Okay, so I’ve been staring at this little WordPress CMS text module thing for like 20 minutes at this point, and I still can’t think of anything to write here. It is a Sunday afternoon and I’ve just finished a bullshit hectic week, and my brain is just totally caramelised. My writing skills are definitely not in tip-top shape right now.
Y’know what is in tip-top shape, though? Melbourne-based alt-rock band LOSER.
Yeah I know, that segue was shit.
Y’know what’s not shit, though? Melbour-NO DON’T CLICK AWAY, I’LL STOP!!!
But yeah, the new LOSER record – All The Rage, due out September 10th on Domestic La La, the label I’m pretty sure is just physically incapable of putting out a bad release – slaps so hard. Thematically, it hits super hard and cuts straight down into the soul; but musically, it’s just so much fun. It’s like an amalgamation of everything great about ‘90s and ‘00s pop-rock – there’s a little Weezer in there, a bit of the Pumpkins, a dash of Nirvana – all spun through an ultra-crispy, tightly produced web of modern slickness.
In short: ‘s’a pretty fuckin’ good time, eh.
I got to write the official bio for the record, too, which was really cool. I really enjoyed listening to it approximately 600 times in the span of a week (I know that reads as sarcasm, but it honestly isn’t), and I especially enjoyed getting down to the wire about it with vocalist/guitarist Tim Maxwell and bassist Craig Selak. I only wound up using about 200 words from our chat in that bio, so there existed about 4,000 words of their wisdom just gathering dust on my harddrive…
The band (and their absolute legend of a publicist, shoutout to Abbey!!!!) said they were cool with me posting the full transcript here, so… Here we are ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
It honestly feels like it was just a few months ago that Mindless Joy came out. How did All The Rage come together so quickly for you guys?
Tim: It didn’t, really! We’ve been writing this for… What, like a year and a half now? I mean, the first song and the next single, they were literally written in 2018. So we’ve been working on it for a while. We pretty much wrote another album before we wrote Mindless Joy, and most of those songs just didn’t really fit, or we thought they would be too far removed from what we were doing at the time.
We figured that people wanted to hear something a little bit more simplistic and more like Weezer – stuff in that pop-punk sort of vein – rather than jump straight into the stadium rock sort of thing. So we held off on that and we chose a few songs that we wanted to work on, and then we wrote some more, and so on. I mean, during COVID, what else could you do?
In my honest opinion – and I’m cautious about this coming off as an insult, but I mean it in a totally positive way – I think on this record, your influences are a little less forward-facing, and you guys really come into your own as a band. A song like “Generate” on Mindless Joy, for example – I dig it a lot, but I listen to it and I’m like, “Yeah, this could 100 percent be a Weezer song!” But every track on this album is just… It sounds like LOSER. Do you agree that you’ve sort of galvanised your own identity more on this record?
Tim: Yeah, I feel like the way I’d explain it is that Mindless Joy was like our trendy ‘90s record – y’know, I was listening to all of those bands like Weezer, The Smashing Pumpkins… I actually didn’t grow up listening to all of that, that was Craig’s bread and butter, but I got into that at a later stage and that’s what inspired me to start LOSER.
But for this record, I went back more to the 2000s, I started watching Video Hits and all that, and I was listening to all the bands that I know and love. And I feel like a lot of that shows in [All The Rage]. It’s still a good combination of all that ‘90s stuff, but with a bit more of the 2000s.
Craig: Yeah. We definitely didn’t take any offence to that comment, by the way – it’s totally true. I remember, there were a couple of moments during the writing and recording of Mindless Joy where we would be like, “This part reminds me of Alice In Chains, let’s go more down that path,” or, “This is kind of Weezer-y, let’s put some more of that energy into it.” But this time around, it was much more about what we were feeling personally and what felt good to us, and a bit less of a focus on any of that stuff.
Which I guess is probably a combination of having grown into our own as a band, and the fact that having been a band for longer, and having Mindless Joy on our belts already, we feel a bit less worried about how it’s all going to come across. We’re more comfortable in expressing ourselves.
Did that confidence lead to you feeling more inspired?
Tim: Yeah, we definitely felt more inspired. The last band I was in was like instrumental, ‘70s rock sort of stuff. And I guess I’ve always sort of been… Not really a frontman, but writing the songs and sort of leading the band and stuff. So yeah, it was cool to come into our own.
