When I started as a live music blogger back in 2017, 'An Orange Conspiracy' were the very first band that I reviewed. A group of unassuming brothers from right here in Perth, I was urged to go and see them by a friend who insisted, "these guys are going places." It was a great first gig (review and pics here). Singer/guitarist Ricki had a great voice and wrenched some astounding sounds from his guitar and pedalboard. Bass player Casey kept it right in the pocket with some solid groove's, and Leo kept everything together with some solid and inspired beats.
Fast forward to December, and it turns out that these guys are indeed going places as their eponymous EP is now available on limited edition vinyl from the legendary record label, Rough Trade. Any muso worth their salt will tell you that Rough Trade is kind of a big deal. Established in 1978, the renowned London indie really hit its stride in the 1980s when label boss Geoff Travis discovered, signed and nurtured 'The Smiths', turning Rough Trade into a sort of Sun Records for the bedsit generation. They aren't just all about introspective indie-rock though. They are a truly diverse label spanning the genres from Alt-Country to Post-Punk, and Electronica to Psychobilly.
The moment I heard that a band from my own hometown had an EP on Rough TTurns out this EP is harder to get hold of than a Furby in 1998.rade, I was itching to review it. Turns out, this EP is harder to get hold of than a Furby in 1998. I contacted An Orange Conspiracy to try and bag a review copy, but there has been such a buzz surrounding the record, that the label bought back the bands own personal copies as they were low on stock. Their manager, Ian Daniels, finally managed to dig out one of the test pressings of the EP and send it to me.
The band played all the songs that make up the EP from when I reviewed them at The Twa Tams, but they sound even more epic in record form. Opening track 'Slow Lizard' is probably the pick of the songs for me. It's an upbeat groove, whose copious melody and energy belie a paranoid, dystopian lyric featuring state surveillance, mind control and government drones. There is a great drum break at the 1 minute 45-second mark, followed by a building guitar instrumental as the tension ratchets up. As the song builds in momentum, producer Sean Manz pours on the atmosphere with layer upon layer of sweet sounding guitar overdubs.
In fact, the production in general, is amazing. A great drum sound and well balanced, expertly played bass prop up a vocal performance from Ricki Galea that merges the rawness of 'Revolution' era John Lennon with 'Spiritualized' style spaciness.
a vocal performance from Ricki Galea merges the rawness of 'Revolution' era John Lennon with 'Spiritualized' style spaciness. 'Queen of Columbia' is another really strong track, transforming from a fingerpicked ballad to a sleazy, debauched Libertines style rocker with a catchy as hell vocal. There's a real swagger to the performance, and it showcases some really solid songwriting. It also features some of the bands best lyrics to date, including the line, “cause I can be whoever I want to be looking at myself in the mirror down the barrel of her Majesty” which is a nice Lennonesque turn of phrase.
The final track 'Dream', features a delay dripping, dubby, instrumental intro that at 5 minutes takes its time to launch into the song proper. This is a track that I originally found to be quite slight, but with repeated listenings has become a real favourite of mine. It shows a real confidence in songwriting and performance that is staggering for such a young band. The EP is an impressive calling card from a local talent, who clearly have a bright future ahead of them.
You can buy An Orange Conspiracies debut on Rough Trade's official website here.
Meet The Producer
It's not just the band that are Fair City natives. It was produced by Sean Manz of Pyramid Audio Production who is also based in Perth. I've known Sean since my late teens when I would get the bus out to his home in Stanley. We would write songs together which he would record on his four-track. Even then he had his own recognisable style that was a combination of lo-fi charm and the surprisingly sophisticated. Later in life, we even had a short-lived band called 'The Dust Jackets' who wrote songs only about authors. We ran out of ideas after just four songs (you can listen to our only release here). I caught up with Sean to discuss An Orange Conspiracies debut.
What first attracted you to production?
I read a book as a teenager called 'Revolution In The Head' by Ian MacDonald, which was all about how the Beatles wrote and recorded their music in the sixties. It was great to read about the Abbey Road engineers coming up with strange devices to make new effects, and The Beatles going wild over new sounds. I think after that book, I just became obsessed with how people made records.
What producers are you influenced by?
The old school producers like Phil Spector and George Martin were the first major influences. As soon as I got into sound, it was those folks I read about the most. I love Stephen Street's stuff and John Leckie's. I like to read about how they recorded records, and all the strange tales and problem solving involved.
How did you come to work with An Orange Conspiracy?
I got a shout from Dave Macfarlane, who is an amazing producer, and he knew I was looking for a band to record so he suggested I meet with them. We met down at the studio and talked music and they knew what they were after soundwise. They had loads of ideas so we booked an all-day session in and got to work the following week I think.
How long did it take to record the EP?
The EP took about six or seven days to record over a period of months because we had to wait to get everyone available due to gigging and travelling. It was a few long sessions, over a few weekends mostly. We got some good stuff done on Halloween as studio was nice and dark for atmospheric effect. The sessions went on through the night and into the early hours of the morning.
What was it like working with the guys?
An Orange Conspiracy were great to work with. They are all brothers so they had this musical ESP thing going on. The workflow was great and there was never much downtime. They all had lots of ideas for the sound and worked extra hard to get the takes and the elements that they wanted in there. They are very thoughtful about what they put down and they were always on hand to check out new mixes and make suggestions back and forth. They have lots more material that we recorded, some great songs that no one has heard yet.
Any funny stories about the recording process?
There were a few funny things that happened as we were recording at night. We chose to go into the early hours, and there was a nightclub below us, so we were doing takes as all this partying was going on. If you isolate the tracks you can hear people laughing and partying in the background during guitar takes. Sometimes we would pop outside and there would be someone on the doorstep using the step as a chill out area.
If you could work with any band or musician, living or dead, who would it be?
Probably David Bowie. He was up for anything.
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