Mark Seymour Rediscovers Band of Brothers

An article about the making of Mark Seymour’s album Undertow.

Author: Ross Purdie, AAP.

Date: 14 April 2011.

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Since the break up of Hunters & Collectors singer Mark Seymour has often cut a lonely figure.

So great was the camaraderie in his former band that a solo career occasionally painted him as awkwardly dislocated.

Hunters & Collectors formed at university in Melbourne at the start of the ’80s and went on to produce a string of hits including the classic Throw Your Arms Around Me.

The band’s eight members shared songwriting credits and split their spoils equal ways, prompting one producer to nickname them ‘communists’.

So when Hunters & Collectors dissolved in acrimony in 1998, Seymour jettisoned the other way in pursuit of a solo career he could maintain complete control of.

Swapping band mates for music-making computer programs like ProTools, Seymour could conceive a song from start to finish on his own.

Four albums and regular touring around the country kept the singer-songwriter in the career he loved, but any group sense remained pegged in the past.

“We were really close in Hunters & Collectors, but I always found the process of songwriting difficult because there were so many of us involved,” Seymour tells AAP.

“But then you become a solo artist and you realise that it can be pretty hard shouldering everything on your own as well.”

The paradox hit home at the beginning of last year when Seymour ditched an entire body of music he’d recorded towards a fifth album.

He’d been working with three session musicians he’s known for years – Cameron McKenzie, John Favaro and Peter Maslen – but was hesitant to share the burden of song crafting.

Jaded by his lack of progress in developing the album, Seymour decided to change tack by opening things up.

Instead of labouring alone over the minute details before presenting the band with a finished article, he invited them into the process.

“I went through a period of soul searching and then realised I could simplify songwriting by presenting ideas to the band at spontaneous moments, like in a sound check,” he explains.

Unleashing the artistic power of his backing band encouraged Seymour to complete a number of song ideas which had been whizzing around his head for months.

The album Undertow’s closing track and arguably its best, Patsy, was finally put to bed after his drummer, Maslen, began messing around with a beat. The singer ordered him to continue while scribbling down lyrics.

In guitarist McKenzie, Seymour discovered a “brotherly go to guy” who could pull him back from obsessing with meticulous detail in each song.

Together, the band helped shape Seymour’s first studio album since 2007’s Westgate into one of his finest.

“The guys wanted to be involved and the arrangement is proving to be the best thing at this point in my life,” he says.

“I’m not saying it’ll last forever but we’re all middle aged men we’ve already done a lot musically so there’s a great attitude.”

Seymour believes his latest project is the closest feeling to being in a rock’n’roll group since Hunters & Collectors broke up.

After years flying solo, he’s finally rediscovered a band of brothers.

* Undertow by Mark Seymour is out now.