67 Special - Dancing With The Devil
Author: Andrew Weaver
Friday, 17 August 2007
Ash Santilla has been waiting with baited breath for his band’s new album, The Devil May Care, to appear for some time now – the recording of it was completed quite some time ago, but the artwork and the entire package took far, far longer than was expected to come together.
With 67 Special’s label merged into the multinational Warners, the album itself was recorded in October, 2006, but Santilla understands that the delays are ultimately going to benefit the album’s promotion.
“Everything feels right,” he says of the timing for the album’s release. “We were probably chomping at the bit to get the record out, but I feel good now that it is out – we’ve had the right amount of build-up and I think there’s a nice vibe around what we’re doing. We’re happy that it’s out now, that’s for sure.”
For the making of the album, 67 Special were in the fortunate position to again work with a big-name producer – where debut The World Can Wait was helmed by Andy Baldwin, the group’s sophomore set found Kings of Leon and Tom Waits producer Jacquire King manning the deck.
“It was great,” Santilla confirms of the experience. “He was just a regular guy, and really nice and easy to get along with, just with a wealth of knowledge in terms of recording and producing music, and he’s a self-professed musicologist. We learned a lot from working with him, that’s for sure.”
With the producer coming out to Australia to track the album at Mangrove Studios in New South Wales, he then took the tapes away with him to finish it off in his studios in Nashville. It’s not that surprising a move for the Melbourne-based group – given that their debut channelled Jon Spencer Blues Explosion like there was no tomorrow, someone with such a wealth of experience as King is suited to capturing 67 Special as they shift from solely blues-based rock to a more expansive sound. Santilla says that King completely ‘got’ the band.
“That’s one thing that you want when you’re figuring out who’s going to produce your album,” he says, “and what you really want to know is that they’re coming from the same place that you’re coming from, and you can find a level ground in terms of how you want things to evolve and what you’re trying to create.
“We found out really quickly that he wanted to make the same sort of album that we wanted to make,” Santilla confirms, “and I think that was half the reason that we went with him. When we had our initial talks with him we were clear that we wanted to make a record that really shone a light on the songs themselves and put the songs at the forefront of things. The production is really there to accommodate the songs and not be over-the-top, and be fairly honest. There’s not much sonic trickery going on.”
It also helps that, second album in, Santilla’s own songwriting has blossomed and opened up – where their debut was fairly relentless yet focused, there’s a greater breadth of emotion found in their new album.
“I think that there’s probably a lot more dynamics between songs on this album,” he surmises. “Having said that, though, I think we wanted to achieve more of a journey on this album as opposed to a collection of songs that we were trying to make all fit together in a track-listing. We definitely evolved as songwriters and figured out more of what we like and what we don’t like, and it’s not as ‘belting it out’ on this record. We’ve moved in a certain direction for this album.”
WHO: 67 Special
WHAT: New album The Devil May Care/ Play the Annandale, Sydney/ ANU Bar, Canberra/ Oxford Tavern, Wollongong
WHEN: Out now on Warner/ Friday 24/ Saturday 25/ Friday 31 August
67 SPECIAL IN FIVE
1: 67 Special are named after Santilla’s car, an HR 67 Special.
2: Vocalist Santilla and lead guitarist Gavin Campbell met at high school in 1994; keyboardist and percussionist Louis Macklin met the duo at a school camp; and drummer Ben Dexter met the group through his brother.
3: Meanwhile, bassist Bryan Dochstader joined after seeing the band unloading gear in a supermarket car park and asking if they “needed a bass player-”
4: New fans can track down 67 Special’s debut LP The World Can Wait (2005), as well as their two EPs, Boys and Girls (2005) and Hey There Bomb (2004).
5: The cover art and title of Devil May Care references the myth of Robert Johnson, the legendary Delta Blues player, who is said to have sold his soul to the devil (at a crossroads at midnight) in exchange for his guitar skills, a fitting reference for a band that draws heavily on classic blues sounds.