When Felix Reibl found himself alone in New York after a devastating break-up, the best therapy turned out to be songwriting.
"I honestly didn't plan for this album - it found me. It tapped me on the shoulder and said, 'Felix, go and write instead of chain smoking and not eating.' I got a plane back to Australia, finished the songs, and within ten days we were in the studio."
For anyone familiar with Felix's boundless party energy in Melbourne's beloved Cat Empire the solo material is world's away. Into The Rain is more intricate and melancholy than anything we've heard from Reibl before.
"That band is like being part of some chaotic carnival," Reibl agrees, "It's great while it's in season, but it shouldn't inhabit the whole year or else it loses its magic. So I'm interested in exploring other worlds, musically…" It was an opportunity to enjoy a different kind of songwriting. "There was something calm and relieving about playing choruses that involved big chords and swelling electric guitar sounds. It's a hole that couldn't be filled by The Cat Empire."
Of course, the nature of the material can't be forgotten: a band can't write a break up album together.
"It's my break up album, yes, but it's about more than that. These songs came out of a lot of sadness, frustration and confusion, but by contrast, the music is open and there is always some distant optimism. It was an album I had to write alone."
The benefit of being alone, of course, is that you are able to meander on your whims, follow the unpredictable influences that life throws in front of you. Felix says the font of inspiration included, but was by no means limited to "the song Feelings of Grief by Paul Kelly, Calexico (I saw them a lot on their previous summer tour), Simon and Garfunkel (walks and headphones), Dire Straits (old memories), The Boatman's Call by Nick Cave, Darkness On The Edge Of Town (Springsteen), Harvest (Neil Young), Madmen, Fiorino's Pizza on Bedford Ave, The Guardian, Derek Walcott's poetry, White Egrets, Wagner at the Met, the sound of trains from the rooftop, distance, jealousy, passion, tours, near misses, Jackson Pollock, endless arguments, laughter, a sad and confusing break up. It was an ocean of colours, sounds, moments, and madness, followed by desolation, followed by music."
Interestingly, the music itself leans into the idea of ocean.
Reibl concurs, "There is a lot of water - rivers, ships, tears, oceans, storms, shores. It's something I associate with the force and ease of the songs. Below my apartment window in New York there was a concrete playground with a statue of a seal looking skyward. It would sit there patiently and endure all those sweltering summer days, and then finally it rained - it was one of the heaviest downpours I've ever seen - big fat raindrops smashing all over everything. I looked down and smiled at the seal. It was a homecoming of sorts. So was this album for me."
Felix plays The Toff In Town this weekend - Saturday August 6 and Sunday August 7. Into The Rain is out through MGM
By Cass French