The new Jack Carty record isn’t actually a Jack Carty record, though it is. Michael Smith tries to unravel things.
It's all down to this enigmatic Sydney-based producer who travels under the moniker Casual Psychotic. Singer-songwriter Jack Carty had been riding high on his second album, Break Your Own Heart, which managed to reach number eight on the iTunes Australia Singer/Songwriter Chart and number 15 in the Australian Indie Records Chart last year, when Casual Psychotic invited him to check out his studio.
“He's an amazing guy, a really creative guy,” Carty explains, “and it wasn't necessarily us deciding to make a record and then going in and starting a record. I had a couple of songs that I'd written, as far as I was concerned, the next Jack Carty album, and we recorded one of them [Tunnel Vision] just for fun and tried all this production stuff – synthesisers, and I was doubling all the vocal melodies down an octave – and I just really loved how it turned out and he did too, and we decided to do another one and by the end of the second one I think we'd realised that maybe we were gonna make record. But it didn't start like that, and so that really gave us a lot of freedom – we were just doing whatever we thought was gonna be cool and purposely taking the songs in a bit of a different direction.”
The result is the debut Jack Carty & Casual Psychotic EP, The Predictable Crisis Of Modern Life – very much a co-writing collaboration.
“For me, I was still very much concerned with making sure that the stories or the narrative was intact, because that's what I like about songwriting,” Carty says. “I think that's what keeps it grounded and that's why people who enjoyed Break Your Own Heart, for example, have liked this record, because it still has that narrative thread running through it.”
But then you've got these “spoken word samples”, which, as it happens, aren't samples but “the voice of K-Tel”; K-Tel being the first of the cheap big hits compilation albums companies back in the '70s.
“That's my granddad,” Carty admits. “He was a radio announcer and voice-over guy for 50 years. So we had these parts we wanted him to record and I just called him and it took him 30 minutes and he was gone, he was such a pro.
“There are some love songs on the EP, there's one really angry song and songs about figuring stuff out, but the thing that runs across the whole EP is a sort of an anxiety permeating everything and that's what we try to capture with that voice-over running through it, and even the title, The Predictable Crisis Of Modern Life. We wanted to make it cinematic if we could, have it almost be a little bit theatrical.
“I don't know if I'm any more anxious than anyone, but I definitely have a certain level of anxiety. I don't know if that's natural or just because I'm trying to survive as a musician in Australia, which might be an anxiety-inducing thing to do,” Carty laughs. “Not in a sad sack way… but it's something I have found has been popping up in my writing lately, and I like that. With this production especially, we were really able to bring that out and make it a little bit creepy and make it a little bit weird, and kind of fuck it up a little bit, so that they're not just these pretty folk songs – they're kind of a little bit sinister.”