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Andy Bull Talks New Album, Art, And Plastered Audiences

Written by Alice Juster on October 22, 2013

After a number of sold-out shows as part of his current ‘I Am Nobody Now Tour’, Andy Bull has reclaimed his spot as one of Australia’s most loved alt-pop artists. With a new album on the way and huge success with his latest two singles, Keep on Running and Baby I am Nobody Now, I sat down with Andy after his matinee performance at Melbourne’s Northcote Social Club to talk about music, art and his journey so far.

Music Feeds: Thanks Andy for taking a moment to sit down with me today. Great show, congratulations. So, if we can start off by you quickly talking me through your band on stage today?

Andy Bull: The band now is Alex on guitar and he’s been playing with me for a couple of years. We’ve done duo show’s, we did trio show’s. Like I’ve had over the last few years maybe like five or six line- up’s, but Alex has always been there.

MF: Because you have done quite a lot of solo stuff as well haven’t you?

AB: Yeah a lot, but not for a couple of years, not for a while. Playing solo was a luxury in that I could do it, and it’s a way to play when you don’t have a lot of recourses, and you can still make it a show with just one person. But it’s more of a singer-songwriter thing, which I was at the time happy to make the most of, but I never particularly saw myself as a traditional singer-songwriter, well I hoped I could be more than a traditional singer-songwriter, but it is very difficult when you’re on your own and just with the keyboard.

MF: Although, the solo that you did perform today was incredibly powerful, especially in such a small room, I think you brought almost everyone to their knees.

AB: Thanks. Yeah, it still has its place you know. I really like electronic music, I really like dance music, I really like production and all that sort of stuff, but there is a place for everything, and moment’s for everything, and I think if you can find a moment to put that kind of personal, sort of stripped back thing, in a sense. And if the venue is right and the mood is right it can work really well. Yeah, so that was a nice moment today, I think.

MF: Now, There’s a new album coming, and obviously with your previous works with the likes of Hungry Kids of Hungry, Lisa Mitchell, are we going to see any collaborations with any other artists?

AB: Well I think actually, kind of the theme is that it’s mainly like a one man thing. So that’s why both the singles have been pretty much, I did everything on them.

MF: You’ve done the recording, you’ve done the production, it’s all your project. So you’ve played all of the instruments on the singles so far?

AB: Yeah, bar the drums on Keep On Running, which is Carlos. Carlos was in a band called Deep Sea Arcade, and this is the first time I’ve actually toured with Carlos. I’ve recorded with him a lot of times, but for that track Keep On Running I took his drumming and I made samples of it, that’s how we did it. But everything else was kind of just me, crafting the production, instruments and everything, so that’s become the theme a little bit.

MF: It was 2010 when the Phantom Pains EP came out, and now, when are we looking at a release date for the new record?

AB: I’m shooting for early next year, so it does have to be finished.

MF: There is quite a big difference in your style, I think certainly from Keep On Running to your earlier stuff, in that it’s a lot more upbeat and I guess there’s a bit more of a poppy vibe to it.

AB: So styles have come and gone, a lot since I started doing this, and I’ve seen things become fashion and a lot of things go out of favour as well. I’ve seen that happen enough now, I’m not old, but I’m old enough to see things come and go. And it was like this turning point, well you have to if you want to do this in a really meaningful way, just follow your own passion whether it’s in fashion or not. So I’ve been fortunate in that I’m mainly a keyboard player, and that stuff’s really in fashion now, it wasn’t for a long time. It’s been like a journey inwards rather than a journey outwards. I’ve worked with a lot of people over the years, but I’m into this idea of finding out and pursuing an authentic voice, pursuing things that you enjoy based on your values, regardless of the values of the people that you’re around or work with or the fashion, so that’s where I think the idea of integrity is, being able to make meaning for yourself. So I think I’ve taken some steps recently with the two singles and everything, with the album I’m working on towards doing what I want to hear personally, rather than what’s in fashion.

MF: So you did the artwork for the Phantom Pains album cover. Do you like painting, is it a hobby of your’s, is it part of who you are?

