As avid music lovers we don’t always consider the hours, days, weeks and even years it takes for an artist or band to produce an album from concept to fruition. Indeed, there are so many variables it’s inconceivable until you immerse yourself into a musician’s world on that level.
This last few months I’ve been offered the opportunity to observe and reflect on all that has been, is now present and what will be in the future for Canberran band ‘Carnival Road’ as they prepare to release their debut self-titled album in a few short weeks.
It’s taken me more than two rehearsal sessions to get my head around both the relationships within the group and the business of being a band and putting an album together.
The rehearsal space ‘Studio 17’ is not all that small but it’s intimate. It’s cool and dark on the outside but warm and cosy on the inside however when Carnival Road begin their rehearsal it comes alive and an instant awareness that you are surrounded by positive, enthusiastic and driven bandmates ensues. People that share a genuine love for music and who share the same musical goals.
The boys in the band are all experienced musicians and together have a long-standing comradery and well over 40 years in the industry collectively. They are;
Anthony (ant) Ives – (vocals) – A likeable character who is the personified version of a ‘laid back’ bloke. One minute you are laughing with him and the next at him but when it’s time for work there’s no doubt the focus of his attention.
Chris Pearson – (lead guitar) – Chris is a great multi-instrumentalist and plays a mean harmonica. He likes a laugh as much as the next person, but his forte is to add creatively to the environment, and he enjoys playing both originals and branching off to playful covers during the breaks.
Andrew Rickard – (bass guitar, backing vocals) – There’s one in every crowd, right? There is no doubt which larrikin is leading the Carnival Road laughter train. Sharp witted, sometimes impatient, pushy and he wields a purple Levinson Blade 5 string! There’s no in-between with Andrew. He’s a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ man…one learns not to use the word maybe! If you need something done fast, he’s your man.
Jack Barnard – (drums) – Despite having the loudest instrument in the studio, Jack is a quiet man, a gentle observer who tends to let the others carry on and soaks it all in taking only what he needs to from the environment surrounding him and letting the rest go by the wayside. He is easily adaptable but ready to give his opinion when he has one. If Jack ever feels frustrated it doesn’t really show…he’s a very calming influence.
Here, in their space, at their time, Carnival Road have extended the hand of trust and allowed me to hear unreleased tracks, observe decision making processes and ask questions related to themselves and the upcoming album. You will appreciate that not all can be revealed under these circumstances, but it won’t be long before the album will be out, and all will be revealed
I began with a few questions on the personal side…
Jenny: Andrew, how did you come to be the bass player for carnival road?
Andrew: I met Anthony at the Fyshwick Tavern in Canberra in 2014. He and I hit it off and we jammed a little, sang some songs and had a brew or two, we listened to Anthony’s song Led Zeppelin Days. Anthony then asked me to join with him to produce the song, and now we have released our first album, played many gigs and continue to write.
Jenny: Jack, what’s an overview of rehearsal time?
Jack: Andrew likes to stir; ant likes to dance while he sings, and Chris has lots of creative suggestions for song arrangements…I don’t know what they think about me (*laughs softly*).
Jenny: Chris, What’s your favourite brand of guitar?
Chris: I’ve been playing Gibson and Fenders for years. I stopped playing for a long while and then took it up again in 2008.
Let’s talk about the album….
Jenny: Does the album have a theme or is it basically a bunch of individual tracks put together for the purpose? And what genre would you place the sound of the album in?
ant: The album has a theme, we are on a road, a Carnival Road and reflects the experiences we encountered along the way.
Chris: The main thing with the album is that it’s a whimsical look at life with a range of themes! We’re talking planets, rain and stuff that’s a bit psychedelic.
Jenny: ant, the album is all original and you and the band wrote the lyrics and music for each track. I’ve not seen you with an instrument in your hands…can you play one?
ant: I play a left handed acoustic and the piano. I composed some parts but bought the songs to the group and the guys wrote their own parts and helped to put the songs together. This way each song has a nice tight musical arrangement. I wouldn’t do it without them!
Jenny: Instrumentally, what tracks were your favourite or most challenging?
Jack: Planet – I enjoy it’s ending because it’s theatrical!
Chris: Red moon, to play what I want to play with this song sometimes causes cramps in my hand, so that makes it a bit challenging. I spent the most time on developing the guitar parts for Planet. There is this warm acoustic start counterpointed by the stark and ice cold moodily rumbling middle section culminating in the outro, where the guitar supports the vocal journey into outer space.
Andrew: My favourite is Red Moon and the most challenging for me is Amongst it All.
Jenny: ant, can we get an inkling into the inspiration behind a couple of tracks on the album?
ant: ‘Catch This’ came about as a result of the death of my brother in a car accident in 2000. At the time he passed he left behind two young sons (aged 8 and 10). They came to visit me in the months following. During their visit, the song was written as a means to lift their spirits.
‘Amongst it All’ was written as a result of hope and love that was given to me by some great, wonderful people, who supported me through some very difficult and tough personal times.
I guess, this song was written to signify that one does not need to take the final decision and that there is ‘love’ and ‘light’ in life.
Jenny: On release how will the album be available to fans?
ant: We’ll have it on all digital platforms and hard copies available at gigs.
Jenny: Will there be a launch party?
ant: Yes, we are looking into venues suitable for a launch at the moment. We’ll make an announcement on our Facebook Page when we have finalised the details so that’s the best place to keep track of progress…just like our page!!(https://www.facebook.com/carnival.road.music/ )
As you can see one of the songs on the album was written in 2001 and here we are 18 years later and a track penned with support, love and heartache will finally get it’s time to be heard and felt by the people.
What’s my view of what I’ve heard of the album? I can tell you that I’ve been moved by some lyrics and connected with others personally. That there are highlights and low lights and that your own life story will be the basis of how you react to Carnival Road’s reflective experiences.
But don’t think this is a sombre affair…there’s plenty of hard-hitting rock, punchy rhythm and scorching vocals to make this album a must for your collection. If you’re partial to alternative rock and blues with a hint of folk, then you’re going to want to hear this one.
My time with Carnival Road has been an uplifting experience. A wealth of knowledge has been passed on through our interaction. Some great social contexts over what is the biggest pizza dinner I’ve ever seen and in general Carnival Road’s acceptance of my presence throughout their rehearsal periods.
I’ve heard about the creative journey to this point, I’ve witnessed the brainstorming of album covers and names, I’ve seen the antics of friendship fill up and spill over into anarchy and I’ve seen dedication and commitment to each other and the music…I can’t wait to be present at the launch and get myself a copy of this album it won’t be long now – not long until I live the Carnival Road experience in full flight.