Night Of The Moodist

11 July 2012 | 8:21 am | Doug Wallen

Hip hop and The Byrds have influenced a re-christened Dave Graney & The Mistly.

One of the great deadpans of Australian music, Dave Graney is more subdued as an interview subject than you'd expect from his mouthy stage banter or the casual braggadocio of his 2011 memoir 1001 Australian Nights. That said, the rock lifer comes off just as naturally as he does on the intimate album You've Been In My Mind, his first batch of new songs since 2009's Knock Yourself Out.

Graney remains backed by drummer and wife Clare Moore, guitarist Stuart Perera and bassist Stu Thomas, long known as The Lurid Yellow Mist but now simply The Mistly. (“It's just an easier way to say the name,” he says.) Recorded in Brunswick with Andrew Hehir (The Basics, The Hired Guns), it's well-oiled, in-the-room playing captured in one or two takes with very few overdubs.

He wound up mixing the record himself. “I thought I could do it and it was quite simple,” he says. “As long as something's recorded really well with a good engineer, there's not much actual mixing to be done. We worked out all the songs a lot playing them live and rehearsing, so everybody was down on the material.”

Graney has shed his skin many times over the years, from The Moodists in the '80s to The Coral Snakes and The Dave Graney Show in the '90s. But the current band have been going for some years now, lending a consistency that's obvious to anyone who's seen them live. That comes through in spades on You've Been In My Mind, a record that's confident without being over-the-top. Coined by an unwitting caller on sport radio, lead single Flash In The Pantz is all well-worn charisma, while the surly six-minute jam Mistral is a late highlight. If Graney's mix of old-school panache and prickly wit feels familiar on Cop This Sweetly and Midnight Cats, he mixes things up by diving headlong into 12-string guitar.

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“I always liked The Byrds,” he explains, “since they started reissuing their stuff really well in the early '80s. The beautiful, chiming arpeggios – it's an intoxicating sound. The main mystery of The Byrds is the vocals. It's very disappointing if you try to play a Byrds song by yourself, because there's no lead vocals. It's very much three people singing, and this beautiful, intuitive harmonising.”

He also cites the late Arthur Lee's great band Love and the general West Coast American sound of yore, as well as R&B and jazz elements, as influences on this record. But starting down the track of inspiration is tricky because there are many more things going on than you'd pick from simply listening to the songs.

“I love a lot of jazz and hip hop,” Graney elaborates, “but it's not really evident. I love hip hop mainly for the voices and the lyrical matter. They talk about the business of music and performing, and identity. I've always done that because they used to do it in the post-punk scene, where I started out. People were always commenting on what they were doing. But West Coast for us also means The Doors, and Clare has always used Latin kinds of beats, like The Doors did.”

In the midst of an album launch tour, Graney & The Mistly are capping the 100th anniversary celebrations for the Regal Ballroom (formerly known as Northcote Theatre). They're doing a night at Castlemaine's newish Bridge Hotel as well, and Graney and Moore are playing in Harry Howard's band there the night before.

Fans of Graney's memoir will perk up at Mt Gambier Night, an ode to the South Australia “blue-collar timber town” where he was raised. “[It's] about walking around a place you were once small in,” observes Graney. “It envelops you. It's a spooky song about the presence of a place.” It's also about the meditative vibe after sunset. He adds, “Night time brings out your consciousness a lot more.”