Winning the coveted triple j Unearthed competition over five years ago (back when there was a single winner as opposed to fragmented competitions throughout the year) looks like a recipe for immediate success. Just ask Grinspoon and Missy Higgins, to name a few. But sometimes a band just isn’t ready to launch into a trajectory of national ascendance at that point and with broken wrists, house fires and lineup changes getting in the way, taking the time to get it all right was the primary concern for Melbourne gleaming, post-punk rockers, Number Station.
“It was an incredible experience and everyone was really pushing us hard, particularly to pull an album out and we just weren’t ready,” admits guitarist and one half of the song writing partnership, Marcus Smith when we discuss the Unearthed win. “So we went off and took a bit of time writing our first album and then in the end we realised we didn’t have a lot of money so we thought we’d do an EP and start with that. We had another unfortunate event, Chris [Andrews] the co-writer and singer, his house burnt down during the recording phase and we lost all of the recordings up until that point and he lost everything.”
Their debut EP, Everything Will Change, has a poignant title and Smith admits that with taking so long to get things together, there has been a loss of momentum from a public standpoint. “When we got Unearthed we went from playing to mates to playing to hundreds, sometimes thousands of people,” he says. “There was never any question about us going backwards; there was development that had to be done for us to reach any point of being ready. I guess in terms of the public it does look like a long time between drinks so we have to build that buzz back up.”
Legendary New York producer Chris Coady (Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, TV On The Radio, Grizzly Bear) lent his skills to the project along with Paul 'Woody' Annison. “We really wanted to get the right man for the job and we didn’t have very much money so we were literally hitting up producers by cold-calling them,” he explains. “Chris was into it and he wanted to work with us. We couldn’t afford for him to mix the whole album so we were going to have him do part of it and do the rest in our bedroom. It ended up that Chris was on hand via email answering questions about how to plug mics into desks and giving us advice on the go.”
So did they have to sell a kidney to get Coady on board? “He gave us pretty great rates, he asked us not to disclose, but he took a shining to the work and wanted to help us out.”
With Number Station’s first official release above a single entering the world with little fanfare and only a small tour, I ask Smith whether the band had forged a relationship with triple j after their Unearthed win that would result in them getting support from the national network. To some degree, large commercial success for many young bands seems to rest in the hands of triple j and after investing at least a little in Number Station, it would seem awkward if the support dropped off merely due to the band wanting to take the time to get things right. “That’s a great question, but you’ll have to ask them,” he says. “When they judged the Homebake competition they had to unanimously decide on a winner. Around the time we won, they started to fragment the process. We have some contact there but it is a Sydney-centric community and because we don’t get up there that much we are out of the loop a little. People assume that because we won it we have extra opportunities now but, to us, we feel like a new band with new fans. The fire and also Chris breaking his wrist as well as getting a solid line-up meant that everything has changed since then, but we’re here now and we’re excited.”
BY KRISSI WEISS
NUMBER STATION will perform at The Grace Darling with Sun, Celadore and The Red Lights on Saturday May 26. Everything Will Change is out now.