Interview: Jack Bourke on City Calm Down’s ambitious run of touring with Echoes in Blue during the Aussie winter

City Calm Down‘s huge jaunt across Australia is set to kick off next week in Brisbane, with the Melbourne heroes’ new record Echoes in Blue ready and primed to be introduced to fans nationwide in all its glory. The international market has been loving the album too and as we were able to see in the UK recently, the hype surrounding the band hasn’t died down any since their last trip out.

We caught up with Jack Bourke while at The Great Escape to find out how the band is preparing for their homecoming tour, and how Echoes in Blue came together off the back of a monumental amount of work surrounding In a Restless House.

This is the start of a pretty epic jaunt for you. You’ve got shows all over the country and then you’re heading back to Australia to do shows all over the country there.

Yeah, it’s gonna be a frantic … What is it? Sort of six, eight weeks? Something like that. Easily the most we’ve ever tried to cram into a two month period, which is exciting.

It must be, because the new album’s been in the works for so long and you’ve got … it’s just been out for a few weeks, really. It must be nice that you’re able to start the cycle, and get Echoes out in to the world, and actually see the response.

Yeah, exactly. I think to us, it felt like a long time between records, but then it also didn’t in a way, because it took In a Restless House quite a while to gain any traction. By the time we were hitting the end of that cycle, we were almost I think 50, 60, 70% of the way through writing Echoes in Blue. It’s kind of all just blurred into one, but these upcoming shows will be the first time we’ve been able to play the songs off the record, to people who’ve had the record.

We do play songs here and there, whilst we’re writing, before the record comes out, but you never really get to actually sink your teeth into a lot of them.

It’s going to be interesting see what songs, I suppose, resonate more with the fans than others?

We did an album launch show in Melbourne the day the record came out, which was really good to do. We just played the record from start to finish; you can sort of immediately get a sense of which new songs people haven’t heard before, really listened to that much, and what they’re gravitating towards.

I mean, at an event like that, it’s album release, you’re playing songs live for the first time, that must have been a nerve-wracking experience, to kind of get those songs right that you hadn’t really played live before.

Yeah, it’s always daunting playing something for the first time, particularly in that setting, where we were playing five or six songs for the first time because you can … you hit a snag on one of them, then you’re kind of going, “Oh, shit. All right. How’s this going to go?” But it all seemed to work.

How did that compare to when you released your last record and when you were going down that road, you know? Was it treading familiar waters?

Kind of. I think the last record allowed us to really see the value in, you know, having guys playing horns with us; just being able to recreate the music live, which is what we’ve always wanted to do. It took us a bit of a while to get a feel for that on the first record. Whereas this time, we knew exactly, I guess, what we were doing.

You get better at doing things, the longer you do them, so we were just a bit more experienced with how we were going to put the live show together. So it’s been more streamlined, I guess. Hasn’t necessarily been easier. The songs are a bit more complicated to perform live, but we’ve known what we wanted to achieve from the get-go, whereas there was a lot of stuffing around last time, as to how we were going to get the record sounding the way we wanted it to sound on stage.

So you get the 50 to 60% of the record done by the time you’re even finished with the last album cycle. Getting that last 40% across the line, talk me through a little bit about that process, when you were able to step away from everything and just focus on making that record.

It’s funny because you go through bursts where you might write, say, three or four songs that are really appropriate, or that you really love, that you want to release on an album. Then you might write another 10 that follow that, that you don’t want to release. It’s sort of, writing music is a volume game in many respects. You’ve just got to write tons and tons of material. Although we were 60% of the way through there, we had five or six songs that ended up being on the record, getting those last four is really, really tricky.

I remember we were doing Falls Festival, we were doing that right around New Year’s, and we had, I think, a show on the 29th and then the next one was on the 30th, and I was going back home to my studio in Melbourne, to try and finish writing songs, because we were going into the studio end of January and we had to do pre-production before that. It was really right at the end of that year, we were trying to wrap up all the songs.

