Why Underpreparing For The New Album Turned Out To Be For The Best

23 February 2016 | 2:51 pm | Annelise Ball

"It added a great pressure and at times resulted in things being a little different than expected."

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When you're in the desert watching a man tap a beat on a nuclear warhead, it's best to take the hint and use it for your band's new album, even if it's all in your head. "Generally people raise their eyebrows when you say you dreamed a song," says Riebl. "I dream in melodies a lot, scramble to sing them into the phone half asleep, then realise it's gibberish when I listen later." Riebl got lucky this time though. "The guy in my dream gave me a clear rhythm for a song, and that one line. I love the idea that music can turn anything into a celebration."

According to Riebl, the people are right on board already. "The first time we played Bulls live, it had an amazing uptake," says Riebl. "It's got that festive, mood-lifting thing The Cat Empire can do sometimes." The new album's first single Wolves also clearly hit the mark, entering triple j's 2015 Hottest 100 at #79. Riebl grins like a proud dad when reflecting on the band's record-setting run of one song entering each year for 11 years. "I was so happy when I realised that," he says. "It's so nice given it's such an important part of Australia's music landscape."

"I dream in melodies a lot, scramble to sing them into the phone half asleep, then realise it's gibberish when I listen later." 

The loose and wild nature of Wolves sets the rest of Rising With The Sun in motion. Working again with producer Jan Skubiszewski from Way Of The Eagle, the band picked up from where they'd left off with fifth album Steal The Light. "We felt we stumbled on some form on that album, so we wanted to continue," explains Riebl. "In some ways, they're brother-sister albums. Even though they sound different, they have the same intent in terms of their festive output."

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The band underprepared for the recording process. "We made a decision not to rehearse before recording at all," Riebl shares. "It added a great pressure and at times resulted in things being a little different than expected." Case in point: tropical-disco-Ethiopian banger Wolves. "Harry [Angus, vocals and trumpet] wrote the synth melody on a toy synthesiser, which totally changed the song from what I imagined it to be," says Riebl. "I love the hook, it adds to the wildness." Angus' sultry reggae-romance Midnight was brought in late to the process, adding sass to the album's mix. "That's my favourite one Harry wrote," says Riebl. "It's a great song to listen to walking alone at night time."

Sombre yet celebratory Bataclan was written purposefully in response to the 2015 terrorist attack inside the Paris live music venue. "The news cut me very deep," says Riebl. "Not just because we'd played there many times, but because it's a world so familiar to me. To be amongst faces like theirs every night, the news shattered me." Written specifically to evoke a militant feel reminiscent of Mano Negra and the European punk political movement, Bataclan is deeply important to Riebl. "I'll have a moment each night we perform Bataclan to remember. The song is an ode to live music, a celebration to say, 'We're still here.'"

The faces Riebl and the band get amongst every night on tour have made their way onto the Rising With The Sun album artwork. Flicking through the CD booklet sitting on Riebl's kitchen table, hundreds of smiling faces beam off the page. "I do love the idea of people's faces being in there," says Riebl, looking through them all. "On the last album we had thousands of names included, on this album we have faces and I think that really embodies the legacy of the band." Holding the CD in his hands gives Riebl a shot of adrenaline. "All of a sudden it feels very alive. It gives me a burst of nervousness and energy about having to deliver it to the world live."

After so many years as arguably Australia's most loved live band, Riebl ain't resting on his laurels for the upcoming Rising With The Sun national tour. "I never want to be so experienced I'm not nervous about a tour or playing new songs live," admits Riebl. "We've made sure the production is going to be really sublime, and the way it works with the audience will be fun. The challenge now is to rehearse and come up with a live show doing justice to the album."