AB: Definitely, absolutely. When I was younger, my childhood dream was to do concept art, for film. So I still think I see things in a cinematic sense. So it’s just a hobby, I didn’t study or anything like that, but it’s something that I love to do.

MF: Are we likely to see any more of your art?

AB: I will find a way, but one of the things I kinda like about the scribbles I do is they’re a bit violent, a bit spontaneous. So I thought about that, I’d really like to bring that into the music, not to make the music sound like the artwork looks, but just to bring the attitude of being a bit carefree. And I think because it was just a hobby and because art is just a hobby. Well, actually my day job that I don’t work anymore, I was cartooning for a, it’s a long story, but that was my day job. It was sort of a job but it wasn’t my career, so because it wasn’t my career, there was so much less pressure on it so it can kinda be a bit more free. My music, I have always taken very seriously, its like, how do you bring the carefree, like fuck it, I’m just going to do this attitude to music, so I think that’s sort of how I’m seeing them interlock, but I don’t think I’ll be doing artwork for this next record. Just because I think we’ve established a nice sort of cinematic vernacular with the film clips and stuff, so I’ll role with that.

MF: Melbourne’s the last show of the tour. How’s it gone, how do you feel? The crowd I think received your new music so well and I think everyone was really appreciative of everything you brought to the show, and especially today in Melbourne, being a Sunday afternoon, I think people may not have been as drunk as you’d hoped…

AB: [laughs] I want them to be plastered!

MF: Oh absolutely, everyone has a better time when they’re plastered. Today in Melbourne it was so chilled, so relaxed, being a warm day, everyone is happy. And are you happy with how the tour has gone?

AB: I have been speechless. It felt too easy, you know. Like everything’s been sold out, for one and the crowd’s everywhere have been just, really enthusiastic just to hear stuff and get involved. I don’t know, it felt different to any tour I’ve done before, like in the most amazing way. So I’m just ah, trying to stay focussed, take it in my stride, and you know, as always just improve on things that need to be improved and always try and give a good show. And even though you do it night after night you make it as kind of purposeful and meaningful as possible. But the crowd’s have been incredible and I’m a bit speechless, I have to say I could really get used to this. I really enjoy it, I gotta say there’s nothing I like more than being on stage in a room full of people.

MF: Well it’s you, it’s your expression, it’s who you are, and I guess the chance to be able to show that to people…

AB: Well it is, I really feel like it is what I like to do, it feels very natural and I feel very much at home. When I do perform I feel like this is what I should be doing with my life and everything. But on the other hand, like it’s a weird thing too. Not weird to me but like being the centre of attention in a room of like 400, 500 people, like in everyday life that’s a rare occurrence, that 500 people are there to see you do something, so it’s like the thing you are born to do is a weird thing. Because how many other times, unless you’re a politician or a sports person, can you legitimately allow yourself to be the centre of attention and carry on and all that sort of stuff. But it’s really good and I could get used to it, it’s not normal, its not normal behaviour but I could definitely get used to that brand of weirdness, cos it feels really good.

MF: And are we working towards festival dates, more tours?

AB: Yeah, there’ll be a lot. I think 2014 is going to be really busy. But I’ve said no to so much, cos I’m just trying to finish this record. Yeah it’s mental. There’s already a lot of stuff pencilled in that hasn’t been announced, some festivals and things like that.

MF: Do you want to give us any?

AB: I don’t know if I can actually, I would if I could, but I don’t know if I’m allowed to. But, um, there will be a lot I think. It’s going to be a really busy year. And also, I signed this US label so I’ve gotta go over there and do whatever you do.

MF: And you’re producing the album this time as well?

AB: Yeah, so it’s a lot. A lot of stuff to do.

MF: Ok, great, well thank you, Andy for taking the time to chat with me today. I know I only said five minutes and we’ve been 15, so I hope I don’t get you into any trouble.

AB: That’s fine. That’s what I do. I turn a three minute story into a 30 minute story. That’s all good.

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