Indie hobo-pop darlings Skipping Girl Vinegar officially launch their anticipated third album The Great Wave at Bluesfest this year.
Rich with melody, layers and classic singalong choruses, this heart-warming band are fresh off the plane from Nashville – working with acclaimed US producer Brad Jones (Josh Rouse, Missy Higgins).
This new album has been described as a sonic explosion of colour capturing the move to a small Victorian coastal village, the heartbreak of a cancer diagnosis, searching for hope and light in the depths of critical life challenges, and the journey to recovery.
Singer/songwriter Mark Lang answered some questions for The Echo.
So you are just back from Nashville – what has the experience been like for you recording your third album?
It’s really wonderful to be home with the album finally complete.
It’s been the most meaningful and painful album I have ever made. The last two years have seen us travel from the heights of things beginning to open up for us in US to the crashing heartbreak of my wife’s being diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
We were in the US for our last record, which did very well on the college radio system. While we were there we started the process of demoing some new material with legendary producer Brad Jones in Nashville.
When we returned to Australia my wife Sheridan and I decided to move down to a small Victorian coastal village with our young son to start the process of writing this album.
It was a month into this move when Sheridan was diagnosed. We put the record and everything else on hold, went to ground and focused all of our love and energy onto her. We are one of the lucky ones. Sheridan made her way through treatment and into remission. As you can imagine, this experience was a complete game changer.
I found it very difficult to write during this period.
What I valued and prioritised previously had now shifted. This experience affected the very core of how I wanted to communicate through music.
I wanted to get to the root of an idea and make it clearer with less noise. I had written nothing across this period until one day close to the end of the treatment I sat down with a guitar, pressed Record on my phone and then the last song on this new album Lay with Me fell out in one pass. This is very rare for me as a writer.
I have never had the experience of a full song fall through me so quickly. It was as if all of the experiences over the proceeding months distilled into this moment into a song that became a healing thing for both Sheridan and me.
After the storm came the morning light and euphoria that rings clearer after you go through something like this. The songs began to arrive into a new collection of work that reflects the highs and lows of life and the journey between them that I hope will be meaningful to many.
I feel so happy at the moment breathing life in deeply. I’m predicting 2015 to be a really beautiful year and we are thrilled that our album The Great Wave is coming home to be launched at our most loved festival, Byron Bay Bluesfest.
We couldn’t have a more beautiful place to fire it out into the universe!
Why did you choose Brad Jones to produce?
Brad Jones is one of the greatest musical minds I have come across over my years of making music. Our working relationship with Brad began with our debut album Sift the Noise, and then Keep Calm, Carry the Monkey where he did the final mixes on the recordings. This time around we wanted to have him involved from the ground up.
He flew out to Australia and helped us bring to life the stories of life on the coast and the journey in and out of the darkness. There was a real honesty in the recording of the album in bringing out a world-class producer to record the album in my back shed and abandoned halls around the coastal village I now live in and wrote about.
Is there a point of no return when you are recording when you just can’t go back? How much does the idea of things change in comparison to what actually happens on the day?
The creative process can at times feel as though you are out to sea in thick fog with no reference point to land. There are times when things feel dark and you can’t see your way clearly through it.
A wise mentor of mine reminded me that it’s a stronger place if you feel like this and it means you are probably close to something new.
If you feel too comfortable and know exactly where and what you are looking for then you are probably not pushing yourself to find new levels in your creative process.
I love the idea that when you are stuck in these places of self-doubt and blocks, to keep falling forward through it. It may feel deeply unsettling but the end result is often more precious. All the good things come in time.
Who are the songwriters or the songs that leave you going: damn I wish I’d written that!?
Ryan Adams’s writing on Heartbreaker and Jeff Tweedy from Wilco always gets me going. Bob Dylan, Paul Kelly, Paul Simon, pretty much the Bluesfest alumni. Man, they get the big guns to Byron!
It was an amazing thing for me to stand side of stage two years ago and see some of my heroes bring those songs to life.
How does the new album translate to stage?
Owing to the deep personal nature of material the preview shows have been really powerful, and people have told us that they have experienced the music on a deeper, heartfelt level.
What should we expect for your Bluesfest show?
Like the moods of the ocean that inspired our new album The Great Wave, these Bluesfest album launch shows will swing from heartbreak to euphoria and everything between. These are going to be very special shows I can’t wait to share them with our friends at Bluesfest.
This is surely going to be album of the year.
Be there in person when Skipping Girl Vinegar share their powerful new offering with the world at Bluesfest.
Playing times have been announced, so it’s time to go online and start planning your Bluesfest schedule. For ticket and program information go to www.bluesfest.com.au.