I remember, I’d been working on this idea for quite a long time and wasn’t really getting anywhere with it, and then that day, when I came back – I think it was between the Tasmania show and the Lorne show –  I wrote the start of what ended up being the last song on the record. Not in the sequencing of the tracks, but the last song we wrote for the record, called “Decision Fatigue”. I think when we wrote that, we felt like we had the record done, which was a real weight off our shoulders, because having a deadline really helps, but then you’ve got to meet your deadline. It makes you work, but you just tie yourself up in knots.

When you’re starting with these projects, you don’t have those deadlines. You’re just figuring it out and making it up as you go along.

Yeah, that’s right. It’s funny, in a way. You put the deadline in, and all of a sudden, you start writing a lot more stuff to try and really get the most out of that, say, three or four month period, and that can feel like you’re wasting a lot of time.

It’s a funny one with song writing, because you can write songs that you really like, but that aren’t just going to be appropriate. Can be really deflating when you’ve spent all this time on a song and you really like it and then you’re like, “Oh, it’s just not going to really fit,” but you’ve got to go through that. There’s no way to bypass that.

No, and you never know what will come of that material later, anyway.

Yeah, exactly.

[You might] release it as a B side or for a future record, or bits and pieces end up finding their way into a different song altogether.

Yeah, getting stitched together. It’s funny you mention that, because when we were writing the first record, there’s a section on one of the tracks of the second record, Pride, that we were originally writing into “Rabbit Run”. It wasn’t really working and we were doing this live pre-production session with Malcolm, and we cut that section from it and sort of rearranged the song a bit for “Rabbit Run”. It was a really great section of the song that we really loved, and so it’s ended up becoming part of the song called “Pride”. It’s funny how they just find their way back in; if they’re good, if the idea’s good, it’ll find it’s way, eventually.

Sometimes it just takes the time to develop. Your development as a band sort of had to catch up with what the song required of it.

The other thing that makes it tricky is sometimes you do need to wait to be able to …I’m just repeating what you said, but to be able to write the arrangement around the sections that you like. You can put them out, but if you release them in the wrong context or at the wrong time, you can waste that great idea.

Developing the live show now, as you’re about to hit the road again, obviously playing showcase festivals is a little different, but when you’re actually playing these headline shows at home, how have you developed as a live band?

What are you going to be putting into these shows, that you maybe haven’t been able to do before, and playing bigger venues, playing to bigger audiences, and playing with more material up your sleeve as well?

Well, I think for a large part we’re just, I think musically, spending a lot of time just thinking about the sequencing of the sets. I suppose it’s a funny one, playing songs that are a bit quieter, and particularly large venues, you’ve got to try and catch the audience’s attention, so just working through that. There’s a few songs on the new record that are a bit more minimalist than some of the stuff off the old record, so just trying to … they’re sounding really good when we play them live in the rehearsal room, but just trying to make sure that the moment’s captured. There’s nothing worse than when you go see a band play and you’ve got 10 people around you chatting, and you’re trying to listen to a soft piece of music.

We’ve been working with our lighting design team, who are awesome, to just put something together. I think it’s going to be really special. Yeah. They’re really excited, we’re really excited.

City Calm Down’s Echoes in Blue record is out now. Catch them on tour through June and July!

CITY CALM DOWN TOUR DATES
For tickets and more information, visit www.citycalmdown.com

June 8th | The Tivoli, BRISBANE | Tickets
with Woodes, IV League, The Creases (DJ Set)

June 9th | The Gov, ADELAIDE | Tickets
with Woodes, Workhorse

June 15th | The Forum, MELBOURNE | Tickets
with Woodes, IV League

June 16th | Metropolis, FREMANTLE | Tickets
with Woodes, The Spring Peaks

June 21st | Bar on the Hill, NEWCASTLE | Tickets
with Woodes, IV League

June 22nd | The Metro, SYDNEY | Tickets
with Woodes, IV League

June 23rd | Unibar, WOLLONGONG | Tickets
with Woodes, IV League

June 30th | Odeon Theatre, HOBART | Tickets
with Woodes