Have Timothy Nelson & The Infidels Finally Shed Their Folk Tag?

21 July 2014 | 3:17 pm | Cam Findlay

The band have created their catchiest material yet.

It’s a relief to see the Velvet Lounge this full. From door to back wall, people nurse pints of beer, talk amiably and take occasionally glances towards the screen behind a fairly professional-looking setup. Timothy Nelson stands next to the bar, laughing, with a small crowd around him. It’s a warm, energising image, a clearly talented local musician taking in the vibe of the night. His huge orange afro shakes to and fro as he talks. Two hours ago he was nervous about how many people would turn up to listen to the first public playthrough of Timothy Nelson & The Infidels’ new album, Terror Terror, Hide It Hide It.

“Have you been to a listening party before?” Nelson asks as we sit down in the venue earlier. Jozef Gretch, one of the Infidels, is busily setting up a deck and speakers while we talk. A few, I tell him. They can be a bit awkward. “Yeah, yeah,” Nelson says thoughtfully.

He needn’t be worried though – Nelson and his Infidels are just one part of the cadre of musicians who make Perth what it is: an exciting, progressive environment for those who aren’t afraid to try a little experimentation to get what they want. Nelson’s a mainstay, with his folk-tinged indie sounds pretty much pervading every little festival you can think of in the last four years. This year is very different for the band though. While Timothy Nelson & The Infidels have long been Nelson’s project – the songwriting and general progression of the group being up to Nelson himself – the gradual shaping of Terror Terror, Hide It Hide It saw Nelson share the responsibility with his bandmates more or less equally for the first time, a worthwhile challenge for Nelson given that some songs on the album reach back as far as 2010.

“This album is [the record we] have always wanted to make.”

“Some of the tracks on there are bordering on four or five years old,” Nelson says. “That was in their first incarnation. I’ve never really been too religious about writing a song and sticking to one way of doing it. I think people know that our songs do change a lot of the time, and you get that from this album.”

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Another interesting tidbit about Terror Terror, Hide It Hide It, and something you can immediately hear from the immaculate production of the album: Joel Quartermain, ie one third of Eskimo Joe and producer extraordinaire, laid the album down in his tiny south Freo studio. Nelson admits that he became “another member of the Infidels” through his no nonsense, honest dialogue with the band. “We spent about two summers all up with Joel,” he says. “I don’t think the album would be the same without his input. I’ve worked with Joel for a long time now, and he’s not afraid to lean over to you and say, ‘Nah, that part’s shit.’ He knows what works and what doesn’t, but at the same time he’s really willing to get into the same groove you’re in when you bring these songs that you’ve worked a lot on to him.”

Probably the biggest obstacle to Terror Terror, Hide It Hide It though was just how busy the Infidels were. Nelson himself has his own solo work, The Kill Devil Hills and plenty more on his plate; lead guitarist Luke Dux also has The Floors and more amongst his place as a go-to guitar doyen; Hayley-Jane Ayres, on top of her subtle and beautiful string arrangements in the Infidels, also handles PR for the band; Quartermain himself obviously has the ever-hectic Eskimo Joe schedule. But this staccato treatment of recording actually embraced the eclectic nature of the album.

“We’d go in, do a track or two, and then a few months later come in and do another one, just to fit in with how we were going about things. And it was cool, because we started with the intention of making one kind of record and we ended up with something completely different. Put it this way – the first track we did with Joe was Mary-Lou. We were intending to record another song, a single; we were over in Melbourne and we had a day off so we rented a studio. I had this song that we started jamming, and it was very much not done. When we started recording the other song with Joel, I asked him, ‘What do you think of this chorus?’ and he’s like, ‘Dude, that should be your single!’ So we just started with that. And because the song was pretty unfinished, Joel was instrumental in us working it out, and it was a very progressive way of making a song, because we knew what we wanted the end product to be.”

As for how the music itself has developed, well, it’s pretty clear what Nelson and co were aiming for. Some of the older tracks that have taken on new skins with the recording bring up a few expressions of surprise, but for the most part there’s a general consensus on this new, clean, poppier side of the Infidels – it’s pretty bloody good. Forgoing any ‘folk’ tag (“We’re still getting nominations for folk awards,” Nelson shrugs, “even though we haven’t played folk music for years.”) Terror Terror, Hide it Hide It juxtaposes emotive ballads against the most danceable music the Infidels have ever put out.

“This album is [the record we] have always wanted to make,” Nelson says. “It’s more a representation of the music I listen to, at least. But it’s definitely a pop album. You know, you listen to pop music and you either go, ‘That’s shit,’ or you go, ‘That’s really good, that’s classic pop music.’ That’s what we’re aiming for now.”