Saskwatch & Dorsal Fins' Liam McGorry Shares His Debut Solo Album As Ex-Olympian

16 October 2020 | 9:57 am | The Music Team

There's a tonne of new music released every Friday and wading through it to find your next favourite album is an almost impossible task. 'The Music' team get it and we're here to help, bringing you our Album Of The Week each Friday. Here's why Ex-Olympian's 'Afterlife' is this week's pick.

You might be familiar with Liam McGorry from groups like Saskwatch, Eagle & The Worm and Dorsal Fins. Now comes the time for the Melbourne artist to release his debut solo album. 

Dubbed Afterlife, the release is a soul and funk inspired breathtaker, filled with collabs with artists like Sam Lawrence and Saskwatch's Nkechi Anele. 

"Another incredible singer from out Warrandyte way, Sam is a really special person and talent, and that final chorus vocal always gives me tingles!" said McGorry of working with Lawrence on Penny In The Well. 

"There truly is something in the water out there. Mara Schwerdtfeger’s viola is a highlight as well. The song itself is about building up the strength within to move on and create something new, that clutch moment you decide you have to turn your back and get to it. It’s really hard to make that call sometimes, and sometimes it’s made for you."

It pays tribute to his heroes too, with nods to Renee Geyer, Arthur Verocai, Badbadnotgood and The Avalanches appearing along the way throughout McGorry's "dream funk" debut. 

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What they're saying... 

McGorry has shared an exclusive track by track look at the album with The Music

Javelin Flight (Porcini’s Theme) Intro & Outro

An album to me is about a journey, hopefully echoing and bringing out the way in which it was made. It’s been a weird three or four years in making this record... I certainly don’t feel the same person I was at the start of it. Javelin Flight to me is the take-off and return from that journey. It’s named for our five month young Yorkshire Terrier, Porcini. As good friend Sam Boon (responsible for the Baritone Sax on Afterlife) always says “it’s just a snapshot of where you are at that moment”. I hope that moment sounds good.

Netherworld Boogie

I’ve found that purchasing new musical equipment really makes you creative (maybe largely because you’ve just spent a whole lot of money you shouldn’t have and you need to justify it)? Sometimes making music is like banging your head against a brick wall, and sometimes it’s slightly easier, if you’ve just purchased a brand new Behringer RD8 808. Netherworld Boogie was one of the first songs I made with it. One of my favourite things about making this record has been the opportunity it’s given me to reconnect and create with friends, particularly with my good friend Will (Morrissey). His mystic flute is the highlight of this song to me, and there is truly nothing like making music with great friends. A magical feeling.

Penny In The Well (feat. Sam Lawrence)

Penny In The Well is really a song about starting over. Like many of the songs on Afterlife, it’s a song about building up the strength within to move on and create something new, that clutch moment you decide you have to turn your back and get to it. It’s really hard to make that call sometimes, and sometimes it’s made for you.

Penny In The Well features Warrandyte raised singer Sam Lawrence on vocals, who is one of my favourite singers. Sam is a really special person and talent, and that final chorus vocal always gives me tingles! There truly is something in the water out there in Warrandyte. Shoutout to Mara for her beautiful viola throughout as well. 

Part of why I’m so proud of the songs on this record is because it’s a return for me to making soul music. I’ve been listening to soul, jazz, hip hop and other funky styles since I was a trumpet playing teenager, but it’s only through working at Northside Records with Chris and everyone there, that I’ve really acknowledged how much joy that this music brings to me and so many.

Ripple In Time

This song started with a wonky little beat I made on a SP404 Sampler I’d just acquired. A lot of the songs from this record came from songs I’d worked on over a couple of years at the studio space I share (thanks Annika, Memphis and Joel)... just gradually putting in a lot of time to come up with new ideas I really liked. I took the song’s bare bones (the beat, some Rhodes and Flugelhorns) to John’s (Castle) studio to mix, and it really came to life there. John is an amazing and selfless friend, engineer, musician and producer who can really take small germs of ideas from a dodgy demo... and elevate them, making them exciting, tasteful and real. Ripple In Time was really written as a message to myself to hang in there, be kind to yourself and others and to live in the moment. It’s also written in memory of a few friends and family who passed away during the making of this record.

