September 10, 2008 | Author: Australian Musician

sandpebbles540Turning on, tuning in and dropping out, albeit briefly, on a remote South Australian beach last summer, Melbourne rock time-trippers The Sand Pebbles shrugged off the urban hum-drum to plant the organic seeds of their fourth album, the wonderfully expansive Ceduna. On the eve of their psych tribute gig to the late LSD guru Albert Hoffman, the band’s guitarist-vocalist Andrew Tanner speaks with Australian Musician about dunes, drugs and (minimal) dubs.

You’ve just completed an album launch for ‘Ceduna’ … I suppose gigs are very much events for the band these days?
“Some people have called us lazy but we like to do it properly when we do it. I guess also that we’re just of the mind that you can get into a rut when you’re playing where it’s just another gig. And the last thing we want to do is to be become another pub rock band who rolls them out week after week.”

The record is certainly interesting in the way you’ve approached it .. would you call your camping on a beach near Ceduna a form of research?
“Well, (bassist) Chris (Hollow) and (guitarist/keyboardist) Ben (Michael X) had been on a trip out to Cactus in 2000. They headed out in their Kombi van and just did a camping trip and were really taken with the area. And as we approached this album the thought was that it would be good to break out of the normal way of sitting around in the rehearsal room and maybe relocate and get a different environment, you know, throw some different things in the mix and see what came out. So it was an idea of breaking the rhythms a bit and mixing it up.”

Was that a positive thing for the creativity?
“Ironically we probably didn’t actually write a lot when we were there. We needed half a week to shrug off the city and the pace and slow right down. Then we just started talking about stuff and I think there were a lot of quite often stoned conversations and of those probably 10% turned into concrete ideas. People were jamming away with guitars amongst themselves here and there and the seeds of a lot of the songs were born there without necessarily coming to fruit at the time. Everyone was too relaxed to actually get their shit together! So it all kind of happened post-trip.”

A fair bit has been made of the psychedelics and the psychotropics that inspired the album …
“There was a bit of that Steve, I mean we all transcended it different ways, some of us just made the chicken soup and put the Band-Aids on when it was all over. Ha! But different stories for different people.”

I’m envisaging a huge hippie bonfire sing-a-long on the beach!
“Well actually only a couple of us have any kind of voice that can hold a melody so the notion of a Sand Pebbles song-a-long is quite comical. It was more camp fire talk-a-longs I think. Ha! We’re band full of opinionated, some would say egotistical people, ha, so there were many debates and arguments .. The trick when we got back into rehearsing and jamming and playing, we kept that spirit going through it rather than saying ‘ok here’s a new idea but let’s approach it in exactly the same way we always have’.”

So did you rush back to Melbourne to capture those sentiments in the studio?
“A lot of it just came down to people whacking down their riffs or melodic ideas or lyric ideas just on hand held cassette players or whatever they could and then bringing that to the band and I think that bitsy nature, it actually helped because those ideas didn’t come to the band in the normal way which is us sitting around jamming on a riff. I mean it perhaps took a lot longer than we normally would in terms of the band process but I think we were the richer for it.”

Was it daunting recording almost live?
“The last album we’d spent, it felt like hundreds of hours in this little home studio. Murray who was playing with us at the time, was producing and it kind of just got almost ridiculous where any idea suddenly turned into a production theme with people yelling ‘add another guitar, we need trombone, we need reverse phase feedback mandolin’. And it just got silly doing hours and hours of this.

“So this time around, and a lot of bands do this – they react to the last thing they did –  we said we’re going to get our ideas together and go into a studio and put them down on that day. And 75% of this album was recorded like that with one or two takes and minimum overdubbing. The way it was laid down was pretty much the way it was laid down on the record and we were really pleased with that. It was meant to feel really big and open and kind of live.”

Ceduna is out on Sensory Projects.

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