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Australian Musician’s Greg Phillips catches up with Augie March guitarist Adam Donovan to chat about Havens Dumb, their first album in six years

Havens Dumb is Augie March’s first album in six years. It’s a place where an eclectic array of instruments, absorbing vocal arrangements and assorted sound quirks weave in and out of each other to create a rich, multi-layered musical tapestry. The results show what’s possible when a talented singer, songwriter and his band regain their mojo, have their own studio facilities to tinker with and no particular deadline in mind.

In 2009, after releasing and touring their fourth album Watch me Disappear … they did just that, going on an indefinite hiatus. Frontman Glenn Richards relocated to Hobart and set up a recording studio in a granny flat at the back of his house and began developing some new musical ideas. Meanwhile, his Augie March bandmates had found other things to do to occupy their time. Guitarist Adam Donovan for instance, played guitar with other bands and took a course in sound engineering. At some point, Richards decided to share his new musical notions with some of the band and the inevitable question was raised, should the new tunes be recorded as Augie March?

Rather than all convene in one place for a specified period of time, tracks were laid down at several studios over a year or so. Drums and bass were recorded in two Melbourne facilities and overdubs were polished off in Hobart, Brunswick and Yarraville by individual band members. It was a system that Adam Donovan was quite fond of. “I quite like breaking it up,” he told Australian Musician. “If you go into one studio and crank out an album it can sound a bit like that. I like different sound sources from different places, a bit of variety.”

The fourteen tracks which are included on Havens Dumb were the strongest of 50 to 60 the band had come up with. However, don’t expect many of the leftovers to surface anytime soon, traditionally Augie March are not ones to hoard old ideas.  “I think what has always happened, is that it becomes apparent pretty quickly if we can work with a song or if not,” said Adam of the culling process. “Usually if they don’t make the cut, that’s it, they never see the light of day.”

Featured on Havens Dumb are some lush vocal arrangements as well as some interesting lead vocal interpretations by Glenn, which he has obviously spent a great deal of thought on. Surprisingly, many of the vocal tracks used were taken from original demos.
“There are some songs on the album, where they were just in demo form and just got tinkered with,” explained Adam. “I think the track, Faking Boy was just how it is.” Another track using that same approach was the acoustic ballad, Father Jack. “That was all demo,” continued Adam. “We tried recording that as a band several different ways but didn’t quite get there. The demo seemed to have this rawness and emotion attached to it which we couldn’t quite recreate, so we used the demo.”

Adam primarily used his trusty old Telecaster on his guitar parts which he finds to be a versatile instrument. “I’ve got a Tele with a tremolo on it and I find I can get significantly different sounds by just winding the tone knob back a bit. If you’re after a  harsher attack you just wind it up.” He also borrowed a bunch of vintage pedals to embellish his sounds, a favourite being a Hendrix style Univibe pedal. Adam also played some pedal steel on some of the tracks. “It’s a Sho-Bud, a rickety old thing that’s barely holds itself together and buzzes a lot but it’s fun to play.”

To reproduce some of the album sounds live, Adam has just purchased a multi-effects unit, so that he has “everything in one box.” It also makes it easier for him to ride his bike to the five upcoming gigs at end of the month at Howler, a venue close to his home. As the band rehearse for those album launches, they aren’t too concerned about exact replications of the studio recordings.  “I think it is a matter of being selective and not trying to recreate everything one millionth percent but getting a live feel going and get back to playing like a band again,” he suggested. “On stage, some songs might get a bit angrier and barkier and others less so. Often they’re sped up, not through design but through enthusiasm.”

augieALBUM_COVER_copy_2Delivering a new album after such an extended break, Adam feels that there’s a renewed enthusiasm and Augie March could be an ongoing project again. “I’m pretty happy with this one,” he said. “I think it’s a great bunch of songs and we have recorded them quite well. Yeah, it feels really positive. I’m looking forward to it. I guess if anything, the best part about being in a band is playing the live shows. Really looking forward to playing in Brunswick which is where I live. I can ride my bike.”  And will Adam be utilising his sound engineering knowledge and offering the band’s sound guy any tips? “Ha, he’ll probably tell me to piss off!”

Havens Dumb is out now on Dark Satanic Records via Caroline.

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