Underground Lovers On 'Dream It Down': 'Probably The Favourite Of All Our Records'

10 April 2024 | 3:27 pm | Glenn Bennie and Vincent Giarrusso

Underground Lovers' Glenn Bennie and Vincent Giarrusso delve into the 30th anniversary of 'Dream It Down' ahead of their upcoming Australian tour.

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Dream It Down was a landmark album for us. It allowed us to break free from the confines of the 90s rock aesthetic in Australia and explore ideas that had a more expansive and enduring quality. 

It was a heady time for us. The sounds of Screamadelica and Loveless were resonating around the world, and like all young musicians, we were entranced. But we were also deeply inspired at the time by classic albums such as Pet Sounds and Astral Weeks. Our aim for Dream It Down was to honour all these influences with our own refined mix of electro/acoustic songs, augmented with orchestrations.

With the mantra “whatever is best for the song,” we set about engaging a wide selection of musicians and co-producers who could help us fully realise our ideas in the studio. We started writing new songs in mid-1992. Cassette tapes were exchanged with hummed or strummed sketches. We then sat huddled in our homes in Caulfield South and Fitzroy North, perfecting the ideas.

New guitar tunings were explored, drum machines were programmed, and some rough 8-track cassette demos were produced. Some slightly more polished demos were then recorded for our record label, Polydor. These were produced at the end of 1992 by Simon Grounds at his 16-track home studio in Collingwood. Simon had previously produced our first album, Get To Notice, in 1990.

The first of the Dream It Down album sessions was at Paradise Studio in Sydney in January 1993. It was a buzz going back to Paradise after recording our second album, Leaves Me Blind, there a year earlier. We were also looking forward to working with Wayne Connolly again. 

Wayne was (and still is) a genius with guitar sounds and his wonderful sense of humour kept us entertained for hours. The more introspective songs (Recognise, Blues Team, VA VA VA VA and Beautiful World) were the winners from this first lot of recordings. We had brought in Amanda Brown from our beloved Go-Betweens to play on these, and we locked the songs away instantly as certainties for the album.

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Versions of Dream It Down, Superstar, Weak Will, Las Vegas, and Earth Manna were also recorded in these sessions, but we were unsure about the feel of them, and they were eventually either re-recorded, remixed, or had further overdubs added at a later point.

Other tracks we recorded at the time became B-sides (Persistent Too, Mumblehead Again) and are now available on side four of the new double vinyl edition of the album through Universal. Other songs (Collective, Bended), never saw the light of day or were re-worked at a later point. All these tracks were too ‘rock’ for the sort of album we had in mind. They were wonderfully recorded because of Wayne’s brilliance as an engineer, but unfortunately, they didn’t fit the brief.

Not long after these recordings, we took a break from the album to travel overseas to play the 4AD 13-Year Itch event at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London. We also did some other small gigs in the UK and in the US while we were away.

When we were in Los Angeles, we wrote Losin’ It. It was shaping up as an odd mashup of Neil Young and New Order. We were doing our washing at the Holiday Inn in LA and writing the song while we were waiting for the spin cycle to finish. Out the window, we spied the Hollywood sign in the distance. We instantly got excited and saw it as an omen that we were onto a good thing.

The feel of Losin’ It, with its simple melodic structures over a disco beat, prompted us to approach David Chesworth and Robert Goodge to help us complete the remainder of the album on our return from overseas. They had produced the remix of Your Eyes for us in 1992, which had done well in the clubs, on the charts and on radio, especially Triple J. David and Robert were musical heroes of ours from their Essendon Airport days in the early 80s, and it was a thrill to start working with them.

Using Robert’s South Melbourne studio, Losin’ It was created, followed by the barebones of a new version of Las Vegas using existing parts from the Paradise recordings. David and Robert also produced a remix of Weak Will and a dub remix of Recognise which became part two of the song on the album.

Simultaneously, we were working on some overdubs with Simon Grounds at C'est Ca in Collingwood. We had recorded parts of Get To Notice at C'est Ca with Simon, so it felt like a natural fit to go back there. Our new drummer, Derek Yuen, was kept busy during these recordings, adding various overdubs of drums and percussion on tracks like Losin’ It, Weak Will, Las Vegas, and Superstar. A sketch of Supernova was also created at C'est Ca. Other overdubs were added, along with feedback and vocal samples that were spun into existing tracks from the original demo versions.

One specific example we remember from these sessions is taking the spoken word vocals from the demo of Dream It Down and spinning them into the album version. They had a much better feel that we couldn’t replicate with the new recording, so we made the decision to sample the parts we liked and add them in.

It was a creative few days, and it felt like we were breathing life back into the tracks by bringing back elements of the demos that were more spontaneous. Combining these sounds and words with the new, beautifully recorded Paradise tracks gave the songs a strange but appealing balance.

We’ve always been big on trying to capture the first take of things, and sometimes, when you labour on something too much in the studio, it starts to lose its appeal. Taking cuts of more spontaneous vocals and feedback from the earlier versions, really sparked a new enthusiasm for some of the songs.

In early 1994, we took all the 2-inch tapes to Platinum in South Yarra, where final overdubs and mixing took place with David and Robert. It is here we worked closely for the first time with the engineer Simon Polinski. His cutting humour and sordid insights into the music industry had us in stitches.

Hope Csturos and Helen Mountfort from My Friend The Chocolate Cake came into Platinum to play those magnificent strings arranged by David Chesworth on Losin’ It. They then overdubbed further parts on Superstar, Earth Manna, and Supernova. The most difficult song to mix was also the simplest, Dream It Down. It took days to get the guitars to sit properly in the mix with the mash-up of vocal takes, feedback, and ambient bass frequencies. 

We mastered the album with the brilliant Don Bartley at 301 in Sydney before its release on CD in June 1994.

After all this time, Dream It Down still stands up for us and is probably the favourite of all our records. It’s wonderful that the album is being released on double vinyl by Universal for its 30th anniversary. To hear it on vinyl is spine-tingling. It has a beautiful, warm, and enveloping sound that is profoundly human. Unlike anything of the time. 

It is beautifully recorded and has some wonderful performances. Melodic songs with evocative lyrics that capture delicate feelings of regret and joy, beautiful chiming guitars and feedback, Maurie’s intricate and rhythmic basslines, Pip’s ethereal vocals, Derek and Richard’s understated drumming and percussion over drum machine beats, emotive strings and some genius electronic beeps and squeaks. There’s a whole variety of stuff going on there that is tied together beautifully in the production and concept.

The opening riff of the title song, Dream It Down, is such a wonderful introduction to the album. Not only does it signal what was about to come musically on the record, but in 1994, it signalled a change in our approach and direction moving forward. You cannot hear that opening riff without it triggering emotion and lots of fantastic memories of the album and of the time.

Underground Lovers are celebrating the album with a tour in August—you can find tickets here. You can also buy limited edition vinyl of Dream It Down here.



Saturday 27 July - Corner Hotel, Melbourne

Friday 2 August - Manning Bar, Sydney

Friday 9 August - The Zoo Brisbane