The Good Ship
If sea shanties, dark ballads, caustic music and raucous country are your thing, then by all means check out Brisbane eight-piece juggernaut The Good Ship. It’s been two years since they released their debut recordAvast! Wretched Sea, and their follow-up LP, O’ Exquisite Corpse, with its standout singles Seven Seas and the fetchingly titled Powder Monkey is proving to be more of what one would expect from eight staggeringly talented musicians with a taste for unabashed musical mayhem. Drummer James Lees was on hand to chat with us about the new record, the advantages and disadvantages of having so many members in the group, their musical process and how awesome it was to work with legendary producer Neil Coombe. But first, Lees tells me about opening a box of the CDs.
“Yeah, we just got a box of our finished product!” he gushes. “We had that nice moment of opening it, with the whole band there, and going, ‘Look what we made!’,” he laughs, which he does often during the course of our conversation. “It’s just that funny thing, you’ve been working on these songs, some of which are a year and a half old, and all of the sudden they’re on this tiny little thing you can hold in your hand that weighs next to nothing!
“I’m extremely happy with [O’ Exquisite Corpse],” he continues, “and I’m very happy with the way it looks! We’re very fortunate in that we have – we have eight people in the band, so what this means is we have a wide range of skills across the band. Brett Harris, who’s one of the singers and plays the accordion and banjo, he’s also a very good graphic artist, and he’s responsible for all the photos, and that sort of thing. And our trumpet player [Kat Hooke] is a film producer by day, so this is where we get our film clips! So, yes, we are excited!”
The Good Ship – also a tight ship, by the sound of it – has been in existence in one form or other for about three years. “It’s one of those classic stories where someone’s side project becomes the primary focus,” Lees reveals. “[Singers] John Meyer and Daz Grey had their own bands, which were going quite well, and they thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny to sing some pirate songs together and put some funny clothes on?’ So they started doing it just as a duo, and it went from there and it got bigger – and in a lot of ways, the original feeling was that that pirate theme and the name as well was quite a strong thing early on, but the band has definitely diversified thematically and musically.”
But not too much, I hazard? “There’s still a bit of a nautical feeling in the way we look and some of the music as well,” he reckons, “but a lot of it … we don’t want to be a novelty thing!”
I mention to Lees that one of the most appealing aspects of their sound is how many influences course through the veins of their music. There’s a distinct cabaret feeling, as well as the aforementioned sea shanties, with liberal dashes of indie-rock and even some gypsy punk floating around! “There are eight of us,” Lees declares. “So there’s a massive amount of influences, and I think everybody has pretty sophisticated musical tastes, and a lot of us have classical training, formal training, or no training, or just running about on the job, like me!” He laughs loudly at this. “As we keep working on the band, we keep finding out that the band really can be multi-genre quite successfully as well – and we’ve got three writers in the band, too. So it provides us with three really different strands, so we get a lot of diversity.
“And no shortage of material! There’s always a new song to learn, which can be a bit overwhelming at times! But that’s better than not having enough material,” he muses.
Recorded in a mountain studio by Neil Coombe, who has previously worked with such bands as The Go-Betweens and DZ Deathrays, O’ Exquisite Corpse was a rather complicated beast to finish. “You have to pretend you’re recording two bands,” Lees explains, “because if you just record it all at once, it’ll be the musical equivalent of shaking a cutlery drawer. So we had to really take our time with deciding where we’re going to have things, and where we’re not.
“So a lot of the finer stuff did get recorded in a variety of places. Once we got all that done, we took the stuff to Neil – poor Neil! – and started to mix it all. And it was a relief. That’s how that little monster of an album came into being.”
Is The Good Ship excited to be showcasing their babies on this album release tour? Definitely, declares Lees. “We’re first and foremost a live band, and we love playing. For me, this is one of the most fun bands I’ve ever been in, and it’s going to be a real party! So you can be assured of a good time. The material can be fairly abrasive, and lyrically quite filthy; so you’ll probably come away having had fun, but feeling slightly dirty!”
BY THOMAS BAILEY
Shiver me timbers! Come and join THE GOOD SHIP when they bring their special brand of musical mayhem to Northcote Social Club on Friday July 6. Opening acts are The Bon Scotts and The Stillsons. O’ Exquisite Corpsewill be released in July 2012 through Autumn Recordings and MGM.