Gear Talks: The Belair Lip Bombs

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Gear Talks: The Belair Lip Bombs

The Belair Lip Bombs
Words by Mixdown Staff
Photos by Oliver Seille

The Belair Lip Bombs are taking over.

Their infectious brand of spacious, driving rock brings influence from punk, post punk, pub rock and indie with a uniquely Australian take, which is clear on their debut album Lush Life.

Read all the latest features, columns and more here.

Having supported some huge national and international artists, as well as selling out their own headline shows, we had the chance to chat to Maisie, who fronts the bands with her unique vocals as well as playing keys and guitars, and Mike, Belair Lip Bombs’ guitarist, about the new record and how it came to be.

Hi guys! To start things off, I’d love to ask whether you made a conscious effort to expand your sound when approaching the writing and production of your new album – I’d love to know what kind of sonic/thematic palette you were working from when you began this body of work?

MIKE: I think we definitely wanted to expand our sound and get out of that kind surf/garage sound and style that we started off with. I think our main aim with this album sonically was to make it sound more mature.

MAISIE: Yeah I guess these songs were written after 5 years of being a band, they’re a big jump forward in terms of maturity and just quality of songwriting compared to our earlier stuff (no hate to the early stuff) – but that just came naturally with maturing as people, musicians, and our taste in music evolving a lot since writing the first two EPs/singles. We were conscious of our desire to write better music but it wasn’t forced at all. 

What inspired you? What was the vision?

MIKE: We definitely just wanted to get a full album out there and once we discussed it we sunk all our time into that as opposed to doing singles and EPs. Doing an album seemed like the next logical step for us to make. 

MAISIE: Yeah in the last few years we’ve become more involved in the scene, and everyone around us was releasing albums which really just gave us the urge to do it ourselves. Writing and releasing a full length album was a massive goal that we wanted to achieve so we just put our foot down and started making the steps to do it. 

Tell me about your songwriting process – is it a collaborative affair, do you tend to tinker alone and build from those skeletons, or is it a combination of both?

MIKE: Maisie usually comes into rehearsal with the rough song ideas or riffs and shows it to us and we all learn it. And then from there we try to flesh it out and add structure together as well as write our own parts during the process. Other times while not as frequent, we’ll just all sit in the room and we’ll be like “okay someone come up with something cool right now” and we’ll all just fiddle around and make noise until something catches our ear.

Talk me through your recording workflow from demo to track completion. Do you begin in the bedroom or head straight to the studio? Any preference of DAW/special or demo setup that goes the extra mile?

MIKE: I think most of the time we just use a phone recording voice memo to record the idea. Then when we practice it at rehearsal and flesh it out more with the full band, we’ll again record it just with iPhone recordings. When we were doing the album however, we wanted the demos to be a bit more polished so we just really guerrilla-style recorded some of the songs through Logic. Just to make it easier to understand for Nao [Anzai, Floodlights, Cash Savage & The Last Drinks, The Teskey Brothers] who was going to record us to better get an idea of what was going where.

MAISIE: Yeah what Mike said. Once we have a rough structure of a song mapped out in rehearsal, I freestyle sing random gibberish while we’re jamming it just feeling out different vocal melodies. We usually let a new song sit for a while before we come back to it. The others don’t know this but in that in between time I listen to the iPhone demo like 300 times, usually when I’m driving. And I sing along to it over and over picking up syllables that I used in the freestyle gibberish and turning those into lyrics, that’s just what works for me I guess. 

Yeah, we recorded better properly mic’d up demos of the songs on Lush Life over a couple of days down in Frankston a few weeks before recording properly with Nao. It helped us have a rough idea of what the album was gonna sound like all together and also make any last minute changes to the song if we wanted. 

Which pieces of equipment are the most integral to you when it comes to translating your project’s essence from a recorded to a live context? Are you trying to replicate your studio sound when you perform, or do you prefer to let the songs breathe and find their own live groove? How do you work with your (amazing) band to bring it all to life?

MIKE: Trying to recreate our studio sound would be quite hard for us I think because there’s so many layers and we all experimented and messed around a bit while recording. I think I used like 4 different guitars and 3 different amps. When I play live though I think my Boss CH-1 Super Chorus pedal gets the most action. I keep the effect kind of subtle but boost the level up a bit so it acts kind of like a boost pedal – punching the highs through the mix a bit more. My amp I use live is my VOX AC30 which I loooove because it gets the best natural gain and slight crunch.

