As a lyricist, Glenn Richards is – undeniably – in a league of his own. Stirringly evocative, literate and perceptive, Richards writes with poise and purpose. While Augie March take a well-deserved break, the singer-songwriter has released a new album under his own name, but it’s not exactly a solo record. It’s been a few years since Richards and his brother Chris, Dan Luscombe (The Drones), Ben Bourke (Ned Collette & Wirewalker) and Mike Noga (The Drones) first spoke of working on an album together. “I think every time we got drunk, we’d sort of talk about the possibility,” Richards grins. “We thought we’d get drunk one weekend and try and knock out some songs, but it kind of turned out a bit different,” he laughs. “We spent another two or three weeks making more songs, so it ended up being an album.”
Despite their palpable chemistry and shared musical interests, Richards has always believed in making music with trusted friends. “I remember Dan Luscombe being there at a point where I needed somebody like him to be around... he’s a good person and it’s fortunate that he’s an extraordinary muso,” he affirms. “I think the same kind of thing with Mike Noga... just a lovely guy. The writing of his new album, Glimjack, says Richards, was “pretty quick by [his] standards”. “I think the bulk of it I would have done in three months leading up to making the record,” Richards explains. “So I kind of gave myself a deadline before we got to the warehouse. Sometimes if you force yourself, you don’t wait for those moments of inspiration – you just work really hard, and sometimes it comes because you work hard. It was a pretty short and pretty positive burst of song.”
Inevitably, recording at a warehouse in Fairfield in Melbourne’s winter presented several challenges. “There were a lot of technical challenges, which you’d expect doing things on your own,” Richards asserts. “I brought in a lot of my own gear, and we had to develop a new head-fi system. And it was a pretty cold winter – when you’re in a place like that, you can have a few heaters going but it doesn’t make much of a difference,” he recalls with a chuckle.
“And after a while, if you do a lot of sitting around, the cold just got into the bones and there was a fair bit of dust out there, so towards the end of it – thankfully, rather than half-way through – I got pretty sick and caught a chest infection, which wasn’t pleasant. But it usually happens to the singer, you know; you usually get sick if you’re recording or at the start of the tour you tend to get sick,” he laughs. “I think a lot of it is psychological.”
While there was less external pressure for this album, a different breed of fear was prevalent during its gestation. “I made it the way I wanted to and that was a relief... just to make music and not think that it has to be a certain way,” Richards ponders. “At the same time, the different kind of pressure that came about was ‘am I gonna actually make this work?’ and ‘we’re gonna run out of time... is it gonna sound like it was recorded in a tin-can?’ And of course, it was never gonna be that because everybody involved was good at what they were doing. But you’re always going to have that fear element.”
Opening song Torpor & Spleen deals with the way in which modern kids have increasingly developed a certain lethargy resulting in dire habits. “With the internet being so prevalent now, everything’s at your fingertips and it’s too easy to get things and it’s too easy to get bad things,” Richards expresses. “And I was just wondering why the violence is escalating so rapidly and why it’s kind of a thrill-seeking thing, and whether it’s got to do with just getting bored a lot quicker and needing more and more extreme activities to get you thrilled. That’s a pretty awful reflection on the way society’s going, but it concerns me. At the same time, it’s kind of a nice little kicker of a song to stick at the start of the album, nothing that serious,” he asserts for fear of sounding too solemn.
Augie March fans breathed a sigh of relief when Richards confirmed that the band’s concert at The Forum Theatre last year was not the group’s final tour. “It’s just a temporary end; it’s a break and [new Augie March material will] come down to the circumstances of everybody involved,” Richards explains. “It’s obviously too far out to make any decisions on what I want to do next, but there’s every chance that there’ll be a fifth Augie March record. There’s no reason to say ‘no’ to that.
“I think [Glimjack] does contain elements of each of the Augie records; I’d like to think the better parts of the Augie records,” he contemplates. “There’s good ballad writing or slower tempo writing. There’s a creepiness to some of the songs that I really like, like Mengele In Brazil. And then there’s weird tuning-style galloping rock songs like Long Pigs... I can name some songs from the Augie records that I guess are related to that one stylistically. And then there’s a song like Turn On You... it’s aching and I think we did that one really beautifully and it’s all live. There’s qualities about my own songwriting that I try to get at least a little bit on every record.”
The relatively short and concentrated writing process of Glimjack is also telling of Richards’ progression as a songwriter and distinctive artist. “This time around, there wasn’t really a great deal [of artistic and literary influences] that I was using,” Richards reflects. “I think listening to the record now, it’s pretty clear that the songs are kind of autonomous, so whatever was going to enter into the songs at the time... if it came from somewhere, the influence wasn’t really clear to me. It might have been things I read a long time ago. I guess I’m probably getting to the point as a songwriter where I don’t really need influences and I’m not learning a great deal from people. I’m still learning, but I’ve got my own way of doing things and I have my own themes.”
Glimjack is a pertinent title for Richards’ new album and one that ties into the singer-songwriter’s ingrained philosophy. “If I was going to give the band a name, it was going to be that,” Richards informs. “Glimjack in Victoria, England, was a little boy/street kid who would guide people in the night with a lantern, and sometimes lead rich people into alleyways where there would be robbers. I like the idea that with almost every album that I’ve done, the songs can take the listener down various paths depending on what kind of person they are. And sometimes those paths lead to illuminations; sometimes they lead to despair. It very much depends on the person listening,” he muses. “I thought it was a nice metaphor.”
GLENN RICHARDS launches his new album at The Corner Hotel this Friday November 5. Tickets from The Corner box office, 9427 9198 or cornerhotel.com. He's joined by Kes Trio and The Underminers.