Steve Merry, axe man for blues duo The Fumes is talking to me through our new-fangled Skype phone system.
“You sound like you’re in a fish tank. You’re not in a fish tank are ya?”
Turns out we still have a few bugs to sort out, but I assure him that, to my knowledge, I’m nowhere near a fish tank.
With his concerns allayed, I ask about the bands new album Sundancer.
Recorded over two weeks in November last year, it’s been a work in progress for a couple of years. Steve tells me that they shipped famed producer Jim Diamond out from Detroit to record the tracks at Megaphon studios in Sydney.
“About a month later we went back over to Detroit with him and spent about ten or eleven days mixing it. It was minus ten degrees in the dead of winter in downtown Detroit.”
True to their blues heritage, the album was recorded directly to reel to reel analogue tape. Steve feels there are advantages to using the older technology.
“I think there’s definitely something to it. You can definitely tell the difference between digital and analogue recordings.”
“All of my favourite recordings have got a couple of little glitches, imperfections in them that make them sound good.” “You can actually hear in this recording, in the piano songs, you can hear Jim’s furnace clicking on and off.”
The band had written around twenty two songs for the album, but some were inevitably culled before being recorded.
“All of My Favourite Recordings Have Got a Couple of Little Glitches, Imperfections in Them That Make Them Sound Good.”
Steve explains that a few of the songs “get to a point and then you can’t get them any further so you forget about them, come back to them at a later date.”
That being said, the extra songs haven’t been forgotten entirely. Steve assures me some of them will be played on their upcoming tour.
“Definitely. You’ve gotta have a few more songs than what you actually have recorded on the album. We might get to them later. It definitely helps to have a few up your sleeve.”
Beginning in late May, The Fumes will be taking their raw, dirty blues around the country on a national tour.
The rigours of the road do take their toll on the pair. “It can get pretty tense,” Steve says, “I’ve got a little daughter and it sucks being away from home that much but I guess that’s how it goes huh?”
Before then, it seems Steve has important things to take care of. Things aren’t always easy being independent.
With two tours of the United States in the past year, the pressure of self-funded albums and travel have had an effect.
“I just went and registered for unemployment benefits so I’m looking for a bit of work. We spent a fair bit of money doing this album and going over to the States twice. There was a bit of money involved in getting over there but it was all definitely worthwhile.”
Steve remains optimistic though.
“It’s not too bad. I’m a carpenter and I’ve got a bit of work up in the valley just behind where I live, should start up in a week or two. That will be fine, live like a normal person for a while.”
Living like a normal person, it seems, involves working with a sixty eight year old Japanese carpenter, who reminds Steve of “Mr Miyagi.”
At least things are still interesting, even when he’s not rocking out.