Filthy Lucre – Across The Ocean

Filthy Lucre

No doubt one of the hottest prospects coming out of Adelaide is Filthy Lucre who are releasing their debut album Mara. For a two piece they make a hell of a racket and their live show is sensational and a band to keep an eye out on in 2016 as they make their presence felt. Luke Marsh (guitar and vocals) and Ed Noble (drums and vocals) talk to Across The Ocean about working on their debut album with renowned producer Sylvia Massy.

filthy-lucre-promo

Congratulations on knocking over this album, did it feel like a labour of love or was it easier than you thought?

Ed: Both! We sacrificed a lot to make it happen, I had to sell my car to pay for the studio time and it cost us both a lot emotionally… it was a stressful time trying to sort everything out and get all of the album prep done in time.
Luke: Once we were in the studio though it was super smooth and really easy! Sylvia and the crew were amazing to work with.

Was it hard letting it go after putting so much of yourselves in to it?

Ed: Not really, Sylvia was totally in-tune with us creatively… she knew what we wanted before we even knew we wanted it! She always worked around us and our “sound” – she never tried to change anything that we did ourselves, only work out her own ways of getting it down in print to sound like “us”. We don’t really have much of an ego for ourselves and our music, we were very confident with handing over our work to her to do her thing.

Did you have a clear vision of how you wanted the album to pan out?

Luke: Well I kind of had something in mind for what we wanted… I record all of our demos at my house with gear that I’ve gathered over the years, so I found it fun trying to make the album myself and see how it turned out and trying to add little effects here and there to make it unique. Sylvia totally ran with what we wanted and came up with some great ideas and production concepts.

Were the songs mostly finished or did you improvise a little in the studio?

Ed: They were mostly finished, we tried really hard in the lead-up to polish everything but we really didn’t know what to expect as it was our first proper album and the first time we had been in a professional studio ever.

Luke: We did do a fair bit of improv on the album though, for example the title track “Mara” was all improvised late one night in the studio where we stayed up until midnight working on it, was past the engineer Ian Rickard’s clock-off time. We just got stuck into it and it came out very different to what we expected but so much better! Also the entire ending of “Feelin’ Down” was totally improvised. Ed just started going mental (as he does) and I followed, and it ended up on the record!

How influential was Sylvia Massy in the recording process?

Ed: Hugely! She gave us a new way of looking at everything – taught us a lot about putting everything together and making it all cohesive. Most of our stuff was set out in our heads but we just handed it all to her and let her take control of the production. She was easy to trust with our stuff and so great to work with!

Was it daunting going to the US and then working with a big name producer?

Ed: Absolutely… that’s all I can say!

Do you think you would have got the same results with anyone else?

Luke: We always get people asking us why we went all the way to America to record an album when we could have done it here in Australia. Obviously there are great studios and great producers in Australia but we really just wanted to get away from everything back home and focus entirely on the project and immerse ourselves in it. Besides, it’s Sylvia Massy! Who wouldn’t want to work with her in her epic museum of a studio if they had the opportunity!

Do you think the environment enhanced the sound?

Luke: Oh definitely. I think one big factor in creativity and how these things turn out overall is the environment in which they are created. Like I mentioned before, we really wanted to totally focus on the album one hundred percent so we figured going to Ashland, Oregon which is a beautiful little sanctuary completely surrounded by two massive mountain ranges, would help us close off to the rest of the world and just be “in it”. We could easily have recorded the album here for not much of a price difference and still had to work our day jobs in between sessions and deal with mundane crap all the while, but I think that would have had a very negative effect on the overall outcome. Not to mention the lack of a totally awesome studio full of vintage gear like Sylvia’s! The console we recorded on, for example, was her Neve 8038 which is the sister to Dave Grohl’s console featured in the documentary Sound City (I think Sylvia’s was in Studio B). We had to keep pinching ourselves!

What is the biggest thing you learnt working with Sylvia?

Ed: That top quality gear and the latest technologically advanced equipment doesn’t mean shit! All of Sylvia’s gear was either boutique and unique or just totally old school and vintage.

Luke: Half of her gear was broken but in the most beautiful way. Most studio owners would get that shit fixed because it has to be “perfect condition” but with Sylvia she loved those things that have grit and character! We love that as well. One of her favourite compressor units she has, nicknamed the “Army Man”, is totally broken and makes this gross distorted sound when cranked, but it handles guitars and everything so well with that bit of grit in there. It was nicknamed the Army Man because Serj from System of a Down put a little army man figurine inside it! Like I said – museum-spec studio! One of the bass cabinets as well had 6 speakers, 5 of which had holes in them! Totally unconventional but so great.

