If the seven members of West Thebarton chose to take a couple of months off, maybe lounging about at home for a bit, no-one would have blamed them. The Adelaide natives had an active and exhausting 2018.
This included, but was not limited to: releasing their debut album Different Beings Being Different, taking it across the country, playing every festival under the sun and even giving one of the country's best live bands, The Living End, a run for their money every night as the support act for their theatre tour. So, how has the septet spent its downtime? By getting right back on its bullshit.
“We never really stop,” laughs Ray Dalfsen, the band's lead vocalist and occasional guitarist, who also answers to his nickname of The Rev. “Right after we got off tour, we locked ourselves away for a little bit and recorded a bunch of new songs. We'd been writing a bunch after Different Beings came out, but for whatever reason it was all going really slow. When we had some time off in Europe, we decided to demo some tracks in Germany – and it was only then that we realised just how much we had left lying around.”
Of these new tracks, ‘Tops’ was chosen as the band's new standalone single. A well-road tested song from the previous months of touring, Dalfsen and co. were adamant about capturing the proverbial lightning in a bottle that came from the song's live performances. “We noticed that, of all the new songs we've been playing, people were really getting into that one in particular,” says Dalfsen. “They didn't even know it and everyone was still going just as crazy as with the songs they did. It's going to be really great to get out and tour now that it's out there, and really see the reaction to it kick up to that next level.”
The band recruited Dylan Adams, who produced Different Beings Being Different, to get back behind the boards again to give ‘Tops’ the studio treatment. Describing the experience as “like getting the gang back together,” Dalfsen was excited to get to work with the prolific Sydney-based producer again. “It was in the same place we recorded the album, too – just down the road from my place in Adelaide,” he added.
“It was awesome, because Caitlin [Thomas, drums] didn't play on the last album, so this was Dylan's first time getting to work with her. The first time he recorded her, he just turns to me in the control room and is like, 'You've got to be kidding me. Is this her first time recording?'. Professionally, it was. He couldn't believe it – she was on every beat, like a metronome.” Dalfsen is quick to praise the band's drummer, who took over on the throne back in 2017 not long after Different Beings was written and recorded.
“Writing songs with her is awesome, because she brings this really different perspective and this great enthusiasm. When there's someone new in the room, it feels like you're writing again for the first time. She makes you think about the music in the way that you normally wouldn't, and now we've been writing together for a while we have this real understanding.”
‘Tops’ also presented itself as a unique composition for the band, given that the band's regular four-guitar onslaught was not enlisted – Dalfsen only sings on the track, bringing the guitar count down to a measly three. The Rev confesses he finds himself playing less and less guitar these days, both live and in the studio, and instead has been leaving it up to guitarist/percussionist Brian Bolado. “He's easily the best guitarist in the band,” says Dalfsen of his long-serving bandmate.
“He might even be the best guitarist in all of South Australia. It seemed a bit ridiculous to just have him playing percussion all of the time. There's a couple of slower songs where I might play guitar coming up, but for the most part I'm just singing now. It's much more freeing for me to be up there without a guitar strapped on, and it's also great to see Brian up there shredding as well.”
‘Tops’ is out now on all streaming platforms. West Thebarton tour nationally in May & June, with tickets available via the band’s website.