Didirri, a man of many thoughts, has taken The Music track by track behind his new album, 'Caught In The Act', which is out today.
I come back to the sentiment of this song a lot in my life. I wrote it just after my grandmother passed. I was one of the lucky ones, during COVID, who got to be with her for the whole dying process, towards the end. I was really struck by the concept that we’re just machines, and that we do break down, eventually, and stop functioning.
It makes a mockery of the things you’re trying to do in your life, the fact that you’re gonna go. I heard someone say, “It all comes to an end, so fuck it. May as well.” That’s the concept of being the master of the obsolete machine: we are this machine that is breaking down and not going to make it, eventually. All you’ve got left is to try and do something with your time. If you can do something excellent in your own view, and push for something that you think is meaningful and something that you can master…then hopefully that gives some kind of meaning to your life.
When I listen back, there’s some production elements that Rob [Muinos] understood what I was going for. I really liked starting a new album with that ticking clock. There’s a little 808 that we put through a guitar amp; we were all playing along to it in the room. It wasn’t just a layer that was added, it was very much the beating heart of the start of the album. It was in the room with all the musicians. There’s something about putting it at the start, that really centres me. Starting with this clock that’s just ticking down.
I think COVID really gave all the musicians in that room a real need to express themselves and make something worthwhile. It ties back into what I was saying; it can all be taken away from you at any point. You should really get stuck into life if you can.
Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter
I came with something like 30 songs, leading into the record. We just went through and decided on the ones that worked together, and the ones that felt like good songs! It’s subjective, but we really tried not to put anything that wasn’t accurate in the feeling it was trying to convey, on the record.
We pre-produced thirteen songs, and then we recorded twelve and were going to release eleven. We were really conscious of not being in too deep. Often Broken was a really bizarre one, because we’d actually finished the record.
I was in London, and it was the first time I’d left home in quite a while, because of COVID. Oddly, family dynamics and friendship dynamics had been quite stable during COVID for me; there was a lot of love and support because everyone was going through similar things. For whatever reason, I found myself on that trip, the first time away from my partner and friends in a long while… shit hit the fan at the same time for people back home. I wasn’t close to them, I wasn’t there. I thought the timing was really bizarre. For the previous two years, I’d been stuck at home on the ground; I could have been of help. And as soon as I wasn’t there, that’s when people needed me.
I watched, from a very long distance, two relationships break down and inevitably break up. I wrote that song in probably half an hour, in London. I sent it to Rob, and he said, “This definitely needs to be on the record,” but the record was already done! We recorded it in a day with the band. We were getting ready to master, so it snuck onto the record right at the end.
I am writing about another friend, a family member who was going through a divorce, on this song. I actually had a dream about them; I woke up and wrote the song. I’d dreamt that I had been married to someone for a very long time, and had children with them. I dreamt that we’d broken up – the dream started at our daughter’s wedding, I was seeing my ex-wife for the first time since the divorce.
I remembered waking up and thinking that feeling must happen so often, and it must be such a confusing feeling for two people. That their kids are getting married, and that’s the reason they’re seeing their ex-partner for the first time.
I just wrote a few lines in my journal that are in the song; I remember thinking that we signify the start of a relationship in that cliche, romantic way of giving someone flowers. I was reflecting on the fact that you actually killed those flowers when you picked them. The act of giving them to someone is killing them. I thought it was a beautiful image, especially in the context of a wedding: there’s lots of the same thing, with the flowers.
It’s a strange thing, and yet, there’s a reason why plastic flowers aren’t appealing to a lot of people. I think it’s because we know that flowers are going to die, and they only last for a small amount of time. They’re beautiful for that amount of time, and then they’re gone. I’m in a long-term relationship, and we’re both very happy, but talk pretty constantly about the fact that things don’t have to last forever to be beautiful. I think it causes a lot of people a lot of pain when they decide that things have to last forever. You’ve set yourself up for failure in that expectation.
Prior to COVID and the writing of this record, I had just stopped some pretty major professional relationships with some people. That was incredibly hard to do. There’s a few songs on the record that speak of that; I Wanted It Easier Than This was one of them.
I have struggled in my life to really accept that conflict is going to be a part of your relationships. Everyone has different wants and needs; I used to think that you could get by without that conflict. I Wanted It Easier Than This is talking about stepping forward and going, “If I don’t say something, then things are going to head in a trajectory that I don’t want.”