Has it got you thinking about what you might do next album?

Ed: Sylvia inspired us so much. She gave us so many new ideas and ways of thinking about our music, I think the next one will be very interesting!

Luke: all of her quirky production ideas and techniques really gave us a new perspective on the process.

How long did the process take?

Luke: We were in the studio for a whole month, six days a week. It sounded brutal at first but we couldn’t wait to get in there every day! If you count the years of lead-up to the album and the song writing, technically it took three years!

Did you have many songs that didn’t make the final cut? Will those ones, if any, make it on to something else?

Luke: Loads… we had about thirty songs or something that we add and cut over the years. Many of them very nearly made it. All the demos are saved somewhere, and bits of songs like riffs or lyrics usually jump ship to another song later on so who knows! They’re like our children, you always feel bad abandoning a new song or unfinished song!

How do you think the Filthy Lucre sound has changed?

Luke: We started out as a garage-blues rock band using only one guitar amp and basic drum kit… now we delve more into desert rock (or “stoner rock”) mixed with heavy blues and I use three amps at a time! We also added lots of weird instruments lately, such as the cigar-box guitar that we’ve kind of become known for. We didn’t do it as a gimmick or to be different, it just worked so well! It’s this little four-string handmade guitar made from an actual cigar box with one pickup, and it sounds so brutal so we just kept using it. We use it on our heaviest songs (like Boundless Plains, Hand Made, and Gotta Live etc). We also added didgeridoo to the title track Mara because I picked one up that is in the same key as the cigar box guitar, super low sounding.

Have the new songs taken on a new life since they have been recorded in rehearsals?

Ed: Definitely. I found myself sitting down for the first listen-back after mixing of each song and thinking “shit. I actually like these songs now!” We were really stressing out about the songs in the lead-up to going into the studio… worrying about tempos etc. But once it was printed and set in stone, we felt like they were finally “done”.

Are you looking forward to finally launching Mara?

Luke: Definitely. We’ve gone so long without releasing anything substantial, so it feels good to finally get an entire album out there full of the new stuff. We spent the last three years reluctantly selling the demo EP at shows, even though it totally doesn’t represent what we sound like now as we recorded that in my parent’s basement before playing our first ever show back in early 2012! That made it very hard to get shows and apply for festivals and get people to take us seriously. Now we’ve got something current and as good a quality as we could accomplish, hopefully it will push us further to new heights.

What inspired the name?

Ed: The name “Filthy Lucre” came from when we started out with the idea of being a two-piece cover band for cash on the side… Filthy Lucre is meant to mean like ‘dirty money’. We ended up canning the idea of being a cover band because we worked so well jamming and making up new stuff on the spot. That’s how we write all of our songs, it’s just a two-way conversation using instruments to talk.

Luke: We got the name for the album Mara from Buddhist teachings and discourse. I’ve studied it for some years now and one thing that stuck out was the character that turns up now and then during the story of the Buddha called Mara who is what you would probably call a ‘demon’, who tries to tempt him away from achieving enlightenment. Much of the subject matter of our songs on the album are about human evils like power and corruption and addiction etc, so it kind of fit.

What did you think when you got the masters back?

Ed: I didn’t think the songs could sound any better than what Sylvia did with the mix – but our mastering guy Maor Appelbaum just made them sound that little bit darker and more evil, which really suited the sound we were going for.

Where to from here, what’s next?

Luke: Well we’ve already started work on writing the second album! That hopefully won’t be too far away (not three years this time!). This year we are focusing on touring Europe and the U.S.A. and more of Australia and basically anywhere that we can! We’ve had good response already from Sweden, Germany, France and Spain with reviewers giving us great feedback, and it’s not even officially out yet! Fingers are crossed!

Check out http://www.filthylucre.com.au for more info about Filthy Lucre and upcoming shows

Rob Lyon

Rob Lyon

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rob Lyon has been writing about all things music for well over ten years in Adelaide clocking up more live shows each year seeing the best going round.

Whether it is rummaging through vinyl at record stores such as Clarity and Title finding hidden gems to scouring the internet to find that album by the next big thing or chasing bands to get that elusive autograph and photo his passion is music all the way.
Rob Lyon

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