“I wasn’t thinking about playing Carry on the Grudge live when I was writing it and I kind of enjoyed playing it live for that reason,” says Treays. “In the past we always liked to speed songs up live and treat it as a different beast, but with Carry on the Grudge we wanted to keep it all quite like it is on the record.”
Treays returned this year with his fourth LP, Trick, a more immediate set of songs that includes a number of explicit lyrical and musical statements. The songwriting process was directly influenced by the Carry on the Grudge tour. “Being on the road playing, I got in the mode of wanting to write something to play live,” Treays says. “I think that was definitely in my mind while I was writing the next record. [Touring Carry on the Grudge] was great, but I think the other side of me wanted to write a record I could mess around with more live.”
Treays didn’t merely return to the songwriting tropes that dominated his first couple of albums, mind you. Trick covers a lot of genre territory, including bits of heavy rock, electronic, hip hop, punk, reggae, pop and folk. “There’s definitely some different stuff on that record that’s out there,” Treays says. “A lot of it was really fun to make because it was jumping out on a limb and experimenting without much over thought about it.”
Treays is credited as a co-producer on each of his four LPs. Like Carry on the Grudge, James Dring joined Treays in the studio for Trick, with Treays conceiving the songs and Dring assisting to realise the final products. “I write it and record it and then James comes in and takes the demo and throws some stuff at it, I throw some stuff at it and then we argue for a while and we end up somewhere else,” he says. “James is much better at sorting out drums than I am. He’s an amazing programmer. He was on the Gorillaz Demon Days record and the drums on that are fucking amazing. So I tend to take his lead on things like that, but we know how we work well together and it’s not really talked about.
“He’s always welcome to pick up a guitar and I’m always welcome to sit in his chair and do something else. All rules can go out the window, but when we’re working best, I think there are roles and we fall into them and we get things done pretty fucking quickly.”
The lengthy gap between Kings and Queens and Carry on the Grudge now seems like an anomaly as Treays delivered another album less than two years later. His relationship with Dring contributed to the quicker turnaround. “There was less faffing around. I tend to write songs while I’m recording them. So when it’s going well, it goes really quickly. And when it’s not going so well it takes fucking weeks.
“Having worked together so much in the past and having decided I was going to do the whole record with James – which in the past wasn’t necessarily the case – it came together quickly because of that.”
The production on Trick is quite varied. There are nods to hip hop, particularly in the drum sounds; songs like ‘Tinfoil Boy’ sound aggressive and quite ugly; ‘Drone Strike’ has a frenetic dance theme going on; and there’s other’s with a bunch of rawer, punkier sounds. “A lot of that comes from the initial writing of the song,” Treays says. “There’s a song on the album called ‘Solomon Eagle’, which was a definite nod to RZA production and stuff like. That definitely came when I wrote that song – I wrote that song along to a break [beat], so that defines the sound of that tune.
“On one or two tracks we had conversations where it was like, ‘let’s try a flamenco guitar’ or something, but most of them were set in stone quite early on from the songwriting.”
Treays’ citation of RZA isn’t unfounded. While The Clash have long been a big reference point for Jamie T’s music, he’s a characteristically curious music listener, which plays an important part in keeping the eclectic song writing fresh. “For example, Jack Kerouac, I heard he would exercise and run for a month before he did any work and then he would lock himself in a room and do it. In a similar vein, I like to digest music and books and everything for a good four months before I write anything.
“If I can get myself up to full speed, everything’s in the back of my mind and I can just fucking fling it out on the page. It’s quite important to read stuff and listen to music to keep your mind busy so there’s stuff in the hard drive for later.”
Jamie T’s latest album Trick is out now via EMI. He is touring Australia as a part of Falls Festival, and will also play shows in Sydney and Melbourne, with tickets available through Secret Sounds.