What it takes to get to the Bardo State
I haven’t updated this blog in forever and I’ve had a lot of things worth writing about. So it says something that I’m putting some thoughts down about the long awaited 4th album from Horrorshow, Bardo State. There’s always a 1000 little stories behind an album and they get lost once it’s all finished, when over-arching themes take over and press release points direct conversation.
I’ve been working with Solo and Adit for 10 years and their dynamic has never ceased to fascinate me. Adit is the numbers guy: intelligent; proactive; easy-going; prolific; ambitious; supremely talented. Nothing seems to faze him. On the other side is Solo: wordsmith; intelligent; deep thinker; compassionate; gifted singer and MC. No one in Australia can touch him.
Together they have a chemistry that has seen their songs woven into the lives of listeners across the world. I say woven because there’s a depth to their music, which goes someway to explaining why the audience is so loyal to them. It’s trust. The expectation that Horrorshow will help make sense of it all; without just second guessing what you want to hear.
When the dust settled on One Day‘s achievements with their Mainline album, Solo and Adit were excited about returning to the relative calm of a creative process that only involved two people. They also wanted to be spontaneous and take a more open-minded approach to songwriting. One of the first songs written was How We Get Down, a completely different sound to anything they’d previously released. That seemed to be part of the vision, to break their own mould while sticking to the core principles that had built that trust with their fans.
From the outside, I felt the positive energy and could hear how refreshed and focused their sessions were. Complication had always been a necessary dynamic in their music, but this was… uncomplicated. The drive and inspiration seemed uncluttered and free. It was fucking awesome seeing the two of them in flight. They came to me with an idea to incorporate photography into the album making progress, not just to document it, but to visually communicate the music. There was only ever one person to do that job: Cole Bennetts. They’ve always been ahead of the curve with how prominently they’ve embraced photography – this was just stepping up a few gears and going deeper. It made perfect sense.
To that end, a decision was made to partner with friends and production team Entropico to do all the videos for the album, from official clips through to online content.
They flew to New Zealand with Cole to support Yelawolf and came back with skeletons, one of which became Astray. Songs were developing quicker than anything since Inside Story, their second album that came a year after their debut. Adit unexpectedly suggested working with an external producer, in the conventional rock and roll definition of the word. The person who came on board was Nic Martin, a young gun of a producer, whose influence was vital as they collectively pushed the Horrorshow sound forward.
During this writing period, One Day Sundays was screaming along, expanding nation-wide and becoming a huge success story. Elsewhere, Solo and Adit took it upon themselves to organise a public screening of Chasing Asylum, a documentary that exposes the real impact of Australia’s offshore detention policies. The screening was co-ordinated with the One Day team, and they soldout the Factory Theatre, then followed it up with a social media campaign using Cole Bennett’s photos on the night. Adit, alongside Nick Lupi, represented OD in the annual CEO Sleepout. Solo got into scuffles with police, protesting the heavy-handed way NSW gov’t were implementing the West Connex road project. Elefant Traks has always been a community-minded label but we have no influence in how active Horrorshow are in the community – that’s all them. It goes to the heart of how they see the world and why those themes materialise in their music.
Despite everything, Bardo State went through all the inevitable stages as they edged closer to deadline. Reality has to set in at some point and shortcuts are rare when crafting something as big as an album. The 2016 HS Album folder on dropbox bulged with 20 or 30 files in various stages of completion. The challenge of how to make the photography concept work was discussed and brainstormed. Collaborations started to come together and sessions with Hayley Mary, Turquoise Prince, Kai and Omar Musa were recorded and engineered by the ever patient Simon Cohen. Friend and collaborator Jono Graham played a big role in co-writing a few songs. Freddy Crabs popped up here and there. My bandmate Meklit Kibret‘s beautiful vocals can be heard throughout the entire album. Many of those 1000 stories I mentioned at the top are a continually refreshing list of problems that need solving, one after another until the release date.
Deadlines demand final takes; song and album titles; final mixes; signing off on artwork; videos; online content; social media plans; the pressure builds. Finished versions were uploaded: songs like Cherry Blossom, which is as close to a bullseye as any love song I’ve heard, lays waiting for an endless passage of lovers to swear by. I’d love to have written it – that’s the best compliment a songwriter can give. 15 songs made the cut; My Time and Our Time, Ceiling Fan and After Dark amongst others; the album was taking shape and as much as I’d heard countless demos, it was only now that I had a feel for the overall sonic vibe. It was dreamy; at turns vulnerable and open, at others, full of authority and control. There’s depth in every song, but it’s really fucking fun too.
The unmistakeable character of this Inner West Sydney duo is on full display but it’s different to everything else they’ve done. It was worth every single one of the 1000 stories to come up with this record. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.