Melbourne indie-folk trio Tinpan Orange are keeping themselves busy with the release of a new single ‘Rich Man’, plans for an upcoming fifth studio album and a nationwide tour. A polished record filled with brooding vocals, inspiration from the Great Gatsby and themes of yearning; it makes way for a classic folk sound with a well-balanced mixture between darkness and humour. Lead vocalist Emily Lubitz found some time to talk about the new single and album, Love is a Dog.
How long did the album take to make?
A really long time; about two years ago we were travelling a lot, we hit this wall and we were like ok we just have to stop, we can stop doing shows and think about writing and being creative and creating new stuff. We took a two year hiatus and in that time have been tinkering away at this album and we actually started recording more than a year ago.
It had been a big year everyone, my brother Jesse who is in the band, he got married and had a baby and I had my second child a little bit earlier. We were drowning in life a little bit, trying to do it all but we were really determined to not let those things get in the way of being creative and making an album.
So we squeezed this album from the corners of our lives and over a year we kind of went in and out of the studio for three days at a time which we have never really done before. Little short bursts and we finally did it. I can’t wait for it to be out.
Does the long production time make the creative process slow-baked and make the album a bit more refined?
Definitely, there was a lot of time to sit with songs and listen back to them and then re-record stuff or add in an idea. In that way it was really great, I guess the downside was second-guessing stuff and just leaving it. Sometimes it’s cool to just leave it, but sometimes if you have the time you think you can always improve something. Sometimes it’s good, other times it’s bad.
Does the album differ significantly from other previous albums?
Two albums ago we self-produced with Harry Angus, who is also my husband and plays in the band sometimes. We were just at home and we layered everything one track at a time, so we were never playing live together.
The next album was the other side where it was quite produced and we worked with this amazing producer Steven Schram in the studio and he got really involved, he brought in sounds we would have never brought in and we loved that.
I guess this one was maybe coming to a place between those two albums where it was us producing again with Harry. But we wanted to play live, we really wanted to have that feeling of people playing live together in a room, in that moment and we wanted it to be real, raw and honest. That was really our approach and a lot of the songs are just one take and just a few over dubs.
Was performing live a central focus when making the album?
We were really committed to getting a live performance. We rehearsed a lot before we went in to the studio, we had to be tight. We couldn’t just be like oh well just drop into that; we had to get the song right. So that was where we put a lot of energy into rehearsing and by the time we got to the studio, the songs played themselves.
The album has a very brooding sound to it and the music video to “Rich Man” is simple yet mesmerising, is this what you were going for?
There is a kind of darkness to it, as well as humour and some light heartedness as well. Sometimes I wonder if we got the tone right as a film clip, it was my idea; the music video. The song is about the wife of a wealthy man who is trapped in this deep kind of marriage. It’s a cautionary tale to other women to just walk away and not to be tempted.
The idea of the clip is a woman having these items being thrust upon her and you know they are beautiful things, glamorous things; but there’s a lack of autonomy. The end of the clip is me using my own hands to take it all off and you know I am naked and free in the end.
What are some of the main themes in the album?
The flipside of privilege; how the aspects of wealth that can paralyse you and act as a barrier to your happiness. I read the Great Gatsby, so a few songs are influenced by Gatsby and that world; including “Rich Man”.
Another theme is love; so lost love, love for a lover and love for my children. There is a song I wrote for my children; there is a song I wrote for my dear friend, about friendship. There is also always longing in my songs; there is always a yearning for a place, another time or another person, what are you without longing really.
Some of the music is about people then.
Definitely, some of the songs are biographical whilst some of the songs are fictitious and based on stuff like F. Scott Fitzgerald and people I meet; so it’s quite a mix.
Could we talk about your upcoming tour?
We’re going to be hitting the road from I think late April through May and a little bit of June and we’re going to a lot of places. We are coming to Fremantle of course, one of our favourite towns in the whole country.
Obviously you have big plans for this album then.
I guess so, after ten years of doing this I have learnt to just keep the expectations at bay a little bit and just be proud of what I have done. I am so grateful of the life this band has given to us, and that we have been able to sustain ourselves for ten years.
Without very much radio support it has just been through touring and festivals and people coming to shows and buying our records. I’d just be happy to keep going really; so whatever happens with the album it’s up to the world to decide and I’ll be happy.