So how did Willy McElroy & The Immigrants come into being?
‘It’s a pile of lads from different bands,’ says Willy. ‘We played a couple of things at the Golan and then a charity for the old folks in Byron and thought let’s keep playing together, and the lads wanted to call it Willy McElroy & The Immigrants.’
The album features nine tracks all recorded and engineered at Christian Pyle’s Prawn & Spanner Studio in the Byron hinterland.
‘I’d wanted to work with him for years,’ says Willy, ‘and I never got the opportunity. I won’t ever work with anyone except him again. His ears are incredible! He’s up there juggling us and Tex Perkins at the same time, and some other group of guys and he looks like he just got out of bed!’
From the minute he stepped into the studio Willy could tell that the Prawn & Spanner was a place to make great music.
‘Some studios are so sterile that they look like dental labs. Christian’s is like an eclectic museum of instruments. People walk in there and grab the instruments. You can feel it, the energy in the place, and being musicans all the band went YES! It was like discovering a shop in a back street of Melbourne where you want to hang out for a week!
‘The Immigrants are Michael Turner from the Durga Babies on bass, Guy Maddigan on percussion – he used to play with Sirocco – and Phil Levy on bazooka and mandolin (formerly from The Romaniacs). He’s a major folk player around town and has been for the last 475 years. There is also Steve Gilbert, our harp player – he’s world class; it’s ridiculous, he makes that bloody thing sound like bagpipes!’
The songs on the album have a wonderful celtic soul being funked over by folk kind of feel telling stories of struggles with oppression and stories of love and loss.
‘Love is the Sharpest Blade came from watching Dick Cheney on the TV one time, spouting shit about what was going on, and that was the first line in the song about how the truth is subjective. It depends on the words you put in your sentence. It reminds me a lot of my relationships… you can always it the truth, because it is to you!
‘There is another song called Crisis and it’s about domestic violence and refugees and that kind of thing. I have always been into the melody of a nice song but I find myself getting more political as to what happens in Australia these days, especially acknowledging all the women who have been killed. There’s five of us blokes in the band and we all feel the same.’
The album is also a nod to the past, with very special mention to Michael Turner’s dad, Leon, who died the first day of the recording.
‘When we recorded the album we had all set up at Christian Pyle’s studio all together ready to play in a circle. Christian had us all miced up and just before we were to kick off to play Mick got the call – his dad had died. He had to decide whether to leave or stay. When that happens it’s huge emotions; he decided to stay. We lit some candles and played the whole album in a few hours. Mick was there playing the bass lines with tears streaming down his face. We dedicated the album to Leon and all the picutres on the front cover of the album are parents and grandparents and great-grandparents of the band – they are our ancestors…’
Willy McElroy & The Immigrants launch their new CD at the Rails on Saturday at 7pm.