Birds Of Tokyo Wrote Us An Exclusive Track-By-Track For Tomorrow's 'Playlist' Release

5 November 2015 | 9:51 am | Staff Writer

An amazing insight into BoT's biggest hits

Birds Of Tokyo

Birds Of Tokyo

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The alt-rockers are gearing up for one of their hugest summer festival seasons yet, what with their slots on festivals like Vanfest, Twilight At Taronga in Sydney as well as Zoo Twilights in Melbourne, Southbound and Falls Festival over New Years all pencilled into their schedules. It's further cause for celebration for Birds Of Tokyo as tomorrow, they're releasing their very first compilation album, Playlist, providing with it an exclusive track-by-track today explaining the stories behind each of their hit songs.

So, sit back and listen to the playlist for Playlist and enjoy looking back at Birds Of Tokyo's journey.


It’s the newest track on the record, and the song is all about our own journey, where we’re going and where we can take things. It’s all about possibility, and I like the idea of the romance that we can go anywhere.

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This is a song the band wrote while we were overseas touring and doing our thing. One thing we realised is that when you spend so long away from your friends and family and the people you love, you can kind of lose touch with exactly how people are doing and what’s really going on in their world, with a varied sort of outcomes - some good, some bad. So this is homage, bit of a tribute song to the times we didn’t notice how the people we love were really doing.


This is probably one of the biggest songs the band has had to date – and that kind of sits OK with us, because that was the whole message in this song. It was always about our own sense of community and reaching far and wide in the most positive way we could, with the most positive message we had at the time, and it really connected with people.


This Fire was probably one of the most effortless songs I've ever been part of a writing team for. I'll never forget the night that chorus came out – imagine five guys with one acoustic guitar, singing the song at the top of their lungs and all getting super excited. I like how the lyrics assign responsibility to ourselves for the urban disasters that we’ve created. Live, it’s one of the strongest… 9 times out of 10 we play it last; it just finishes a set with such command - probably a favourite for the whole band.


I remember the day we wrote the chorus for When The Night Falls Quiet. It all came out at once – it literally fell out of the sky - the creative sky - and into our laps within 15 minutes. We got so stoked on it, we went to the pub and had a few beers and we started singing it as a gang, the whole band. In hindsight, the chorus is actually this bizarre combination of When The Saints Go Marching In, and If I Could Turn Back Time by Cher.


We recorded Plans in the middle of Sweden and as soon as it was finished I don’t think any of us thought it had a chance of being a single because it doesn’t have a chorus, and it’s in 6/4, which is a really bad time signature for people to dance to. But it just goes to show that some songs will connect with people, despite bending the rules a little bit – and it’s kind of nice when they do.


We debuted Circles live before we’d even finished recording the self-titled album. There was a show in London, right in the middle of the recording process, and we were really excited about that track so we thought we’d give it a bit of a test run. And it went down really, really well. Since then, I don’t think the song has ever left the set list.


We were going through this real Beach Boys sort of how-clever-can-we-get-writing-phase through this record, and Wild At Heart was one of those ones “how much can you get a big ridiculous key change in there without anybody kind of noticing it?” The idea with things like that is to be able to sort of move a song around in such a crazy sort of way that gives you an interest but without anybody being able to tell, or not being able to sing it. You can sort of follow the lyric and melody quite easily having no musical knowledge, so we're a little bit proud of that.


The Saddest Thing I Know was a funny one, we’re not really sure where it came from, it’s sort of like this bluesy, drug trip – hence the really sort of weird video. We had these dancing geisha girls/stripper neon acid thing going on. We ended up recording the piano three times for that one because every time we’d open the door to the studio, snow would come in as we were in the middle of winter in Sweden, and it kept ruining all the tracks and everything wouldn’t line up with it. It was a cold one, a very cold one, that one.


I think Broken Bones was probably the first truly epic song we had written. It's a really sort of wide song. We recorded the guitars one note at the time to make the chords and fan them out left and right so it’s got this big wide thing – one of those tracks you can’t quite get epic enough, so you just keep going until it becomes a bit ridiculous. Which is kind of what it is now. But it’s good fun and we always like playing that one live - it’s always such a big moment.


I remember for a brief time Silhouettic started out as what sounded like a slab of '80s kinda rock, and for quite a while had the working title of 1984. (Which was always going to change as our mates in Gyroscope already had a song called 1984.) But it's probably again a good example of a track that felt like it was written more for the live environment, more for the stage. At that point in time we had been touring back-to-back off the first record and it was around the time we started playing a lot of festivals as well. I think Silhouettic has probably been our most played song; it’s always held a spot in the set.


I remember the night that Kenny was recording the vocals for Wild Eyed Boy really, really well. We were in a farmhouse in the middle of W.A. and Adam, our drummer, decided a really good prank to play would be to throw a large huntsman spider on me. Kenny came running upstairs and had to stop in the middle of a take because he heard what he described as a woman screaming.


Medicine was the acoustic track at the end of Universes, and I think it’s one of the only Birds' tracks ever to be recorded completely live. We set up a grand piano, an acoustic guitar and Kenny singing in a room. And then our buddy Anthony did the string arrangement and when it came time to do the Broken Strings Tour he was the first and very obvious choice to flush out the rest of the string arrangements parts.


Prior to recording Day One, the band was pretty well rehearsed, and like most bands before their first record, you’ve got a stack of songs and only so many days to record them with so everyone really has to know their parts. The band was sitting in a pretty good spot, as opposed to these days where a lot of the material is written and recorded before it’s had a chance to be played live or rehearsed fifty times with the band. It really sits in a different spot and Wayside is probably one of the only tracks that we haven’t recorded to a click track so you really get that natural push and pull in the drums and vocals. It’s probably one of the most natural feeling recordings we’ve got.


Black Sheets for me, felt like the first time we had stumbled across a really big chorus - the song didn’t really charge ahead, it had enough restraint and groove, and just allowed that big chorus to shine through. To the point where it was almost something that radio could get behind, which was such a farfetched thing to consider at the time.


One thing that I think most bands don’t do is go back and listen to their older records. You don’t really feel the need to, you're always working on something new and always trying to think ahead. But Kenny and I were doing some promo for our single Anchor when the radio station decided to play Off Kilter and we both looked at each other because we hadn’t heard the song in just so long and it kind of took us back a bit - in a nostalgic way I guess.

It really sounded like a different band and we hadn’t played the song in the set for quite a while either so it was just quite a shock. Off Kilter was probably our first serious single, and is a good example of the type of material we were writing at the time to work on a more energetic live show.


Stay was one of the very first recordings the band did. It was the first time we ventured away from Perth and headed to Melbourne to do any sort of recording, which was all very, very exciting at the time. We decided to record to tape, which meant we weren’t really tracking anything individually and we’d tried to replicate what we’d jammed in the rehearsal room, so we did multiple takes of about two or three songs as we didn’t really have too many tracks up our sleeves at that time. So the version of Stay that we ended up putting out was the one that felt the best and the most energetic.


Puzzle is a dark song about long-term relationships and the complexities that develop. The song celebrates the idea of no matter how complicated a relationship can get, if you truly love that person, it’s a puzzle worth solving. But relationships aren’t puzzles: they don’t have one solution, and they continue to change. Kenny wrote this beautiful line; ‘the puzzle in my head keeps changing, for you I’m rearranging’, as if to say, whatever problems we come across, I’ll never stop trying to fix them.