satellite?

?I don’t need to know what makes it last…?

Some songs on the album are more earth-bound. This song, like ?Long Way Home?, needed to track along the sky, up in the ether somewhere. The baritone guitar part that comes in at 1:14 holds the song on its course. But I like how the overall timing and Virginia’s bass line threatens to throw it out of orbit into a spin. Those little delayed mandolin pulses make me think of lights in the sky appearing and disappearing. This was another love song. For a muse.


?Another Day?

?Waiting on the turning of a sphere…?

Someone once told me that when the earth turns, it makes a sound; it emits a certain frequency. I’ve read different ideas about what that frequency is but I imagine, either way, that it’s very low. When tracking this, somehow I wanted the song to feel and sound like the earth turning. A tall order, I know, but I tried to find a tiny glimpse of that.

Simon Bailey from [Pony Face](/articles/4508608) came over one evening and played his dreamy guitar swells over the Rhodes bed. He’d just bought this enormous new rig that he lugged in for the occasion. It survived the church’s dodgy wiring, which sends some amps to their knees. Watching Simon at his pedal-board is pure mystery. It was special to have him play on the record, not just because he’s a beautiful player, but because he feels part of the fabric of The Wolves somehow. There were a few people, and he was one of them, that gave us the heart and encouragement to finish the album when the recording almost slowed to a halt. Thank you Simon!


?Long Way Home?

?It’s a long way home??

I wrote this while I was reading *[The Secret Life of Birds](http://www.penguin.com.au/products/9780141034768/secret-life-birds-who-they-are-and-what-they-do) by Colin Tudge. I started with the chapter on migration, which has always intrigued me. I think it was the Artic Tern that won my heart. In the course of a lifetime, some will have traversed the equivalent of the moon and back and then halfway back again. That’s a long way.

This song is close to our hearts and it felt right that we got a live take of this one. There are a few overdubs but essentially it was recorded one night in the church. Shane O’Mara lent some more of his slide magic. His parts sound like scraps of wind to me. Maybe that’s what a flyway sounds like to an Arctic Tern..


?Holy Water?

?The winter in my eyes??

This was one of the few tracks we’d already demoed a while ago. We decided we needed to try a different take on the song. While Cameron Potts was in the studio laying drums on the other tracks, and [Casey Rice](/articles/3875654) was around to engineer them, we jammed this with a full drum part and Alex Landragin on electric piano. I went to town adding some ?80s guitar stylings over the top. We got really excited about it.

Then I heard it back a week later and realised it sounded like The Love Boat [[theme](http://www.youtube.com/watch’v=m_wFEB4Oxlo)]. So we went back to the bare bones. It had never been played on an acoustic guitar before, but the nylon was a surprise fit. In the end, it bookended the album well to strip back to so little. It also seemed to speak to the essence of the song. To us, the whole album weaves so many parts and places and ideas, but then here it trails into a single line, a single idea.


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####?The Wolves? is out now [independently](http://gagadigi.bandcamp.com/album/the-wolves). Read Anthony Carew’s [review](/releases/2001192). Brighter Later will support Aluka on their album launch this Friday (May 3) at Northcote Uniting Church in Melbourne, and will support Martha Wainwright on the first six dates of her May/June [tour](http://www.gaynorcrawford.com/ontour/martha-wainwright).