Features

Track By Track: Soft Power

Soft Power recorded their improvised debut LP very late one night in Brisbane. It sounds at times like a West African Cluster cover band played by baboons and sung by Perry Farrell, apparently. Members JOEL STERN*, **ANDREW McLELLAN**, **SOPHIA BROUS** and *JOSHUA WATSON weigh in below.

Cover illustration: ?Smiley? by Alice Lang (2014)


?Hello Hello?

Andrew: First time listening to the record from the press. These are very sensual songs. They are very improvised obviously. Perhaps true sensuality is improvised. I feel it is complemented yet offset by Josh’s bass. That is Sex Threat. Not violence, but the tone is clearly one of lost innocence. It threatens with its sharpness and consistency coercing you into the act. In that it is alluring. It’s a needed counterweight in its own sexual adventure.

Joel: This was the first cut I heard from the session. Andrew, in advance of our gig at Sound Summit, put it together. At the time I thought there was something wrong with it. And there is. Josh’s plays bass like a thug with Alzheimer’s. This song got a lot of hits on [Free Music Archive](http://freemusicarchive.org/music/SoftPower/~/YouCameOvaSleazyHelloHello_Hello), which I never understood.

Sophia: I don’t remember recording any of these songs apart from ?When You Come Around: You Know What Happens?, which has been stuck in my head since. I am very surprised to hear myself on the rest. The session happened at about 4am in Joel’s lounge room in Brisbane sometime in 2012 after we’d been to a show … I’m not sure we thought it would ever be heard again, or released. I seem to recollect spending much of it lying on my back on the carpet between Andrew and Joel playing in each corner, singing through a small globulous metallic bug microphone that I couldn’t hear. I didn’t realise Josh was there.

This song sounds all out of time. I suspect the vocal track was knocked out of sync with the rest of the track, or maybe I am just out of time – perfectly possible. Has a nice Neubauten wonk to it. The lyrics are not a reference to the [Cat Empire song](https://www.youtube.com/watch’v=NrEvwO1F7Cw).

Josh: A lot of improvisation I had done in the past was on the violin and this was probably one of the first jams in which I played bass instead. Disco doesn’t suck, disco is cool.


?Linguine Oceans?

Andrew: Joel was very excited about the Boss Slicer pedal. I also feel because we were doing this without concern for the recording or this being printed to record, we used it to stimulate our own spirits. So very clearly the bump in tempo compared to last song allowed us to go later into the night. If you listen close, you can hear Joel and Sophie laugh at the end.

Joel: I’m really trying to do an anthem here for a certain period in Brisbane that featured lots of hot bleary nights staying in trying to make anthems for a certain period in Brisbane that featured lots of hot bleary nights staying in trying to make anthems for a certain period?. etc. I recorded everything during that time, and almost all of it I’ve never listened back too. Maybe one day? A lot of things are better left alone.

Sophia: Nice linguini groove.

Josh: This is my best bass line on the record, no doubt. I spent most of the song trying to figure out how I could move up higher without fucking everything up and I get there just before the song ends. I really like how that change closes it off. I have no clue what I’m doing; please don’t tell anyone.


?If You Come Around: You Know What Happens?

Andrew: Sophie had the words to this song stuck in our heads for a long time. We thought about making it into Q&A vocal with ?What Happens?? for a bit but I’m glad we never got around to that. It would have cheapened Sophie’s directness and charm.

Joel: We chose this as the kind of single, and asked Tim Dwyer [Horse Macgyver] to [make a video for it](/tv/4659180), as it seemed to have the deepest, most urgent feeling about it. The lyrical refrain is very compelling and I think Sophia brings amazing character to the song. Listening to it again, it hits home just how unconcerned at the time we were about anyone ever hearing this stuff. It was basically a personal ritual.

Sophia: I like this song. Chi Chi. Have plans to rerecord with Pharrell … chi chi.

Josh: Exotic predictability. The [Cyprus Hillsong](http://cyprushillsong.bandcamp.com/) theme song.


?Specific Pacific?

Andrew: This song is without Sophie or Josh. Its character is rather different to me. It has less ideas threatening to pull it apart. It’s delivered perhaps too clearly.

Joel: Let me be clear and say I have no recollection of this track ever existing. It’s calming though. Apart from when Andrew starts softly moaning.

Sophia: I’ve heard this song. I like it a lot. Sounds a little like Cluster, a little Arthur Russell … Is this [Invisible Jukebox](http://invisible-jukebox.tumblr.com/)? Is it … Soft Power? (guffaw)

Josh: Hey, this one’s pretty good!


?Wundering?

Andrew: I remember Joel’s old place in Highgate Hill and the carpet. I think I was on the carpet because I keep playing the notes, not letting go to walk away and rest my legs, as would happen with other jams. I recall Josh walked upstairs when he heard jamming happening with his bass and now he is on a record in an edition of 300. I also recall watching [Nuts in May](https://www.youtube.com/watch’v=ptugM-zad9A) and we have quoted [a song from the movie](https://www.youtube.com/watch’v=daEocG2dKCU) on the inner label of the record. Who were the strangest characters in that film?

Joel: I was standing behind a few keyboards all hooked together but not synchronised properly, and I was confused. As per usual. Again this makes me miss Brisbane and I wonder if there’s something about that house, those times, that tropical psychology, everything descending slowly, working against caring too much.

Sophia: Once again, first time hearing this. This was probably at 4:58am. Very ?lipid? and ?limpid?. Pretty rambling.

Josh: I love how I come in with that line and it just steers everything in a totally different direction. This is the sad song on the record. My girlfriend had just broken up with me that day, so it took a while for me to muster up the effort to walk up those stairs and join in. But, like, music like soothes the soul and shit, aye.


?Siren?

Andrew: This is the most broken of the songs and it breaks because Joel and Josh and Andrew are trying to match notes. Sophie is sitting this one out. No wait, she found her place.

Joel: This song is very scrambled and fragmented. Look, I don’t know what we were doing or if you’d even call it worthwhile. This is trance music for people trying to overcome a lot of scepticism about life.

Sophia: Nice velcro static to this tune. Good refracted bass line from Josh. 5:32am.

Josh: Haha, listen to me try and play along, I clearly have no idea where to take this. Being sure of yourself is boring – that’s my artistic statement.


?Finale Solution?

Andrew: This is also very broken. It’s having a difficult time being who it wants to be. Sophie is coping very well. She is threatening to break into verse. I always feel Joel has the most fun at these points.

Joel: I like the perverse lushness of all this. Sophia’s vox really make it. We are all trying to indulge a certain kind of beauty that might be ridiculous but not at that moment. I guess we were high.

Sophia: Sounds like a West African Cluster cover band, played by baboons, sung by Perry Farrell. 5:55am.

Josh: I think this is before I came up – Good thing I did too – could you imagine a record full of songs like this? It’d be fucking terrible! Just joshing! Some people say you can’t dance to Soft Power but those people just have no rhythm. One day Soft Power are gonna be in one of those shitty [?Evolution of Dance?](https://www.youtube.com/watch’v=dMH0bHeiRNg) YouTube videos.


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####?If You Come Around: You Know What Happens? is out now digitally and on limited vinyl through [All Day Breakfast Industries](http://alldaybreakfastenterprises.bandcamp.com/album/if-you-come-around-you-know-what-happens).