Country sister songstresses The McClymonts couldn’t have predicted the chaos that would unfold in 2020, but they do acknowledge the irony of the title of their new album: Mayhem to Madness. The album drops on 12 June and the title originally referred to the mania that comes with raising young families, creating music and going on the road. However, Brooke, Mollie and Sam now agree that it has only become more fitting as the year ticks on.
True to their craft, The McClymonts use their new record to speak from the heart. The 10 tracks are largely biographical, with the exception of a gorgeous cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Little Lies’. Between tales of marriage breakdowns and anthems of self-love, an unwavering message to grasp onto the things that ground us is the common thread that ties the songs together.
After a great experience collaborating on their 2017 record Endless, the trio worked with producer Andy Mak on Mayhem to Madness. And despite sticking to their signature country sound for the most part, Mak helped them experiment with fresh pop beats on some tracks.
Just like many musicians in Australia and around the world, The McClymonts have felt the brunt of lockdowns and the subsequent lack of live music. They should’ve been on the road by now but instead have rescheduled their 27-stop Australian tour to take place over September 2020 and January 2021.
We spoke with Brooke about Mayhem to Madness and her hope for a newfound appreciation of local live music in a post lockdown world.
Music Feeds: First of all, how are you? How’ve you been coping in the midst of COVID madness?
Brooke McClymonts: You know what, I’ve actually got a newborn. So I’m occupied, let’s put it that way (laughs). It’s been a lovely positive, to be honest. I’ll never forget his year of birth, that’s for sure. It’s been nice because I’ve been at home. You don’t go anywhere when you first have a newborn. So it’s been a great excuse to stay home and get lots of cuddles.
MF: I saw that you and the girls have been catching up over some Zoom calls as well which is cute.
BM: Yeah, it is. We haven’t been able to perform over Zoom because the delay is terrible but it’s nice to be able to catch up with the girls. That’s been one of the hardest parts, not being able to see the girls. We’d be on tour by now. So we’re kinda taking a hit but look, we’re not the only ones. We have taken a hit this year and we just don’t know when it’s going to end.
MF: Hopefully it’ll be sooner rather than later as lockdowns ease, especially with the new record coming out. How are you feeling now that the release is so soon?
BM: Yeah, it’s given us a distraction, to be honest. We’ve had this in the pipeline midway through last year. I’m kinda pleased that we stuck to our guns and we’re releasing it. We’re going into the unknown with this. Usually, when you release an album you tour it, which we had planned to do. We just hope that Australians, the country music world and people who are into music buy our album and enjoy it. We can only be positive to be honest.
MF: We’ve all been relying on music, tv, film and books while in quarantine, so I think we’re all realising how much we depend on the creatives in the world more than ever!
BM: It’s so true. We are so important in day-to-day life. People don’t realise it. Well, I’m sure we realise it now. Everyone’s at home and they have their CDs and records on, we’ve got the tv on. That’s all art, baby!
MF: Exactly! So ‘Madness to Mayhem’, what was the process like this time?
BM: This time was a bit different. We’ve always written songs over the years and a few songs that made the record this year were contenders for our last record and didn’t feel right or didn’t sit. Coming at from this angle for this record, we thought it was perfect for this record and how we were feeling at the time. It was a little different at the time and this time around, I was pregnant. I had to sing while being 7 and a half months pregnant, which was a bit of a challenge. As far as us girls, because we’ve all got kids now and our kids are really young, it was a little bit hard trying to organise it. The three of us girls didn’t record it all at the same time because we all live all over the place. We had to do it on our own time. I was the first to go in, then I think Sam and then Mollie.
We worked with Andy Mak again. He produced our last record. So we kinda knew what we were getting into and it was kinda the same formula. So we felt really comfortable with him and we trust him a lot. We’re really proud of it and he’s done a stellar job on this songs and really brought it to life. We couldn’t be happier.
MF: Was recording separately difficult or a fun new challenge for you?
BM: It is. We love being together, but you can figure it out. That’s the beauty of phones, though. You can just pick up the phone and be like “hey, can you help me out with a harmony.” I guess it has changed over the years but I think it’s a lot better. We can be at home with the kids and we can kind of do both at the same time.
MF: A lot of the tracks like ‘Lighthouse Home’ and ‘Free Fall’ are about the things in life that ground us. Was this theme thought out beforehand?
BM: No! I don’t think we were conscious of it at all. We’d written the songs and went “oh, wow. We’ve kind of got a theme running through it.” That’s kind of how we approach it when we get together to start a new project. We sing about what we’ve been through and what’s real to us. Sometimes I hear artists perform and I think, “I don’t believe that. They’re not going through a heartbreak, they’re married!” or singing about girls down the pub and they’ve been married for 20 years. You know what I mean? I just don’t believe it.
