Backtrack By Track: The Drones – ‘Wait Long By The River…’
Ten years on from Wait Long By The River And The Bodies Of Your Enemies Will Float By, GARETH LIDDIARD* looks back on the band’s landmark second LP. Band photo by *ANDREW WATSON.
‘Shark Fin Blues’
This song is reliable like a good dog. When we, or our audience, suck, we can play this and it’s like a reset button. It was written in Collingwood over the top of a Karen Dalton banjo tune, then transplanted onto a bunch of other chords. The intro is a fudged Townes Van Zandt riff and the outro is something Rui [Pereira] improvised, and I remembered.
The title is poking fun at pop music’s penchant for repeating “baby” over and over all day long. I used one of the verses again later in a song on the next album just to see if anyone noticed and thought I was running out of ideas. Some people did, even though it was parked between a bunch of 10 minute songs with forty thousand verses each.
‘The Best You Can Believe In’
This has the most straight-forward drum beat, but all I hear in this recording is Chris [Strybosch]’s style. Contrary to popular belief, being a real musician is more style than anything. Substance is for tossers. Style is like handwriting, if anyone remembers that. Some people’s handwriting just has a certain something you recognise and you like it for that. Rui’s doing a Jimmy Page with a violin bow and Steve [Hesketh]’s outro is just right for a song as burned out and mean as this. Our early aesthetic was pretty much Mad Max’s XB Falcon Interceptor: stripped back, pissed off and fuck you. Max’s XB now resides in a Florida car museum alongside the Bat Mobile, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Kit and the Munster’s coach. Wait Long By The River… is available in shops.
We got pretty wasted before we recorded this and then improvised a bunch of weird shit and then forgot the chorus. At the end of the song on the master tapes you can hear Chris saying ?we sound like a bunch of pissed idiots? which was an epiphany of sorts. We re-recorded it years later with the missing part back in there but this version still pretty good. It has Shepard scales and synth and violin and is too depressing and strange and real for most people, which is cool. Fi [Kitschin] is playing piano and singing along. The next time she played keys was about eight years later accompanying Patti Smith at the Sydney Opera House during ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. She’s picky.
‘You Really Don’t Care’
I used an Octavia pedal in this and there’s a line asking Jimi Hendrix if he would have bothered being radical if he’d known people would have mostly been too frightened and dull to do anything except copy him. That’s a big problem in rock ?n? roll, now more than ever. Most big leaps forward in rock ?n? roll have been African American and why wouldn’t you leap forward if your past was that bad. White people have a harder time with innovation because there’s always the temptation to be fond of the good ?ole days and be retro. It’s like an opiate, just pick your favourite era and copy it. I’m not saying we didn’t ever do that but we always got some sausage in the sizzle. Or soysage at least.
‘Sitting On The Edge Of The Bed Cryin”
This sounds like it was recorded inside somebody’s head. I can actually remember Loki putting the finishing touches on the mix and both of us thinking, “what the fuck is this?”. We always could’ve done an Einst’rzende Neubauten and gone totally weird with everything but it seemed like a better idea to pervert a form from the inside out and launch a surprise attack. This is a good example of us doing that.
‘The Freedom In The Loot’
I like this one ?cause me and Rui channel our best Tony Iommi and Johnny Thunders simultaneously. And it’s about some stupid shit: The two best English words are ?love? and ?fuck.? One is noble, while the other is always useful anywhere, but their reputations are wildly dissimilar. Arts and sciences are best known for trying to glean the meaning of life. No one knows this but I am the world’s greatest artist and an amateur scientist and I reckon death gives life value by making life finite, while fucking makes it all possible in the first place and gives us something to strive for in the interim. Love just fools you into fucking and nurturing things that eventually fuck or promote being fucked. Love turns what is basically a pretty gross and weird genetic trick into our main reason to live which is one of the universe’s best jokes. This song is like not laughing at that joke.
‘Another Rousing Chorus You Idiots!!!!’
Some people say the second last song is always the dud but this is weird, evil and depressing. 5 stars!
This wraps it all up nicely and yet leaves things open for the sequel.
####The Drones celebrate the ten year anniversary of Wait Long By The River…, along with a preview of their upcoming album, at Sydney Opera House as part of Vivid LIVE on Sunday May 24. Ticket details [here](http://vividlive.sydneyoperahouse.com/program/the-drones/).