Prefect Timing

15 August 2012 | 8:00 am | Doug Wallen

"All our songs, they’re just improvised lyrics. All my friends seemed to be going away to America. It was more a cheeky little poke at that, and maybe a jealous poke."

Not that pedigree matters much in a band that write short jangle-pop ditties, but the three members of Bitch Prefect have been in an awful lot of other great bands. Drummer Pat Telfer is in Old Mate, guitarist Liam Kenny is in Peak Twins and both collaborate on the rap recording project Silly Joel & The Candymen. Guitarist Scott O'Hara, meanwhile, has done years in True Radical Miracle, Hit The Jackpot and Lindsey Low Hand.

Now based in Melbourne, the trio formed three years ago while the guys were all living in the same Adelaide share house. “It wasn't ever really considered; it just happened,” recalls O'Hara, who has lived in both Melbourne and Adelaide repeatedly over the years. “But by the time we did our first show, we had thirty-odd songs under our belt. Which got culled down dramatically to ten, and we never worried about those other twenty.”

The band's discography still hasn't swollen past that initial outburst, now consisting of a 2011 7” on R.I.P. Society and the new 12-song album, Big Time, on Bedroom Suck. There have been other very limited releases, like a live tape on Faux Friends, but those were just something to pass out amongst mates.

If Bitch Prefect still retain the shambling looseness of a young band, their songs have evolved in one definite way: “We used to sing a lot more together,” O'Hara reckons. “It's not deliberate, but I notice we're doing it less and less.” That's because early on the band would just sit around with a four-track, having “a lot of fun with vocal overdubs.” O'Hara and Kenny still share lead vocal duties and “everyone has a bit of a sing,” but now that the guys write songs when practising rather than when recording, they can't work out vocal harmonies as readily. In fact, O'Hara admits with a laugh, “There's only one microphone around.”

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

Big Time captures the band sounding totally natural and at ease, despite singing about relative hardships like being persistently broke. But the album was actually recorded twice, after the initial sessions with Hit The Jackpot's Kynan Lawlor resulted in “some really flat takes” on the band's part. “Kynan's recording was excellent, but there were some pretty major flaws.” So in stepped Jack Farley (Scott & Charlene's Wedding), at whose Transient Studios warehouse O'Hara was living at the time. “He was a pretty obvious choice.”

You'd never mistake Farley for an overly slick studio mogul, but even by his DIY standards, Big Time was recorded super quickly. That's the upshot, it turns out, of recording an album twice: “We knew the songs really well,” says O'Hara. The entire record was actually tracked in around three hours, including overdubs.

As you can perhaps tell from the band name, Bitch Prefect are up for a laugh more than they're concerned with world domination. Their album plays like a series of hummable running jokes, whether observing public exercise (Walk With Style) and resorting to extremes in the summer heat (Freezer) or lamenting barren bank accounts (Dollar Blues) and iffy personal choices (Bad Decisions).

One of the band's best songs, Holiday In America, was just as much of a lark. “All our songs, they're just improvised lyrics. All my friends seemed to be going away to America. It was more a cheeky little poke at that, and maybe a jealous poke. Everyone would have their little chats about America and it was just my time to sit out the conversations, because I didn't know anything about the place.” Since then, however, he has visited California and loved it.

The best part about Bitch Prefect? The utter brevity of their songs. “I like them short,” he says. “We sometimes double up verses and choruses anyway. It doesn't need to be doubled again or extra parts thrown in. I'd rather write another song.”