The ReChords Make Retro Music For The Modern Era

17 July 2015 | 4:32 pm | Michael Smith

"There's early hillbilly, there's early R&B, there's pop at times in it, alt-country..."

"The live recording side of it was something we'd been thinking about for quite some time after different versions of studio stuff," suggests double bassist and lead singer with Melbourne trio The ReChords of the thinking behind the recording of their latest album, Live ReChording. "Like most bands we always felt they were good but we kind of like the feel that you get in a live situation. So we recorded two shows in the Yarra Hotel and it was just such a nice warm room, the sound was really perfect for our set-up."    

That set-up is double bass, acoustic and electric guitar — played by Shaw, Leo Francis and Felix Potier respectively — no drums but with all three harmonising, and together, The ReChords make the kind of racket usually described as "retro", and it certainly sounds remarkably authentic, recalling the kind of music that was coming out of American radios in the mid-1950s. Yet this isn't "museum piece" music. The ReChords are mining an area that is still very much a living musical seam.

"We've done the really traditional vintage studio set-up, with original vintage mics."

"It's definitely got elements of that," Shaw qualifies, "and it's definitely got a retro tag, but basically I like to think of it now as not one specific genre. I guess Americana is a genre but it covers a lot of roots in general. We've got, obviously no doubt, a lot of rockabilly influence, with the stand-up double bass, but there's early hillbilly, there's early R&B, there's pop at times in it, alt-country; so it covers a lot of those things and I just blanket it all under the one tag, Americana, which kind of covers a roots-based style.

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"And we've experimented with different types of sounds. We've done the really traditional vintage studio set-up, with original vintage mics — you know, kind of how they did it — but then 2014, we went down the track of using a music producer, Lindsay Gravina (for the It Won't Be Long EP) — he's done people like Jet, Jebediah and The Living End — and we even added drums, went the full digital recording. But we've come back to what we feel is more true to the band, really."

Shaw's musical roots are in psychobilly, while Francis came from a punk background, and Potier's roots are far broader, embracing everything from jazz to "kind of a '60s rock, swamp thing, but he plays a mean country-style guitar". When they got together in 2009, they found a mutual love of American popular music of not just the 1950s but further back into the 1930s and '40s.

"From that basically rockabilly sound but with a punk vibe, I started delving further and further back into the original artists, where all that music was kind of influenced from, and that's where a lot of the songs we've written come from. Leo and Felix share a lot of the writing and though they have totally different writing styles, somehow we manage to bring it together and it all kind of sounds like us."