Track by Track: Pinch Hitter
NICK VAN BREDA* and *DAVE DRAYTON depart from their punk past somewhat with their Sydney banjo duo Pinch Hitter. They take us through their debut album, from typewriter percussion to a shameless Beatles rip-off.
Instrumentals are hardly something either of us have had experience with, let alone instrumentals with no time signature. We really wanted the opening track to begin the album’s sonic narrative and introduce some of the melodic themes that carry the album from start to finish. It was a big moment for us in the studio when we had a drummer come in to play on it. Up until that moment, we’d only recorded with two banjos and vocals. As soon as he started to play, we realised we were entering uncharted waters and the album’s overall sound started to take shape.
?Nine to Fine?
This is one of the first songs we ever wrote and the only song on the album recorded in a different session. It’s essentially a slacker anthem disguised as a pop song. Dave is one of the allegedly lucky people who has the luxury of working from home. By his own admission, his daily commute from his home to his home is still as gruelling and soul-destroying as a peak-hour Sydney train.
?They Said This Would Stop?
Remember when you were a teenager and packed as many bottles of whatever you could scrounge into a backpack, fed your parents a plausible story and wandered into the suburban wilderness in search of love, trouble and excitement? Remember how you were paralysed with fear and pubescent anxiety that would stand firmly in the way of you feeling comfortable during any of it? Dave and I do and, to be honest, not a whole lot has changed. We recorded this using a typewriter for percussion and a bed of vocals to fill the space between the banjos and bass guitar.
?So Much for the Road?
We’ve both played in bands for years, which means we’ve seen our fair share of our nation’s highways from the back of a tour van. Anyone who’s done the same knows just how fulfilling and memorable those little moments that happen along the way can be. They also know just how horrible and soul-destroying it can be. Now that we tour mostly as a duo, it makes sense to fly to places these days. Whilst we love that it only takes an hour to get to Melbourne, we do miss the type of fun that can only be had while driving interstate. The song features Matt Blackman, who’s made some of our favourite albums with bands such as [Charge Group](/search/?q=Charge+Group) and [Purplene](/articles/7046), and having him in the studio was quite the experience. Dave and I had to try really hard not to let our inner fanboy break through our studio poker faces while he was laying down his vocal track.
This song offers part of the backstory to the death of the friend. Picking up where ?Part I? left off, the song is based around a reversed piano from the opening track and details bumping into an old friend in a suburban shopping centre. With minimal banjo and distorted vocals, this song provides a fitting close to the first side of the album.
Years ago, before Pinch Hitter was a band, but after Nick had purchased a banjo, he sent through this really nice little looped banjo part he had recorded. But the best part about it was a little percussive loop he’d made using the sounds of a cassette player underneath it. When the time came to record ?Body Clocks? in a way that expanded what it was on the demo, the idea of the percussive cassette loop came back around. We’d hoped that when you hear kind of hiss and start to roll, it’d be a really cool way to start the second side of the record. There’s also an alarm clock in there that sounds like it has been lifted straight out of Disney.
?All of a Sudden?
This was one of the last tracks we finished writing for the album and it felt like the real culmination of what we were trying to do with this (admittedly absurd) ?[American Football](http://americanfootball.bandcamp.com/) on banjos? thing. Nick and I joke that this is just the best [zzzounds](http://zzzounds.bandcamp.com/) song ever written, as it follows the same formula (a pretty pronounced A and B section, where the latter is ridiculously epic) AND I don’t sing. There are other people singing on this though, and that was lovely. We had this line that made us feel like Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code – ?Everything’s matter, everything matters? – and we really wanted it to soar, to be absolutely belted. And the only person better than Ginger Alford for that was [Jen Buxton](http://jenbuxton.bandcamp.com/), who very kindly came in and gave a hair-raising, spine-tingling wail over it. The only way to counter that was some equally epic low end, so Nick wrangled Jai Courtney in to bellow with just as much class as Jen.
I’m quite certain this is the only song I have recorded that has flute on it – that is a fact. Nick’s sister laid it down and did a fantastic job of it; the high trill got us one step closer to being Dr Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
If the flute on the last track got us one step closer, this track was our shameless, all-out [?A Day in the Life?](http://www.youtube.com/watch’v=P-Q9D4dcYng) homage/shameless rip-off. Once we’d established how we were going to orchestrate ?All of a Sudden?, this song became less of a pipedream and more of a calamitous reality. I think there’s three drum takes laid over the top of each other (featuring a dog food bowl, music stand and a bunch of other random shit) alongside at least one track from every other song on the album. I like the idea of it as a slightly uncomfortable, overwhelming palate cleanser; you get bombarded by everything that’s come before all at once, before witnessing the aftermath. It’s the musical equivalent of the accident.
This was one of the earlier songs we wrote, and it rather rapidly established itself as a pretty miserable song. The hypothetical loss of a close friend spurred the lyrics on and in some ways managed to be vague enough that the story seems to resonate. This has been a really interesting song to perform live, and one that people seem to really connect with, and that made recording it all the more stressful. We were unsure whether to keep it barebones, as it had always been when played live (quite raw with just two banjos and Nick singing) or to use the album as an opportunity to take the song somewhere else. There was a lot of trial and error (some horrible drums that turned into a Train B-side come to mind) but in the end I think we managed to get the balance right and maintain the mood of the song which has, I think, been the crux of it this whole time.
The piano in the second verse sounds lovely, and I feel I can say that because Nick played it, not me, so I don’t feel too sheepish. But what he played sounds very nice.
##?When Friends Die in Accidents? is out now on vinyl, CD and digital through [Microphone & Loudpeaker](http://pinchhitter.bandcamp.com/album/when-friends-die-in-accidents). National tour dates below, all with Lincoln LeFevre supporting.
Wed, Nov 19 – Beatdisc, Sydney, NSW [w/Free Boots]
Thurs, Nov 20 – Lass O’Gowrie, Newcastle, NSW [w/Jen Buxton + Shelby Clements]
Fri, Nov 21 – Black Wire Records, Sydney, NSW [w/The Shadow League + Isaac Graham]
Sat, Nov 22 – Upstairs 199, Brisbane, QLD [w/Kate Woodhouse + We Set Sail]
Sun, Nov 23 – Zierholz @ UC, Canberra, ACT [w/The Smith Street Band]
Wed, Nov 26 – Brisbane Hotel, Hobart, TAS [w/Alex Hinds]
Thurs, Nov 27 – Gunners Arms, Launceston, TAS [w/Isaac Brown]
Fri, Nov 28 – Blue Bee, Adelaide, SA [w/Ben David + Bec Stevens]
Sat, Nov 29 – The Reverence Hotel, Melbourne, VIC [w/Jamie Hay]
Sun, Nov 30 – The Milk Bar, Melbourne, VIC [w/Lucy Wilson]