This song is about how the truth, and being true to yourself, are far less confusing and much easier to keep track of. But it is the harder thing to do, and it hurts. It might not even hurt them, it might be uncomfortable in the moment to express your real feelings, but you can do it with love and compassion. It doesn’t need to be an aggressive thing; you don’t need to think that your opinion means more than anyone else’s. By not expressing your real self, you’re doing yourself a disservice and leading them astray too, because they think they know how you feel, but they don’t.
Of all of the songs on the record, I Wanted It Easier Than This, and Love Can Bleed You By The Hand – they both still feel like poignant lessons that I need constant reminders of in my life. Ironically, it’s very hard to be yourself.
I was in a particular state where I wasn’t sleeping very well; it’s something that has come and gone in my life, but I’ve had differing levels of insomnia at points. I guess I was writing Heaving Chest at silly hours of the morning, around three o’clock. I was in Margaret River, feeling incredibly anxious but grateful at the same time. It was a very strange feeling.
There’s a lot of different viewpoints in that song. For me, it’s about that feeling of anxiety when you wake up, and anyone who’s had bouts of insomnia knows that you get in a cycle of anxiety about sleep, and that makes it worse. You’re lying awake, and you’re breathing so heavily. Also, it was a really romantic time. It’s the first time I’ve referenced sex in a song, other than maybe Can’t Get Last Night Out Of My Head.
There was this weirdly ghostly feeling in that place because I was in and out of this strange state of consciousness while spending a lot of time with my partner. I was also quite sick at the time. I was just trying to connect my bodily feelings with both the pleasure and anxiety of that place. It’s a very raw song, it doesn’t have a huge narrative underneath it, which a lot of my songs do. It’s very much just about trying to capture a place and a feeling, rather than trying to tell a story.
It’s one of my favourites on the record and is still quite hard to play, emotionally. It’s really hard to pinpoint with any kind of accuracy why that song hits me so hard. Because, for me, it really is a scene in my head of a little chapter of my life; it takes me back there so easily. It’s an odd song.
It found its spot on the record, I wouldn’t say I knew where it was going to go when I wrote it. I didn’t have the spot in the record assigned for it, but it did make sense because I really like the sentiment of, “You can always start again and be made afresh.”
It’s a thing I’ve spoken about before, the things that really make you happy in life are also really simple. The things that make you depressed seem really complicated, but they’re usually not as complicated as you think. For me personally, that makes the moments of reflection on negative emotions and circumstances in life a much deeper well to draw from, when I’m writing. When I’m happy it’s hard to capture it in a song or in a feeling; sometimes I don’t even want to.
Music is a really deep and rich experience for me, but sometimes it even feels like cheapening the moment by going, “I had a really beautiful day with my friends,” and trying to reduce it down into a song is hard and pointless, sometimes.
Begin Again was interesting though. I was writing it whilst having emotions, so I guess it wasn’t a reflection. I wrote it on piano, and I wrote it in this freeform; I think the original went for six or seven minutes, I was just singing out loud. I reduced it in the studio with Rob, down to what it is here.
Winning Moves was written very quickly. I find myself, when I’m at my most anxious or neurotic, it’s usually in the afternoon. It’s usually when I haven’t seen anyone for most of the day, spent a lot of time with myself. I guess that’s where the idea of the ‘midday blues’ came from. I was just really frustrated with myself.
The week before, I’d been given some kind of self-help book from someone; I’d read some of it, and it said that even interactions with strangers on a daily basis are very good for you. I think I purposefully spent the next three days alone.
My sound engineer has all these sayings, he’s that friend who just spits out these sayings and will go back to them. This song has a lot of his phrases in it, and one of them is, “The only winning move is not to play.”
That feeling that you get of wanting to quit something, it’s so alluring. Quitting and cancelling plans is so attractive a lot of the time. Even though you know it’s not good for you…not always, anyway. Sometimes you have to leave stuff behind but most of the time, the decision to stay home and continue doom-scrolling or whatever is not the best choice that you could have made. It’s so tempting to quit stuff, and I was in that feeling.
It just came out that way. I was also in a period where I was drinking a lot on my own and with others; I was really in a bad place. I was trying to absolve myself of any responsibility. I came out of that period of my life…you've got to decide if it’s worth it if it’s worth doing whatever you’re doing.