Lilac Youth (feat. Nkechi Anele)

Lilac Youth was the first song we tracked for the record (way back in 2017? '18?) with a cast of close friends by Cal Barter in at Newmarket Studios. What I really thought would be done in three months max, took over three years to finish. It’s a special song for me in a lot of ways, particularly in working with Nkechi on this. Nkechi and I played together in Saskwatch for years, where (largely together our friend Rob) we really worked on communicating the songs together. In effect, as a non-singing songwriter, she was translating and communicating my most inner-most feelings through song. It’s a really beautiful and weird thing to share with someone but one for which I am really grateful. She also slays her vocal (as usual). It’s a song about growing up and trying to understand where the time goes, and how we got here and trying to find a way through. Backed with the effortlessly funky groove, laid down by effortlessly funky people: Graeme Pogson, Rich Bradbeer and Sam Raines.

Afterlife (feat. Tesoro)

Afterlife, the song, much like the record lyrically is about looking for a new positive future away from negative rumination on what’s come before. It features another talented singer from that magic postcode of 3113, Julia Mohr aka Tesoro. Introduced to me through my partner Ella, it’s been such a pleasure to get to know Julia and to play with her in the group in the limited chances we have before lockdown. She truly slays here. Grateful also to one of the first and longest musical friends I’ve had, Sam Boon (we met at a Jazz workshop at age 15) for the wild Bari Sax here. Thanks also to Stu Zender (of Jamiroquai fame) for the teenage bass playing inspiration.

Taste Of Love (San Giorio di Susa)

A song I’d started writing in Coburg and finished in the Susa Valley, Piedmont, Italy. A breathtaking village, people and place to visit. Lilac Youth, Brother and Voices In My Head were the first three songs finished, with Haima (Marriott)’s magic mix production and I wasn’t really sure what to do with them. I booked a few days in the studio with John and one of the first songs we looked over was this one. It was a real turning point in giving me confidence to finish a whole album. John breathed some incredible life into a song I loved but had been kicking around for some time. His drums and production really clicked a lot of things into place not just on this song but with the entire record.

Pain Au Chocolat

A personal favourite, both the pastry and the song. I had so much fun in my little studio doing take after take on the horn, trying to channel my inner Donald Byrd for the flourishes here. I’ve been playing the trumpet since I was eight and before making this record, I’d really had enough of it. As any brass player knows, it’s an incredibly unforgiving instrument, if you skip the hard yards in practice it sounds truly terrible and is nearly impossible to play but its difficulty and discipline is a real badge of honour to brass players worldwide. In the making of Afterlife I kept reaching for the trumpet more and more and really came to re-appreciate the sound, practice and discipline. Hard to believe I’m still playing it all these years later. I think it’s largely thanks to my high school trumpet teacher Larry who passed away recently. I don’t know if he liked Pain Au Chocolat, but he really loved scotch, cigarettes and Louis Armstrong. Thanks Larry.

Voices In My Head

This is the first song I’ve ever properly properly sung on. I’ve never really wanted to sing songs, even though I love writing them. I’ve always loved hearing other peoples voices to be honest. A lot of the getting the confidence up to sing and in feeling a bit more ownership with singing on songs... on this (and on Ripple in Time and Taste Of Love) had to do with our friend and engineer Cal Barter. He tracked Voices In My Head, Lilac Youth and Brother before relocating to LA with his amazing family. A supremely positive and reassuring friend and influence, there would be no record without him. Cal (just as with Haima and John) gives you time and space and support to make the music you want to make. No idea is too weird, but if it isn’t working he’ll let you know. Xani and Anita played some seriously stunning violin and cello across the record, but here it is especially exquisite IMO.

Brother (feat. Jarrad Brown)

Haima Marriott who mixed Brother, along with Voices In My Head and Lilac Youth, is another friend who contributed massively to the direction and sound of the record, taking the stems for these three songs and shaping them in a way only he can, and none more so than what he did with this song. Sculpting a gentler and calmer angle from the pulsing track it was before. It really set the foundation down for the record and the end result really gave me confidence to continue and finish a full record.

I’ve been friends with Jarrad since 2009 when while studying at the College Of The Arts, Jarrad put the call out for a trumpet player for his new record, which became the group Eagle & The Worm. This meeting really indoctrinated me into the world of ‘the music industry’ and playing in a band that tours and makes proper records. I really feel like he has been showing me the way ever since. A true friend, always there. So of course the first person I turned to in making this record was Jarrad. I sent Jarrad a dodgy instrumental of the tune and we strummed it out in the garage of his house. I don’t know what Jarrad had in mind when penning Brother but to me it literally and metaphorically shone a torch to light the path in the task of making a ‘solo record’, to say ‘you can do this’ and for that I am grateful.

Check out Afterlife below.