I guess for us, that’s always been a big thing. To make sure that everything we sing about is in parallel with what we’re going through. Authentic is probably the word I’m after. When people hear it, even if they’re not going through what we’re singing about, they can at least imagine that’s our life and that’s true to us. It’s the great thing about music, everyone has their story to tell. We can listen to the same song but we all have different experiences and we can all interpret it differently. We try to stick so much to what we know and what’s real to us and what we know.
MF: ‘Wish You Hell’ is such a great title for a song. Can you tell me a little bit about the story behind that track?
BM: It came about because my husband and I are going through that stage where people’s marriages are starting to fall apart and breaking up, starting new relationships. We’re falling into that bracket. It’s really sad to see but that was just about [a loved one’s] story. I wanted to articulate how I would see her going through what she was going through. She was such a positive girl and I’m sure she was a dribbling mess when she went home. But in the outside world, she was really holding her shit together.
I don’t know what I would feel like if I went through that. I feel like I would’ve been angrier than she is. But I wanted to tell her story and at the end, instead of saying I wish you well I think I would’ve said: “I wish you hell.” That was literally the only thing I could contribute to that song because that’s how I would feel. Well, I think that’s how I would feel. I don’t know but I don’t really want to know because I don’t want to go through it, to be honest (laughs).
MF: It’s also a story that a lot of people can relate to.
BM: Yeah! We’ve been playing that song for a little while. Last year when we were playing shows, we wanted to test a few of these new songs out on the road. We played this one live and it was amazing how many people really connected to this song. Whether it was them going through this themselves or someone they knew. It was amazing. People really loved it.
MF: The album also includes a cover of ‘Little Lies’. Does that song have a particular meaning for you and your sisters?
BM: We’ve been playing that for the last couple of years and we’ve never put a cover on one of our albums. We love Fleetwood Mac and we didn’t want to butcher it or do anything too different to it. We were very mindful of that. We really love the harmonies in it. That song really captures our harmonies really well and it’s just a great song. They’re a great band.
MF: You experimented with some poppier sounds on songs like ‘Good Advice’. What were some of your sonic inspirations for the record?
BM: To be honest, I think that was more of an Andy thing. I gave my direction of what I wanted to hear on the record but with that one, in particular, I didn’t have much to change on it. I kind of liked how it was so different to what we usually do. It was kind of stripped back but you’re right, it’s kind of a bit poppy and with electric sounds. With our voices over it, I thought it had that country-pop. I really liked how that turned out. That’s not what we usually do and I think he did a great job of bringing that one to life. I love that song too because I wrote it for my daughter when she turns into those turd teenage years (laughs). I’ll be like, “put this song on and listen to this song. You need to take this good advice from me, girlfriend.”
MF: And if that doesn’t get through to her, what will!
BM: Well, then she’s an idiot isn’t she (laughs). Let’s be real, no kids listen to their parents. I can wait a few years for that though. I’ve at least got another six years before she becomes a complete and utter nightmare.
MF: So, you might have a few other records to discipline her with in your arsenal by then.
BM: (Laughs) Exactly. She’s such a good girl. I’m so lucky but I’m not one to put my head in the sand and think she’s not going to be a nightmare but you know what? I’m prepared either way.
MF: I’m sure you planned the album title Mayhem to Madness a long time ago, but does it feel ironic given the shakeup we’ve seen in the music industry and around the world because of coronavirus this year?
BM: Yes! With the title of our album, we thought “you’re joking!”. In that sense, it’s all fallen into place because we couldn’t have predicted this. The name of the album is about being mothers and wives at home and the chaos of having young kids and the madness being us on the road and it’s just like go, go, go, go, go! We live in these two different worlds being at home and on the road. Then this COVID pandemic shitstorm happened and it’s like, “oh, you’re joking. This is exactly what we’re going through right now.”
MF: Right? I was thinking, “Do these girls have a crystal ball?”
BM: (Laughs). I know right! If we did have a crystal ball, we definitely wouldn’t have recorded an album let’s be honest (laughs).
MF: What are you looking forward to the most about getting back on the road for the tour?
BM: We’re just taking it day by day. It’s good to see that pubs and bars are slowly open which is a lot sooner than we were thinking. So we’re feeling hopeful. We don’t know if it’s ever going back to normal but we can only hope. I feel like our industry will be the last cab off the rank. We were the first to go and we’re going to be the last to get back because of the number of people we have in one place. Fingers crossed we can get back to it because I really do miss it. I think a lot of people are missing it too. If anything, it’s going to give a whole new meaning to people to support because they’ve really missed it in their lives. I just hope everyone can get out and support Australian music because international artists won’t be coming out for a while. Hopefully, we can embrace this. Australians supporting Australians. In everything, not just in music. It’s
actually quite an exciting time for us to get on our feet and support each other.
MF: That’s so true. We’ve been deprived of it for so long now and we have so many great musicians and live music venues here.
BM: Yeah, we took it for granted! We’ve had it at our feet. We still have it on our tablets or our phones but there’s just something so exciting and magical about a live performance. You can’t get that on a screen. You can’t get that through a phone. There’s something special about going to watch a live performer. You just can’t beat it.