Andy Bull has this reputation for being a nice guy. Even people who’ve never met him just think he is. When I found out I was interviewing him, I told friends who said, ‘oh he’s so nice’. After speaking to him, I can vehemently confirm that he is, indeed, the nicest.
Words By Anthony Nocera.
The first thing I said was an apology for Adelaide’s Laneway being the hottest day ever. He laughed and said that every Laneway festival was hot, that Adelaide wasn’t too bad. It was lovely, and also an outright lie.
But listening to his sophomore album Sea of Approval, one of the biggest Australian releases of 2014 (and probably one of the best), it’s very easy to see why everyone loves him so much. Dealing with anxiety, the pressure to meet the expectations that are put upon us, and that which we put upon ourselves, the album is in turns warm, earnest and heartbreakingly honest. It’s also a synth-laden dream to listen to that has won him near-universal acclaim, and has led to him being heralded as the new king of Australian pop.
About to embark on the Talk Too Much tour, the final for Sea of Approval, before beginning work on his new record, we chat to Andy Bull about what to expect from him next.
1&3: What has it been like dealing with the huge response that Sea of Approval has received?
AB: Well, no one was waiting with baited breath for this record. But as I was making it, I had these conversations with myself, like ‘why am I doing this?’, ‘what’s the reason behind this?’, ‘what’s expected of you… who are you?’, all of this stuff that, I guess, most people ask to varying degrees.
And then, when a record comes out and… honestly, it’s been really nice. It’s been good. So much of the attention, I feel like… Okay, there’s an art college around the corner from where I live, and I guess there are some students there that come to my shows and every time I go to my little café on the corner students will stop me and say, ‘oh, I came to the show’ or ‘I really like the record’ and it’s just been really pleasant and normal. It’s just felt really good to have these interactions with people who are just like me, but who I never would have had the chance to talk to before all this.
Day to day, that’s what the attention has been like. I don’t really Google myself, so I don’t really know what’s happening in the virtual realm… so the day-to-day attention hasn’t really been attention, it’s just been an avenue to talk to people in a really regular way.
(See what we mean? SO NICE!)
OT: There was a pretty big generic shift between Sea of Approval and your first release Phantom Pains EP, towards synth-pop. Is the new material going to see you shift again, or are you going to keep working within your current sound?
AB: You know it’s funny, like, I completely understand why people call it synth-pop, because it’s got a pop-structure and there’s synthesisers but, in my mind, I don’t necessarily think of it as synth-pop, it’s more of just a sound that I really like. The way the guitars sound and the synthesisers sound and the guitars sound (on Sea of Approval) are still really exciting to me, but I want to play more with structure now… In a live show, it’s less tightly pop structured and more rock n’ roll in the sense that the music grows and develops gradually and I really want to put that into a record. Just take more time with things and let things simmer and meander a bit more.
When you play these songs live and let them grow and extend them, it just takes the songs a step further than what they are on the record and I want to see if I can find a way to make that happen on the next recordings.
OT: What can people expect to see on this tour, seeing as it’s the last one for Sea of Approval?
AB: I mean, it’s just more immediate when you’re in the room with people…. It becomes something else altogether. Like, the album revolved around this night-time world where this character was so alone, and this interesting thing happens where this character continues to exist but you’re sharing it with people. It all just becomes very unchained, sonically. It really comes to life. It’s just different to the record, and people who have liked the record have really enjoyed it, and people who haven’t liked the record have really enjoyed it as well.
I don’t think even a great record can ever replace live music. Hearing a voice, particularly… it’s extraordinary. I remember being at Laneway and hearing bands whose records I know really well and just being blown away when I heard them live.
OT: Yeah, it changes everything.
AB: Yeah, it does. It really does.
OT: Before I go, what bands are or artists are you picking to be bands to look out for in the future?
AB: Like locally, I’ve always liked Jack Ladder and the Dreamlanders and Sophia Brous, who just performs under the name Brous. I think she’s way more talented than people realise… I just think she’s excellent and she has this song called ‘Streamers’ off of her EP and I don’t think it got nearly enough attention at the time it was released.
I think they’re just really compelling and unique in terms of local talent, and I could go on and on, but they’re the ones that spring to my mind.
OT: That’s all the time we’ve got, but thanks for talking to us and good luck with the tour.
AB: No problem, thanks for talking to me. Thanks for the chat.
(SO NICE, IT HURTS)