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Calling The Shots

13 March 2014 | 11:24 am | Andy Hazel

"It’s a lot of lazy bedroom techno."

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After several years of solid touring and becoming regular features in the charts and on triple j, rock trio Calling All Cars have been mysteriously quiet since 2011. Despite a 2013 tour with Kingswood, and several secret shows under the name Werewolves, the band explain their absence and why a year off to write and record an album soon turned into three. “It was down to a lot of things: record labels, who we were going to get to produce and record with – we had a lot of options and we wanted to try something different, but we're always thinking about international as well,” explains singer-guitarist Haydn Ing.

“That was the whole focus,” adds bassist Adam Montgomery. “We wanted a label where we were getting international support. We had to hang out for it a bit longer, but it worked out for the best. We're moving to the UK at the start of May, as soon as this tour finishes. We don't really know where yet. The label wants us to go to London, but we're thinking maybe Manchester; it's better for touring. We thought, 'It's stupid not to go, we're a rock'n'roll band!' We're just going to pack up, take our guitars and see how we go.”

Signing to Cooking Vinyl, a label with a base in London and an office in Australia, seems like an ideal move for a band with one of the best honed live shows in the country who are also keen to break new ground. With new album Raise The People about to be released, the timing couldn't be better. Not named for political- or zombie-related reasons, the album instead serves to remind audiences what the band does best: move people. “Big Day Out this year was really interesting,” explains Ing. “Everyone was like this [frowns and crosses his arms].”

“There was a lot of indifference,” Montgomery adds. “When high-energy bands like Grouplove or The Hives came on, they got the place moving and it was so cool to see that.”

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Renowned for their blazing live shows and relentless touring schedule, Calling All Cars have not only opened for AC/DC, Foo Fighters and Queens Of The Stone Age – playing to tens of thousands of punters – but also bring the same energy to all ages shows in country towns, as they're planning to do on their typically thorough forthcoming national tour. “Country towns don't get bands through as much, so they tend to get more involved,” Montgomery muses.

“But it doesn't matter where you are,” Ing continues, “it's down to the band playing a good show. Big Day Out ten years ago, bands that got the opportunity to be on the main stage really went all out: they'd spend money on backdrops, looking good and play for their lives. Now, I don't know…” he trails off. “A lot of the bands we saw were really lazy, there seems to be a theme going on [laughs].”

“It's a lot of lazy bedroom techno,” Montgomery opines.

Though sonically different from previous releases, Raise The People maintains focus on tempos and rhythms. “It's always better not to think about the live thing and just focus on making a good song,” explains Ing, a statement perhaps more attuned to a “lazy bedroom techno” artist than a kicking three-piece.

Demos for the album, as for the band's previous two, were recorded with friend Tom Larkin. Chasing further challenges, and resisting complacency, the band aimed high, with legendary producer Tchad Blake (The Black Keys, Phantom Planet) on the top of their list. Busy with recording a time-rich, better-financed, major label band, the trio waited before choosing to go with local producer Steve Schram (San Cisco, Eagle & The Worm). “I've always been a massive fan of big pop hooks,” says Ing, explaining the choice. “When his name came up we said 'sweet'. We hit it off straight away, we wanted to push ourselves and he wanted to push us even further.”

“We wanted to do something weird,” agrees Montgomery. “He's a bizarre guy to work with – doesn't give a fuck about the process of recording as such, it's all about vibing.”

Schram, who turned out to be friends with Blake, passed the album on; the big man's advice: “Don't re-record”. “He dug it, he said it was an eclectic album,” says Ing. “So maybe 60% of the album is the original demos we recorded in Tom's studio live.”

“After we finished the demo, we cut things up and moved things around and that's more the production [Schram] did,” adds Montgomery. “They came together a bit more as a cohesive thing after we spent time with him.”

The first taste of this collaboration, Werewolves (a song Ing describes as being about “a night of really intense sex”), and its suitably NSFW video, has divided fans. “We're not surprised,” laughs Montgomery. “But there's no pressure. We're just excited to finally play it live.”