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Melbourne’s harmony-based acoustic pop/rock outfit Husky have just released their third studio record, Punchbuzz. Recorded in Melbourne with producer Matt Redlich, the captivating sound of Punchbuzz is of a band re-birthed, having drawn upon new inspirations to deliver their most exciting and experimental record yet. Ahead of a national tour beginning on June 17, Husky Gawenda chats to Australian Musician about the creation of Punchbuzz.

With your first album you were intent on using organic/traditional instrumentation. With album two a few modern elements etc crept in. With Punchbuzz, it seems you were even more liberal in regard to what could or couldn’t be used. Is this just a natural progression for the band, a change in musical tastes, a letting go of past rules? What was the approach to the album in that regard?
We grew up on folk music and have always loved it. Maybe for that reason we have always leant towards a folky setup and aesthetic – acoustic instruments, vintage microphones and gear in general, limited electronics or exploration of the digital realm. On Punchbuzz we had no leaning one way or the other. We felt a kind of freedom to just explore whatever the songs called for, and follow the songs wherever they led us. This openness meant we utilised some electronic and digital elements we hadn’t explored in the past.

Had you been listening to any music prior to writing or recording which may have influenced you in any way?
Yeah, I think all the music we were listening to before and during the recording would have influenced us in some way. We were listening to the National, the War on Drugs, Damien Jurado, Jonathan Wilson, Tame Impala. These guys all mix organic elements with electronic elements in interesting ways.

What does Punchbuzz mean and why is it the album title?
Punchbuzz is a word I wrote down and then realised later wasn’t an actual word. But I like the idea of making up words. Sometimes you need to, because there isn’t a word that captures what you’re trying to get across. And the fact that it has no defined meaning, also means it can mean anything. I like the endless possibilities of that. To me it represents a feeling of excitement, dizziness, propulsion, intense and frightening, yet paradoxically gentle and warm.

There are ten tracks on the album. How many did you have to choose from? Are there any leftover “B sides’ available for release at a later date?
There are a bunch of songs we demoed, that didn’t end up on the album. Some of them we like very much, but there was no room for them on this record. It is very likely they’ll be released sometime down the track.

If I can ask you to nail it down to one element, what was the most enjoyable part about creating this album?
Making Punchbuzz was the best time I’ve had making a record. Working with Gideon and Matt Redlich, as well as Jules Pascoe (bass) and Arron Light (drums) was a real pleasure. If I have to choose a most enjoyable part, it’s in the writing phase. I find my greatest satisfaction in the writing. That moment a song is born, when some chords, and a melody, and a lyric and a guitar riff suddenly fall into place and become a song, that is the most exciting moment for me.

Is there a song which you are particularly proud of on the album?
Spaces Between Heartbeats is an important song for me. I felt like it expressed something that felt authentic and true for me. That’s an important feeling as a writer. But where the song ended up, with Gideon and Matt’s help and influence, I could never have imagined. And it feels even truer than it did to begin with, although I never would have had the vision to take it where it ended up, on the record.

What did Matt Redlich bring to the project and how did he differ from Phil Eks?
To begin with Phil Ek mixed our last record, but Matt produced and mixed Punchbuzz. He brought technical brilliance. He brought creative beauty. He brought confidence and conviction and courage. He brought out the best in Gideon and myself. And we became close friends, the three of us. I expect we’ll work together a lot more in the future.

Tell us about the cover art. What does it represent and who created it?
Our good friend and excellent artist Tunni Kraus painted this piece. I have it hanging now in my room. We gave him the album and he came back a few days later with this painting. For me it evokes a mixture of falling, floating and flying, a paradox of stillness and motion, a feeling of being lost in a vast, cosmic ocean. But I think putting it into words can only ever be insufficient. The painting speaks for itself.

Are all the keyboard sounds played on the album or did you go as far as using soft synths, plug ins this time?
We used a mixture of real keyboards and soft synths. But with both the real keyboards and the soft synths, things were played with, distorted, reversed, delayed, smashed…we spent hours with Matt following sounds down rabbit holes.

Did you use any electronic percussion?
Yes on a couple of songs electronic percussion was used. Cut the Air and Spaces Between Heartbeats are both mixtures of electronic and acoustic percussion. Oh and Shark Fin has some programmed percussion along with a rocking kit part played by Arron.

Any new guitar acquisitions that were used on the album?
I mostly used my trusty Tele with a bunch of different effects but we used some guitars that were lying around the studio – a Strat, a crappy/awesome nylon (on Spaces), a Harmony, a pedal steel (on Spaces).

‘Walking In Your Sleep’ has a great guitar tone in the intro. What’s being used on that?
That’s my trusty Tele through a vintage Golden Tone amp with some overdrive and Space Echo.

The wonderful vocal harmonies are always the main feature of your music. At what point of recording do you lay down the vocal tracks and would you say you spend more time on that than instrumentation?
No, I would say we spend more time on instrumentation. The vocals don’t normally take too long. It’s more a matter of being in the right head space. If I’m in the mood they’re easy. If I’m not, we stop and come back the next day and do it. We normally do the vocals once the drums, bass, guitars and main keys parts are done, so that there’s a good bed and a good energy to sing to. It’s hard to put your finger on what makes a good vocal take. When you’ve got it, you know it. And you got to keep singing until you get it.

Does the band’s stage set up need to change much to create the sounds involved in the new album?
Gideon will be using a lap top to create some of the sounds we created in the studio. Arron (drums) will have an SPD to trigger some atmospheric sounds. Jules (bass) will be using this new guitar he had made, that is half bass and half electric, so that he can play bass lines and throw in some guitar riffs, as this album is a bit more riff heavy. I will have some extra effects pedals but otherwise our set up is essentially not that different to before.

Touring internationally, playing large festivals and creating a bigger following, is there more emphasis now on creating ‘a show’ as opposed to just playing the songs live?
Yeah, it’s important to us to create a show. We’re in the business of moving people, that’s what we’re always aiming to do. In order to deliver the songs, the show is the vehicle. It’s the way you embrace the audience and draw them in. Once you are all in it, you can all lift off together and that’s the ultimate goal.

What’s on for the rest of the year?
A whole lot of touring, at home and abroad! There might be some sneaky releases too, throughout the year, so stay tuned.

With special guests Tia Gostelow, Hot Spoke & Teischa (WA shows only)

Tickets on sale now | All shows 18+

Sat 17 June | Theatre Royal, Castlemaine
With special guests TBC

Fri 23 June | Corner Hotel, Melbourne
With Tia Gostelow and Hot Spoke

Sat 24 June | Jive Bar, Adelaide
With Tia Gostelow and Hot Spoke

Thu 29 June | Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
With Tia Gostelow and Hot Spoke

Fri 30 June | 48 Watt St, Newcastle
With Tia Gostelow and Hot Spoke

Thu 6 July | Bello Winter Music Festival, Bellingen

Fri 7 July | Woolly Mammoth, Brisbane
With Tia Gostelow and Hot Spoke

Sat 8 July | Sol Bar, Maroochydore
With Tia Gostelow and Hot Spoke

Sat 15 July | Grand Poobah, Hobart
With Tia Gostelow and Hot Spoke

Sat 22 July | Mojos, Fremantle
With Teischa

Sun 23 July | The Rosemount, Perth
With Teischa

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