What is it about those big, anthemic ‘90s and ‘00s rock bands that you wanted to channel? Or what is it about that style that resonates so much with you?
Tim: I think it’s the catchiness – it’s universally pleasing to everybody. I feel like the 2000s are coming back pretty strong at the moment, y’know what I mean? I basically wanted to give the kids of 2021 an opportunity to feel what I felt back in the day, when I would hear bands like Green Day for the first time and just lose my mind.
There’s a lot of bands out there who are just trying to jump on what’s trendy at the time, and we’re pushing something that’s not really trendy at the moment. And, like, it takes longer, y’know? Not many people want to listen to guitar solos and stuff – songs have to be under three minutes long, they need to be short and simple… And don’t get me wrong, we did a lot of that – I mean, there’s not a one song over three-and-a-half minutes long on this record, I’m pretty sure.
Craig: I think some of the inspiration, too, just comes from those full-circle moments. It might be different for Tim, but as I get older, I’ve started to become a lot more relaxed in who I am, and anything I got into when I was 11 to 14 years old is now just sacred. Each year seems to become more and more influential.
The first live gig I saw was Silverchair, Magic Dirt and Something For Kate, and it was like, I’d gone from Queen to that, and then straight into the grunge stuff, and then once I started meeting friends at school and playing in different bands, I got into more punk and ska and everything like that. And that’s where all the Bennies stuff came into it – which was just great, I mean, playing with those guys was amazing, they gave me some of the best moments in my life – but then you get to a point where Tim sends you a song called “Phase Me” and it sounds exactly like the first things you ever loved, and you’re like, “Woah!”
It was like I was plugging back into the source, y’know what I mean? And I think the more you indulge in that, the more it just fills you up… It’s all about the love we have for this kind of music, and wanting to push forward with it in our own way.
You want it to be so that if 15-year-old Craig could hear this record, he’d be fucking stoked!
Craig: Exactly! You want to write a song that you would have liked, y’know?
With “On The Edge”, Tim, you noted that you wanted to write a song that would have a universal impact. Do you reckon you achieved what you set out to do, or tick the boxes you wanted to?
Tim: Totally, yeah, I think I did! I mean, it’s been played on the radio every day, and I didn’t think that song would be picked up to begin with, so that’s fucking awesome. I literally spent weeks and weeks just watching Video Hits and going, “Alright, cool, so I want a Ben Folds, ‘Rockin’ The Suburbs’ sort of verse, and then this weird, almost rap-ish verse, and then the chorus has to be real simplistic, but still punches you in the face…”
So in terms of the lyrical themes you guys explore on this record, I could be totally misreading it all here, but it feels like there’s an overall theme of self-affirmation and overcoming adversary – whether that’s inflicted by other people or by your own mental headspace. Was there an intentional theme of optimism you wanted to embrace, or was the goal to write an album that people could listen to as a tool of encouragement?
Tim: It was mostly about how bad my mental health was going – especially that song, “On The Edge”. Mindless Joy hid away a lot of those things, and I wasn’t being as sincere when I was writing those songs. Whereas [on All The Rage] there’s some really deep lyrical moments. Especially the song “So”, too, where I’ve written it like a storyteller-songwriter thing, where it’s just like, “He could not be any more obvious about what’s going on in his life.”
When Craig and I were tracking, I think it was two songs – “On The Edge” was one of them – and it was like… That’s the first time I’d ever broken down in the studio. I didn’t know what was wrong with me – I felt like half my body was numb. And I think you can really hear that through a lot of the vocal tracking and the lyrical content.
Is it important for you to maintain the human side of it, and allow yourself to get to that point where it can be very cathartic?
Tim: Totally, yeah, that was mostly the point of it – being real open and honest. And y’know, hopefully people can relate to that and feel the same way, and the songs can be cathartic for them too.
Craig: I feel like when the songs were written, there wasn’t a cohesive theme in mind. It wasn’t until we put them all together that we realised what was going on with the album. And coming up with the name All The Rage – it felt really fitting for what we were saying, and what Tim was saying, because it was a response to being in an environment where there’s a lot of rage.
It was less about the pandemic and more about just being a young person in an environment where people are rewarded for outrage, and it actually makes people more popular and more wealthy; the more they can bring rage out in people, the more engagement they receive. And these songs the a reflection of somebody looking inward, whilst also being inside a larger environment where it’s all about stoking the fire.
