Gear Talks: Automatic

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Gear Talks: Automatic

Words by Lewis Noke Edwards

Automatic are making waves throughout the world, emanating from their hometown of LA, and very soon they’ll be touching down for a tour of Australia including appearances at Splendour In The Grass and supporting the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on a few dates.

With them, Automatic bring a blend of art rock, new-wave, psych, powered by singer and synth player Izzy, Halle on bass and on drums is Lola. Automatic are cool and laid-back, their unique approach to rock speaks volumes of their ability to drive a beat as well as sit back in the pocket, all while creating catchy, melancholic melodies.

Read up on all the latest interviews here.

On the back of their debut release, Signal, Automatic are back with Excess. Ten songs of driving back beats and a fretless Jazz bass, reappropriated for Automatic’s brand of vaguely 70s-inspired rock. Automatic have a unique make-up for the music they play, there’s no guitars – the middle frequencies instead being occupied by Izzy’s synths: a hardware devotee. Excess speaks to the moment where, as the 70s became the 80s, consumerism took over, and excessive wealth, and corporate culture bought what was once cool into the mainstream to overindulge on it. Looking back on this time as a parallel to today’s extravagance, Automatic take aim. 

In addition to their new album, Automatic have also recently shared remixes by GUM & Ginoli (a.k.a. Jay Watson (Pond, Tame Impala) and James Ireland (Pond)) of their single “Skyscraper”, from Excess.

We had a chance to catch up with Izzy, discuss how their new record came about, their writing process and how the studio results impact how they perform their material live.

How does a ‘normal’ Automatic song come about? Is it one person having ideas and bringing it to the team or a whole band jam session?

“Our writing process has always been very group-oriented, and 90 percent of our songs originate from a jam in our rehearsal space. After a basic groove is established, we try to demo and fine tune arrangements on my computer in Logic. I tend to write a lot of the lyrics, but sometimes the other girls will take a crack at it. Occasionally one of us will bring a song idea to the group, but usually they’re written from the ground up starting with bass and drums.”

How complete were the songs for Excess before you went to the studio?

Excess was written during the Covid lockdown, so we had never played the songs live. I think that made the studio process more malleable, with a fair amount of experimentation.  Our formula is very simple, so it didn’t take long to work them out.”

Do you use any soft synths at different stages of the creative process? Or are you hardware synth devotees?

“I stick with hardware. We use our limitations to our advantage, and getting lost with programming and soundscaping can sometimes detract from the actual songwriting process. To be honest, we’re just a bit lazy with gearhead stuff. The mantra is “keep it simple!”

Do you record your parts isolated or is the whole band jamming at once?

“We record our parts one by one! We’ve talked about changing it up for the next record though, we shall see.”

Do you write with live performance in mind or do you let yourselves explore extra layers and overdubs to make the recordings sound full? Or do you record and arrange so it ‘works’ live?

“I think it’s a combination of both. Lola uses a [Roland] SPD-SX sample pad to add extra sprinkles, and I have a Roland pad, but we don’t like relying on backing tracks too heavily. If the live show sounds different from the record, that’s okay with us. There are no rules!”

How has your live rig evolved since “Excess” was released in 2022?

“We’ve always kept it really simple: 2 synths, drums, bass, maybe a couple sample pads… I just copped some bongos, watch out world!”

Automatic Live

Is there one piece of equipment you couldn’t do without? Either live or studio, or both! 

“Halle would be lost without her tuning pedal, haha… I do think the sauce is her fretless Jazz bass.”

Automatic’s simple and streamlined approach to gear speaks to one thing only: their music. Their ability to find a groove and stick to it is all in their communication as players, and the stripped back, minimal take on new-wave highlights their playing even more so.

You can catch them and their streamlined live performance from Wednesday, 19 July onwards in Melbourne at The Night Cat in Fitzroy. From there, they move throughout the east coast towards Byron Bay for Splendour In The Grass, before scattered dates throughout NSW. Finally, they’re jetting off to WA to play Mojos in North Fremantle on July 28th.

Read more and keep up with Automatic here.