This song was really, really difficult to record. It was so easy to write, though. It happens to me a lot. If it’s a song that just comes out the way it comes out when you’re writing it, unless you capture it really quickly – within a short amount of time to the recording state – it can be really hard to capture that brief moment again. We recorded this song the most, I can’t remember how many times.
Often, people will ask me for advice, and sometimes, people need some kind of wisdom from a friend. I think a lot of the time, if you actually ask someone what they think you should do with the problem you have, most people can answer the question. They just don’t want to do it.
That’s what this song is about, I’m actually directing the statement at myself. “You know what’s good for you; you just have to do the thing that is good for you.” – that’s the part that is really difficult. It’s actually a split personality, that song. I’m having a conversation with myself.
I remember thinking, in my darkest moments, “You know how to move forward from this feeling; you don’t need to wrestle with it; you need to take a big, deep breath and move in the right direction.” It doesn’t need to be a big leap, but a small move in the right direction, over and over again.
It’s opposite to what I truly believe about real love, and what it is to feel real love. To feel real love for someone is to set them free. You let them be their own being. That song, in particular, is about being led astray by the best intentions of a person. I think those are some of the hardest recollections that I’ve had.
It’s in a similar vein to I Wanted It Easier Than This, as a sentiment. The slight difference between the two is that Love Can Bleed You By The Hand is very much about being in the moment of the breakup – some professional and personal relationships that I had.
It was just reflecting on the fact that they had the best intentions for me, they have a love for me, and they really do want what’s best for me, but they don’t know what’s best for me. The problem between the two there was that I was being led down a path that they thought was best. I never thought that you could be led astray by people with the best intentions until those kinds of reflections came up. I was feeling creatively constricted in my professional relationship with this person.
More and more with social media and a presentation of what an artist’s life actually is, it’s so curated, and you can’t help but be curated. The actual creation side of an artist is separate from that. I couldn’t possibly write through social media somehow, or through a presentation to other people. I need to be in a space of pure freedom, just to write about whatever’s come into my head. As soon as things get curated, or you have a target audience; a target in mind, you lose some sense of what a song or a piece of art could be.
I wrote that on January 7th, after the American storming of the capitol on January 6th. I, like a lot of people now, have some form of climate anxiety every now and then. A lot of people feel this deep sense that the world is collapsing around them. While accurate in some forms, it’s not a helpful feeling for people. It’s not helpful for me, it doesn’t spark a productive means to a life.
I wrote that song to reflect on all of those feelings of collapse that were happening at that time, and contributing to my sense of pointlessness. It’s a really aggressive song, and it’s really targeted at people like Donald Trump, or people in power who have the ability to do something about the things that people, rightly, have anxiety about, but choose not to.
Unfortunately, I’m a chronic optimist: I do believe in people and their best intentions. I know that a lot of people who I would view as doing nothing on these big issues, probably sleep quite soundly at night, thinking they’re doing the best that they can. They just don’t agree with me on what the best is.
That song is so much about the collapse of the world and the anxiety that those thoughts provoke in me. Under Falling Skies is like…can you be happy in the face of clouds falling? If you can, that’s beautiful, and it’s a real statement to the ability of the human mind, to be happy in the face of some pretty crazy existential stuff.
It’s probably the hardest song on the record to talk about. It’s very much an exploration of depression and what it is to feel, in my experience…I mean, I’m in a much better headspace now, but to me, during those really dark moments, there was a sense of numbness. I had some really destructive behaviours when writing that song.
The reason I’ve put that song on the record and I’ve put it there, is because it’s a song I actually wrote when I was maybe 19 or 20. I’m 27 now. Going on closer to a decade than not. I had only written about half that song, but I have a demos folder that is just there. We were in the middle of the record, and I decided, for whatever reason, just to have a look through. It was like reading a journal, sometimes you have a read to see where you’re at. I sent it to Rob and said, “What do you think of this song?”
He said, “That’s one of the strongest songs that I’ve heard,” it had a big effect on him when he heard it. We ended up writing the second verse there.
When I wrote that song, I had a really terrible relationship with a woman. It really fell apart. It was largely my fault. No small part of that was going through depressive bouts and just being very destructive, psychologically to myself and to them. I wanted to put it as a word of warning at the end of the record. I also thought, it being the oldest song on the record, that it was best emotionally…it felt right to put it at the end, as a marker. It’s like, “This is the end of my debut record, and this is the worst I’ve ever felt.”
It’s like, “Don’t go back here,” type of feeling.
Caught In The Act is out now via Liberation Records. You can listen to the album below.