After a hiatus from the band spanning ten years, Christian Strybosch returned to The Drones in 2014, entering into a long world tour, celebrating the ten year anniversary of Wait Long By the River.
Since that tour, the band has come together and recorded a harsh, poetic and poignant eight-song record. Having already caused some controversy with Taman Shud, released in October last year, the band are about to embark on an eleven-stop national tour.
Their new album, Feelin Kinda Free, hit the waves on March 18th. I caught up with Christian to discuss his return to the band, the new album and why it’s time to have the hard conversations present in their song writing.
What’s it been like resuming your original post with the band after such a hiatus or separation period?
It’s great, they’re all my really good mates and we remained mates throughout so I just get to see them more now and travel with them, you know, we went to Europe last year which was fantastic again, and, um, you know, this tour and this album’s coming up. I get to make an album with them which is fantastic. So, look, it’s been great, it’s been a dream run to come back again.
So talking about the album… How are you feeling about the release?
I’m feeling ready. It’s been a long time coming which I suppose is a bit of a habit with Drones albums. I mean most albums, I take a while but we certainly took our time on this one so, I was just ready to get out there and play it. It’s going to be an interesting one to play because there is a lot of new ways we have approached songs and new technology. To translate that live is going to be very interesting for me.
It’s filled with so many different sounds. You’ve got real heaviness but then Tailwind and a light daintiness in Boredom, which is such juxtaposition from so many of the other songs on the album. How did you find that balance?
I suppose for us we have to, we can’t just be one thing. We like to keep it interesting for us. Having our mate Aaron Couples produce Extraordinaire has worked well. It’s his second album he’s produced for us, and he’s very like-minded with where we’re at and where we’ve always sort of been.
When you say balance, I think the Drones have always had that, even though this is a different sounding album. It comes through in Gazza’s song writing. We’ve always got that element that’s pretty rough, raw, loud, aggressive and obnoxious and then all of a sudden it will go into some, like hypnotic, beautiful song. I personally just love playing that sort of stuff live and surprising people and not necessarily going into the obvious chord changes or obvious places where a song should go. It twists and turns and that’s a real testament to Gazza’s songwriting and Aaron’s production.
Obviously, there has been come controversy with regards to a song on the record, Taman Shud, has that controversy calmed down? Or do you think with the release of the album it’s going to rear its head again?
Look, it may rear its head again, but it doesn’t really worry me. There are always people, especially people like Andrew Bolt, who jump on something like that. He really took those elements that possibly could be sensitive to some people although I don’t know why they would be. He totally misconstrued the song, I think anyway, used it for his own gains. There’s always going to be people like that.
Now, did the controversy have anything to do with the time lapse of you releasing that record and the album being released? I know it was always planned to be released in February but were you expecting a lot of controversy which is why you wanted such a big gap?
No, absolutely not, I don’t think any of our songs have such had a controversial side before so we certainly weren’t expecting it. You know, so it’s just really just slightly amusing for us, really.
Do you think any of the controversy or, you know, the negative press that was around it before will taint people’s engagement with the whole record or do you think it will just entice people to engage with you more?
Oh, I think on a whole, yeah, people are gonna engage with us more, definitely. I think there’s gonna be a few people always, who it just scrapes the surface for and who sort of side with Andrew Bolt and people of that sort; stupid, really ignorant viewpoints, who don’t bother to look any further than a headline probably will be offended but that’s fine, that’s their bag.
Do you think as musicians you have a responsibility to promote conversations and discuss these hard, sensitive topics or are you as a band just making comment because it’s something you feel passionate about?
I’m sort of speaking for the rest of the band there, I’m pretty sure they’d all agree with me. I think it more just being passionate, especially Gaz who wrote most of the lyrics, he’s very passionate about that sort of stuff. But I don’t think it’s anything we feel a responsibility, it’s just stuff that we like talking about. We like putting music around those particular words and smashing it out for our lives.
Boredom really covers some quite harsh issues as well and was it time to start talking about these issues, or are you just trying to say let’s talk about issues, in general?
Absolutely. I think really it first came from the story of Taman Shud, so once Gaz came to us and was interested in that story – we all vaguely knew the story before we’d written the song. We used it as the backbone of the song and then came up with all this sort of negative stuff that’s happening in Australia and in the world.
But it’s stuff that we talk about anyway. I think most of us and our friends are interested in those sort of things and we’re sort of ashamed of the stupid things that happen in Australia. So it’s just natural for us to speak about it and one of those ways to speak about it is to put it into our songs.
When you listen to the album, it feels really short. Is that intentional to have a short, sharp, to the point record? Because I think that really mirrors the kind of message that you’re giving out, that this is something that just needs to be dealt with.
To use a cliché: all killer no filler, you know? I think there probably was a few more songs that potentially could have gone on the album, and I suppose when you think about history of the Drones, maybe it is time for a bit of a short album compared to some of Gazza’s 32-minute songs. Maybe it’s good to have an album that is a little bit different and that you can listen to a couple of times in a row.
How do you think Aussie audiences are going to react to the album as a whole?
I’m really not sure. You know we’ve have played a couple of the songs, maybe one or two, last year on that whole Wait Long tour, and they went down really, really well. I think most people are gonna dig it. Hopefully, people don’t think it’s too far a step away musically, but then it actually isn’t at the same time.
The essence of the Drones, if there is such a thing, is still very much throughout the record. I think most people would agree, so I think most people will sort of get it.
You’ve got a few dates and then you’ll be back on home soil and after touring and kind of getting back into a life of being with the band, like, are you trying to keep on the Drones train and keep the momentum of writing and performing, or are you taking a break from it for a while?
No, no, very much in tour mode. We can’t wait. So as soon as it’s released we’re out on the road around Australia. Ah, pretty hectic tour this time, actually. It’s pretty extensive for us. We’re going to head up to Hobart and to Wollongong, I think, and Byron bay.
We can’t wait. So, we’re just in rehearsals sort of now. Just getting ready… polishing getting onto the road and then hopefully we’ll head overseas later in the year, over to Europe and then, you know, probably start on the next record.
The Drones ‘Feelin’ Kinda Free’ national tour kicks off in Adelaide on April 29th
Friday, 29th April 2016
The Gov, Adelaide
Saturday, 30th April 2016
Rosemount Hotel, Perth
Friday, 6th May 2016
The Triffid, Brisbane
Saturday, 7th May 2016
The Northern, Byron Bay
Thursday, 12th May 2016
Wollongong Uni Bar, Wollongong
Friday, 13th May 2016
The Cambridge, Newcastle
Saturday, 14th May 2016
The Metro, Sydney
Friday, 20th May 2016
170 Russell, Melbourne
Saturday, 21st May 2016
Brisbane Hotel, Hobart
Saturday, 28th May 2016
The Tote, Melbourne (Afternoon show: Ages 12-25)
Saturday, 28th May 2016
The Tote, Melbourne (18+ Show)
For more information on the tour and the album, head to www.thedrones.com.au
This piece was published by Out in Perth. Check it out here
Image credits AustMusic, The West Australian, Music Feeds