THE BASICS “AGE OF ENTITLEMENT” ALBUM TOUR WITH SPECIAL GUESTS
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Melbourne band The Basics were once famously described as "45 years behind, but a million years ahead", and it's a phrase that's followed the band for many years.
The band's bassist Kris Schroeder says, "Whenever someone says you're ahead, that's always a nice thing, isn't it? <laughs> I guess we've always been a band out of time. We exist in our own time doing our own thing, and we really appreciate doing it for ourselves and for each other. For us, our experience of music is closer to the 'sessions' that are common in places like Ireland, where people just rock up with their instruments to a pub or someone's house and they sit around a table and play songs to and for each other. That's the purest form of performance, and whether that's 45 years behind or 500 years behind, then that's where we're coming from. It's a communal experience."
Schroeder met one of his bandmates Wally De Backer at a party back in 2002, and he admits, "We didn't even really meet talking, we met playing. A mutual friend of ours, Chris O'Ryan, was moving to LA, and he had this leaving party. He knew a bunch of musicians and he had a drumkit set up, and a piano, and a few guitars and a bass, and people were just getting up and playing together. I hadn't even spoken to Wally at this point, but he got on the kit and he was playing and I thought 'Oh this guy is pretty good on them drums!"
Schroeder and De Backer chatted afterwards, agreeing to play a gig together, and "a couple of weeks later we had a rehearsal, and then we played and we've been playing ever since. So, basically we've been playing for as long as we've been friends."
Along the way, they joined forces with guitarist Tim Heath, and have since released several critically-acclaimed albums, toured in places as disparate as workers' clubs to Tokyo basements to street malls to amphitheatres; remote communities to major cities; and at events as varied as the Tamworth Country Festival to Homebake.
Schroeder says, "We don't do this with any expectations. When we started [The Basics], it was just a way to express ourselves, and you know that there's safety in numbers. But we were just kids trying to learn how to play Rock'n'Roll, and now that we've been doing this since we were 20 years old, playing together binds the entity."
Notably, The Basics have always defied definition, recording in multiple genres, often at once, including blues, folk, country, rockabilly, pop, blue-eyed soul and ska. Schroeder says, "Our approach to making music is much like a chef who, without any training, works with whatever ingredients are in the larder."
That approach is evident on The Age Of Entitlement, the band's first studio album in six years. While The Basics have released compilations and live albums, played various gigs together over the past 6 years and been knee-deep in other Gonzo-style adventures - Schroeder put out a solo EP Patience In The Face of Control, before moving to Kenya with the Red Cross; Tim Heath toured and recorded with his Spaghetti-Grecian mariachi band 'Blood Red Bird'; and Wally de Backer pieced together Making Mirrors under the Gotyepseudonym - this is the band's first studio release since 2009's Keep Your Friends Close.
Schroeder says, "All three of us are like brothers; or maybe more like a gang of old war buddies - and we're back in the trenches for another tour of duty."
Although The Basics already had a significant history at Abbey Road Studios, starting with 2004's For Girls Like You EP, this was the first time they decided to work on an album from scratch there. "It really was something we've all dreamed of," Schroeder says, "and the one place I've worked where you actually feel like a professional. You've got a purpose - you belong; you're part of something bigger. There's this aura and sense of history that still exists. And it lives up to what it's meant to be... you understand how the facility has inspired greatness on the records that have been made there."
Schroeder says working at Abbey Road inspired the band to experiment more and to approach the recording process more laterally, and that's evident on each of the 11 diverse tracks on the album.
The melodic mid-tempo track "A Coward's Prayer" comes across as an anti-love song, and Schroeder says, "We built this song in the studio, from the ground-up; we didn't have any preconceptions before recording it. Typically we play songs for months or years before recording them, but this was totally the other way around."
"Roundabout" is a jaunty, punchy pop song, and Schroeder says,"Before I went to Kenya in 2011, this was written off the back of a particularly devastating break-up. Wally was trying to help me get through a dark time, and we were messing around with some ideas, and my brother Nathan actually started playing the main hook 'D-A-G-A-D', which became the bed of the song. We wrote the track the next day and if you listen to the demo, it's stayed true to the vibe of that confused bit of pop."
Elsewhere - and perhaps the album's sleeper hit - "To Think Of You" is a gentle, reflective song featuring layered harmonies, while Schroeder's extended time in Kenya is evident on the Afro-reggae infused "Tunaomba Saidia", which documents a refugee family's journey to Australian shores. Deeper down are the feel-good anthems like "Good Times, Sunshine" and "Ashleigh Wakes", while social justice is prominent on tracks such as "Whatever Happened To The Working Class" and "Time Poor", which features the lyrics "they give us news that's made for children" (not mentioning any names).
Schroeder admits the album's wide range of sounds and themes is "a reflection of our personalities and tastes - we're moody people. The songs were never written with any intention to tie them together; we remain the only constants amongst an ever-changing palette. A lot of bands like to have a particular sound, but that's not us. We just stick to what we enjoy doing. It's not just about style or sound, it's about sharing a moment in time."