A Separate History

16 October 2012 | 7:00 am | Benny Doyle

“It’s a bit strange that a bunch of metal heads have ended up in a group like this... but that’s the way it’s happened.”

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The music of The Siren Tower is designed to open your ears and touch your heart. It's undeniably Australian, with dirt on its hands and feet. Yet, it comes from a place far louder than its alt-folk strumming would suggest. The resume for the Perth trio-come-live five-piece credits established acts Heavy Weight Champ, Antistatic and Nix. However, their debut record A History Of Houses owes nothing to those bands. The 12 tunes across the record are warm, rich and given further meaning and impact by the gorgeous and completely suitable packaging – a hardcover photo scrapbook – the disc arrives in. McCulloch, the frontman and chief songwriter for the group, opens up about their commitment to doing things the right way, as opposed to the expected way.

“It's an extension of the whole work ethic that the band's been working off for the last few years,” McCulloch explains. “It's a lot of sacrifice, but if you're going to do something then you might as well adopt the world's best practice. That's been our mantra, from the music and songwriting to the production. Then, when we sat down to try and work out how we were going to present the physical incarnation of the record, we let our imaginations run wild. It fits in with the period vibe of the album and it works within A History Of Houses' theme. It's a lot more work, but totally worth it.”

This focus on “world's best practice” led them to Perth-bred, Melbourne-based producer Forrester Savell. With The Siren Tower's three main players' (McCulloch, guitarist Mark McEwen and drummer Brody Simpson) heavy music backgrounds, this partnership made complete sense. The fact that McCulloch and Savell also studied together in WA only solidified their decision further.

“His gift is being able to present [complex music] in a complete yet contained way; it's almost like structured chaos,” McCulloch says of the friend he affectionately dubs 'Foz'. “We had this romanticised idea of what we wanted to be – The Shins, The White Stripes – we wanted to be rough and organic, and let everything hang out. But to be honest, we weren't ready to make a record like that, and if we had we'd have probably been horrified by the end result. There's so much going on in these canvases that if we went in and recorded like that we would have ended up with a dog's breakfast. Everything that we wanted to articulate, Forrester was able to present that to the listener, and I think that's one of his greatest strengths.”

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A History Of Houses is buoyed further by McCulloch's rich, story-driven narratives. There is meaning in every lyric and passion is rife throughout his well-enunciated tales. As a lyrist and writer, the frontman couldn't have imagined delivering anything less. “I can't really fathom the state of lyrics in modern music,” he bemoans. “So many people across all genres will kill themselves writing and producing music, but there are just so many lyrics out there that are only in songs because they rhyme. I don't know if there's any excuse for that. Like, you've been so creative in every other realm of your art, why are you stumbling at that final hurdle? Words carry so much weight and it's such an opportunity to say something. If you fuck that up, you've really fucked it up.”

The Siren Tower have stepped away from their abrasive past, refining their sound without losing any intensity, a brave victory that's even surprised McCulloch somewhat. “It's a bit strange that a bunch of metal heads have ended up in a group like this,” he chuckles, “but that's the way it's happened.”

The Siren Tower will be playing the following shows:

Friday 19 October - X&Y Bar, Brisbane QLD
Saturday 20 October - Fitzroy Hotel, Windsor NSW

Sunday 21 October - The Brass Monkey, Cronulla NSW
Friday 9 November - Amplifier, Perth WA
Saturday 10 November - Prince Of Wales Hotel, Bunbury WA
Friday 16 November - The Esplanade Hotel, St Kilda VIC
Saturday 17 November - Enigmar Bar, Adelaide SA