WakingUgly Would Be Shit, If It Wasn't Actually a Cool Band.
Go on, You Know You Wanna … Fittingly, it’s the first single from Melbourne’s pop duo WakingUgly and it’s about to get industry heads turning when the pop-rock dream-team launch their debut EP Say Something Sweet . And boy , is it sweet… Unashamedly commercial in sound and about as catchy as P!nk, Katy Perry and Gwen Stefani combined, Lydia Gardner and Darren Pace have been quite easily one of Melbourne’s best-kept songwriting secrets – until now.
“We are in a really weird spot because we are in indie band but we are aiming for a more commercial sound,” explains vocalist Gardner. “I grew up on all the pop stuff and I always idolised girls like Kylie, Whitney Houston and Pat Benatar – all the pop-rock chicks.
“They’re awesome and talented girls with great personalities and amazing images, which is what the pop market is all about when you get down to it. To get comparisons to them is a different story, because they’re some seriously big shoes to fill. Still, they’ve very inspiring artists who entertain and not just sing.
“I guess I never even realised how poppy and mainstream the music was sounding when we first started writing, it was only after people pointed it out that I noticed my influences coming through. So we thought, ‘okay, well maybe we should go in that direction’. Up to that point we just had guitar, bass, drums and vocals on home recordings, so we had more of an edgy sound.”
To give WakingUgly that extra poppy sparkle, Gardner says well-known producer Michael Zammit joined the duo behind the decks, offering the singer and guitarist their first professional recording session as well as additional instrumentation on Say Something Sweet. According to Gardner, it was more than the band could have asked for.
“Michael became the dad of the project!” she laughs. “We met Michael through a friend of Darren’s and spoke to him about doing a recording. It was actually quite overwhelming walking into the studio and seeing the big desk and knobs and all sorts of gadgets, but it was also a dream come true!
“Michael oversaw the entire project because we knew he knew what he was doing. It’s not that Darren and I were clueless, but we were sometimes unsure which way to go with some songs and he sort of navigated us at times.
“It’s always been just Darren and me as the writers,” she adds, “but when we went into the studio Michael actually played a lot of the instruments for us; like the drums and keys, while Darren did all the guitar and I did the vocals.
“I don’t play an instrument,” Gardner admits, “well, not until recently because I’ve just started learning the bass. Darren has always brought more of the music knowledge into the band, whereas I have always been more of the wordsmith.
“It’s strange,” she ponders, “because sometimes I’ll write an entire song on my own just from my lyrics, and then other times Darren will do the same, but just with music.”
Ready for the official unveiling this month, Say Something Sweet is a super-charged pop-rock hybrid that’s finally set things in motion for Gardner and Pace, who first got together in 2004. Motivational, optimistic and vibrant, Gardner announces the record is hot on the heels of a second EP set for release early next year.
When it rains, it certainly pours, Gardner states.
“This studio time has been long overdue,” She laughs. “Darren and I have been writing together for about six years now so it’s been a matter of overcoming obstacles like money and time. We’ve had lots of material for quite a while that’s been building up over time. We ended up recording 10 tracks in the studio, so we’ve actually got our second EP pretty much ready to go. There’s just mastering and vocals still to be done. And you know, it does sound different again.
“There’s always going to be that overall pop-rock feel, because we don’t want to be a band that sounds like a jazz group one minute then a pop group the next minute then something else entirely again. The second EP will have a little bit more darkness to it – there is a ballad on there – and there is another track that has quite a reggae feel.”
At this point, whatever they do, it isn’t likely WakingUgly can make a wrong move. Already, press in the United States have been praising the duo’s Aussie brand of pop-rock deliciousness, and according to Gardner, hopefully Say Something Sweet will inspire a similar reaction on their home turf.
“We came across a publicity company in the ‘States and we found a US-based site where American press review your music. You basically submit your songs and the US writers give you their perspective. We were a bit surprised that we got some really great reviews back from them, so we weren’t sure whether they were just being nice to everyone! It turned out that they weren’t, because some of the other reviews we read for other artists weren’t that great. That was quite flattering. It also made sense in some ways because I think the general sound that we do would probably be more accepted in the American market than in Australia because we have this love of distinctly-sounding Aussie rock here.
“Whatever happens, though,” she clarifies, “at this point Darren and I feel like we’ve already achieved a lot. It’s because we’ve been writing together for so long – getting that final product out there on CD has been the final hurdle. Anything else that may come after this point will just be a bonus. Obviously, a world tour would be really nice! Every muso and songwriter wants the accolades for their hard work and we’re very proud of what we’ve achieved just by plodding along and writing songs from the heart.”
WAKINGUGLY launch their excellent Say Something Sweet EP with a huge launch party that’s taking place this week at Eurotrash on Thursday November 18. Make sure you get along and witness the emergence of a talent that you will one day be able to say ‘I saw them before they got big!’ The Say Something Sweet launch also includes a copy of the EP in the entry price, and a party will definitely be had. Check out wakingugly.com for tickets and info.