Aussie rockers Bad//Dreems are at the forefront of Antipodean rock and roll, their debut record Dogs at Bay telling tales drawn from real experiences of their lives in Adelaide, alongside powerful, driving guitars, propulsive drums and witty lyricism.
With their new album, Gutful, Bad//Dreems continue this trajectory but widen their scope. Drawing upon the wider world they’ve explored since the release of their debut, the band take on the myriad of contradictions that exist with the broader Australian social and political experience, from gentrification to hyper-masculinity to mob mentality.
Bad//Dreems have had a gutful and they aren’t pulling punches.
To get a window into the stories behind Gutful, Bad//Dreems have shared with Music Feeds a detailed and personal explanation of each track on the album, out today. Stream the record here and delve into the story of Gutful, below.
James: I had this staccato riff in my head for my head for ages along with the crunching chorus chords. When Camo played the riff he added a bit more of a jazz feel.
Alex: James had the riff and music for this one. When we first started playing it, whatever Benny was shouting brought to mind ‘Take A Whiff On Me’, the Leadbelly song which has been covered by everyone from Woody Guthrie to the Byrds to the White Stripes. So Benny and I came up with lyrics along a similar line. Firmly tongue in cheek.
James: I really like Ben’s line “tonight I’m licking cane toads and tonight I’m paving roads”.
Alex: In Darwin, I learnt that dogs can get addicted to licking cane toads because they get a hallucinogenic high from it. The “are you bleeding?” at the start of the track came from when Ben was doing his vocal. I didn’t feel like he was really in the zone, so I decided to take all my clothes off and enter the vocal booth just as he was doing the take. I danced so vigorously that I got a bloody nose. Fitting really.
Alex: James is a great guitar riff maker. He came up with the riff for ‘Dumb Ideas’, ‘Jonny Irony’ and this one.
James: I handed this to Camo who had this cool idea to extend the pre-chorus into this build that extended into a chorus echoing the riff.
Alex: The phrase “mob rule” had been floating around my head since the Cronulla riots. It seems that nowadays the complexities of the world are compressed into tweets or hashtags, shouted by fools into digital echo chambers. Easy fuel to exploit fear and incite hatred. The power of the angry mob is a frightening thing. Our manager said that he received a phone call from a fan of the band who was also an associate of the Bra Boys. He was perturbed that, in his opinion, the lyrics suggested a connection between the Bra Boys and the Cronulla Riots. Our manager kindly suggested he discuss this issue with us face to face at an upcoming gig.
Miles: This is easily the oldest song on the record and predated most songs on Dogs at Bay.
James: I think we all thought this song had lost its legs but people kept asking for it to return. We went back had another look at it and this is what came out. I love the lyric “I feel like a hole being filled from above, so I look to the sky and I dream of blood love”
James: Camo had the repeating riff and we just got in the jam room and belted this one out.
Alex: I reckon when we were first playing it Ben had the line “I’ve had a gutful of you”. We have a great mate called Ben Andrews who plays in My Disco. We first met when he was tour managing a thing we did for a magazine, which was really embarrassing and intimidating because he is a musical hero to me. He’s probably the best bloke in the universe. Whenever we are together we always seem to meet these really hilarious, eccentric Australian characters. He came with us to Splendour and we had to get a cab from the airport. The cab driver was a cracker, kind of like Kerry O’ Keefe crossed with Alf Stewart. We asked him if he’d be able to come back that night and pick us up. “Shit no” he replied “you bastards will have had a bloody gutful of speed and coke. Too much trouble for me mate.” Hence the song’s first line.
I think we’ve all experienced a lot of anger, disillusionment, frustration and fear in the past 12 months. I don’t know if the average person feels like they have an outlet for these feelings.
By My Side
Alex: Ben had the verse to this song and I loved it from the first moment he played it. I added the chorus. I tried to make the guitar intro a bit like the intro Master’s Apprentices ‘War or Hands of Time’. Like a lot of these songs, we played it a fair bit live before we recorded it. It has always had a great response. Ben’s vocals on this are fantastic I reckon.
Alex: I had had this song sitting around unfinished since before Dogs at Bay. It began as a vitriolic anti-religion song. It ended up becoming more about finding your own faith or piece of mind, instead of criticising someone else’s. It has a Hammond part in there inspired by the part in ‘Better be Home Soon’. Ben and I kind of played one hand each, ‘cos neither of us are great Hammonders.
1000 miles away
Alex: I remember that this song came seemingly out of thin air at a soundcheck at the Wooly Mammoth in Brisbane. Ben started playing the opening chords and everyone just came in one by one playing exactly the right things, with Ben singing that melody. Ben and I wrote the lyrics almost as a companion piece to ‘Hume’ from Dogs at Bay. It’s sort of a kiss-off song, in the vein of ‘Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright’ or ‘Go Your Own Way’. It sort of a has a swirling, psychedelic sound which someone said was a bit reminiscent of Died Pretty. Which is good ‘cos I love that band.
Alex: I came up with this idea when I was sitting at home in a bad mood watching football with the sound off. It was probably some shit game like Gold Coast versus Carlton that did nothing to improve my mood. When we played it together James came up with this great cyclical bassline that really added to the energy. Ben embellished the melody and added a bit to the chorus and that was that.
James: We had the idea to change the bass into something completely different from the rest of the melody and I started thinking “what would Peter Gifford [of Midnight Oil] do?”. Hopefully, that was captured in what came out.
Alex: This was also one that came together in a soundcheck. Probably at the show before ‘1000 miles away’ come to think of it. It’s about how men’s aggressive, crude or boorish behaviour is too often excused by those around them. I think it’s great that bands like Camp Cope, Smith Street and Luca Brasi have been vocal in calling this bullshit out. This is our contribution. The character that provided the vocal sample for the middle 8 section is the same guy that was in ‘New Boys’ on Dogs at Bay.
Make You Love Me
Alex: This is a song about unrequited love that was meant to marry Elvis Presley’s ‘Buring Love’, Springsteen and JG Ballard’s ‘Crash’. This proved to be a difficult task and it had a lot of iterations before Ben’s vocal really pulled it together.
Million Times Alone
James: My favourite song on the album. From the first early demo Alex created, I was blown away by this song. The opening line, in particular, I love: “Top of the morning, how are you doing? Yeah, I’m surviving”. That’s pretty much my response to everyone at work every day.
Alex: For quite a few years I would work night shifts at the hospital. One year I did this for 6 months without stopping. I don’t mind it, but it can be an isolating and experience. One particular summer it was so hot in my apartment that I just couldn’t get any sleep during the day. There was also some relationship breakup. This song is simply describing one of these days, particularly the lonely drive back to work in the evening through the city where the rest of the world is just beginning the weekend.
James: This song was an interesting one in the studio as we worked hard with Opitz to not over complicate it and take away from the delivery of the vocal.
Alex: Recording the saxophone part on this was one of the best things I’ve been involved in musically. It was played by Miles’ Dad, Keith Wilson. I actually knew Keith before I knew Miles as he was the head music teacher at our school. I had a music scholarship for the violin, so I was compelled to play in Keith’s orchestra, which was not the coolest thing for a teenage boy to do. Keith was an amazing conductor and teacher. In retrospect, I was so lucky to have the tutelage of someone like him. So it was awesome that we could get him to play on this song. Keith, the ultimate professional, came in with all these charts he had made up, as well as questions about the key of the song. Of course, we had no idea what he was on about. He pretty much played the part you hear straight out. He’s an amazing musician.
James: This song makes my dad cry.
‘Gutful’ is out now. Grab a copy here.