Rockin' On His Mind

17 July 2012 | 5:45 am | Michael Smith

"I’m a kind of old-fashioned ‘radio is the best’ guy, even though it’s not done very well, except for community radio. I mean commercial radio should really play so much more but won’t unless they’re told to."

After a couple of years that have seen Dave Graney immersed in retrospection, he and his trusty cohorts – the ever-present heartbeat Clare Moore on drums, Stuart Perera on guitar and Stu Thomas on bass – have launched themselves back into the future with a new album, You've Been In My Mind. They're travelling this year under the moniker The MistLY (contracted down from previous handle The Lurid Yellow Mist).

“I wanted to do a particular type of record,” an obviously not long out of bed Graney explains, yawning before he continues, “kind of following on from the last one, which was Rock'N'Roll Is Where I Hide, just use the same studio, the same engineer and I just mixed this one myself… Mmm, yeah, pretty upbeat rock'n'roll album with not much layering of sound… Er, just the sound of the band. And like the last album, we knew the material really well so we could just really, you know, old school style.”

As always, the wordsmith in Graney ensures there are plenty of memorable phrases to be found on You've Been In My Mind, not least in the song titles, like Flash In The Pantz, I'm Not The Guy I Tried To Be and Cop This, Sweetly for example.

“I guess that's the school of songwriting I come from,” he admits, “sort of r'n'b and country style, you know, where you have a kind of street language and flashy kind of buzz words. That's what I like. I'm not really into, I don't know, university-type or poetry stuff. When I was a kid I used to listen to The Doors a lot and Jim Morrison always [repeated phrases] and then Alan Vega in Suicide and Van Morrison I guess, just that style, and anyway, r'n'b singers and Bo Diddley, people like that. When I say r'n'b, I like r'n'b nowadays too,” he chuckles.

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“I generally write very quickly and, you know, it's more of a musical thing. I sit on bits of music for years and then if it comes to shaping it into a song you need some words. That happens very quickly, that part of it. I'm usually messing around with the music for a long time. I'm kind of more into the musical part of it than the lyrical part, although the lyrical part, you know, I've got a handle on it, but I love to play the guitar more and more. I loved playing the guitar on this album and the last one. I dunno; that's just something I've been obsessing over. Some people come to see us just for the guitar jams type thing,” he suggests, nodding to the interplay on stage between himself and Perera, who has been in and out of Graney line-ups since he was a teenager back in 1998.

Meanwhile, you can take the boy out of Mount Gambier, where Graney was born and raised, but it's obvious that you can't take Mount Gambier out of the boy, as he ponders a Mt Gambier Night.

“Oh yeah! Well, when I did my [autobiographical] book, 1001 Australian Nights, last year, I was doing readings of it everywhere and a lot of it had to do with returning again and again to your roots. Then we'd often play Mt Gambier Night after I did a reading and the song had quite a lot of power coming out of the building up in the arrangement and that sort of thing.”

Not that he got to do a book reading back in his old stomping ground. “I wouldn't mind. They have a nice library down there. I did a lot of readings at libraries last year; it was quite a new world – I really loved it.

Mt Gambier Night and Playing Chicken are very much kind of post-punk songs that really hark back to the kind of music I loved, getting into it, that New York late-'70s early-'80s funk disco kind of rock music. The others are kind of '70s rock – not like KISS; I mean Little Feat, Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd; kind of Southern rock and the great Rolling Stones period, especially with Black And Blue. I don't think it's overtly any of that, but that's the way I can hear it.”

While 1001 Australian Nights was Graney's second book – he published a discursive collection of essays, It Is Written, Baby, back in 1997 – and he's a regular contributor to The Melbourne Review, plus has his own blog, we're not about to lose him to the literary world.

“I do like it but I prefer playing music. It's kind of more valuable for me, in a way, 'cause it's so, um, chaotic. People can take music as seriously as they like to – and I take it very seriously. I think it's very enjoyable and it's kind of uncontrollable in many ways. Anything can happen really, I think still, in music; it's not really a closed shop. I really enjoy the camaraderie of playing in a band too, which is why I rarely do solo performances.”

The album was preceded, earlier this year, by a digital-only single, King Of The Dudes, which isn't included on the physical album since it's essentially all Graney, no band and therefore doesn't fit, but it's a bonus track on the digital version, along with a couple of remixed previously older tracks.

“I was thinking of doing this album and I just wanted to experiment with what things could be like; you know, digital release. So I just did it from home – mixed it and then mastered it somewhere and then just put it onto our online distributor, from home,” he laughs. “That seems to be the promise of digital music, you know, that you could do that and so I think I'll continue to try and just see what happens with that kind of a release.

“[As a single] It went all right, but still, funny thing about music, it really has to have radio support because radio, it's the random kind of nature of it that people might hear something. I don't think the digital world is just totally great, because it isolates everybody more than frees up music. I'm a kind of old-fashioned 'radio is the best' guy, even though it's not done very well, except for community radio. I mean commercial radio should really play so much more but won't unless they're told to and whether that will ever happen, who knows?”