Album Inspired by Tough Tales
A great article about Mark’s album Mayday and the stories behind the songs.
Author: Tyler Brown, Wanneroo Times.
Date: 2 June 2015.
Original URL: http://www.communitynews.com.au/lifestyle/Album-Inspired-by-Tough-Tales/7670976
“I met a miner in the Western Desert one night after a show in Onslow. He was 62, lived in Caloundra and had been travelling across the country every two weeks for the last 17 years “to work in this hole” as he put it. I said, ‘Why don’t you stop’? ‘Because the money’s too good,’ he said.”
Mayday, Mark Seymour’s latest album with band The Undertow that released last Friday, addresses notions of home.
It is filled with Australian stories like the Two Dollar Punter who “shook the hand of the smuggler” for the hope of a better life, the boy who might not have a home but has a footy team in Football Train and the WA miner who has spent 17 years as a fly-in, fly-out worker “halfway between hell and nowhere”.
“I think the FIFO story is pretty interesting,” Seymour said.
“It’s particularly germane to Western Australia.
“We started going over there a lot and doing mining towns and camps.
“We ended up in some very, very rough places and playing to itinerant workers… and I ended up conversing with people who were in those places and that song emerged from that experience.
“I like the idea of documenting a particular time in history, especially given that’s quite a contemporary scenario and having direct contact with people who come up to me out of the audience often bears fruit for me.”
Mayday is Seymour’s first album since Hunters and Collectors’ reformation and tribute album Crucible, which led to the band performing at the AFL Grand Final, with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and The Rolling Stones and a tour that won the 2014 Helpmann Award for best Australian contemporary concert.
So where did he find the time to create an album that he says was “the hardest record to make and definitely the most personal”?
“I deliberately set out to get the writing underway at the beginning of last year, well earlier than that, because I could see this Hunters thing looming,” he said.
“It was so full on that I pretty much didn’t do anything else but we really bedded a lot of material down prior to that.
“We just went about it in a fairly left-brain way, booking in rehearsal rooms anywhere and saying ‘Let’s just get together and play’.
“It really loosened up my songwriting, so I was knocking things up on the iPhone just with an acoustic guitar and throwing ideas at them and as a consequence the songs structurally are very simple.
“A lot of them are quite blues-based, inverting three chords and I just sing over them – keeping things very rudimentary and it just merges like storytelling.
“It’s melodic rap so it’s very loose and simple but live, it’s a really effective way of writing songs because they’re very easy to translate in front of an audience.”
Mayday is also a political record.
“It’s important to maintain open conversation with people about politics because we’ll end up being ripped off otherwise,” he said.
“I believe society can be improved and our general condition can be made better and the only way that’s going to happen is through conversation and dialogue between ordinary people, however that happens.
“People don’t have to agree with me of course, but if the conversation is shut down or stopped, or we narrow down what we’re prepared to engaged and discuss in public, then I think we’re in trouble.
“Broadly speaking, I just think I’d like people to really listen to the record and to try and absorb what the stories are about and to appreciate the musical chemistry of the band – it’s pretty bloody good.”
To celebrate the release of Mayday, Seymour and The Undertow – made up of Cameron McKenzie (ex-Horsehead), John Favaro (ex-Badloves) and Peter Maslen (Boom Crash Opera) – will perform a string of theatre shows in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
He said they plan to come to Perth at a later stage but “in a different incarnation”.