Off The Bat

29 August 2012 | 8:15 am | Doug Wallen

"I have been a huge Elliott Smith fan in my time... and that’s kind of what he does: have two identical parts but in two separate takes, over the top of each other. It adds quite a lot without adding too much."

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After ten years of leading the band Batrider, which took her from Auckland to Melbourne to London to Adelaide, Sarah Mary Chadwick is back in Melbourne and striking out on her own. Fans of Batrider's unfiltered gloom will be pleased to hear that Chadwick's groggy melancholy hasn't lifted on her debut solo album, Eating For Two, but she's quite happy being in Melbourne again, thanks for asking.

“It's nice being settled now,” she admits. “I got sick of getting rid of everything and buying the same things all again. I can see myself being here for at least the next two years. I like it a lot more this time than the first time. It's a good place.”

Why does she like it more than during her original stint? “I think travel isn't something that really comes naturally to me,” she answers, which is funny to hear from someone whose band spanned three countries. “But it was quite important to other people who played in that band to keep moving. That's fine and I don't regret it at all. I'm really glad I've been to the places I've been. But I've really missed old friends: people that know your history and are more like family. And y'know, I'm thirty now; I've relaxed a lot from when I was younger.”

Batrider put out several strong albums, all with Chadwick's chalky rasp at the fore, including last year's Piles Of Lies. The band's music had a grungy 1990s edge, raised on the ramshackle confessions of Sebadoh and Eric's Trip as well as the downturned bitterness of Elliott Smith and certain Dinosaur Jr songs. While Eating For Two is not exactly an upbeat record, musically or lyrically, it's more minimal and feels more spontaneous than Batrider. It's still rough around the edges, but not having a band there highlights Chadwick's bleak revelations.

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So is Batrider finished? “It's more so at the end than at the beginning. That band was just me, pretty much. I was the only person in the last line-up that was there when we started, so I do feel quite a lot of ownership over that. After ten years I was like, 'Well, fuck, you can keep doing it because you've always done it, or you can have a change because you've always done it.' And I've always had a lot of songs I've sat on to fit in and around what we were doing as a band.”

Chadwick chose to include her middle name in her solo guise simply because her first name is painfully common. As for the album title, it's open to interpretation. That said, it's not a reference to pregnancy. Listening to the songs, it's more a nod to trying to go on after a painful breakup leaves you feeling like half a person. The album was recorded mostly in Melbourne with her friend Nick Corr, the rest being done with Kynan Lawlor (who did the last two Batrider records) in Adelaide last year. Chadwick had 25 songs from the first recording session and 30 from the second, so she was faced with plenty to choose from.

One of the songs to make the cut was a version of Is It Tonight recorded live at Melbourne's Old Bar, complete with a spoken bit in the middle. Other songs layer Chadwick's vocals for haunting effect. In contrast to the “lonely approach” she thought would suit certain songs, those are almost like overlapping exchanges with herself. “I have been a huge Elliott Smith fan in my time,” she admits, “and that's kind of what he does: have two identical parts but in two separate takes, over the top of each other. It adds quite a lot without adding too much.”

And again, it's now her decision to make. “It's kind of nice to not have to worry about anyone else for a change,” she reckons, “and think about myself.”