MAISIE: I have a weird relationship with gear… I used to have these sick expensive vintage Boss pedals, that I used on the first two EPs. But I lost them few years ago. Or they got stolen. Probably both. So since then I’ve never really invested much in gear. I’ve got a bunch of guitars that I’ve picked up over the years but I don’t actually use. Not sure why and I’ve loaned most of them to friends

The only piece of equipment I consistently use that belongs to me is my Orange AD30HTC amp. [I] bought it when I was 17 and still love it. I think it’s definitely my sound. The guitar I use is a 1982 American Strat, on permanent loan from our good friend Stu haha. I used that and the Orange on the album mostly, and that’s my live setup always. 

Are there any pieces of gear you’ve acquired, be it something cheap that punches massively above its weight, or a less-wallet friendly splurge, that have tangibly influenced the way you write and record music to this day?

MIKE; My dad got me this random as pedal from a company I’d never heard of before for my birthday. It’s called the Octonaut Hyperdrive by Interstellar Audio Machines. It’s an overdrive pedal that I swapped my beloved Boss DS-1 Distortion for. I keep the settings pretty low but keep it on the whole time as my default tone, it gets a real rock dog Angus Young AC/DC tone from it which I love. Thanks dad.

MAISIE: Like I said before I’m not much of a gear head and usually try to use as little pedals as I possibly can. I did however buy a Yamaha CP-73 electric piano during lockdown, that was used on “Easy On The Heart”. [That’s] probably the most money I’ve spent on something music related, I think I had it on lay-by for about 6 months before I finally picked it up though.

I was really bored in lockdown and writing a lot of pop music on Logic and got the urge to start playing piano again. I’m really glad we incorporated keys into the band and hopefully will see some more of that on the next album… maybe.

What are the visual mediums that you find best allow you to express yourself as an artist outside of music – is it important for you to be able to display your creativity in every aspect of this project’s output?

MAISIE: Yeah, well for starters I think we put a lot of thought into the album cover. I knew from the start I wanted it to be a photo of us, because we kind of saw this album not as, not so much a rebranding but more like re-emerging as a band and marking the start of a new direction for us. So we wanted the cover to be something bold and simple, and just us, not something that someone else had created. 

Another thing is live performance. We’ve grown more confident as performers and I personally put a lot of thought into live factors like what I’m wearing, how I’m carrying myself on stage and how I’m coming across on stage. I don’t know if that’s vain or what. I watch a lot of YouTube videos of rock bands and how they express themselves on stage. To me, the music is only half of what makes a memorable concert. The other half is stage presence and it’s something I’m working on. Not quite there yet but it’s getting better I think.

Lush Life

How do you recharge your creative batteries? What in your life inspires your music that isn’t music? It could be as logical as watching a film or listening to records, or as obscure as gardening or taking a long walk.

MIKE: I very often go down rabbit holes of whatever kind of music has my attention for the week. Like I think my last rabbit hole was probably gothic folk music which I don’t listen to very often but I was deep diving that and thinking about what makes that music capture a certain feeling within me. Stuff like that usually gets me pretty hyped and want to write stuff like that. I think I have like 20 different genre playlists full of ideas that I want to rip off. I think my creative juices bounce back the most when i’ve had a bit of a break so I really like to just do nothing and [space] out in my spare time. A lot of gaming. 

MAISIE: I think the only thing that truly inspires me to be musically creative is something that is music related. I daydream a lot to be honest. One thing I love to do is listen to my favourite music and pretend that it’s me that’s singing it. I know that probably sounds so lame but it really gets me going.

What’s on the horizon? What exciting things can we expect from you for the remainder of the year?

MIKE: A lot of touring!! Not as much as some bands but definitely more than we’re used to. Also we already have quite a few demos of song ideas which we’re gonna flesh out. I think we’re all itching to get back in the studio and record more music because it really was a fun experience getting to be creative and do literally what we wanted.

MAISIE: Yep we are pretty chockas for the next couple of months which is really exciting. We’ve got a lot of momentum and drive at the moment so pretty ready to get back in the studio again. Hopefully early next year!

Their headline tour to support the release starts this week. For tickets, and to keep up with the band here.