Interview: Custard’s David McCormack sums up everything that’s ever happened in music with The Common Touch

It was a sad day when Brisbane indie-pop weirdos Custard threw in the towel in 1999. The band behind “Music Is Crap” and “Girls Like That (Don’t Go For Guys Like Us)” brought a lot of fun and levity to music. Now, after their 2015 reunion album Come Back, All Is Forgiven, Custard is back with their new album The Common Touch. As exciting as it is to have a new Custard album in the world, singer David McCormack believes it’s the hits people want, but he doesn’t mind.

“There’s people who like us, but there’s not a whole lot of people who like us,” says McCormack. “People come and see us, then a year or two later they come and see us again. It’s probably the same, except there’s a couple of different songs.”

McCormack quickly realises how this thought might sound to others. “I’m talking it up, aren’t I?” he laughs. “I’ve got to talk it up a bit more than this. The live shows are incredible! People have compared it to Alice Cooper – there’s a lot of pyrotechnics. We do this acoustic thing where we come out into the middle of the audience like U2. If you see any of our gigs, it pretty much sums up everything that’s ever happened in music. That could be the headline: Custard sum up everything that’s ever happened in music.”

A short time has elapsed between their last album and The Common Touch, but the world has become a different and troubling place in that time. Rather than focusing on doom and gloom, this album tells listeners not to stress because, as the title of the opening track says, “In The Grand Scheme Of Things (None Of This Really Matters)”.

“Well, its true, isn’t it?” McCormack says of the song title. “We’re so tiny and we’re here for such a small time. We’re dealing with some big issues there, totally. Someone’s got to do it. We’re the only ones and we’ve got to pick up the baton and run as fast as we can in to the ever-knowing nothingness. There’s another song on there called “Armageddon”, and I feel like with the Korean Peninsula and all it’s getting a little bit hairy. I guess both of those songs have the theme of don’t get hung up on little things because who knows how long we’re going to be here. Enjoy the little things, and enjoy whatever it is that’s happening. Live not completely in the moment in an outrageously hedonistic sense, but enjoy what’s around you.”

The process of making the album reflects this attitude of stressing less and enjoying more. It began in November last year when McCormack started writing a song every day in the spare room of his Sydney home. In the spirit of not stressing, the band took a relaxed approach to recording.

“I quickly showed [guitarist Matthew Strong] what I had, and then we went in to the studio with [drummer/producer Glenn Thompson] and we knocked out a whole lot. Then Paul [Medew] flew up from Melbourne for a day and played bass. Then we all went our separate ways and did little tweaks and overdubs and edits, then Glenn mixed it, then it came out. Really, the four of us were only together making this album for one day.”

It’s a different process to the old days, where bands and various personnel would lock themselves inside the studio for two weeks, and listening to the same song repeatedly. It’s a process that can lead to disharmony, something which led to Custard’s first break-up.

“That is the risk because we spent so much time together in the 90s and it’s so lovely to see each other again, we don’t want to get into that sick-of-each-other phase again. We’re very conscious of that. Our time together is minimal, but efficient and productive.”

Whereas Come Back, All Is Forgiven was recorded live in a small room, this new relaxed method allowed for more experimenting. First single and opening track “In The Grand Scheme Of Things (None Of This Really Matters)” is as grand musically as its lyrical themes, featuring strings, trumpets, and harmonica, whereas “2000 Woman” is a fun rocker.

“Glenn also mixed the album and says it’s an old-school 70s retro album. You stick the headphones on at 10:30 at night, just before you go to sleep, and just cruise into it. All will be revealed with headphones – secrets and messages. It’s all very deep, like an onion.”

Fans will be able to hear some of those songs live as the band hit the road in support of the album. While McCormack believes audiences will be there mainly for the hits, they have been surprising him with some requests.

“It’s really, really weird” says McCormack. “There’s this song that wasn’t a single or anything called “Pinball Les”. That song was an album track from one of the albums from the mid-90s, but everyone knows the chorus at the gig, everyone sings along. So, that’s our “Champagne Supanova”. It’s nice to know that we’ve connected as a cult band on this Oasis level. From a performing point-of-view, it’s really nice to play songs people know and react to. There’s a couple of songs that make me feel like we’re in Oasis sometimes; people singing along to it. It’s so lovely. It’s a pretty good job.”

As for the future, McCormack has a few plans. There will be more Custard shows in the new year, and he’ll be lending his voice to a new animated children’s series. The important thing is he’ll do things at his own pace and appreciate everything.

“We all get hung up on [high voice], ‘Oh, what’s happening? I don’t know what’s going on!’ Then you think, ‘Jesus! Before you know it, we’re not going to be here anymore’. We’ve got to put it all in perspective.”

THE COMMON TOUCH is out now. Follow the band online here.

CUSTARD TOUR DATES 2017
November 9th | The Basement, SYDNEY (with The Stress Of Leisure)
November 10th | The Cambridge Hotel, NEWCASTLE (with Muzzy Pep)