Going The Distance

4 April 2014 | 3:06 pm | Daniel Cribb

“I think everyone has to do their own thing, to some degree, to keep everyone occupied. You don’t want anyone to feel like they’re being left behind and there’s stagnation or anything."

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"Brisbane was always kind of a, I guess, at first a temporary thing, and I guess I could be moving back [to Perth] in six months, I could be moving to Melbourne, whatever, but being over in Brisbane has proven that Sons Of Rico can do that distance thing – the long distance relationship,” begins Sons Of Rico vocalist Alex MacRae on the band's interstate dynamics.

With MacRae and drummer Adam Weston (of Birds Of Tokyo fame) residing in Brisbane, and the other three members of Sons Of Rico back in Perth, there's a fair amount of travel involved when it comes time to prepare for a tour. Having flown to Perth from Queensland the previous night, MacRae is still getting his bearings. “I got up at 6am this morning and was twiddling my thumbs,” he laughs, stirring sugar into his cappuccino. He's quick to point out that the somewhat long interstate flights aren't bad though. “It's awesome that they've got those little screens on basically every plane now. So I watched that Hitchcock movie, with Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren, and then I was like, 'Aw, I want to learn more about Hitchcock,'” he enthuses. “I was sitting on Wikipedia and decided to 'acquire' Psycho.”

MacRae's curious nature often leads to unlikely song matter, which is a recurring theme on the band's second record, In Rico Glaciers. Track seven on the record, Just My Type, deals with cannibal Armin Meiwes, who, in 2001, found a victim willing to be killed and eaten. “It was huge news for a while. It was amazing because the law system didn't know how to deal with it. They were like, 'Well, this guy was willing to be killed and eaten. Is this assisted suicide, or what?' But anyway, I kind of turned it into a love story, and sort of peppering connotations of cannibalism and violence,” he laughs.

A large portion of the absurd content on the record comes from isolation and late-night internet voyages investigating somewhat irrelevant subject matter as a way to stay sane. Without a car, and living at Weston's house, 45 minutes out of town, MacRae had plenty of time to kill whilst writing the record in Brisbane.

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“I was living with his wife and kid while he was in LA with [Birds Of Tokyo] recording... basically for like six months I just stayed in the house, which was good, because I really had to focus on what I was doing and find ways to keep it interesting, so I feel like it's crept into this album that we've done,” the affable frontman explains. With a singing voice that reaches glass-shattering intensity, he maintains a fairly calm and collected composure off stage.

It wasn't a matter of sending mp3s back and forth across the country during the writing process as he handled most of it himself, with the expectation of keyboardist Brett Murray weighing in from time to time. If you dismantle the band and analyze each member, you'll find a huge chunk of the WA music scene. Busy on key duties with Birds Of Tokyo, guitarist Glenn Sarangapany “jumped ship” just before the recording and was replaced with The Witches frontman Chris Callan; bassist Rob Stephens plays with Russian Winters and Simon & Girlfunkle, keyboarist Brett Murray is a seasoned Perth player, and, as mentioned earlier, Weston drums for Birds Of Tokyo.

“I think everyone has to do their own thing, to some degree, to keep everyone occupied. You don't want anyone to feel like they're being left behind and there's stagnation or anything; you don't want to have a stagnant atmosphere around the band, so I encourage everyone to be doing their own thing and be creative all the time.”

With the others so firmly embedded with other projects at the time of the album's recording, when it came time to get down to business at Applewood Lane Studios with producer Magoo (Regurgitator, Art vs Science, Midnight Oil), it was up to MacRae to pull most of it together. “Everything is blur now,” he laughs. “Adam laid down his drums in just over a week, Brett did a couple of bits on a couple of songs and then basically I did the rest… it was a bit of a one-man band thing for a lot of it, but we kind of felt like that was the smartest thing to do with the funds and the time that we had.”

The album's first single, You Don't Know What Your Missing, was early proof that the one-man band approach and MacRae's vision yielded success with listeners. “A lot of crew are connecting it with the glam rock vibe, which is not really intentional, but listening back it's like, 'I guess it's kind of glam. Cool! I'll embrace that.' It's kind of gratuitously big and there's guitar solos. It's fun.”

Like most other songs on the record, the single has an interesting conception. After a Sydney show in 2011 on the band's Misadventure Tour, Weston and MacRae ventured into Kings Cross to find kebabs. “On the way this 'lady' stopped us and started asking all sorts of things… basically we were like, 'Aw, no thanks. Unless you've got a kebab, we're not interested,' and so we kept going on and as we were walking away she was like, 'You don't know what you're missing!' and I was like, 'Ha, you know, I don't know what I'm missing. I don't know if I want to know what I'm missing, but there is something that I'm missing.'

“And just that line, it immediately reminded me of, as a kid,” he laughs, “this is a weird connection – for instance, going to the beach, my dad's English and he thinks minus three degrees in the water is warm, so he'd jump in, and be like, 'C'mon, come in kids!' and we're, 'No, we're gonna make a sandcastle,' and he's like, 'You don't know what you're missing, it's beautiful,' and it's situations like that I have to kind of ask myself, you don't know what you're missing. So it's kind of like a bit of a sort of mantra to myself and to people to entertain new experiences that come up at you.”

Despite the record being mainly run by MacRae, the band is tighter than ever. We've become tighter, and we know each other better… in terms of writing, I still take on the lead there, so not much has changed in that regard, and plus being in Brisbane it's hard to write together – although, it's possible, it's possible to do it, like putting things in Dropbox and going, 'New idea up here – see what you think.' Like anything, there's going to be changes, I think for us it's a bit more subtle.”

Sons Of Rico will be playing the following dates:

Friday 5 April - Capitol & Amplifier Bar, Perth WA
Saturday 6 April - Settlers Tavern, Margaret River WA
Thursday 11 April - Sol Bar, Maroochydore QLD
Friday 12 April - The Great Northern Hotel, Byron Bay NSW
Saturday 13 April - Alhambra Lounge, Fortitude Valley QLD
Friday 26 April - Yarra Hotel, Geelong VIC
Saturday 27 April - The Workers Club, Fitzroy VIC
Thursday 2 May - Goodgod Small Club, Sydney NSW
Saturday 4 May - The Great Northern Hotel, Newcastle NSW