Birds Of Tokyo track by track
Tue 27th Jul, 2010 in Features
The Beach Boys are probably the last band you think of when searching for musical comparisons to Birds Of Tokyo. However, as guitarist Adam Spark revealed whilst discussing the band’s new self-titled album, in evolving their sound Birds Of Tokyo have taken musical cues from not only Brian Wilson but artists as disparate as Sufjan Stevens, Sigur Ros and Death Cab For Cutie.
The album sees the Perth four-piece push the boundaries of their traditionally post-grunge sound and explore much darker pop elements of their music. Whilst the band admits that this shift in direction may deter some of their ‘hard-rock’ fans, they are unashamedly proud of the album they have produced.
Adam Spark took some time out from visiting his parents and planning a move to Sydney to talk FL through each track on the new album.
This song really pulled us out of a slump. I mean we’ve never had writer’s block before but we found as we were writing every day and working and working and working in our studio, that we sort of hit a bit of a wall, and Plans is the thing that came out one night, it just sort of wrote itself pretty quickly and it really was the savior, hence why we sort of put so much love into it and put it right at the front there.
It’s also a song for us that gave us this comfort and confidence in what we’re going to do with this record sonically and slightly sort of angled in the direction of what we were doing, it was completely different to anything we’d released. We wanted people to hear that first and sort of go “oh god what are they doing?”
THE SADDEST THING I KNOW
We talk a lot in the band about people taking responsibility for their actions. I guess it’s our sort of indictment towards people about the fact that we’re all on this big beautiful planet together, we’ve got to share and be responsible for one another and some people really fuck that up, including ourselves. So, I guess, the song and it’s sleaziness lends itself to that frustration and anger but not in a mean angry way but just: “Do your fucking bit and be good humans to one another, you know?”
DARK SIDE OF LOVE
I guess this is a sort of first one on the record for us which really let’s you know what’s going on in terms of themes on the record and it becomes sort of fairly evident later down the track that it’s dealing with the nature of crumbling relationships in any manner whether it’s a girlfriend, boyfriend, or family member or whatever?
IN THE VEINS OF DEATH VALLEY
This was a very visually motivated kind of song, it was always called Valley, with a bit of a nod to like a Valley of the Dolls kind of thing whereby the visuals sort of acted as the inspiration for the song.
I think we really feel like it’s probably one of our most beautiful moments to date, if not the prettiest and darkest thing we’ve ever done.. As cheeseball as that sounds, you know, we’re all going on thirty and we’ve seen some pretty weird shit in the last couple of years so it really hits home. It sounds completely cheeseball but we could give a fuck, it’s such a real and tough song.
WILD AT HEART
This one was a kind of fun one in a way, although it’s a kind of sad sounding thing which they all seem to be heading that way. Again, we wanted a sense of this cinematic sort of slow-motion feeling thing in an up-beat rock song. But again it’s funny because for us the central figure to that song is about collapse and things like this, but I guess it can be seen to be a really positive fist in the air kind of thing.
We tried to package it in a really kind of dirty and fucked up way, and it’s deliberately shitty sounding to give it I guess a really organic sense of earthiness and say “look we’ve got a big rock song here, let’s not push it down that slick-production line let’s really fuck it up.”
I wrote this while walking down like a tiny little fucking alleyway in Melbourne I think. It’s almost like one of Kenny’s open heart surgery kind of lyrics, but it’s funny because rather than looking and talking and singing about nice things in relationships and then the inevitable conclusion into that I guess it’s looking at more the darker and intimate and playful kind of side of things. As the song sort of evolved it became about the difficulty of pushing people away and that growing distance, hence the title The Gap.
I guess this is a slight sort of nod for us to our great love of things like Pumpkins and stuff like this where there’s a big quiet/loud dynamic you know and it’s got these sort of really aqueous and fluid sounding moments book-ended by this big fuzzed out like I said Pumpkins and My Bloody Valentine-y sort of guitars. Again it’s a big slow moving flood of mournful pop really.
A lot of the songs we had this thing called the “bleep orchestra” where we worked with the guy who was producing the record and we just made all these random noises and bleeps and all these old organs and just fizzled it out like little Christmas lights throughout the song and this one’s got it all through, it sounds really cool.
THE UNSPEAKABLE SCENE
This is the other little black sheep. It’s a little respite before it sort of gets back into the heavier territories of the album again I suppose.
It’s a really really really fun one to play, and it works kind of well for us in that it’s a of song about reaching and then never quite getting there, which is one of a couple on the record like that, and to end it in that way, that sort of completely unresolved and fucked up way, we really dug that.
WAITING FOR THE WOLVES
Leading into Waiting For The Wolves you’ve got this big harrowing end and there’s this absolute moment of serenity which is what we called our little psychedelic ambient far eastern watergarden sort of sounding song, because there’s so many little swirly things: there’s little flutes and synths and pianos all bubbling away in there.
The model of the song, funnily enough, came from that classic What Becomes of the Broken Hearted song whereby I basically kind of ripped off the feel of that song, (I’ve never done) anything like that song, but if you listen to What Becomes of the Broken Hearted there’s these really beautiful key changes. And that’s such a really sad and pretty song, playing the same sort of aesthetics as this, has that real Motown sort of element of shifting keys around.
IF THE SHIP SINKS ( I GIVE IN )
When we were working on this one, it was always in two parts, and there was no other place this thing was ever going to go on the record, that’s fairly evident.
And again, given the nature of the whole record preceding it, we didn’t force it, it just sort of turned out like this, you know the whole thing deals with this sense of collapse and breakdown, but not kind of going off in a ‘woe is me’ kind of way
I guess its a conceptual sort of song for us where we’re channeling a bit of old school emo and Bowie, in terms of using like concept and visualizing (something) for a song where our framework for it was this idea of building and building with these inner voices arguing and pleading with each other about why things are the way they are. It sort of builds and builds and builds and then, quite cleverly we think, it finishes one note short on its crescendo of the note that you want it to resolve to. And then the whole thing just falls away for three minutes of this old lost soul out at sea going “I’m fucked, I’m done, but I’m cool with that, and I’m going to float out to sea.”
It’s almost like a nod to what has been and sort of putting ourselves out in the water now and we feel this record opened up the door for us to go down a different path. So it all works together really nicely that one, to finish all of that heavy, weighty, really serious stuff off.