Skipping Girl Vinegar
Mark Lang is in a good place. Not literally speaking, though he does seem to be enjoying his lunch as he's reached on the phone from Sydney. As the lead singer of hometown Skipping Girl Vinegar, Lang has had his share of emotional turmoil since the release of their critically lauded 2008 debut, Sift The Noise . But now, after the release of Keep Calm, Carry The Monkey , Lang has realized that by making connections, he's been able to grow as an artist and as a person.
"Keep Calm, Carry The Monkey really arcs this journey of love, hope, loss, depression and then hope again. It's about looking up through the cracks and trying to find your way out of a bad situation. A lot of what's on the record is biographical or about people close to me. You know, when I listen to other albums, I listen to the lead singer. I want to know if they're saying something. Something directly to me. It's important when you're writing that you write something honest that you really know about. I'm not into doing things just for the sake of doing them. We just wanted to make something as organic and real as possible."
Making "real" and tangible art can be difficult in an age of disposable pop songs. And while Keep Calm, Carry The Monkey certainly contains discernible elements of pop music throughout it, there is an intimacy throughout the record that may have been lacking on Sift The Noise. And while Lang has managed to change his approach to song-writing with the help of his influences, he's also concerned about how well this newfound intimacy can forge a connection with Skipping Girl Vinegar.
"I've also tried to open my writing up so that it's not just completely personal. I wanted people who listen to the record to be able to stamp their own personal experiences on it. That's probably one of the most powerful things for as a writer; when people come up to me and say how much a particular track or record helped them through something. You know, critical acclaim and all those things are cool and all, but forming that connectivity with people is a lot more important."
Sonically speaking, there's no doubt that the band's buoyant blend of bluegrass, classic 60's inspired melodies and radio-friendly pop has a far-reaching grasp. Not only did their Sift The Noise garner critical acclaim, through relentless touring the band was able to ply their craft to the masses. Most Skipping Girl Vinegar tracks are a compelling fusion of genres, a trend which is only furthered on Keep Calm, Carry The Monkey. Lang admits the band likes to leave their options when recording in the hopes of harnessing their distinct sound.
"Everyone in the band has different influences that they draw from. I'm a student of melody. Melodies from the '60's but I'm also really interested in a lot of contemporary writers. I'm interested in how they interpret the sonic landscape. With Keep Calm, Carry The Monkey we recorded by the beach, but still spent a lot of time thinking about sonic textures. Whether it be adding sweeping arrangements to tracks or even just being OK with the noises from outside creeping into the recording. All of that stuff is legitimate. With the song Here She Comes, there's a bird singing along to the song and that was totally unintended, but it worked out so well. We also used a lot of recycled instruments that we found in junk shops and in hard rubbish bins. We found this old kick drum and as we played it, the thing kind of rattled and had this dysfunctional quality to it. But we were more interested in character than the way it sounded."
BY JOSHUA KLOKE
Skipping Girl Vinegar play The Toff in Town on November 19 as part of the Australasian World Music Expo, with support from Stiff Gins and Tinpan Orange.