“The recording process took over six months, which I suppose is perhaps unusual,” says Garrick. “But I played all the instrumentation myself apart from drums, and I worked on it over a series of Mondays with my friend and bandmate Owen Penglis [Straight Arrows]. I went overseas on trips that broke up the process. But I feel it’s always good to have this sense of distance almost, so I can look at the record from a different temporal and emotional perspective.”
Free Agent started to germinate when Garrick was living in Paris. At the time she was dealing with a personal tragedy and living a largely isolated existence. Her experiences during that period are inextricably bound to certain songs on the record.
“Crocodile Tears was informed by my obsessive true crime series watching while I was there, while also commenting on friends at home and the way we become trapped by our own decisions,” she says. “The area I was living, the 19th Arrondissement, Stalingrad, was a particularly interesting area with lots of immigrants and not yet gentrified. Ricky’s Street is informed by Rue Riquet, a street in the area, and the others are without a doubt about my time in Paris, but equally reflecting on events and conditions at home in Sydney.”
The isolated songwriting environment seems to foreshadow a record of intimate confessionals. Though, while Free Agent includes a few minimally arranged songs – such as opening track Breathing and Blue, where Garrick’s vocals are accompanied by just a muted keyboard and the sound of swirling water – for the most part, it’s not a particularly stripped-back affair.
“I mainly listen to minimalist music – Robbie Basho, Eno, Budd, et cetera – and it’s something I am definitely interested in,” she says. “But almost as interesting as creating stylistically bare music is the act of creating interesting rock’n’roll music.”
The majority of the record attends to the challenge of creating interesting rock’n’roll music. Like Angie’s 2013 debut, Turning, Free Agent explores fairly dark thematic territory, but it’s by no means fragile. Plenty of songs are led by filthy guitar playing, and there’s a general murkiness to the production.
“I find that really clean production, although great and necessary in some circumstances, often alludes to a commercial aspect in a strange way I can’t understand,” Garrick says. “Like bands making their records sound as clean as possible and the vocals louder than everything else so that they will get played on the radio…. I mean of course there is a reason for that, but I think if people are going to dig it, they’ll dig it no matter what. It’s more of a challenge, [laughs], to seek out the melody.
“When I listen to Turning, the track Wandering in particular, it’s just so peculiar. There’s no drums, it’s pretty unlistenable, but it’s itself and it doesn’t sound like a mobile phone ad. It sounds like it exists only for itself and the listener, not for any third party, and there’s something subtle and beautiful about that.”
As mentioned, Garrick has played with a whole stack of bands over the last seven or eight years. Despite how it looks from the outside, she doesn’t just whimsically drift from one project to the next. Though, she can’t limit herself to one project.
“I constantly write myself lists outlining things I have to remember. I have no problem deciding on a project to work on, and following it through, but the actual process I find difficult to maintain focus and not get distracted by easier or more immediate activities. I find it harder to relax, though, so I’m sitting nicely between focusing on projects and having a crisis about them, and trying to make myself relax [laughs].”
Despite Garrick’s compulsive songwriting proclivity, the solo project is actually only a recent undertaking. Free Agent ranks among the strongest records she’s been involved with, and it’s almost certainly the most emotionally lucid.
“I’m interested in creating records. Making records by myself is my only measure – something I can draw upon and use to remember my own emotions, fleeting and solid, and complex histories. There are sonic territories and feelings invigilated within [me] that could only be presented working on my own. It’s not something I’m really comfortable with, especially in a live setting. I usually present the material live as a band, who I usually become quite attached to and I’m very conscious of the fact it is a band. I am quite selective about playing live and will probably do a few shows completely solo for a while after this next tour.
“[But] it’s definitely the most relaxing project I’m engaged with, as it’s all run on my own terms, and most importantly at my own pace. There are pros and cons with every situation, however, and I guess sometimes I feel overwhelmed that I’m organising everything on my own. But I would say that it’s always worth it.”
BY AUGUSTUS WELBY