In the lead-up to Doomsday Ballet, the new album from Bad//Dreems, the Adelaide band’s singer, Ben Marwe, expressed weariness at consistently being labelled a pub rock act. The reductive banner hasn’t prevented Bad//Dreems from finding a wide audience, but they wanted to sidestep the tag with their third long player.
“That got thrust upon us pretty early on because of who we chose to produce the first few singles,” says Marwe in reference to Mark Opitz, who cut his teeth working with Cold Chisel, Divinyls, Hoodoo Gurus and INXS.
Opitz oversaw Bad//Dreems’ first two LPs, Dogs at Bay and Gutful, and while commentators such as Double J’s Zan Rowe praised Bad//Dreems for creating “Aussie pub rock garage at its best,” Marwe says the label started to chafe.
“The landscape of the music industry and the world in general has changed over the past five or six years. I guess pub rock had this masculine stigma attached to it that didn’t age very well in terms of where we’ve ended up now,” he says.
“It’s definitely something that we were aware of and we were consciously shifting away from that in the way that we wrote [Doomsday Ballet]. We did two albums with Mark. We thought creatively and artistically it was time to shake things up and change how we go about it.”
In place of Opitz and co-producer Colin Wynne were producer Burke Reid and musician Jack Ladder. Reid’s credits include Julia Jacklin, Courtney Barnett, Sarah Blasko, The Drones, DZ Deathrays as well as several Jack Ladder albums. Bad//Dreems connected with the dream duo via an instance of serendipity.
“Alex [Cameron], our guitarist, struck up a friendship with a Sydney photographer called Luke Mclean Stephenson who’s friends with that whole Jack Ladder, Kirin J Callinan, Donny Benet crew,” says Marwe. “We compiled the demos down to a top 20 after maybe demoing 40 to 50 tracks here in Adelaide. Alex had sent them to Luke because he wanted to try his hand at producing. Jack Ladder got a hold of the demos and ‘Morning Rain’ was one of the first ones that really struck his fancy.”
Ladder then got in touch with Reid and it turned out he was going to be available and in the country at the perfect time.
“My wife was heavily pregnant and it was just this two week window where we could get it done, otherwise we were going to have to wait another couple of months,” says Marwe. “It all came together. We did it in Adelaide. It was a sweltering heat wave. I think we got a pretty good result out of it.”
Jack Ladder – whose birth name is Tim Rogers – has, over the course of his five albums, developed a strong artistic identity that allows him to keep changing it up without abandoning his essence. This is the sort of thing Bad//Dreems wanted to achieve with Doomsday Ballet.
“This was the first definite studio album,” says Marwe. “We did multiple demos of all the songs, they took different shapes and forms, trying different melodies, guitar tones, adding synths, keys, which we haven’t done before.
“I hate to use the word mature, but it does feel like a more mature version of what we have done in the past. That comes part and parcel with getting older, having done two albums already, so wanting to challenge ourselves as songwriters and in the studio.”
The record includes a handful of songs that reflect this aim to diversify and add greater depth. Laidback, reflective cuts like ‘Harry’s Station’, ‘Cannonball’ and ‘Sally’s Place’ differ from the Bad//Dreems of yore, but there’s no reason they shouldn’t thrive in the live setting.
There’s still plenty of snarling uptempo numbers, too. Many of their founding influences are ingrained in the Bad//Dreems DNA, but there was a shift in terms of who influenced their decision making on this album.
“Burke’s idea was he wanted to take it out of the pub and create more of a rigid, erratic [sound] in the same ilk as old Wire records and Devo-esque guitar lines, fast-paced drums. Parquet Courts got a huge spin during the album cycle. Their albums are all awesome.”
Doomsday Ballet hits shelves around the country on Friday October 18 via Farmer and The Owl. Catch them playing in venues around Australia this October - November.