"I was like, 'Sweet, he's going to fit us in between Babs and Barry!'"
Grammy-nominated US producer/engineer John Merchant has a resume that includes big names such as Michael Jackson, Bee Gees, R Kelly and Lenny Kravitz, and now he can add upbeat Brisbane party starters Cheap Fakes to that impressive roster given that he recently flew out to Australia just to helm their accomplished third album, Modern Vintage. The strong collection of songs stands up well enough on its own, but of course it doesn't hurt its prospects sounding absolutely pristine courtesy Merchant's world-class production sheen.
"John was over doing some production workshops, while he was on tour with Barry Gibb — he was doing some shows with Barry in Australia — and I saw online that he was doing a production workshop, so I went along to that and took a couple of CDs," explains slightly incredulous frontman Hayden Andrews. "I just thought that I'd be cheeky and give them to him, and I didn't really expect to hear anything back from him but a couple of months later I got this really extensive email outlining what he liked about it and what he thought we could work on. I was just really stoked that he'd taken the time to reply and thought, 'What the hell?' and just asked him if he'd produce our next album — his exact words were, 'Well I'm just finishing off Barbara Streisand's new album and I've got to do another tour with Barry in North America, but there's a three week gap in-between where I can come down to Australia', and I was like, 'Sweet, he's going to fit us in between Babs and Barry!'"
Andrews attests that Merchant proved more than just a big name for the credits, and had a tangible impact on Modern Vintage's funky aesthetic.
"Yeah, in the studio he's an absolute genius," he gushes. "He knows all the gear inside out, he knows exactly what piece of equipment does what job, and he just gets the best performance out of every band member just by making you feel so relaxed."
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A family-related hiatus meant that Cheap Fakes couldn't put the album out straight away, and they ended up adding a couple more tracks to consolidate the album's vibe.
"As soon as we'd recorded I found out [my partner and I] were having a baby — he's 14 months old now!" Andrews laughs. "Then when we were listening to the songs it just felt that we needed a couple more tracks — it was quite an intense album, quite rocky as compared to our previous albums, and we felt that we needed a couple of pop songs to balance it out. We just wanted to lighten the mood up, so we recorded two more songs with our guitarist Scotty French producing at his studio — we did Just In Case and Baby, It's A Good Song and they ended up being the first two singles! We just wanted it to be a bit more accessible, and I reckon we achieved that, which is great."