I think it was cool when we sort of picked up on that. It was like, “Wow, each song has kind of got this thread running through it! This is what’s happening, but this is how I’m feeling, and I want to talk about how I’m feeling, not what’s happening.” Y’know what I mean?
I guess it comes down to that authenticity of, like, when you’re putting all of yourself into a record and you’re not trying to force anything, there can end up being an overarching theme that runs through all of the songs subconsciously. Because that’s how life itself works, and a good record about one’s life is just a snapshot of a period of time in that life.
Craig: Absolutely. And this was a really clear snapshot, so I’m glad that’s come across. Because yeah, there were definitely moments where y’know, Tim was super vulnerable – particularly in tracking it. I think a lot of the writing is subconscious and emotional, and then when you get down to going, “Alright, let’s nail this part, how are you feeling? Let’s track it!” That’s when it becomes real. And then I’m sitting there while Tim’s singing and I’m just like, “Shit, man! He’s pouring into it!” That was a nice thing to try and capture.
Speaking of the tracking, what was it like building Restless Noise Studios from the ground up?
Tim: Yeah, it was awesome! My parents were just super supportive and awesome, and they were like, “Hey, we’re buying our old house, and there’s a six-by-six metre shed, and we want to turn that into a studio for you. We’ll pay for it.” And basically, I had a mate from Tassie come up and help me build that, and we built it over, like, two or three weeks. When do you think we started actually working in there, Craig? It would have been a while after we finished building.
Craig: Yeah, we did the first round of tracking for the album a year ago – it would’ve been May. So when we started, the first drum tracks were recorded via satellite, because at that point we were still in lockdown. So the studio kind of fired up and had a warm release, with Tim in there by himself and me in this exact room, sending bass parts and tracking vocals.
And then there was that mid-year period where everything opened up again for about a month and a half, and that’s when we really got in and the studio and really came into its own, and we started pounding out the rest of the songs because we thought things might lock down again – and they did, so then we couldn’t really finish the album until late last year, early this year, once everything had opened up again.
So we had to take a couple of runs at it, but in that whole time, Tim was just working away on the record. Because he was basically living at the studio during lockdown, just adding bits and pieces and working it through. And it was a really strange and awesome experience – I’d never recorded an album over such a long period of time.
Tim: We’d be on Facetime with each other for hours. Because me and Craig produced it; we had a lot of input on Mindless Joy as well, but we were under the guidance of somebody else, and the whole band was in the room. But this one was mostly just me and Craig, and y’know, we’d pull apart the songs and play around with them.
There were so many songs that had to be faster and so many songs that had to be slower, and we were like, “Ah, this is boring,” and, “Ah, here’s a fresh song” – we had so much time to work on it, and we took advantage of every second.
Craig: But then by the end, we got to the point where we were just like, “Okay, let’s not overthink it now!” We’d done so much overthinking that we came full circle and went, “Let’s just vibe it!” And then we ended up just flowing right to the finish line. It was a pretty strange way to do an album, but I feel so proud of how it came out, and pushing through all that weird stuff.
So you spent months and months working on this record, but you were still just going with the flow and maintaining that essential looseness.
Craig: Yeah! We’d just put out an album, so we didn’t feel pressured to rush it. But also, we didn’t want to just wait for that – for everything to happen again, y’know? There was no finish line at this time last year, for when things were going to happen again.
So we were like, “Well, [Mindless Joy] has come out, that’s happened, that’s great – but we’re still feeling this itch we’ve gotta scratch, so let’s keep going.” And then we just kept pushing, and it ended up blowing out, y’know? It’s funny – you think about some of the classic albums that were recorded over a year or something like that, but this was not like that!
Tim, did you find that having your own studio to work in gave you more freedom to experiment, or explore your ideas in more depth?
Tim: Totally, yeah. Because most other times, we’d work with this guy named Sam Johnson, who’s an absolute legend. But y’know, when you’ve got someone else’s workflow, things happen a certain way, and you have to sort of do everything their way to keep the family happy together. Whereas this was just like, “Alright, cool, I can work on whatever song I want, whatever part I want, whenever I want.”
But that also didn’t help in a way, because we were still in lockdown, and I’d have to be tracking this stuff by myself, there’s no one else there to jam out with, and I’m just like, “Is… Is that good enough?” I don’t know, y’know what I mean? Like, you can spend as long as you want on something, but it’s still gotta be sincere and not over-produced.
Was there anything you learned from making Mindless Joy with Sam that you were able to adapt to your production techniques on All The Rage?
Tim: Yeah. Mindless Joy was all heavily doubled and tripled, vocal-wise, and we learned a lot more about, like, having a signature character to make the songs flow a lot better. Other than the choruses and things like that, there’s just the one voice running through the whole thing. So we tried to put a lot of attitude and character into that, and really push for that.
I think it was while we were working on “Upside Down”, we were watching all these Max Martin interviews about tracking vocals, and we spent probably six hours on a 30-second intro, and it was so shit. We got the intro out, and I was like, “Yeah, let’s not track the vocals like that, man, that’s gonna suck!”
Craig: Like you say, we did learn from our time with Sam. It’s funny how we talk about keeping the family happy, because that worked both ways; Sam definitely compromised his own style for what we wanted to do, and we really did want those double-tracked, triple-tracked vocals on the last album. And that’s not always the way Sam works, as you will have heard with The Smith Street Band or Camp Cope or stuff like that, where he really lets the vocal hang out.
We were coming at it from a totally different perspective, and I do think that when it was just us and there were no training wheels from Sam in the producer’s chair with us, we were able to really embrace what we learned from him. And I’m glad we did, y’know? We took it to the places where we felt comfortable, and it was really cool.
What was the most fun you had making this record?
Tim: One of the moments I remember, which we’ve got on video, was when we recorded the song “Skyward”. We did one practise take, and then that whole song was sung in one go. I think that was one of the moments where we were just like, “Holy shit! This is awesome!” We were all high-fiving… And other than that, probably when we were making “Wrong”.
That song came pretty late to the party. I was listening to a lot of Max Martin and Taylor Swift, and I was just like, “Alright, I’m gonna write this poppy-as-fuck melody!” I kept throwing these wild ideas to Craig – I’m like, “Yeah, I want radio vocals, backups doing this, and then this pop-punk thing!” And he was like, “Really? Do you actually want this? …SICK!”
It was like we were finally coming into one and moulding this big ol’ pop-punk baby, y’know what I mean? I think those were my two favourite moments for sure.
Craig: I love the drum track for that opening song, “Head First”. During the recording process, Chris Cowburn left the band, and then our guitarist, Jake [‘Cutter’ Farrugia], became our drummer – and that was the first song he drummed. So there’s four tracks that are Cutter, and the rest are Cowburn. And I mean, we love Chris too, that was very much an amicable… Like, he’s a dad now, he’s a label manager, and when the pandemic hit, he was just like, “I need to step back from performing, I think I’ve had my time.”
But we were lucky, we we had another, superior drummer just waiting to step in. The first drum fills he tracked were for this song “Head First”, and I think he just ripped it up. I felt really proud and excited for him, to see him switch roles and not miss a beat – no pun intended – and just dominate it.
Tim: I remember Craig in the studio, when Cutter was doing that outro – like, Pumpkins-as-fuck snare rolls at the end of “Head First” – and he was like, “Our drummer can do that! That’s our guy! He plays hyper-speed!”
Craig: I always just love any time there’s a guitar solo in a song, too. I love being in the room when Tim and his Brother Will – a.k.a. Dragon – are playing guitar together. The solo in the song “Meant To Be” was like Tim’s “Slash out the front of the chapel, ‘November Rain’ guitar solo” kind of moment. And I just love that shit, y’know? Anything with a guitar solo in it.
I don’t know if I can think of any other questions, is there anything else you think people should know about this record, or anything else you wanna say about it?
Craig: I hope there’s something on this album that people feel like they can relate to. Even a song like “Skyward” – I mean, it’s about aliens, but it’s also about feeling like when shit’s hitting the fan, you can step out and just focus on yourself.
I think that’s the overarching theme of the album: you don’t have to step away and hide from the world, you can look within and find something that makes you feel more comfortable. And that really sums up the personal growth we all went through in trying to record this album, learning not to overthink things, and Tim’s personal journey with his mental health over the pandemic.
I hope people feel at home in these songs, and that it’s reaffirming on some level… And, also, I like the guitar solos [laughs].
All The Rage is set for release on September 10th, 2021 via Domestic La La. Click here to pre-order.